I think today's ride was the easiest 45 miles I've ever ridden.I enjoyed a brisk tailwind most of the way from Richland to here at Hat Rock Campground just 10 miles from Umatilla Oregon, where I'll cross the Columbia back into Washington tomorrow.
I had a restful day yesterday, several warm soaks, and a good night's sleep in my room at the Red Lion. The ride on the pedestrian path that runs along the river from my hotel to the bridge across the River was pleasant. After so long in the wilderness, it was nice to share the morning with the other cyclists and joggers.
Once across the River, I picked up another bike trail that took me all the way to Highway 12, which runs south and meets the River again near Ululla. I met another long road cyclist, Schrek, at a gas station mini mart and we had lunch together. Schrek was finishing up a 3 month, 4,000 mile ride that included a tour on the Snake river and completion of the Divide, which runs the length of the US section of the Rockies.
A little farther on, I stopped at a roadside attraction where I met Bob, a writer, who shared with me a couple of his poems. At Ululla, I turned west and got my first taste of riding The Gorge. The shoulders are wide and the tailwind was a godsend. Before I knew it, I had reached the turn off for tonight's camp.
I'm sitting in my tent now, waiting for the little store to open. Everyone should believe in something. I believe I'll have a beer.
After a windy night, I had a breakfast of yogurt, cereal and orange juice huddled in my tent. The wind blew all night and at 7 a.m. it was still howling so I packed my panniers inside, too. I was on the road by 7:15 and started up the steep climb I'd been looking at through my tent door the evening before. I shifted into granny gear and felt a slight give on the shift lever. "I know what that is," I muttered, "won't be long before that cable breaks." I nursed it along until I reached a small market near the community of Beverly, 6 miles into this 55 mile ride. I went in, bought second breakfast and supplies for lunch, then broke out my repair kit and replaced the cable. It was a good thing I did, too, it was literally hanging on by a thread.
The morning was windy, dark and overcast but I had a tailwind for a change, and I made good time. At a narrow canyon I stopped to take pictures of the layered basalt cliffs. Amazing formations of ancient lava, frozen in time, looked for all the world like the work of a mad sculptor instead of the Earth's natural processes.
The River is bordered here by towering basalt cliffs that rise out of the wide canyon and loom over the River like the parapets of some long ruined castle.
I reached the bridge that crosses the River by 11:30 and stopped at the riverside rest stop for lunch. I knew from my map that I would soon encounter a long, steep climb and I lay down on the grass to rest up for the hot work ahead.
A few miles past the rest stop I began the climb. It wasn't nearly as challenging as I had anticipated and soon found myself on a high, wide, flat plateau, bordered on either side by distant mountains. Sage, scotch broom and the occasional tuft of wild flowers form an amazing tableau right out of a John Ford Western.
The road took a few gentle turns in the next 30 miles, but the long straight stretches, which seem to roll away to the horizon, gave me an odd feeling of discomfort. Such wide open spaces made me feel somehow exposed, vulnerable and insignificant. Indeed, this strange country certainly has a effect on one's sense of self.
After 55 miles I rolled into Horn Rapids County Park, got my first shower in two days and settled in for well deserved rest.
As I climbed the Steep Hill out of camp this morning my front derailleur cable snapped. Luckily I had the tools and the parts to fix it so after about 15 minutes I was back on the road. I had a healthy Tailwind today that kept me speeding along at more than 10 miles an hour. I am making such good time that I'm thinking about skipping my planned campsite and pushing on to Richland. I guess we'll see how I feel.
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It was 7 a.m., and the ride down Squilchuck Canyon was bitterly cold. Even though I wore a jacket and hat I still shivered as I sped down the steep road at 35 miles per hour toward Wenatchee just 6 miles from my niece's house where I'd spent the night.
Today was my first day back on the road after taking a month long break to nurse a case of pneumonia. I still had a cough and I felt a bit weak, but the gorgeous morning light buoyed my spirits in spite of my less than perfect health and physical conditioning.
My plan was to head south on Highway 28, which hugs the Columbia River for most of the 50 miles I would rider this day to Sunny Springs campground, 12 miles east of the small town of Quincy.
Highway 28 is a busy road with big 18 wheelers hauling fruit from the orchards that line, and derive sustenance from, the Columbia River. I was a little apprehensive about all that heavy traffic so imagine my surprise when I discovered a beautifully paved bicycle trail that skirted 28 and provided breathtaking views of the River as it meandered along through a bucolic setting of lush orchards and meticulously groomed parks.
