"Every worthwhile accomplishment, big or little, has its stages of drudgery and triumph; a beginning, a struggle and a victory." -Ghandi
I hit Big Hill #1, and after a few minutes of huffing and puffing dropped to my lowest gear and just settled into it, emptying my mind, going four to seven mph - slooow.
It was 20 miles into the ride when...'psssssssssst'- flat tire. I swerved around the guardrail, changed my tube ('I think I'm doing this right...' ), tried to put the tire back on (lots of swearing), pinched my new tube in the process and had to start all over by taking the tire back off and patching the new hole.
I was pouting and frowning at the ominously dark clouds rolling my way and shoveling trail mix into my face when another cyclist rode up. He helped me replace my wheel and seemed doubtful that I could make it over the pass with all the weight I was carrying but wished me luck. I wondered how much worse it could really get and started spinning....
Reaching the summit after the 4000'/one billion-trillion-mile ascent up Santiam Pass was glorious for only a few minutes. Sure, I took off my shirt and did a little dance amongst the snow capped peaks and even squeaked out a little 'Whooo!' not only because I had made it, pedaling slow and steady the whole way, but because it was 38 degrees, starting to hail, and I was soaked to the bone by rain that had been falling for the entirety of that final stretch.
I won't say that I didn't start to despair on that long and fast descent. I tried to change into dry clothes, but it was futile - the inside of my rain jacket was icy from being soaked with sweat, and my new waterproof gloves didnt seem to be waterproof at all. Flashes of thoughts like 'HYPOTHERMIA!!" "I'm gonna die! " and "Why the f*** didn't I start this trip in the desert...." whizzed through my brain as fast as each pine tree I zoomed by.
And when I got to the bottom and realized I had 19 more miles to go until the town of Sisters... I still don't know how I did it. My feet and hands were numb. I think it was the fastest I've ever biked 19 miles in my life. But at the end of it all the sun did come out, and as it warmed me I realized a couple really important things:
Sometimes going downhill is a lot harder than going up.
Also, buying $2 rubber kitchen gloves from Ace Hardware might be a better investment against the rain than overpriced gear from R.E.I.
I've since made it out of Oregon's rainy zone. I've climbed several more passes and have many more ahead of me, but no matter the weather, and no matter how steep the grade, I think I'll always compare them to Santiam, knowing that if I climbed that, then I can climb anything, probably.
And if I can't, I'll stop and camp for the night and try again in the morning. The sun always comes out eventually. I have everything I need right here with me, and that's worth the weight.