Friday, September 12, 2008

The return

Day 9 (ride day 6)
On Tuesday morning, I thanked Scott for the unbelievable hospitality, and took his advice for a route that would take me 130 miles up to Portland. This ride would bring me through the Willamette River Valley, highlighting many of the areas farms, orchards and vineyards, and hopefully delivering me to Champeog State Park, just south of Portland.

north from eugene

Well, this trip did not disappoint. Scott started the ride with me and rode the first 12-15 miles up to the north end of Eugene, vastly improving the safety and efficiency of my trip through the city. It is much easier to stay on the less congested streets when you know where they are.
As I got out of town, the route snaked its way back and forth across the river, and several times I missed turns. Fortunately I had my gps, so I could zoom in on the smaller roads and find shortcuts back to my route. I enjoyed this aspect of the trip immensely because if every navigational error I made had resulted in backtracking the trip would have been much less enjoyable.
The steepest hill of the entire trip was on a road called Orchard Heights, the climb was probably only 2-3 miles long, but it was definitely an effort to keep pumping the pedals. I was a little frustrated with the difficulty on the way up, but once I reached the summit I looked out over the valley and across the river at Salem, OR….it was WORTH IT. What a view!

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The descent was also a great reason to have climbed so high. This road was so smooth that 40+ mph felt relatively safe. Some roads, due to their roughness would make 25 mpg feel dangerous, but not this one. As I neared the bottom I was really getting thirsty and wanted to get to the next town for a late lunch. I checked out the gps and found a short cut. After going a mile down this shorter route I encountered the reason for the suggested course taking a long cut….there was a very steep, ¾ mile long gravel road to negotiate. I contemplated turning around, but decided I would give it a shot, even on the tiny road bike tires I was rolling on. It was hairy. A local went by in a pickup and literally laughed at me out his window. I kept going down, slamming on the brakes the whole way, just to stay in moderate control. When I reached the bottom I got all excited about that little mini-adventure, screaming out in happiness that it had worked out.
A little way down the road I found a self-serve road side pear stand, where I deposited a Quarter and took a nice ripe pear to enjoy. A couple miles later I came into a small town and had a personal pizza at the local pizza shop. I also grabbed Gatorade and batteries at the gas station. After enjoying a 20 minute conversation with my brother Todd, I headed out again.
The next waypoint was a crossing of the river on a Ferry. I was curious to find out whether or not and how often the ferry was running. It was after 5 o’clock and I figured I might have missed my shot. Not the case, as soon as I rolled down the hill the ferry was hitting our shore, and within 2 minutes I was on the boat, and found that bicycles and pedestrians crossed free of charge!


The river was only a hundred yards wide, so I was quickly off on the other side and riding again. The next couple of hours were riding through a bunch of fields of hops. These plants, that I only recognize from beer commercials, grow on strings strung straight up 20 feet in the air. Every 15-20 minutes a truck would go by piled high with the vines and the road was literally scattered with them. It was during this stretch that I first noticed Mt. Hood, 100 miles to the north east. The haze of 100 miles meant the image wasn’t clear, but I could make out the profile of this awesome mountain. It was very cool to notice it.

cool shadow

After a while I ended up at the last convenience store of the day, and ate several snacks and grabbed my extra Gatorade for the evening/morning. 5 more miles brought me to the state park, with a solid 45 minutes of light left. For the first time on a camping day I was treated to a shower. As an added bonus this state park had a hiker/biker specific campsite that only cost $4, more than reasonable. I enjoyed this evening, with the hot shower and comfy temperatures.
Day’s Mileage: 120 Miles
Cumulative Mileage: 755

