Trans Am 2017 Day 3: Prairie City, OR to Council, ID — 201 Miles, +11,434 ft
It’s hard to say when Day 3 begins, whether it was at 3 am when Antoniu Chirnoaga rolled into the post office for an early morning chat with Bo at Maximum Fucking Volume, or 5 when my alarm went off. Antoniu had ridden through the night and was evidently feeling very energetic — but in no hurry — so he and Bo shot the shit for like an hour just sitting in the flourescent light of the post office waiting for it to warm up outside before heading out (in fairness, I think it was below freezing). I was awake for the whole thing, and not that stoked. They would eventually rally, though, and I would sleep for a bit longer. My sleep on the first few nights was pretty poor, and I wonder if that had any effect on me going forward, but at that stage in the race you can still recover pretty well from poor sleep.
I had plenty of supplies to get to Baker City, but I did a quick breeze through town to check if anything was open, which at that hour, obviously nothing was. The passes to Baker City aren’t bad, you just have three lumps to get over, each one no longer than 3 miles with a not too steep gradient. I’d thrown on a lot of layers to get out of town and was shedding them pretty quickly on my way up the first climb as the sun started to warm up. The decent dips into a shady canyon, though, and I was quickly frozen and looking forward to the next hill.
I passed through something called Austin on the map, and I’d later learn that Richard Deneka spent an extremely cold night outside here with almost no protection, which he says was not fun. There was thick fog at the bottom of the valley and I was really, really cold.
I got over the next two hills without too much trouble but was getting low on food. I chatted with my sis Hannah on the last descent and along the reservoir. While I was on the phone a car rolled by then pulled up in front of me and the guy got out. I slowed to see what he wanted, and he said very kindly that he’d had a really hard time seeing me and that I should be more careful. I was wearing my brown “Coyote” colored rain jacket, which I knew would be bad for visibility, so I wasn’t surprised and appreciated that the guy genuinely wanted me to be safe. I’d have a few conversations like this with drivers on the ride, almost all of them positive. Almost.
I rolled into Baker City and checked the tracker, surprised to find a faded out “AS” the only other rider in town. I wondered if Andrew was having bike issues or had called off his ride to Yorktown. I didn’t pay too much attention then, but would learn later that he had called off his ride after whipping up a little Shermers neck in those fast two days.
I stopped into a bagel shop and crushed a couple breakfast sandwiches and got some to go, Donncha’s full breakfast advice still on my mind. There is a small climb out of town surrounded by sage brush that looks like Wyoming, so I called my mom to say hey because it reminded me of road tripping with her. From the top, you drop into a canyon and theres a long meander down to Richland along a river. On my way down to the canyon, I finally decided that I needed to lower my seat to alleviate my very sore bottom. I pulled off and put on some sunscreen for the first time, then pulled out my multi tool and dropped the seat just a touch and changed the angle on my aero bars. This, amazingly, was the last time I needed that thing on my race. This was also the stretch where I learned how to pee while still riding.
It’s a beautiful ride along the river and I enjoyed the cruise. A couple miles before town and just as you climb out of the canyon, I saw two riders up ahead of me and thought, “Yay! I’m catching some other racers. I’m so good.” I hustled up and saw to my dismay that they had panniers on and were in no hurry. I chatted with the two nice ladies about their trip for a few and heard that Ken had been on the phone when he passed them not long ago. As I often was, Ken was usually on the phone when I saw him.
I rocked into Richland and took my usual sweet ass time in the convenience store, though trying really hard to be fast and efficient. Someone pulled up as soon as I pulled in, and I hustled out to avoid losing my spot. There was a wave of people coming down the valley behind me, and I wasn’t too close to the folks in front of me. The leaders seemed to be a world away. Every dot ahead of me seemed like five, and I felt deep in the pack. I was only in 16th place at this moment, though, and knew that I was riding strong and doing my thing.
I called my sister Emily when I rolled out of town and had a great chat as I climbed the pass out of Richland. Its funny how you remember details of these conversations and the views you had while hearing certain bits. She was just getting settled into a two month stay in Toronto and told me stories about dance classes and European guys she met in bars. It was really fun to hear about it and helped me to take my mind of myself and the race for a few, feeling good flying up the climb while I did.
It’s a sweet climb with great views and two massive switchbacks. As I rounded the first wide switchback, I caught sight of a rider up the road near the second and yelled out to my sis that I was gonna catch the fucker. Turns out it was ol’ Hippy and I wouldn’t pass him until the climb out of Hell’s Canyon a couple hours later, but it kept things interesting. I want to say that I gained some good ground on him, but who is to say, I never actually caught him. I chatted with an old friend back in New York while I passed Halfway, enjoying some extended phone service and stupid beautiful views of the mountains above the town. Despite the near desert surrounding me, those mountains looked green, high, and covered in snow. My friend had just bought a road bike for the first time, and I was too stoked to chat with her about all things bike.
Descending the canyon to Copperfied is gorgeous, but I generally get really frustrated with slow descents like this and would much rather climb. I never know how hard to push and it always seems like you aren’t going fast enough. I’m almost always not, because these are this is the terrain where I usually get caught. I rolled into Scotty’s General Store in Copperfield and found a fancy AF Scott bike out front with the cranks broken. I saw Antoniu slouched on a bench nearby lamenting the end of his race and promising that he would come back later in the summer and ITT the Trans Am. I’ll be excited if I do see an AC dot on Trackleaders soloing across the US, but I’m not sure he ever made it out of the canyon. The guy inside (Scotty??) relived his horrible encounter with LF the year before and how he’d kicked LF out of his shop before he could get any food or water. LF would pull out soon after when he got super dehydrated, so it pays to be kind to Scotty.
In the flats along Brownlee, MC passed me and I wondered if I were going slow, or him being a hero, or what. But I was going a pace that felt good in that moment and didn’t need to chase. When we passed the Gateway convenience store just before the climb out of Hells Canyon, I saw a bike out front and thought it must be MC (I think Miles Carlson, btw, but not sure). The climb isn’t too steep — it follows a creek almost the whole way up — but it’s pretty long and took about an hour. I got to the top and two hours had passed, though, and not until later that night did I realize that the time had changed and we’d lost an hour. For a while there, I thought I was really friggin’ slow and was legitimately worried about the soundness of my mind and body. I’d just biked across Oregon in two and a half days, which I thought was pretty cool, but I would have understood if I was starting to lose it.
MC was at the top of the climb when we got there, and I rolled past into Cambridge. I didn’t need anything, but knew I’d benefit from some snacks before the night really set in. The gas station had just closed but the guy who runs it opened it back up when he saw me out front. Both MC and I ran around quickly to grab some goodies and chatted with the owner about his move from Chicago (?) and how much better life was out in rural Cambridge. Amen. I said thank you and as I pulled my bike out, Hippy rolled into the parking lot and I felt bad for the guy behind the counter, who would undoubtedly have a train of bikers rolling in one after the other. Turns out he did and I think he kept the shop open for at least another hour while riders came into town. Hero.
I felt great for a while until I caught a case of the drowsy just outside of Mesa and slowed down badly. MC caught me just outside of Council and we were both destined for the post office in town. I rocked up and tried to put down the previously frozen chimichanga I’d purchased from Scotty’s along with some vienna sausages. Who thought that was a good idea? Stick to what you’re good at, I would realize, after waking up needed to shit my pants. Won’t buy those again. A solid day, but nothing too inspiring. I was pushing hard but not beyond my limits and trying to stay patient while others went too hard and began to drop. The next two days would prove to be the first breaking point in the race for a lot of people.
Stay tuned for more to come…