But alas, all good things must come to an end and after 45 minutes of blissful pedaling, the trail routed me up and onto the shoulder of 28. I guess I can't complain, though, the shoulder was wide, in good shape, debris free and mostly flat as it cut along the edge of ancient volcanic cliffs that loomed hundreds of feet above.
Soon, I reached Rock Island Dam and that's where the climbing began. The first short stretch was steep, then the grade lessened for the next 13 or so miles until the 4 mile long killer hill. This is where the River makes a 90 degree bend to the west and the road takes an equally sharp turn to the east. It's also where the road began to climb out of the River bed and onto the prehistoric basalt plain hundreds of feet above.
Unlike the 100 degree weather I'd suffered through in August, it was now mid September and the temperature hovered in the low and mid 80's. I took my time, climbed slowly and stopped often then made a pit stop at a fruit stand just past the crest of the climb. From there it was a pleasant, slightly downhill run to the small farming community of Quincy where I loaded up on provisions and had a late lunch at a McDonalds.
Helped along by a brisk tailwind, I covered the last 12 miles in less than an hour and rolled into Sunny Springs Campground around 3 p.m.
It was one of the weirdest nights I've ever spent. The rough gravel patch reserved for tents at the Brewster campground looked less than inviting so in spite of the rule "no tents on the lawn" I set up on the narrow swath of green nearby. The day had been hot; in the high 90's, and I waited until sundown to crawl in my shelter. I dozed fitfully in the muggy heat, finally drifting off to solid sleep around midnight. But soon I was awakened by the sound of thunder then rain drumming on my tent's roof. Earlier, I had considered sleeping out and as the rain intensified in it's fury, I thought, "I'm sure glad I set my tent up!"
In spite of the raging storm, I was snug and dry and feeling quite smug... that is until the sprinkler, conveniently located just inside my tent's vestibule, came on. "What the...?!" I mumbled as the spray soaked me, my sleeping bag, pad and clothes. I jumped up, dragged my now soaking tent to safety and crawled back inside. It wasn't much drier inside than out so I decided to pack up my soggy gear and hit the road. It was 3:30 am, dark as the inside of a cow and raining, but I hardly noticed, I think I might have been still half asleep as I pedaled out of town and south on Highway 97 toward my day's destination, Orondo, where I'm now camped.
I started out this morning at 5:07 am with 8 1/2 liters of water and arrived 6 hours later in Brewster with 7 3/4 liters left. I had filled my 6 liter water bag and strapped it to the front rack, adding 13 1/4 pounds. I guess I freaked myself out a little thinking I might need all that H2O; after all it's a dry 50 miles between Grand Coulee and Brewster.
The 4 mile climb out of Grand Coulee wasn't nearly as steep nor as hot as I had anticipated. In fact, it would have been a delightful climb had it not been for the cloud of tiny bugs that swarmed around my head. Once I reached the high plains rollers I put the hammer down and left the little devils in my dust.
The ride from Grand Coulee took me through a barren, desolate country where sage and rock rule the landscape. It's dry as old dust save for a few reed-choked ponds, upon the shores of which, cattle bunched.
The sun caught me as I broke free of the Grand Coulee canyon but the real heat didn't set in until an hour after I arrived here at the Brewster Municipal Campground. I rented a spot for 18$ on a shadeless, parched patch of gravel a stone's throw from the football field where, in high school, I was a star bench warmer.
It's much too hot to ride. The air temperature must be near the century mark so I'm sitting in the shade of a picnic shelter next to the lake. I won't set my tent up until after the sun goes down. I'm glad I got an early start.
The town has changed a lot in the last 50 years. There's a new high school and even a McDonalds. The old dry goods store where I once bought corduroy pants and brown wing tip shoes is now a mercado and the building that was once Pearl's cafe now houses one of the best Mexican restaurants in the state.
I was asleep when the bridge caught fire but my mother roused me in time for me to watch it collapse, flaming, into the Columbia River. It was 1968 and the highway department was in the process of retrofitting the old structure to accommodate the higher water level resulting from the completion of the Wells Dam downstream a dozen or so miles. An errant spark from a welding rig set the pavement ablaze and that was all she wrote. The new structure is better and safer than the old bridge, but lacks the stately appearance of the original bridge's iron and wood superstructure that had been a Brewster landmark for decades.
