Day 16-Horsethief Lake State Park, WA to Hermiston, OR, May 24: “It Takes A Village”

Daily Miles: 106 Total Miles: 1053
(By Chandra)

They say it takes a village to raise a child, but the same could be said about this journey. It started fine. It had stormed hard during the night, but had eased to a windy morning. After breakfast though, Earl (the Weather God) decided that we weren’t moving fast enough and sent some rain our way to ensure efficient packing. We were all set to kick off around 8:30 AM when Mike decided that the front tire needed a little more air . . . PHZZZZZZ . . . blown valve. Ah, well. So it was 9:00 when we got on the road and headed east on Hwy 14 on the Washington side of the Columbia River.

Leaving Horsehtief, WA in the rain

We climbed up along the mesa banks, probably a thousand feet (maybe more) over ten miles, on the north bank of the Columbia. We were just a mile from the intersection of 14 and 97 (the former takes the north bank in Washington, the latter is a crossing iinterstate 84 along the south bank in Oregon) when BANG!!!!!! rear tire blow out . . . not just the regular, mundane flat, but a several centimeter hole in both tube and tire.

blowout tube 2 blowout tube and tire sidewall - rideable?  Methinks not!

And it was raining. Scary. We were carrying a spare foldable tire as our contingency, so we were able to replace the destroyed tire, at least for the time being. But it is a racing tire that we use unloaded, so we needed to figure out a plan to get a new tire. Here’s where we needed our village. We were in the most desolate part of our trip (or one of the more desolate stretches, at least). There aren’t any real towns along Hwy 14 and very few along 84 for about 70 miles. . . and we needed a town with a bike shop. Luckily, we had cell phone service. Initially, I tried doing it on my own by calling 411 and asking them to look up a bike shop near Umatilla, OR. The very rude operator informed me that unless I have the proper name of a business, she can’t help me and promptly hung up. That will be the last time I use 411 for anything. Okay, the village. First, I lodged a call into the Ops Center, leaving a message (since, I later learned, Ops Center personnel (i.e., my sister Keiko) was at Kaiya’s music class). Plan B, I thought, I’ll call another friend who has internet access and can google bike shops for me . . . but it is a work day, so I don’t want to get any of our friends in trouble at work . . . who has a boss that won’t care??? Ah, I know, I’ll call our friend Jamie, her boss won’t mind (after all, she works for Wisconsin State Senator Mark Miller (a.k.a. “my dad”). So, I lodged a call into the office where eventually, I got not only Jamie but Senator Miller himself together on speaker phone.

Chandra at the office - Oregon Side, east of The Dalles, looking for a bike shop to replace our tire...

After explaining the situation, Jamie and Dad quickly identified that the ONLY bike shop within biking distance was Scott’s Cyclery in Hermiston, OR . . . Eighty or so miles from our present location. Well, necessity required that we commit ourselves to a second consecutive century (a 100+ mile day) in order to make it to Hermiston. We decided to take the 84 in Oregon because it would be easier to hitch a ride if we had additional problems with the tire. Luckily, we had not crossed the intersection with 97 yet and were able to descend what we had just climbed and cross over into Oregon again. It was still raining, and I thought, okay, this is how today is going to be. Just buckle down and deal.

Having mentally prepared for the worst, the day got remarkably better as it went on. We had no more tire or other bike issues. Around 1, the Ops Center called and confirmed that Scott’s was the only game in town and then located some hotel possibilities for us. By 2, we had a hotel reservation at some cheap hotel called Oxford Inn and were on the road. Plus, it stopped raining and turned into a beautiful day. That’s not to say that we didn’t have a fair amount of pushing and pedaling to get ourselves there. We made pretty good time (the tail wind helped alot) until Boardman, OR, where we stopped for a brief stretch and food. From there, however, we ran into a long gradual uphill and lost our tailwind, so we didn’t get into town–after calling and Ops Center one more time for better directions–until around 7:30 PM. From there, we just ate disappointing (and too expensive) Italian food (not a lot of options within walking distance) and crashed out with plans to get to Scott’s when they opened in the morning (around 10:00 AM).

So, today, we relied on others as well as ourselves. Many thanks to Jamie, Dad and Keiko for coming through for us when we really needed their help. Without them, the day would have been much more stressful. With them, we knew what we had to do and where we should go. So, they are the Heroes of the Day.

It was also a good day for us. Although we were shaken by the blow out (especially since we were not able to ascertain the cause and Mike had replaced the brake pads the night before), tired from the hard ride the day before and bracing ourselves physically as well as mentally for another long hard ride in the rain, and adjusting to a new plan, we didn’t fight or even snap at each other. We worked through it mostly without needing to say anything at all, but each just doing his or her part to get us where we needed to go. Perhaps such cooperation and support is easier when the need is as simple, clear and mutual as getting to a bike shop, but I wish that all problems were resolved with such a level of cooperation and support.

One thought on “Day 16-Horsethief Lake State Park, WA to Hermiston, OR, May 24: “It Takes A Village”

  1. Add me to the list. I work for myself, and I won’t get mad if I help y’all. Promise. Office phone 859-514-1999, cell 859-576-9965. Two other people in the office, Yvonne York, who will answer the office line, and Tom Ackerman.

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