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Day 65 – Ramping it up

(110 miles)

I’ll be honest – I was worried about the wind today when I got up. We’d spoken to so many folk over the last week who’d told us horror stories about the headwinds as you head west along the Columbia river gorge.  And this was our task for today.

But the ride started easily enough with a 25-mile stretch that was mostly downhill to the river, with almost no wind. As we turned the corner and began to make our way along the river gorge the wind still didn’t materialise. I was almost holding my breath for it, constantly watching the tall blades of grass and wheat beside the road for any sign of them being blown back. The gorge itself was magnificent. Huge walls of red rock on both sides are divided by what seemed more like a sea than just a river. The Columbia river is massive, and apparently the only river in the world to cross/traverse a mountain range (the Cascades). Railway lines follow the water line on both sides and they are phenomenally busy – trains were trundling past pretty much every 20 minutes or so.

About to enter the Columbia River Gorge

You should definitely cycle this route along the Columbia River (although maybe in the other direction)

Thank goodness for dynamite and modern roads. Smooth, flat riding!

Shortly after reaching the Columbia river we crossed into Oregon. In theory this should have been a historic point on the trip as Oregon is our last state. But we knew that just down the road we would be crossing back into Washington for another day or two’s riding. Still, eleven states down!

Ok, so I may have been quite enthusiastic about reaching our last state...

 

We kept riding with a slight but noticeable headwind until we got to Crow Butte State Park, a 1-2 mile detour off route but we wanted a proper place to eat our picnic lunch and there was nothing else around. The park is on what appears to be a bit of an arid desert island on the river. So we were pleasantly surprised when we rounded a corner and came across a large expanse of lush green grass, picnic tables, rest-rooms and a snack shop! Lots of folk were out (it’s Saturday) enjoying the weather. We lazed around for a good couple of hours before we got going again. The wind was getting louder in the trees and I was worried the last 20 miles would be tough.

Pat takes a nap after lunch. And we didn't even draw on his face!

 

How wrong I was! When we re-emerged onto the highway the impossible had happened: we had a tailwind! The fabled wind from the west was blowing from the east. My iPod seemed to sense my delight and served up a aural feast of tunes as we cruised through the miles. I’ve never felt better on a bike – I reckon I could have gone on for another 30-40 miles, I was feeling so comfortable.

One of many. Apparently all the trains in America have come to the Columbia River to hang out for the summer

Looking out over the Columbia River

 

At the end of our longest day yet (mileage-wise) we pulled up to the only place to eat in miles. “Sorry guys, the kitchen’s closed today”. ‘What?!’ I thought – you are kidding me. I felt like grabbing the man and saying ‘Listen – do you realise we’ve just cycled 110 miles to get here and now you tell me the kitchens closed?!’. But instead we ordered a beer (always a good course of action when your plans have been foiled). Then we headed to a convenience store and cobbled together a meal of microwaved burritos, potato chips and tinned peaches.

Hanging with the big boys

 

We camped at West Roosevelt city park which is more like a free campsite than a city park. When we got there we were astonished to find dozens of cars in the parking lot and what seemed like a massive party in full-swing. We discovered there was a whole crowd of Mexicans camped out here for several weeks while they worked on nearby farms picking cherries.  Agonisingly for us, having just suffered the culinary ignominy of microwaved burritos, the smell of fresh tacos wafted through the whole park all evening as various groups of Mexicans cooked their dinners all around us.

We were planning on another night under the stars in our sleeping bags, but something about the number of times the camp-ground host mentioned the word ‘rattlesnake’ in his brief (and one-sided) conversation with us persuaded us that tents might be a more sensible option. While we were setting up, a chap came up and started chatting to us. He was one a short break with his family for some windsurfing (more evidence that this valley is better suited to sporting activities that benefit from the wind). He returned later in the evening with a bunch of chocolate, peaches and tomatoes that he’d rounded up from his families supply to give to us for the road. People can be great, eh?

Our longest day today and pretty much three century rides in the last four days. We’re kind of ramping it up as we sense the finish approaching. I think we’re all keen to reach the end and relax. But for the moment we still feel strong and full of cheer.

Camping beside the Columbia River

 

 

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