After a great time spent in Baker City with Will and Julie we were a little reluctant to get back on the road. It seems as if it is always more difficult to get on the road when we get to sleep inside and don’t have to fix our own food. I think it’s because subconsciously we are thinking- hey wait, we’ve got a good thing going here, why on earth are we leaving to go out into the middle of nowhere again?
I think I can speak for all of us in saying that the morning did not start off well. In Baker City we decided to divert off of the Transamerica and head southeast through Boise instead of going all the way up to Missoula. This, however, meant that we had to backtrack on highway 7 for a while before we could get on 245 to head toward Boise. I know we were all a little resentful of the fact that we were going back the way that we had come into Baker City. It was also overcast, sprinkling, and we had a headwind. So it was more or less the prefect recipe to put us all into bad moods coming out of Baker City.
Since we were diverting off the Transamerica, we didn’t have our special little maps that tell us where to go and where everything is. At first we were all kind of excited about getting off the Transamerica, because it felt a little more adventurous to be off such a well-traveled route. We simply put our trust in Google maps to guide us through to to our destination- a little RV park in Brogan, Oregon. Little did we know, however, that Google maps was to betray our trust and lead us through easily the worst day of our trip so far- the day I have taken to calling “The Day From Hell” ever since.
After backtracking on highway 7 we finally got on 245 which was more sheltered from the wind. If I remember correctly we began a climb almost right off the bat. It wasn’t a huge climb and we finished it relatively quickly. By this point the sprinkling had subsided. Following the ascent we had probably the most enjoyable descent we have had to date. It was relatively steep with a lot of twists and turns to wind around. There is nothing quite like flying around a turn at 30 mph to give you an adrenaline rush. Sadly, this was to be the only truly enjoyable part of the entire ride.
It looked as if Google maps had figured out a nice little shortcut for us, saving us a good chunk of mileage by taking us on some back roads. However, as we were riding toward our nice little shortcut a farmer stopped us on his 4-wheeler. “There ain’t nothin’ that way but dirt roads” he said. As he spoke we all noted the he had literally one tooth. As Seth went to check the route on his phone he cracked a joke saying something along the lines of “Yeah ask that thing, it’ll tell you the truth. I wouldn’t know, I’ve only lived here for 30 years”. You can bet Caleb and I had a good laugh at that one. As the farmer motored off we had a decision to make. We could either turn our butts around, get back on 245 and do a good 20 mile detour to avoid the dirt roads, or we could plow on and put up with some dirt roads, which aren’t exactly the most pleasant to ride on. In the end, our adventuresome spirit was our downfall. It couldn’t be that long on dirt roads, could it?
Oh yes it could. Sure enough when we got to Bridgeport we came to a fork in the road, and both of the roads were dirt. We took one and started our dirt road journey. Almost immediately after getting on that road we started to climb. At this point we have gotten pretty used to climbing. You really can’t ride in the pacific northwest without doing some big climbs. In fact up until this point it seemed as if we had a big climb just about every day. Climbing on loose gravel and dirt, however, is an entirely different ballgame, as we soon learned. The hill was steep and long, and our tires were constantly slipping in the gravel.
This made the going extremely slow and frustrating. We all ended up walking our bikes for a significant portion of the hill. I can clearly remember standing on my pedals and chanting a particularly obscene mantra over and over again as I maintained a painstakingly slow pace up the hill. The mantra was along the lines of “this is the worst”, but with an obscenity or two thrown in there for good measure.
One of the best things about a climb is the downhill you are rewarded with on the other side. Riding in loose gravel and dirt, however, all but completely takes this reward away. The faster we went on the downhill, the more dangerous it was in terms of wiping out. So we were forced to ride our brakes every time we had a downhill. After the hill we were truly in the middle of nowhere, with nothing to keep us company but cattle and miles and miles of rolling hills covered in sagebrush. If we all weren’t in such a foul mood it would have been quite beautiful.
After riding for a while over the rolling hills two farmers in a pickup truck stopped us to inquire as to what on earth we were doing out there. They then informed us that we had a good 15 or more miles left on dirt roads. This was, or course, the information we had been expecting but dreading to hear. The roads had worsened considerably since the start, going from packed dirt and loose gravel to larger rocks and dried, cracked mud.
