Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Spared from the heat

7-27-10 Day 52: Wilbur, Washington to Ephrata: 60 miles in 4:01 hours west on Rt. 2 to south on Rt 17 to west on Rt 28.

Man, I’m just really beat right now. Think it’s just part and parcel of riding cross country and going at it day after day. I think I had like 4 off days for the trip, and I’m starting to feel it. Thanks goodness these last few days are just mini-rides and not gonzo rides.

So did my usual breakfast thing with yogurt and bananas and got on the road at about 6:15 AM. Hell, I knew it was just going to be a 60-mile day, but I’m always waking up at 5 AM now, so I saw no use in just sitting around and twiddling my thumbs. Plus the weather folks out of Spokane were forecasting a front moving in from the south from Oregon that had the potential for some isolated storms later today. So, I got it rolling knowing that it would be a short ride into Ephrata, with an ETA of like 10 AM!

Got going and it felt much better than when I got up. The wind was light and out of the …EAST…..nice one there. This first section of Rt 2 west out of Wilbur was just rolling and rolling and rolling. With nice little hills and swales. The terrain was more of the farmland type as I’d experienced in the Great Plains. Off to the south, sure enough I could see the front moving in ever so slowly. Now the temp this morn was pretty sweet considering it damned near hit 100 yesterday, and that they were forecasting the same for today. But with the blanket of cloudcover moving in, the sun just wasn’t able to penetrate like it did yesterday, at least making it appear cooler out. Rode with the long sleeved jersey for about an hour, and then it was tank top time.

Made it through a couple of tiny towns and then arched southwest towards the the next big town – Coulee City. I hit a nice, fairly flat stretch and just jammed to Coulee City in no time. Made it there from Wilbur in like 1:45 hrs. Now I wanted to take somewhat of a detour from Rt 2 today and get away from just the desert and Great Plains type topography, so I opted to go on Rt 17 south through this monster gorge that was formed from a gargantuan flood eons ago. This rather than just ride west on Rt 2 to the town of Waterville where there are limited amenities. Plus, by going south through the gorge, I’d only have to do a 60-mile ride today and a 47-mile ride tomorrow, and be able to have my stopover in the town of Ephrata, which has a lot of stuff compared to most of these towns along the way. So 17 south I went, and it was just spectacular.

On the opposite side of the Grand Coulee and south of the Dry Falls dam, is this three and a half mile-long scalloped precipice known as Dry Falls. It’s supposed to be ten times the size Niagra Falls, and thought to be the greatest known waterfall that ever existed. Geologists speculate that during the last ice age epic flooding channeled water at 65 miles per hour through the Upper Grand Coulee and over this 400-foot rock face. At that time, it’s estimated that the flow of the falls was ten times the current flow of all the rivers in the world combined. According to the Visitor’s Center, nearly twenty thousand years ago, as glaciers moved south, one ice sheet plugged the Clark Fork of the Columbia River, which kept water from being drained from Montana. Consequently, a significant portion of western Montana flooded, forming a gigantic lake, Lake Missoula. Eventually, enough pressure accumulated on the ice dam that it gave way. Geologists believe that this process of ice-damming of the Clark Fork, refilling of Lake Missoula and subsequent cataclysmic flooding happened dozens of times over the years of the last Ice Age.

So I checked this Dry Falls out from the Visitor’s Center and it was just amazing to think of water cascading over it. And the gorge below was just wild looking. I rode down into the gorge for about a 2-3 mile descent, down to Park Lake, Blue Lake and Lenore Lake. There were places on the sides of the gorge where you could see the flood residue cemented together, these giant boulders and cobbles that formed giant sand bars of sorts, but this wasn’t sand, it was stuff as big as tables and basketballs and cars. Above that are these basalt cliffs with vertical columns of basalt just as I’d seen in Iceland. Matter of fact it looked just like a couple of the river valleys I passed on my cycling trip around Iceland – topography and terrain was almost identical.

Really happy I took this deviation, though it will add about 10 more miles on to my trip west – big deal there hah? The road undulated up and down along the string of lakes up alongside the basalt walls. Now just about 4 miles from the town of Soap Lake, about where the gorge was opening up back to plains, I started getting bitten by these horse flys, and damn they were viscous. Got a bite on the shoulder, back, hip…..ass! I mean I thought I was going to be in the hurt locker with these things for the remaining 10-12 miles. But as soon as I got away from the water the flies were gone.

Outside of Soap Lake I got on Rt 28 east and headed back towards Wenatchee and my destination, Ephrata. This was a nice flat stretch with a slight southwesterly headwind, but at that point I was just 10 miles away and couldn’t care less. Made it into Ephrata in just about 4 hours for 60 miles. Not a bad average for a day where I was just feeling tired and beat down. Got a little place on the west end of town – two blocks from a Subway. The cloud cover had set in by then and the temp was no where near what was predicted. Almost looks like it could rain for a bit.

So looks like a go to meet up with Barney tomorrow in Wenatchee. Then we’ll cycle across the Cascades to Everett for the finish. Looking forward to seeing Barney after nearly a year. So that’s it. Was a short one today, and even shorter tomorrow. I’m pretty beat and tired but really happy that my goal of coast to coast is just over the final mountain range. That’s a wrap for the day…….Pete

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