According to a study a friend shared with me this is the most remote place in the United States based on its proximity (or lack thereof) to useful places like repair shops and more debatable places like Starbucks.
Lo and behold I found my self driving to the Alvord last weekend. I was about ten minutes from being within view of this place – one of my favorites- and my excitement was palpable. I was just that close… But as I was passing through the ghost town of Andrews, my low tire pressure light lit up. I didn’t panic. The light has appeared in the past when I’ve driven on gnarly gravel roads like the one I was on. But this time it was no mere warning. Air was erupting out of my tire through a gash the size of my thumb.
So it’s late afternoon, the wind is howling and I’m on a dirt road with a view of nothing but mountains and sky. Usually something to be happy about, but not when your tire is quickly shrinking. Initially I took the weenie way out and tried using fix-a-flat, but that didn’t work. So I pulled out my car’s manual to learn how to change a flat. I’ve never done it before and figured this was as good a time as any to learn.
With the spare on I turned back towards Fields, Oregon. While not a ghost town, Fields is not rich in the way of services. They have a small store, a gas pump and a diner. Their milkshakes and burgers are the best anywhere, but when it comes to flat tires there are no options. The nearest options were each three hours away – one to the north (and still in Oregon) and the other to the south in Nevada. I chose north.
Over 100 miles and an overnight stop later (I ran out of daylight since I couldn’t drive over 45 mph) I reached Les Schwab Tires in Burns. Unfortunately they were out of stock in tires my size. I could hear Willie Nelson singing as I climbed back in my car – on the road again, I just can’t wait to get on the road again. So further north I drove to the Les Schwab in John Day. Now I love my car, but you can’t buy just one new tire with all wheel drive – you have to buy four. So after 200 miles, 4+ hours of driving on empty rural roads, and several hundred dollars later I had four nice new tires.
The Alvord Desert was a distant memory and my original destination of Basque, Oregon was out, but the road trip continued. At that moment I had tremendous freedom. It’s not often that you find yourself behind the wheel with only a map and time to explore. I chose to head east to the “Swiss Alps of Oregon” located around Joseph – a place I’d never been, but always wanted to visit. So thanks to a pesky flat tire I enjoyed the road trip of a lifetime.