7-28-10 Day 53: Ephrata, Washington to Wenatchee, Wahington: 50 miles in 3:31 hours northwest on Rt 28 to Rt. 2 west.
Well gang. Almost there. One teeny, tiny little mountain range called the Cascades, and then it’s a dash to the ocean. Been a long haul man, a real long haul doing the majority of this thing solo and fighting headwinds on and off for the past 4000 miles. I’m looking back fondly at the hard days I endured to get to this point. Heck I kind of had this moment in my head way back in Maine, but I just couldn’t even attempt to conjure it up for more than a few seconds. No, you really just have to have the goals set from smallest onward: Goal for the hour; goal for the day; goal for the week; goal for the month; and then the overall goal – the end of the journey. And son of a gun, I’m like 2 rides away.
No I have to come to the confessional right now with respect to yesterday. You see I ate at Subway around 12 noon, and then went to Safeway and got a Ben & Jerry’s New York Style Fudge. THAT was a lot of food! Ok, so fast forward to yesterday evening. What did I do? Went back to Subway and got two more foot longs, and be damned if I didn’t eat 1.5 of the two. So I ended up with like 3.5 sub sandwiches in my stomach. Then, to add insult to injury, I needed a sugar fix, but was too lazy to go back out for something, so I got a fork and just ate peanut butter right out of the plastic jar. I feel so ashamed of myself…….not really! I swear, the less you ride doing a trip like this, the more time you have to just eat all day. Well, that was the case for yesterday. Then, to top it all off, I got on the net and map quested Wenatchee to see if there was a Subways close by the cheapie motels, and I hit a gold mine – a Chinese buffet. It was centrally located in the city, so I got the address and saved it for when I pulled into town to kind of line up the lodging with the Chinese buffet. Pretty sick isn’t it?
So today….Well, it was the same old same old for the morning and my usual routine – except that I had .5 of a Subway sub to add to the bananas and yogurts. Got on the road at like 5:45, despite the fact that I had just 45-50 miles to ride today. But the forecast was for super hot and mildly humid out, so I just wanted to get the riding out of the way before the heat machine was turned on high. Pulled out of Ephrata with the temp at 68 degrees, and I was in the tank top mode from the get-go. Had what seemed to be a nice little cross tailwind out of the southeast. Got into Quincy at about 15 mph average and was feeling ok. But then I started doing this climb, and it was steep at first and then kind of leveled off, but was a false, false flat. I mean I was looking at my mph and it was just killer to hold 10 mph, and I’m looking down at my tires to see if I flatted. NOPE. Looked behind me and I could see this ever so subtle false flat. Ok, shifted up a gear or two and just spun, and this thing went on forever. The only good thing was that I could see, way off to the northwest, the snow covered Cascade range.
After some 3-4 miles of this gradual false flat I finally kind of topped out, but I topped out on nothing. Wasn’t like I was at the top of anything, and there ahead of me was a steep descent sign, you know the one with the icon of the steep slope and the truck going down it. And I was looking around thinking, “what the hell, not as if I just climbed a steep pitch here.” “Why in the heck is there a steep descent sign here?” Well, I rode on for about 200 yards and then I saw it…..this massive descent, long and sweeping that had to be 3-4 miles long, taking you all the way down to the Columbia River. It was mind blowing to look at this thing. Shot a few pics at the top and then down I went, and it was just wild, totally out of control, and I had to feather the brakes just so I could stay in an “under 40 mph” mode. Get going any faster on a bike loaded down like mine and if you get into something bad, like chuck holes, rocks, junk on the berm, you’re just going to fast to react safely and then it could be ……BAD. So I stayed at a good speed and just descended and descended. Descended so long that when I finally did have to pedal my legs felt like I’d been sitting around doing nothing for 10 min. They were stiff and unresponsive.
Well, I needed those puppies to perk up fast, because I had a series of rollers to get over once the big descent ended. But I still wasn’t right down on the Columbia, nope, it was down in a gorge and several hundred feet further down. Now by this time the temp had climbed up to the low 80’s, and add to that just a hint of humidity, so the heat machine was definitely on it’s way up. I’d hit sections, because I was now riding in a northwesterly direction, where I was shaded by the canyon walls, and the temp difference was just amazing – felt great. So I was climbing small grades, and then descending even more for a bit, ever so slowly working my way down to the waterline of the Columbia.
