Day #51) August 2, 2011. Boise, ID to Vale, OR: 74 miles in 5:03 hrs.
Now last night once I got done working I ambled over to he Kopper Kitchen Pub & Grill for a bite and a couple of beers. So I asked the waitress what the house specialty was, despite the fact that I was eying the full rack of barbecued ribs. The waitress told me that the fried chicken is the big seller there. Now I’m ok with fried chicken – not like crazy over it. But I always like to ask at local establishments what their kind of “signature” dish is before I order. So with that said, I changed my mind and went with the sure thing. Why argue with a sure thing right? So I ordered the specialty fried chicken – a half chicken. And while I waited I had some Moose Drool Porter on tap – ahhhhhh amazingly good! I really enjoyed just sitting there and basking in the fact that I was just about to venture into OR and complete the trip in about a week. Really felt good.
So the waitress came back and said that they were running a bit late on the order. “No problem,” I said, I’ll just have another Moose Drool!” So I did the same thing again, kind of daydreaming back on all the cycling and all the states I’d ridden through. About 30 min after the order I got my chicken, and I pretty much knew just by looking at it that it was rendered to a crisp in the steamer or broacher or whatever. It was really dry looking. I mean KFC looks like gourmet chicken compared to what this looked like. So I ate a chicken leg – dry as hell, then a wing, dry as hell, and then a thigh, just the same – super dry as hell. And I was thinking as I was eating: wow I really blew this one. And then I knew that the waitress was going to ask me how everything is when she came back to check on me. And she did, and I told her it was really dry.
She apologized a ton, and kind of indicated that she thought that it had taken way too long to make. So I saw her up there talking to the manager, and she eventually came back and offered me free dessert and 30% off the bill. And I was like, hey it’s not your fault, but that’s cool with me. So I finished off this desiccated chicken. Waitress came back and offered me the dessert, where I asked if instead I could have another Moose Drool. Got a thumbs up on that and I was totally good. Really, my meal was three great porters. The chicken – that was filler.
Went back to the motel and crashed at about 9 pm.
Up at 4 am, and walked down to Denny’s for a coffee and then back to pack, eat breakfast and then was on the road at 6:30 am – right into rush hour on I-84 in Boise. Now I must be pretty impervious to this kind of traffic because I felt just fine. Hell, this was tame compared to the time when Ryan and I were riding through downtown Edmonton, Alberta during the afternoon rush on the interprovincial. No that was mind-bending! Didn’t take but about 40 min and I was free and clear of the Boise rush. And as luck would have it, be darned if the wind wasn’t out of the east again. This has just been amazing. Then it was on to the next rush – Meridian, and I was zipping along at 16-17 mph. And that was totally a fly-by. I had a full lane to ride on for my berm, and only occasional traffic construction areas, but on these where they had parts of the lanes coned off, I was able to ride on the newly constructed stretches of highway, so at times I could just hammer out 18-20 mph with new road surface and light tailwind.
It wasn’t until 10-15 miles east of Caldwell that I ran into a stretch where I was forced onto a 3-foot berm aside the dbl lane where the road construction was on my right and there was nothing but miles of 4-foot high concrete barriers right next to my meager berm. The whole time I was looking to the north and south, for at least the past 2 hours of riding, and there were rain storms just pelting down rain on both sides of me. I felt as though I was in the lucky zone again all the way around what with this corridor to the west that was free of any storms and the amazing tailwind at my back. Ok, so that one stretch outside of Caldwell, that was a bit dicey to ride on, what with traffic zipping by at 70 mph. Once the construction was over I was on this crumbly old piece of crap berm that was totally atypical of what I’d been riding for the past 130 miles of I-84. I mean this thing had plants growing in the crack and crevices, and there was gravel and crap all over the pace.
This made me feel really happy that I had my Shwalbe 700x40C tires on the bike, probably the best cross-county tires made! Period. I mean these pups have HD ceramic guards on the sidewalls and are tough as nails. They’d served me well over nearly 3300 miles of riding thus far. They’re a bit heavy, but it’s worth it. So I was feeling ok about the crappy section of berm, and knew that I had just about 20 more miles to go before I finally left the interstate for good. Luckily the crap section ended with the brand new section of berm, like glass smooth with new guardrails and all. This was still barreled off with the orange barrels so I had this new section all to myself, and I was like flying. And that’s about the time I felt this: thud, thud, thud, thud from the back wheel. I knew it immediately – nail in the tire! Jumped off before the tire even had a chance to loose air and sure enough, right through one of my 80-dollar Shwalbe’s was a brand new sheet metal screw that was used on that new stretch of guardrail. This thing was 4 inches long, and went through the top of the tread and came out of the sidewall. The tire was flat not more than 30 seconds after I dismounted.
