Thursday, July 29, 2010

The......Billion Dollar Ride

7-29-10 Day 54: Wenatchee, Wahington to Gold Bar, Washington: 95 miles in 7:31 hours all on Rt. 2 west.

THIS was the best day of the trip. It was like the Grand Finale of the cross country journey. But first let’s drift back to last night. Barney and I walked into the Wenatchee Downtown District to search out a good local pub/restaurant. Walked about 2 miles south and did indeed come to a really neat little downtown, with old style buildings and motif. We were sent to a place called McGlinn’s, and it was definitely a great place. Barney got the home made pizza and I got a chicken burger with the taste of the west. Our beers were micro brews that were awesome. We chowed in a big way and ripped through several mugs of suds. As we were at the bar the storms rolled in, and I mean they were just gully washers, with the rain coming in horizontally at times. We managed to time it right and walk back to the Motel 6 in a window of no rain. That’s about when my sugar Jones kicked in and we ended up going to this pie restaurant for some home made pie and ice cream. I got 2 slices and Barney one, and each of us got a scoop of ice cream. I feel kind of like a bad boy encouraging Barney to eat like a freaking hog like I’ve been doing.

Back to the motel and then the rain returned with this just amazing lightning and thunder storm going on through 10 PM. It was still storming like crazy when we hit the hay.

Got up around 5:30 AM, and we readied our gear to hit the road. Decided to skip breakfast there, and ride up to Leavenworth and then stop for breakfast. So the plan in place, and off we went. And it was a climb up as soon as we left the Wenatchee city limits, and that’s about the time Barney dropped my sorry ass up the non stop series of rollers stair-stepping up into the mountains to the west. From the get-go you could see the snow covered Cascade range from outside of Wenatchee. It was just amazing to see this because to me this meant that that was my final barrier to getting to the west coast. The day was just stellar, with just the perfect starting temp – somewhere in the mid to upper 60’s. I was tank top from the start. Now you could tell that the day in Wenatchee was going to be a scorcher, and we were riding the heck out of that and into the cool, crisp mountains.

Barney waited for me a couple of times as we worked our way up to Leavenworth, which as it turned out, was like about 20 miles or more from Wenatchee – we had it figured at about 12 miles. So just a little more time in the saddle to work up an appetite. Made it to Leavenworth in about 1:45 hrs, and it’s a wonderful, charismatic little town, looking like a some hamlet tucked way up in the the Austrian Alps. Just a very cool place. It was surrounded by all these high, snow covered peaks, and just had character oozing in every direction. Barney got the dope on the best breakfast place and there we went. I opted for a coronary clogging delight – biscuits and gravy, eggs and sausage – I needed something heavy to get me over 40 miles of climbing. Barney at least opted for some cakes and eggs and bacon.

Got our coffee Jones to finish off breakfast and then off we went – for the amazing 40-mile climb up to Stevens pass. Yup, 40 miles of climbing up to this pass, and hell, we’d already climbed about 18 miles up to Leavenworth, so add 40 more to that…….and well, you do the math. I mean the day couldn’t have been any more perfect – cloudless blue skies, light breeze out of the west, cool, crisp mountain air, on bikes climbing up the Cascade Range, and we’re totally surrounded by these amazing mountain peaks. The pitch of the highway was quite low at this point, being somewhere in the 2-3% range, and it was not bad at all. Got me thinking that hell, this day was going to be a breeze if the climbing was all like that. Barney was point man riding strong and easy up front. I’d draft off of him on occasion. Stopped numerous times to snap pics, so I drifted a bit back for a while. And the climb just went on and on and on with this marvelous false flat into the mountains. There were points where we were ticking off the miles at like 13-14 mph, and then others where the pitched bumped up a bit and dropped us down into the 9 mph area.

About 1:30 hrs after leaving Leavenworth we hit a sign that said that Stevens Pass was just 19 more miles, so I was pretty jazzed to have completed the first half of the climb in under 2 hours – we had figured that we may average 10 mph for 4 hours to complete the climb, so we were well ahead of schedule. Got me thinking, “shit it just can’t be this easy.” And it wasn’t! Right after that sign things changed, at least for me, in a very big way. Yep, the pitch increased to like 4-5%, and I’ll tell you, it felt like much more than that, and that’s when we really started to gain elevation. Up to that point I’d done all the climbing in the middle ring. But we were getting into sections where I was in my easiest gear in the middle ring and starting to feel the effort – big time. Barney…..he went up those pitches seated and just left me in the dust, riding like he was on a mission. I was out of the saddle trying to keep a rhythm and stay away from that damned little cookie.

Finally got to a point to where I was just hanging my arse off of the end of the saddle cranking in that middle cookie, and I said to myself, “ok dude, time to suck it up and drop into the little cookie.” And with that I relinquished and dropped down to the mini. Damn that felt good, just spinning away at like 5-6 mph. So Barney was gone by then and it was just me, the mountains, the beautiful day, the second to last day of cycling across the United States. Life was good no matter how tough the climbing could get. I was just in a state of ecstasy doing this ride. So bring it on! About this time I started looking at on occasional mile marker to get a handle on how far we’d gone on the climb – that and the time. By three hours into the climb I was just amazed we’d been climbing so long. Never had I done just one climb that lasted this long. This was just off the charts amazing!