Day 10 (ride day 7)
This day began with a nice shower again…why not? Then I packed my things and got underway around 7 am. The first miles were on a side hwy, and I really had no great plan for how to enter and cross Portland. My Oregon cycling map, that Scott had given me, showed that it was legal to ride on the interstates, except for in downtown Portland and a couple other spots around the state. So when I reached the freeway, I turned onto it, just to see how it was. Well, it was before rush hour, and really the freeway felt safe. The breakdown lane was very wide, and the debris on the side of the road wasn’t so thick that it bothered the ride. I cruised along at 20 mph for a number of miles, hoping for a good breakfast spot to pop up. I found a spot on the map one exit before bike riding became prohibited, and decided to shoot for that. Before I reached it though, the traffic picked up such that it was annoying to wait at the entrance ramps for the streams of cars to allow me passage, and the exit ramps felt less than safe…with the discrepancy in speed between the cars and I. I resigned myself to dismounting for these intersections, and walking safely across them, but then someone drove by and screamed at me to get off the freeway. I am sure that I was legally riding there, but the animosity shook me up just enough that I decided to get off and find a surface street route. Luckily there was a McDonalds at the bottom of the ramp and I thoroughly enjoyed a large breakfast. This was one of only two trips to fast food restaurants on the whole trip, and although I ate a lot of junk at gas stations, I did attempt to eat at least one meal a day at a café or diner where I could get some salad and veggies.
Unfortunately the surface streets I chose to navigate were much worse than the interstate had been. After a couple miles of bike lanes, I entered a 10 mile stretch where the shoulder was non-existent and the school buses were passing every couple of minutes. I don’t like being the bicycle holding up traffic, but I didn’t have any better ideas for this section, so that’s what happened. Next I came to 172nd street, which was closed for road work. Lucky me got to take a long detour up over a really big hill. Then I finally got on the greenway that I had been shooting for for about an hour, and within a mile there was a bridge out for repair. This detour was even worse, I went at least 6-7 miles out of the way. The road was nice though, and despite the fact that I thought I’d be all the way across Portland by now I was in decent spirits. Reaching the greenway again I found another section closed and navigated my way around by asking several locals for help. Then I finally, after a solid 50 miles across Portland, arrived in Troutdale, the start point of the Columbia River Scenic Highway.
Now, the Columbia River Gorge is known far and wide as a stellar area, and it did not disappoint. As a cyclist you have the option of riding on historic hwy 30 in Oregon, interstate 84, also in Oregon, and hwy 14, across the river in Washington. The interstate offers the flattest ride, while the Oregon hwy passes through several small towns, and the Washington road is fairly deserted.

gorge view

I first chose the Oregon hwy since that’s where I was standing. The first 10 miles or so are a steady climb to a small town. This climb was tougher than I hoped, but when I reached the lip of the gorge the view was again worthwhile. I could see Mt. Hood, much closer now, as well as the river at least 1000 feet below, and all the way off into Washington. Continuing on, I started the awesome descent to the water. This was surely the most scenic descent on the trip….several state parks and viewing areas were positioned on the hill, most prominently Crown Point. There were also many spectacular waterfalls along the road, some of them falling hundreds of feet from the lip of the gorge.

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After the most awe-inspiring of these falls I caught up to another bicycle tourer in his mid-fifties named Christopher. He told me that we were at the very end of the touring season, and that only 2 weeks ago the gorge was teeming with cyclists. We road together for a good 40 minutes, where the hwy merged with the interstate momentarily, and stopped at a hydroelectric dam because he recommended a visit. After a short visit to the dam, where we saw a fish hatchery and a pool of Sturgeons, I thanked him for the tour guiding, and headed on my way. For the next hour and a half I cranked my way down the gorge at 20+mph, due to the great tailwind, and ended up in the town of Hood River. This place is a hot spot for kiteboarding and windsurfing because in the summer months there is a nearly constant 25mph wind going through the gorge. I had a burrito and a local Full Sail Ale, and went into the local bike shop to top off the pressure in my tubes.

full sail and burrito

Heading out I decided that since the last bridge to Washington for quite a while was just ahead, I would go over and try that road out.
Unfortunately the bridge was closed to pedestrians and cyclists, so I stood there for a few minutes waiting for a truck with a man driving to come along. As soon as one did I stuck my thumb out and the driver obliged me a ride across the bridge. This guy told me that it was fairly recently that the closed the bridge to bikes, and that the next bridge, some 50 miles east, was closed for repairs. He lamented that I wouldn’t get to see the “real” Washington, because I wasn’t headed up to the forests, so I promised that someday I would make it up that way. After thanking him and jumping down out of the Dodge 3500, I began pedaling again.

