THE BIG RIDE ACROSS AMERICA 1999
Rachel Pilley - Rider #82
JOURNAL - PART 1
SEATTLE TO SPOKANE
Within 30 minutes of riding the anxiety had stripped away and we were focused on the ride at hand. Slowly we made it out of the urband center along a nice bike path. I found it truly amazing how quickly we had left the city behind and the comradreship built up amongst the riders. Smiles were on everyones face, kind words and a helpful hand were offered at every opportunity. It was awesome.
The day progressed, the miles passed, and the temperature rose. We reached the mid way checkpoint at around noon and then immediately began an assent up Snoquolmie pass. I was not prepared for what lay ahead. 20 miles of uphill in the scorching hot heat. The hill did not stop, not even let up a little bit, for a full 20 miles (that's over 30 km people). By the time we were 1/2 way up the heat was increadible and there was no where to get fresh water. But somehow, and I'm not quite sure how, I made it. I reached the sumit and my fellow BC Riders were sure to get me rehydrated, drown me in water, and re-nourished for the remaining 10 mile ride into camp.
That's what they told us anyway, that the descent would be all downhill. Well, if it was downhill, it was the worse and slowest downhill ride I've ever done. The head winds were strong that we had to pedal hard and strong to get anywhere. It made the 10 miles feel like another 20. One of the riders who has one of those fancy computers informed me that according to his technology were were infact descending into camp most of the time, although it was not steep.
When at last we made it to camp we had a nice hot shower, good food, enjoyed
some good company and finally flopped into our tents at around 9:30 or 10.
Tomorrow will come real early as the alarm clock is set for 0520 hrs.
DAY 2 - JUNE 15
EASTON - VANTAGE, WA.
Up at 0520 hrs, packed up camp, ate breakfast and on the road by 0730 hrs. The day started off with a beautiful ride through some rolling hills and country scenery. I was riding wit Lisa and Laurie, two other BC riders, and we got a really good pace going, drafting off each other and taking turns in the lead. Again there was a bit of a head wind, although not as strong as the day before. The nice thing about a pace line is how effortlessly the miles pass by, but with every plus there is a drawback: you have to pay a lot of attention to the tire ahead of you; the slightest touch of tires can quickly have a domino effect with the rider ahead and those behind.
In no time at all we pulled into Ellensburg, the halfway mark (in mileage) for the day, about 40.5 mi. In Ellensburg we all piled into a burger joint and pigged out on lunch before we attempted the last leg of the days journey whiched promised to include a 10 mile hill, (1/2 yesterdays distance, but a worse grade).
Well, we had a good time over lunch which is a good thing because for the next three hours we were fighting into strong headwinds across the flats and then stuggling up the above mentioned hill. Iím not kidding when I say struggle. The headwinds were slowing us down to about half speed and the sun was scorching our skin and draining what little energy we had left. We made our way from overpass to overpass where many cyclist would stop to catch their breath in the little patches of shade to be found. I found out later this evening that the temperature today was about 105 degrees, not including the convection off the road, so, all in all, it was SCORCHING! I was struggling up that last hill, it was worse than the day before other than the fact that I was properly hydrated. Despite being only 10 miles, it felt like 20 because of the wind.
Unlike the day before, however, there were a couple of rewards at the summit. The first one was a heavenly angle who had seen all of the cyclists coming up the hill. She decided to stop in at the rest stop and find out what was going on. It turned out that she was a massage therapist and when she heard about what we were doing she was so impressed that she gave anyone a 5 minute massage. When we got there she had been going for about 2 Ĺ hours; when we left, she was still going strong.
The second reward was that on the other side of the summit there was a 10 miles of downhill. Where yesterdays descent hadnít felt like a descent, todayís did, despite the head wind. I pedeled off the summit and then laid out on my areo bars and didnít pedal again until I had to pull into the camp site, 10 miles later.
We went straight down to dinner and were again pleasantly surprised: what a feast! Salisbury steak, chicken, lasagna, potatoes, salad, etc. etc. Wow! If you told me I was puttin on weight despite all the cycling, I wouldnít be surprised.
Shortly after dinner the wind changed direction, and picked up even more. It
is absolutely incredible, Iíve never seen winds like this, that are warm at
least. Tents are being blown over even though they are pegged down and have gear
in them. Some peoples tent poles are being bent under the force of the wind. The
wind is still howling and flapping and people are preparing themselves for a
sleepless night. I donít think I will have any problem because I am exhausted. I
bid you good night.
DAY 3 - JUNE 16/99
VANTAGE - ODESSA, WA.
