The BLM (Bureau of Land Management) has a quiet secret they keep, a lot of the campgrounds they maintain are free. After paying an all-time high at Whalen Island ($47) we were desperate to get the daily expenditures back in line. We were aimed for Southern Oregon and found a BLM site 26 miles inland from the coast on the Smith River.
We found the site easy enough and it was in a quiet forest on a river pool. It was small with ten sites, six of which were occupied. After setting up camp in a quiet corner of the campground we headed to the river for a swim (or a toe dip in Shannon’s case). At the water’s edge as Mike was slowly wadding out to acclimate to the cool water we had our first zombie sighting. Not Sasquatch as would be expected in Oregon but the living dead.
A young mother with child in tow walked to the river and passed between Shannon and I without acknowledging our presence, her gait was unsteady. She spoke to her son in a matter-a-fact voice that she didn’t want to get wet as she walked into the river in a sundress. She appeared to be looking for something on the bottom of the river and was most definitely getting wet as she waded up to her hips.
“Honey, I can’t find the crawdad trap, only an old shoe”, she told her son. Shannon and I are making sideways looks at each other as by this time Mike is out in the river swimming ten feet from her. “Someone took our crawdad trap,” the zombie said as she looked right at Mike, WTF! She then told her son in a rough voice that mommy loves him and she waded out of the river and back to her camp without a single word to us. Mind you, the river is tiny and this entire encounter took place in an area the size of five or six parked cars.
After dinner, the zombie clan (there was a young male adult and a total of three children) began pulling down small trees to burn in their fire. Without an ax or saw the wood gathering mission by the living dead was a brutish affair with lots of cracks, snaps, and breaking of branches. As darkness fell the zombie adults soothed their tired nerves with alcohol. They got loud but surprisingly went silent around midnight.
“F*ck you asshole” rang through the campground at 6:20am, the zombie queen had awoke in a rage and lashed at top volume for the next hour at her male partner who never uttered a word above a whisper. Needless to say everyone in camp was up and at least half the other campers packed in a hurry and left. Even free has a price.
As we ate our breakfast the zombie queen sulked in the dirt sitting against the front wheel of the car as her partner broke camp. They left at 8:00am, peace and harmony was once again bestowed on the Smith River BLM. All the remaining campers were normal and friendly now that the living dead had left. Our camp neighbor told us that the zombies were known in the area as heavy methamphetamine users (tweakers) and he assumed by the morning fight that the adult male of the zombie clan had finished off the last of the crank before morning, thus leaving the zombie queen in a homicidal rage.
One week into the trip and the adventure is already in top gear. Oregon is easy going and the camping has been great. We have meandered inland a few times to camp in the mountains only to head back to the coast where the temperatures are much more comfortable. It is still very hot and sunny with very little signs of fall during the day (nights are very chilly however).
When sitting home going over maps it is easy to forget how big a country this is. We know we need to pick up the pace to make our scheduled crossing into Mexico but meandering through the western states is so much fun it makes us sad we can’t go to all the places we circled on the map while planning for this trip.
After our first week on the road we have settled into a routine and making/breaking camp continues to get faster and more precise. The overall daily expenditure is running about $65 and we are operating slightly under budget for the US-leg of the trip. Everywhere we go people have been curious about our bikes and the trip. Ducati is definitely a conversation starter and is earning his kibble as a valued member of the team. People have been very friendly towards us everywhere we go.
At this point the trip feels like the standard two-week motorcycle vacation and the reality/magnitude of what we are attempting to do has yet to materialize. Homesickness has yet to turn acute and we still have the strange feeling that we will turn for home and return to work like we have done after every motorcycle trip before this.
At least half a dozen times in the past week, well-meaning folks have told us how dangerous Mexico is and that once outside the safety of the US we will be taking our lives into our own hands. Mind you, not one of these well-meaning folks have been to Mexico themselves, go figure? Modern day “sound bite” news and sensationalized media in the US has your average American scared of their own shadow and convinced that anything outside of the US is a vast wasteland of savages, criminals, and cannibals. Well, if they are right at least we are on motorcycles and have tattoos; we have seen Mad Max and the S&M Boiler Works team will fit right in.
We write this post from our campsite in the Redwoods Forest in northern California and are soon to head east to Lake Tahoe and the deserts of central Nevada. We have found that RV parks that take tent campers to be of great value and cost about the same or less as campgrounds in the national forest. The RV parks offer hot showers, laundry, and Internet access at the same cost as a dusty camp with a pit toilet.