Biologist on a Bike

Day 13: Halfway, OR to Cambridge, ID

Distance: 61.24 mi
Average Speed: 10.7 mph; Max Speed: 31.2 mph
Elevation gain: 3,770
Average Temp: 87.7; Temp Range: 64.4-104.0 F

I’ll be frank; today kicked my ass.

The morning was beautiful, and I took my time about making breakfast and packing up camp. I watched the birds in the RV park/campground, spoke to one or two of my neighbors for the night, and set my rain fly out in a patch of sun in the hopes that the dew would dry completely before I left. It didn’t, but then again, that’s why I bought the dry bag for the tent body.

Where I woke up, Day 13

First stop was back into town where the office for the RV park was to return the bathroom key. Then back the way I came to rejoin the TransAm trail.

The bird was perched so perfectly atop the tallest mountain that I couldn’t not take a photo. Sorry it’s crooked; every time I try to fix it on my tablet, the whole machine freezes. Grr.

From Halfway the road dropped gradually into Hell’s Canyon, the deepest river gorge in the US at over 7,900 feet. The road followed the Snake River as it snaked its way to Oxbow, named, I would assume, from the sharp turn the river takes at that point. At Oxbow, I turned onto a private road owned and maintained by Idaho Power. Within a minute I was cursing the makers of that road. The very first thing was an incline that stole the breath from my lungs and the energy from my legs. A quick check with the GPS assured me that the climb, though steep, wasn’t long, and I continued on my way, grumbling about grades not made for bikes. Well, I would have been grumbling if I had the air for it. Mostly I was mentally ranting.

There are three hydroelectric dams in the Snake River, and today I rode past two of them: Oxbow and Brownlee. The Oxbow Lake in particular was a lovely sight, especially near Oxbow itself where the waters were placid and reflected the surrounding mountains.

Reflection 1

Reflection 2

By the time I was halfway between Oxbow Dam and Brownlee Dam it was starting to really heat up. There was some wind, which was both good and bad. The breeze helped with temperature control, but since it was a headwind it slowed me down and made me work harder for every pedal stroke.

This female Bullock’s Oriole posed beautifully for me while I was taking a snack break by the lake. I saw a few males fly by, but none of them wanted their picture taken.

The road crossed Oxbow Lake right before the Brownlee Dam, and the other side was Idaho. ONE STATE DOWN! Nine more to go.

 Idaho, here I come!

The road at this point, and for most of the rest of the ride, was narrow and winding. There wasn’t a lot of safe space for cars to pass, and one motorist made his resentment of my presence more than plain. I’ve been shouted and sworn at a fair bit in Chicago, but this is the first time ever that I’ve had a can thrown at me. Either the guy didn’t mean to hit me or his knowledge of physics is lacking, because he missed by a wide margin, and I watched the can thunk onto the narrow, gravel shoulder, spewing bright red soda. Not a very nice way to welcome me to Idaho, mister. Don’t worry, though, other people in your state have been nice enough to make up for your actions.

The climb out of Hell’s Canyon was nothing short of brutal. Temperatures in or nearing the 100 F mark, legs that are starting to feel the fatigue of so much riding, and a headwind made for very slow progress. There was one point near the top of the climb where the road made a hairpin turn and for about half a mile I had the benefit of a tailwind and, miracle of miracles, the climb instantly became manageable. It was still hard, but I wasn’t in my lowest gear and wishing I had even lower gears to use. That was a bit of a confidence booster for me; it wasn’t just that I was tired; the headwind really was making things more difficult.

I had to stop a few times to guzzle Gatorade and catch my breath, but even that wasn’t always relaxing. This part of the United States does not have many trees except right next to rivers. I was following a creek up the canyon, this is true, but it was the wrong time of day for catching any shade from a pine tree. Perhaps if they had deciduous trees with broad, spreading upper branches I would have had more shade. As it was, even with multiple applications of sunscreen, I ended the day with some color on my cheeks.

The slopes were more likely to be filled with short grass, small flowers, and scrubby little bushes than they were with trees.

There weren’t a lot of services on this road, a bummer on a hot day when I was drinking a lot of water, but there was enough. I refilled all my bottles just before beginning the main part of the climb and ran out about a mile away from my stopping point for the night.

I am staying with warmshowers hosts again tonight. Leslie made an excellent dinner consisting of a wonderful salad and veggie burgers topped with swiss cheese,  sautéed onions, and mushrooms. For dessert there was strawberry shortcake. If it seems like I’m a bit food-focused today, just take it as a sign that I rode hard and had some calories to make up.

The TransAm racers started yesterday. It’s entirely possible that some will pass by tonight, but I do know that in the next few days there will be people just flying by. I look forward to it, even if it will make me feel even slower than I already do.

Roadkill count: Oregon 1 skunk, 1 unknown mammal, 3 snakes; Idaho 1 snake

Things thrown at me (object/location/plate of vehicle): Half-full soda can/ID/ID

Map Day 13

5 thoughts on “Day 13: Halfway, OR to Cambridge, ID

  1. Terry J

    Don’t let one ugly red soda spewing idiot ruin your day. What you’re doing is incredible; a mental as well as physical challenge attempted by few. Your mirror lake pics are beautiful. And I always like it that you add a pic of yourself looking healthy and well. I bet your mother is grateful for those photos, too! Safe travels!

  2. Suzan Lauder

    Geek alert: I took Geology ages ago, and it happened that the area where I lived had been under some significant ice during the ice age and had a lot of oxbows from old rivers that had been part of the glacial retreat. An oxbow is a lake formed by an old river bend where the river flow has declined to the point where it’s cut off from the main river. It looks like the curve of a yoke for an ox. In the area in the valley where the river used to run (between the bends of the river), the soil will be rich due to being old river bed. So there’s why your lake and town got their names! There’s an Oxbow, Saskatchewan, too. You’d like cycling in Saskatchewan.

    I don’t envy you that climb in the heat. It’s bad enough when you can keep reasonably cool due to the outdoor temperatures. Glad you got that little tail wind and that boost to your ego. You’re strong and determined and have a great sense of humour. That gets you through the rough patches with panache.

  3. Jerry Wyshnowsky

    Boy, that sounds like a heck of a day. I struggle to bike 60 miles on the flat. You are one tough cookie! Very inspiring!
    Do you think that investing in a cassette with more teeth and lower gearing would be worthwhile?

  4. Leslie Diamond

    Be careful in that heat and drink plenty of water. What a rough day! Hopefully the next one is not as taxing.

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