Posted by: Mark Wollemann: On the move | June 25, 2016

Days 11-13: A city, lost and found, highway riding, more mountains, and rest

This three-day stretch had a little bit of everything. Smooth riding, city bike paths, some wonderful accommodations, a little GPS malfeasance, a crazy ride down the interstate and some incredible climbing that took every calorie of energy I could muster. And today is a day off, a rest day. The first during the opening two weeks of this odyssey.

leaving Oregon

On to Boise! Oregon was great. Now let’s see what Idaho has in store.

Day 11
Destination: Boise, Idaho
Today’s mileage: 65. Total: 637

The trip out of Oregon and on to Boise was the smoothest ride during these first two weeks. I followed country roads through vast farmlands between Ontario and Boise. As I arrived in the outskirts of the city, I connected with Boise’s “greenway” bike path and rolled easily to our destination.

We stayed the night at the home of our second “Warm Showers” hosts – Marcie and Aaron – in a sweet apartment above their garage. We had air conditioning, a wonderful shower and a bed that Aaron said is the “best in the house.” We had a wonderful chat with our hosts, who have two charming young sons and are active outdoors enthusiasts – mountain biking, rafting, hiking. But we turned in early because the next day was going to be a long one.

A quick word about “Warm Showers.” This is a website that encourages folks to share their homes with touring bicyclists in the same manner as “couch surfing.” You search a map, click on a “host” and ask if they can take you in for an evening or two. If they say yes, you show up and they show you to your digs. The rest of it you sort out. You can hole up in your space; you can visit with the hosts; you can go out and check out the town you’re in knowing you have a safe and comfortable place to return to.

We’re just getting the hang of it. We are also now signed up as hosts in Chicago. But if you’re thinking of this kind of trip, or you want to meet touring cyclists, I’d urge you to sign up. It feels good to help someone out at the end of a long day of cycling. And if you bike yourself, you’ll love to share and swap stories with strangers who will soon become friends. OK, that’s my pitch for Warm Showers.

Day 12
Destination: Castle Rock, Idaho
Today’s mileage: 92. Total: 729

BOISE TO CASTLE ROCK

My original plan was to ride the 100 miles it would take to get to Fairfield, Idaho – where we would meet our third “Warm Showers” host, Laura, and take a well-deserved day off on Saturday (June 25). But we’ve learned to adjust in the face of difficulties. For me, the difficulties started soon after I left the Boise city limits.

I was happily pedaling along, a strong tailwind working in my favor and a solid path to Fairfield (I thought). When I entered a strange office park and then a new, yet-to-be-built development, I wondered where my GPS was taking me. Turns out, it was taking me to the part of the Oregon Trail that heads through Idaho. And that’s no paved bike trail, for what it’s worth.

As I rolled to the end of the road I was on, I faced a decision: trust the GPS and plunge forward or backtrack and start asking for directions. I did both. First, I plunged forward. My first obstacle was a gate, loosely closed with a loop of barbed wire. Because there was no sign prohibiting entry, I decided to give it a go. This was a great mountain biking trail, but I’m not riding a mountain bike. And riding across dirt and rock and loose sand with a road bike (while clipped into the pedals) is treacherous. I rolled down a slight hill, scanning the area for an intersecting paved road. Seeing none, I pedaled farther, scanning forward, left and right. Still nothing. That’s when I decided to backtrack.

I rode for another 15-20 minutes through the brush, dirt and rock and reached the gate I had earlier breached. That’s when I started to notice the wind. It was fierce and I had to fight it all the way back to a main road. I closed my GPS app and tried Google maps. It wanted to send me back the way I had just come, so I decided to scrap technology and just start heading east. I rolled down a steep hill and came to a ranger station with a sign welcoming tourists to the Oregon Trail. I glided to a stop and flagged down a couple of National Forest Service officers and asked them for some help

“I’m biking across the country and I’m trying to get to Fairfield,” I said. “Can I connect to highway 20 anywhere near here?”

