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.

1 comment:

Jan Pendergrass said...

Congrats, Bob! Most impressive!