At one point we had been looking for a right turn for a long time until we realized that we must have missed our turn. How on earth did we miss our turn, we wondered out loud, there is nothing out here but sagebrush so we surely would have seen if there was a fork in the road. So we turned around and began looking for the turn that we missed. Sure enough, we found something that could be called a road if you widened your definition of road to include “cow-path”.
And sure enough, that was the “road” that google maps wanted us to take. It was quite literally two ruts of dried mud with a generous helping of large rocks thrown into the mix. It was also a slight downhill, so there was really nothing to do but stand on our pedals so our delicate hineys wouldn’t be beaten to death and ride our brakes for a few miles. By the end of that horrific path all of our hands were sore from gripping the brakes so long.
After the cow path, we got onto a better dirt road and rode for another 7 or 8 miles or so before we finally made it out of our dirt road nightmare. When we finally got to paved road Seth and I kissed the pavement and thanked god that we had escaped certain death out in the eastern Oregon desert, only slighly kidding. From there it was only 2 miles to Brogan.
We rolled into the bustling metropolis of Brogan (population 90) around 6 and arrived at the biggest dump of an RV park I have ever seen. It was, however, only 7.50 for us to throw up a tent and we were so tired that we didn’t care one bit. We showered in the less than satisfactory facilities, made dinner, and promptly crashed for the night.
I forgot to mention that The Day From Hell was a package deal- it also came equipped with The Morning From Hell the following morning. We were planning on doing a long haul this day, 90+ miles all the way to Boise.
We all woke up to discover that we had unwittingly and unknowingly camped on a veritable earwig infestation of some sort. Maybe the Brogan RV park also doubled as an earwig farm or something. We’ll never know. Earwigs, it turns out, love to crawl into dark, moist spaces. So we soon discovered that we had earwigs in every single dark, moist space that they could possibly get into in all of our belongings. For Seth, unfortunately, that meant into his sleeping bag with him. Luckily those nasty sneaks weren’t able to get into the tent with Caleb and I. After discovering this predicament we proceeded to shake out every single hiding place these earwigs had discovered in our belongings. This meant emptying and shaking out our panniers, blowing them out of the tent sleeves, etc.
(Blowing earwigs out of the tent sleeves)
I had left my cycling shorts out overnight on my bike against a tree, and when I picked them up there were at least 50 earwigs underneath, and shaking my cycling shorts out rewarded me with a shower of at least 30 more. So we made breakfast and packed up camp as fast as we possibly could, because we just wanted to put as much distance between us and the brogan rv park as we possibly could. As we were leaving I put on my helmet and could literally see earwigs dropping from it right in front of my face. So there we all were, completely packed up and ready to get out of brogan and I just stood there smacking my helmet as hard as I could and watching earwigs fall from the cracks between the styrofoam and the plastic. Finally we got off, hoping we weren’t bringing too many stowaway earwigs with us.
We were blessed with an almost completely windless morning and flat terrain, so we were able to make great time. Aside from the morning the day was relatively uneventful. After around 40 miles or so we finally crossed into Idaho!
It was exciting to have crossed our first state. We stopped and had lunch in a park in Parma around one having done about 50 miles or so. At that point it had started to get pretty blazing hot, and as we were leaving the park we stuck our heads in some sprinklers. At around 3 we stopped at a gas station after we crossed I-84 to get in the shade because it was in the lower 90s. It felt amazing to just sit in the AC, buy some cold drinks, and read for a while as we waited for it to cool off outside. We were still feeling pretty good and had put in a good 70 miles.
We got back on the road around 4:15 after a quality break. The sun had gone behind some clouds as we headed out. Unfortunately that didn’t last long and so our last 25 miles were pretty outrageously hot. We were just gobbling down clif bars and drenching ourselves in water to grind out our remaining miles. I figured out I had a slow leak in my tire and so we had to stop twice for me to pump it up. the people we were staying with, the millers, live quite a ways up into some ridges north of Boise. While this gives some beautiful views of the city, it made for a brutal finish to such a long day. When we finally reached our destination we all just collapsed onto the millers lawn and layed there for a while. Their young boys of course proceeded to try to lasso us with a rope they had lying close by. Our hospitable hosts fed us not one but two dinners and we then marched ourselves off to bed.
Sorry for thedelay in finishing the update!