August 19, 2015 – Hazy, 90 degrees
Miles Today: 66
Miles to Date: 5,900
States to Date: 22
Every few weeks I forget the rule than fifty miles before noon is easier than thirty miles after noon, and have to learn that lesson all over again. It was hard to leave Ryan and Sabina and their other warmshowers guest Al. We had a great breakfast conversation and it was pushing nine by the time I left. How hard could 66 miles be?
The first ones were easy, across the Spokane River and rising up along the Centennial Trail. Cool shady mornings even make climbing pleasurable.
By the time I reached the plateau, about ten miles along US 2, the sun was high, the fire smoke made a brown band in the sky and I knew it would be hot. But the road surface was good. Beyond Quest Casino and Wal-Mart, Fairchild Air Force Base and McDonald’s, the land became an immense, undulating blanket of tawny wheat; as if the past six weeks of mountains disappeared and I was back in the Dakota’s. I spun fast, in keeping with the gigantic scale, until the wind imitated the Dakota’s as well, bearing straight at me with no relent.
I was famished by lunch, and disappointed when Davenport’s Safeway was the dinkiest possible store: no prepared foods or place to sit down. Still, I can always put together a good lunch in a grocery store. A dozen tired guys in white pick-ups with flames on their T-shirts came in as well: fire crews on break.
Beyond Davenport the road was recently paved with rough aggregate safety engineers must love for the friction, and cyclists abhor for the same reason. I jostled on an oily goo of tiny pebbles for twenty miles. Everything vibrated, my bike, my hands, my head. It was an interminable MRI test. No matter how much I savored the scenery, which had turned to sagebrush, or was thankful for no of rain, or no fire, I could not forget the bumpy shoulder. Finally, I came to Cresston, where I promised myself a break. But Cresston’s a shell town; nothing left. Until I passed a roadside chapel that was open and cool and let my jangled nerves approach equilibrium.
The road wasn’t all that much better for the last ten miles, but my spirits were. I found the energy to pump hard up the hills, and brace Surly against the cross winds. Every flag stood straight out from its pole. The Willows Motel in Wilbur is much nicer than I would expect from such a sleepy place. I found adequate eats at their local grocery and was simply happy not to be vibrating anymore.