It’s day six, I think? I don’t even know anymore!
Yesterday I woke up at a campsite in the canyon, just on the Oregon side of the border.
I found some aspirin. My Achilles tendons were swollen and painful and I was hobbling around. I figured out my shoes are too small for how much my feet have swollen up from this amount of riding. So I threw away the insoles (that seems to have helped) and kept pedaling on.
It was a beautiful, steep climb out of the canyon, rolling around the edge. We had a couple of climbs right before dams, and a long, gradual, sweeping downhill into the next town.
We ran over all these crickets. Sort of like the lubbers are in Georgia, except much smaller? These hordes of red crickets were on the road every once in a while, and there was no way to avoid crunching half of them.
It was a super hot day: in the 90s, a dry heat. Gatoraded up. I found some melon and some cucumber-lime Gatorade, which sounds like a small thing, but you get tired of drinking the same flavors over and over!
Powered through the hottest day of the ride so far. Super brutal, super sunny, not a lot of shade at all.
We went through a National Forest. Right outside there was this old country store with pie and ice cream and army surplus gear. The owners were literally sitting on the front porch whittling a stick.
After downing a quick soda, I rolled a fast six miles into a town called New Meadows, basically just an intersection. I had the best Subway sandwich of my entire life and cooled down.
(Yesterday was a big day for temperature management. I’m really glad I had one of those zinc oxide face sticks that you use when you go surfing? It was absolutely necessary.)
After New Meadows, we headed to a place called Riggins. After the forest it was all downhill: you take a sharp left and the road goes into Hells Canyon and follows the Salmon River. Absolutely gorgeous. At the right time of year, it must be a great place to kayak. Super high water. The road swooped back and forth, back and forth. I made great time! Fun, fast, and slightly shaded for 30 miles, probably the easiest 30 miles of the ride so far.
Got in to Riggins. John got there before the rest of us and found a motel owned by a Vietnamese family. We rented a room to do laundry and shower. Across the gravel parking lot, the same family had a food truck that the locals go to with a mix of Mexican and Asian food. I had the best veggie spring rolls I’ve had in my life, and some Idaho-potato fries.
Every other business in Riggins advertised that they gave away free beer. I felt like I missed out, but had some excellent sweet tea with mint instead.
We headed toward White Bird; White Bird pass wasn’t that far away. And it had been such an easy ride we planned to power through and go on to Grangeville for the night.
It was absolutely beautiful, this wide canyon. Too dark to see the water but you could hear it flowing alongside us, with an almost-full moon and our spaced-out bike lights.
We got into White Bird around midnight. Mike and I decided to call it a night at the post office. Both of us had been drifting off a little. I had really wanted to power through to Grangeville but was terrified of falling asleep on the descent and crashing somewhere. Or the last thing I wanted was to have to turn around in the middle of the 11-mile climb--to coast those miles back down and have to try again in the morning.
So we got a solid four hours of sleep at the post office--Aaron was there as well--and headed out a little after 5 AM.
John had gone ahead of us and powered through the night. An absolute badass. He made it into Grangeville around 4 AM, and we made it around 7 AM.
So now we’re in Grangeville, getting coffee in this huge coffee house, about to go and get breakfast somewhere.
My Achilles tendons do still hurt a bit but aren’t as swollen as before. Seems like if I keep taking aspirin and pacing myself, that could fix the problem.
Or I’ll have to figure out a way to get some better shoes. These are great shoes, just not for this distance of riding, or for this kind of riding. They’re mountain bike shoes with a carbon sole and a Vibram outsole and they're great--I love them for riding around Savannah, commuting, and other stuff like that--but with the hard toe box there’s no room for my feet to expand. Kind of like when you go hiking on the A.T. with larger-than-normal boots because your feet start to expand after a couple days. So, lesson learned, I guess!
But also lesson learned for when I’m in pain from this kind of thing: once you fix the problem, the symptoms will start to go away.
A few of the other riders have dropped out from exactly the same issues that I’ve been dealing with, and probably because they’ve been pushing harder than I have. I have to say, this is a race of attrition. I’m gonna keep on going.
Off to finish this coffee and eat a huge breakfast!