Monday, August 1, 2011

Day 50: The good, the bad and the ugly

Day #50) August 1, 2011. Bliss, ID to Boise, ID: 88 miles in 5:36 hrs.

Overall today was a great day today – but with a little bit of the good, the bad and the ugly. More on that in a minute.

So I blasted over to the gas station/grill again from grub-to-go, getting….the chicken fried steak breakfast. Yea, I’m a sucker for that greasy, high fat, fried, messy, disgustingly delicious dish of food. And if it’s on the menu, nine times out of ten I’ll try it. And this place, well, you can do it like Denny’s – have your breakfast anytime of the day. So I got this pup to go so that I could blast on back to the room and watch Next Network Star on Food channel. And I got to tell you that no one has come close to the chicken fried steak that I had in Maybell, CO yet. The stuff here in Bliss was not pounded out, so it was a bit tough, and the gravy – the gravy is the deal breaker in my mind – it just wasn’t “plate licking” good. Now the dish was ok, but not a homerun. Watched my show and then something on the Science Channel about science extending life and then by 9 pm I was in bed with the drapes pulled closed and the AC on. Goodnight!

Up at 4 am for another potentially hum-dinger of a ride. Seems like I’m stringing together more and more hum-dingers closer and closer to each other. The big factor today was, in my mind, going to be the weather. To be more specific – the wind. Now this area has windmill farms everywhere, so the wind can be huge out here. No check that, it can be downright brutal out here if you’re riding into a headwind. Get a tailwind today – smooth sailing in under 6 hours. Get a headwind today – 8+ hrs of riding depending on how hard the wind.

Got my coffee down, two bananas and two yogurts and was out the door and on the bike before 6:30 am. The morning was calm – dead calm, which was kind of disconcerting because that meant the wind machine wasn’t on yet. More guessing on the wind direction. So my first 30 min was a false flat descent down into the Snake River Valley. Then by the time that daylight was just starting to pop, the wind picked up – out of the easy! By God, I’ve been one lucky SOB on this trip with all these easterlies and southeasterlies. It’s just crazy good luck.

Now this section of the ride was rather interesting in the valley what with the Snake just cutting through the rock like a buzz saw. In some places the actual river gorge was just this narrow section of cliffs that rose up to a couple of hundred feet high. In other sections the river was more passive, where there were grassy banks and trees and some houses and boat launches. Now the canyon itself is miles wide, but not really that steep. I must have descended for 10 or so miles very gradually to finally get to where I was down along the valley floor doing these rollers up and down, with a crossing every once in a while of the river itself.

And this is where the ugly came in. To get out of the valley I had to climb these steeps, like 4-5 of these things that were miles long. So I’d ride for a bit on the flats, and then go up this rampart for a couple of miles, over and over. That’s not the ugly. The gnats were! So when I slowed down to do the climbs, down below like 10-11 mph I’d get this swarm of gnats all around me, my bike, my panniers, everywhere. Remember the bulldogs I wrote about in Manitoba? Same thing just way smaller. Well these freaking things would get in my ears, my nose, I’d inhale them, I mean it was just living hell climbing, sweating, and working while these damned gnats were just swarming like a hive of bees around me.

And this got to be the norm each and every time I hit another of those ramparts out of the valley, I’d slow down enough such that the gnats would swarm around me head. I could see them in my rearview mirror also, and they were just as thick behind me as they were in front of me. Then when I’d top out I’d get up to speed again, like 15-18 mph and they’d be gone. So eventually I’d hit another rampart and yell out loud in frustration, “Regroup!” And be damned if those bastards wouldn’t start swarming again. Did it every time. And to me, yelling out “regroup” was kind of a painfully funny way of dealing with these things. No kill count here – they were too small. And worse yet I sucked down 3 or more in my mouth as I was breathing hard going up some of the climbs. All I could do was to try to swipe my hand in front of my face for a few seconds of peace before they began to “regroup” around my head. Some of the oncoming traffic probably thought I was waving at them! I must have looked like a lunatic climbing out of the saddle and swiping at my face every 30 seconds. Then I’d get to the top, and with that tailwind, I’d just fly. These things just couldn’t go much faster than 11 mph.

Then came the granddaddy of the ramparts, this thing that was like 3+ miles long. All the other climbs were like 5, maybe 8 minutes of gnat hell, but this one, God, I was thinking that I’d be swatting gnats for a half hour. I mean it was middle cookie all the way for a freaking long, long way up, up to the lip of the valley. So for that one I really tried to keep my speed up as long as I could, but then the inevitable finally occurred and I shifted and swatted for 15-20 mins of gnat hell. God I was never so happy as to get to the top of that valley so the gnats would be gone.

So I got to the top and it was just amazing at how fast I could go at times. Bye bye gnats – for good. I’d do like 17-23 mph depending on the grade, all the way to the city of Mountain Home, like 45 miles into the ride. Stopped in Mountain Home for a coke break, and when I saw a Subway, I knew that was the ticket to get me through the second half of the ride. Went in and got the giant fountain coke and a flatbread half sandwich of egg and cheese with veggies. Then back on the bike as fast as I could get on it. I mean I was almost paranoid that the wind was going to shift and be in my face for the next 40 miles or cycling. Well, it didn’t, and it actually got stronger as a tailwind.

But now the bad – really not that bad. So I had this killer tailwind, and the weather had turned to total sunshine and blue sky, but the road just kept stair-stepping up in these endless series of false flat climbs. Some I could do like 17 mph, and others only like 12-13 (fast enough not to have the gnats to deal with). But they were endless, and it was amidst this hot, dry high plains environment that was so painfully boring. Got to say that Southern ID is not the most scenic place in the US. Now look, things could have been way worse, and I was making great time, so I’m just kind of nitpicking at this point. Actually it really was just a minor issue. But I had to title the day: The good, the bad and the ugly. So this was my bad.

By the time I had about 18 miles to go to get into Boise, I was really getting parched. The sun was out in full force, and with the dry heat and the tailwind, I kind of began to feel the effort, so I made a stop at this super mega-gas station/restaurant place for a final coke. Do a 44 oz fountain and a 44 oz of water and was back on the bike and back to doing what seemed like the never-ending false flat. And I kept wondering, no actually saying to myself that this thing just had to have an end to it, but I’d keep going up and over and up and over – with some pretty good speed of course. Then came the pay-off – 8 miles of false flat descending down into Boise, with me loosing more altitude that I’d gained! I mean hell, Mountain Home was at 3.1K and Boise is at 2.7K, so there on the big, wide open stretch of high plains it must have been close to 4K.

Descended into Boise at like 27 mph for a while with the miles just ticking off like a second hand on a clock. Nothing is so beautiful on a bike trip to see the miles going that fast at the end of a day’s ride. Got a Motel 6 by the airport and here I am just relaxing in the AC as it’s nearly 100 degrees out right now. Went to Denny’s for my post –ride meal, and of course when I saw the chicken fried steak and eggs on the menu – sign me up. Again, nowhere near as good as what I had in Maybell. There’s a little local pub/grill right across the street from the Denny’s, so I’ll do that for dinner. Might even get a few ice cold brews with my dinner to!

So that will do it. I’ve not looked at a map yet to determine tomorrow’s ride, but I’ll likely try to cross into OR, around Ontario or thereabouts. May even take a mellow day – like 50-60 miles. Yea right!

One more state to go and that will do this trip. All the best……Pete

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