Day before yesterday was a character building day, and from the amount of building that was engaged in, it is clear to me that my character has a long way to go to completion. I left the cocoon of Tucker Park outside Hood River for the town of Zigzag, where Nick Hardin had assured me “You can get a great breakfast of huckleberry pie.”
Pie for breakfast? In.
The first ten or fifteen miles were okay. Up but not steep. I got passed by two badasses. One a guy who nodded, the other a woman who didn’t. I saw her a few miles up the road; she had turned around and was going home. I was continuing on. “Good job!” she said patronizingly. It was going to be a good job but it wasn’t yet. I knew it was going to be a good job because there was a sign that said, “Lolo Pass: 30.” The 30, I deduced, stood for miles. I further deduced that since “Lolo Pass” sounded like a pass, these were more likely than not uphill miles.
I was right.
The first twelve miles of the climb were bitter but filled with character. There was character on every turn, in fact. Unfortunately, I was too tired to pick up the character, so my character wasn’t actually built up, which explains how, after the 8-mile descent, I still had a lot more character building in store.
I reminded myself: “Must. Build. Character.”
The top of the pass was only eleven miles away, which is less than ten minutes in dog years but more like a billion hours in mayfly years, and I was much closer to the mayfly than the dog. The character bits weren’t immediately evident as the road wasn’t too steep and was well paved, but after two miles the road became rich in character, dispensing with the superfluity of pavement and getting straight to the character-filled business of gravel.
Unlike the first part of the ride, the climb to Lolo Pass had a lot of traffic, probably fifty cars in eleven miles, but they kicked up plenty of dust to ensure that my lungs got as much character as my ego. One car passed incredibly slowly with the windows down. It was German and new and expensive and the driver wasn’t happy about the introduction of his clearcoat to large chunks of stone. A pretty little girl stuck her head out the window.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
I thought this was a really reasonable question. “Riding my bicycle up this mountain.”
“Why are you doing that?” she asked, again quite reasonably.
I pondered as the car slowly eased by. “Because,” I shouted, “it is there.”
I finally got to the top, the road turned to asphalt, and I had a 16-mile drop into the burg of Zigzag. The huckleberry pie place was open but I’d been riding for seven hours and could only think of dinner. I rode to Wemme, went into the store and got bacon. Then I realized I had no campsite, so I rode back to Zigzag and off onto East Mountain Road, which looked rough and also looked like public land.
As I pedaled back to Zigzag I got badassed by a guy in lycra with an incongruous red pannier on the right side. It was empty and flopped as he pedaled He raced by, wordlessly. I thought he must see millions of other cyclists out there in mountainville Oregon to so blithely ignore a fellow wanker.
After a mile and a half of character-filled misery, I got to a nicely graded dirt single track blocked off from car traffic with giant stones and a sign that said “Bikes and walkers only.”
I rode a mile down it, pulled off to the site, pitched camp, saved ten bucks, and called it a day. After eating my bacon I put things away for the night, looking for all the character I’d picked up on the way.
Alas, it was nowhere to be found.
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