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Two Dam Far – A Ride In Three Parts
LM Spring 1000, June 25-28
by Mike Hagen

Do you know those three-panel pictures or paintings, intended to show three associated things to be appreciated together? My Two Dam Far 1000 km was a triptych. It did not go as planned, but it was epic.

Saturday was remarkable for its uneventfulness. I was at the 5:00 a.m. start at 4:40, and getting antsy by the time Will arrived by bike from his near-by home at 4:50. Jeff drove up shortly after that. Will had forgotten a spare tire, so rode home to get it. With all that, it was 5:10 before we rolled out. We rode together the first few kilometers; I was happy to have Will lead the way through the set of right/left turns that got us to the Fraser Highway. Shortly after that I wished Jeff and Will good luck on the weekend, hunkered down on my aerobars, and drifted away (Hey – anyone remember Dobie Gray?).

Saturday was virtually perfect for a randonnee: Cloudy, cool, mostly dry though I had steady rain between Keremeos and Richter Pass, and a heavy downpour through Oroville. There was even a tail wind! I was maintaining a good pace, staying hydrated, and making sure I ate enough. I stopped for sit-down burger and fries meals at Princeton and again at Osoyoos. Got to Tonasket at dark and turned on my new lights (Lumotec Cyo IQ Premium driven by a SON 28 hub dyno, for you techies who care). I pulled into the Omak McDonalds for another Quarter Pounder at 11:30 p.m.: 450 km in just over 18 hours. Things were going great!

The first cracks showed up in Omak. The burger did not go down easy, and I put half the fries in a baggie to eat later. No matter, carried on down Riverside, turned left on Omak Ave and went over the bridge onto SR 155. Got to the Columbia River Road turn-off just as the clock struck midnight: Hey Cinderella, the party is over. The sign said “Columbia River Road closed at Mile 9. Detour via Route 155.”

Now I don’t know how it would have been along the Columbia River Road. Perhaps it’s a nice route, I never got a chance to find out. This isn’t Kansas anymore, Dorothy, this is Panel #2.

SR 155 was a disaster for me. It was dark with steep climbs, not a good place with my balance-challenged climbing skills. Going so slowly, I’m all over the road. Trying to keep the bike upright by hanging on with both hands means stopping to drink and not doing enough of that. Couldn’t get the bike going again if I stopped on a hill, and there was one hill I walked up in frustration. And it was cold. One lane was not wide enough but rumbling over the centre line strip didn’t help. To add insult to injury, there was construction near the summit: loose gravel, dust, and hazard warnings from asphalt sealing under way. WSDOT lists Disautel Pass as a mountain pass, it’s 991 m high. Getting to the summit was a relief, but the descent was slow as I was riding the brakes to control speed and take care in gravel sections.

Dawn broke after Nespelem and it was light enough for no bike lights by Elmer City. I made the climb up to Midway Ave in Grand Coulee at 4:45 a.m. looking for the 542 km control. I was shattered. The 24-hour Safeway opened at 6:00 a.m., but that was all right, because Jack’s, at the 76 up the street, opened at 5:00. There, I tried to choke down a breakfast sandwich and a coffee, but it was nauseating and I was gagging on it. Drinking gave me heartburn. My chocolate maltodextrin concoction was vile. Get the picture? I was not a happy camper.

After an hour at Jack’s, I pushed on. SR 174 climbs steeply out of Grand Coulee to the part of the Columbia River plateau that the route crossed. It was quite pleasant up there; the sun was out and it was getting warm. But now I was sleepy. I woke up suddenly after a micro nap, still rubber side down, and still on the same line. Falling asleep and falling off is not a good idea. Been there, done that, not recommended; don’t want a repeat. I’d taken a caffeine tablet an hour earlier, it clearly wasn’t working. So I hauled bike and self off the road, found a hollow surrounded by shrubs, and settled down for a 20-minute power nap. After five minutes of feeling insects crawling in my clothing, I drifted away (Dobie again). Woke with a start just a couple minutes later, decided the insects were disgusting, and got the bike back on the road. That was enough to chase the sleepiness away for the day, as it turned out.

By Bridgeport, the chocolate malt was still vile, my throat burned with every sip, and although my stomach was upset, I needed food. What to do? I decided to try ice cream and Gatorade, and what do you know – it was fine. The ice cream went down nice and easy, and cold Gatorade hit the spot. Soothed it too. Onward.

It was getting hot when I reached the control at Pateros, 632 km, just after 11:00 a.m. I sat on a bench outside the Chevron and watched the busy people go about their busy Sundays. And I thought. I thought about Greyhounds and bike boxes. I thought about Gatorade and ice cream. I went into the Chevron and got my card signed, and bought some Gatorade, ice cream, and a chicken chimo. This is like a deep fried bean, chicken, and cheese burrito, a bit spicy, but, hey, it tasted great. Things were looking up. I sat and thought some more.

