Sunday, August 11, 2013

Ride Around Washington: Day 7

Day 7: Bickleton to Maryhill State Park - August 10

The first thing I noticed Saturday morning is that we had made it through the night. Our tents had not blown away. High winds had not cast our bikes back to Yakima. And there was a bright blue sky overhead and a stretch of road beckoning us onward for one more day. 

After breakfast and a final loadout, we finished our wind-interrupted riders' meeting where awards and prizes were distributed. Two "lucky" riders won a free entry to RSVP, Cascade Bicycle Club's 187-mile ride from Seattle to Vancouver. Sounds great. Except it's next weekend. Hmmm. I'm thinking those two winners might not feel like that's a winning idea after these 447 miles.

We rode down the street through downtown Bickleton. I tried not to blink so I wouldn't miss it. I was sad that the Carousel Museum was closed. It actually looked like it would be worth a visit. A well built museum dedicated to carousel horses. Guess it warrants a return trip. Or not. 

After cycling a few miles, I noticed the scenery changing. Perhaps there was something here after all. Pine trees began dotting the landscape that yesterday had been barren grassland. A few more farms were here and there. But the most striking feature was the hundreds of wind turbines to the south. In fact, wind energy has completely changed the landscape and lives of rural Klickitat county residents. Thanks to an infusion of tax revenue from energy developers, the 100-student school district is just built the new $10.5 million, K-12 school we camped next to. We would be cycling under and next to these wind turbines for the rest of the day. 

As we rounded a corner just before a drop into the Rock Creek valley, we were able to see Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams in the distance. Then we descended along a twisting highway into Rock Creek for our morning food stop. 

The climb from Rock Creek was 2-miles up and the sun was getting warm. Looked like we were going to have to earn our final day of riding after all. But the best was yet to come. 

We now had 15 miles of what should have been easy rollers. Instead, we faced a stiff headwind that challenged us all the way to Goldendale. This would not be an easy 51-mile ride as predicted. Jim and I took turns pulling into the wind, trying our best to not be disheartened each time we glanced at our speedometer and saw a single digit number. 

When we finally reached the edge of Goldendale I spotted an espresso stand. Jim needed a shot too. So we pulled in, placed our order, then sat at a picnic table to imbibe and recover after that long windy haul. Now the end was in sight. But we shouldn't have believed the barista when she said, "Oh it's all downhill from here!" Non-cyclists are never telling the truth. 

We had another food stop on Goldendale, then passed through the center of town and headed south toward the Columbia River. The quantity of wind turbines was increasing and they were looming overhead as we chugged by. 

The overcast sky limited our viewing distance but this sign showed all four Cascade volcanos visible from this point. We began our descent toward the Columbia River with just ten miles to go. 

Trailing behind Jim, I noticed he was riding erratically and having trouble steering. He slowed the bike, fell into a ditch, and then discovered a rear flat and a rock wedged between his tire and rim. Now we were tied with one flat apiece. I guarded Jim's bike from the speeding cars and the cyclists descending rapidly past us while Jim changed his tire. We resumed our descent and soon the mighty Columbia was in view. 

It's an amazing experience to realize you've traversed an entire length or width of a state. Just miles from the Canadian border at the north all the way to the Oregon border to the south. Our route was nearly complete. 

Just before arriving at Maryhill State Park, we stopped at a full-scale replica of Stonehenge built after WWI as a memorial to 14 fallen soldiers. It's an amazing astronomically correct recreation of the same structure in England. Plus it provided great views of the river below. 

We rolled down the final mile or two into Maryhill State Park. A banner and volunteers awaited our arrival. We had just completed a 447-mile north-south journey across the entire state of Washington. Our Pines to Vines adventure was complete. We congratulated each other, whispered a prayer of praise and thanks to God for his protection, and then found our bags and headed for the showers. Our bus ride back would be a welcome opportunity to sleep and sit on a much softer, much larger seat. I was glad to be done. But part of me thought for a moment... "It would be kind of fun to just bike home from here."

