Day 24: Dillon to Ennis, MT (70.5 miles)

It was a cold morning when we left Dillon heading to Ennis. We knew it was a long day with the toughest climb at mile 60, so many of us were anxious to get started even though it was close to freezing. What was a little different about this ride was that there were a few towns along the way, which offered us the possibility of getting off our bikes and warming up.

At mile 37 or so most of us stopped at the Town of Sheridan to get some coffee. As I got off my bike, Cy came over and showed me a text from Margaret saying that she needed to reach me. With one bar on my phone, I tried to call her and after many failed calls, I learned that my beloved dog, Sasha was sick and in the hospital with an unclear prognosis. I was devastated. But there was nothing I could do. I had a quick cup of coffee and had to get out of the shop. I didn’t want to talk with anyone. I just wanted to get back on my bike. I felt better when I was riding.

It was a nice ride, but I couldn’t really enjoy it thinking about Sasha. I tried, but I couldn’t really get there. What I did know was that there was a 5 mile climb starting at mile 55. After mile 60 it was essentially down hill to the cabins in Ennis. As I got close to mile 55, I realized I was tired and not really feeling strong for a climb. I knew it wasn’t the hardest climb we had done - it probably wasn’t in the top five, but I was tired from the day before. I didn’t feel strong, physically or mentally. And as it had been, it was really cold and windy.

I made it to the top, but was not feeling well when I got there. I couldn’t really understand the question Carolyn, the SAG driver, was asking me. I didn’t think I could go on, but I couldn’t quite figure out how to answer the question. Between the cold, exertion and altitude, I was really not feeling well. Carolyn was anxious because the two women who had reached the summit before me were similarly impacted by the cold. Probably the strongest cyclist arrived first and rode her bike in a circle for a few minutes saying she didn’t feel well at all. She concluded that she felt so bad that she was going to head down. Carolyn did not think that was a good idea at all and it made her worry about the rest of the women coming up the hill. I decided to help her out for a while and we drove down the hill and accounted for all but one of the riders. They all said they were fine. I had warmed up and was ready to ride again. We picked up another woman and found a place where we could get out and safely ride down. How many ways can I describe how cold I was?

Ennis was a very cute town. And the cabins in Ennis were quite nice and the staff could not have been more accommodating. They had the heat turned way up for us when we arrived, and when even that wasn’t enough for us, arranged to address “the heat emergency” with additional space heaters. We had a "Thanksgiving” dinner which hit the spot fo many, if not me, so much. The conversation over dinner was focused on the next day, our final riding day. Snow was likely. Who thought they would ride in the snow?

Cailie CurrinComment
Day 23: Jackson to Dillon, MT (48 miles)

What a difference a day makes. Most of our group from the close to 100 miles from Sula to Dillon in one day. I decided to split it up into to two days: Sula to Jackson and Jackson to Dillon. There were several reasons why I made the decision: I knew both parts of the ride were among the most beautiful of the trip and I wanted to truly appreciate both. I felt the best way to appreciate both parts of the ride was to ride it as two, not one. What I did not know was there was a dramatic change in weather in store.

On the first day, the riders had sunshine and a tailwind for the second 50 miles. On the second day, the day I did this ride it was cold and there was a beast of a head wind. There was a climb starting at about mile 12. I had to fight my way just to get there. I was working hard to go forward on a slight decline. When I started to go up, it was near impossible. I felt many times as though I was actually losing ground against the freezing wind even as I pedaled with as much strength as I had. And I was really cold. I got sweaty climbing the hill and then the cold got to my wet self. I do not generally ride in low 30s temperatures and I did not have enough experience with layers on a cold climb. By the time I got to the top of the hill I was really cold. I was so happy to see Cy there at the peak. I climbed into the van to warm up. Deb was next to the summit and she joined me in the warm comfort. A couple of riders just went on without stopping at the summit, and that convinced Deb that she was going to go too. I decided to take a bump down the road a bit and hope for better weather when we dropped down into the valley a bit. I simply cannot tolerate that cold. I was in a lot of pain.

A couple of miles made a big difference. The temperature rose to 45 and the wind was not nearly as cold. I was able to enjoy the rest of the ride, which included another pass and then a 20 mile downhill into town. On the previous day, some of the other women clocked speeds that were unbelievable to me. The fastest was over 51 MPH. I would never go that fast, but I had to work to get into the high 20s. The wind was still a factor! It was a beautiful ride, but I chose not to stop to take pictures.

I was really happy to reach Dillon. I was tired and cold. I also had a Patagonia coupon burning a hole in my virtual pocket thanks to my friend Kitty and some Camp Little Notch connections. Dillon offered a variety of options for us and we had a great time there. But that day was a sign of a weather system change that would impact the rest of the trip.

Cailie CurrinComment
Day 22: Sula to Jackson, MT - 51.1 miles: CONTINTENTAL DIVIDE!!!

Montana does not disappoint for amazing biking. We started from our cabins early and it was very cold. We got an earlier start today than we have been the last few days. It was dark when we went out for breakfast and just light as we started out on an 8.0 mile climb to the continental divide at just over 7200 feet. The climb itself wasn’t too hard, but the fact that it was early and cold and we had no time to warm up made it challenging. However, it felt great to get to the marker!

The descent was (again) so very cold. I had more layers to put on and it was not raining or I might have taken the same approach to this descent as I did from Lolo Pass a few days ago. However, I decided to suck it up and go down. But I did suffer for the rest of the day. Once my hands and feet get cold, it is like a switch goes off inside and they don’t warm up. Based on what I know of CRPS, I think it is more that the nerves keep sending the “I’m freezing” signal even after they should stop doing so. There is simply no convincing them that in fact it isn’t so cold anymore.

After the amazing climb and freezing descent, the terrain opened up and we were in amazing wide open spaces, with split rail fencing for miles and miles along the road and river. Again, my eyes were peeled for wildlife, but to no avail. I was so disappointed. Then, shortly after the first SAG stop at 23 miles out, there were antelope! And the first couple were just that - I continued to see them periodically throughout the rest of the ride. How great that was! The first couple were young and they seemed to be playing together. Then there were three that seemed older and more interested in the couple of us that stopped to take pictures. Then there were more who were playing with the cows in a pasture along the route. So many antelope! Finally, an animal I hadn’t seen before and that we don’t have at home!

