Day 8: Sisters, OR - Four Legs on the Slow Road - CycleBlaze

September 3, 2014

Day 8: Sisters, OR

On the ride back into town I think about something Jim told me yesterday. I asked him about the housing developments I saw popping up at the edge of town and he said that it's a recent thing, that it only started a few years ago when the city installed a sewer system that took away the need for homeowners to maintain their own septic systems. As I look out on the Three Sisters Mountains glowing in the sunrise and looking down on tract housing, all I can think is, Why?

What about a town of 1,500 people, located in one of the most beautiful areas of the world, requires growth? Why does it have to be bigger? What's to be gained from that, besides more tax revenue? It's the kind of civic path that leads to busier streets, more crowded schools, and an influx of chain stores. And at that point, all of the new tax revenue you've gained has to pay for more police and fire department coverage, bigger schools, and new sidewalks — and then you're back in the same place you were before, looking for still more tax income to cover the new projects, in addition to all of the obligations you had before. It means that even when you have more, it isn't enough. Growing bigger becomes both the means and the ends.

There's something very American about that.

Who had the brilliant idea to name this thing Solitude?
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We eat breakfast at a restaurant with wood-paneled walls and booths, rifles and black-and-white photos hanging on the walls, the twang of country music spilling out of the speakers in the ceiling, pies spotlit in a big glass case, and a neon Open sign with a pull-string on-off switch hanging below it. It's everything you'd expect from a Western-themed town like Sisters.

Different breakfast choices.
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The morning and afternoon pass in the library, where we catch up on work, update the journal, rehydrate, and give our legs a rest for the first time in a week.

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The amount of things unrelated to life in Central Oregon that you can buy in Sisters is quite amazing: Russian crafts, chandeliers and other furniture made out of antlers (from a store that somehow decided it makes sense not to open on Saturdays), Christmas village dioramas, stuff you can wear to the beach, stuff made from logs, wind socks, decorative pine cones, and antiques from like a dozen different places. And there's probably more, but I only checked out the main drag. Of course it doesn't much matter whether these things are necessary when you live in Sisters, because the streets are filled with people transporting bag loads full of just-bought stuff back to their cars and then on to their homes elsewhere. More than half of the shops seem to exist only for that purpose, like they're part of some larger knick-knack distribution network, responsible for spreading expensive housewares and oddly patterned clothing all over the greater Pacific Northwest.

But the huckleberry ice cream is delicious.

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We set up the tent at the city campground near the edge of town, in a corner of the property next to both a quiet creek and a hissing highway. More than one person rides their bicycle to the bathroom, even though you can see the entire place from wherever you happen to be standing. Not far from us, an old man with white hair, who wears sandals with white socks, explains the finer points of his camper's slide-out living room and the adjacent storage locker to a couple of women who are far more interested in this sort of thing than you'd expect.

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Later we watch as the driver of an RV towing a full size Honda sedan winds his rig through the campground looking for his spot, but with so little success that he ends up driving down the town's main bicycle path and almost running over a squirrel. At the same time, maybe a hundred feet away, a truck towing a travel trailer sideswipes one of the giant rocks that mark the edge of each campsite. Set among the pine trees and well-watered grass of the hiker-biker area it's a kind of peaceful madness to watch, if that makes any sense.

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With nothing in particular to do and nowhere we have to be, afternoon blends into evening, and then all of a sudden it's night. By the time we head to sleep our bodies and minds have rested enough that we can't wait to get back on the road tomorrow. And a lot of that desire comes from the fact that we're having so much fun out here it's ridiculous.

Today's ride: 6 miles (10 km)
Total: 297 miles (478 km)

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