Day 46, Kooskia, ID – New Meadows, ID 108 miles (3493 total)
July 26, 2008
Time on bike: 10:56:31
Daily Ascent: 5700 ft (53 ft/mi)
Elevation at days end: 3800 ft
Max: 48 mph
I wanted to do it. I thought about it all the rest of the day and it haunted me. It would have made for a fantastic story, really. Why I didn’t, I really don’t know. I had just eaten a FULL plate of sausage gravy and biscuit and as I was heading out of Kooskia I noticed people pining numbers on and stretching for a run. Looks like “Kooskia Days” involved a 5k run. I rationalized that I didn’t have my running shoes and thus I couldn’t run, but I desperately wanted to! I haven’t ‘run’ in over 2 months and I would love to know how well I can run after biking 8 hours a day for the past 45 days. I decided that I should have asked to borrow somebody’s extra shoes or even run barefoot. I’ve done it before. How cool would that have been to have run a 5k and even placed in a reasonable time and to have done it barefoot.
The landscape from Kooskia was barren and dry and rolling. It reminded me of a desert in not only the shape and color but also the heat. I was now around 1,200 feet in elevation, quite different from just a couple of days ago when I was over 6,000 feet high. My ride after lunch began an incline that would generally last the rest of the day. I began to follow the Salmon River upstream. The color of the water made me wonder if Nestle Quick chocolate milk had a factory upstream. It was chocolaty and thick in appearance. I listened to the water as I slowly passed beside it. I really saw a number of different things from it as well: bubbling, swirling, waving, foaming, rushing, babbling. Eventually I began to see rafters on the river enjoying the rapids. That gave way to more rafters. It was, after all, a Saturday afternoon and people seemed to be enjoying both the lazy parts and the swift parts of the river. I passed one pull-off where a man yelled at me, “Want some cold water?” and held up a bottle. “I’ve got beer too if you want some.” “I’d better stick with water, at least until I’m done riding for the day,” I replied. He asked me where I started from and I told him Yorktown, Virginia. “Hey kids! Come here and hear this!” and then the rest of them, family and friends, gathered around. “Tell them where you started from!” So I told them where I started and how long it had taken me to get there. They also gave me some berries they had been picking along the roadside. We talked for a while more about the bike and the trip and then I thanked them for the water and set off for the next town.
Along the way I heard a motor running across the river and I could see a generator or a pump just sitting there. I followed the line from it and then saw a man hosing off a blackened area of the hillside. Surround him were a number of other black areas, some smoldering and some still ablaze. Up the river I saw at least a half a dozen firemen fighting these brush fires. Some had the pumps and hoses and others had an ax and were fighting the fires with dirt.
Riggins was clearly a recreation town with rafting companies and RV parks set up all over town. Rafting trailers and buses buzzed around town. I stopped in at a gas station as 3 shirtless guys all walked out. Apparently they quit trying with the “no shirt, no shoes, no service” rules. That or they realized that they’d lose business if they did. I fueled up on Gatorade and Fig Newtons and asked how far the next town was. By this time it was 5:30pm. They said it was only about 35 miles away. “Isn’t it up a steep incline?” I asked. “No. It’s very gradual,” both the clerk and the firewoman behind me assured me. “You can make it by tonight.” From this I learned a VERY important lesson. DON’T TRUST NON BIKERS ABOUT THE TERRAIN! What should have been a 2 hour journey turned into a 4 hour journey and ended at 9:30pm as darkness was settling in. All along the way I was looking around for a place where I could stealth camp, but I was in a canyon with a river stream running beside me and pine forest land around me. I could scarcely find a flat piece of land and I was quite sure there may be grizzlies in these woods. Finally the “slight incline” did end and I found flat land. It’s one thing to be in a car and only have to push the gas pedal down another ½ inch to get up a hill and to be on a bicycle where your average drops from 13mph to 7mph on a ½ degree incline. Those hills really make a difference on a bike! DON’T TRUST THE LOCALS!!