Friday Sept. 16, 2016
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.
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