I left Bend, OR on Monday a bit late and arrived in the small town of Brothers about 50 miles up the road about 6:30. I stopped at the only place in town to eat and learned that the next town was 95 miles up the road with nothing much in between. I decided to stay the night at a nearby rest stop and leave early the next morning. I made it to Burns reasonably early the next day (about 4:30) and learned that this is one of the communities that has been surrounded by wildfires in the surrounding desert. At times it has been necessary to close the road I was travelling on (Hwy 20) due to fires all the way up to the road or smoke that reduced visibility. The next morning the hotel clerk told me I could expect delays on the road due to the fires, and this caused concern for me since I would be more susceptible to the smoke inhalation for a longer time on bike. I went to the local pizza parlor where a shuttle bus going east stops and was told they couldn’t guarantee me passage on the afternoon bus since it was small and if it arrived with lots of people they may not have room for me or the bike. I decided to wait but was unable to get on and the driver was pretty skeptical about my chances even the next day. I then spent the afternoon trying to find someone I could pay to take me pass the first mountain pass where the fires were. I even went back to the local laundromat where I had seen a business card for Antonio Rodriguez, a dry wall specialist, and called him to see if a more personal plea might help.
I tried the local “authentic” Mexican restaurant, but they didn’t know anyone who could help me out either.
Once again, I was obliged to stay another night because the day had gotten away from me. I resolved to get up at 5:00 AM the next day so I could get an early start and see what the road held. I rode about 30 miles up the road and stopped at an gas station and “Indian” museum and gift shop (not run by native peoples), and learned that I was very near the main area of the fires though no apparent smoke was causing a problem. I had arranged a meeting with the founder of Idaho’s Migrant Council, Humberto Fuentes, for Thursday evening and the delay I’d faced was putting that meeting in jeopardy because he was leaving town the next day. I decided to post a sign offering to pay for a ride when a man approached me about the ride. His spouse and 2 children were inside the store and we chatted about my trip. After some initial reluctance about whether he could fit my stuff or not, we decided the bike could go on his luggage rack. Danny and his family were wonderfully kind people returning home from vacation from somewhere near Portland. In addition to speaking to me about his numerous jobs he’s had over the years, his other 7 kids, and his cowboy and hunting exploits, he also spoke to me about his experience working with Mexicans over the years.
In Ontario I regrouped and had lunch at a Mexican restaurant. As I was leaving, Hector Gonzalez, a 9 year old boy whose mother worked there asked a lot of questions about my bike and gear. He took the photo of me below, but declined to have me take his. In Nampa I had a great conversation with Humberto Fuentes. In Boise, the same occurred with Fernando Mejia. I will provide more details on these encounters when I get more time to process and write.
I should say that I’ve been amazed at the pervasive presence of Latino, primarily Mexican, culture everywhere I go–even the smallest towns between point A and point B seem to have a restaurant, a tiendita, a garage, a Spanish mass–all profound evidence of the strong culture and entrepreneurial spirit that is making our presence felt.