Thursday, September 8, 2016

Day 77, 78 & 79: "This is what we're supposed to do."

 Halfway, OR to Baker City, OR to Prairie City, OR
Daily Mileage: 53.9 + 69.8
Total Mileage: 4,501.2
Average Speed: 10.9 / 12.0
Elevation Gain: 3,782 / 4,687
Day 77
I woke up to the smell of freshly brewed coffee. Lord knows Wally ain't going anywhere without at least two, nay, three cups of his own.
We were told we'd be eating hills for breakfast and those people were not lying. One big giant climb to start the day, but I am loving every sweat drop of it.
Because of the sweat, Wally and I threw our jackets on to stay warm down the 3 mile descent. It was even colder than expected because of the headwinds that we would end up battling all day.
That is the story of the day. The ride was a beautiful trip down Baker-Copperfield Highway in yet another gorge on a small river.
But that damn wind can ruin any beautiful ride. Especially the cross winds. Head winds are one thing, they slow you down, but when the wind varries it's nice. During crosswinds you spend your time leaning against the wind and when it varries, you are thrown off balance and forced to swerve all over the road. It's a pain in the ass.
At least we were able to snag a few more fresh apples off the side of the road. Apples and peanut butter powered me through the final miles to Baker City.
Wally and I could see a pounding of rain up ahead. It looked like we were headed right for it, but the road turned south a few miles before the rain and into Baker City.
The stay for tonight is an extended family member, Erin Markey.
My immediate family just attended a family reunion back in Connecticut and my dad was reaqauinted with one of his cousins. His daughter, Erin, happens to live in Baker City and she has welcomed Wally and I into her home.
Erin works for the parks services and studied geology in college. She was full of awesome facts about the surrounding mountains and what they contain. Currently she is studying the white headed woodpecker. I'll be keeping my eyes out for one!
Erin and I
Also great news, Marion and David made it to Baker City. Not only did they have to battle the same headwinds, but they had to ride an additional 14 miles. I give them props, it was a tough day already.
It also turns out we are all taking Labor Day off to rest in Baker City (which is a terrible idea since everything is closed). It has been 7 days since my last rest day and I should arrive in Portland in 7 more. Erin invited us to go hiking with her, but I wore myself out exploring during my last day off in Missoula, so I am taking this one seriously and doing nothing.
Time to kick my feet up and rest!
Day 78 - Rest Day
Let's not over do it here, because I certaintly didn't. Erin made us delicious scrambled eggs for breakfast. What a host! She left for her hike and Wally went off in search of coffee.
The only walking I did was to meet Wally and David for lunch. Amazing burgers and shakes.
David is too cool for, what I would consider a proper goodbye. He said I'm sure we'll see ya later and parted ways. 
That night I completed my final fantasy draft while eating my newest dinner, canned chili and ramen. A poor mans pasta with meat sauce. I am happy to be done with the drafts, they were influencing my riding decisions and I didn't like that. Now they are a distraction no more.
Day 79
I forgot to mention, Wally and I spent a few minutes out of Day 77 to re-pump our tires throughout the ride. Clearly we both had small punctures causing our PSI to drop every hour or so. This morning, we both threw on new tubes and made our way to the bike shop.
I got Jasper's brakes tightened, gears re-aligned and back tire true'd. I had two tubes with small holes patched in my bag as back ups and with a fresh new tube newly installed, I was confident, or rather, I was optimistic that would be my last tire change. I mean come on, I made it 60 days before my first flat, I can make it a final 500 miles.
Day 79 Trail Angel #1:
As we rolled to the end of the block waiting for the stop light to hit green, Wally and I both smiled at a little girl holding her 8 pound dog close to her chest. Her mother then asked us about our trip. She explained how much she admired us and said, "Do you guys need anything at all? Coffee? Money? Anything?"
Uhh yes, yes and yes. But no... Maybe if we weren't off to a late start already (it was just passed 11 AM) I would have said yes to a coffee, but I could never imagine saying, "Yeah, ten bucks would be super!" And then taking her ten dollars. However it filled my heart with her eagerness to give us something, anything at all.
I told her her warm words were more than enough and we parted with big smiles on our faces. That is, after she told me Seaside is filled with a lot of meth... OK THANKS AGAIN!!
After getting out of town limits Wally and I were flying! Jasper's legs were back up to 80 PSI (I had her at 40) and what a difference that makes. Way less effort for way more speed.
Roughly 10 miles later. TSSSSSSSSSSSS. The same sound and quick deflation I heard for my first flat. Now I'm at four flats?
I hopped off my bike and shouted, "FUUUUUUUUDGE!" Only I didn't say fudge. I said the word. The big one. The queen mother of dirty words. The F dash dash dash word.