Maybe next year.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Ride Around Washington: Day 6

Day 6: Yakima to Bickleton - Friday, August 9

After spending our night NOT in Yakima Sportsman State Park, but rather at David's sister and brother-in-law's home in Yakima, we were very refreshed and ready for the day. Okay, actually our butts hurt like the dickens and we're beginning to think our detractors might be right! We are crazy!

Our morning route took us through vineyards, orchards, hops fields, and even some cornfields. It was one of the organizers called "Army biking." Turn left, turn right, left, right, left, right. We cross-crossed our way through the Yakima Valley fortunately under high clouds that kept the heat at bay. Our big climb for the morning was Konnowac Pass, elevation 1,310 ft., which has the distinction of being the lowest pass in the state. 

After Konnowac Pass, the scenery was mostly rolling grassland. A farm here or there but it would be indicative of today's ride. Get ready for a lotta heat and nothin much else. 

But one of the interesting points along our way was the Teapot Dome gas station in Zillah. The Teapot was built in 1922 and was intended as a reminder of the Teapot Done scandal that rocked the presidency of Warren G. Harding. I'm sure you know all about that. It's also a piece of Americana roadside novelty history that I'm a fan of. So it was cool to finally see it in person. 

The next unique roadside novelty was in Granger. Back in 1993 locals came up with a plan to lure more tourists to their community. They built life-size dinosaur models from steel rods and chicken wire then packed with cement mix. The first dino was built in 1994. Now there are more than a dozen dotted throughout town. 

The route into Mabton for our lunch stop took us high on a road overlooking a river valley below. A herd of cows was grazing down beneath us and I could literally see for a hundred miles. 

Once we arrived in the small community of Mabton, I noticed an espresso stand across from our lunch stop. I rolled up to the window and ordered my usual--iced white mocha. It was fantastic. Exactly what I needed. 

After our lunch stop in Mabton, David rejoined us for our long climb up from the valley to the Horse Heaven Hills. Now these hills might be heaven for horses, but today they were downright hellish. It was a 7 mile climb up 3000 ft in 90+ degree heat. However my thermometer on my bike read "11". It's a 2-digit display. 

I took this photo on the climb to convey the confusion, pain, and dismay I was feeling. So you can imagine my elation when halfway up I spotted a support vehicle with ice water. I pulled alongside the car and immediately filled my bottle with icy cold water and then promptly poured it over my head. Then I drank a full bottle of water, filled both, and continued up the climb. 

Now let me be clear. There is NOTHING in these Horse Heaven Hills. It is desolate. It is the definition of desolate. Look up "desolate" in the dictionary and you will see a photo of Horse Heaven Hills. It was here in this barren landscape under a blazing sun that we pressed on. 

To add insult to injury, I noticed my front tire was losing air. My first flat of the ride. We found a shady spot next to an abandoned farm building and set to the task of changing my tire. Upon inspection, I found the culprit. GOATHEAD. Goatheads are the devil of the desert. They are tiny thorns that live along desert highway roadsides. There they lie in wait until some hapless soul cycles by. Then they POP out, onto your bike tire, and lodge themselves firmly in place. I pulled out the offending goathead, replaced the tube, reseated the tire, inflated, and we were off again. It was just a few more miles until we would see our next water station. 

There it was like a vision in the desert. Again, I experienced further elation when I realized our water station was not a mirage, but very real and very needed. I dismounted. Went straight for the water. And this time dumped TWO bottles on my overheated head. Jim and I then each downed a bag of chips, some fresh fruit, and cycling's version of crack cocaine: Rice Krispie Treats. 

We now only had five final miles to reach our last RAW camp in Bickleton, population 90. We would quadruple their population tonight. We rolled in, set up our tents, showered and relaxed before dinner. Following dinner we had our evening rider's meeting. About halfway through the meeting, the wind started picking up. And it was picking up in a hurry. 

