Crater Lake To Stanley, Day 9 : Discomfort

Around 3:00am I wake up hearing the sound of animals roving around outside – raccoons perhaps. I dismiss the noise, and turn on my back, and fall asleep again.

About an hour later I hear an angry snapping sound close at hand, and I open my eyes, still mostly asleep, and see light flashing indistinctly around me. Freaked out, disoriented from my weird dreams, I sit up and claw savagely at the air in front of my face, instinctively trying to pre-emptively attack whatever is about to kill me.

Then I sit all the way up, eyes straining, and all I see is the pinpoint of light on the side of the power adapter, plugged into my laptop. As I watch it, it turns from orange to green, indicating that it attempted to charge, but then found that the battery was full.

Puzzled by this, but also reassured by the mundanity of it, I remember where I am and who I am, breathe calmly for a while, and then fall back asleep. It’s not until morning, after I’m back on my bike and out on the road, that I realize I was probably awakened by the noise of a temporary power failure caused by crappy wiring. I woke up just in time for the power to return, and for my laptop to attempt another charge.

The territory is beautiful, but as I pedal through it, for eight hours, I am endlessly blasted by a headwind — a punishingly dry one. Every downhill slope feels flat; every hill feels like a hot brick wall. My gloves and kerchief and sweater dry out, and I slurp my way through my lemonade cup, then through one canteen, then through the other, then begin working on my water sack, which is already warm.

Five hours into the ride, I stop the bike and blunder down to the river, to soak my arms and hands. I have to stomp and hack my way through a gauntlet of weeds, and when I get to the river, the banks are narrow and the water is moving fast. I dunk my shoes and my hands, and splash my shirt liberally. When I stumble back up to the road, I discover that a woman has parked her car at the turnout fifty feet away. She walks up to me and asks how she can get to the river, since she’s thirsty too, but I warn her against it, then wish her well and pedal away.

If she has no water, I am not interested in conversation.

Two hours later I run out of water entirely. The water bag is totally flat. Half an hour later I am thirsty again, and my sleeves and bandanna have dried out. I stop and gaze longingly at the river, still flowing past me with its precarious banks. There’s just no way to get down to it without falling in, and I’d probably be carried a long way before I could drag myself out again. The hills on either side of me are even less hospitable. They’re covered with dry bushes, packed together and reaching up like the clawed hands of the undead, eager to tear at the living.

“Glad I don’t have to walk through that crap,” I mutter, and pedal on. I’m getting a bit worried. I packed as much water as my containers would allow, and it still wasn’t enough to get me past this canyon.

I do eventually find some water, but the ride down out of the mountains leaves me exhausted, and I still have to cross a valley to get to the next town. I can see on my GPS that I need to go down one long stretch of road, then turn northeast, then go down another long stretch of road, and then I’m done for the day. I set an audiobook playing, and concentrate on spinning the pedals, and I make pretty good time until I get to the bend in the road, and then that terrible headwind returns.

It batters me from the left side in irregular bursts, causing me to weave all over the narrow shoulder. The fields across the highway are fallow, and the wind gathers up long rolling tubes of grit and dust, then pushes them over the road at me. Sometimes I can see these waves approaching and brace for them, squinting my eyes and holding my breath, but usually the evening light is too dim for me to make them out. The sun has already set, and the sky is a white blanket of gloom, growing dimmer, but not dark enough to make my headlight useful, and every couple minutes the wind spits raindrops at me, as if to say “Don’t complain, I can easily make it worse.”

Just around the time my GPS indicates I am halfway down the road, the headwind changes course and starts blowing directly in my face. There’s less grit this way, but now it’s against my pedaling, and I’m forced to slow down from 10 miles per hour to 6. I become so frustrated with the wind that I began yelling at it. “Yooouuuuuu ssssuuuuuuuuuuucccckk!!!! Arrrrrrrrrrggghhh!!! Get oouuuuuuuutt of myyy fffaaaaaacceee!!!! ARRRRRGGGH!!” Each time a car passes me in the lane, I swerve out into the road so I can ride in the draft, for the few seconds it remains. It’s risky but I don’t care at this point.

A full hour later I arrive in the town of Vale, exhausted, starving, and coated in grit. Luckily a cheap hotel and a decent restaurant are still open.

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