Spirit Traffic is the story of the 10,000-mile motorcycle trip the author C. Jane Taylor took with her husband, John, and son, Emmett, to celebrate Emmett’s college graduation. They were all new riders, and it was their first trip. In May, Jane and John took Spirit Traffic back to the road on their BMW 650 GSs for a 97-day national book tour. Below is her thirteenth installment of Postcards from the Road, which will be published every Monday.
Related Story: C. Jane Taylor Rides 6,000 Miles on National Book Tour
We thought we had enough gas and rolled through the eye-blink town of Shaniko (population 18, we later learned) enroute to Fossil, Oregon, 36 miles away according to Google maps. My bike gets 70 mpg, so I was not all that concerned when the fuel light came on. I imagined we’d find a gas station along the way, but when we found nothing but a derelict elementary school and very little else in Antelope — the town having been overtaken, then abandoned in the 1980s by the cult followers of Bhagwan Rajneesh, aka Osho — we pulled off Route 218 to evaluate and made a U-turn back to Shaniko.
The proprietor of the town’s only gas station (two pumps, self-serve) was sitting on the porch in the shade with his cowboy booted feet up on the split-log railing. As John started pumping, the proprietor called out without leaving his perch, “I’ll give you octane booster for free.” The gas was nearly seven dollars per gallon. He and I have differing notions of the word free, though I was happy to pay the seven dollars.
John pumped the gas; I joined the proprietor on the porch in the shade. The gas station building was a hundred-year-old log cabin that looked like a stage prop in a Western movie about ghost towns. The proprietor had already scanned the QR code on the back of the bikes. “How’s the book tour going?” he asked. I launched into my spiel about Spirit Traffic and John joined us in the shade. It was in the high 90s and we were melting in our gear.
“Can I get you some water? Better yet, how about Gatorade?” We accepted and our host moseyed over to a new camper parked next to the station. We hydrated and asked him about himself. He’s a worldly hipster in his early 50s; his son is a nuclear engineer studying at Rensselaer. He and his bluegrass band used to practice in the shade on the porch of the defunct hotel across the street where he’d plucked his stand-up bass and watched dozens of cars filling up at the gas station. He vowed he would buy the station, found out who owned it, and made an offer, which was accepted. The former owner’s name was Leon Whistler. Mark, our new best friend, named his bluegrass band Leon Whistler.
Now Mark spends hours in clement weather conversing with strangers. According to him, about 2,500 cars pass through the intersection of 97 and 218 each day.
“Some people think Shaniko is the middle of nowhere, but we’re in the middle of everywhere, equidistant from Spokane, Portland, and Bend.”
Day 81 – We met John’s brother Mark in Lake Oswego on the way to Portland where Jenny Owen hosted us. Stories and wine flowed on the back porch. We had a great time!
Day 82 – We bought parts at Cascade Moto and camped in Mt. Hood National Forest near Clear Lake.
Day 83 – John arranged for us to do our own oil change in the parking lot at Ray’s Garage in Fossil, Oregon. Ray Lloyd and Ray Junior were charming hosts. The garage is the center of town. Ray Senior is like the mayor, thoughtful and caring about his constituents and their motor vehicles.
Day 84 – John Day Recreation Area. Wow. Heat, fossils, amazing roads, rivers, cliffs, rolling hills. Surprising beauty all around.
Day 85 – We rode through Hells Canyon (eastern Oregon, western Idaho, and a small section of Washington). Hells Canyon is mind boggling. It was one of the most spectacular roads so far. We camped in Anatone, Washington.
Day 86 – We rode along the Clear Water River and over Lolo Pass on Route 12 and arrived in Missoula!!
Day 87 – We had a great time with Emmett and Ross doing a sidewalk signing in front of Fact & Fiction Books.
Keep the rubber side down.
Spirit Traffic can be purchased on the author’s website. It is also available on eBook and as an audio book read by the author.