As we turned to head towards Jackson, the road was fairly straight and flat and we were encircled by mountains. No matter where I looked there was a group of mountains. And we really say why Montana is the Big Sky state. All the pictures I took today show the huge expanse of blue sky and clouds. Simply amazing.

The hotel we were supposed to be at in Jackson changed ownership and is closed, so we headed in a variety of configurations to Dillon for the night. That means we will be here for two nights before we head out on Saturday for our final two days of the trip to West Yellowstone. No more rustic cabins. We are in a Best Western here. While the amenities are “nicer” I do miss the quiet of the woods and the excitement of the possibility of bears. Here my room is next to the hotel laundry, so there are huge plastic carts of dirty and clean linen going in and out, with workers yelling to each other in English and Spanish. The rooms are considered too nice to have our bikes in, so they are all locked up in a room by themselves. Amenities come with a price.

I cannot believe that we have just a couple more riding days.

Cailie CurrinComment
Day 21: Hamilton to Sula, MT (42 miles)

We were really lucky to be able to spend the day on this route. Montana provides so much beauty that every mile is really a gift. I usually ride mostly by myself, but I rode with Mike (female) most of the day. We talked about what we saw and suggested great photo ops along the way. It was a very nice change for me. The day as a whole was one of the best of the trip and it is up there on my list of best days on a bike.

We have been in the Bitterroot mountains for some time now and they do not disappoint in any regard. Much of our route followed a river winding its way through the mountains and the mountains themselves had burned recently. It was amazing to see that some houses seemed to survive and to see how the vegetation was coming back. There was all this color on the ground and stark black tree trunks sticking up above.

We hoped to see some wildlife, but saw none. There were roadside signs about the efforts to save mountain sheep, but we did not see any. The river seemed like it would be a perfect place for a moose to be, but we did not see any. That was the only disappointment. The land itself was full of beautiful rock formations and gently rolling hills down in the valley along the river.

The road was a major route (US 93) and the shoulders were there some of the time and not at others, but there was not a lot of traffic that when there were cars, they were courteous and gave us space. It had none of the feel of some of the rides in Idaho where similar shoulder situations were terrifying.

The last little bit of the ride was clearly trending up. A sign of what is to come in the next leg of our journey. But before we spent too long on the climb, we turned onto a gravel road and went down into the Lost Trail Hot Springs resort(?). I guess the fabulous hot springs pool does provide it with a bit of a resort feel, but besides the water, resort is not a word that would easily come to mind.

The accommodations last night were very rustic cabins. Three of us shared mine, though I was lucky enough to get the single room. The manager told me when I checked in that they have had a bear around, tossing garbage cans, and suggested that it was important to be careful with food. One of our tour found a bear paw print and took a great picture of the print next to her, much smaller, hand. I decided that I would put my left-over almond butter and jelly sandwich in the small fridge in my room rather than leave it out where it could be sniffed out by a hungry bear. Our cabin did not really seem to be hungry bear proof.

Cailie CurrinComment
Day 20: Missoula to Hamilton, MT (47 miles)

Today was an unusual riding day in that the entire ride was on a bike path. We turned onto it directly out of the parking lot in Missoula and off of it as we arrived at the hotel in Hamilton. Hamilton is apparently a very fast-growing community due to copper mining here. I did not see evidence of that mining on the way in, but I am not sure I know what I am looking for. What we rode through today seems much more suburban sprawl type community than the places we have been to previously. It feels a long way from the meandering rivers of Idaho. Still beautiful, but not at all the wilderness feeling we had for so many days there.

Being on a bike path allowed us to follow the US Rt 93 path without being in major traffic. That was very nice. The noise of the traffic was ever present, but the cars and trucks themselves were happily not. It allowed me to look around more than usual because I didn’t have to worry so much about holding my line. If I drifted a bit, it was no big deal. So I took advantage and loved every minute of the mountains that were on both sides of us. Those on our side of the road as we rode south seemed to be bigger and rockier. Those on the other side were smaller and more rounded in general. Both were beautiful!

We seem to be entering a weather pattern that will mean dressing in layers and shedding them as we go on through the day. I had on three layers underneath my wind/rain jacket at the start along with a Gore windstopper buff that came up over my head under my helmet. By 20 miles in I was ready to start leaving layers behind in the SAG vehicle. I have an Apicura bag that will hold a lot, but it is fabulous to be able to leave it all in the car on those days when we don’t think we will need to put the extra clothes back on later in the ride. It seems most, if not all of the remaining days of our trip will be in the low 30s in the morning and will get up to the low to mid-60s in the afternoon when we arrive at our next destination. If it all goes as smoothly as today, it will be fine. My purchases yesterday at REI proved to be well-thought out and I was toasty warm when and where I needed to be and the layers peeled off easily so I could stay comfortable all day. Yay!!!

One thing we have noticed as the temperatures drop is that we are not as happy eating our meals outside as we were at the beginning of the trip. Many of us took our breakfasts back into the warm hotel this morning so we could stay warm and the dinners outside have been getting shorter and less chatty as we tend to want to head back inside soon after eating the delicious meals prepared for us in the trailer/galley kitchen. I am getting hungry already and we have two hours before dinner. I have already snacked, so I guess now I just have to wait for 6 pm to arrive!

Cailie CurrinComment
Day 18: Powell, ID to Missoula, MT (58 miles)/Day 19: Rest Day in Missoula

Cold. Rain. Sleet(?). Lolo Pass. Really cold.

That was pretty much how we came into Missoula on Sunday. While I am sure the views were grand, but most of us were focused on one thing: How cold we were.