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I reached a small town after another hour or so, and stocked up on my regular calories. Then I looked at the map and tried to figure out where I might camp. Basically the road stayed close to the river, and there was a cliff on my left, and the railroad on my right, with only a few feet of brush and no good camping spots. The first state park I came to, where I hoped I might camp, was just a windsurfing spot, and prohibited camping. I worried a little but then continued on. A few miles down the road I came across Horse Thief Lake State Park, and I happily cruised downhill to the campground. When I arrived, I found a windy area with a bathroom and no showers. Plus a $12 camping charge. What a rip! Oh well, there didn’t seem to be any other options, so I set up camp, and was reprimanded for being 20 feet outside of my zone by a ranger. I then headed to the bathroom to brush my teeth. Imagine my excitement when I found that there WAS a shower in there. I quickly stripped off my clothes and ran into the stall. Now, imagine my dejectedness when I realized that the shower was a quarter machine, with a $0.75 cost. I ran back to my campsite and dug through everything to find…..2 quarters.

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So I walked over to the outdoor water faucet and took my aquafina bottle with me. This shower had the double bonus of cold water AND windy weather. I hurried as best I could, and enjoyed going back over to brush my teeth. Being clean of the road grime I picked up was always worth freezing water.
Walking out of the bathroom, I found a couple that was motorcycle touring. They were having a couple budlights, which I almost asked them to share. Instead, they chatted me up for a solid 30 minutes about who I was and what I was up to. It was a fun conversation. Victoria, the woman, tried her best to get me to come up to Spokane and meet a girl she was opening a bistro with, apparently she is a big excerciser and a triathlete. I said if I ever got up that way I would look them up on route 2 just north of the city. They also gave me some great info….tomorrow morning I might have another 80 miles on no breakfast situation brewing. Doh! I had 2 bottles of Gatorade, but they insisted that I take some beef jerky and cheese sticks, recommending that I “drink plenty of water.” They were great folks, I hope I run into them someday up in Spokane.
Hitting the hay was great this night, the stars were great, I was clean, and the wind was dying down.
Day’s Mileage: 140 Miles
Cumulative Miles: 895

Day 11 (ride day 8)
Waking up at 6:30 I was ready to go, and I even started thinking about the end of the trip. Luckily 14 miles down the road there was a little cabin with biscuits and gravy on the breakfast menu. These two folks had just opened a little store, with a tiny consignment shop and a little café. The only thing available for breakfast was muffins and the aforementioned biscuits and gravy. Since I believed I had 65 more miles to get food again I happily waited while captain Ron bumbled around the kitchen microwaving my breakfast. I have no doubt that this store will be out of business soon, which is sad, but these folks had no idea what they were doing. I wished them the best and headed out, a little miffed that it had taken over 40 minutes to eat a simple meal, but happy to have had it anyway. Another ways down the road I found out that the bridge I had been told was out for repairs was actually still open for 3 more days, so I took the opportunity to return to the more inhabited Oregon.

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I crossed over to Biggs, OR and continued on my way. A couple hours down the road I pulled off of an I-84 exit and got a pint of my new favorite Ben and Jerry’s flavor….Half Baked. Just like my trip it was awesome. When I reached a rest area in Boardman, OR I stopped for a bathroom break and was surprised to find a senior citizen’s club set up in a little camper offering coffee, lemonade and cookies to travelers. I thanked them for the hospitality and answered their questions about my trip. One of them asked, “what do you do about cabbage hill? Do you just walk it?” I told them I had not had to walk up a hill yet, but if that’s what it took I would do it. I inquired about the hill and they told me it was a 15 mile continuous climb up to the plateau east of Pendleton. With the new found knowledge that there was a beast of a hill that “the semi’s have real trouble with.” I headed out again, destined for Pendleton.
I arrived, after a long down hill to the Umatilla River in Pendleton, where I got a foot long subway sandwich and some cookies and soda. After a couple phone calls to family I saddled up and started looking for the climb. It was my intention to climb the whole thing without putting my foot down, if possible.
Cabbage hill, as they call it, really is a beast. Luckily my legs and lungs were able to metronome their way to the top, and I even snapped a couple shots of the view west as I climbed. The late afternoon sun was heading downwards as I climbed, so the view was spectacular.

