Welcome to Deer Ridge Correctional Institution, Oregon's newest facility. Eleven years ago a former governor started the ball rolling to locate a facility East of the Cascade Mountains. When the next phase is completed this will be the third largest prison in the state. The plan is to eventually house 644 minimum security and 1240 medium security prisoners. Deer Ridge is located a few miles outside of Madras, which is in Oregon's high desert country. Madras has a population of a little over 6,000. As the prison plans to eventually employ around 450 people, it will no longer be a sleepy little burgh.
For now, though, with no offense meant to the good people of Madras, the prison is officially located In the Middle of Nowhere.
Seeking out this prison is my task for the day. There's some teething pains with some electronic equipment. There's been ongoing discussions between the manufacturer, the installer, and the contractor. In an effort to move things forward, I've been requested to show up as the official "Factory Guy". Fortunately, I've a lot of experience in this field. I'm expected to either find an installation problem that can be readily fixed or verify the fact that the factory is at fault.
It ended up being a factory problem but this isn't about that part. It's a tale of the ride for work that brought me here. It was great to finally get to leave but that part almost didn't happen. I've got to learn to keep my mouth shut, sometimes! More on that later.
I still have a burning zeal for riding, but I'm getting less enthused about rides that start at 4:30 AM. There's been too many of these, lately. It's my own fault, really. I could have gone the night before and holed up in some motel. The company would have reimbursed me for the expense but why incur it in the first place? Besides, I had a bigger reason to just get up and leave early. Think about the choice. Let's see. Spend the night in a motel room by myself or cuddle a warm woman? Anyway, Warrior tradition demands the route of Greater Adversity. A true Warrior must leave the warmth and comfort of home to do battle.
There's also that ego thing. I'll admit to having one. Okay, a big one. I don't ride all Winter just for my health. True, a Warrior must test himself in savage battles. It's really about the conquest and bragging rights around the fire, though. I ride by darkened houses and think of these poor soft people still snoozing away. Eventually they'll be staggering to comfortable cars still clutching that cup of coffee. I, on the other hand, will see the sun come up while riding over the top of Santiam Pass. I'll be breathing clean mountain air at somewhere around 5,000 feet elevation.
Speaking of which, it's chilly this morning. Fall's near. There's a morning chill that lasts longer each week. Gentle warming rays from the sunrise happen later in the mornings these days. It will be even colder as I go from 300 feet above sea level to the rarer air of the mountain passes. Eschewing the electric vest, I simply don a light fleece jacket under the 'Stich. It's way too early for my big ego to allow me to pull the vest out.
Nearly as planned the sun rises a couple hours into my ride. We're somewhere near the halfway point. So far it's been a quiet ride but traffic's picking up. What a blessing to be on a long legged sport tourer with plenty of power. Let's just say that dawdlers are easily dispatched. Also, as predicted, the air's quite cold. I can't help but shiver a little now and then. My shield would fog so I'd open it. Pretty soon my face would start to freeze. Down came the visor. Only to fog up and start the process all over again. Huddling down some helps keep me in the still air pocket behind the fairing. The sun's certainly welcome but it also presents a little problem of its own.
The trouble with living West of the mountains is the way the sun rises and sets. I head East early in the day so I have the sun in my eyes going over. I usually head back later so I have the sun in my eyes as the sun's setting in the West. Oh well.
Sophie and I are quickly rolling towards Sisters. This is a little place with a sort of Wild West theme. The two major East-West routes through the mountains combine just before the pass and split again just out of Sisters. Their location's been good for tourist based businesses but it's also become a curse. Traffic on weekends is horrendous as everyone's forced through the small main street of town. There's been a big forest fire in the area called the GW fire. Somewhere around 5400 acres burned and the fire forced some evacuations. Due to the great fire crews, no damage to dwellings was done.
Making my way through Sisters we reach the fork of Highway 20 and 126. I peel off to the left on 126 thinking I was heading on into Redmond. From there I'd turn North on Hwy 97 until I arrived in Madras. That was the plan until I had a little struggle with Emily. That's what I've named the Garmin GPS. There's a female british voice programmed in. Her name, according to the software, is Emily. I chose her because if a female voice were going to nag me about where to turn, she better not sound anything like my wife!
Emily's temporarily powered and sits in the tank bag. She requires external power to be able to give voice prompts via Bluetooth. I have a little Jabra device that fits under my helmet well. I don't want to look at the GPS while riding. Listening to voice prompts isn't too distracting. I'd programmed in the final destination before we left. The Garmin will keep track of my route as well as all the pertinent information. In fact, I've figured out how to store it in Google Earth and can now share rides with those who want them. But I digress.
Just before we get to Redmond, Emily tells me I need to turn left at this road. There's a small sign that indicates there's a transfer station down that direction. You know what that is, don't you? People can take garbage there instead of directly to the landfill itself. The road was small and things were looking pretty dubious to me. I find myself arguing with the stupid GPS. Who's in charge of this ride, anyway? I'm sure the GPS is wrong but at the same time I can't resist the chance for adventure. I've never been on this particular side road. I shrug and turn left, figuring that even the biggest ships never make any progress until they leave safe harbor.
