We have been cycling for 4 days now. Started in Seattle and rode to Easton, WA. Got up the next morning and went to Vantage, WA. Crossed the Columbia and rode to Odessa, WA. And then traveled to Spokane. I didn't have good Internet connections at Easton, Vantage or Odessa, so we're sitting in a Starbucks in Spokane and trying to remember the last four days.
On Monday morning, the Team got together for a presentation of a "big check" to the American Lung Association for over $ 130,000 that we collectively raised to help fight lung diseases.
|Getting ready to cross the USA|
|Jim and Yugi watching the Falls|
The route took us up I-90 for a while, with 70 mph truck traffic rumbling along and us over several feet on the shoulder. Not too bad, but really noisy. I followed Jeffry for quite a while, as we climbed, and then we got to exit I-90 for a quieter Forest Service road.
|Working our way up to the Summit|
|Molly going under I-90|
We climbed more. Finally got to the top of this thing, and started heading down the other side. There was serious construction on I-90 so our support staff shuttled us around a 7 mile piece of dangerous road. When we came down off the summit, we were all cold and wet, and got colder from the descent to where the shuttle pickup was. Yugi was in shorts and was really cold, and shivering, and a couple of riders were getting close to some serious chills. But Steve and Lynne, and Laura got us all loaded up with our bikes and down the road we went. We got dropped off with a little bit of sun picking out, and made our ride downhill to Easton, and a campground in the woods.
Molly had a pretty bad fall on the road as she tried to go around a piece of construction equipment parked on the shoulder, and the rumble strips caught her. Some of the alumni setup her tent for her and she got back to camp and started feeling a little better after getting warmed up. She got a bang on her head, and broke her thumb, which is being looked at here in Spokane as I write this. Molly is a super trouper, as she has been riding for the last three days with her thumb in a big bandage !
Setup camp in a light drizzle, got a hot shower ( and yep, the girls shower did not have hot water again this year ) Began to feel alive again, and then stood by the fire that the Alumni had built and drank a couple of beers, with our first day under our belts. The Alumni had a nice dinner prepared for us, and it really hit the spot. Food has become a very important aspect of our lives on the Big Ride. Then the first night in my new tent and it worked out pretty well.
I and Molly and Steve and Sharon had breakfast duty, so we got up earlier and Charlton showed up how to lay out a breakfast of cereal, milk, coffee, OJ, bagels, jam and yogurt to get everyone started. Steve and I were the last ones out of camp, and he flatted just about 2 miles up the road. We got that taken care of and had a good ride to our first Checkpoint. Took a pretty detour up a dirt road, that I think everyone rode instead of walking, even with our narrow skinny tires.
Then we got to follow along a beautiful gorge with a river and railroad track near the river, on the road to Thorpe. I was so captured by the beauty of the place that I was riding through, that I manged to miss an important turn.
The turnoff was for Thorpe Road, and I rode right on past it. I then saw Gene and Larissa going by and Larissa took probably one of the coolest pictures ever taken of me. Course, they had missed the turn and saw me and assumed they were on the right road, and since I saw them, I "knew" that I was on the right road. Well, they figured it out and came back, after I had gone about 8 miles down this road. I doubled back, rode most of it in a headwind, and then they picked me up and I shuttled back to where I should have been in the first place. I got to the lunch stop in Ellensburg while quite a few people were still there, so I didn't get too far out from the main group.
Had a good ride with the group in the afternoon getting to Vantage. Got to see a big section of wind generators turning in the ever present wind. Vantage sits down along the Columbia River, and we got to camp on grass, with dry conditions. We had a dinner provided at a restaurant, and it was "spot on", just the right thing. Got a chance to wash some clothes and relax a bit.
Up early on Big Ride Time. That means that we awake at about 5:00 am. Start packing our tents and our other junk so that we can load the gear truck at 5:45, when Charlton unlocks it. We cannot go for breakfast until our junk is on the truck. Then we eat and are free to hit the road on our own schedule. This is done to try to get us on the road before afternoon wind and weather changes, and is a great plan, and everyone is getting used to it. It also means that we go to bed early. The camp is a quiet zone at 8:30 pm everynight, so people can get to bed.
We were conveyed out of Vantage across the Columbia with Lynne driving the van in the front and Gene with his "Blue Thunder" following behind us. We rode through George, WA ( George Washington ! ), got chased by a dog, and then more morning riding through beautiful fields of mustard.
The afternoon ride was breezy. And we had a little group together riding in the wind. My speakers seem to be working pretty well... the riders near me can hear the music and I have tried to jazz it up a bit and come up with a combo of oldies and hip/hop that makes riding easier. We got to Odessa and helped to unload the truck, and then got showers at the high school. Camped on the grass at the school, and Sarah, Rob, I and Steve got our names taken by the lady from the Odessa newspaper as we rode into town.
Odessa is a really pretty little town. Named after the Odessa from Russia and settled by people who were persecuted from there. After supper in the school cafeteria, some of us headed for a beer. We stumbled onto Chiefs Bar. It's ran by Mike, an ex-Navy Chief. Nice guy, who had returned to Odessa after a career in the Navy. Camilo had been stationed at some of the same places as Mike and they hit it up well together. One pitcher of beer was pretty much it for us, as we all know that we have to get our butts up early in the morning and hit the trail again.
Excited to be rolling to Spokane and a well deserved day of rest. And as Charlton says, "some of you need to get your bikes fixed and some of you need to get the right gear, and if you think that you are going to get across the country with a half-hearted effort you are wrong" Charlton knows what this ride is going to require of us. There are going to be some testing days on us out there, and we have to be disciplined about it and have our stuff together.
I rolled out and passed a few riders and caught Yugi along the road and we rode to the first checkpoint. We hooked up with Todd, Doron, Liz, Sarah, Steve, Rob, Ben, Jeffrey ( think I have them all ) and the ten of us started a two line pace line working our way towards our lunch stop in windy conditions. The wind took a lot out of us as we rode along, and we stopped a few times and tried to keep those who were feeling stronger from beating up the rest of us by going too fast. 10 or 11 mph seemed to be pretty good, considering the rollers and the headwind that we caught. The rotating line worked well, and we tried to get Yugi to understand how to do it correctly. He's 18 and from China, in the US as an exchange student.
We looked really strong getting to Reardan and had lunch there. Sharon and I rode together for a while until I blew up a hill and then charged on into Spokane. I was feeling really strong at that point. The rest of the group caught up with me at the Checkpoint going into Spokane.
We are staying at one of the off campus dorms. I got my bike looked at last night and believe I have the issue with shifting figured out, but will test it later. Today is a good day to eat and checkout bike stuff, as tomorrow, we pack the truck at 5:45, get breakfast, and take State 2 up to Newport and then into Sandpoint, Idaho.
One important thing about this ride is the people. This is a great bunch. We are young and old, we come from all over the US. Some are stronger riders than other and we help out each other when we can, and I think we are binding well together. Sitting around a dorm room table last night, eating ice cream and watching some of the younger ones sip a bit of Jack Daniels, and having a few beers in the lounge. This is awesome, and I feel 20 years younger and in the best shape of my life.