on the way up up up

When I reached Dead Man’s Pass, I stopped at the rest area, where I quickly made my way to the vending machines. I got a mountain dew and then turned around to find a huge dude standing behind me. This guy, whose eastern European accent and facial structure gave him away, peppered me with questions about what I was up to, and “Do you carry weapon?”
I uneasily said that no, I could take care of myself without anything more than a knife. He told me that for the bears and lions he would carry a gun. I asked where he was from and he told me he was Ukranian. I said, “seriously, my name is Laniak, my great grandfather came from Ukraine.” We hit it off even better now….He told me, “I have Russian name, Babinov!”
When he asked me how I kept going all day I showed him my mountain dew and said, “rocket fuel!”
Since I’d finished my snacks I bade my new friend goodbye, and pedaled eastward.
On the next stretch of road, way up in the hills, I noticed that there was a side road paralleling the interstate, and I decided to try it. Wow! It was out there. After a while I was well out of ear shot of the highway, and began thinking if it weren’t for the bears up here this really would be a great place to camp. A few miles down the road I passed a cabin. As the sun set I would not have been surprised at all if Ted Kazcynski himself walked out and struck up a conversation with me.

come on!!!

I was uneasy, and knew that if anyone confronted me I better exude some fake confidence, because this was not the place where folks who like lycra clad cyclists hang out. As the sun set I put on my headlamp and tail light, and made my way down a long downhill many miles to the next place where this road crossed the interstate. Now I was in the zone again, heading downhill in a controlled way, watching for any patch of gravel that might ruin my day, and keeping in mind that there was a State Park just before La Grande, down the road. I arrived at Hilgard’s Junction State Park an hour after dark, and found a campsite for $8. This time I took my shower in the sink. Luckily there was a drain in the concrete floor, so the little water and soap I used and dripped all over the floor was able to make its way out. This “shower” was pretty unsatisfying, but it was what it was, and I felt a little refreshed. I set up my camp and read my book for a while, staying up relatively late, around 10:30 I think.
The night got pretty cold, and I think the combo of it being cold and being excited about finishing the trip with a final day of 180+ miles was getting to me, so I did not sleep very well.
Day’s Mileage: 171 Miles
Cumulative Mileage: 1066 Miles

Day 12 (ride day 9)
After a few hours of restless sleep in what must have been mid thirty degree temperatures, I woke up at 3:45 and had the feeling that I was going to lay there awake til I got up. After 20 minutes of that I made the decision to just get going. I was excited to finish the trip with an extra long day, and I figured the sooner I started the more likely I’d make it home for dinner. I packed all my gear, and literally put on ALL of my clothes. Shoving off at almost 4:30 in the morning was kind of cool, I had not yet started a ride before dawn, and this was a new experience. The night was cold and dark, and the interstate was basically dead. I started the ride with an hour long downhill into La Grande, where I hoped to find a 24 hour diner for breakfast. When I rolled off the interstate and onto hwy 30 through town, things were really cool. The town was deserted, but all the business lights were on, and as I passed the Town Hall building I felt like I was back in Jasper, TN nearing the end of the Vol-State Run. I cruised through town and when my road rejoined the interstate there was a Flying-J truck stop. I locked up my bike in the pre dawn, and headed inside to warm up and snarf some breakfast.
Finishing my all American breakfast, with French Toast, I headed out again, expecting a big climb up and out of La Grande. I was not disappointed, and a couple miles down the road I was stripping a few layers off in an effort to cool down. Reaching the top of another plateau, I was again on a high elevation road with flat ground and a relatively good tailwind. Cruising along for another hour or two, I had a slight mechanical issue when I shifted into the big ring and my chain came off and twisted itself inside out. Jumping off I literally spent 20 minutes trying to figure out how to correct this mobius strip chain situation.