There was a time when you could throw a stick into the River and would be hard pressed to run fast enough to keep up with it. Now, the raging torrent of my boyhood is a broad, placid lake named after Pateros, the town the dam's backwater flooded.
I spent the last four days hanging out with my daughter who lives near Spokane. We picked apricots and dried them so I have two bags of goodies to see me through the next couple of days. Troy, my son in law, drove me to Davenport this morning where I unloaded my bike and started out. My original plan was to ride to Lehey Junction and wild camp but the heat drove me off the highway and into to a campground in Coulee Dam, a 50 mile ride from my starting point. I'm at an RV only campground but Tim the owner, took pity on me and let me set my tent up for a reduced rate. Tim is a local who grew up on a cattle ranch his great grand parents homesteaded not far from here in the 1890's. Tim worked on the Grand Coulee Dam and is now retired and running this great little campground.
I know this country in my bones; I grew up among the scraggly pines, fragrant sage and oppressive heat. But the thought of wild camping in this hostile environment makes me quake in my sandals. I plan to make a dash for Brewster tomorrow, a ride of 54 miles where there is a campground on the River. Maybe I'll go for a swim.
The forecast is for temps in the mid to high 90's for the next ten days so I will need to be off the road and in the shade by 1:00 or 2:00, which cuts my days short. It looks like I'll be on the road longer than I thought. I will be starting out as soon as it's light to try to beat the heat, around 4:00 am. It's supposed to hit 103 while I'm in Richland so I'll need to be careful and carry lots and lots of water.
I am looking forward to cooler weather as I near the ocean.
Back on the road for the first time in three days, I rode for a while with a couple of young guys from Michigan, Brent and Dave. We stopped at a grocery store in Wilbur, bought a half gallon of strawberry ice cream and ate it in the parking lot. They headed for Bremerton on Highway 2 and I cut off heading for Coulee Dam, where I am now camped. I hope to make Brewster tomorrow and Wenatchee the day after. The weather is hot so I quit today around 2 o'clock. I'm hoping the weather will be a little cooler down on the river.
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I gave my bike a last minute check before I hit the hay and discovered that my back tire was flat. The wind had picked up and the smell of rain was in the air, so I made a hasty repair and retired to my tent, secure in the knowledge that the gods were in their heaven and all was right with the world.
The next day was to be another long one; nearly 60 miles, and I was on the road and crossing the bridge over the Columbia before 6:00. There is a sloping loop that drops down off the highway into town and I was going along at a pretty good clip when I came to an intersection. I eased on my brakes but the bike barely slowed. I pulled harder on the levers and dragged my feet, coming to a wobbly stop. I checked my brakes and discovered that I had failed to reconnect the rear cable when I'd fixed the flat the night before!
Later, as I rode up a hill, the rear shifter seemed awfully stiff; I was pulling so hard on the lever that I feared I'd break a cable. Up ahead, I spied a rest stop and I pulled in, unloaded the bike, turned it upside down on a picnic table and splashed oil around the rear derailleur. It seemed to do the trick, I guess all the wet weather of the past few weeks had gummed up the works and all the drive train needed was a little t.l.c.
It was hot and windy as I rode along a bluff high above the River. Deep forest lined the four-lane highway and I got only an occasional glimpse of the Columbia as I pedaled toward Trail.
Around noon, I again crossed the River at the small town of Trail, and after another long, hot climb, I turned off Highway 3 and headed for the U.S. border crossing. I soon passed a sign indicating that the remote outpost ran banking hours; it was open from 9 to 5.
Later, a few miles north of Northport Washington, I stopped at a nice campground to beg for water. The land here in Northeastern Washington State is quite different than the country north of the border. It's drier and the forests of Ponderosa Pine are sparser. I got to talking with Ralph, the campground owner, and he told me about a problem that was plaguing the area; it seemed that heroin smugglers drifted down the River from Canada and federal agents were on the lookout for suspicious characters. Just then, a dark green Huey helicopter buzzed over at tree top level. The chopper had no markings so I couldn't tell if it was being piloted by good guys or bad.
