I laid out my sleeping pad in the corner last night and fell asleep with my earbuds in, listening to music while the Outhaus kids caroused. I sleep just fine, and I wake up early, but I can’t really get the engine started. I laze around in my sleeping bag eating oatmeal, and somehow the kids are up and out the door before I have my panniers packed. I stick around to help clean up a bit, and then I roll out into the day. The sun is well up, but the good news is it’s also out. No more rain!
I have a glorious downhill to start the day. It’s so nice and easy, I don’t even care that I’m on 26, with cars and RVs rushing past. And hey — there on the shoulder is a perfectly intact bungie cord! I lost one of mine before I even started riding in Hood River, and two is better than one for securing my stuff to my rack. Nice!
I’m glad to turn off of 26 onto a quiet forest road, though. A little later, the road narrows to one lane — that’s how little traffic there is. A few cars, mostly pick-ups and Subarus and a few Vanagons, do pass me, but from time to time I feel wholly alone. I experimentally add my voice to the quiet sounds (birds and insects) around me. Almost always when I do this, I sing “Galileo” by the Indigo Girls.
There’s more climbing today. I’m still so slow at it. My right knee is hurting, in the same way it would hurt on tough downhills sometimes when I was hiking. I’m nervous about it. I try to push down mostly with my left foot and just use the right one to get the pedals around again. It helps a bit. When do I start feeling stronger?
I pass a couple PCT trailheads, which makes me feel good, like what I’m doing isn’t totally unrelated to what I was doing last month. A few cyclists — roadies, not tourers — pass me on one of the nice long downhill stretches and greet me cheerfully. I watch fireweed seeds blow across the road and catch the sunlight. I pull over at a clearing by the side of the road where someone’s built a fire ring and sit on a log to eat a snack and read a chapter of my book (currently: Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler). I coast down long descents and struggle up long climbs. I pass two snakes wriggling across the asphalt and one roadkilled beautiful coyote on the shoulder. I resist the temptation to follow the sign to Breitenbush Hot Springs at the turn-off. I stop at the next campground instead, and choose a spot close to the river, where I can fall asleep to the sound of the water. The campground host stops me putting the usual fee in my fee envelope, and charges me half price since I’m on my bike.
I set up camp and make dinner as the sun sets. It’s my first night of this trip camping alone without cell reception. I feel annoyingly lonely for a bit, but it feels good to snuggle into my sleeping bag in the dark by myself and read my book. Tomorrow morning, town, and maybe a cup of coffee, is just a few miles away.