Cold weather riding

Up at 5 or 5:30, on the road at 6 seems to be the mantra for this trip.

Heading east out of Bend on 20 is easy going – until I hit the down side and the temperature drops to 36F. It varies in and out of the shade from 36 to 40 to 42, and holds at 36 when the sun comes up. I know it gets colder just after the sun rises, but this is getting ridiculous now.

I pull over and put on some silk glove liners and my Aerostiche rain pants to try to keep warm at 60 miles an hour. It helps a little, but I’m unprepared for these temperatures. I was under the mistaken impression that this was summer.

A hundred and thirty miles and two hours later I land in Burns, cold to the bone. A gas stop followed by another 300 yards finds me in the parking lot of a local restaurant. It seems to be popular with the locals, judging by the half-tons in the lot. I’m still shivering as I kick the stand down and dismount.

I walk in and find an empty booth since there’s no counter here. The place is about three-quarters full, with BLM* fire fighters, EMT personnel and a scattering of locals mixed in. In another life I spent some time working with and flying fire fighters around in northern Canada, and on seeing them here I start reminiscing to myself about the camaraderie of the fireline and the people manning it. It was a great job with some fantastic people. The work is dirty and gritty and dangerous, and they don’t get paid nearly enough to do it.

I’ve been in the diner for about half an hour now, long enough to give my order of hot cakes, eggs, bacon and toast to the waitress, but I’m still shaking uncontrollably. I cup the coffee to help warm my hands, but my core temperature has been lowered so severely in the low temperatures and by the wind chill at 60 miles an hour that I still haven’t warmed up.

I must look really miserable, because nobody has said a word to me, which is unusual. They’re all leaving me in peace and quiet to ponder the wonders of riding the road in 36 degree temperatures.

The hot food arrives and I’m hoping that will add some fuel to my body’s furnace. Finally, it does, and the shivering stops. I can hold my hands steady now. I ate too much, but my body needed it.

I pay the bill and walk out to the parking lot to stand in the warming sun. Finally! As I kill time checking out the bike, an older man in an RV walks up and starts talking about his riding experiences around North America. He wants to know where I’m headed. I tell him, and he helps to pass some time by telling me about what to expect further down the road; what’s around to sight-see; a rally long ago in Twin Falls. I’m grateful for the break — the sun is getting higher and warmer.

It’s time.

East again on 20, this time headed to Boise. It’s substantially warmer now. I can relax into the easy two-lane blacktop. The sun is no longer in my eyes so visibility is good. I crank up the pace, hitting 80 — no troopers on this road.

By now it’s hotter than Texas tar. I am almost – but not quite – grateful for the freezing cold of this morning. The heat becomes more unbearable all the way to Boise. I stop at a roadside rest area on the 84 and collapse in the welcome shade of a tree. It’s definitely time for a snooze.

An hour later it still hasn’t cooled any. The ride to Twin Falls is completed in the sweltering heat. It’s been an exhausting day because of the extreme temperature ranges that I’ve been experiencing.

* Bureau of Land Management

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