Archive for the ‘On bike’ Category
Posted on July 3, 2010 - by Nadia
Day 29: July 2, 2010
West of Cambridge, Idaho, to Lick Creek Campground near Joseph, Oregon.
38 miles + 25 miles = 63 miles
Rolling hills before breakfast, including a summit (4,131 feet,) en route to Brownlee Reservoir on the Snake River, then Oxbow Reservoir. Then two or so miles uphill to Scotty’s general store, two miles back to the Oxbow turnoff, six miles of easy gravel along the Snake River to the start of Hess Road. Some back and forth looking for the road. Then two miles of pushing my bike … rescue … then almost six miles toward Iminaha, six miles back to near the top of Hess Road, then 11 miles up hill, at least the first four at nine percent grade, followed by two miles of downhill in a bone chilling rain. Neither my longest day in terms of hours or mileage, nor the longest day of climbing, but this has been one of the most tiring. Good people all along the way make it all look fine now that it’s done, from the snug inside of my tent. Uncertainty is exhausting.
Wayne and Gene save my bacon
There is stubborn and there is stupid. Wayne and Gene found me wavering between the two. My plan to bike the oft-pedaled Hwy 39 cutoff to Joseph was thwarted by news that the road had washed out in several places. Not going to Joseph wasn’t an option. I am meeting Sarah and Michael there and plan to take the Fourth with them as a holiday from pedaling. Plus, in Hell’s Canyon there was no cell service, the phone was out at Scotty’s and they’d sold out of the pre-paid calling cards all the pay phones require. With no way of changing plans, I considered my options with Scotty, who was eating this season’s cherries just picked off the tree, each one with a worm, like all backyard cherries.
Most people drive to Baker City, Oregon, then around. It would add almost 200 miles to my trip, at least two long days biking. But, Scotty said, there was the “other” back road. It was rough. Real steep. Dry, take extra water. But you could do it in a pickup truck, Scotty said.
If you can do it in a truck, I can do it on my bike, I said, and he showed me on my map where it was and where I’d need to go from there. OK, I said, I’m off. “Well, maybe someone in a pickup truck will come along,” Scotty said. “But I wouldn’t count on it, hardly anyone drives that road.”
Back to Oxbow and down the river, past the camps with luxuriant RVs and power boats, tents and houseboats. Everyone fishing. Hatch along the road so thick I had to keep my head down, which made my shirt billow. That let the bugs in and I had to stop to shake the midges out of my shirt and jog bra. Big fish jumping, anglers of all sizes working from banks and boats. One guy stopped me to make sure I didn’t think I could get to Hell’s Canyon Dam on that road. A lot of cyclists make that mistake. Nope, I said, I’m going up the back road. “You are? That’s a rough road. But the BLM graded it a couple weeks ago, it’s passable,” he said in good humor. “Good luck.” I stopped a BLM guy and asked him about the road, and the one beyond that. The first is passable, he’d heard, the second, he couldn’t say.
All the while, I’m remembering the dirt road in Utah between Liberty and Avon, the one with the awful gravel and the dust that made me slide into the hairpin turns and wrestle with the trailer. I did that. It was slow and hard, but trucks could barely make it. They make this. I can do this.
The entry to the road had an awkward cant that made me turn at a poor angle for riding, so I pushed a slow 50 yards before starting to ride. I rode 50 yards to the first switch back. Same problem, sliding down into the pit. I pushed. I rode. I pushed. And pushed. Mostly, I pushed. It was hot and very dusty, I was thankful for thick, intermittent cloud cover. I worked out a system of really getting my upper body behind the bike seat and digging into solid rocks with my toes. I made about a mile. My puny arms insist it was two. Maybe it was one and a half. It was so slow the odometer didn’t keep track. I counted steps: could I go 100? How about two sets of 50? The switchbacks stacked up directly on top of each other, and I thought I must be hallucinating when I saw a little pickup chugging up the road below me. I was already stopped, but I skootched to the far inside to give him running room. Instead of zooming by, he stopped in a cloud of dust and rolled down his window.
“I could see by the tracks there was someone bicycling up this. I wanted to see who could be tough enough to do that,” said the man who turned out to be Wayne.
I laughed and said something along the lines of it being apparently more foolish than tough. Thinking of Scotty’s advice I asked: Did he think we could get my rig in his truck for a ride to the top? Well, we’ll see, he said, because it was my great good fortune to ask a favor of many who is accustomed to making things happen.