I made 58 miles, camped at a small state campground on the Columbia and was up early and on the road by 5:30. It was a pleasant but hilly ride in the chill morning air to Kettle Falls where I had breakfast and resupplied at a supermarket. My goal for the day was the tiny burg of Hunters. Highway 25 rolls along through woods and past farmer's fields with the occasional glimpse of Lake Roosevelt; the massive body of water formed by Grand Coulee Dam.
My daughter, Annie, lives an hour away from Hunters and we had arranged to meet there. We loaded my bike in her car and drove to her house where I got the first shower I'd had in two days. Boy, did it ever feel good!
I'm staying with Annie and her family for a couple of days, resting and making repairs to my bike. I'll hitch a ride to Creston or Wilbur on Sunday, the 24th and continue my ride along the Columbia. - Posted using BlogPress from my iPad
I made the ride from Silverton to Castlegar today, a nice 60 mile jaunt that seemed mostly downhill. There's a steep three and a half mile climb out of Silverton with a spectacular view of Slocan Lake at the top and an amazing 6 mile downhill run that had me whooping and hollering. The weather was fine today, sunny but not too hot and I stopped for second breakfast in Slocan. The fellow who ran the place told me a bout a rails to trails path that goes all the way from the Lake to Castlegar. I gave it a try, but it was too rough for me so I got back on the highway, which follows the contours of the Slocan River. It was a spectacular ride with mostly good shoulders, and a couple of 35 mile an hour downhill runs. I'm camped at Passcreek Campground where bikers and hikers get to stay for 10$. it's the first time I've had a site on grass this trip.
Tomorrow I will cross the border and pick up the Columbia River again.
There's a little town at the south end of Slocan Lake Called Slocan. It's about 20 miles from my starting point of Silverton. They had a music festival over the weekend and the little place was still crowded with concert goers. I stopped at the town's only restaurant for breakfast and a pretty young woman caught my eye and gave me a big smile. I thought it was nice of her not to laugh out loud.
Well, it happened again. I was camped at a small, out of the way campground on Box Lake. A more peaceful, bucolic spot you'd never hope to find and I settled in, anticipating a nice restful evening. Boy was I in for a rude awakening...literally. I dozed for a while, but soon was roused from my slumber by raucous shouting, laughter, and loud music. The party camped nearby was having a wing-ding. I kept my cool and tried to ignore the ruckus but by 3:00 am, I'd given up and resigned myself to another sleepless night. As soon as it was light enough to travel I was packed and on my way. As I passed the party, which was still going strong, one of the drunks shouted out, "How did you sleep?" (Ha ha).
"Screw off, hillbilly boy," I replied and gave the one finger salute; an act I would soon regret. As I made my way up the dirt road through deep forest, a car pulled up behind me. Yup, you guessed it, the hillbillies were after me. They drove along behind, shouting and telling me to pull over, they wanted to "talk to me."
I kept going, expecting to be run over or shot at any moment. Finally, my nerves shattered after 27 hours without sleep, I stopped, pulled out my cell phone, and shouted into the glare of the high beams, "Back off or I call the police!" Of course it was a bluff, I had no bars. But I guess these guys were either too drunk or too stupid to figure that out and they hit the brakes. I took advantage of their momentary confusion to make a run for the highway.
I rode like the devil, keeping a sharp eye out in my rear view mirror for the Dukes of Hazard, but I guess they got the Idea and I never saw them again. Another close call for The Kid.
I shivered through a thunder storm at Shelter Bay, the lightning strikes were getting pretty close. A couple of times, I could count only to two or three seconds between the lightning and thunder. The rain came down in buckets, which is nothing new. I'm getting pretty good at setting up and taking down my tent without it getting too wet.
I took the ferry across Arrow Lake and arrived at the other side in about half an hour. The crossing was free. When I got to the other side, I was dismayed to see that I would have to climb a 12 per cent grade! There was water running down the pavement an inch deep, it was like riding up a waterfall. After about half a klick the grade leveled out, and though I had to stay in granny gear, the riding wasn't too bad until some nut pulling a trailer passed a long line of cars going about 100. He was coming right at me in my lane, pushing a typhoon of road slush ahead of him. I barely had time to hit the ditch.
It was a hard, hilly, cold and rainy day and I was in a dark funk. I finally reached Nakusp around 1:00 and checked into the municipal campground. A hot shower never felt so good! I went to the store and bought a big bag of groceries and ate and ate until I could hold no more, then I ate some more. I consumed half a dozen apple strudels!
