Seperating my hungry stomach and a diner in Richland, was a beast of a hill. This 1,000 foot climb was rather steep and this is when I began to feel the ramifications of yesterday's ride finally catching up with me. My left knee was periodically jolting with pain and my stamina decreased rapidly. After taking a break and keeping my eyes open for rattlesnakes, I finally got over the summit and began the ride down to Richland. I knew I was in for a treat, when a horrible side wind pushed me several feet as I was riding down at speeds above 30mph. Sadly, the winds were coming from the direction I must next face, the West. As I hit flat land, the next mile to lunch was almost unbearable. The wind was thrown at me so fierce, I almost broke down into tears. Hell's Canyon is certainly living up to it's name.
Looking over the maps, I debated riding further to Baker City. There was nothing for the next 50 miles except the wind, heat, and rattlesnakes. This desert climate can certainly get to you, and it got to me today. I first got the idea of hitching a ride, but Richland took on the resemblance of a ghost town on a Sunday afternoon. About 10 miles out from town, I began to notice my rear tire was deflating rather quickly. I stopped, pumped it, and rode another mile to find it deflated completely. I tried replacing the inner-tube, and periodically "thumbed it" when trucks and SUV's drove by. After realizing that I didn't have the patience and energy to force the wheel off my rear rim, I broke down and started looking for a cab service. Much to my chagrin, the cab service in Baker City consisted of only one man with a broken down Ford Pinto, so I kept "thumbing it" until a nice elderly couple pulled up in a smaller sedan. I explained to them my situation, and they told me they were on their way back from church and will return with a pickup truck in another 20 minutes or so. Looking at my surroundings, this sounded like the best plan in the world!
The Sholds welcomed me into their home and fed me a delicious lunch. We sat at their table, telling stories of shared experiences from Honduras and life in general. It was really refreshing to see a family bring in a complete stranger and make him feel at home. I also played around with their Border Colley, who was bitten in the face twice by a rattle snake. The dog had the last laugh, though... having killed it as retribution. After playing with a puffy-faced dog (from the venom) and thanking them, Steven offered to drive me further to Baker City. Feeling I had no other options, I graciously accepted his offer. In return, I offered to pay for gas... saying "Hey, I've made it this far without gas!" Now most people will stop and say: "Hey! Isn't hitch-hiking considered cheating?" First off, I've made so many side-trips on this journey, that I'd have to hitch a lot longer than 30 miles to not make up the miles. Secondly, I'm not doing this trip for the "accomplishment factor" alone, (technically, I've ridden enough miles to be in the Pacific Ocean by now)... No, I'm riding for the adventure and for the kids of MdL. I could quit right now, without ever having seen the ocean and still walk away from this experience with a sense of fulfillment that I've never had before. The more I convince myself that this trip is about milestones and achievements, the more it will delude me from what this experience is really all about.