Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Cascase Loop (after)

I don't usually write a whole lot, but this was an amazing trip and really had an effect on me, so this will be a more lengthy post today. But for those of you who are like me and can't read for more that 30 seconds at a time, here's the snapshot:

6 days totalling 459 miles. Ben weighing in at 190 lbs with a 93 lb load (bike + gear). Me weighing in at 163 lbs with a 70 lb load. Day one: Burke-Gilman to Woodinville, Hwy 2 to 9 to 530 = 77 miles to camp in Darington. Day two: 530 to 20 to Diablo = 59 miles to camp at the base of the N.Cascade Pass. Day three: Hwy 20 all day climbing the pass and down to Winthrop = 70 miles to camp at Lake Pearrygin. Day four: Hwy 20 to 153 to 197 to Chelan = 66 miles in 110 degrees with big head winds all day to hotel at Chelan. Day five: Hwy 97 to 2 to Chumstick to Plain (outside of Leavenworth) = 78 miles (all day headwinds again) to camp at Lake Wenatchee. Day six: Hwy 2 over Stevens Pass to Sultan, then Ben Howard Rd to multiple roads to Woodinville to Burke-Gilman to Seattle home = 104 miles & 8 hrs in the saddle (115 for Ben).

Okay, now I'll take you thru the play by play...

Day One

Here I am on the morning of the big adventure. I was supposed to wait for Ben to call as he was going to meet me on the Burke-Gilman trail down the street from my house, but the anticipation was too much, so I went down early. It was a beautiful day and I sat in the sun and waited a little nervous and excited.

I could see Ben coming from way down the trail. He looked like a Sherman tank with the front and back paniers on. We had everything we needed to survive for six days, now it was time to start pedaling.

We made our way up the Burke-Gilman trail and then up into Woodinville. Ben had everything mapped out and had been planning this trip for weeks, so all I had to do was follow his lead.

The first part of the day was fun, but the roads were pretty crowded - lots of traffic and the landscape was still suburban with some industrial and residential mixed in. After Snohommish, tho, it really started to get beautiful with corn fields and trees and farms and stuff.
After 45 miles we were in Arlington which a nice little town. They were adding new sidewalks. We got some Thai food. Now keep in mind that prior to this trip, the furthest I had ever rode was about 35 miles - so I'm already breaking records here.

After lunch we headed East. When we arrived at our destination town of Darrington the sun was starting to go down and we stopped at the grocery store and stocked up on some rations for dinner and breakfast, then headed out of town to our camp site which Ben had already reserved at Clear Creek.

After we set up camp and had our stuff all spread out it was kind of amazing to see how much stuff we had - our own portable villiage. We bathed the best we could in the near by river and then cooked up a spaghetti dinner with sauteed onions and garlic. We totalled 77 miles that day.







Day Two
After a nice breakfast of peanut butter and jelly wheat bagels, Ben tore his bike apart and swapped the tires because of a flat spot on the rear. He had a regular bike shop set up there.







Once we were back on the road, it was exilerating. It was like we had a private bike route all to ourselves carved thru the wilderness. And we were haulin ass, too. We were going up hill following a river for much of the day and we were doing 19 - 20 mph which just amazed me considering how much weight we were carrying.




After many miles and much scenery we hit the Cascadian Farms. Wow, they've got a good thing going on there. Organic farming... all these fields of fruit... and they make their own ice cream, too. I had a rasberry chocolate chip waffle cone (it made my top 5 cones list). Ben had a blueberry smoothie. Then we headed on to lunch at Buffalo Run in Marblemount. Muscles were getting pretty tight and tired at this point and had to lay on the grass for a while and stetch and digest, but there's no rest for the weary, as Ben says, so we pressed on from there and started to do some climbing up to Gorge dam. We had one tunnel that really got my adreneline pumping as it was just pitch black and all I could see was Ben's rear flasher and the light at the end. We made it thru with only one car passing us and had a great ride up and then a big down hill taking us to our unbelievable camp site at Colonial Creek on Ross Lake, just past Diablo.

We set up camp right on this gorgeous glacier water lake with deer walking around and everything. They had a boat launch dock and we decided to jump in to cool down and clean up. It was the colded bath I have ever had - another personal record. Then we build a fire, cooked dinner, saw a helicopter drop off a secret agent and watched the sun set over the pass that we would climb the next morning.

Day Three







This day was all about climbing. Climbing and survival. We knew that there would be nowhere to eat or drink all day until we reached our final destination, so we had to stock the Nalgene's with water and had purchased our breakfast, lunch and snacks the day prior. So after another delicious pb&j bagel breakfast we started the ascent.

