The Monroe loop - Northwest passages: riding out the storm - CycleBlaze

June 22, 2020

The Monroe loop

To Greece, or not to Greece?

That is the question alright.  One that Team Anderson has batted around often lately, filling up many an idle hour between dinner and our time to watch our current miniseries (currently: Thou Shalt Not Kill, an Italian detective procedural set in Turin - it reminds us of how much we’d like to be in Southern Europe right about now).

It’s complicated.  As we indicated in an earlier post, we’ve already committed ourselves: we’ll go to Greece this fall, if we can go to Greece this fall.  We’ve arranged our lodging plans for the rest of summer and this winter with this in mind, with the thought that we’ll leave for Thessaloniki in early September, if we can.  If we can’t, we’ll improvise when the time comes.

There are the obvious barriers though.  First, who wants to take an overseas flight right now?  And even more importantly, who wants to see an American landing on their shores anyway? 

Regarding the first question, we’ve decided that for us, the risk of incurring the virus on a flight is one we’re prepared to take, as long as we’re flying a carrier that is making a serious effort to protect its customers.  In looking at Greece, that risk looks at least partly offset by the fact that it so far at least has a admirably low infection rate and doesn’t appear to be in the midst of committing national suicide.  Wouldn’t you rather be there than here right now?

Regarding the second question.  Currently, no one wants to see Americans on their doorstep.  And who can blame them?  Greece though certainly looks promising.  They badly want to reactivate their tourism industry, which is the most important sector of their economy.  They’ve already opened their doors to all EU members except Britain as well as to many other countries, but not yet to the USA.  They plan to announce new restrictions to take place on July 1st though, so we’ve been watching the news daily for favorable developments.  We’ve been planning to hold off finding a flight until later in the summer when we have more information.

Today though, we find a new wrinkle that causes us to reconsider.  Delta Airlines looks like it has the most attractive flight option: a one stop flight from Portland to Thessaloniki with a stopover in Amsterdam.  They also declare what looks like an appropriate policy: masks required, spaced seating (through September 30th, anyway).  Also, they offer a very attractive incentive to booking now: a reasonably inexpensive round trip fare, allegedly with a complete waiver of change fees.  If we want to change our flight to different dates or even different destinations, we can do so without penalty - our original fare will just go against the cost of our replacement flight.

The catch: the itinerary needs to begin before September 30 (just right, for us); and the fare needs to be purchased before July 1st.  Unfortunately, we won’t know if Greece will even let us in before the day we’d need to purchase the tickets.

So here’s our thinking.  There’s risk in everything, and at least this one is ‘just’ a financial risk.  If we buy now speculating that we’ll be able to travel but then can’t, we’ll at least still have the credit available to fly again with Delta sometime in the coming year - something we’re almost certain to want to do anyway.  Worst case, we still can’t travel for whatever reason, and are just out the money.  On the other hand, in all likelihood we won’t get anywhere near this good a fare if we wait until we know for certain.  

There’s a financial risk either way - lose the value of our purchase because we can’t use it, or wait and find that the cost of the flight is significantly greater.  We’re still weighing all this, but the odds are that sometime in the next few days we’ll buy a flight and hope for the best.

(An update: Yes, I know that news just came out that EU is likely to ban travel from the three pariah states: Russia, Brazil, and USA.  This came out probably an hour after I posted this.  Very disheartening.)

Today’s ride

Today we throw the bikes in the car and drive 20 miles south to Monroe, a small town just a few miles from Bellfountain.  Today’s loop is more or less a continuation of yesterday’s, but further south.  The two rides share about a fifteen mile boundary, from Bellfountain south along Old River Road.  Not the most exciting stretch, but at least we’ll be seeing it the in the opposite direction today.

The ride gets off to a shaky start about two miles south of Monroe on Territorial Road when we encounter a loose dog in the road.  Medium sized, a bit undernourished, wandering aimlessly.  He’s got a collar on and looks like he was well treated not long ago, so we suspect his owners just dumped him out here.

