August 11, 2006
I woke up this morning on the front porch of the general store, and went to the cafe next door for breakfast as soon as they opened at seven. I had a combo of eggs and sausage with my pancakes, and felt kind of bad because it took the woman like 20-25 minutes to cook just my food – I think the pancakes were sticking to the grill because it hadn’t been broken in for the day yet. I know what that’s like all too well.
The early riding of the day was nice, on the way out of the Hell’s Canyon area. Evidence of a recent forest fire was all around, coloring the surrounding hillsides to an even deeper shade of amber in the crisp early morning. Golden pine trees were like something out of a fantasy novel, with a clear stream running along the road. I saw plenty of deer.
When I went to take a picture of a cool-looking deer skeleton, my camera displayed “WARNING: BATTERY EXHAUSTED!”
So stopping to dig fresh batteries out of the bottom of my pannier, I bullied the camera, “Wah! I’m too tired to shoot pictures! I’m exhausted! Wah!”
Then I started talking to the skeleton itself, all while pouring Ziplocs, clothes, and generally a good deal of my worldly possessions onto the shoulder of the road.
“Look at all this trouble, just for your old rattling bones!”
Talking to myself. Great. Maybe a little too much coffee this morning?
With a still-full belly, I skipped the town of Halfway, and went on ahead to Richland. This brought me over a long climb and descent, so I was ready for a break by the time I got there.
They’re doing a big construction project on the main drag in Richland, population 150, right in front of the small handful of stores and businesses that they have there. The project is supposed to go on until October, conquering the only main street. I asked the one shop owner where I stopped for a Powerade if it’s bad for business, and he said, “Terrible! Terrible for business!” I saw some other small businesses temporarily moved or even closed.
Now I headed out of Richland and embarked on a long afternoon’s ride, into a headwind for 45 miles with no services. The majority of the road followed a narrow gulch along The Powder River, tightly bordered by steep, rocky ridges. There was an interesting spot where a landslide had covered the road in the 1980s, and a bypass was built. I imagined myself a western outlaw, escaping through a secluded getaway route.
After a snack of peanut butter and berry-flavored energy goo (a tasty combo…), the landscape finally opened up a little bit. Too bad I was still locked into a mortal-death-match against the wind.
Then I had a flat tire. Not my day. But I was in disbelief… this is the front tire that was flat!! I haven’t kept count, but I’m at least pushing 10 total flat tires so far, and they’ve all been on the back wheel. There were no shady places to stop and fix it, so I made quick work of patching it in the open sun.
Well the rest of the ride was uneventful, and I was sure glad to look down upon the green valley of Baker City. I guess I won my battle with the wind, or maybe you could say the wind won, because I was ready for a motel room. I found one right away, rather than wasting the evening in town. It had been a little while since I had a real motel room, and I ordered a pizza and two liters of soda. Life is good.