Thursday, July 4, 2013

Day 4 - July 4 - The hard way to get from Goldendale WA to Hermiston OR

 Day 4 - July 4 -  Goldendale, WA to Hermiston OR 96.4 miles (155.2kms); Total so far; 313.6miles (504.7kms)

Start time: 9:30am

Total time: 9hrs40mins (stopping for directions, a lot of pictures, and plenty of fluids)

Distance: 96.4miles (kms)

Average Moving Speed: 14.9mph (24 kph)

Maximum Speed: 36.8mph (59.2 kph) - could have gone faster but bike not stable in gusty winds
Calories burned: 5189
Powered by: 2 hardboiled eggs, bagel, yogurt, 4 Fig Newtons (fig rolls),Klondike bar, 1 Cliff bar, banana, 1 Coke, about 8 liters of water, 2 liters of Gatorade, and a McFlurry treat when got to Hermiston. 
Elevation gained: 4134 feet (1279 meters)
Weather: Very sunny with moderate W wind; temperatures rose from 66F (19C) to 92F (35C).

After talking to the local cyclist yesterday, I decided to change my plans to go to the Tri-Cities and instead head back down to the Columbia river and go  to Hermiston, on the way to Walla Walla.  I thought that I would take a shortcut across the "windy flats' plateau but this proved to be a big mistake. Plotting the route on Google maps bicycle option took me onto loose gravel roads for about 5 miles (8kms).  With the extra weight on the bike of a large water container (the bladder from a Camelbak), and 3 liters of Gatorade, it was hard to get a lot of traction on the climbs which were a lot steeper than I expected.Going both up and down hill, the rear of the bike tended to fishtail on the loose gravel.  The tires are wide for roads - but narrow on gravel and dirt.  It was a bone shaking ride on the gravel and I was completely lost at one point.  There was no one around to ask for directions  - nor any animals as the area is given over to wind farms

Mt Adams on the Washington side of the river. This scrub was typical of the vegetation on the plateau.

Mt. Hood is more visible earlier in the day before the haze builds

These turbines make a sound like a plane overhead.

Old and new turbines; this was one of many abandoned buildings I passed

Some of the climbs were steep enough; this one was over 13% grade.

A few miles on these roads on a loaded bike can shake you up 

Finally, after about 37 miles (60 kms) and some fast downhills, I joined the main road on the Washington side of the river, highway 14.  After a refueling stop at the only mini-mart that I saw all day, I profited from a good tailwind and rode about 22mph (35kph) for the next 40 miles (64kms).  Since it was the 4th July holiday, the road was a lot quieter than yesterday. I saw one touring cyclist riding  west with 4 panniers and a trailer, and he was really battling the wind.  He wished me such a fair wind all the way to Montana.

A scary moment occurred when I missed a turn onto a bike track on the Interstate 82 bridge over the Columbia.  It was either poorly marked or I was riding too fast but I realized that something was wrong when the highway over the bridge was just the 2 travel lanes with no shoulder (margin) or walkway.  I stopped quickly, hopped over the concrete wall, hauled the bike and panniers after me and went exploring. Sure enough, there was a bike way underneath the interstate so I carried the lot down the embankment to the tunnel under the highway.

The bridge without any shoulders or path. I bailed off it over the concrete barrier

I unpacked the panniers looking for a map to try to find a way across the river.

I scrambled down the embankment, found the tunnel and then brought the bike and panniers down

Some more climbing to Hermiston where the first place I saw was a McDonalds which provided a delightfully cold McFlurry (a mix of ice-cream and cookies) and lots of ice cold water.  I was tempted to ride around town to drive the day's total to 100 miles but I'll have plenty more opportunities to clock that total.  I chatted with a cyclist who started off cross-country in Yorktown VA about 10 weeks ago but gave up today within 400 miles of the end due to knee problems. He said that he has faced headwinds for weeks, which can certainly be mentally and physically debilitating.  He thinks that the winds will help me a lot if they stay the same direction and speed.

Dinner options in Hermiston were severely limited because of the holiday but the Chinese restaurant provided me with a fortune cookie that reads: "Listen these next few days to your friends to get answers you seek". I wonder what that means.

Tomorrow should be an easier day to Walla Walla, only about 54 miles.  I'm looking forward to sweet onion rings, the local specialty.

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