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More Dogs on Main

Next time you are in Winnemucca, Nevada, treat yourself to dinner at the Martin Hotel. The hotel is a very old building fronting on the railroad tracks. So you know it’s in the right part of town. It was recommended by the desk clerk at a newer and more reputable looking hotel as the best Basque dinner in town. It was a real treat. Lamb chops more than an inch thick were accompanied by seven side dishes just to round it out. If you don’t regularly get to Winnemucca, it’s almost worth the trip.

Winnemucca was the first stop on our recent road trip to Crater Lake. The trip was the annual Tom-Dick-and-Harry bike ride. That’s a tradition running back to about 1984 that started out as a fully supported mountain bike/camping trip. Through the years, as the group has put on a few years, the novelty of camping and biking for a week has lost some of its luster and we have gravitated to road bikes and hotels. The group gets mixed a little each year, but the core is still there.

Crater Lake National Park is an extraordinary place. It’s hard to do justice to it in words; you really have to see it. The lodge is perched up on the rim of the old volcano, about 700 feet above the water level of the lake. The water is a rich blue and seems very inviting, but is basically inaccessible. Over the course of five days of riding, we gained something close to 12,000 feet of elevation.

One day, we rode about two thirds of the way around the rim of the lake to the only place where we could hike down to the water level and take a boat cruise around the lake. The hike down, and back up, was 700 feet of elevation each way (it certainly seemed longer going back up). The official plan was to load us all into the support van and drive back to the lodge. But as we climbed back up to the rim, one of the guys said that it was only 11 miles back to the lodge and we really ought to ride it. There was a certain appeal to having completed the loop around the lake, and when a 73-year old man announces he is going to ride it, it’s difficult for the rest of us to jump in the sag wagon. That day was about 4,600 feet of vertical by the time we got back.

You know it’s a good vacation when it takes a week to recover.

The last day was a descent from about 8,000 feet at the crater rim to about 500 feet in Roseburg, Oregon. We followed the North Umpqua River canyon all the way down, remembering a great mountain bike trip along the Umpqua River trail system a few years back.

The last night we stayed in a little fishing lodge on the Umpqua River. It had the look of a place that might have been a gold mine when "A River Runs Through It" came out, but was kind of hanging on now that fly-fishing has lost its Hollywood trendiness. They had a common room (where I assume fishermen hang out on rainy days and bore each other with fishing stories) with a TV in it. Some of our group are big Mitt Romney supporters, and that was the night of his convention speech. Some of us wandered back out on the porch during Clint Eastwood’s rant at the empty chair. But when Mitt started, you would have thought somebody had pulled the fire alarm. All the other guests grabbed a plate of hors d’oeuvres and made a stampede for the deck.

At dinner, a woman told me that in 25 years of staying at this lodge she had never seen the TV turned on. It seems the primary function of the TV in the fishing lodge was to provide the opportunity to deliberately, and even ostentatiously, not watch it. It was important that the TV be there so that not watching it was a conscious choice. But nobody had ever turned it on before. It didn’t matter what was on, the mere act of turning it on was shocking. We may not be invited back.

Driving and biking through what they call the Oregon Outback and the northeastern tip of California, through beautiful country and appealing little towns that had once been prosperous, it was stunning to see how rural America has just fallen off the map. The timber industry has shrunk and what’s left has automated to the point that whole towns, and the people who live there, are obsolete. Three of us buying lunch was a major economic event.

I guess that’s part of why I love a good road trip. You really get to see what’s happening out there in the real world.

Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.


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