July 10, 2001

7/10/01 Richland, OR

71.6 / 4395 miles

I'm hunkered down in the shelter of the pavilion at the Eagle Valley Community Park as a raging wind storm begins to blow through. Do they have tornadoes in Oregon? I am so glad I'm not on the road at this very moment.

With the weird time zones in Idaho, it was after 10PM before sunset. So it was a long time cooling off. Inside the tent, it felt like a sauna. I tried fanning myself but that just created more body heat after a while. At one point in the night, I though someone was shinning a light on me. But it turned out just to be the moon rising above the horizon. Again, woke up at dark and was ready to go as soon as it was light.

Had breakfast at Bucky's again. When we got talking about weather, my waitress, Debbie told me about her recent experience with tornadoes visiting her daughter in Salina, KS. "After grabbing a couple of grandkids and running for the shelter in a heavy downpour. I was ready to come home right then." she stated.

Even though the roadway was still shaded this early in the morning, I had to take my jacket off as I laboured the 17-miles up out of the valley. And it was still only 7AM. I couldn't imagine how hot it was going to get!

Does it look hot?

But the nice thing about hills on a trip like this, there's usually a good downhill. This one didn't disappoint! A drop of over 2000' in just about six miles. Another rollercoaster ride as I fell into the landscape, smiling ear-to-ear. I stopped at Gateway to Hell's Canyon store/cafe for a candybar.

From there, the road follows the shoreline of the Brownlee Reservoir. Talked to one of the Idaho Power campground caretaker who had his son with him. "Gave a lift up that hill you came down, to a couple of girls headed east." he said. I think, if it had been me, I might have taken a lift too.

Brownlee Reservoir

To some, a man-made lake is an affront to nature. But just looking at the blue-green waters, I forgot that. Glass-smooth, with nary a ripple. Nature is a patient teacher, and she'll be around long after the dam is gone. And as an engineering project, the downstream view of the dam is impressive.

The map contours were pretty deceiving because it was a lot of work following the Snake River downstream to the Oxbow Dam. And hot too! Oxbow is the southern entrance to Hell's Canyon, North America's deepest canyon (even deeper than the Grand Canyon). As I still had quite a few hot miles ahead, I didn't get to see much. Maybe next time.

The Snake River

Took a break at another store in Pine Creek. "You only go uphill after here," the clerk said good-naturedly. And when I said a few words about the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center to a kid working outside, he said "Even four hours isn't enough to see everything there." The store had their clocks set to mountain time even though they're in Oregon, because all their customers come from Idaho a few miles away. Trying to confuse me again! Filled up with cold water and started the steady upstream ride to Halfway, OR.

As I was leaving that store, the kid said it got to 100 degrees yesterday. And I have no reason to believe it didn't today (at least to me!). There was never any shade and my cold water became lukewarm almost immediately. Sweat dripping off me in buckets, I was relieved when I could see the city below.

Beautiful, but hot, real hot

I didn't even think twice about riding on into the town proper when the Halfway Bowl Bar & Grill suddenly appeared. And it had a healthy number of pickup trucks parked outside. A good sign. My waitress was reading my mind when she just left the ice water pitcher on the table. After eating my sandwich, I was very reluctant to return outside to the heat, so I kept having her fill up my iced tea. "How's the hill to Richland?" I asked. As her eyes opened wide in surprise, "I rode it once and never again." she confided.

Well, it wasn't going to go away, so I might as well hit the road. I slathered on the sunblock, filled the waterbottles with ice and smiled as I left the air-conditioned comforts of the bowling alley.

Downhill into Richland at the bottom

After a few miles, I got to the base of this five mile HILL. And looking over my shoulder, what do I see but a thunderstorm coming out of the mountains. I'd almost forgot about our jokesters, the weather gods. In a few small ways, it helped me out. Every once in a while a cloud would block the sun making the temperature more bearable. And in this heat, even a headwind was welcome. It didn't seem to take long and there I was, at the top.

I've been on some fast downhills since Virginia, but nothing like this. 25, 34, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, the speedometer jumped rapidly, and the road kept going down. I admit it, I got very nervous about the increasing speeds. The road had some long straight-aways, but then a hairpin turn afterwards. My record this trip is 46MPH, which I know I could have broken, but I refused to let the bike get away from me. Even so, I was also worried about the brakes overheating the rims. Can you imagine a bike hurdling through space at 45MPH and getting a blowout!

Near the bottom, who do I spy but two cyclists. "I thought I was the only on crazy enough to do this hill in the afternoon heat." I laughed. Bob and Sheila Bailey are from Columbia, MO, hoping to do this first section of the TransAm to Colorado. "It might take us three years," to do the whole thing he said. With that storm still coming in, I felt a little guilty keeping the conversation going because they still had to climb that same hill I just flew down. But before they left to started climbing, I did get a few good recommendations for the towns ahead of me. Especially curious was the cafe with a live caged bear.

After cooking some dinner (yes, I know I don't do that very often), the wind died down enough to get the tent up. Because of the time change, it should be lighter earlier (I think). Anyway, I'm getting to bed early. I was all ready to stop using city parks after yesterday, but I like this one. Horses are in the next field, there's a church next door and a girl riding her horse waved at me. Nancy would like it here I think.

View from my campsite on the edge of town

As I write this, it look's like we're just catching the edge of this big storm but it's still pretty powerful. I'll let you know if I see any cows fly by. "Dorothy, we're not in Kansas!"

Lately, I've been getting a feeling that I'm going to be too late in the season for the Great Divide portion of my trip. My side trip in Missouri added more days than I thought. But instead of trying to make up for the lost time by speeding up or doing long miles, I might just adapt.

Once I get back to Montana, I could move south faster on the road instead of the trail. I could use part of the TransAm or I could possibly use the Great Parks route. Or I could do parts of all three. The main objective is to "See America" and to help Nancy's memorial endowment. I'm guess that Alan and Maggie were my last cycling partners. From now on, I'll be alone. If that's the case, I'd probably be more comfortable stopping in the towns like I've been doing. That's not to say I won't go off-road it there's something to see. Bottom line is to see and do as much as possible and still get to Denton by November 3rd, but all the time having fun!