It was good hard fun climbing. The weather was warm and the views were great. Every once in a while someone would honk and pump there fist encouraging us up the mountain. We took little breaks along the way, but had to keep moving for the most part cuz if we slowed too much the flies would land on us and bite. We stopped for lunch at a great little spot by a river and had our cream cheese and lox bagels we picked up from Cascadian Farms the day before. There's a great shot on the left of Ben squeezing sweat out of the pads of his helmet.

We actually rode seperately most of the way up because our bikes were geared differently and the only way I could climb was to go quickly alternating sitting in my lowest gear, then shifting up 3 or 4 gears and standing on the pedals. Then rest, then go again... and so on. We saw some other cyclists going up at the same time, so that was fun to have a little company. Ben made me ride his bike for about a mile and that was worst leg of the climb. I don't know how he rides that beast.

As we got to the top we were both exhausted and pretty much out of water. I then realized I had a secret weapon with me - my mp3 player phone! Ben wanted nothing to do with anything other than the sounds of nature, so I cranked the little guy up as loud as it would go and blazed up the last leg of the pass. (Thank you Beastie Boys and Prodigy). So we crossed a county line and climbed 2 passes: Washington Pass 5477 feet and Rainy Pass 4855 feet.

At the top of the pass was some snow pack on the side of the road. It felt so good to be so hot and be able to touch something so cold. And then we bombed down the back side of the pass down into Eastern Washington. At this point I was feeling totally high. Then we stopped after a while at a camp site to get more water and eat our crappy cheese and mustard sandwiches and cool down and rest a little.





We could definately tell we were no longer in Western Washington now. It was much drier and the farms were now growing wheat and grapes. It was 90 degrees and we had a real nice ride into Winthrop, which is a nice little wild west themed town. First thing we did when we got there was to go jump in the river and cool down. Then had some ice cream and headed out to our camp site. This was one of my favorite parts of the trip - riding with no helmet down these little back country roads with rolling hills and a lake as the sun was setting over the mountains. I felt like I was 10 years old. We got to town and had some good food and a couple of celebratory beers. We did 70 miles. It was an awesome day.








See Guiney's face refracting thru the mug?


Day Four






This day brought to you in part by Brawndo, the thirst mutilator.
This day started out nicely. We both had slept good thanks to the sprinklers in the field. We had nice big breakfasts. Ben got a new tire from the local bike shop which made his life a lot smoother (and safer). Then we hit the road and thanks to the advice of a local cyclist, found ourselves on this killer little country road with only the occasional pickup truck and farmlands on both sides. But there was a head wind. And the head wind never stopped. And it was getting hot fast. After only a couple hours it was 110 degrees... and did I mention the head wind?




This river was like an oasis. We were just burning up and it felt so incredible to swim here. It was nice and deep and really cold. Five minutes after getting out, tho, it was like we had never even been in. It was so hot.



So we pressed on, stopping for sandwiches somewhere. Then on and on thru the barren desert with unrelenting head winds. Now, a note about head winds for the non-cyclists out there. Headwinds are like swimming up stream. There were times that we were pedalling down hill and only going 8 or 9 mph - when we should have been going 20+. And after a while, your not only physically exhausted, but it really takes it's toll on you emotionally.
The nice thing, tho, was that this seemed to be a rather supportive stretch of road. People would honk and wave, cheering us on. I imagined them thinking to themselves how much it sucked driving thru this heat and then seeing us riding fully loaded and feeling pity and astonishment at the same time.

Then we stopped to rest at another dam. I think Ben was pretty broken at this point.







It turned out to be a pretty long day of riding and it was getting dark. It was supposed to have been a much easier day. We made a last minute decision to go to Chelan for the night. We would have to do some climbing, but we knew they would have restaurants and a hotel with BEDS! So we turned on the lights and powered thru to Chelan running on fumes and power gels. Had showers, food and deep sleep. We had done 5:16 in the saddle and 66 miles in 110 degree heat.

Day 5






In the morning, I put out my sink laundry and we walked (it felt so good to walk) to a diner and fueled up for the day. We were excited because it was supposed to be our easy day. We cruised thru Chelan and started climbing towards Wenatchee. We were happy that it was about 9 degrees cooler, but we still had the damned head wind! We cursed the wind gods and begged for their blessings, but they ignored us and struck down upon us with another full day of strong head winds. There's not a lot of pictures of this day as it would turn out to be our day of intense emotional and physical pain. We figured that it we could just make it to Wenatchee, we would be changing direction, heading West, so we would maybe just have a side wind, but as we changed directions, so did the wind. Amazing. Head winds all day... AGAIN!



