It was supposed to take 3 hours, at most. It was supposed to be 20 miles of public roads along gentle rolling hills and farm lands. It was supposed to be so easy we’d be in the small town of Durkee, Oregon for lunch. But that’s not how it happened.
With snow-capped mountains behind us and rolling green hills ahead of us, our morning ride started out better than I could have ever imagined. But the first sign of the troubles ahead came when I got a flat tire. As a dedicated biker, it was disappointing to have the first flat tire of the trip, but I tried to keep humor and fix it quick. It was even more depressing to have the second and third flat as well (and both within 5 minutes of my first flat). The culprit turned out to be goat head thorns, tiny tiny thorns at war with me from the side of the road. I found a dozen of them in my tires within the first three tire changes.
As I fixed my third flat, we were approached by a local rancher on a four-wheeler ATV. He was friendly and amused with our adventure, but politely informed us that our route would cut across private property and that we needed to complete change directions. As we turned our bikes around and headed back up a hill, everything changed. Every pedal from that point invited further challenge, encouraged adversity, and delivered mischief.
In quick order, our team was hit with a bike flat epidemic. No more simply changing out for new tubes, we brought out patch kits and got to work with our sandpaper, glue, and rubber dots. Our tiny, travel-size air pumps became drastically inadequate. The day grew long and tiring as we rotated flat bike tubes near our ears, attempting to hear the hiss of escaping air amongst escalating afternoon winds. Goat head thorns were waging war with us, and winning. We stopped counting flats around 20or so. It didn’t seem to matter any more.
In addition to endless tire repair, we were forced off the bikes to walk them up and down impossibly steep jeep tracks. Wolves would be much better suited for this terrain. For us, without much water or even lunch, it became crystal clear how inhospitable it can be for humans.
3pm — We’re finally making progress, but still miles away from food, additional water, or camp.
No one made it to camp riding on their bike. Dave nearly did, but he had to walk the last 20 yards. The rest of us were scattered on the highway, left behind where we had our met our final flat.
We rested well that night. We also ordered 20 spare inner tubes, Mr. Tuffy tire liners, and some sort of magical slime to self-heal tire punctures. And then the following morning David and Galeo changed every tire. But even with thorough checks, most of the tubes went flat within a day. The goat head thorns definitely won that battle.
But I have to say, even after all the hills and flats, this is by far one of my most favorite days on expedition so far…