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A rancher came by on his ATV and offered me a ride to town (which was a solid 20 miles away) but I told him I just about had it fixed up. I knew that even if I couldn’t unwrap the chain I could always disconnect and link, unwrap it and then reconnect. That method would have been giving up, and very unsatisfying. This was one of those situations where I knew what the chain had done, but I didn’t believe it was possible, so I exhausted ever OTHER possibility before I addressed my first instinct. It was an interesting waste of time, and finally I trusted my gut and man handled the chain into obedience. Ah, back on the saddle!
Cruising along again without incident for several hours, I arrived in Baker City. Here my made my second McDonald’s stop of the trip. I loaded up and headed out again, realizing that it was about 11am and I was closing in the on the last 100 miles. I believe it was aan hour down the road that I saw the first interstate “Mileage to Boise” sign, and it read 107. This perked me up and I renewed my vigor, realizing I had a slight chance of getting home before dark. I went hard through Pleasant Valley, Durkee and Weatherby, back in the high heat of the slightly lower altitudes. When I reached Huntington I was out of food and water, but I wanted to go another couple of exits before stopping for refreshment. Whoops! No services for quite a while. 20 miles further down the road I got off at the exit where I wanted to leave the interstate for good, and again…no services.

hot again

I was holding things together, but another 30 minutes would mean bonking, so I was very hopeful that the sign for an RV campground a few miles down the road would mean a chance to get some nourishment. My new friends at the campground had a refrigerator full of green powerade and cokes, so I took in about 80 oz, and left with 2 full water bottles. I was less than 80 miles from Boise, and feeling good.
I cruised on down the Snake River Valley and up and over a few hills, thinking about getting to Weiser and eating a meal. A little ways down the road I saw a sign that read, “Rough Road, next 1 mile.” In my mind I chuckled, thinking “haha, yeah right, this ain’t rough compared to where I’ve been!”
Without exaggerating, I can honestly say that that thought had not finished being thought in my brain before I heard and felt a “PFFFSSSHHHH!” directly underneath me in my rear wheel.


Almost 1200 miles without a flat tire, across some really rough roads and many patches of broken glass, and here I was with a flat less than 100 from the end. Ok, cool, this is why I brought 2 spare tubes. Let’s do it! I quickly removed the rear wheel and peeled off the tire. Shoving a new tube in I began pumping it up….only to realize that the casing of the tire was torn in several spots, and as I pumped the tire became misshapen and skewed. Doh!
I knew if I put the pressure too high I would balloon the tube out of the tire, so I settled on an intermediate pressure and hoped for the best, since I was almost 20 miles from the next town and it was getting really hot out. I began rolling extra slowly, just hoping to hold things together to the next town where I might find a new tire. I was happy but cautious, not daring to exceed 10 mph, in hopes of keeping things happy. Dang! Now I would have no shot at arriving in daylight, but of course I knew this was a great story waiting to be told. About 5 miles down the road I passed a farmer out on the edge of his field, I asked him which fork in the road I should take up ahead if I wanted to find a bike shop and he said to head to Ontario, OR, because Payette, ID probably would not have one. I thanked him and again started slowly rolling. 100 feet later the tube went again. I knew my last tube wasn’t going to get me the 14 miles to Ontario, so I walked back and asked the farmer whether he might be able to help me out.

