A Short Ride the Long Way

A Short Ride the Long Way
It's 6:30 on a July Saturday night in The Dalles, Oregon, a tidy lumber town on the Columbia River. Snagged in a street festival, we crawl the stop-start traffic, boiling inside our leathers, engines pinging, clutches slipping. I spy an outdoor time and temperature display: 102 degrees! We've committed to camping, but the air-conditioned Budget Motel beckons, and only sheer inertia prevents me from pulling in.

"There's camping in Dufur, ten miles up the road," says Geoff. "I asked in the Safeway."

I'm thinking: Yeah, right. What does Safeway know about camping? But up the road we go. South from the Columbia, 197 climbs toward high plateau, and soon it's tolerably cool. A tiny farming town, Dufur, hoves into view across golden wheat fields.

We swing into a faded trailer park of plastic trellis works and kitschy garden ornaments, and a cheery sixty-something woman soon arrives to size us up in a Kawasaki golf cart.

"You'll be better off in the city park," she says. "I'll show you."