Plum Job (USA Day 89)
There are some days that come together in the most delightful way, that have no low points, that utterly vindicate your decision to quit your job (or, at least, the one that pays) and cycle across a continent. Today was one of them.
Idaho saw us off in style: the climb out of Cambridge followed a creek between two dry mountainsides, a little channel of verdant beauty filled with fruit trees, quails and juicy fat cicadas that bounced away from my front wheel like shiny stuntmen. When we rounded a corner to see a plum tree laden heavy with ripe little fruit, temptation overcame me. I dropped my bike and scrambled down the long-grass verge, scrumping handfuls of the juicy red balls into my pockets until they’d take no more. Then I clambered back onto the road, lumpy and grinning, keen to share my harvest with Amy. The plums were perfectly ripe, even the yellow ones, and they came in mouth-sized portions too. Delighted, we giggled and slurped, juice running down our chins, then rolled the remaining dozen plums into a bag for later consumption.
Perhaps we saw the rest of the ride through plum-tinted spectacles, but the fact that the road remained so paradisaically green while the surrounding hills were so barren and brown gave us a safe, smug feeling that remained right up to the summit. Our descent was accompanied by whoops and yells. Hell’s Canyon awaited, and with it the final state on the TAT: Oregon.
From here until Oxbow, we zipped along one or the other side of a reservoir held back by two hydro-electric dams, the arid hills resembling great pyramids of chamoix leather, the clouds an array of sharp horizontal streaks reflecting the flat TV-static strata cast in the rocks beneath. Here we nibbled engorged blackberries from thorny bramble bushes, wound over the rollercoaster of smooth roads and gasped at the calm waters that barely moistened the dry air. How odd that the driest land we’ve seen in this land is so close to such an expanse of water.
Oregon arrived with a change of electricity pylons (now brown, in keeping with the hills) and a change of time zone (I didn’t bother to say, but we switched back to Mountain Time for three days. How discombobulating.) before dragging us unwillingly away from the river and southwest towards Halfway. Halfway between what, we’re still trying to ascertain. There isn’t a lot of…stuff around here.
Our destination was supposed to be Richland, thirteen miles further down the road and up a demonically difficult hill, according to those ahead of us, but Tom text us to say that the campsite wanted to charge us (the scoundrels) so we made alternate plans. After making a few calls, the pastor at Halfway’s Presbytarian church gave us the use of the annexe building, where we spent the afternoon making ourselves thoroughly at home. After a shower, an oven-baked pizza and a bit of Netflix, the perfect day was complete. It wasn’t particularly dramatic, but that’s often a good thing. We climbed for most of the day, but our legs are fine. We had no idea where we’d be staying, yet here we are, with a batch of fresh cookies just about ready to slide out of the oven.
Idaho finished strongly. So far, Oregon’s matched it. We’re having such a good time.
Today: 61 Miles
Total: 4,260 Miles