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“Could I ask you to store my bicycle for me for a day or two?” I asked, explaining my trip and my desire to finish it under my own power. Ideally, I would have asked for a ride into town, but I did not want to impose on this guy’s afternoon of work, so I figured I should just leave my bike and run it in.
Roy Munsdale obliged me some room in his barn, and I changed from my bicycle clothes to my running shorts, shirt and hat. I packed my tiny waste belt with my credit card, cell phone, passport, and camera. I knew it was less than 9 miles to Payette, Id, but Roy told me it was “70 miles to Boise from my farm.”
“Ok, I thought, here is a great chance to run really far and push yourself, while at the same time upping the ante on the story of your trip to the Pacific and back.”
I took a water bottle with me and jogged out into the late afternoon heat. Onion field after onion field passed by, and after a couple hours I was hitting the Snake River and crossing in to Idaho. I’d decided I’d wait til hitting Idaho before calling anyone to tell them I was running late. But when I got there I was so weak I decided to wait a little longer, lest I be tempted to ask Will and Diane to come retrieve me and end the effort. I stopped in a store and bought a pint of Haagen-Daas ice cream, hoping to get some serious calories and feel better. I knew if I didn’t feel better soon I could probably find a motel and finish the run the next day, but I was tired enough that waking up the next morning and have to run 100k was not the option I was looking for.
Another mile down the road I found a little sandwich shop, and walked in looking like a serious homeless person. I had road grime coating my skin, and I was really tired and weak. I ordered a hoagie and went across the street to check on prices in the little motel there. $40 a night seemed reasonable, but despite my weakness I really wanted to hold out and see if I could resurrect the situation and run all the way in tonight.
After eating my sandwich I just couldn’t fathom running 60 more miles, so I called my dad who was worried about me, and Will and Diane to let them know I was fine, but might spend the night in Payette. I sat there feeling dejected for a bit, mulling over the possible ways I could have fixed the tire on the bike, and other means of getting home without running, then went inside to maybe order another sandwich. The toughest part about thinking about continuing was knowing that I would need to go more than 30 miles without any gas stations or resupply points, all through the middle of the night. I just didn’t want to leave this motel opportunity facing a night like that.
Well, here comes good luck again, when I started inquiring about possible stores on the roads ahead the kid who made my sandwich told me that before the road got desolate there was a wal-mart and hotels off to the right about 2 miles south and 1 mile west. So here I was ready again….3 miles to a wal-mart and chance to sleep sounded a hell of a lot better than 60 miles and all night with nothing. I decided to get to wal-mart and then reassess.
Jogging down the road again I make it to wal-mart just after 8 pm. I had decided that my best course of action would be to go in wal-mart and get supplies for an all-night run to the finish. I bought a little camelback type backpack with a 2 liter fluid bag, and a handful of snickers bars and a protein drink. I also go a small LED flashlight, since I knew it would be pitch black out.
As I walked out of wal-mart, and jogged back across the Snake River, the sun did its final setting, and I settled into my work. I jogged down the sidewalk the 4 miles to the end of town, and walked into a gas station at the interstate crossing in hopes of grabbing a longsleeve shirt for the chilly night. I have spent several cold nights alone with just a t-shirt on, and I really hoped that I could avoid that biting cold and depressing situation. Lucky for me this Shell station had some, and for $15 I got a Boise State University shirt that I hoped would keep me relatively comfortable. Here I also checked a map and found that the interstate was 5 miles shorter than the back road way I was planning to travel. I knew it was illegal to walk on the interstate, but I asked the attendant if she knew whether or not it was ok here in Idaho. She answered in the negative, and I resigned myself to a longer run. Heading out I had a thought, maybe I could dial 411 and get an answer, Roy Munsdale had acted surprised when I told him I wouldn’t run on the interstate, so I had a little hope that the interstate might be a viable option.

