Saturday, June 29, 2013

Goodbye Washington (Day Seven)

From our high perch in what was possibly a park, we took the steep hills back to town for a hearty breakfast at Topnotch cafe and later coffee, homemade ice cream and caramels, and phone recharging at Fonk's coffee house. The air was heating up and we knew our road would be shadeless. With the previous day's scorching still evident on our red hides, we put on long pants and thick sunscreen and pushed south 15 miles to Pullman.
There we made an eccentric path through the small town, eating path-side service berries while grappling with our sudden (presumably heat- induced) inability to put map and ground together to gain our intended destination. At the top of a tall, hot hill we finally found Zoe's Underground, and later, Ferdinand's ice cream shoppe. Then we let the heat of the day pass in the grass under tall broadleaf trees.
Leaving town, a quick conversation with another cyclist put us on the right path to Idaho. Smooth and car-free, we rode 7 easy miles east and crossed the state line on a cycle path. In Moscow we picked up a few groceries at the unparalleled Moscow Food Co-op, then headed south towards Lewiston.
At first the road seemed a mistake- medium traffic, a trick shoulder full of bumps, sand, and gravel- but after a few miles 2 lanes widened to a separated four, and the shoulder was a lane in itself: smooth sailing all the way to the bluffs above Lewiston, and the Old Spiral Highway. Like riding a rollercoaster on a bike, the Old Spiral Highway falls two thousand feet in wide, smooth, looping banked curves to the Snake valley floor. After this sunset descent nearly alone (passing only 2 motorcycles and one car) we followed a cycle path upstream Snake to find Hells Gate State Park.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Small Town Sun (Day Six)

Perfect weather greeted us as the sun rose over the igneous canyon wall. Power gruel down the hatch, new stem installed (thank you Windust camp host, keeper of the keys, for use of your Allen wrench set), rubber hit the road. A surprise grasshopper tactical assault met us on the winding road up the canyon, yet our steel and aluminum steeds prevailed as the winged assailants flung themselves at our legs and spokes.
After a stop in Kahlotus, we continued on to Starbuck. There we drank a coffee-sugar-bvitamin elixir whilst discussing "earthiness" and adventure with the locals on the shady porch of the small store.
Under the scorching sun we once again put chain to gear. After one more small town stop- La Crosse for cool drinks and shade-  we continued through surprisingly single-specied farmland - green wheat blanketed the softly rounded hills. In twilight we rolled into Colfax, filled our canteens, and found a perch high above the town.

Leaving Richland (Day Five)

Part 1: Waterfront Trails and Sacajawea Park.

Out of our box in Richland we went on a tour of town; sunglasses from Goodwill, fixing unexpected flats, and stopping at Greenie's for air and an unforeseen stem replacement. Now Laura is riding in style with her tall stem. From there we crossed the Columbia again and picked up a mostly deserted waterfront path. The smooth asphalt led us to the ancient shipping and industrial district and finally to Sacajawea Park - A green oasis at the confluence of the Columbia and Snake rivers.  The WPA-built museum had us smelling dried soup and testing a buffalo scapula hoe as we were led through Lewis and Clark's journey to the Pacific Ocean. Realizing it was 4 o'clock we set out to complete the majority of our miles for the day.

Part 2: Onions, potatoes, corn, and wheat

Finding the highway out of town, we were momentarily stumped by a 'road closed' sign. Before we had a chance to attempt plowing through the ditch, a friendly construction worker in a big white truck yelled in passing -  "the detour is short, just around that green building". With this pertinent tip, we were on our way. Countless miles through smooth rolling hills bordered by hundreds of thousands of onions, millions of potatoes, and billions of wheat kernels. Our sojourn along a high ridge near the Snake River dropped us into the canyon proper as the sun sunk low. Tall, happy trees brimming with birds, placid river and golden light made for a great campsite. Till morning, only the occasional outboard motor, lumbering trains, and earwigs' passion for Kevin's personal space scratched the peace. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Empty Road (Day Three)

It rained all through the night though we were cozy in our hobo den. From the muggy and buggy hovel we heard the log truck's approach near dawn. Up around the corner, down again fully loaded. We knew we wanted to get up the hill between loads. After a breakfast of power-gruel we spun up the hill, gaining an excellent view of our tree-packed valley nook.

Winding through fields at a quick pace the darkening skies threatened to dump their payload. With the threat of foul weather we had our first mechanical failure: Laura's rear shifter would not hold tension. We resolved to fix it in Goldendale, several miles down the road. Departing the sparsely populated highway we found a vibrant main street. After a cup of java from Coyote Coffee we took another look at the shifter. The problem was discovered to discoved to be a small break in a tiny piece of the ratchet mechanism. Dispensing with several parts the ratchet shifter was turned into a more robust friction shifter. Now Laura wouldn't have to ride up hills one handed, using the other to maintain low gear.

Raw raspberry honey from the Grist Mill and improving weather pushed on to a sunny crash-nap at the beautiful Bagder Gulch. There we met a lean, mean wild rooster we named Butterscotch (in retrospect.)  

We climbed out of the gulch and gained a view of the wavy, slanted "v" of the road. Car interruptions were scant along the tarmac as we flew through a fragrant ponderosa, scrub oak land filled with bird song. In a place where most of the land is private we searched for an acceptable campsite. We found an accommodating schoolyard in Bickleton, a town so tiny, clean, and quiet it could have been the setting for a cult or an episode of the X-Files.

Out Of The Grey (Day Four)

Again we awoke to rain but this time a true downpour battered our tarp in the Bickleton schoolyard. We lay in wetness until dawn broke behind the leaden skies. Packed up in the rain our resolve was momentarily tested as we headed back to the Bickleton Market and Cafe for some hot grub. We arrived just short of the 7am opening and huddled under the awning of a nearby building. The cafe was worth the wait - hot drinks, hot food and free cherries!
As we ate, we reviewed a pictoral history of the local area. They have a strong connection to their pioneer past. The sky cleared and locals came in, remarking on the unusually strong downpour of the past night.
Warmed, drier, and with brighter spirits, we descended to the Yakima valley and spent the next several miles jealous of the productive farmland - goats, horses, cows, chickens, hops, corn, grapes, wheat, and cherries.
One bratwurst stop later, we crossed the Yakima just before it joins the Columbia and swooped into Richland.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Up The Klickitat (Day Two)

After a high oxygen induced slumber we emerged from our hiding spot with one goal in mind: Big Horse Brewery of Hood River. 17 miles passed quick and soon we were revisiting one of our highlight from the December journey. Sweet sweet beer...

Intending to cross the Columbia at Hood River we found the bridge closed to cyclists. The idea of riding along 84 to the next bridge was not appealing so we positioned ourselves strategically and put our faith in humanity. Soon enough Heather the kiteboarder and her dog Dakota pulled over to lend a hand. She gave us a quick lift over the narrow, metal grated bridge and we were on our way again!

The rest of our day was scenic as we continued under grey skies and a delicate mist that can only be described as "cherub's piss." We wound our way up the Klickitat, a very low traffic road that unfortunately lacked a shoulder in places. A rich mix of ponderosa, white oak, and big leaf maple populates the cracks of the hills sometimes spilling over completely.

We made our hobo den before the final ascent onto the plateau preceding Goldendale with plenty of light for exploration and bean soup.