Friday, June 26, 2009

The Bird is the Word

Tuesday June 23
Wow was this a long day or what? We were awake and enjoying our breakfast of porridge and coffee by 8:00. The breaking down of camp took us until 9:30 and then we pulled away from the RV place. Didn’t like the guy who ran this place. But everything was very clean. $20 got us a spot of grass alongside the river and warm showers. We also did laundry illegitimately by washing our dirty clothes in the sink of the bathroom and then hanging them from a clothesline that we carry with us. Of course they didn’t dry overnight but we drape them from the back of the bike and by the end of the day we have rotated and dried an entire load of wet clothes. I’ll have to snap a picture of the bike sometime with all of the laundry stuck to different straps and bungies.

Our objective today was to get over the Bird. This is the highest elevation that Idaho has to throw at us. The total elevation gain is something like 2700 feet and it’s non stop. So we left the RV park and headed for the town of White Bird a mile away. We had a choice of following the same highway 95 we’ve been on for the better part of 2 days or following the old highway 95 that is loaded with switchbacks. The old highway is the one that is shown on our map but it has quite a few extra miles and more steep sections. We opted for the direct route that was constructed in 1975 instead of the old highway which was built in the 1930’s. Just before jumping back onto highway 95 we pulled into a coffee shop and had a few cookies and pastries and Donna had an Ice latte thing and Lewis and I had water. We spent a half hour procrastinating and enjoying the fresh baked cookies.

Now we’re ready for the Bird. We put our bikes into our lowest gears and begin to spin. Two and half hours laters we’ve beaten the Bird. This was a distance of just over 8 miles and it took that long to cover it. We stopped 3 times to rest and drink liquids and twice opted to walk for a bit. Probably walked less than a half mile total. So it’s another 8 miles to the next town which is called Grangeville and is actually a substantial place as over 3000 people live there. It was after 2:00 by the time we got there. Our first priority was to get some groceries to last us a couple days as we’re about to hit a stretch of no grocery stores or services for 66 miles. The city park was a mile down the road so that’s where we headed to enjoy our late lunch.

Big bonus for Lewis in Grangeville. The city park also has the city swimming pool. We gave him the $2.50 and an hour to enjoy the water. Donna and I ate turkey sandwiches and chips while Lewis swam. He didn’t have as much fun here because he didn’t know anyone and the place was crawling with kids. But swim he did. He’ll undoubtdedly have more opportunities like this later on where either Donna or I join him but we were reluctant to after our ordeal getting over the Bird and realizing that we had quite a bit of cycling yet ahead of us. Lewis was unfazed by the Bird as he has been pretty much unaffected the entire trip.
So we feed Lewis a half a sandwich and some prunes and apricots and some chips an we’re once again on our way. We’ve got 18 miles in and it’s after 4:00. How does this keep happening to us? We decide to try and put in another 42 miles and stop at a place called Syringa Idaho. Guess what? We made it. Just barely. It was five minutes to 8:00 when we pulled into this haven for white water rafting. The cafĂ© that allows camping was bristling with activity. We paid the most to date for camping here. With tax it came to over $25. I Had considered getting a cabin as they had some vacancies but when I inquired about the rates I was not prepared to pay $180 for a one night stand. After quickly setting up our tents we grabbed our toiletries and clean clothes and headed for the shower. We stopped by the lodge on the way and if there was any chance of us getting fed. I had noticed on their chalk board that they were advertising a beer and a brat for $4.50. Since it was already 20 past 8:00 and they officially closed at 8, I didn’t hold out much hope of food. But the waitress went back and asked the cook if he could feed 3 more people and he agreed, but only the Bratwurst. So we each had a brat and a beer and felt much better about staying there. Lewis couldn’t finish his beer (or even start it for that matter) so I got an extra one.

Have you noticed that I haven’t once mentioned the weather? That must mean that there was nothing to complain about and this is precisely the case. We had a perfectly gorgeous day with loads of sunshine and high temperatures in the mid to upper 70’s. It doesn’t get any better than this in Idaho. They are more used to scorching hot and dry.

I have one more item to discuss then I’m done with this day and will never revisit it again. Well, not for a while anyways. Towards the end or the days ride as we were approaching our final destination, Lewis very nearly ended our adventure or potentially derailing it temporarily. He came a whisker away from falling off the tandem. Had he not caught himself at the last second he might have been run over by his very own mother who was following just behind us. Thunk, Thunk goes Donna over Lewis! You ask yourself what was Alan doing that would cause Lewis to very nearly become more roadkill not unlike the countless squirrels, rabbits, oppossums, raccoons and family pets that we’ve encountered on this trip. The answer is nothing unusual. We were travelling along on a flat road, no bumps, no curves, no distracting dogs, probably going no more than 13 miles and hour and Lewis picks this opportunity to very nearly land face first onto the pavement. I was unaware of the occurance until the point when he desperately grabbed for the handlebars as he was perilously close to losing it. This lunge caused the entire bike to swerve and my heartbeat to skip a beat. I have been schooling Lewis on proper riding techniques since we began this trip and the importance of not causing the tandem to swerve as one never knows when a vehicle might be passing. His mother didn’t witness what he was doing either. We didn’t even have to yell at Lewis as he realized how close he came to really hurting himself. Previously Donna has gotten after Lewis to pedal with 2 feet, He sits back there and unless I’m after him on some steep hill, he’d be playing games by switching from right foot pedaling to left foot pedaling to no feet pedaling . Then he might hold his arms out like airlplane wings and pretend we were getting ready for liftoff. And he’s done that while we’re racing down steep descents. No more. From now on he has to have at least one hand on the handlebars at all times! There are still no rules on his feet though. Boy am I a taskmaster or what?

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