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The operator said they didn’t answer that type of question, but she asked if I’d like to be connected to the Boise police dispatch. Imagine my joy when the dispatcher told me that yes, so long as I didn’t cause a hazard to motorists it was in fact totally legal to hike on the interstate here in Idaho!
“Sweet! You just saved me 5 miles.” I said, and hung up.
Score one point for persistence and problem solving.
I started down the interstate at 10:35pm, thinking I was now about a 50 miler from home. I figured after a 120 mile bike ride and already running 15 miles, a 10 hour 50 mile would be the very best I could dream of, so I started thinking about pushing for home by 8:30 in the morning.
I figured that to maintain form I would need some walking, so I decided to run 30 minutes and walk 30 minutes while snacking. This would allow 3 miles of running and 2 miles of walking, if I could keep up the pace. I did this for an hour, but then I decided that I wanted to push things. I have been lucky enough to spend time around some of the really strong (physically and mentally) runners in our sport, and I continuously wonder what it is that makes them so good. I feel like physically I am not as talented or genetically gifted as some of the runners out there, but there should be no reason why I can’t train my mind to be just as tough as theirs.
Normally when I am in a difficult situation I try to set a reasonable goal, such as, “run 30 minutes and then you can walk.” When things get rough I will make a goal like that and usually get a little ways down the road and decide it wasn’t so reasonable after all, and start my walk at 19 minutes, for example. Well here on my run through the Idaho night I decided to do things a little differently. A few weeks earlier I had crewed for Vol State King of the Roads Kevin Dorsey, and I had been amazed by he and Tracy Thomas’s ability to keep moving even when the finish was impossibly far away and they had already brought themselves to the edge of their endurance. I decided that for me to do something similar I would have to set a reasonable goal, and then push BEYOND IT, rather than shooting for it. The next hour I ran through my 30 minute goal and on, to nearly 50 minutes.
This was a cool challenge and I believe the lessons I was learning will serve me very well at the upcoming mother road and across the years races I am attempting.
Throughout the night I attempted to keep this strength of mind up, and shoot for a good run. Just after midnight I was really getting tired, and I passed what turned out to be the only exit before the outskirts of Boise. There was a hotel. I thought how nice it would be to lay down and sleep, and I thought surely I could run less than 50 tomorrow to the finish…but then, I had worked myself up to get this thing done, so I took a pull on the Gatorade and pushed on.
I had grabbed a protein drink in wal-mart as a last minute addition to my kit, and I remembered that late at night protein was something that can help keep you alert. I took a swig of this drink about once an hour, and I would feel more alert for about 20-30 minutes….just enough to get me thinking I could make it to the next hour.
I worked on maintaining effort and only once did I stop all night. I laid down under an overpass and raised my feet against a concrete stanchion. This I learned from Dan Thompson at the vol state a few years ago, so relieve some fluid pressure from your legs and feet. Honestly, this has never really worked for me, but I was tired so I gave it a try. After about 5 minutes I got back up and continued on. I didn’t notice any real relief, probably because I was putting my mental strength into relentless forward motion….which is the only way to get somewhere.
As a side note, around 3 in the morning, with the only a truck passing every few minutes or so, I decided that since I might never get the opportunity again, I should run naked down the interstate. This I did for about 50 yards, and then hurriedly put my clothes back on. I wondered how much trouble I would get in if I was caught, but when you are on an INTERSTATE that is empty in the middle of the night you start getting ideas. I found it hilarious, and chuckled about it on and off for the rest of the night.
Around 4 in the morning I finally reached the middleton exit, where I was going to exit the highway and hopefully find some food. I was BEAT. Unfortunately the 24 hour store advertised at the interstate ended up being 4 miles towards Boise. I had less than 20 miles to go, but 4 miles to a warm place sounded daunting. I began to walk. About a mile and a half further on, I was greeted by my first cop of this all nighter. When he asked me what I was up to I told him I had a story that would take a while, but the short version was I was headed to Boise. He inquired after a little more detail, and then I bade him farewell. 50 yards further on he pulled over and said, “why don’t you get in and I’ll give you a ride?”

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Well, I have never ridden in a police car, and I was definitely already dirtier than even the most vomit covered drunk, so I thought, “hell yeah I’m getting in!”
2 miles down the road I was dropped off at the 24 hour gas station, much to the nervous look of the young girl manning the register. I walked in and told her my tale, and asked whether I might rest here for a bit and drink some hot chocolate. She said her boss would be in soon, so hopefully he wouldn’t kick me out, but yeah, it was fine.
As tired as I was, and as cold as it had gotten outside, I really didn’t want to go back out, and I ended up sitting there on the convenience store floor for two and a half hours. I wondered about a taxi or calling Will and Diane, but here it was 5 in the morning, I would just have to wait. Later, I decided that at sunup I would need to head out, it was reasonable.
When light finally came, I reluctantly thanked the gas station attendant and walked out. My knee was stiff and frozen up, so when I saw a diner just opening a quarter mile later I jumped inside and thought, “whew, I wasn’t ready yet, here’s another waiting spot.”
I text messaged Will and Diane, “if you happen to wake up early and read this I am 15 miles away and I really would like a ride.”