The two officers looked at each other and after a little back-and-forth informed me that the only way to get there without breaking a trail and spending three days in the wilderness would be to head out to the interstate.

“You can ride your bike on the interstate?” I asked.

They shrugged and said, “I think so. Just ride fast!” They laughed and pulled away.

RIDING ON 1-84 lots of cars

Ride out to the interstate, they said. It’ll be fine, they said.

This would be my second back-track. I had to bike back up the steep hill, again into the wind and head toward the interstate. I called Melody and told her of the new plan. She wasn’t excited about the idea; let’s just leave it at that.

When I got to the on-ramp for U.S. HWY 84, I gulped, turned and started pedaling furiously up the onramp, staying as far to the right as possible. Once I was out there, I was sure a state trooper would be along shortly to end this folly. I was wrong.

The ride to my exit would be 40 miles. I had a little good fortune on my side. The wind was howling, maybe 25 miles an hour with gusts stronger than that. I settled into a groove and was cruising along at a steady pace when another biker, someone who looked like a REAL bike racer, blazed past me going easily 10 mph faster than me. I laughed out loud to myself as the roar of passing semis drowned out my momentary madness. I’d be fine.

I picked up the pace and started flying. I was averaging 25 mph or so on the slight uphills and flats. Going downhill, I was pushing about 32-35 mph. I would be at my exit in no time! I dodged road-side debris – mostly pieces of blown out truck tires – but aside from the mighty breezes at my back and the occasional “whoosh” of a truck that passed too closely, it was an awesome ride. To me, it felt a little like skydiving, in that if the parachute doesn’t open, you’re done. But if it does open, you’ve get a view of the world few ever see. Riding along the interstate, I definitely felt like one small error (by me or a driver) and I’d be road kill. But it was exciting.

Sadly, a few miles before my exit, I crossed some debris that would stop me in my tracks. Two small, thin pieces of metal – sharp as needles – punctured my rear tire and tube. All of a sudden I had to pull over and change a tire for the fourth time on this trip. I’m having some bad luck with flats, but I’m getting pretty good at replacing tubes on the fly. (Silver lining!)

FIXING FLAT ON 1-84

Fixing a flat in traffic is a bit of a challenge, but I’m getting pretty good at it.

I had patched up a tube from a previous flat the night before and was carrying that in the back pocket of my biking shirt. I took off the rear tire, replaced the tube, pumped it back up with a new CO2 canister (I bought three in Ontario) and slapped it back on. Melody had driven ahead for photo vantage points, but tried to come back to help. By the time she was able to navigate her way back to me, I was done with the fix and back on my way.

Once I got off the highway, the real work began. I had just covered 65 miles and now I was biking back into the wind for a while. I had several climbs that took me up to 5,500 feet. I’ll save the gory details. Let’s just say it was difficult. We stopped for lunch on the side of the road. Melody has been great keeping me fed and hydrated. I highly recommend doing this kind of trip with support. You just need to have the kind of selfless partner that I have. Good luck with that.

POST 1-84 HEADING UP TO CASTLE ROCK VERY DIFFERENT

The long slog up to Castle Rock provided a wildly different challenge than highway riding.

After the break, I got back on the bike and kept pedaling upward. I finally ran out of gas on the last ascent – ending at about 7 p.m. and 5,500 feet. I was in the saddle for 9 hours and 30 minutes, and a few hours later, sleep came easily.

Day 13
REST DAY
Fairfield, Idaho

For more pictures and videos from our trip, go to 55andalive.com …

 

 

 

 

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Responses

  1. Good grief! Mark, my heart was in my throat just reading. Tune, you are much stronger than I. Can’t help but think that Mark is going to be invincible by the time you hit Delaware!

  2. you biked on the freeway? that’s craziness.

  3. “‘Ride out the the Interstate,’ they said. ‘You’ll be fine,’ they said.” I’m so relieved they were right!


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