Now I was plodding along just getting into the moment when I saw a sign that said that the road gets steeper, and I’m like, “damn, I’m already in the little cookie.” And the road sure as heck steeped out again and I was in my easiest gear, in and out of the saddle. It was appropriate though, this being the very last mountain range to climb before the finish, that I get throttled just a tad by the mountains. So it was just the breeze, the mountains, my breathing and my pedaling up, up, up. Now there was a point where I was really starting to think that I was close to the pass. I mean the elevations were going up by like 400-600 feet every 20-30 minutes and the last elev. sign I saw was 3800 feet. Add to that the fact that it looked as if I was about to kind of go across this little saddle between two really high peaks. So I just kept it going in and out of the saddle. Then I saw these cars parked on the side of the road and people mulling about several hundred yards ahead of me. That was it, because there off to the right was Barney standing and taking pics of me coming to the top of the pass. Damn that felt good – about 3.5 hours of non-stop climb up the mountain. We hit the top and got some water from a couple of folks who were headed east in their car. There were no services up there, and this gentleman offered up some ice cold water to Barney and I when I had asked him if there was anywhere around where we could fill up our bottles.

After getting our water fill, we just sat on some concrete barriers and ate our lunch – beef jerky, gorp, and a couple of sweet and salty bars. Man I’ll tell you, I was worked on those last 19 miles of climbing. Felt so good to sit on that concrete barrier and hand my sore arse over one end and just relax. We were up there for about 30 min. And we talked about having gotten there so early, why not just bypass Skykomish, where we were going to camp for the day, and just ride all the way back down to the town of Monroe where Barney had parked his car yesterday. DONE. We were going to go for the full Magilla. Barney said that it was just a descent for 40 miles. So might as well go for it.

Got back on the bikes for this BALZ descent down the west side, where the pitch was crazy steep, and the mph was going well over 35 with us hitting the brakes on a regular basis, but the crazy thing was that once we got going down on the west side, the wind had picked up to this just nasty gusting and blowing. I really had to grip the bars a bit more than normal, and this really started to pump up my forearms after about 30 min of straight descending. I mean we were jamming down the mountain, with these guardrails on our right, protecting us from taking multi-hundred foot screamers down the mountain if we screwed up. I’d look off to the right and like a thousand feet below I’d see the road and these tiny things moving – cars! So we were each shaking out our hands and arms on occasion to get the muscles limbered back up again to grip the bars. So we just had this steep section where we descended about 6-8 solid miles and lost like 2000 feet of elevation. Then it settled out a bit, and that’s when the gusting wind really affected us. I mean we had this big time headwind in our faces, and you could look over at the trees and see the branches and leaves just bending to the east with the force of the wind. It was definitely slowing us down in a huge way.

We’d hit little sections where the road kind of flattened out, or conversely, where the road just pitched up a tad, and what with the headwind, it was as if we were right back there climbing up the mountain, except that we were DESCENDING! So our decision to ride all the way to Monroe, that was beginning to look like a pretty tough cookie to complete with the wind. We passed Skykomish and just kept it rolling down. And when the pitch was fairly steep, it felt ….just ok. But when the pitch settled down, wow, that wind really put a damper on our descending efforts. Round about this time both Barney and I started to get the bonk going on. Me, I was starting to get the shakes. And with that I knew that I had to get some sugar in me asap. Barney stopped to knock down a gel or two. I told him I had to ride on to find a place to get a coke and candy or cookies. So I kept going. About 2 miles further I just had to stop and get some of my emergency stash – a couple of strawberry yogurt energy bars. Munched them down like they were my only meal in days.

Barney joined back up with me and we kept it going, with me still wanting to find a place for a coke – the proverbial heroin spike in my veins for riding. And we found it just a few more miles down the road, in the hamlet of Baring. Stopped at a little place that was post office/diner/general store/hardware store. Got a Pepsi and this coconut, chocolate chip thingy which Barney and I split. THAT was the ticket. We chatted for a bit with the two ladies there about our trip. I asked about the distanced to Monroe, and they told me it was about 30 miles away – a bit too far for me to make, as we were already at about 81 miles for the day. She suggested staying in the town of Gold Bar, about 13 miles away, where there’s a little motel, a restaurant, and a grocery store. So we decided that Gold Bar it was for the day’s destination.

Did that last 13 miles with a bit more energy from all the sugar I ingested in Baring. I pulled a bit and Barney pulled a bit. About a mile outside of Gold Bar Barney pulled into this little stand where a lady was selling cherries. Barney bought probably 5-7 pounds of them!! And again, off we went, into the town of Gold Bar about 1.5 miles down the road. We got a motel, actually a really laid out place with a full kitchenette - really awesome place. Ended up with about 95 miles of riding in 7:30 hours of saddle time. Damn what a day. This was the penultimate day of the trip – great scenery, amazing weather, awesome friend to ride with, a journey that is just 39 miles away from being completed. All the elements were there to make this so very memorable.

We got settled in, got some micro brews, skyped our ladies, and we’re just sitting here veging and waiting for me to finish this blog so we can go downstairs to eat dinner at the restaurant. This is a very cool little town, surrounded by mountains and river. Great place, great day. Tomorrow is a casual day. No early start. No big day in the saddle. No more tomorrow. The trips ends in 39 miles. Time to go eat dinner. Talk to you tomorrow from the Pacific Ocean…..Pete

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