I ate a big breakfast at the diner and then picked up the Sunday paper. I was super tired, but looking like I did I didn’t want to fall asleep and give problems to everyone who would think that there was a dead homeless guy in one of the booths.
Another 2 hours went by and I decided that surely I could manage 15 miles, I mean I was THIS CLOSE! I text messaged, “nevermind” to my friends and walked out the door. This time my knee was really screwed. I thought there might be a chance that it would loosen up, but at this pace it would take all day to cover 15 miles. As I passed the Middleton fire department, I spotted some cash on the sidewalk….$25!!! I walked inside and inquired as to whether anyone had lost some money. The answer was no, so I pocketed the bills. Nice! I had actually had a reoccurring thought throughout the trip that I was going to spy a bag full of $10,000 or so on the side of the road in the middle of the desert, and I figured that while this was no fortune, it was pretty damn cool.
Another half mile and I was really hurting on this knee. The sun was up and people were bustling about their Sunday mornings, I had a thought…..I need to find some kid who wants $25 more than he wants his bike.
I became an eagle-eye looking for garage sales or any kid with a crappy old bike I thought I might get my hands on.
About a quarter mile further down the road I spied a bike in a front yard. I wandered over and looking in the window. I teenage girl was eating cereal at the dining room table, so I knocked on the door. I inquired whether she knew who’s the bike was and if they might be willing to sell it. She said to wait and she would get her dad. I stopped her and said, “if he’s asleep then don’t worry about it, please don’t wake him up.” To which she replied that he was awake, and just wait a minute.
When Poppi came out I said, “I have a crazy story for you, but I’m wondering if you’d be willing to sell or rent me that bike.”
He looked incredulous but I have him the 30 second version of the story and offered him $25 and offered to return the bike.
He said, “you just want to borrow it and bring it back? Go ahead, take it.”
I held out the money but he insisted that I just take it.
I told him it meant a lot to me, and that I’d return it this afternoon.
With my new found bounty at the hands of a generous stranger, I rode down the road.
I wasn’t out of the woods yet, however, because I still had a ways to go and this bike SUCKED! The shifters didn’t work, the wheels wobbled and it was way to small for me. It’s one endearing quality (the most important one) was that it ROLLED.
The next 2 hours were a sleep deprived blur, desperately wanting to arrive, and recognizing that I wasn’t yet close. With 2 miles to go I was wondering if I could make it without rest. I thought perhaps the smartest thing to do would be to take a nap under a tree and refresh for a bit before continuing. I used great mental concentration to focus on staying to the right of the white line ahead of me, and watching for the turn into the apartment complex, lest I pass it and end up in downtown Boise.
FINALLY, I arrived. I walked in and sprawled out on the floor. Diane said, “that’s not the bike you left with?!!?”
I mumbled that I would explain later, and fell asleep in the middle of the floor. It was noon, I had ridden 120 miles, run 50-odd miles, and then biked another 14 or so. I was exhausted but I was home.
I woke up a few minutes later and ate a huge plate of lasagna Will heated up for me, took a shower, and then passed out on the couch.
At 6 I awoke and Will and I drove the borrowed bicycle back to Middleton, where I told the teenage girl once again to let her day know how much it meant to me that he’d leant me the bike. Then we traveled the distance up north of Payette, and arrived at farmer Roy’s place. Roy had been a little curious about whether I’d make it, and he seemed a little impressed when I told him how it’d gone, even though I had ridden the last 14 on wheels…
He showed me his wood shop and metal shop, and we exchanged views on the satisfaction of working with you hands. I paid my way through college making parts in the prototype machine shop, and he had been around farms his whole life. Farmers are extremely self-sufficient and experienced people, I really like most of them that I’ve had the privilege to meet.
As we left, Roy insisted that I stop in if I ever came back through. I promised him I would.

On the drive it really hit home how far I’d come on foot. I was amazed. It had been quite a trip, and every minute was worth it.

Day’s Mileage: 188 Miles (134 on bicycle, 54 on foot)
Cumulative Mileage: 1254 Miles in 9+ days of travel.

1 comment:

Brian said...

Of all the things I have done nothing compares to a story like that. It took me over an hour to read all of it but it was well worth it. Carl you still amaze me - keep it up.