David and Bernie both contributed to this: We had our breakfast in the very pink dining room of the Prospect Hotel. Beautifully and tastefully done, but to honest the hotel wasn’t really our style. We felt managed to within an inch of our lives in the nicest possible way. It was all a bit too organised but it did allow us to have a lovely evening with Bjorn and Mika!
We set off cycling on a drizzly morning with an overcast sky. The first 25 miles to Butte Falls was on a back country road where a total of 3 cars passed us. The road was lined with trees and dipped and climbed so that we had done 1500ft of climbing by Butte Falls, but were only 100ft higher than when we started. This was “hunter’s country” as all the signs showed. We passed one group of hunters with their camouflage jackets and rifleas with telescopic sites who were camping at the side of the road. They were friendly and nobody took a shot at us even though we presented as a moving target.
An early promise of sun was shortlived and it remained cloudy with occasional showers. 5 miles from Butte Falls, we came down a hill and there were Tom and Carolyn, cycling up to meet us. They had camped near Butte Falls the previous night as they too did not relish staying at Mazama campground at 6000ft in the rain.
At Butte Falls we stopped at a great little cafe and had home apple made pie, with the young, chubby and tatooed woman who served us explaining in great detail how she made the pie. She was clearly proud of her pies and rightly so. It was scrumptious.
The cafe was the centre of social life in Butte Falls, and reflected the ethos of the place. About 5 groups of men in camouflage jackets (some seriously overweight) ordered breakfast and swapped hunting stories. Hunters were swapping stories about the animals they had killed or which had just got away. Then some well dressed older folks came in – I assume fresh from church – and swapped stories. Everyone knew each other and there was a common bond around hunting, the local community and the College “Football” which was on the TV. This was American Football of course, with 300 lb young men lining up against each other for every down. This was an all white community in the cafe, but that is to to say that the whole community was white. It was clearly a community that supported each other around their common values and, judging by the snatches of converation I overheard, the mentality was that the community supported each other against the government rather than being protected by the government. I doubt that there were many local Democrats in the room, even though Oregon is a generally Democratic state. This group of people could not be more different to Ashland (where I am typng this) which has a large university, a Shakespeare festival and a commitment to green issues and the alternative American way.
Tom cycled the next section with us, although he was soon ahead and we did not link up again until near the end of the day, A long 2000ft slog up hill got rather tedious with large pine trees either side of the road was the only thing to be seen. There was not even a view to keep us going. Once the bulk of the climb was done the road undulated with energy sapping ups and downs, although a 7 mile stretch along a forest road 37 had more interesting varieties of trees.
At last we reached Howard Prairie and the view opened out and the road flattened for a few miles until we tackled the last 600ft climb with gusto up to Dead Indian Summit at 5200ft. At the top we hooked up with Tom again for a glorious 13 mile descent, losing 3000ft in height with great views all the way down. Definitely up there with the best descents.
Finally we rolled into Ashland where we had arranged to stay with a warm showers host. It was 5 past 6 by the time we found the house and she had just gone out but with trusting generosity she had left the house open with welcoming notes and the only instruction to shut the front gate to keep her lovely dogs in.
The house was beautiful but we quickly showered and left to meet up with Tom and Carolyn for a farewell Thai meal, as this was to be the last day we stayed together. We toasted our successes and our friendship and fully expect to see them in England so we can return some hospitality.