After a long sleep in the home of our unexpected new friends, we bid farewell and rode into downtown McCall. Breakfast and groceries later, we began our day by heading west out of town on highway 55.
Despite our varied experiences and accumulated fatigue over the past three weeks, this next section of highway was a real thriller! Steep downhill of winding curves, the highway signs warned motorized traffic not to exceed 25 mph in many sections. Nearly keeping pace with other traffic, we (almost) literally screamed into New Meadows.
Skimming down the straight main street, touring cycles were spotted outside a cafe. Soon we had found their owners within and ordered the best malts of the trip. The middle-aged couple had come from the Hells Canyon direction, and were considering riding to McCall. We strongly recommended NOT riding into McCall from the west due to the steep, narrow, winding uphill (and stand by this recommendation, unless motorized traffic manages to be absent). After a conversation mostly about their sailboat, we were on our way.
Next we rode our bikes. And kept riding. Small hills were challenges. The slight headwind was maddening. Yes, limits were being reached... For twenty-two of the past twenty-three days we'd pounded cleat to pedal, major muscles burning untold calories. Would we ever make it back to Portland, or even to Oregon?
Searching for a shady lunch rest stop, we ended up in a wooded flat spot near the crest of a hill. Here the highway cut through National Forest, and here, due to steep hillsides and guard rails, no car could stop. Lunching and munching, Kevin heard a crunching... bear! Quickly standing, we watched as the black bear crossed the road towards us and with admirable speed scrambled up the adjacent steep, brushy hillside. Popping up over the guard rail on the opposite side of the road, she was probably accustomed to waiting for gaps in traffic, but not to finding random cycle tourists.
Cresting one more hill and leaving National Forest behind, we flew down into farm country and eventually landed in the town of Council. Sitting in a patch of thick grass graced with evening sun, and with access to the interweb once again, we informed our vague notions with cold facts. Where could we catch a bus west? Amtrak, greyhound, local line? From Ontario, Baker City? Would bikes need to be boxed? Many questions still unanswered, we fell on the more immediate issue of the lateness of the day. Could we camp along the Weiser River Trail? Should we try to catch a ride into Ontario, where morning buses depart from?
Tired and still with no clear direction, we decided to take the easy, simple route- a box (motel), but with a caveat. With the maximum price we were willing to pay set at $40, we walked into the Starlite Motel. $45 for a room we were told. Maybe our resolve was evident, because soon we were made a second offer- $40. Satisfied, we scurried into the pre-made shelter to watch the brush and grass-covered hills turn pink and windy in the twilight.