Day 3: Prairie City, OR – Garden Valley ID- 189 miles , climbing 7005 feet
Aside from the heat in those first few days , the challenge was the climbing and services being far apart. We were forced to carry a lot of water – 8 bottles in my case and also plenty of food. This was roughly about 15 Lbs added weight just from water alone. Being heavy is not fun while climbing at all.
There was no planned sleep for me this night as I pushed on to make up some ground. I attempted to take one hour power nap and that turned out to be a mistake. There was a nice spot on the side of the road for my Bug Bivy so I set it up & deployed my mat. I kept hearing noises from the forest around me and did my best to calm down and fall asleep but had no luck. Trying to fall asleep here proved to be a challenge and waste of my time. As soon as I left, my headlight spotted a large cat like animal crossing the road right in front of me. I was later told by locals that it was likely a Puma. Really, Oregon , there are Pumas here? My plans for camping out west were shattered to pieces.
Forty miles after leaving Prairie city I was climbing yet another mountain pass : Dixie summit , elevation 5279 followed by Blue mountain summit. Both were only about 8 miles long but steep enough. This was my coldest night of the race so far with temperatures dropping below 50 F and I was really feeling it. Eventually, I descended to Unity , OR for a planned resupply stop. There was no stores after that for a loooong time.
It was early morning and a chatty Native Indian was excited to see a stranger. She simply couldn’t stop talking to me and was amazed at what we were doing. Apparently she worked at a local farm and her life was super boring. Driving to the store and using WiFi to connect with the world was one of the best things to do apparently. I bet if I let her, she would have talked to me and asked me questions all day long. I purchased most of the warm burritos and sandwiches they made for the whole town, filled up on water and took off. Next services – another 60 miles.
Within 3 hours the temperature climbed from 48 F to 100 F and I was getting cooked really fast. My strategy was to spray my face and hearth with a sprayer bottle every 5 min. It was so dry that I had to do it every minute or so. The water was seemingly drying instantly. I call this stretch “ death wish”:
Long straight roads, headwind, over 100 F temperature, no services, no cars around and no shade.
I experienced my first mirage here: There was a building far ahead, seemingly just a few miles away and the terrain was somewhat flat. I was pedaling for about 4 hours and the building was still standing at the same distance from me, a very discouraging moment.
In the meantime, I quickly emptied all 8 of my bottles within few hours. It was unbelievably hot and dry. I could see hyenas and snakes around while black crows were hovering over so the real question was :
” Is this some bad western movie I am in ?”
My luck came around and I noticed a farm with the sprinklers on. I quickly hopped over the fence and hoped that the owner wouldn’t come out with a rifle pointing in my face. I filtered some water and stayed under the sprinklers to just enjoy myself for a moment. It appeared that I was downing about 3 bottles of water per hour ( ~100 Oz ) and at this rate I would be in trouble very soon.
I was now 3rd overall , some 20 to 30 miles behind Mike and over 100 miles behind Barry. Somehow while moving slow to conserve energy and water, I made it to Willowcreek , OR. I entered the only store in town in the early afternoon and was greeted by few smiles from some local cowboys. Apparently, they saw me suffer some 20 miles back and were surprised I made it to town. They were sipping on some large beers in completely frozen mugs and invited me to join them. This was topped off with two large burgers and very salty fries, a much needed element missing in my system. The locals were all talking to me, kind of your typical scenario – one thought I was crazy while others were simply impressed and wanted to know more about my journey.
Vale was the first stop in Oregon for travelers on the Oregon Trail. The town was just 9 miles away, but the scorching afternoon heat was making it super difficult to advance. At least I was loaded with food and cold water. Traffic also increased and so did the temperature. Those 9 miles were a true sufferfest. By the time I reached the gas station in town , I was out of supplies yet again. The hotel options in town did not please me so I pushed towards Ontario at the Idaho border, some 17 miles away. It took me few hours to get there while moving slow and being angry at the sun. I was now completely cooked and ready to go to bed. My wish was to get there before 3pm and avoid the hottest part of the day but I was moving so slow and arrived around 4:30 pm.
The hotel was a bit dingy and the AC complete joke. At least I washed my clothes, ate and cooled down a bit until darkness could arrive to save my day. I kept waking up and after 3 hours of crappy sleep, I decided to move on.
425 miles were behind me two days and sixteen hours after the start. Honestly, I was working really hard to get away from the dangerous hot climate out west. A bit behind my own plan but I was reminding myself that everyone else was suffering just as much.
Mike was sleeping in Vale therefore I was back into 2nd place overall. He was off the bike for 6h compared to 4h of down time for me. Immediately after my departure from Ontario I crossed into Idaho. This state was really good to me and I really enjoyed it there. Riding through the night out of Ontario I was happy to see services although some were closed way too early. Luckily, I had enough supplies until the next morning.
My wishful thinking was that I will be riding here during daylight. I was missing on some stunning scenery starting with Black Canyon & Reservoir/Dam ( standing at 183 feet tall). I can see cars parked with boats accompanying them and you could hear people camping and having fun.
There were no services on this stretch and I was pushing towards the largest city in rural Boise County – Horseshoe Bend. The area was originally settled as a gold miners’ staging area, as prospectors waited along the river for snows to thaw at the higher elevations. Gold had been discovered in 1862 in the Boise Basin mountains to the east.
At this point Mike was just ahead of me. Right before town, I stumbled upon yet another gravel section in the darkness, nothing super long but not a great place to be in the middle of the night. There was no soul around, just animals, gravel and lights from the houses in the distance. I could see fresh bicycle tracks in the dirt road and felt like I was closing in on him. In all honestly, I like chasing and not being chased. It puts pressure on the racer being chased and he might have to risk skipping stops and sleep breaks just to keep up.
I walked over an old metal bridge that appeared to be out of service for the last century and arrived in Horseshoe Bend. Upon entering town, I noticed a bar opened on the left and someone screamed my name.
The bar owner flagged me down and said that my buddy had just left. Him and his girlfriend were already ahead of the game as far as drinking and this made for a wonderful & challenging conversation. I was quickly notified that there is nothing open in town. His bar was technically closed and they were just doing their own thing. He did offered me what he offered Mike – a small bag of chips and water. I was eating one piece of chips at the time and trying to stretch my supplies until next town with services – Lowman, some 47 miles away. Actually, I decided to slow down a bit since the store opens at 7am and there is no reason to get there before that. I figured Mike would also be stuck there waiting. I was wrong again. . .
My third day ended up somewhere after Banks, ID on my way to Lowman and along the Payette River.