Day 4 XWA – All Hell Breaks Loose

The Thorpe bivy wasn’t too bad.  I sure was happy that I’d purchased that new fifteen-degree bag two days before the Grand Depart.  By fortunate accident I’d placed my feet in the direction of the wind, which significantly reduced the breeze blowing through my shelter.  The trailhead restroom was also welcome.

Pretty okay bivy

Mykenna doesn’t drink coffee, so as he finished packing I rolled, was literally blown, back to the Thorpe gas station for some hot caffeine.  The coffee was good, I have no complaints.

Instead of going for the gas station breakfast we pushed forward on empty stomachs to the Starbucks in Ellensburg where we briefly shocked the baristas with our mountainous food order.  Ellensburg to Kittitas was quick and soon we were making a gradual sandy climb up towards the Colockum turn-off.

The wind went from ally to adversary when turned north up the pavement.  Mykenna and I had little to say as we pedaled towards impending doom.  The first few miles of unimproved road wasn’t what I’d call enjoyable, but it was ridable.  The Colockum lures you in; at first it’s bad, but not that bad.  Painful but doable.  Until it isn’t.

The fun and games ended at the “bowling alley.”  Imagine a thousand baseballs piled on top of a thousand softballs piled on top of a thousand bowling balls.  Then imagine pushing a forty-pound bike up that mess.  At the top of the Alley we were passed by a young buck and his honey driving one of those side-by-side RZR things.  Four wheels were better than two on this terrain, but dang after about six minutes that thing must get boring.

Top of the Bowling Alley

When we made it to the highest point I said “well we must be at the top.”

Mykenna replied “nope it looks like we have fifteen hundred more feet to climb.”

“Fifteen hundred feet.  What?  Look around there isn’t anything higher.”  Back in the day I used to claim that the “map is wrong.”  Nowadays I claim that the “computer is wrong.”  Experience has shown that ten times out of ten I’m wrong, and this time was no different – somehow we found another fifteen.

Looks nice and easy in the photo

The descent was a hand numbing experience.  Once again, I gingerly danced my way down in, what in the end was, a successful non tire flattening non rim breaking descent.  I was, however, starting to worry about my brake pads, all of this heavy braking on a heavy bike had to be taking a toll.  I had brought a couple of semi-worn pads as spares, they would be better than metal on metal if it came to that.

Mykenna was the first to encounter Marshall Dillon and Festus, the German Shepard and Black Lab that guard the gravel/pavement interface.  As their names suggest Marshall Dillon was serious about guarding his territory whereas Festus’ heart just wasn’t in it.  As Festus came at me I yelled “Stop!  Go home!”  Which is exactly what he did.  He even looked a little embarrassed.  Marshall Dillon wasn’t so easy; he wanted a taste of my calf hams, and it took some quick downhill peddling to avoid losing a chunk. 

The massive descent to the Columbia River was made a bit nervy by hold on tight with both hands wind gusts.  On a number of occasions we really had to manhandle our bikes to keep them on the road.  We were starting to feel the Eastern Washington heat when we turned upriver towards Wenatchee.  All I can say is what a tailwind.  I turned to Mykenna and said “this must be what an electric bike feels like.” 

After making a few wrong turns in Wenatchee we were approaching the cyclist/pedestrian bridge across the Columbia when a cyclist rolled alongside and asked “Mike and Paul (Mykenna’s alias on Trackleaders)?”  it was Shiggy Don Person, a legend in the endurance cycling community and he had come out to see us!  That was a mind blower.  Someone other than our wives actually cared about what we were doing, and not only that they cared so much that they were willing to come out and wait for us.   I’ve always been an under the radar type of guy, but the fact that people were following us, commenting about our progress and coming out to see us made me feel like a minor celebrity.

Shiggy found us!

We had reached Wenatchee at mid- afternoon, maybe half past four and neither of us really wanted to stop, but the hard ride over the Colockum, the twenty-knot headwind blowing up the Columbia, the impending Rock Island Grade and a dearth of bivy spots, food and water between us and Ephrata convinced us to spend the night here.  Shiggy said that there wasn’t much in the way of camping nearby so we rode across the river and got a hotel room.

Mykenna was in need of some butt butter so after dumping our gear in the hotel room we rode back across the river to Arlberg sports where the manager was turning the key to lock the front door.  When he saw us roll up he undid the lock opened the door wide and asked “Cross Washington?”

“Yep” Mykenna and I said in unison to which the manager replied “get in here.  What do you need?”

We picked up a few items while the manager and the mechanic admired our rides and quizzed us about our set-ups.  Mykenna’s triple water bottle adapter and my dyno hub were of particular interest.  We could have easily talked bikes all night, but we needed food so off we went to a Jimmy Johns, where I downed a footlong while Mykenna ate three.  No joke.

Back at the hotel Mykenna was immediately asleep.  I laid in bed staring at the ceiling for half an hour before remembering my secret weapon – NyQuil Liquicaps.  Bang I was out until five the next morning.