And I thought that if I got to Winthrop, took a room, ate and rehydrated, and got a good sleep, then tackling Washington Pass and the Cascades Highway on Monday on a 300 km day would probably work out well. One saving grace about Sunday was that, although it was hot, I had a tailwind. I thought about Jeff and Will, likely still heading south, likely with a headwind to contend with. Things could be worse.

So I headed north on SR 153 and then SR20 toward Winthrop. The ride was uneventful, except for the hallucinations. These were strange, though mostly benign. I recognized right away when they happened. It was kind of interesting. Someone walking along or a cyclist riding ahead of me would turn out to be marks and shadows on a rock bank along the road. A flock of crows flying way would morph into black tire marks on the roadway as I passed. I seemed to be riding the wrong bike; my handlebars were far too wide. I had to continually talk myself out of letting go and moving my hands onto the hoods – they already were on the hoods. But the weirdest one was later, in my room in Winthrop, when I noticed that my water bottles were covered with writing. It was the kind of writing you see in a card signed by many different people, with messages in different script running every which way. But I couldn’t quite read it; I didn’t have my glasses.

I checked into the Methow River Lodge in Winthrop, 700 km, at 2:30 p.m. At the IGA, I bought a bunch of microwavable dinners, a pizza, a carton of ice cream (Haggen-Daze chocolate almond French vanilla), and a big bottle of fruit-flavored Gatorade. I ate, I showered, and I was in bed by 6:30, hoping Panel 3 would be better.

I left at 4:15 a.m., feeling pretty good. There was virtually no traffic; I saw many more deer than cars on the long climb up to Washington Pass conquered by spinning in my lowest gear. No need for speed today. The descent from Washington and especially Rainy Pass was wonderful. I especially appreciated the smooth, flawless pavement most of the way down – how did WSDOT manage that?

No kudos to WSDOT for the tunnel just east of Newhalem though. Tucked down, full out, blasting down a slope at 60 kph, I round a corner to see a tunnel just ahead a flash of sign “Cyclist use caution” and I hit the brakes scrambling to lower my sunglasses ‘cause I’m doomed if I hit the tunnel wearing sunglasses, shed more speed, now I‘m in the tunnel it’s so dark can’t see desperately look for the light at the end there it is, but there is also center lane lighting illuminated for Christ’s sake so distracting look where you want to go not what you’re trying to avoid, now drifting over the centre line fighting to get back hitting something oh shit and I’m down.

Did not get through that unscathed, but my list of scaths was relatively minor under the circumstances. No broken bones. No dislocated shoulder. No broken bike, though the rear wheel was a bit warped and the right handle bar hood skewed. I had the tools to fix that. I was most miffed that the cover for my new front light was shattered. My iPod had spilled onto the road and the one car through the tunnel before I found it had scored a direct hit. Don’t feel bad for the iPod. It was old, a G4, having been on almost constantly for the five years I’ve had it (because the on/off switch no longer worked) the battery held virtually no charge. The music program was corrupted. Pretty sad iPod that can’t play music, but I was fond of it. It was battered and dented; but not as battered as it is now. RIP. And I get to buy a new one! But the worse thing was that my favorite Randonneur jersey, a 1991 Bumble Bee jersey, was shredded beyond salvation. I had road rash and bruises all along my right side, but could ride. Onward.

Adding insult to injury department: stopped at the Marblemont Chevron for lunch (a Mom’s ham, cheese, and pepperoni sandwich, and, yes, Gatorade and ice cream) all was fine. Ate lunch. Ready to go again, but my front tire was flat. I’d hit a nail just as I crossed the parking lot. Replaced the tube. The valve blew. Replaced the tube again. Hoped that the rest of the ride would be uneventful.

And it was, excepting the rather brisk headwind all the way to Sedro Wooley, until I reached the accident site about eight km north on SR9. Apparently, a Canadian driver had run his pickup off the road and taken out a power pole at 9:00 a.m. that morning. Crews had been on the site all day recovering the vehicle, cleaning up the spilled fuel and oil, tending to the downed lines, replacing the pole, and restringing. I hit the closure at 3:00 p.m., the flagger said “Maybe another hour.” I could detour (Upper Sumas, Prairie, and Parson Creek Roads to Algers, then Algers Cain and South Bay roads to Park Drive and back to SR9) but that would add 20 km even if I could remember the route. Given my detour experience earlier in the ride, I passed. It wasn’t bad – I found ripe blackberries beside the road. These were not the Himalayan blackberry that is most common here. The Himalayan is actually an invasive species. It is big, brash, and bold; it brambles and dominates all summer. Bit of a bully, actually. The native blackberry has smaller berries, smaller leaves, less aggressive thorns, it tends to be lower lying. The berries taste a little wheatier, I think. I spent half an hour finding all I could.

The closure was lifted at about 4:00 p.m., just as advised. So after an hour, I was on my way again. Feeling pretty weary, but reached Sumas without incident, and made my way to the final two controls at Clearbrook and the Willowbrook Mall in Langley. 1000 km ridden in 63 hours. But still 45 km and two hours to go because I had no way to contact Anna and ask for a pickup. So it goes. Epic.

Go to: Results on Event Page (In Database)


June 30, 2016