Campers scrambled to affix tent flys, tie down their tents, stake everything extra tight, and then watched as this storm with 50-60 mph gusts blew across our camp. Some laid on top of their dismantled tents. Others sat inside their slightly dismantled tents. I was very impressed with my $99 special from REI. 

The wind blew hard and strong until 10pm when the rain finally came. I heard the wind start again around 1am followed by more rain. As my tent whipped back and forth in the forceful wind, I began to wonder two things: how much wind speed is necessary to pick up and toss a Specialized Venge Expert? And secondly at what point does the RAW team call the local sherif and get the schools unlocked so we can hide inside?!

Distance: 76.02
Time: 5:35
Avg: 13.5 mph
Max: 38.9 mph
Total Elevation Gained: 4,250 ft. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Ride Around Washington: Day 5

Day 4: Leavenworth to Yakima - Thursday, August 8

Today was one of my favorite days of cycling. Granted I've had a lot. Most of you know that in 2009 I had 52 days of cycling when I biked from San Francisco, CA to Portsmouth, NH. There were several favorite days of cycling that summer. So I can't say if today was in the top 10, but definitely in the top 25. And I was surprised with the section I loved the most. 

Our day began leaving Leavenworth and climbing Blewett Pass on US97. It's a busy highway and the climb is long. But Jim and I found a group of four women in their 50s or 60s that each were Ironman Canada finishers! We paced behind them for a good while and then Jim did the chivalrous thing and took the pull. Those ladies cheered! He casts a tall wind shadow and all of them enjoyed the easy pedaling. I think he has a fan club now. 

Soon we pulled off US97 and onto Old Blewett Rd. This is the old road that travelers used to cross Blewett Pass. It's rough, pock-marked with holes, and strewn with loose gravel in places but there's no car traffic and the scenery is spectacular! We climbed this switchback route up to the summit then prepared for a wild descent!

The ride down offered more great views, twists and turns, and a pedal-free ride. Then it was back onto US97 with more trucks and a long downhill. A flock of sheep were grazing near the road and I learned that a group of riders had to wait ten minutes today while they crossed the highway! 

At the bottom, we turned east toward Ellensburg. Climbed another hill where we got close-up views of wind turbines dotting the landscape. The terrain had changed and now we were riding through fields, pastures, and homesteads. But the tailwind and the long downhill heading into Ellensburg was fantastic. We were riding effortlessly at 30 mph for miles!

In Ellensburg we had our lunch stop at the Kiwanis Park. But then I decided to talk Jim into making an additional stop a couple miles up the road for a caffeine fix. Starbucks never disappoints. Well at least today it didn't!

Now the sun was hot and the most challenging part of the day was ahead: Yakima River Canyon. This 24 mile stretch follows the Yakima River through a desert canyon landscape with more climbing, great descents, and an unexpected surprise!

I have too many photos to choose from. The Yakima Canyon was surprisingly beautiful! The tall jagged brown ridges contrasted by the bright blue river with lush green foliage on its banks were really interesting. And every corner had some new sight to appreciate! The heat was blazing but I was feeling strong and of course my music (with a refreshed song list) kept me chugging along. 

At one point, I noticed a smiling guy standing next to his car parked on the left with a paper sign. The type was too small so I couldn't read it but he looked familiar. We passed him then I turned to Jim and said "Did you see that guy with the sign? I couldn't read it. He kind of looked like Mike Leaman."

Jim replied, "Yeah, he did. And that was something Mike would probably do."

A mile or two further and the guy was back, parked on the right in our shoulder and it was, in fact, our local riding buddy Mike Leaman! He was working in Yakima today and had spent the last hour looking fur us. His sign read "Free Hammer" and he was offering us his Hammer Nutrition products that we all use. I took some and a big swig of his water then we were off again. Who'd have thunk we'd see Mile out here? Now that's support!