This morning dawned sunny with high overcast, and I started out in high spirits. It was a beautiful ride on rolling hills and I stopped often to snap pictures. My destination for the day was Silverton, a short 30 mile jaunt. I stopped to check my progress on my smart phone's map and discovered that I'd ridden 20 miles on the wrong branch of highway 6. I turned around and hurried back to Naksup, arriving around 1:15. I treated myself to lunch at a drive-in called The Burger Shack and met a local cyclist who filled me in on the route ahead.
I toyed with the idea of camping again at Naksup, but instead headed south on the correct road this time and camped at Box Lake, about 10 miles farther on. This puts me a day behind schedule, but that's how it goes!
The weather forecast called for thunder storms on Rogers Pass so I opted for the bus. Greyhound requires that bicycles be boxed, so I had to disassemble Blu and put him in the 30$ box the bus company sold me. They charged me an additional 15$ for the freight, so that by the time I bought all my tickets, the total came to nearly 80$ Canadian.
Lots of people ride over Rogers Pass, but I didn't see any bikers on my bus ride this day. Just as promised, the weather was really rocking and rolling with heavy winds that blew even the big dog around. The rain came down in horizontal sheets and in places, streams overflowed their banks and flowed across the highway. Traffic was heavy with a lot of trucks and a steady three foot high wall of road grit made visibility poor. I was glad I took the rcmp's advise and skipped trying to ride my bike from Golden to Revelstoke.
The bus dropped me off at a gas station and I hurriedly assembled my bike in the rain. I'd been kept awake the night before by some rowdy kids in the campground at Golden and by the time I settled into my room at the Cube Boutique Hotel in Revelstoke, I'd been awake for 39 hours. My head was spinning like a top!
I'd spent what was suppose to be a rest day in Golden and it rained the whole time. My gear was soaked and I dumped it all out on the floor of my tiny room, plopped down on the bed and didn't move until the next morning.
I got out of Revelstoke about 11:00 and headed south for the first time on this trip. The weather was fair for a change, sunny with big fluffy clouds. Off to the the east the Selkirk Mountains rose out of the depths of Arrow Lake. The road, which hugs the shore of the Lake, was under construction and each time a car passed, I'd be enveloped in a cloud of thick dust and pelted with gravel. The cars are bad enough, but each time a semi passed, it really got bad. It was like being in a Midwest dust storm and I'd have to put my hand over my mouth to try to filter out some of the gunk and cross my fingers that no big rocks would hit me.
I made a little more than 30 miles and camped at the Shelter Bay Provincial Park, which is just a stone's throw from the ferry landing. I'll take the ferry across Arrow Lake tomorrow.
I had a close call with some crazy drunk people this morning and had to skedaddle from my campsite at Box Lake. I made it here to Silverton about 8 o'clock this morning, camped, and slept for 5 hours. I hope to make it to Castlegar tomorrow, an ambitious ride of 64 miles. If I get enough to eat and get enough sleep I should be able to do it. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
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I shivered through a terrific thunderstorm last night at Shelter Bay. I got up this morning and took a little ferry across Arrow Lake which is really just the Damned up Columbia River. It rained like crazy all day and I got soaked to the bone. But I made it to the little town of Nakusp , where I am presently hunkered down. So far it's been an interesting trip. I'm looking forward to drier weather once I get South of the Border which should happen in 3 or 4 days.
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Well, it's rained every day since I entered Canada. I packed for warm, dry weather and left my rain gear at home. Wouldn't you know it? I bought a cheap plastic poncho at Walmart, and so far, it's worked pretty well.
I'm here in Golden taking a rest day in preparation for the ride over Roger's Pass tomorrow; eating as much as I can and sleeping. It's a pretty long hard slog with about 3,000 feet of elevation gain, the last 8 miles is steep, I hear, so I've lightened my load by dumping some of the food and equipment.
I met a couple of Swiss cyclists who just came over the pass from Rvelstoke. They had electric touring bikes. I've never heard of such a thing! They said they could go 120 klicks on a charge, and said it made getting over the pass easy. I offered to trade bikes, but they declined.
I started out this morning with the intention of riding the 57 miles to Golden. But after 25 miles, I was so tired that I knew I couldn't go on. I found a great little campground, limped in, paid my 20 bucks, set up camp, and slept for three hours. Tomorrow I will reach Golden, take a rest day, and then on Wednesday, tackle Rogers Pass wish me luck!