Friday, August 21, 2009

Day 52: Kooskia, ID to Riggins, ID (77 Miles)

These odd time zone changes have been throwing my eternal alarm clock for a loop. I woke up way before Jon and spent the morning looking over my maps. I'm still needing to average about 70 miles a day to finish in Florence by August 31st, not bad considering I've had an accident in the Appalachians and fierce winds have been thrown my way. After crunching numbers and making cheap motel coffee, I said my goodbyes to Jon and hit the road. I'm glad I stopped in Kooskia, because the climb up to Grangeville would have been horrific in the afternoon heat.

I climbed about 3,000 feet and found myself eating a horrible breakfast at "Hillside Cafe." I could tell that the waitress really disliked her job and her bad mood was cast over the entire room. Negativity spreads like the H1N1 Virus through gringos in Cancun. I was actually glad to leave this place and get back into the heat. The ride over Old White Bird Hill was gradual enough and the trees provided some shade, which was greatly appreciated. I could tell from the livestock finding shade under trees and those lying close to the ground, it was going to be a scorcher.

A scorcher it surely was... it got up to a sultry 102 degrees and I was descending into the fittingly titled "Hell's Canyon." This canyon is deeply carved with steep walls lining the entire way. The canyon follows the Snake River, a popular rafting destination. The ride down into the canyon was the most thrilling experience of my life. The descent was a seven mile steep ride down a series of switchbacks carved on the side of a mountain. Again my hands were aching from breaking so much, but I didn't mind... the scenery was breathtaking and there was no traffic on Old Highway 95. I quickly reached the bottom and grabbed a quick snack from a general store in White Bird... Yellow Gatorade and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, part of this complete snack break.

The rest of today's trip was hardly enjoyable. I had to ride on the broken shoulder of Highway 95 and dodge recreational vehicles and 18-wheelers, all the while wiping the stinging sweat from my eyes. Today was certainly the hottest day of my trip. Luckily, I had an extra stockpile of water and this kept me energized to reach my final destination of Riggins. Feeling frugal, I checked a local RV park and their costs for camping and showers were borderline absurd... so I rode down further to find another cheap motel. The more I sleep in these motel beds, the more cumbersome and unnecessary my camping gear becomes. Here's to hoping that Oregon is more camper-friendly than Idaho and Montana has been...

Before I crossed into Riggins, I went back into "Mountain Time," losing an hour. This route has put me in a strange time paradox. And, if I'm looking at my maps correctly, I'll cross back into Pacific Time Zone when I cross into Oregon.... strange.

I spent the good portion of tonight talking on the phone with my dad, who informed of some sad news that I'll address at the end of this entry, and with friends. The more I speak with these people, the more I long for the end of this journey. I'm sure this is an unhealthy desire and will only distract me from the beauty of these last few days. But it's true.. I long for returning to my apartment, to be with my dog, to work at a job I truly enjoy, and to be with people I truly love. If this trip has taught me anything, is that I have a great life to return to.

Lastly: I'm sorry to write that today the world has lost a very great man. George Mitchell passed away this afternoon amongst family and friends. Known for being the life of every party, his laughter could be heard for miles around and his enjoyment of life was truly palpable. He was the first person to ever give me a nickname that stuck, "Joe Cheeseburger Blake." I loved George, and my heart goes out to the Mitchell family. I'm sorry I could not be around during this difficult time... but please know that I'll be thinking and praying for you guys while I ride. God bless!


Grandma said...

Beautiful photographs, Blake! Try to enjoy every minute of these last few days. We are so proud of you! Love, G

Momma said...

Blake, Thanks for the wonderful things you wrote about George. When we were together with he and Deb thurs. night he asked about you and wanted you to know that he is so proud of you and the journey you are on. He said, " That Blake is finding his way, I've always had a special place for him in my heart, yeah, he's alright with me." Which you know is translated to...He loved you a lot!! We love you a lot too!!
Ride carefully, Love M&D

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