63.89 Miles / 185.46 Total Miles
5315 Ft. of Elevation Gain / 9492 Ft. Total Elevation Gain
There has been a lot of anticipation and anxiety leading up to today. The plan for the trip has been nailed down for months, and this is by far the hardest day of the tour, so I have been fretting about the climbing and distance for quite a while. Ahead of us was over 5300 feet of climbing, mostly in the form of one very long 32 mile uphill, to conquer Rainy and Washington Passes all in a day, all in just under 64 miles of cycling. Near my home in Arizona, there are only three places within 25 miles where I can climb a hill, and to build up to this, I have been taking myself to them and climbing up and down the same hills over and over again till either my legs cramped up or I felt that heat stroke was imminent.
So this morning, I woke up before the 6:30 alarm to be certain I would be ready for an early start on what I knew would be a long and gruelling day. We packed our gear, ate breakfast (hot cocoa and oatmeal), aired up our tires, and (dah dah dah DAH!) got a sendoff from our neighbors, Lee, Dee and Zoe. It was so nice to see them one last time. We plan to reconnect with them when we get close to Rochester, New York on day 56 of our trip. In spite of the early wake up, we still were not on the road till 9 AM. Go figure.
The climb was on as soon as we pulled out of the campground. We had a 2-mile section of killer 7 and 8 percent grades that is not even part of the 32 mile ascent. Once we wound down from that, the real climb began, and it was gruelling. We stopped every 2-3 miles to refuel, then went back at it again and again and again. We had heard that the road would have a lot of logging trucks flying by, but there were really only a few of them, and their wash cooled us off and pulled us up the hill, so I would have been happier with more of them. What cooled us off even more was the snow on both sides of the road, and shade from trees. Still we were sweating profusely.
We first reached the summit of Rainy Pass, where the Pacific Crest Trails crosses the Cascades, then 5 miles later we reached the summit of Washington Pass. And as you know, what goes up must come down. The descent was glorious! Eighteen miles into the descent, we stopped in Mazama to eat some dinner and pick up a few grocery items, then hit the road again. Very little peddling was required to get us to our destination for the evening, the Bicycle Barn, a highly rated bike touring camping facility that we read about on several blogs. And that’s when disappointment started setting in. At the street entry, a sign was posted saying that the place was closed due to Covid. But wait. Ed had left a message with the owner earlier in the day and checked the Bike Barn website, and nowhere was there any mention that the place was closed. Grrrr. Changes like this are easier to take when you are driving a car. On a bike, you have less capability to be flexible. In this case, we had no choice. We had to move down the road to Winthrop.
The Cascades are spectacular! On our long slow climb to Rainy and Washington passes, we had plenty of time to take in the beauty of the jagged, snow covered peaks jutting out of lush forests, with waterfalls and springs everywhere. People come from all over the world to drive on this scenic highway and see the beauty here.
A lot of water is not always a good thing. We passed one mudslide site and many rock fall locations as we moved down the road. The divots left by falling rocks reminded me of the divots in the concrete walls of the barracks at Hickam AFB that were strafed by Japanese fighters during the attach on Pearl Harbor.
I need to back up a little here, because I forgot to mention that when we topped off our tires, this morning, Ed discovered a broken spoke. He used some of my duck tape to buddy tape the broken spoke to another spoke, so the dangling spoke would not ruin other mechanical components of the bike. Then later, at one of our rest stops, I discovered that I also had a broken spoke. When we finally had some cell phone service, we called ahead to the nearest bike shop, which happens to be in Winthrop, and discovered that they are the only bike shop between here and Spokane. In talking with the bike shop rep, they were pretty clear that they were working on a 6 month backlog of repairs and couldn’t make any promises on when they could get to our spokes. We thought that as cross country cyclists, we should get a front of the lines pass on repairs, but we weren’t the ones making the rules here. So now the rest of the story will make sense as we return to the Bike Barn situation.
Winthrop was 7 miles up the route for our tired little legs. When we arrived there, we located the bike shop and lobbied the owner for mercy tomorrow morning, when we bring our bikes in to get the broken spokes replaced. She talked more about the 6 month backlog of repairs, then went inside to check with the mechanics on their schedule. When she came out, things sounded a little more hopeful. They ‘might’ be able to move our bikes up the list for repair, but they couldn’t make any promises. We were starting to think we might need to stay in Winthrop another day, but we would have to cross that bridge when we came to it. So we headed toward the local hostel and arranged lodging for the night. After putting our gear up and showering, we set out to find more food to snack on. We’re talking about the type of food that two people with VERY hearty, ravenous appetites would eat. Sadly, the find food part of that equation was a big flop, as every place that served or sold food, including the kitchen at a bar that serves drinks all night, closed at 8 PM. What do you do for food and entertainment in the evenings, when you are in a town that closes down at 8 PM? We headed back to the hostel, worked on our blogs and went to bed. There’s yet another tough climb ahead of us tomorrow.