Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Day Five: Short but Sweet

Did you ever long jump? Do you remember how you have to measure your steps before you take off, so you don't step on the line and foul? And how some times you need to take a stutter step to do this? Well, today's ride was sort of like that. Bear with me.

We are generally following Adventure Cycling's bike routes, and Bob and I, being the astute creatures we are, noticed that one stretch, from Biggs Junction, OR to Umatilla, OR, about 80 miles, had no lodging anywhere in between. We double-checked with Google Maps and locals, but unless we were willing to ride on the Oregon side and take I-84 the whole way (the ACA route crosses over to Washington and back), we were out of luck.

So, yesterday, as we approached The Dalles, OR, after about 50 miles of riding, the question arose of whether we should push on to Biggs Junction, another 20+ miles, to set up the long stretch to Umatilla. If not, it meant that today would have to be a shorter, stutter step ride, just from The Dalles to Biggs Junction.

For the record, Bob, who seems to be indefatigable, even with a cold, wanted to push on, but took mercy on my pleas for a short day that would let us sleep a bit later and recuperate. Which is what we did. I even had enough time in the morning to retape both Bob's and my handlebars, repack my clothes, and go to the local post office and mail home about 2 lbs of stuff that, I hope, will prove unnecessary. So, psychically and physically lighter, we set off.

On what turned out to be a really nice ride. Although into a constant headwind of about 8 to 10 mph, with some serious climbing to boot, and temperatures getting up to the 80's (I know, no sympathy from the New Yorkers suffering from 100 degree heat). But, in all, the conditions made a short day, in set up for the longer day tomorrow, seem to be a good call.

We ascended out of the Dalles, into the high arid desert, on a nice, empty road that went past cattle ranches, more cherry orchards, and deer grazing and jumping, and provided scenic vistas of numerous mesas, windmills, freight trains and the Columbia River. It was really lovely, that is, until we came to what is fast proving to be our nemesis: an unavoidable gravel road on our route that was not marked as gravel on our maps. And to boot, it started with a 300 foot climb at an 11% grade. Oh, and went on for 7 miles. Actually, it wasn't that bad. We went slowly and enjoyed the absence of cars and the view.

And then, as we crested one climb on the gravel, there, at the top, was a lone bike rider going the other way on a road bike with tubular tires. So we were not the only crazy guys out there. We of course stopped to chat. -- and, in the incredibly friendly manner that has been par for the course so far on this trip -- Jim, who lives in southern Oregon, but knows Idaho well, showered us with routing tips and even offered us his brother's lodgings in Kalispell, MT if we happen to pass through (we hope, however, that he clears it first with his brother!).

So, in all, a short and sweet day (even if Biggs Junction is literally a truck stop). But tomorrow will be a challenge, so wish us luck!

Here's what we rode today:




  1. Nice photos of beautiful country; interesting and lively text (as usual).
    I've mentioned your and Bob's journey now to several colleagues and co-workers. To a man and woman, they all shake their heads (often literally) with amazement and admiration. I was asked if you were going with some huge organized group. Nope. Just the two of them. I was asked if there was a pace car with supplies. Nope. Just the two of them carrying everything they need with them.
    I love the stutter-step metaphor.

  2. Mark Becker4:47 PM

    amazing. beautiful pics. as greg says, almost hard to believe -- the ambition and grandeur of the trip. very inspiring. love the updates. fyi...i'm now noticing gravel everywhere i go. the neighbor's driveway, some unfinished parking lot, some "finished" uber-modern loose gravel inspired landscaping... who knew...gravel is everywhere! :)

  3. Matt Bruckner4:48 PM

    I'm curious what you shipped home. I'm always interested in knowing what people pack for these trips and 2 lbs of stuff is a lot to shave off. What are you doing without that you thought 5 days ago was going to be absolutely necessary?

    1. Roger4:49 PM

      Matt, not that exciting. A wool short sleeve jersey that I thought I would wear as an under layer, but my over layers (I hope) suffice. A short-sleeve collared shirt for evenings (I kept one of two). A hard glasses case (I figured I could squeeze my regular glasses into the same soft case as my sunglasses). One of five pairs of socks (I'm basically rotating two, so I maybe didn't send enough home). My third pair of bicycle shorts (actually, just the short, I kept the insert which, theoretically, I could use with other shorts).
      TMI, yes?