The day started with a short “peloton” ride through the rest of the construction. All of us on bikes took the full right lane and the SAG car rode behind us all with her flashers on. The plan was for her to tap the horn three times if a car came up so we would have time to find a safe place to get off the road. During the 1.5 miles, there was just one pickup truck and it was an official ID highway truck and instead of waiting for us, it pulled out and around into the left-hand lane. The best laid plans… Regardless of that one truck’s flaunting of our system, we all arrived safely at the end of the construction zone to ride on to Lolo Pass.

The climb itself wasn’t as hard as others we have done, but the weather made it much less pleasant. Even going up hill I was cold - really cold. I could not climb the way I have been climbing. Every pedal stroke hurt, not my muscles, but my right foot. CRPS makes cold pretty close to debilitating. It is hard to explain the pain the cold causes but it is intense and unlike anything else I have experienced. Because it is so painful, I travel with a heating pad so that I can wrap my hands/feet in it if necessary.

It is a hard thing for me to say I just can’t do “that”, whatever “that” is. Sometimes though it is true that It hurts too much or it brings on pain that last a long time. Cold is one of the things I have to think about that way now. I came to the ride knowing that I might have to say that I can’t ride when it is really cold. I knew I might have to say I can’t do that or I risk not being able to do other rides on other days.

So when I arrived at the top of the pass after climbing for 8 or so miles and was freezing cold after a climb, I could not imagine how cold I would be on the descent. So I took a “bump” and rode to the next SAG stop and then got out and rode the rest of the way. Even though I know it was the right thing to do, it really messed with my thinking. I spend a lot of time trying to counter the messed up nerve signals that are a part of CRPS. I tell myself all the time that the pain isn’t “real” even though I really feel it. I tell myself over and over that there is no real and present pain - it is old pain that I am reliving. I tell myself that I have to keep moving or I won’t be able to. I am determined not to give in to CRPS. However, my experience is that there are times that I do have to say I just can’t do it. And yesterday was one of those days. Now I have to get my head back in the place where it was before, so that I can finish this tour strong and happy with how I rode.

Today we had a rest day in Missoula. I did laundry, I had lunch with friends here at a fabulous restaurant, and, importantly, I went to REI to get more warm clothes! I had brought some cold weather cycling clothes with me, but I don’t ride in the cold very often because I am so sensitive to it. I hope I will be able to be fairly comfortable for the next 6 days. There is snow in the forecast and we will be at higher altitudes soon, where snow and cold temperatures are more likely. It seems quite possible that much of the last 6 days will be about keeping warm as much as it will be about cycling skills. I hope my purchases will help me stay comfortable enough. If I can get to the hotel, my heating pad will be there for me to use to get ready for the next day. Onward!

Cailie CurrinComment
Day 17: Syringa to (almost) Powell, ID (60 miles)

The ride from the River Dance Lodge in Syringa, ID to Powell, ID continued along the river and it continued to be gorgeous. The power of water was evident everywhere as we saw all different shapes and sizes of rocks in and next to the water. We saw so many huge trees down and washed to their current location. We passed many signs identifying the creeks that flowed into the river. There were rapids and there were places where the river seemed, from the surface, to be still. Miles and miles of spectacular river scenes.

On most days, we have the opportunity to stop at a café or restaurant for lunch, but this area of ID was so remote that there was nothing available to us between the two accommodations. So 40 miles into our ride, our guide Cy met us with the trailer and had a beautiful lunch ready for us. At that time, she told us that she had gotten some additional information about the construction ahead. We had previously been told it was at about mile 60 of our planned 72 mile ride, but a couple of cyclists had come through and said it was much closer than that. Our expectation, based on the guides previous inquiries, was that the highway department would have a school bus to transport us through the portion of the roadwork that was not safe for us to ride.

Much of the road was beautifully smooth and it was evident that there was recent paving on much of our route. However, as those of us who were towards the front of the group rode on, we saw no signs of any school bus. There was no sign of dangerous riding conditions until mile 60 where there was suddenly no middle line and instead “candles” that were spaced in a way that would prevent drivers from passing us and there was no shoulder or safe space for us to pull off onto when a vehicle needed to pass us. We waited and waited for a bus to show up - in vain.

Ultimately, the guides’ investigation determined that the bus was on the Missoula side of the construction not our side and there was no way for us to get to our hotel except by the WomanTours van/SAG car. As is my consistent experience with WomanTours, there was a clear positive attitude and we all loaded bikes and people up and in and we were shuttled through the construction to our next stop in Powell: the Lochsa Lodge.

The Lochsa Lodge was again a series of cabins, but these were much smaller, and more rustic, than those at the River Dance Lodge. I was again in a double and we were among the lucky ones who had indoor plumbing. We were told on our arrival there that there was wifi and that the bar in the main building was the best location for reception. Many of us tried unsuccessfully to connect and gave up worried that our families would be getting increasingly worried when they had not heard from us. We couldn’t get on long enough to even send a “safe arrival” text. We had to hope that they would trust no news is good news.

While the accommodations were quite rustic, the food was very good and the chef at the Lochsa Lodge was the most attentive to my food needs of any of the non-tour chefs. He made me something special for both dinner and breakfast, both of which were delicious and filling. It has been rare that I have been able to share in the desserts on the trip, and while Sue the WomanTours chef has found treats for me occasionally, most of the other venues have left me dessert-less. Not so at the Lochsa Lodge. There was a blackberry cobbler for dessert and I was able to enjoy the fruit without the non-vegan cobbler. It was much appreciated.

Cailie CurrinComment
Day 16 Grangeville to Syringa, ID (40 miles)

This leg was a few days ago. Until we arrived in Missoula, MT yesterday we were without any cell or wifi service for quite some time. It is a very interesting state of mind in today’s world to be unable to reach anyone. It left most of us quite uncomfortable. It also left our families worried that they were unable to confirm our safe arrival. It is an obvious reality, but it really hit us over the head just how dependent we are on immediate communication.

I think of the ride from Grangeville to Syringa as three distinct rides. The first was in wide open expanses of intentionally burnt fields and lovely rollers to ride up and down. we could see for miles and miles. As we rode we discussed (mostly questions rather than answers) why the fields were burnt that way, what the new planting was in September, what all the straw (vs. hay) is used for. There were few cars and we could ride in small groups and enjoy each other’s company at the same time we enjoyed the scenery.

