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

Don's Blog: June 22: Desert Challenge

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Don's Blog: June 22: Desert Challenge


Today’s ride was “only” 60 miles. Ha! Since when did 60 miles turn into a “short” distance? In training back in Massachusetts, 60 miles seemed like a major effort. Of course, it still is an effort, but looked at in light of the fact that the previous three days have been longer than that, it did appear to be a modest number of miles.


It was not the easiest 60 miles, however. Right from the start, upon exiting the Kah-ta-nee resort, we embarked on a long climb, albeit at a modest grade. Before the day was done, we had accumulated between 3,000 and 4,000 total feet of climbing. Starting out at the usual time of 7:30 a.m. seemed more of a challenge today, as I have had less than optimal sleep the past two nights. I’m quite sure why, but it did have me feeling lower on energy than in the first few days of the ride. Thus, I began at a very slow pace, covering just 10 miles in the first hour, although a fair amount of it was uphill.


I might interject here that my normal routine in the months of training I completed for this trek was to start anywhere from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. My normal distance was 35 to 40 miles, with an occasional longer ride. I hit close to or better than 16 miles per hour on most of those rides. That’s all out the window now, as we set off on the rides almost right after breakfast (I try to build in at least 20 to 30 minutes of digestion time), and just four days into the ride my average daily pace has slowed markedly: from 15.8 mph on day one, to 14.8 on day two, to 12.4 on day three and 13.0 today. It has taken some getting used to.


The road surface was another aspect to get accustomed to, as we spent most of the distance today on hard gravel “chip and seal” roads. This surface is less forgiving and more jarring than asphalt, resulting in greater reverberation back up to the legs, arms and shoulders. To complete a trifecta of challenge, the final 30 miles today were a straight shot from the town of Madras to Prineville (population 9,028) with a stark, open desert landscape all around us. Although expansive and beautiful, there was little to look at, aside from occasional horses and cattle. After a while I found myself talking to the farm animals. Or was I talking to myself? I’m not exactly sure.


These mental challenges are all part of any kind of extreme physical effort such as this. As the organizers of this ride stressed from the outset, it is much easier to deal with these challenges by adopting a cheerful outlook. That is easier said than done sometimes, however.


I am feeling some aches and pains at this stage as well. Although I availed myself of a massage at the resort yesterday, my muscles and some tendons in my legs are pretty sore. I have to be vigilant about icing, something I’ve been trying to do as soon as I check into my room and have a shower. (In a future installment of the blog, I will offer some observations on the various places of lodging in which we are staying.)


Tomorrow’s ride is going to be a big one: 117 miles, including several thousand feet of climbing. Even with an early start it will surely be a long day. We are in the high desert now and it promises to be a warm day, perhaps close to 90 degrees F.