Those Shwalbe’s are good, but not impervious to sheetmetal screws! My biggest worry was if the screw had damaged the rim. So I had to walk the rig about a quarter mile up to this new section of guardrail where I could lean the rig against and use as my workbench. Got there and first thing I pulled the screw out with my leatherman plyers. This thing was brand shiny new. I must have hit it with the head pointing forward and then the pressure of the tire just elevated it up and into the tire. The tire was ruined with two massive punctures through the top of the tire and out the sidewall, and the tube was toast with two gapping holes.
Had to take everything off the bike, all the luggage, and then disconnect the yak from the rear. Then I set the bike up on a guardrail post, as if it were on a bike stand, and removed the wheel. I keep all my tire and wheel tools in the seatpost bag for easy retrieval, so I snagged a tube, and then got a spare tire (I carry two spare tires) from on top of the yak back in the back (again for easy retrieval). Got everything changed and put back together in about 30 min. I mean changing a tire and tube with a fully loaded rig takes about 10x longer than with a regular unloaded road bike.
Got it rolling again and began hitting a series of these….guess what….false flat climbs! And it was just like yesterday when these things just kept going in a series of tiers, up and up and up. But with the tailwind, I could at least big ring everything at about 11-15 mph. So I was still able to cruise. Got to the Oregon line in about 3.5 hrs into the ride and stopped into a welcome center to get some water refills and an OR highway map. Then on into downtown Ontario, OR and to Vale, OR on Rt 20/26 W. This area is a carbon-copy of Southern Idaho - just as dry, just as barren, and just as important to agriculture. Actually that’s about all that’s here is agriculture – just miles of corn, onion, potato and all these irrigation systems. To the north are these dry, highlands that could be called foothills, and ditto for the south. Once on 20/26 W I was just riding along a broad river valley – with a great easterly tailwind!
This terrain is a fax of southern ID, and if not for the change of border and the welcome sign to OR, I’d thing I was still in ID, or UT or CO, up in the high plains! Just not much of a change. Made it to Vale with the temp at about 85 degrees, but it felt a lot hotter for sure. Did a quick ride around the town and saw that one of the motels was a total dive, like it rented out by the week! The other, get this…the Bates Motel, was much better and still a bargain at 40 bucks. Yea, the Bates Motel. I’ll have to be careful when I take a shower! Those of you under 40 yrs old have no idea what the hell I’m talking about. Google: Norman Bates.
This place is pretty out there, and it gets even more out there as I ride west in this Eastern OR basin. Showered and then rode down to the DQ for a couple of burgers and then back here to the “Bates” for work. Great little place though – AC, microwave and cozy little room at a mom & pop motel. I don’t even try to haggle with these little independent places, hell they have to be having a hard enough time as it is. They’re just independent business folks trying to make a living. And I respect that. I do haggle or bring up ARRP, AAA , or “guy biking across the USA” with the chain motels for a better deal.
Tomorrow is the beginning of some tough riding, and I’d booked this little place in the town of Juntura for tomorrow eve. I have to split up this first section into two 50+ mile days, because other than Juntura there’s nothing between Vale and Burns. This is a 114 miles stretch, and the second segment, Juntura to Burns contains 3 mt passes. So I don’t want to try to slam out 114 miles in a day that contains 3 passes. Don’t know what I’ll have in Juntura. It could be just like Maybell or Snowville, or it could be wifi-less and cell-less. So if no post you know I have no service for the next day.
I’m going to take a hike around this old cowboy town for a bit and take some pics. As you may or may not know, this route, Rt 20/26 is part of the Oregon Trail. So there’s some rich history here. Heck, I went into DQ and there was three young bucks in there with the spurs on the boots just a giggling. Yup, this is cowboy land in a big way.
Hope to report to you tomorrow on this first stretch of OR interior…..Pete