The second part of the ride was a treacherous descent that was on rough pavement, was miles of the steepest slopes we have encountered with sharp turns. I did not enjoy any of it and several of us chose to walk the steepest sections. Off the bike, I could enjoy the amazing views. On the bike in those parts, I was not able to enjoy anything. I have no regrets, even though it is a goal of mine to become more confident on descents. It was remarkable how different I felt at the same, or faster, speed when I can see what comes ahead. I think my discomfort is a combination of control issues and insecurity in my bike handling skills. I plan to work on both in the coming year.

The third part of the ride took us back to the woods as we followed the Clearwater River into past Kooskia and into Kooskia, ID. We stayed in a group of cabins across the road from the river, and it was beautiful. The cabins were quite nice although the configurations of beds made us alter our usual nights of either singles or doubles. I am usually in a double room, but at the River Dance Lodge, I had a loft room to myself with its own shower, toilet and sink. Downstairs, were two women who usually have single hotel rooms. They had their own rooms, but shared a bathroom. There was a living rom, but it was filled with all three bikes and we didn’t use it at all.

After our arrival, before dinner, we had an Equinox party hosted by three friends who have done many rides together. There was music on a little Bluetooth speaker and it was nice to break the post-ride routine with a party. It really made clear how well we have gotten to know each other at this point in our trip. We weren’t getting to know each other at this party, we knew each other well enough to engage in a different way.

At our map meeting that evening after dinner, we learned of coming road construction that would be the subject of ongoing planning and discussion over the next couple of days.

Cailie CurrinComment
Day 15: Riggins to Grangeville, ID (50.5 miles)

Yesterday was a rest day and I really rested. I read and I sat around and I walked on the river’s edge, but I didn’t “do” anything at all. Today I rode my bike again.

Today’s ride was the most amazing of all amazing rides on this trip. The first 30 miles were back on US 95, the highway with lots of traffic and iffy shoulders. We rode along the Salmon River, which was beautiful, but nothing could compare to the beauty of Old US 95, which became our route starting at mile 30.

We knew there was a lot of climbing today and we knew it started with that turn at mile 30. We knew there were switchbacks. What we did not know was how spectacular the views would be from the switchbacks! As we were climbing, the valley below got so far away that it was a little surreal that we had actually been down there just a bit ago. One thing that stood out to me, in addition to the beautiful mountains and river below, was the incredible number of small sunflowers that lined the edge of the road we were climbing. They seemed to be smiling at us telling us to keep going. Back and forth we went up this mountain with the sunflowers encouragement.

Then the summit. My ears were popping. It felt really high up. Then came the descent. There were cautions, steep and windy roads are not what I like on descents. I like to be able to see far enough ahead to anticipate how much speed I can handle safely. There was gravel. There was shade, which made it a little more difficult to see the gravel and the uneven places in the pavement. The descent was fun.

What was incredible though was that the terrain was totally different on the way down. Gone were the sunflowers. Gone were the mountains. Now there were various colors of fields as far as our eyes could see. It could not have been more different from what we saw on the way up the mountain. What took so long to climb took virtually no time to come down. And we arrived in Grangeville, ID. It is a small town of just over 3,000. It feels huge compared to the places we have been staying that have fewer than 500 residents.

A couple of us walked to get some lunch at the “Melting Pot Café” where they served Asian, Mexican, Italian and American food. It was not clear if they have a specialty, but all of our food was perfectly fine. We are staying in a Super 8 hotel, which isn’t as quaint as the other recent independent motels, but it is fine in its genericness. And weirdly, we are back on Pacific Time. When we crossed the border into Idaho, we went from Pacific to Mountain time. We have been in Idaho for a few days now, but today as we started our ride we went back to Pacific time. My Garmin was clearly confused - or perhaps it was the satellites - because I gained and lost an hour multiple times until it finally settled into Pacific Standard Time. I do not know when we go back to Mountain time, but I think we do once again before we finish our trip.

To relive this ride with me copy this link: https://relive.cc/view/1855319856

Cailie CurrinComment
Day 13: New Meadows, ID to Riggins, ID (34 miles)

The ride from New Meadows to Riggins was the easiest to date. There were some headwinds and there were some narrow parts of the road, but for the most part, the roads were fine and the route gorgeous. And it was about as close to flat/downhill as is possible in a natural environment. Had it not been for the wind, perhaps we could have coasted most of the way!

We have been getting later and later starts as the temperatures drop in the morning. We still start with all the clothing: long finger gloves, hats under helmets, arm warmers/jackets, and on this ride, toe warmers for me, thanks to Marilyn! As the day goes on the layers come off and we have been arriving at our daily destination in bike shorts and short sleeve jerseys. We left latest of all from New Meadows because the ride was so short. After a leisurely breakfast, we rode and got to Riggins in time for lunch.

Many of us ate at Kate’s. It had been recommended to my little group by a person pumping gas at the station down the street from our motel. She said it was a little pricey, but the best food in town. Not only was it good food, the owner, Kate, is great and kept us all entertained. I am not sure the first-day waitress was so happy to see all of us stream in and out all afternoon, but I trust she learned a lot!

For me, as a vegan, food has been a bit of a challenge in these small towns, but not at Kate’s. Despite the full name of her restaurant, Kate’s Cattleman, she told us is a vegetarian, which amuses some of her customers. While there was nothing on her menu that would seem to be vegan, she made a wonderful black bean burger with her own garden tomatoes, fresh lettuce, sautéed mushrooms and onions. The bread was beautiful and there were sweet potato fries. I will be back for it again today, though this time I am going to add her specialty vegan pesto. Kate’s is a retirement venture for her and she is open to other options, having done this for 10 years now. She is just waiting to see what may come next. But for now she is having fun. She told me about panning dirt from the river to bring to her garden beds because the soil is not good here in town. She has been building her beds for 10 years and she is happiest out there. That said, she arrives at the restaurant at 1:30 am to back and get ready for the day. She puts the coffee on at 5 and opens the doors. She happily sings to the Beatles music that seem to be on all the time there.