Wow, what a day! 85 miles or so that started off with a steep climb out of the Columbia River basin. I wasnít sure if I was going to make it because I wasnít feeling too great this morning. Actually, I wsnít sure if I would ride at all today. I went to see the camp doctor who took my temperature and listened to my lungs. While I wasnít running a fever, and while my lungs sounded clear, he figures that I have a bit of bronchitis. The decision to ride or not, however, was mine and I decided to give it a go and see how I was feeling along the way. I donít want to get too sick because that would ultimately put me out of the ride for longer. It is better to take a little time and get better. When I was loading up my gear I didnít think it would be too hopeful as I could hardly carry my gear to the truck, but as soon as I got on my bike and started to pedal I began to feel better.
The hill that we had all been staring at across the river last night was not as bad as anticipated. I was up it in no time. From there it was a gentle rolling along on the interstate for 15 miles before leaving it for the last time on this Big Ride. No more interstates, thatís reason for celebration.
At mile 30 or so, we (Lisa and I) stopped for lunch. It was sooner than I would have like, but it was the only town we passed through today so we were warned to make the most of it. After lunch we rode the next 30 miles with a couple of other people (Dave, a recumbent rider for New Jersey; and Jim, a rider from Virginia). While it was nice to have some more company, it was getting hot and people were wanting to stop at different times which made the progress slow and tiresome. Again it was getting hotter and hotter as the day progressed, and finally we all took a break in the shade created by a huge hay stack in a farmerís field. Before we knew it, a dozen or so other riders had joined us in the only piece of shade to be found for miles and miles.
By the time I reached mile 65 or there abouts I was confronted with another hill. While Lisa, Jim and I all took a breather at the bottom Dave cruised straight up it. Sure enough though, after a couple mouthfulls of gatorade I was up and over the hill. At that point I decided that I was not going to stop until I either reached camp or ran out of water, whichever came first. Twenty miles to go, so I got my head down and went for it. At long last I found what I had been looking for all day (besides camp, that is) my rythym. While those last 20 miles werenít easy, they were easier than the 30 miles previous. It was also nice to have some solitude time. My speed picked up to an average of 18 mph and before I knew it I was in camp.
We are camped at a secondary school in Odessa, WA. The town is small enough that everyone knows we are here. Some teenagers are driving around the block staring at us. The local youth group is the community organization that catered our meal tonight and it was great! We had smokies, cabbage rolls, pasta salad, dumplings in sauce, etc etc. Now you know what I mean when I say I may not be losing weight this trip.
Anyway, it is about 9:40 now and I need to get my head down not only because
it is getting dark, but because I have approx. 94 miles to ride tomorrow. I just
hope we have favorable winds.
DAY 4 - JUNE 17/99
ODESSA - SPOKANE, WA.
Got up a little earlier this morning. I was determined to get on the road and get the majority of miles behind me before the heat of the day set in and I tired after lunch. I started off riding with Lisa and Laurie, but Laurie is a bit of a powerhouse who set a pace that was a little too fast for me. Within 10 miles I decided to slack off a bit and take it at my own pace otherwise I would never last the 94 miles. Despite the head wind I was much better off riding by myself, but shortly afterward Dave, the recumbent rider, caught up to me and we rode together mile after mile. The scenery was great, fields of wheat as far as the eye could see gently blowing and rustling in the wind. The miles past pleasantly and quickly. We blew past a couple of water stops deciding to avoid making the same mistake that we have made on previous days: too many stops. Before I knew it we were in Airport Heights, 65 miles into our day and it was only noon. We stopped for a good lunch, stretch and breather before jumping back on the bikes to finish out our day.
While the morning had been very scenic and beautiful the afternoon held a little unexpected excitement. We moved onto The Centennial Bike Path, a cycle path that is supposed to be 100 miles long and stretch from one side of Spokane all the way into Idaho. Well, the first 5 miles were stunningly beautiful. We were riding along the Spokane River but then we came across a bridge and out of the trees onto the roads. At that point we were stopped by crew members who informed us that there were problems with the marking of the trail. There were a few other cyclists already there getting directions from a local so we just followed them the rest of the way.
It was really quite increadible, the next 15 miles we wound our way through the downtown streets of Spokane (so much for the cycle path). We were picking up other cyclists along the way until we were a pack of about 60 cyclist riding through town. Some people were complaining and groaning, but I found it rather exciting to be on our own, off the map, all pulling together and cycling en-mass. We were quite a spectacle to see, 60 people on bikes, all of us cruising through the city with smiles on our faces.
When we finally found our way to camp there was not the same sense of rush and bussle that we have experienced the last few days because we know that we donít have to ride tomorrow. We set up our tents and then lounged in the shade they provided while mustering up the energy and motivation to get showered and fed.
It has been a great day. We did about 94 miles or so and I feel great. I no
longer have the anxiety about doing over 100 miles, I know Iíve got it in me. If
people like Jack Green can do this, so can I. Jack is a 69 yr old man who had an
aneurismy in Nov of 97. He went into a coma and didnít wake until March 98. 15
months later here he is participating in the Big Ride. He is know as ďJack
Green, the Miracle ManĒ and he truly is a walking miracle.
Day 5 - June 18/99
Rest Day - Spokane Wa.
To be written when I have time.