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Wagontire, population 3

15.8.2016

If you enjoy solitude then southeastern Oregon is for you.
We rolled out from the buzzing metropolis that was Burns, and in no time the desert took over. The day was cooler than previous days. So much in fact, that I pondered putting on my sleeves.
We were now riding our last miles westward, soon we would turn southwest, then south altogetheter. As we pushed onward we tried to figure out which point had been the northernmost of the trip, but we couldn’t quite pinpoint it without the maps.
The high desert offers little in form of visual stimuli, and there were points when I had to shake myself from the impression that we were out at sea. The traffic was getting more sparse, but there were still more cars than I would have expected. Many of them were probably headed for the coast, so we would bid them adieu in some 20 miles.
Surprisingly we were still gaining elevation, even though I figured we already were on the plateau.
The first significant event after leaving Burns came as a rest area appeared on the left side of the road. We are living exciting lives. But we stopped to have some snacks and drinks even though it was more for form this time than out of acute need.
As we were leaving Kaisa surprised the two of us by having again produced a puncture, this time in the reputedly unbreakable Marathon Plus tires. The score so far is five to one, advantage Kaisa. (I do not know what she does to the poor tires, but it wrecks havoc on them!)
A quick roadside fix, routine by now, and we were back on our bikes. The next town was only eleven miles away. These are action packed days, that is for sure.
And as the cooling winds kept blowing we reached Riley. A town with a population of two and its own post office, which, from what we gathered, also sold eggs. We passed on the eggs, but decided to send my brothers kids a postcard.
After the initial shock of someone wanting to have something sent to Finland the post master was very friendly indeed, and dutifully hand canceled the stamp upon my request. (She took the task so seriously that she first performed a trial round on another piece of paper to get things just right.)
On the other side of the street was a gas station that doubled as an archery equipment shop. We bought drinks and inquired about the road ahead.
”Not much out there” was the reply. ”There’s Wagontire, but there’s nothing there except for the caretaker.”
”The Caretaker” – it sounded like a character from a bad agent movie!
We learned that there had been a motel, a small cafe and an RV campground in Wagontire, but that they were all closed down by now. Which kind of could be expected when you reflect upon the fact that the entire town hosted one person in total – The Caretaker!
As the road we needed to take would take us through Wagontire and Wagontire was the only place within 50 miles, we saw it in our best interest to do our utmost to be allowed to stay there.
So we pedaled onward, unsure of our fate, but tried to keep a positive outlook – maybe the caretaker would like to have some company, we reasoned. This of course was a blatant attempt at autosuggestion. Why anyone looking for company would chose to live so far away from anyone should have been clue enough.
But none of this really mattered, because we had no options. So looking up ”The Caretaker” was at the top of our priorities.
And sure enough, when reaching Wagontire we saw a man walk around the premises. Success!
I called out to him, but to no avail. No reaction.
I tried again, this time waving my hand and raising my voice a little as I yelled out my most cheery ”Hello”!
This time he heard me. And turned around. And snarled at me. ”What the hell do you want now?”
Not the action I had anticipated or even hoped for, but given that I have been brought up to behave well in all circumstances I tried to appease the man: ”We’re on a cycling trip and were wondering if there is any chance we could stay here for the night?”
”No!”
I looked at him a bit perplexed. Before I had the chance to say anything he continued. ”It’s those god damned rules and regulations! I can’t have anyone here! There’s a junction ten miles down the road. Go there!”
I looked at him trying to wrap my head around what was just said. Cycling another ten miles was anything but an appealing option.
Seeing my bewilderment he finally cracked a smile. ”I’m just kidding! Where do you want to stay?”
Received and confused I muttered an answer and went to get my bike. Kaisa walked with the man toward our intended tent site. The discussion they had was also remarkable.
”Why the hell are your doing cycling in this god forsaken heat for?”
He didn’t really wait for an answer or even care for it. ”That’s not for me!”
He then showed us where we could get water, but apart from that there was very little interaction. Except for me asking whether or not there happened to be an outhouse somewhere.
The answer followed the same style we had gotten accustomed to by now.
”There’s sagebrush wherever you look!”
No further explanation was given, and I saw it wise not to pursue the matter any further.
So we pitched our tent, cooked our food and went to sleep under a magnificent starry sky.
The sign on the way in to Wagontire said that the population in the small town was three. And for this one night in August it was right.

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