Today is a rest day, so I am getting caught up on work and am enjoying doing little else. I did my laundry yesterday afternoon after lunch. Tomorrow is not too long a day in terms of miles, but despite my best efforts to not look ahead, I know it also has a 12-mile climb that includes switchbacks, so I think I may appreciate all the rest I can take today! I am guessing my average miles/hour will not be fast so the day may be longer than the miles would suggest it “should” be. The room here at the Riggins Motel is perfectly comfortable for this type of easy day and I am enjoying going from inside, to outside on the porch, to the coffee shop across the street and eventually I will find myself back at Kate’s before she closes at 3 pm for another delicious black bean burger!

If you want to “relive” my ride, copy link: https://www.relive.cc/view/1850965886

Cailie CurrinComment
Day 12: Cambridge, ID to New Meadows, ID (47 miles)

Today was a short mile day, but short miles does not always mean easy. Today it was not the climbs or the descents that made the ride challenging, it was the roads and the traffic. I think all of us were afraid for a good part of the ride. There were a lot of big trucks on the road and they were driving fast. We had narrow shoulders and in some cases, they were so narrow that we really couldn’t ride in them: we had to be out on the road. There was also a head wind at times and a cross wind at others so while the traffic was zooming along, we were struggling to keep ourselves in a safe place. The wind blew us around and the trucks sucked us closer in to them. Of course, there were plenty of courteous drivers that gave us lots of room, but there were many others too.

For me, it made it hard to enjoy what continues to be beautiful scenery. I was focused on not getting hit by a semi much of the time and worried about it at others. I didn’t even really stop to take pictures because I wasn’t looking around as much to see what was around me and when I did there wasn’t a safe place to stop to take a picture. So today will live in my memory and the record of my heart rate zooming up, down and all around with the traffic.

The spaces are much more wide open in the parts of Idaho we have ridden through than was the case in Oregon. Even when those spaces were open they seemed smaller compared with here. The one exception was when we rode through Payette National Forest. There the evergreen trees were once again looming large. It was a beautiful park with streams, waterfalls and much natural beauty. I stopped at the sign in the picture attached to have my sandwich before heading up what was the beginning of a long gentle climb. Nothing compared to the past couple of days in terms of grade, going from 2-3% up to 8% for short periods. I am going to work on remembering the beauty we rode through despite the fear I experienced while riding it!

Yesterday I wrote about some of the people who “encouraged” me as I rode. Today my mantra to myself was: “Relax your grip, hold your line and breathe.” I have no idea how many times I told myself to do that, but it was a lot! The relaxing part was hard but made all the difference. When I was grasping at the handlebars for safety, I was really less safe than when I was trusting and open and just guiding rather than trying to force. Imagine that? There is a way to move through life without pushing and forcing, just easing and relaxing and breathing! That is part of what this “sabbatical” is about, so today is part of why I am here.

To “relive” today’s ride, copy this link: https://www.relive.cc/view/1848498929

Cailie CurrinComment
Day 11: Halfway, OR to Cambridge, ID

Yay, we made it to Idaho! It was much tougher than I expected. And that really was the lesson of today.

The profile of the ride today was almost identical to yesterday. A couple miles longer, but starting with a descent and ending with a big climb and final descent into town. For me, it was a very different ride and my expectations may have been the problem. I thought today would be easier than yesterday. I didn’t really have any good reason to think that, but I did. When it wasn’t, when it was a harder climb than I had expected and when the final descent was into the wind a good distance and with cross winds for the rest, so not as easy as I expected, I struggled mentally. I had to do all the self-talk to keep going.

It is interesting to me how many different people come to me on rides. Today I pulled up many people and images to get through when it was tough. I often think of my dad, occasionally with a few tears. Today I thought about how often he used to text me while I was riding as he thought of this thing or that thing that I should know about. Honestly, it drove me crazy at times, but how I miss it now. Today I would have loved to get little note from him. I think of my spinning classes, and how often I told them they could do anything for 2 min some period. Today, I told myself I could do anything for 2 miles, then 1 mile, then .25 mile. As I pedaled, I said to the rhythm of the cadence “I can. I will. End of Story.” Over and Over. I thought about everything that I have learned from my CrossFit coaches and Soulshine members about determination and mental toughness. I thought of Sydney and how brave she is to be starting something so new and different: she struggles so with change, yet she does it anyway. I should be as brave as she is. I thought of Margaret. She has sacrificed so much for me to be here: a gift that I probably cannot repay.

On long climbs, there is lots of time to think about all kinds of things. For me being able to draw on the strengths of so many makes it easier to smile as the miles go by. I feel grateful to all of you right now. Without you, today would have been much more difficult - and it was plenty hard enough!

Cailie CurrinComment
Day 10: Baker City, OR to Halfway, OR (54 miles)

After a rest day in Baker City, we were on the road again this morning. It kind of feels like our Monday, even though it is Saturday. It is hard to come up with words to describe the landscape we are riding through. Today was Hells Canyon. Apparently, the deepest river gorge in North America. We spent today seeing it from a variety of perspectives. The first 40 miles were essentially descending into the canyon. These descents were long and open and offered sweeping views of the land. Then just as I thought today would be all about those vast open spaces surrounded by mountains the hills/mountains started to come in closer to the road and we were within their walls that felt quite close and there were no more views beyond what went up on both sides of us.

We had our second SAG stop at mile 41. It was warm and many of us she%%d layers and applied sunscreen. We knew we had a big climb ahead. It was a 6 mile climb that was in full sun. The cue sheet said the grade was 5-7%. It was actually only 5% for about a minute on its way to 7%, which it held remarkably consistently throughout the 6 miles. I actually don’t mind a 7% grade at all. It is totally doable, though holding for 6 miles proved to be a mental challenge. I wanted there to be some change, a little flatter for a moment would have been nice. I kept envisioning an engineer with a big angle measuring 7% exactly and saying: “Yes, that’s good, let’s keep that incline FOREVER!”

