With Bucky’s Cafe within stumbling distance of our motel room there really was no excuse not to make an early start this morning and try to avoid the unrelenting heat. So by 6am we were inside ordering hash browns, eggs and sour dough toast. We were also drinking – lots. If there’s anything we’ve learnt over the past few days it’s that you can never really drink enough in this heat, so numerous coffees and iced waters later we were ready to go.
The other lesson we’ve learnt (the hard way) is to try and plan the day so the big climb comes in the cool of the early morning. Today saw us grinding up 1500 feet to top a 4,131ft pass as we headed towards Hell’s Canyon. The very name conjures up fear itself and we were determined to get the hard work done as soon as possible. At one point it seemed our path would be blocked as we entered a stand-off with an errant bull who had declared the middle of the road his own. I looked nervously at my red cycling jersey hanging out on the back of the bike, but fortunately it seemed the heat was also to much for him and he wandered off to the side of the road.
After the climb the downhill is always welcome, but today’s had a special significance. Crossing the Snake River by the Brownlee Dam, we left Idaho and entered our tenth and final state – Oregon. There are now fewer than 500 miles to go until the Pacific. A few miles on the heat was really beginning to take its toll, so we ducked out at just after Oxbow and spent the next four hours eating, drinking and sitting out the heat of the day. We only had fifteen miles to go but with temperatures topping the 100s riding on was unthinkable.
By 5pm the sun had dipped sufficiently to lengthen the shadows and we could wait no longer. Yet within five minutes we’d stopped again (in a patch of shade) to talk to Dan from Adelaide, Australia who was heading East. He too had waited for the temperatures to drop and, as has so often been the case, we swopped stories and tips about the route ahead. Except this time things were different. Riding our final half century it seems we’ve suddenly becoming cycling veterans – questions about where we are headed are now answered with “Wow! Congratulations! You’re almost there”! From an East-bound perspective it’s an understandable reaction – they are still in their first state. But for us 500 miles is still an incredible distance – we still have numerous major climbs ahead – and this is no time to get complacent. It’s not over until the fat lady sings as we dip our wheels into the Pacific – and with this heat every day seems to be getting harder.
But there are some good signs. As we are chatting to Dan a Bald Eagle flies overhead – the first we’ve seen and he tells us of another rider who has seen a mountain lion. The ride towards our night stop at Halfway is a naturalists delight. With the sun finally falling, we enter the ‘golden hour’ with soft warm light giving everything a magical glow.
A pair of large owls fly across our path and we spot numerous deer. And then it happens. Terry suffers the first puncture any of have had just a few miles from Halfway. But we really can’t complain – 3,800 miles without a single flat is pretty impressive.
As we finally rode into town Jerry and Jonathan were there to meet us. Unlike us they had braved the heat in the middle of the day, but it had been hard and they’d spent the afternoon recovering in the shade of the local park. However you play it the sun will eventually take it’s toll. Beers and food at the local bar (which stayed open late for us) introduced us to Jason, who had moved to Oregon from Washington State. A keen hunter, it was interesting to hear another perspective on the sport which is so popular in the west. You’ve probably gathered from our previous posts that Terry and I fail to understand why anyone thinks a Moose head looks better on a wall than on the Moose, but Jason was not your usual gun-toting spray and pray type.
After his first kill at 12 he’d hunted exclusively with a bow and as he described the skill, timing and dedication needed to make a clean kill and then bone and butcher the animal in the woods before packing the meat into large duffle bags, you couldn’t but help thinking that there was something more noble and perhaps fairer about the way he took his game. And although he said he never took an animal with antlers he did describe the day he killed a bear and turned it into sausages. Apparently they are very greasy, or was it grizzly?
While Jerry and Jonathan hunkered down in the lodge upstairs we left the bar and stayed the night as guests of the local Presbyterian Church. Once again the hospitality shown to us on the road is outstanding.
Today’s Miles: 57
Miles since First Landing: 3804