The bed of his truck was set up for comfortable sleeping, as the truck of any serious prospector would be. But lacking the top window of his topper, it was almost as dusty in there as on the road. I quickly detached the trailer, popped off my front tire, and jiggered the whole mess on top of his bedroll without squashing anything. The next trick was to squeeze me into the cab. Wayne’s brother Gene was in the passenger seat but had his foot squarely on the brake, so after switching brakemen, Gene got out and I said “I’m skinny. I’ll be fine.” He could have had a gross of eggs back there and I’d have made a way to fit. As it was, I wriggled my way into a butt-sized space under two metal detectors, a guitar in its case, a mandolin and a giant can of mixed nuts. They were going to a family reunion. The musical instruments were for the party. The metal detectors were for Wayne’s prospecting. The nuts were for the day he gets into something he can’t figure a way out of right away.
Away we went, out of the deepest hole in North America – Hell’s Canyon, 5,500 feet deep – through dry rolling hills that unfolded almost uninterrupted like folds in the skin off a great reclining creature. At the center, glinting in and out of sight, was the silver ribbon of river, getting farther and farther as the little pickup climbed. Within a half hour of lively conversation we had reached the top and were unloading my gear. Pushing, if I had been able to make the top, I think it would have taken me days.
They headed further up the Imnaha River toward the reunion site. I reassembled my bike and my option. My understanding was that even from here, the direct road to Joseph was unpassable. I would ride something like 30 miles to Imnaha, then about the same distance, all up hill, to Joseph. I could do that. I started off. The pavement ended and it rained off and on, but I flew along, happy not to be pushing the bike.
I pulled up short when the peacocks started barking at me. What a thing to see. A dozen peacocks at home on an old homestead and current working ranch. As I took pictures, a dog and a man came around to say Hi. He cared for the place for his uncle. Yes, winters could be tough, he was snowed in from December to March one year, but generally the road was graded and he could take the back road to Joseph without going through Imnaha. Wow, the road washing out must have changed that, then, huh? I said. Oh, no, he said, it’s OK from here, that washout is a little further down, he said. I was stunned. Everyone had said even up top you couldn’t get past Lick Creek. Hmm. I discussed the relative merits of each route and the smart choice was clear. Back track and avoid the town of Imnaha. It was uphill, but at least not all the way, and it was paved and shorter. Back I went up the six miles I’d just come down and started the 11-mile climb toward the campground. It was a grind. I fanaticized about a fire. About the roll-up I would make with my last tortilla. About getting done with this day.
I rolled into Lick Creek campground with the rain coming in earnest. I threw up the tent and tossed everything I’d need inside. Soaked, I went to pay my $6. I smelled smoke. There was my fire. I looked around the quiet grounds and there were two people I’d soon call friends. Rubin and Mandy shared their fire, gave me hot cocoa, cooked me a hamburger and told the stories of their grandmothers as we discussed my travels with Josie. This day was done, and I’m supremely grateful for the hands who pushed and pulled me through it. Thanks Wayne and Gene; Thanks Rubin and Mandy.
Afterward: Thanks especially to Wayne and Gene, I made it to Joseph in time to meet Sarah and Michael for the Independence Day weekend. I’m glad to be off the road as the volume and impatience of the traffic increased dramatically. I’ll be back on the road on the fifth. Happy holiday everyone
Posted on June 24, 2010 - by Nadia
Day 20: June 23, 2010
Huntsville, Utah to Newton, Utah
I chose to traverse the Liberty to Avon/Paradise “old road,” rather than descending to North Ogden, then reclimbing into the Logan Valley. The old road was five hard, dusty miles of loose rock and steep switchbacks. It’s the first time I’ve pushed my bike because I had to, especially on dusty switch backs, the trailer and bike would gang up to drag me into the pit. I got a trailer flat. I was a sweaty mess at the top, but the successful crossing – which essentially ducked behind both Wolf Creek Ski Area and Powder Mountain – has earned me the respect of every direction giver out here: “Oh, if you did that, this short cut will be no problem.”
The pass was resplendent with balsam arrowleaf flowers, and the gravel descent no problem if I kept it slow. After about 15 miles of that – 30 or so on the day – I hit pavement and proceeded through increasingly bigger towns until I got to Logan. No one smiles in Logan. I hurried through and overshot my mark to some degree, realizing I needed to work my way west in order to get across I-15. I started doing that on side roads, but ultimately found myself nearing dusk, uncertain which way to turn. I knocked on the nearest door and, after a moment’s hesitation, found kindness, and a place to pitch my tent for the night.
