The trees still have no leaves but the grass is again green. I roll my 1968 Honda 90 out of the shed. Patchy low clouds, 56 degrees, but the bits of blue sky seem to call to me. I toss a V8 and orange into my rut sack, warm up the little engine and turn left out the driveway, onto old Hwy 18. My home is the cluster of houses called Roswell, first settled when travelers along the Oregon Trail threw up ditches and turned the marshy sod at the confluence of the Boise and Snake. Three early Idaho governors came out from here, but now we’ve not even a post office. I pass the boarded up school and putt out to the Roswell marsh then on into Oregon and down to the Snake River. At the river leans Riverview, the smallest of ghost towns. The peak-roofed, false front old structure was the post office-general store built by a speculator who filed a town plat for the town that never was. In 1917 the railroad came down the other side of the river.
There was a cable ferry here. The farmers in the Bend, a dozen square miles half encompassed by a large bend of the Snake turning from west to north, begged for years before getting a bridge. Without it they, who by a surveyor’s error became the only residents of Oregon east of the Snake, drove their cattle, sheep, and pigs back through Roswell to the railhead in Parma.
There is a sign on the new bridge, a forth incarnation, warning bikers to use there skid lids, there’re not in Idaho any more (and haven’t been for a few miles). A historical marker on the west bank tells of this being one of the fingers of the Oregon Trail. I turn right into Adrian. No gas, last store, well stocked but no debits: cash only. The Mirage Café-Tavern is always packed Saturday evenings as people drive all the way from Boise for the prime rib special.
A couple miles out of town I turn west onto Overstreet and climb. From the top of the hill the TreasureValley spreads out behind me, an agricultural patchwork surrounded by highlands and snow covered mountains. Over the hill I drop down to the OwyheeRiver drainage where it winds the cut and sculpted red canyon. I cross the bride and start up the river. My little bike is scooting along at 40mph in top gear. The road is the old railroad grade used in the construction of the damn and has no hill climbs. I picked up the river road at the foot of Mitchell Butte where there once was a bordello-spa. It closed after the dam was finished and years latter the sheriff blew-up the pool to stop teen parties.
As the canyon narrows I dodge three large puddles where another steaming spring, only a seep in the summer, has encroached into the road. I stop at the wildlife viewing area; no water or trash pickup, but tables and clean outhouse. Just a few miles more I stop at Snively Hot Springs. One may soak in the river here where the spring enters and by manipulating the rock damn adjust the temperature. A walk down to the river shows the rocks are submerged under the spring runoff.
There are lots of rocks in the road this time of year, but no traffic. I pass through a one lane tunnel. The stone ceiling is still black from coal burning stem engines. Two bends and the road passes a stone corral reputedly stacked up by a prosperous buckaroo that did well until his other corral, hidden up a steep canyon to hold stolen mares was discovered. There are the foundation remains here at a river ford of a waterwheel that fed a tin trough over the road to his hayfield.
I reach the Owyhee Dam: largest concrete damn in the world until dwarfed into insignificance by that damming of the Colorado a few years later. The bridge to a small camp ground, picnic tables, and museum is washed out. It is cut every year for spring runoff and replaced in late spring. This is a good thing. To allow access to the little Bureau of Reclamation Park the gate is opened to allow a drive over the dam and down the steep winding dirt road on the other side. I pass through into a clump of wooden buildings to reach the park. An old gentleman leaning back on a porch chair whistles me to a stop and warns me the gate will be locked at .
LakeOwyhee has the longest shoreline of any lake in Oregon, hundreds of miles. There are boat ramps, a nice state park, but no stores. There are access points to the lake from long jeep roads around and over arid highlands, but the road from the damn site ends after a few short miles. It is a real gem, a still rare underdeveloped recreation site. One may pull off and camp anywhere on the river coming up, and it really only gets crowded on summer weekends. The river has been recently discovered by fly fishermen. I watch from my kitchen window as many a fancy boat is towed through Roswell headed to the lake on the weekends. Bikers are also discovering Owyhee. Lines of rumbling Harleys and more refined road bikes will often roll past my house, but today I have the road all to myself. The clouds are starting to look like rain. My KO starts up with one kick and I start the 36 miles home with a grin on my old whiskered face, king of the road. Fifteen miles down the road the king yields and pulls over for a cattle drive.