I am half awake all night, my legs and my mind cannot shake off the scraps of yesterday's ride. my body is still contorted and tight and agonized and adrenaline-infuriated from my fight against the desert wind. I am up at 5.40 and the world outside is submerged in total darkness. The air is so cold and sharp that could piece through a tin foil sheet. I hit the breakfast room and I have to wait because the food isn't ready. I eat five staid biscuits and I drink a few glasses of cold milk. I eat rapidly trying to gather my thought around the impending fight, no, it can;t be as tough as yesterday, no way. I need to get to Klamath Falls, just under 100 miles from here, that would be good. As I ramble on in my mind about all the possible scenarios I catch myself in a semi-stupor state caused by the lulling sound of a TV weather man who does his best to putting me back to sleep rather than informing me of the weather. I don't even want to know the weather anyway. There is an old couple in the corner looking uninterested and bored. The woman is eating scrambled eggs with a knife and a fork and the man is munching on a large greasy Danish bagel. This place is getting me depressed. I devour my food even though I am not hungry but I need the fuel. I stretch my back and my legs on the bedroom floor, I check out of the motel and as soon as the sliding doors let me out of the building the fresh morning air brushes gently against my sunscreen-drenched skin. It is cold.
The wind never dies. That's for sure. It did not stop blowing through the night and it simply cannot help it; it comes from the west, always from the freaking west and that's where I am going. Always against the wind. I am thinking if I had had this kind of wind behind I would have been in San Francisco by now. I would have been in freaking Hawaii probably.
Today I have a plan, I want to get to Klamath Falls, get to the bike shop to check my wind-beaten bicycle and then either go for another town farther west or stay in KF. When I leave Lakeview I need the rain cover, I don;t know what the temperature is but I need layers and at 6.45 the sun isn't even over the peaks of the surrounding mountains. My hands go numb as they usually do at this ungodly hour and I try to push as hard as I can to get the blood flowing. Is it actually possible to fall asleep on a bicycle while cycling? I think it is. If I close my eyes I could just drift off even though my legs are moving. Crazy feeling, this is actually how tired I am. I feel like I haven't slept in a month, I look haggard, tired, dehydrated, scruffy, hungry, cranky. I ride through some attractive farm land before the road drops into a forest and then it goes up. My legs feel fine, they want to get away from the cold. First 5000ft pass, easy, maybe three miles of climbing. Then the wind again, it punches me from the side when I am riding north and when the road turns left it hits me straight in the face. It is wild and dangerous. There is no shoulder on this road and though the traffic is light some bullets show up unannounced and it is very late when I hear them or see them with the corner of my left eye. That's the thing with the headwind, or rather one of the things, it drowns any noise coming from behind, such as approaching vehicles. As I said, there is no joy whatsoever riding in the wind. Whoever disagrees with this statement is either lying or does not know the wind that I know. It never ceases, it is everywhere, it drives me mental, it makes me go from audible self-talk to unabashed and high-octane yells. Yes, that's what it deserves! But today for the first time I feel like I might be able to make it across the country. When I left DC I was dreaming about LA, when I was fighting the miles in the Plains I was dreaming of the Golden Gate, now after riding in the desert with my lips reduced to two lines of red skin as crusty as stale bread and my hands as cracked and dry as a tortoise shell all I am thinking about is the Ocean. I want to see the ocean to be able to say that I have made it across in just a month and that's it. Today though, after yesterday's achievement, I feel I could just make it. It is astounding to realize how our perceptions and expectations shift under pressure. Our goals retract and from dreaming to win the most coveted prize, under the right set of circumstances ,we would settle for simple survival.
The sun finally appears and off goes my rain jacket but the long sleeves stay on. It is still chilly and the road hovers around 4000-4500 ft all day. After about 30 miles I stop at a tiny gas station where I drink a hot chocolate to revive my extremities. It works. Yesterday belongs to the past, today is a fresh start and to my surprise my body has recovered. I am not frightened by the sight of a long climb or a long road ahead. I take on the miles with renewed interest. The road drops into a beautiful valley filled with cows and horses, they are very keen spectators when I pass by, they stop doing whatever they are doing, raise their heads and move their necks slowly following my trajectory, once I'm far enough they go back to grazing or whatever it is they do the whole day. For a while the wind seems to have forgotten that I am riding today. When it subsides I feel lile I am flying on the bike, what a difference its absence makes! I enter the forest and I really enjoy the scenery, the fragrance of resin from the pine trees is inebriating and the colors all around make me want to toss the bike and just hike anywhere. What a beautiful part of Oregon this is. But before my mood improves the wind makes a comeback and the road veers upward toward pass number two at 5300 ft. This one is a mean one and with the wind in my face I am required to work hard. I grumble, I mutter, I sulk, I promise revenge and I vow to kill that mofo in the fast car that just cut me off unnecessarily, I promise to myself that I will never ride a bicycle again and I will eat my way to death with Nutella jars standing naked in the middle of the Oregon desert, that I will tattoo my body with I' hate the wind' slogans and so on and while my mind goes through all the array of negative thoughts available to mankind I see the summit sign and I breathe a sight of relief. And I am in love with life again. On the descent my mind switches to Mr. nice guy and despite the constant wind I look forward to the rest of the ride. I hit another small town where I eat a whole pack of fig biscuits, I fight with other drivers that have no patience or knowledge as to how to pass a cyclist and after another tiring 90 miles I see a bike path which leads west and it clearly goes straight into Klamath Falls. I take it but it is a bumpy ride due to the cracks that run across every 10 yards. It crosses a very prosperous-looking farmland and ranchland and after a few miles I finally enter the urban area of Klamath Falls where after some lefts and rights I make it downtown to the bike shop. The guy kindly cleans my chain and suggests that I should wait before changing, it can take a few more battles. The bike looks good. By the time I leave the shop it is 3 pm. Despite a mood seriously swindled to the dark side by the wind I could ride some more. I try to call the next motel along the route but I can't get through, the next town on my route is Ashland, 65 miles away with two passes and the bike shop guy told me that one is 6 miles long. I have already 98 miles in the bag and at 3pm it seems that the right thing to do is to call it a day. It is almost a century after all but somehow it feels like a short day, I could have gone another 50 miles. The good thing is that the bike is in good shape and has been looked at; and I have time to rest.
Looking ahead I have another full day in Oregon to Grant Pass and then the day after tomorrow I could be in California and by the evening I could be riding on a cliff over the Pacific Ocean. I know I shouldn't get ahead of myself but with the misery that this bitch of a wind has brought me dreams are all I have left!
I ride back to the east side of Klamath Falls where most hotels are located and I check in at a Best Western again. I take a shower and I clean myself as well as I can. I walk into the laundry room, I strip naked and put all I have in the machine. With a towel wrapped around my waist I wait for the machine to complete its wash. Tomorrow with clean clothes and after a clean shave I will be a new man and I hope that the wind will get the message. It can't beat me. I can't lose.
Time is running out but I can make it to San Francisco.
I am so grateful to all of you for your contributions to my cause. We have surpassed the 5000-dollar mark. A lot of people will get clean water.