I was so excited to be at the proper PSI, now that is all gone to waste as I change my tired and use my hand pump that can only get me to, again, 40 PSI. 
I tell Wally, 10 more pumps. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8... Then POP! That tube blew. Flat #5. And it blew in the same spot as the last one. Wally and I inspected the wheel and rim, but nothing seemed to be wrong. Wally added tape on the rim where the blow happened and I changed the tube yet again. This time, with my final tube that is already patched. The other two tubes are useless as the holes are too big to patch.
We got back on our bikes as the first rain drops started to trickle down.
Shortly 30 minutes later we stopped for lunch, barely 15 miles in. The rain started to come down.
Before, all I could think about was my tire. If this tube failed, it was hitching back to Baker City. Now, screw the tube, I can't get my mind of the rain.
Wally's Garmin read around 47 degrees. Wind and rain were making it feel like 35.
Today we will have to climb three passes and the first one is approaching. I have never been so happy in my life to climb. This means we get to warm up, but not before a few minor downhills.
Nothing is minor when your cold and wet. The downhill just means more wind and more cold. I didn't give one thought to my tire. All I was thinking about was how cold my arms and face were. The raincoat didn't make much of a difference for the temperature. 
Finally we reach the first ascent and we begin to warm... A little. At least the rain and wind feel softer at lower speeds.
Day 79 Trail Angel #2:
We reached the top of the first pass and a man in a truck is waiting for us at the top. He is in his late 60s and has a long white beard that sits on top of his khaki jean jacket. On the jacket was his name written in Sharpie, Bo.
Bo tells us 8 miles down the road he has a warm shower, water, a cabin and that he does stuff with wood nobody else does (insert joke here). All for no charge we can come and warm up and spend the night. We thanked him a bunch, but a 25 mile day wouldn't do it for us, and we had our Warm Shower Host waiting for us in Prairie City.
We thanked him profusely and as he was getting back into his truck, Bo said, "This is what we're supposed to do."
I assume he means we as in us humans. Unfortunately plenty of cars passed us and would continue to pass us throughout the freezing miserable day and none would make the same offer as he. It was a great line that I won't forget though. It is that attitude that embodies this trip completely. It is an attitude that I will be taking back home with me because, like it or not, we are all in this world together and we should really be looking out for each other along the way.
So Bo pulls off and Wally and I make our descent. Oh holy hell we made the wrong choice. My fingers are numb, my feet are soaked, my teeth are chattering and my nipples could pierce my final tube. I have never wanted a downhill to end so quickly in my life. I have never begged for the next uphill so I could get warm again. This is torture!
But wait... I'm not at work, I'm not behind a desk. I'm not at work, I'm not behind a desk. I reminded myself. Yeah that worked.
Finally Wally and I made our way up the final pass and the rain stopped and the sun did its best to peak through the clouds. Then I couldn't help myself... I began to smile.
I remember the tube, but it's made it this far and were so close to Prairie City that I am optimistic again. Plus... Did I mention the rain stopped? My feet were still soaked and frozen, but the rest of my body has life.
Day 79 Trail Angel #3:
A brief pause so I can take a picture and have a snack before the last 14 miles. A guy in a truck turned onto the road we were about to turn off and shouts out his window, "You guys want a beer?"
"Hell yeah we want a beer!" Wally and I both responded.
We chatted for a bit and he told us he had a friend who attempted the Transam but bailed in the Midwest. He figured we could use a pick me up. He was not wrong. Especially not today. This wasn't even about the beer, but about the guy stopping to take a few minutes out of his day to give us his best. 
New addition to Jasper. KEEP LEFT PLEASE!
I was exhausted and cold for the final pass, but couldn't wipe the smile off my face. Today has sucked... But did it...?
We reached the top of the pass and began our descent. Spectacular!
The view was phenomenal as the clouds skated along the mountain tops. I haven't seen anything like this on this trip yet. The wonders seemingly never end.
So happy my tail is Wagon
We rode the final hill down into Prairie City as the sun finally fully exposed itself today. It was enough to warm my body, but again, my toes are still frozen.
We reached our Warm Showers host and I took the longest, hottest shower of the trip. It still didn't get my body back to 98 degrees so I put on my down jacket, curled up in a blanket and drank that Banquet Beer to its final drop. Cheers to day 79, we made it and the forecast looks promising for the rest of the week.

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