This was my breaking point - I wanted to cry. I was in pain and was so hot and frustrated. I'm suprised that Ben had the wits about him to be taking pictures and just moments earlier he had thrown down his bike and helmet.


By the time we arrived in Leavenworth, we could tell it was going to be another late day. The nice thing tho was that the scenery was getting green again and the sun was setting, so we were cooler and we were off the nasty Hwy 2 and on to a nice quiet back road. But the pain... oh, the pain. I had the usual burning pinching feeling at the base of my neck, but now also had a sciatic nerve shooting electrical jolts down my left leg, my foot was cramping, both knees were throbbing with the right one clicking, my quads were toast and my ass was killing me. Ben was totally pulling me (letting me draft off him) at this point. We ended up riding thru complete darkness to a pub outside of Plain that fortunately still had part of their kitchen open. All they were serving was pizza, which was exactly what we wanted! From there we rode in pitch black to our camp site. I couldn't see the road or the trees or the sky... only Ben's flasher in front of me. It was like a video game. We set up camp without speaking, hit the showers and were finally laying down at about midnight. 78 miles that day.






Day Six



This day brought to you in part by Advil.
Ahhh... the last day of the big adventure. We woke up nice and early to the sounds of the children of car-campers. We packed up our rolling village for the last time and diveed up the rations for the climb ahead. After hitting a Brawndo station (mini-mart that carries sports drinks) we started climbing pretty much right away. I was feeling a little better at this point... not too much pain... and it turns out that I actually like climbing. So we climbed. Nice scenery, minimal winds. We saw many trucker bombs, too as we neard the top. I think Ben was strangely inspired by these as he started singing loudly his "trucker bomb" chorus line over and over. Ben rode Tour de France style with no helmet on the uphills. It seemed like we made it to the summit pretty quickly - just a couple hours. It felt really, really good to be on top of this pass and knowing that we now could cover some serious down hill mileage.












It was a good long steep down hill for a long time after the pass, but there was some road construction that was kinda bumbin' our trip, man. We stopped in Skykomish for lunch and I called Kathleen. She offered to come pick us up. Dude, it was so tempting cuz I was exhausted, but I told her "no, thanks".


After lunch we rode down the crappy Hwy2 (too many cars) past all these little towns like Index and Gold Bar... still mostly down hill and with Ben pulling me again. Then we got off Hwy2 and came across something truly magnificent.

Ben-Howard Road.








As soon as we got on this road I was revitalized. We were both in shock at how amazing this road was. It was like we discovered a lost world back there. We happily cruised along making good time.

I started really having a feeling that I had a few times earlier on the trip... a feeling that I was the center of the universe. A stable, fixed point and that as I pedaled was actually pulling the world past or thru me. I wasn't just looking at the landscape, I was experiencing it, I was part of it.




As the sun went down we pressed on - both tired but fueled by the excitement of being so close to home. By the time we got to Woodinville it was completely dark so we had to ride slower. At this point we were just in survival mode. The aches and pains would come and go and be replaced by other sensations like numbness and hot and cold. As we refueled at a grocery store, my nose started bleeding (from the previous days of dryness) but it was just funny. Everything was funny. We finally made it to the Burke-Gilman trail and that felt like a huge milestone. We rode the trail in pitch black Chips style, laughing and trying not to ride off into the slough. We made it back to the base of my hill and parted ways. Ben had another 11 miles ahead of him...






I then climbed 2 miles up to my house and saw Kathleen waiting for me at the top of the hill. Wow, was she a sight for sore eyes. I rode 7 hours and 57 minutes that day and 104 miles.


The next couple days were a bit of an adjustment... like culture shock or something. It was such a different existence out there. Completely self sufficient with no time or dates, just destinations. Truly experiencing the elements and the landscape. Exploring the limits of my body and mind. Just eating, sleeping and riding. Wow. I think we'll do another trip next month.

And Ben put some more pix here (some will be repeats)

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

The furthest you had previously ridden, not "rode", was 35 miles. :P

Mom was gonna say it, I just had to beat her.

You rode far. Seems like it would be hard.

Lydia said...

wow, what a chronicle, what a trip! and I hope you were thinking "what you survive strengthens you!" I imagine you're feeling pretty strong!

JB said...

Made me want to have some power bars for breakfast. Your description about feeling as if you were being pulled through the universe...a metaphor for rebirth? Nice diary...excellent accomplishment...