In the corner of a kitchen whiteboard crowded with family phone numbers and reminders, Natalie Larsen keeps track of a few extra observations in her life: Space shuttle and space station together. 3.5 earthquake. Venus, Saturn and Jupiter aligned. Without missing a beat, the dairy farmer’s wife and mother of five, makes room for a stranger at her counter, offers up dinner, slips three loaves of bread into the oven, and keeps the two middle children easily included in the conversation. Her universe is her nuclear family, yet her head sneaks off to the stars from time to time.
“I keep meaning to write them into a notebook,” Natalie said, nodding to her whiteboard notations of cosmic observations.
A border collie named either Nana or Bandit (leaving her open to Banana jokes, but the punchline is unclear,) had barked her warning, then slunk back under a bush when I knocked on the storm door. Jamie had given me a quick second look to see if I was a nut when I asked if her mom was home. But after Natalie said it was OK to pitch my tent anywhere it would fit, and then came out to ask me in for scones, well, Jamie and her older brother Nathan peppered me with some of the best questions I’ve been asked all trip.
We exchanged stories about places, and the reasons we go there – Did you know there is next to nothing on the west side of the Great Salt Lake? Nathan’s been there to buy tractor, and says it’s so. He’s also taken a back way into Old Faithful on a trip he earned by being an outstanding student. Jamie wondered if I got tired or scared, if I was married, and why I was taking my trip. The scones were a sweet fry bread with honey butter, a warm end to my sticky day. I am shy and feel awkward about barging in on people’s lives, a stranger showing up at the door. But Natalie and the kids let me in, and that was special.
I slept soundly out by a sad cow who clanked and lowed to be with the others. I was awakened by a powerful and familiar smell. Skunk! So powerful it seemed as though Emma had gotten stunk and come into the tent. The air cleared. Natalie’s husband came home late and left to milk at 4:30, returning at 7 in time to set me straight on where I was going. (The Long Divide, a winding gravel climb up and over a stout hill separating the Logan Valley from the I-15 corridor proved to be another shortcut that has raised eyebrows all day.) I’ve wondered all day if he gets to take a nap before milking again at 4. I hope so.
Nathan told me there used to be 15 dairies in the Newton area. Now there are five. When I woke up at dawn I could see the gregarious ninth grader shifting irrigation pipe up on the hill. Helping his dad, uncle and grandfather is his summer job. Big dairy consolidation has coupled with the bizarre tendency of milk prices to stay the same even as the cost of everything else soars, to make it hard to stay in the business. But dairy is what this family does, like meeting a stranger’s request for help with an extra serving of kindness.
Posted on June 18, 2010 - by Nadia
Day 14: June 17, 2010
Fruita to Canyon Pinturado (about 10 miles south of Rangely)
Everyone who heard I was going to take this route to Dinosaur said, Ugh, boring. And no one really blinked an eye that I would climb Douglas Pass. Well, the route has been spectacular and Douglas Pass (elev. 8240, up from about 4,500) was nothing to take lightly. After about 30 miles of approach, during which I stopped for lunch and a nap, rode about a mile, stopped and cleaned my bike because it was sluggish, I crawled my way up the pass. I have been east of Dinosaur, years ago, and remember it being a flat, white, alkaline wasteland. I expected the same. I was wrong. Most of the approach, all of the climb and most of the descent was forested and touched by a cool breeze. The descent culminated in the Canyon Pinturado, a stretch of canyon with pictographs attributed to the Fremont people. I am camped on a slope in one of those side canyons, intent on continuing touring my way to Rangely for lunch tomorrow. (Internet in Rangely is slow. I’ll leave this as a place holder and move on toward Dinosur and Vernal.)
Posted on June 7, 2010 - by Nadia
A herd of pink elephants whizzed by me as I crested Bobcat Pass, headed down the way I’d come. What a circus, I thought. Indeed, if those clowns survived the descent to Eagles Nest at the speed they were going, they may well have the last laugh. Yep, it was a carnival caravan going at break neck speed as I crawled to the pass. The climb wasn’t as bad as I’d feared, but the descent into the odd ski town of Red River was breakneck, made more breathless by booming thunder and a driving rain right behind me. I made it to shelter without a moment to spare.