The day started brightly and we were on the road by just after 7. Saying goodbye to Hood River was not easy as we have grown rather fond of the place in the last few days. However all good things come to an end and only death and taxes remain eternal.
As we cycled slowly out of town we were passed by couple on their bikes, out for a Sunday morning spin. They were – I must report – cheating because they had NO panniers, no tent and no food supplies for the next 93 miles (that being the dire warning on our map). Then perhaps they were silently bemused by us, thinking bicycles were not really designed to take that much luggage as they sped past in an effortless way. It all comes down to different perspectives.
The climb out of Hood River was quite gentle, but with a few ups and downs. Then, as we turned a corner, we got the first sight of Mount Hood in the morning sunshine. Truly astonishing though it may not come out so well on photos.
The town of Odell proved to be sleepy and quiet, and we ambled through the fruit growing areas trying to find the road to Dee and Parkdale (a metropolis with a population of 275). Eventually we found it and the road went up and down, but more up than down as we got further views of Mount Hood and gradually climbed. My back was troubling me a bit at this stage but not too much.
We reached Parkdale (22 miles, 2000+ feet of climbing at about 1700 feet elevation) for breakfast at about 10am. The little diner was typically American, down to the uncountable number of tattoos on the arms of the slighly camp waiter and his substantial assistant. But they were delightful, produced good breakfasts and we felt refreshed.
I had a little work to do sorting out niggles on the bikes and did that whilst Bernie filled water bottles and paid. At this point disaster struck – I did something to aggravate my back and it went into spasm as I attempted to start riding again. Given it was Sunday morning and this was rural (and religious) America I thought I restrained myself admirably in the words I used to respond to the shooting pain across my body. It would have been easy to have found myself loudly using wholly “inappropriate” words without really thinking about it, and thus causing immense offence. As it was the only offence was to my muscles which were not really co-operating on this cycling jaunt.
After about 30 minutes rest we started cycling again, somewhat gingerly on my part. It was not clear if this was a temporary blip or was something worse. However the range of pain free movement was much less thsn before. The problem was that there were only 2 real options – giving up or carrying on. We decided to try the latter to see if it would work, and maybe my body would sort itself out during the day.
The first part was through a lovely valley, with more fruit growing and the looming presence of Mount Hood in the background. Then the climbing began but it was only about 3% or so and not too bad. However there were few signs of improvement on the back muscle front, and regular reminders (in the form of shooting pains) just to let me know that not all of my body was 100% committed to this exercise. The route took us along Highway 35 which had some traffic, but good shoulders at all stages. The road followed a wooded river valley and the temperature hotted up. However the atmosphere also had that element to it which is present at altitude, meaning that it was not unpleasant. We carried on up the gorge, stopping for Pizza from last night which, if anything, tasted better cold after climbing 4000 feet than it did when we first had it.
The road wound up and perhaps I can admit that this was a bit of a chore and not too much of a delight. The top of Bennett Pass was 4,600 feet, but with the ups and downs we had climbed more than 5000 feet, mostly with pains from my back at irregular intervals. Sorry to go on about the pain but it did sort of dominate the day.
Despite the sunshine and cool air, the trees prevented us getting much of a view at the top. So we followed the road down but it could not make up its mind because it had 2 more “up” sections as part of the descent. Who ever built these roads did not have cyclists in mind because doing another up section after descending 1000 feet is no fun at all. However we did get some fairly spectacular views on the way down (though I confess I was almost beyond caring at this stage).
Camping was not a serious option given my condition and so we climbed another 500 feet on the shoulder of a very busy road to the ubiquitously named town of “Government Camp” where there were hotels, and booked ourselves into a Best Western. The staff were superb, especially Lisa who could not have been more accommodating.
Tomorrow I will surrender to the medical profession (other than Bernie who has been totally brilliant in dishing out drugs and not putting me under pressure to do anything or stop doing anything). I feel very angry with myself but the anger is irrational. It was a single slip which led to a feak accident 4 days ago and I have done everything to try to work through it and carry on this fantastic experience. Maybe this is not possible but we shall have to see what the US medical system has to say about cycling with torn muscles and possibly broken ribs. However, whatever happens tomorrow, Government Camp is where have got to and where, once fit, we shall restart this journey.