I was dripping in sweat in a way I haven’t on this trip, because the climbs have tended to be in the shade and while they have certainly been work, they have not involved baking in the sun. Today felt a bit like that - and it wasn’t all that hot. I can’t imagine that climb during peak summer heat!

The descent was also exactly 7% but only for 2 miles. Then it leveled off and we could either pedal or coast into Halfway, OR, a very small community of approximately 300. Bigger than Mitchell, but far smaller than Baker City where we spent the last two days.

While Halfway is apparently halfway between a few things, including the north pole and the equator, it is not halfway across Oregon and tonight is our last night in this state. Tomorrow we will cross the line into Idaho and say good bye to all that Oregon has offered to us as we traveled from the coast to the eastern border. On this our last night, we are housed in two different establishments. My roommate and I are in a very old cinderblock/metal motel that seems to be mostly used by Elk hunters. About half of our tour is here. The rooms are old and out of style, but fully functional. The other place seems much more interesting. Each room seems to have its own character and idiosyncrasies. I am looking forward to hearing about them at dinner tonight.

Cailie CurrinComment
Day 8: John Day, OR to Baker City, OR (79.4 miles) / Day 9: Rest Day

Baker City is a small Victorian town that is totally different from the other cities/towns we have visited. It was a long day yesterday getting here. The night we stayed in John Day, it rained overnight and into the early morning. It was the first rain we had seen and none of us were excited about heading out on a very cold, rainy morning. We could see it had snowed in the mountains visible from our hotel. There was much discussion and debate about what to wear. We knew we had three summits and three descents and we had many miles to cover so we were starting early and would end in the middle- to late-afternoon. Very different terrain, very different times of day. What to wear and take with us was a challenge.

I opted for long pants, my first day in those. I wore a short sleeve jersey with arm warmers and a fleece cycling jacket. I wore my Showers Pass socks and long fingered gloves over my regular riding gloves. I took a wind/rain jacket with me in my bike bag. By the time we climbed the first summit at over 5200 feet, I was sweating. The only thing that was cold was my feet. They were freezing. At the summit, in what would become the pattern of the day, I put on the wind jacket and took off. I nearly froze on the way down. My teeth were chattering and all my muscles were tensed due to the cold. I stopped twice to try and get fingers and toes working again. Happily at the bottom was a coffee shop. I went in and had the most wonderful cup of hot coffee I have had in a very long time. I would have been happy to stay there for the rest of the day, but there were many more miles and two more summits before I could stay anywhere.

The rest of the day included spectacular views and landscapes along with hard work on the climbs and descents that were much less cold than the first. It is not possible to put into words the beauty of this land. It is vast and varied. I feel both awed and insignificant as I make my way as a little dot through this enormity. I feel so lucky to be able to experience this and I am thankful to all who are helping to make it possible.

As we approached the final summit of the day, the shortest of the day, I stopped to take of a layer of clothing and discovered my front tire was quite soft. I couldn’t believe it. I thought I was going to have a day without a tire issue. I thought I had just 2 miles to go before the SAG at mile 50 and the top of that third summit, so I decided to pump it a bit and then change it when I had a full size pump. I was with Marsha who held my bike while I vigorously pumped away, and she agreed to ride with me to the stop. When we got there we saw no SAG. We waited and a third rider arrived and together we figured that the SAG must be at the picnic area that was at mile 58.8 rather than at the summit. I was not going to be able to make it on that tire. It was time for a CO2 boost. With a little bit of effort, we got the tire full with the CO2 and left for the picnic area. My tire remained full for the rest of the ride, so overall, it was a minor inconvenience on what was otherwise a fantastic day.

The picnic area was at the bottom of the final real descent for the day and then it was an essentially flat ride to town, 20 miles down the road. That 20 miles was the hardest of the day. Not that it wasn’t beautiful, it definitely was. We rode by a creek most of the way and there were all kinds of hills on either side of us. There were lots and lots of cows and birds. It was a beautiful 20 miles, but honestly, my butt was so ready to be off the bike! Even though my Caroline’s Dream Chamois and Recovery Cream is doing a great job, I was ready to sit on something other than a bike seat. It was an emotionally and physically tough last 20 miles. I was just ready to be done.

My day today has been a combination of taking care of my personal needs and my bike’s needs. I got up fairly early and walked to the supermarket to get some food and coffee. I dropped the food off at the hotel and went in the opposite direction to the laundromat. After those needs were addressed, it was my bike’s turn. I took both tires off and inspected them for punctures. I put both tubes in the bathtub to look for holes that might not be visible. I found goat heads in both tires and I patched both tubes. Then I went out to the WomanTours trailer to clean my bike. Wow, did it need a good cleaning, especially after yesterday’s early rain. While there I learned there was a bike shop just a couple of blocks from our hotel. Others on the tour were not too optimistic that they would have new tires for me because they seemed to be very mountain bike focused, but I figured it was definitely worth the time to find out.

I ended up going back and forth between the hotel and the bike shop a few times this afternoon. The bottom line is that they did not have tires that fit my rims. They did not have the liners that were my next request. But the mechanic did suggest that I try Stan’s in my tubes for some inside-out protection. Stan’s is some kind of sealant that should disperse through my tubes and seal any puncture created by an errant goat’s head or other thorn. The mechanic was quite emphatic that this should solve my problems. I am optimistic, but somewhat skeptical.

I reached out to Georgena Terry, who designed my beloved custom bike, and she recommended some tires, so I am hoping to have some sent to a future location, but in the meantime, she agreed that Stan’s is a great interim solution. That made me a little more optimistic, though still skeptical. We shall see as we head tomorrow to Hells Canyon on our way to Halfway, OR. Onward!

