My alarm went off at 5:30AM…WHAT?!?!? Didn’t I just go to sleep? Well, actually, that was about right. Four or so hours of shuteye seemed to be the norm and daylight was burning!
During the very short night and unbeknownst to me, Chris Hockett had rolled into the park and was bivvied up about 10 yards away. My alarm woke him and he immediately started packing up his things. I was surprised to see him up and moving so quickly. I didn’t know when he got in, but it was after me and I was dragging big time. Then I noticed Scott moving pretty good too. Yep, it was just me.
The two of them packed things away and headed out in search of a diner in town. From my previous touring, I knew there was a place just a few blocks away. After I stumbled around putting things away and I gingerly settled onto my saddle and mosied down the way to the diner. I found Chris and Scott there with a booth already and coffee in hand.
I ordered my breakfast- pancakes- and proceeded to be amazed. These weren’t your typical sized disks of flour, egg and milk. The waitress/cook (she was VERY busy and VERY adept at her craft, getting food out to the patrons as fast as they sat down) called these behemoths “saddle blankets”. The name fit the bill! They hung off all sides of the plate. I had two, plus eggs, sausage and hash browns.
During breakfast, Chris, Scott and I chatted. Chris had rolled into the park about 45 minutes after us. I told him I didn’t notice. He said I was snoring like a chainsaw. I was starting to see a pattern here. We talked about our families and lives “back home”. It was another great moment that I got to share with two great men.
The other guys had beaten me to breakfast, but I made up my time eating and was ready to go when they were finished. We ran across the street to a gas station, did the usual re-supply and hit the road. We were glad to get going as Trackleaders showed the Swiss Andi Buchs across the street from the diner in a hotel, presumably sleeping away. Andi seemed to have a penchant for hot tubs, ice cream and hotel beds, but then would cycle very fast through the day and end up in front of us. Everyday.
Down the road we went, hoping to put some distance between us and Andi. Twenty five miles ahead, we stopped at a gas station in Council for supplies and weren’t there 2 minutes before Andi rolled in. He had left Cambridge 30 minutes after us and made up that time in the short 25 miles. What a beast!
The four of us rode out, headed north and mostly uphill toward New Meadows. Along the way, the views were gorgeous! Pines, mountain streams and beautiful skies were the backdrop of our ride. It was wonderful…until I had a flat. It was my first flat of the trip in fact. We were just across the road from a little general store, so Scott went over to grab a Coke. Chris and Andi rode on ahead. I made quick work of my repair and grabbed a Coke at the general store as well.
Back on the road, Scott and I rode past a huge sawmill and then on to the little spot in the road that is New Meadows. I had been looking forward to this town as I remembered a Subway that was there on route. I was hungry. Scott wasn’t really. I stopped to eat and he did as well. In the end, it worked out well. We needed the energy and the break was nice.
After our lunch break, Scott and I headed out again, north bound toward Riggins, ID. The road to Riggins from New Meadows is a Jekyll & Hyde stretch of highway, winding downhill along side the rushing waters of the Little Salmon River. At first, the landscape is very green and lush with pretty meadows, wild flowers and stately pines. In this short 40 miles of highway, as the white water of the Little Salmon grows in depth and width, the landscape changes gradually as well. As you descend, what was once rolling green hills on either side of the river gradually turn to rugged, steep slopes and the brown sage and grasses of a parched climate. With the change in scenery, there is also a change in temperature.
As we rode, temps soared. We were also going down into a canyon in the afternoon again, so the downhill wasn’t much help. The afternoon surge of winds up the canyon meant another headwind and lots of pedaling just to keep moving, despite the declination of the road. We stopped at one point along the way to soak our feet and wash our faces in one of the ice-cold feeder creeks that we passed. The icy water was refreshing to body and spirit.
Upon reaching Riggins, the afternoon heat was cooking us and we were looking for a respite. A convenience/general store in town served that purpose well, giving us shade, cool and a resupply point. Lo and behold, Andi was there as well! He was busy working on his quest to eat his weight in ice cream as he crossed the USA. As I stepped up to the counter to pay for my supplies (read junk food), he found himself in a quandary.
When you are racing or touring by bike through the small towns that dot our map, most places take debit or credit cards, but it is a big advantage to carry some cash. Of course, cash turns to change in transactions and repeated transactions turn to weight. Andi had a zip lock bag of change and was trying to reduce his weight by paying for his second round of frozen treats with it. The issue was, being from Switzerland, the currency was challenging his brain. Much the same way little kids struggle when they learn to count money, he was confused that the dime, being smaller, was worth more than the nickel or penny! I couldn’t resist the chance to ride him like a rented mule. I did, in fact, help him get it right, but in the process said, “this is like trying to teach my kids how to count change!”