We’re of course still anxious around loose dogs, and I don’t trust the behavior of this one.  It’s very erratic - he’ll run up at us, then turn away. When we try to ease around him, he gives chase.  We stop several times and dismount, and soon a car comes along and tries to shelter us so we can bike past; but it doesn’t work.  A bit later a second car comes from behind and the dog races to meet it - at first we think might even be their dog - and Rachael takes her chance and bikes away.  The dog starts chasing her, but she’s far enough off that he comes back to me again.

Finally I start biking slowly, the dog leading me.  When we come to a rise in the road I gun it and finally lose him on the downhill.   It looks to me like he’s doing about 20 mph when I finally drop him.

One of us breaks free at least. This is one of those rare times when I felt it was worth taking a photo while biking. Nice that I didn’t cobble it, drop the new camera, and land on the pavement in front of him.
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Looking east across the Long Tom Basin from Territorial Road. There’s that notch again. It must have a name, but I haven’t been able to place it.
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Even without the dog, we don’t really care much for Territorial Road.  It’s narrow, lacks a shoulder, and even carries a few log trucks.  We’re pretty happy when we come to Ferguson Road after five miles and turn off to the west.  The next eight miles are a pretty horseshoe that follows up Ferguson Creek and then doubles back and heads east into the valley again on High Pass Road.  The last two miles are a beautiful, fast descent back to the valley floor again.   The best miles of the ride.

East into the hills on Ferguson Road.
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On Ferguson Road. The country looks different here, and reminds me of the land further south around Grants Pass or the Siskiyous.
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Split rail fence, Ferguson Road.
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Along High Pass Road. We bike past freshly mown grass fields all day, many of them with vultures circling above seeking fresh kill.
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Weathered vane, High Pass Road.
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East again, dropping down High Pass Road. You know we’re going east here, because there’s that notch in the Coburg Hills again.
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Amazon Creek, from High Pass Road.
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High Pass Road ends at a three way junction with Highway 99W and Old River Road.  We turn up Old River Road of course, and for the next ten miles fight our way upwind until the road finally turns west again.  We agree to face down the wind until finally coming to this bend so we wouldn’t have to just start up into it again, and then look for a spot to stop for lunch.  We find one immediately and enjoy our meal sitting under the shade of a sequoia, an improbable presence out here in the flood plain and grass fields.

Junkyard Extreme Burgers & Brats, at the corner of High Pass and Highway 99W. Looks like a great stop. It’s a shame that they’re Done for the Day.
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Video sound track: Safety in Numbers, by Artie Traum

Adequate shelter on the Long Tom flood plain.
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In the shade of the old sequoia tree.
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The Long Tom River again, and I think from the same spot I took a shot yesterday. Rachael would like to know why I keep holding her up stopping for the same shot, but of course it looks much different today.
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After lunch we continue backtracking yesterday’s ride, back to Bellfountain again.  From there we bike south on Bellfountain Road to Alpine and roll across a series of three short, increasingly high, increasingly steep and increasingly annoying rises.   By the time we reach the final summit we’re getting hot and tired of the whole pitch, and happy to see a delightful, cooling descent back to Monroe and the car.

The Bellfountain Community Church again. We saw this yesterday too, but not from this angle. I didn’t see its stained glass image of itself before.
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Selfie in stained glass, Bellfountain Community Church.
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Just a pretty lane, off Bellfountain Road.
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Dropping west to Monroe on Coon Road. The second nice descent of the day.
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The Three Sisters, from Coon Road.
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Monroe was nice enough to host our car today, so we should honor it with at least one photo. This is its United Methodist Church.
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Ride stats today: 46 miles, 1,200’

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Bruce LellmanEverything changed quickly in the last two weeks so everything will certainly change again by the time you want to be in Greece. I'd go ahead and buy the tickets.
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1 month ago
Jen GrumbyWhat a conundrum! (the Greece decision)

I'll be sitting on the edge of my seat to read what happens next.
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1 month ago