To relive my full ride, go to this link: https://www.relive.cc/view/1840180935

First Summit

First Summit

Cailie CurrinComment
Day 7: Mitchell, OR to John Day, OR (68.8 miles)

When I ride, I like to have 10 miles to warm up. I probably don’t need all of that, but in my head, that is what I plan for - 10 miles. Today we left the hotel and immediately started a 6 mile climb. No time to warm up, no easy spin to get ready. Nope. But before that, we had a delightful breakfast prepared by the fabulous WomanTours chef, Sue Lincoln. During our delighted eating, we discussed goat heads.

I have been called a goat whisperer. I love goats and goats respond to me. Apparently goat heads do too, but that is quite unwanted. I believe 2 of the 4 flats I have had are the result of goat heads. We do not have them at home and for that I am grateful. They are very sharp and very destructive to bicycle tires (and Cy’s flip flops!)

This morning, both my tires were soft before heading out on our ride. I expected the front tire to be - the valve may have a slow leak after I damaged it with a CO2 cartridge changing my second flat. I thought it was toast, but it seems ok, it just needs to be pumped every morning. I can do that. However, I was a bit surprised that my back tire was also soft. That was the first flat and it had been fine after getting a new tube. I examined both tires carefully for signs of goat heads, saw none, pumped them up and left.

At about mile 4 of this 6 mile climb I started to feel like I was working harder than I should have to. I began thinking my back tire was going flat. It was. I made it to the top but it definitely needed air. I really didn’t want to change it again because I was afraid there was a goat head in the tire and that if I put a new tube in the same thing would happen again. I could look at the tire there, but I knew that it would be easier and there would be more help if I needed it if I could make it to the first SAG stop at mile 20. I had to stop and pump 2 more times before I got to mile 20.

At the stop, there was indeed help and Sue from Minnesota found the leak, which I patched. Cy checked the tire while I was doing that and also looked to see if there was a heavier duty tire in the trailer. There was not, but the tire itself seemed ok. Whatever the offending puncturer was, it was no longer evident. So we put the patched tire back on the rim and I rode off. I made it the rest of the day with no obvious leaking, so I am hopeful that it is good to go.

The ride today was lovely, despite the tire woes. The landscape here never ceases to amaze and it is different every day. Today we started in the smallest town I have ever seen and in the funkiest hotel I have ever stayed in and then we climbed, descended and rode for miles through beautiful countryside. The thing that is really incredible is the number of types of rock making up all the hills here. Even though I am paying attention when Cy tells us all about them in our nightly map meeting, I can’t remember it all. I will have to go back and read about it when I get home. What is evident every day are the obvious visual differences. I hope that comes through in my pictures.

John Day is a much bigger town than Mitchell - here there are 1500 residents. So over 10 times the size of Mitchell! We are back in a Best Western and although it is quite comfortable, I kind of miss the old Oregon Hotel. It was fun to go around and see all the rooms and laugh together about them. Mitchell also offered us the bus driver who took us out to see Painted Hills just on his own because he thought we should see them and he was right.

For its part, John Day offered its own version of nice residents. I wanted to get some more tubes and the hotel desk clerk told me there was a bike shop close by, so I took off in search of. I missed it, which I knew after I walked the two and a half blocks of town and didn’t see it. I googled “bike shop near me” and it told me it was next door to our hotel. I couldn’t find it, so I went into the Chamber of Commerce to ask. There, inside, was a door to the bike shop. She said I would have to call Russ because he doesn’t really have open hours. I did and his VM was full. I left my info with the woman at the chamber and shortly after I got back to my room, Russ called me and agreed to meet me at the shop in 10 min. I bought all the tubes he had in my size and a couple of patch kits for good measure. He was fantastic and I so appreciated all he did to make himself available on no notice. If you are ever in John Day, Oregon, be sure to check out Fossil Shift bike shop. Russ will take good care of you!

If you want to ride what I did today with me, the link is: https://www.relive.cc/view/1837842574

Cailie CurrinComment
Day 6: Prineville, OR to Mitchell, OR (46 miles)

This morning several of us discovered that our tires had made unwanted contact with goats head thorns and so flats were quite evident as we were getting ready to depart Prineville. I felt “lucky” that mine happened last night and that I found it right away. I felt bad for those who discovered a pre-existing flat this morning or got one riding out from the hotel.

We left a bit later than usual because the ride was on the short side and this was the first morning that was really cold! Even with several layers it was a cold beginning to the ride. Over time, everything warmed up but my feet. They remained cold for the entire ride and so from now on, I will be wearing different socks!

The first part of the ride was a steady, but not difficult climb. Basically, to mile 30. Then there was a 7.7 fast descent. I was able to enjoy parts of it. I decided I would stop along the way to take pictures and that would both help control the speed and give me the opportunity for some great photos. It worked well. Check Instagram for pictures. @cailie_movetolive.

Mitchell is a VERY small town.  129 people we are told.  The hotel is funky and unique. The room I share has a western theme. Others are bears/wolves, dolls, hearts/flowers, safari, and Sam Elliott. There is one shower for us all and two toilets. I am writing this sitting in the hallway because the one outlet in our room does not have a three-prong outlet. So I am writing, and charging my laptop and my various other devices (garmin, lights) at the same time. In a few minutes a local driver is going to take us to see a local site in a green school bus! Should be a fun evening!

Cailie CurrinComment
Day 5: Sisters, OR to Prineville, OR (56 miles)

Yesterday was a rest day in Sisters. I had a lovely day wandering through town multiple times for food, coffee and bike shop goodies. I swam and read and relaxed.

Today’s ride was one that brought great change. There is little similarity between where we started and where we ended. For the first time on this ride, farm animals were very much a part of the scenery today. When we left Sisters it still felt like we were in the mountains. The town had the feel of a mountain town. Here in Prineville, we are in ranch country. Also, quite obviously from the roadside signage, the land of Trump. Perhaps not coincidentally, I was shown the middle finger today from a car going in the opposite direction. The driver didn’t say anything, he just held his hand up with his middle finger prominently displayed. Ok.

On a much nicer note, the most unique part of the ride was earlier: A little 3 mile” extra” to go to Smith Rock State Park. It was spectacular. I will post more pictures in other places, but the thumbnail here gives an idea of the size and stature of the rocks there. I am so glad I rode the extra couple of miles to see it!

