I've been staring at Jesus most of the night. Every time I open my eyes I see him gazing down at me, glowing on the back wall of a dim sanctuary. Ironically it's hot as hell in here, which doesn't make any sense when it's 60 degrees outside. Both my alarm and Mike's go off at the exact same time- 2am- looks like we both had the same idea for an early departure. We sneak ourselves out of the sanctuary and into the common space to repack our gear (there was another tourer sleeping in the sanctuary that night). Trying to avoid the same mistakes, I had stocked up on some breakfast items at the local market before rolling into the church. A half nuked breakfast burrito and a starbucks double shot- it'll do. Mike and I chat a little bit as we pack up- we had arrived at different times the night before so this is the first we've had a chance to trade stories from the last 40 hours. We roll out about 2:30 and into the pitch black landscape of eastern Oregon. It's crisp and cool and feels amazing. Soon it's only the lights of our bikes and the stars above. Mike and I chat and ride side by side for a few miles until a car forces us into a single file line. A little down the road I look back and don't see the glow of Mikes headlight anymore, and so I continue on solo. The temps continue to drop as I approach John Day, dipping into the low 50's. I beg for the sun to show itself and warm things up (talking to the sun came first, animals later).
I had eaten right before bed last night and before starting this morning- it certainly was making a difference in the energy levels for the early morning miles... note to self! Sunrise hits as I approach the first climbs of the day- Dixie, Tipton and Sumpter passes. The climbs are gradual and not too taxing- the descents are smooth and fast. It's a beautiful part of the course and I'm glad I rolled through in the daylight, but wish I had taken more pictures.
I had figured I wouldn't see much food until Baker City, but would stop for something if it presented itself. Only three days in and the consistent hunger was growing. No such luck this morning, soI find a great sandwich shop in Baker City to sit down at. I eat a few sandwiches (and some ice cream), order a BLT to go and do a little charging. I had caught up to the Hippy on one of the passes and knew he'd be rolling into town soon. Every stop needed to be efficient and have an immediacy to it- the less I sit around the further I'll go each day. Eat, Recharge, Evaluate maps- Go! 20 mins later it's back on the road and towards Richland. A strong tailwind was picking up, but so was the heat. By the time I arrived in Richland, it was early afternoon and quite toasty. When you're fatigued and and haven't slept much, the heat quickly eats up your will to go on. I had clocked about 7 hours of bad sleep in the last two days. I quickly ordered a coke at a small diner, threw some ice in the camel back and forced myself back on the road. The climb up from Richland to Hells Canyon was unbelievably hot- advice to others to try and time this one for mornings or evening! I should have stopped longer in Richland for more fuel- I was only another 10 miles down the road and I was scanning the landscape for another stop. This time I had to veer off course to Halfway to find some food. I was way behind on calories from the past two days, and it was starting to show. There was a small market store in Halfway with a small park right behind it. I must have sat in that park for 30 minutes with a grocery bag full of food. I was exhausted and starving. I could see a large storm front rolling in- rain was sprinkling and the skies were turning dark. I talked myself into getting a move on, to try and beat the system. Pressing on it was another gradual descent down to the Snake river until entering Idaho. The Idaho state sign! Moving into a new state seemed to bring a sense of accomplishment and progression, and picked up the spirits if only for a minute. Oregon had been beautiful but I was ready to move on.
Idaho and I didn't start off on the right foot- probably because I wasn't yet spending much time looking at maps and elevation charts (all of which I had). The first 10 miles of Idaho is an absolute dog of a climb, and I was hitting it at the peak of afternoon heat and with tired legs. I delivered a few papers on the way up, which I only did twice the entire race if that tells you anything about this climb. As I approached the top, a massive blustery wind began to roll in; luckily it would be pushing me into Cambridge. Speed was picking up quickly as the road tilted down- the winds were whipping and required a focused mind to keep the wheels from fluttering. This must be the storm that I saw earlier in Halfway. My eyes are on the tarmac though- it's littered with grasshoppers. Some are dead and some alive.... so many that you couldn't see the road in some places, and I was actually nervous to have a tire slip out. I kept it upright to Cambridge and decided to call it a day. There was still another hour or so of daylight but I was toast.
Arriving into a town in daylight hours meant the chance for a good meal too. I checked into a nearby hotel, where I stumbled into Jason in the lobby. He was looking for bags to create a cold compress for his Achilles, which were starting to bother him. We chatted for a quick minute, but we were both on a mission to finish out our days and get to bed. I rode back out to a local burger spot, ordered two burgers to go and quickly got back to the hotel. This was my first night in a hotel and I can't begin to explain how nice that bed felt.... Eat, shower, wash chamois and set up charging- the routine was developing and would become my religion for the remaining 16 nights. I knew the sleep needed to start getting better if I wanted to keep this pace up.
Lights out- another early morning on the horizon.