Our final miles took us out of the canyon, through Selah's rolling farmland and small neighborhood and then we were on the Yakima Greenway all the way into Yakima and to our destination, the Yakima Sportsmen State Park. 

Upon arriving, I found Bryant who was picked up at the bottom of Blewett Pass. His knee had been hurting all week and he decided today he was done. His wife was on her way to pick him up. So we're sad to lose a fourth of our riding group but know he'll enjoy the rest and recovery at home. 

For me, I'm resting after a great day of riding. Yakima Canyon surprised me and I think I have a new favorite route on Washington. Tomorrow we head to the tiny town of Bickleton but first we get to see wineries, dinosaurs, a teapot gas station, and another long climb!

Dist: 99.7 (nope, I couldn't find 0.3 more miles!)
Time: 6:32
Avg: 15.2 mph
Max: 43.6
Elevation Gained: 4,783 ft 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Ride Around Washington: Day 3

Day 3: Chelan to Leavenworth - Tuesday, August 6

My day started with David saying I kinda looked like a chick. 

Let me add the context to he emasculating comment. When I got dressed, I knew this was going to be another scorcher. So I put on my red sleeveless jersey. Bryant did the same. (Unplanned, but not altogether surprising if you know us.) Then I added a pair of white arm warmers because it was still chilly in the early morning hours. And that's when David looked at me and asked, "You going with the arm warmers?"

"Yes." I replied. "Why?"

"Well, cuz you kinda look like a chick."

I informed David that he would pay for his fashion critique. I would be passing him later today and promptly pushing him and his sissy recumbent bike over. I said that right before I took off my arm warmers. 

The day was indeed a warm one from the start. Our route took us along the south shore of Lake Chelan. The morning sun lit up the deep blue water which reflected the sunlight over the water's calm surface. The lake was quiet on this Tuesday morning. But one wave boarder was out early taking advantage of the glassy water. 

As we turned south away from the lake, we climbed about 800 feet up the Navarre Coulee to State Route 971. The view from the top overlooking Lake Chelan was stunning. But the payoff might have been even better. Our downhill took us speeding into a cool forested valley before dropping us down to US97 and the Columbia River. The temperature must have dropped 20 degrees from the top of the hill to the forest below. And then back up to the 90s when we reached US97. 

Our mid-morning rest stop was at Earthquake Point. This was where an earthquake in Dec. 1872 resulted from volcanic Glacier Peak 90 miles away exploding. The earthquake sheared this cliff and rockfall stopped the flow of the Columbia River. I know about lightning not striking twice but I wasn't sure about earthquakes and volcanos so we kep our stop pretty brief. 

About 15 miles down the road we arrived at Rocky Reach Dam for our lunch. I remarked to Jim that this was our second dam food stop in two days. He added that it was dam good. 

After lunch, we resumed our long ride down US97 and the tuned west through Wenatchee orchards, across the Wenatchee River, over a one-lane bridge, and into Cashmere. 

I had been to Cashmere years ago but had never explored it. Riding through the historic downtown revealed the charming nature of this fruit-growing and packaging community. As we rolled past one of the large fruit processing plants at 12:30pm, workers were streaming out for lunch. I noticed they were all wearing long pants, jackets, and hoodies. It was a striking contrast to the heat we were riding in. Then I realized they were working in a giant fruit refrigerator. I almost turned around to see if I could stop inside for awhile. 

Only a few more miles through Dryden, Peshastin, more orchards, new stunning views of the approaching Cascades, and soon we were in Leavenworth. It was our shortest ride this week--69 miles--but I was feeling fairly baked by the hot sun. My remedy? Susie showed up at our finish line, whisked me away to the Enzian Inn where I'm now resting very comfortably on a Queen bed with the AC blasting. Tomorrow is our rest day and I'll be resting here quite nicely. Thanks sweetie. It's good to be have you stop by!

Distance: 69.77 miles
Time: 4:39
Avg: 14.9 mph
Max: 38.9 mph