Don's Bike Across America
Astoria, Oregon to Portsmouth, New Hampshire
June 19 to August 7, 2006

Don’s Blog: June 21: Welcome from Foxwoods West

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Greetings from “Foxwoods West,” the name I have given the Warm Springs Resort and Casino here in Oregon. Situated miles from the nearest hint of civilization, this desert oasis features a first-class hotel and casino, along with the usual attendant recreational pursuits: a swimming pool, golf, and even horseback riding. Much like Foxwoods, this resort sprang up from the exemption native Indian lands were allowed on establishing betting casinos. This facility is quite modest in comparison with Foxwoods, due in part I am sure to the fact that the surrounding population is so much smaller.

To update the bike ride, yesterday we began from St. Helens and finished up some 75 miles later in the town of Welches, in the shadow of Mount Hood, the centerpiece of the Cascade Range. That range includes Mount Rainer and Mount St. Helen’s, infamously remembered for its volcanic eruption in 1980.

Yesterday’s ride was flat for nearly 40 miles then picked up more than 1,000 feet of elevation gain in the second half. It was cool and comfortable for most of the day. The crisp clean mountain air in Welches had the feel of Lake Tahoe. I even got to meet a few locals in the afternoon at a nearby restaurant. They were fascinated by the idea of this bike trek. When I mentioned I was from Boston, one of the party members replied, “What about that Big Ditch?” He was referring of course, to the “Big Dig,” the 14-billion dollar Central Artery tunnel, just recently completed. Is that what Boston is most famous for nowadays to those from other parts of the country? It is somehow sad to think that might be true.

Today it was time for a reality check, at least in terms of the bike ride. Upon leaving the comfort of breakfast the Whistle Stop restaurant, we stepped out the door to face a 13-mile, 3,000-foot climb up a side pass over Mount Hood. The morning was cool and overcast and the uphill grade was certainly manageable, but the relentlessness of the climbing was something of a new experience for me. In training for this ride, the longest climb I was able to find in the Greater Boston area probably lasted for three to five minutes at most. This climb today took an hour and 45 minutes. A 13-mile run at eight minutes per mile? That is something I am familiar with. Cycling 13 miles in 1:45? Not so much.

I made it to the top by keeping the effort level steady and modest. I had my heart rate monitor on, and tried to stay in the 120 to 140 range. There was a sag (rest) stop at the top, and it was barely 40 degrees F there, with a bone chilling wind. We would soon leave that climate far behind.

The old adage, “what goes up must come down,” is applicable to mountains of course, so we were soon screaming down several thousand feet, only to climb back up, and then down again. The clouds cleared enough for us to look back at the magnificent snow-covered peak of the 11,300-foot Mount Hood.

By the time we were all the way off the mountain, the temperature had risen into the 70s and the sun was baking the desert we were entering, the aforementioned Warm Springs Indian Reservation. The final 20 miles of the ride were through an open range, where wild horses and other wildlife run free. I only spotted one herd, but it was interesting to be immersed in this kind of environment. One member of our cycling group spotted two brown bears. The wide variation in locales is one of the primary reasons for cycling across the great expanse of America. Tomorrow’s ride will include another long climb, something I am going to have to get used to as we move along.