You may think I was being harsh on the foreigner, but he had this coming, plus some. I mentioned before that I was not exactly the svelte little cyclist that most were. In fact, I started the race at a stately 235lbs. More than once Andi had made good-natured remarks about the way the lycra stretched around my middle. One time at a resupply stop, when I had 24oz water bottle, a 20oz Mt Dew, a 20oz Gatorade and multiple packages of snacks jammed into the 3 pockets on the back of my jersey, stretching them to capacity, Andi made sure to point out that, in his words, “you as big in the front as you are in back!” Ha, ha, ha. Everybody is a comedian.
Andi, Scott and I hung out at the front of the store in the shade, charging our phones and waiting out the heat. A check of Trackleaders showed we weren’t the only ones doing so. Chris Hocket and Gavaskar were both in town in different spots, waiting out the heat. After a bit, the three of us decided to make some hay on the others and get moving despite the heat. Down the road we went again.
The ride to the little burg of White Bird was a nice one, continuing downhill and along the river. With all the feeder streams, the river had now become a huge, rolling throng, beautiful and mighty.
At White Bird, we realized that we were too late for the little store in town, so it was across the street to the bar & grill. We really didn’t want to eat, but we sat at the bar and ordered Cokes and had the barkeep fill our water bottles. Shortly, Andi took off to climb the pass ahead and within minutes Gavaskar came in. He had gotten some sleep during the heat of the day in Riggins and was ready to tackle the night after he got something to eat there at the bar. Scott and I took off and headed out with the setting sun to do battle with White Bird Hill.
White Bird Hill isn’t a proper name in my opinion. This climb is a proper pass. One of the best things about it is the switchbacks that continually give you amazing views of the valley below. It is truly striking. Unfortunately we started climbing about 30 minutes too late in the day to get the best views of the sunset. It was still amazing though.
As we climbed into the darkness, we chatted and time ticked away. It was about 11 miles and 2 hours or so to climb the pass. At the top, we stopped to suit up in our cold gear, as the sweat we produced climbing would certainly freeze us out on the descent. It was about 10 miles of downhill to Grangeville. Along the way, we had a truckload of punk kids go by and harass us with a laser pointer, shining it in our eyes. After 5 days of riding, my patience was almost non-existent and I was furious. If they had stopped, I could not have claimed responsibility for my actions. When they came back by again, I thought better of my anger and in reflection, got concerned. You truly never know who or what you are dealing with and I certainly didn’t need to provoke the unknown.
We carried on without further incident and got to town about 11PM. We found a convenience store, the only open place of business with food at that time of night in Grangeville and parked it for a break. A Bomb burrito the size of my head coupled with chocolate milk and chocolate Hostess Donettes fixed me up. Scott went for healthier fare, or at least somewhat healthier in terms of gas station food. As we ate, we checked Trackleaders for Gavaskar. We knew he was behind us and by himself, which concerned us with the truck full of hooligans that we had encountered. They hadn’t done anything other than blind us with the laser pointer, but there had also been two of us. Strength in numbers is a real thing and we hoped that he would be ok by himself.
Shortly Gavaskar rolled in, smiling as usual. We asked if he had seen the truck. Negative. Then we got to joking about the fact that he is an Army Ranger and a rather large black man. Facts are that he looks scary enough that I can’t say I would want to meet him in a dark alley if I didn’t know him and that doesn’t even take into account that the man probably knows 500 ways to kill you with a toothpick, but would only need one! Needless to say, he was plenty confident that he wouldn’t have any issues. The more I thought about it, I probably should hang out with him more! There is protection in numbers after all!!!
The three of us discussed what we planned to do. Scott and Gavaskar wanted to push on. At this point, it was nearing midnight and I hadn’t had a shower in 5 days of cycling. I told the other two, “you see that big yellow sign across the road? I’m staying at the Super 8 tonight!” We said our goodbyes and I went across the road to find a bed, shower and clean clothes.
When I walked in the lobby of the Super 8, I was SOOO looking forward to a shower! Imagine my disappointment when the desk clerk said they were full! And I had just let my security blanket of friends leave! It looked like I would be looking for a camp spot until the clerk said she would call another small motel across town. When she hung up the phone, she said I was in luck! They had a room! She gave me directions and I set off in the night to find my oasis.
When I got to the Downtowner Inn, I found a 50’s style motor inn. The Hispanic clerk was an absolute angel and gave me free access to the hotel laundry facilities. I went to my room, stripped down to nothing, put on my raingear and took my clothes to wash them. While they washed, I showered and got a good look at the mess that was my near-saddle sores. I could tell that the remainder of this trip would be managing this area to keep it from becoming a real problem. Uncomfortable is one thing, but the skin wasn’t open yet so I wasn’t in terrible shape.
When my clothes were finished, I grabbed them and headed to bed. It was the first time in over a week that I had been in a real bed and the first time in 5 days and 833 miles that I was able to go to bed clean and out of my bike shorts. Heavenly! I fell asleep quickly somewhere around 1AM, with my alarm set for 6AM.