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Day 63 – My phone can fly!

(103 miles)

I love sleeping outside with just a sleeping bag! If England was warm and dry enough I definitely think I’d just spend the summers sleeping outside in my garden. But lets face it: England is not warm. And its not dry. So I’ll have to stick to the double bed…

Most of today’s ride was alongside the Clearwater river. The road was super busy (I’ve noticed people in the States use the word ‘super’ a lot – I’ve started picking it up, much to my dismay) with trucks, pickups and SUVs whizzing past you constantly. The shoulder was littered with rocks, wood and other debris so you had to concentrate so hard on the tarmac in front of you that you couldn’t look up much and enjoy the fantastic scenery you were passing.

Clearwater river

As we were negotiating this road, I had my first properly scary moment on the bike this trip. I was riding just behind Matt, keeping out of the wind, when all of a sudden my bike launched itself into the air. I’d hit a rock. A big rock. My handlebar bag flew open and I watched as, seemingly in slow motion, my wallet, notebook and iPhone rose out of the bag and floated through the air before crashing down in the middle of the road. My bike returned to the ground (as they tend to do), I scrambled for the brakes and screeched to a halt. I literally jumped off the bike, threw it against the concrete barrier at the side of the shoulder and turned and sprinted back to where my stuff was lying all over the road, waving at the rapidly approaching traffic to slow down and not run me or my stuff over! I grabbed all my bits and pieces (except for a bunch of change which I decided wasn’t worth the risk of playing in traffic) and took stock. It was nothing short of a miracle. My iPhone, which is just in a fairly basic case with no screen protection, was unharmed. Not even scratched. Everything else from my bag was undamaged. And my front wheel, which had born the brunt of the impact, was still true and the tube hadn’t burst. Amazingly there had been a large gap in the traffic immediately behind us so no cars had run over my stuff. I said a quick but heart-felt prayer of thanks to God that I and my phone were ok and we pedalled on.

Early in the afternoon we crossed Snake River and entered Washington, our 10th (and originally unexpected as the TransAmerica route doesn’t pass through Washington) state. Once again we made the most of Mr Mcdonalds hospitality. I also picked up some degreaser and sponges from the dollar store along with pop-tarts and Granola bars. When you’re touring its really not worth carrying bike-cleaning stuff with you – you may as well just buy some cheap stuff as and when you need it and leave it somewhere for any other passing cyclists. Pop-tarts and Granola bars have become our staple morning diet. As Dustin says, pop-tarts represent about the best ‘calories per dollar’ purchase you can get.

Lewiston, ID, is a bit industrial

Crossing the bridge into Washington

"Er.... this state wasn't on our list!"

 

At about the 80 mile mark we started a 2500 ft climb. Earlier in the trip this would have been daunting. In fact earlier in the trip we would have stopped before 80 miles, let alone even considered attempting a climb that late in the day’s ride. But we’re fitter and tougher these days and knew we could do it just fine. It was a long climb but we just kept pedalling all the way to the top. It wasn’t a ‘Pass’ but, standing at the top, I had a strange mix of emotions. It felt great that we were fit enough to just nail that climb at the end of a day’s ride without too much bother. There was relief that we’d done the last hard climb of the ride (according to the elevation profiles on our maps, which admittedly are not always to be trusted…) – it would be mostly ‘flat’ from now on. But right alongside that feeling of relief there was sadness – I’ve grown to relish the challenges of a good climb (Alex – you were right!) and the feeling of ‘me against the mountain’. And now we were leaving the mountains behind. There would be no more battles – the ‘war’ would peter out on the gentle river-side gradients of Washington and Oregon. Standing on the top of this hill, I looked back at where we’d come from, picturing range upon range of all the mountains and hills we’d slogged up and screamed down since that first grind up the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia. Then we turned and pedalled on, into a strengthening headwind.

I nearly got off my bike and kissed this sign

 

By the time we reached Pomeroy the wind had reached the level of ‘furious’. We camped at the Pomeroy Fairground which seemed to be free for tent camping. A kindly RV-owner who knew the area well pointed out a sheltered spot behind some trees to pitch our tents. The wind was getting stronger by the minute. Over the next week we would hear countless folk utter the phrase ‘you should have seen the wind here on Thursday!’. We got pretty lucky I think, getting most of our riding done before it hit us.

We cleaned up our bikes, showered, and headed into town for a bite to eat. Nearly all the diners round here offer almost identical menus. Sandwiches with a side of potato chips (crisps), burgers with a side of fries or salad or soup, or a ‘dinner’ meal which usually comes with soup, salad, bread and a side. The main problem is it is nearly impossible to eat healthily and cheaply. My view is that I can burn off the calories, but no amount of pedalling the next day will put more dollars in my wallet. So I go for the cheap burgers!

Side note: On about day three of this trip I stupidly left a tent-pole at a campsite. My tent has two poles – the long one is composed of multiple sections and loops over the top of the tent. The other one is only about two feet long (composed of two sections) and stands straight up at the foot of the tent. This was the one I accidentally left behind. So the next day I had to fashion a replacement tent pole out of a branch. Its sat on my bike rack every day since then, attracting no end of questions (“What’s with the sharpened stick?”). I actually think it does a better job than the original, as its slightly longer and gives more space between the inner and outer layers. Anyway,  I’ve now grown quite attached to my little stick – its definitely coming back to England with me!

My make-shift tent pole and toggle-button holder

 

 

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