By MARK FURMAN
Of the Baker City Herald
Lloyd Ames slides by, feet first, relaxed and grinning.
I catch his drift and grab his draft, and in the space of a carefully placed breath, we're off.
Time is replaced by acceleration and the sounds of sudden blasts of air on my temples and in my ears that signal the outside edge of the wind-cheating refuge I've found behind Ames.
Later, Dave Daffer will huff and puff up on us from behind on a hill, recounting how he was powerless to chase Ames on his meteoric decent into the Keating Valley.
The secret? Ames' recumbant bicycle, which affords him a seated cycling position and aerodynamics on par with a road cyclist in the andquot;drops,andquot; the lower portion of the downward-curved handlebars on a racing bike.
A cyclist can't ride in the drops full-time without inviting fatigue; a recumbant rider, on the other hand, never has to vary his position to suit the wind.
The results are impressive. Flattened out in the drops and sheltered by Ames' aerodynamic profile, my speed topped out almost effortlessly at just under 40 mph.
Even fully encumbered by the air resistance, however, Ames eventually pulled away and bested that speed, posting one of the myriad of objective bits of data that cyclists like to worry about.
There are, of course, the subjective benefits.
andquot;You could never explain this to a non-cyclist,andquot; Daffer muses later as we spin through the high walls of the Powder River canyon.
Like many other travelers that day, we were en route to Richland and Brownlee Reservoir on Highway 86. But instead of a boat or fifth wheel in tow, we had only a few snacks and a couple of water bottles and the promise of a rendezvous with a andquot;sag wagonandquot; a support vehicle stocked with bike racks and barbecue gear at Hewitt Park, some 42 miles from our starting point on Baker's Cedar Street.
As a result, when two chipmunks take off on a foot race down a fence line along the river, we see it. When two big honkers startled by the buzz of our wheels take flight, we hear their clunky cry and the splish of their wings against the water. There is only a low-register andquot;whup whup whupandquot; when the young bald eagle repositions himself across the canyon from us on a rest break, a monster's shadow cast by his passing on the creekside meadow below.
This marks the second year this particular group of bicyclists has made a spring ride to Richland.
Ames said he started bike touring with Moose Stephens and Barbara Tylka four years ago on a route that took them past Catherine Creek State Park.
andquot;Moose said, 'I want to do this,' so we did,andquot; Ames recalled. andquot;We didn't have a sag wagon at all, and we carried all our stuff to go camping.
andquot;The second year, we had Nancy (Ames) sag for us,andquot; Ames added. andquot;Then we got smarter and started staying at the hotel in Union.
andquot;It's evolving into a lazier and lazier type of trip.andquot;