Got to one section where there was a warning sign about super strong crosswinds, and it even had a wind directional down at the base to let you see how hard the wind was blowing and from what direction it was blowing from. Well I hit that area and like out of nowhere, and I mean from nowhere, the wind just cut into me like a gale as a headwind. Was as if someone had just turned on a giant wind tunnel. Well, it had something to do with the wind funneling down into this canyon at a specific point to be super concentrated. And it was, for about 3 miles with me struggling to maintain 10 mph, and I thought that I’d be just creeping into Wenatchee with a headwind like that. But be darned if the road didn’t kind of turn back to a westerly direction and the wind was darned near gone. It was just beautiful down there riding along the mighty Columbia, but a big dam just south of the town of Rock Island kind of put a damper on the wild river thing.
From Rock Island up to Wenatchee it was like cycling through the desert, very much similar to riding in the Flaming Gorge area in the US – hot, hot, hot! The foothill mountains were just blank and hot looking, with just a smidge of trees here and there. For the most part this place with just an inferno along the deep blue Columbia. That wind never really quit, it just softened out a good bit, but it was still blowing in my face. I just plodded along knowing that I really had a mellow ride for the day, not some killer 80-miler in the wind and heat. Finally looked at a mile marker and it read 4, meaning I had four more miles on Rt 28 to get to the jcn with East Wenatchee – totally doable no matter how hot it had become and how tired I was (telling you, I’m just totally beat down right now, fully functional on my bike of course, but I’m really spent with respect to the legs – they’re hosed!). Made it to East Wenatchee, and then crossed the Columbia River on a bridge and rode another 2 miles through town and bingo bango, I was in Wenatchee.
Scouted out the street where the Buffet was on which is Wenatchee Avenue, and then got a motel – got a motel for two people! Yup, Barney is on his way, or maybe even at the Wenatchee bus station as I write this. He will ride with me for the last two days of the journey, and I’m really looking forward to hooking back up with this guy – he’s one hell of a good traveling bud. Now there were a couple of cheesy places here as far as efficiencies go, but with Barney coming I thought I’d get something in the middle, not a 8x10 prison cubicle with a frige and microwave with a bed, so I went to Motel 6 and snagged a good sized room that would accommodate the both of us and our bikes. Problem was that it was just 9:30 AM and the dude did not have anything ready to move into on the first floor at that time. Said I could have something on the second floor, or wait till noon or one pm for a first floor room. Second floor it will be!
Got my gear in and got my computer going and found a message from Barney’s wife, Val, telling me that Barney had gotten up at 4 AM and was on his way. So I skyped him and he was just getting into the town of Monroe, Washington where he was going to catch a bus into Wenatchee with his bike on board. Done! Went to my little Chinese buffet and just went crazy. Another great buffet. I’ll spare Barney the buffet routine this eve, so I just really put the feed bag on and went to town this afternoon.
So that’s about it. I’m kind of hanging here waiting for Barney to arrive – got some beer in the refrig – and enjoying the AC. It’s just a purgatory out there right now, although I see clouds moving in from the south as I look out the window.
Barney thinks we can make Skykomish tomorrow – a 70-mile ride – and then do an easy Friday ride by descending down to the coast. We’ll likely be camping up in the mountains tomorrow in Skykomish, so I may not have internet access, and thus no posting of the blog that day. So if nothing’s up, that’s probably the reason. Anyway, almost to the end here. I did check out Amtrak, and it looks pretty good from the perspective that I can take all my junk on board and not get charged anything extra – well, save for a $5.00 charge for a bike box. Yup, five bucks to ship the bike with me! So I’m leaning heavily on doing Amtrak back home. The neat thing here, not accounting for the fact that I just love trains (I used to hop trains when I was a kid – sorry mom and dad), is that I’ll be traveling along some of the very roads I cycled along. That I think is very cool, to look out at what I’d just ridden for 1500 miles.Well, Barney just made it here and we sat around and BS’ed for a good hour, with a few beers of course. He’s putting his bike together right now. Going to be a very awesome two days to the finish. More to come tomorrow. Cheers all……..Pete