The rest of the ride was lovely and picturesque as well and I always like to talk to the animals as I ride by, so that makes it a good day too.

Oh, and I had another flat, this time right as I was pulling into the hotel parking lot. This time the front tire, which is less messy. I saw it happen, I heard it happen and I was grateful to simultaneously be seeing the hotel directly in front of me. And not surprisingly, it is much less stressful to change the tube sitting on a hotel room floor than it is on the side of the road! I took a little spin around the parking lot and everything seems fine. I patched the old tube and I am ready for tomorrow! Onward!!

Cailie CurrinComment
Day 3: Rainbow, OR to Sisters, OR (44 miles)

44 miles - no big deal. But in my head it was a big deal. McKenzie Pass. We joked in our Team in Training rides that it was never a good sign when a road on our cue sheet had "Hill" in its name.  Copeland Hill comes to mind as a very clear example.  Well, Pass falls into the same category. When there is a Pass in the name, there is climbing to be done and, for me, worse: descending. 

At the map meeting last night, there was lots of shared anxiety about the climb and being able to do it. For me, that was not the hard part. For me, descents are what keep me up at night. And it was true again last night. I was imagining tight hairpin turns at steep inclines with traffic and no shoulders. The only part of that which was true was the no shoulders part. The descent had relatively few turns, compared to the climbing side. The grade was not as bad as I imagined either.  I did not feel as though my rear wheel was going to go over my head even once.  Because nothing was too difficult about today's ride, I could enjoy the amazing experience of being in that gorgeous place.  

The first thing that struck me was the tremendous quiet. I was riding by myself for all of the climb, and the sounds my bike and I made were the only consistent sounds. There were occasional birds and cars, but for 22 miles, it was mostly me interrupting this extreme quiet. The trees were enormous. The evidence of previous fires was stark and vast. The lava fields were beyond anything I had ever seen before and (until last night) totally unexpected! The day offered me the chance to be with myself and to feel my body do its work. Once again, anxiety was a waste of sleep.  Today, I felt at ease and totally present in a way I normally have to work really hard to even approximate.  What a gift to the soul today was. 

Cailie CurrinComment
Day 2: Eugene, OR to Rainbow, OR (57 miles)

Today's ride was different than any other bike ride I think I have ever done.  Most of the time I ride loops, starting and ending from a specific place: my house or a parking lot. But on a tour, the rides go from point to point. Today's point-to-point ride was almost entirely uphill. But gently so. There were no dramatic climbs and no terrifying descents. Instead we graded up all day but rarely at more than 3%: just enough to let us know we were going up.  I found it rather fun.

And it was beautiful. Again we were by a river most of the day. Others saw rafts go by, but I did not. Sadly, one of the things that made it beautiful was the smoke in the air from the wildfires. It was like a light fog making the tall trees look spectacular above the river. The smoke became noticeable about 20 miles into the ride. It got heavier at times and it eased at others. Some wore buffs or masks, but I did not. I didn't feel it in my lungs as much as my eyes and my mouth.  

The road was sometimes beautifully paved and others not-so-much. Sometimes there was a deep shoulder and other times there was just a white line. Sometimes there were very steep drop-offs on the side of the road and at other times there were homes and businesses.  One of the few places we passed where we could stop and eat was the Vida Café. I think only 3 of us stopped there and it was quite a place.  It was in Vida, OR. I think they have a post office.  There was not much else beside the café and a gas station. The café was filled with people. The wait was very long for our simple orders, and the people watching made that time quite enjoyable (not to mention we were sitting on chairs not bicycle seats!). A woman at a table next to us said she had taken her mother to Eugene for a doctor's appointment and so she had seen many of us on her way back. She noted we were all women.  She expressed awe at our undertaking and was glad to hear we were not returning to Florence after getting to Yellowstone.  We are also glad about that! Another woman said how athletic we looked and how jealous she was of us. I think we all felt uncomfortable and not as athletic as she thought.  It is sometimes hard to see ourselves as others see us. 

There weren't many vegan options on the menu, so I ordered the "special" oatmeal: coconut and raisins. It was fine, but I had had oatmeal in the hotel for breakfast, so I wasn't really that interested in more.  I asked about fruit hoping that maybe I could get the triple berries that were in the triple-berry pie without the pie part, but alas, the fruit today was melon and banana.  I do not eat bananas. Ever. Under any circumstances. So a little bit of oatmeal it was.  

After Vida there was not much to see until the hotel, which is quite a place. The brown shag carpeting is not only on the floor.  I'll leave it at that.  The people are nice and there are grassy places to sit and relax while enjoying being off the bike, so it is all good.  Really good.  

Cailie CurrinComment
Day 1: Florence to Eugene (78 miles)

I didn't sleep well last night.  I was anxious about the start of the ride, but I was even more nervous about the luggage weigh-in this morning.  It is crazy how the mind works.  The two things are not at all equivalent.  First I packed and re-packed.  Two bags, neither over 30 lbs, the total not more than 50.  So even though there was nothing I could really do, I tossed and turned ALL NIGHT!  Stupid. A complete waste of precious sleep hours.  But there we have it. The result? No problem. Under both thresholds. Why didn't I sleep?

Today's ride was beautiful. Much of it was along a river as we wove our way out from the coast.  There was some climbing, but nothing too hard. The challenge was the total miles. It was 78 miles for our first day out. I had a "lovely" interlude getting a flat tire at about mile 60. I am not very good at flats and was extremely appreciative of the women who stopped to help me.  I have been working on strengthening my hands for exactly this reason, but they still are not really strong enough, especially my bad hand.  But together we got it done and I was able to repay the favor by guiding them in on the last, very confusing portion of the ride.  I had Ride with GPS on audio and we were able to follow the audio commands much more easily than we could the cue sheet as we went under and over along the bike trails of Eugene. 

Dinner was fabulous with some lovely tofu pesto for me instead of the non-Vegan option of salmon.  As always, food is a bit of a challenge for me, but I am confident I will get enough to eat! 

Cailie CurrinComment