What a neat stretch of road! It goes up and down and around hills. The road surface is comprised of chip seal. Great gobs of oil are put down and then rock is put on top of the oil. It's left for the cars to pack down and then the County comes and puts stripes on it. Bad road for a bike when it's new but this one's been seasoned for a while. The only bad news for this particular road is that the rock seems especially sharp. Too much riding here would wear the bike tires out pretty quickly. And you'd want to keep riding this road.
A lot of "horse" people seem to live here. Rolling pastures ( at least the desert equivalent ) line the roads. There seems to be miles of that new white fencing made of plastic. As you come around a corner you're greeted by a new ranch style house, a barn or two, the fences, and horses that watch you go by with friendly curiosity. I slowed down and just enjoyed the ride. There was very little other traffic.
At some point a Jeep pulled onto the roadway a ways ahead of me. It was dark green and still covered by the dew that settles on all things left outside during a cool night. The man driving gave me a sleepy wave as I gently passed. Farther on I came up behind a pickup pulling a small tractor on a flatbed trailer. Remember what I said about long legged sport tourers with horsepower?
All too soon the road joined Hwy 97. I'd completely bypassed the city of Redmond. The road nearest Hwy 97 must be the "old" part. Most of the landscape was dotted with barns, graineries, and mill type equipment slowly merging once more into the ground. How cool! I wish I'd stopped to take more pictures. Sophie and I arrived in Madras just a little before 9 AM. Right on schedule. We stopped at a Burger King for me to lose some fluid and then at a Shell station for Sophie to take some on. Same general color but different kinds, of course!
Here's the small gate where I entered the prison. Just inside the building is a prisoner intake center. I knew to keep the tool box contents small. There were no prisoners, yet, but the new guards were excitedly running the place like there were. I knew I'd have to do a tool inventory. Tools coming out better equal the list of tools made coming in. Just as I was ready to penetrate the prison itself with my escort, I heard,
"You can't go in there like that!"
"Like that" meant blue jeans. I've done prison work before and knew of this rule while the facility had prisoners. Like I said, there were no prisoners but plenty of gung ho new recruits. This guy didn't want to be seen in front of his Superiors letting something like this go. So here I am. Blue jeans is all I got. Except for black Fruit of the Loom briefs. Being the iconoclast I am, I dropped the tool box and started unbuckling my belt. I had the jeans unbuttoned and was going for the zipper when I was verbally stopped.
"What do you think you're doing?" This from a female guard in the control booth.
I told her that jeans was all I had since I knew the prison wasn't actually in business. If they didn't like me in blue jeans they sure weren't going to like me in my briefs, but if that's what it took?
They quickly agreed they'd make an exception. If they didn't need me so much I'm sure things would have gone differently. I sure didn't score any points, though. That rule's actually for the protection of visiting tradesmen. When things get out of hand, the guards shoot at blue. The plan is that only prisoners wear blue pants. I don't care for the thought of being anywhere near flying bullets no matter what color pants I have on! Been there, done that, already, and I didn't like it even then. When you hear those big doors slam shut it reminds you that you've just relinquished a great bit of personal freedom. I've worked in a lot of facilities, even with inmates swirling around me, but I still get a small chill when those doors slam shut.
With business finished, I was released. Thank goodness. I prevailed upon my host to stop and let me take a few more pictures. They aren't wild about having people take pictures, for some reason.
I nabbed this picture of an employee's TW200.
What a perfect commuter bike for this place! As you can see in an earlier picture of a homestead, the State pushed a road out into the boonies. Deer Ridge sits on 453 acres of desert land. With very little rain, there'd be a lot of days where a lunch break could be spent just riding roads like this.
In case you haven't noticed, there's no photo of Sophie. That's because I was directed to meet an engineer at an office off site. Then I rode up with him as he was the one who would show me the problems. At least, that's the official story. The real story is kind of embarrassing but I feel I should share it.
You see, I think Sophie's finally showing her age. Have you heard the definition of a real friend? A good friend will bail you out of jail but a real friend will be in there with you thinking of all the fun you had! Sophie used to lead me into trouble but she's been a little more dignified lately. She told me in no uncertain terms that if I dared show her anywhere near a "prison" that she'd do me wrong at the worst time possible. What can I say?
Once free we headed North and just explored. I don't usually stop for pictures. Being a long distance rider at heart, we just go. That's why I love a bike like Sophie. Despite her becoming a little stuck up these days. I think of covering ground and it seems like a chore to stop. Just to show that I can do it once in a great while, I took this picture of some wind turbines near the Columbia River Gorge. Actually, I went by and then came back.
They're far away and the zoom on my little camera only comes so close but you get the idea. There's probably a hundred of them along this ridge. The tops of the blades are four or five hundred feet above the ground. Impressive.
I'll spare you the details of the rest of the trip as this post is getting pretty long. I solved the problem of the afternoon sun by staying longer. At sunset we were pulling into this lodge on a lake. It's three hundred dollars a night to stay here. The restaurant prices are what you'd expect, too. So I sat on a bench and munched dried fruit and some nuts. I thought the setting sun made a neat effect here. The guy on the cell phone wouldn't move and I got tired of waiting so he's in the picture, good or bad.
The rest of the ride was in the dark. You just need to keep a sharp eye peeled for those little glowing points of light that signal deer. I'm really lucky to be able to spend so much time on a bike. Life is good!
Miles and smiles,