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Part 3 - Dufur Valley Rd
On a hill, I have to watch as people-shaped bits of red, blue and pink get smaller and smaller until they finally disappear, with a blink, over the horizon. As soon as they’re out of sight, my eyes roll back into my head and the edges get fuzzy and out of focus, a little dark. My entire left leg and my right hamstring now cramp, over-strung and jerky. I slump in the saddle and slow down uncontrollably. It’s the longest, hottest, quietest 10 miles of my life. I’m starving, out of water and beginning to weave just a bit. Time stumbles. There is nothing but the monotony of turning the pedals, one crank arm at time, like some kind of repetitive hell, parched and blazing, measured in seconds by my now laggard cadence.
Forty minutes later, in a deli in Dufur, I’m lying on the ground next to a row of tables. We’ve all just eaten massive sandwiches and several large bags of chips. The moment I finish my turkey-bacon-avocado and cheese, I’m wracked by cramps and seizures. They seem to be everywhere all at once, in my legs, arms, back, even in my face. I’m rolling around, grabbing kicking and straightening. I pause periodically, frozen in awkward and unseemly poses. Everyone else is standing around me, laughing. I feel like today’s entertainment, and there’s clearly a moral to the story. Don’t drink margaritas the night before 10,000ft of climbing in the high desert; and if you do, don’t charge like a cornered animal at the group.
Like a frontier outpost, the town of Dufur itself appears 75 miles into the ride. Kramer’s Market (and deli), cold, well stocked, refrigerated and, most importantly, open is visited in every direction by road-weary travelers: on bikes and motorcycles; in cars and trucks; and under backpacks.
Leaving town is hot and agricultural. Irrigation water fires in long, ‘jut-jut’ bursts from over-sized sprinklers. Lined up in columns and rows, they stand like grey, steel android soldiers in the fields. Evergreen hillsides loom in the distance, promising an uphill fight. The climate changes, from arid and flat to volcanic and lightly forested, in just three turns, less than 700 yards. The whole wooded and red-dirt world tilts up, creating an optical illusion. It’s the visual equivalent of your brakes rubbing or your tires going flat, as if to obscure the reality of the effort required. Twenty miles of long, straight creeping ends when, toward the top, the road steepens significantly into alpine woods and increasingly crisp air. The top rolls big. The road, walled in by millions of evergreens, is newly paved and feels like a path.