The goal of the ride was to get from Bellevue, WA to West Richland, WA, in 3 days by bike. I scouted a number of routes and chose one heading south and then east across White Pass (el. 4500') because it offered enough distance for a 3 day ride, and good scenery, while avoiding Interstates entirely. I was heading to the Tri-Cities for a wedding scheduled for the evening of the day after my arrival.
I started out at 9:00 AM from Bellevue, headed south along Lake Washington Blvd and bike trail, along Renton Field and the Boeing plant and connect to the Cedar River trail heading south. For the first 15 miles, I'm making good time, easy riding. Then the hills start. Black Diamond, then Maple Valley. In Buckley I miss a turn and head out 410, Microsoft Streets is NOT infallible. Also in Buckley, I pass a fellow on a tricycle with large rear basket, headphones, and a big sign on the back "70,000 cumulative miles." I was wanting to chat with him but found the headphones somewhat off-putting.
Along the road I'm getting passed all the time by dump trucks with trailers full of large rocks and gravel. I make it all the way to Orting instead of heading south on Orville RD. because of a missing sign, so there's a few miles extra on the day. I detour West to Kapowsin Road, then south on 161, which turns out for the best as Oraville rd is, from what I hear, very twisty and narrow, not the safest. Along Kapowsin I hit some excellent end-of-season blackberries and take a 10 minute eat-my-fill-of-blackberries break. There's lots of climbing on 161 and finally get to Eatonville. Cash a check at Key bank and pick a route: one way to Alder, another to Elbe. I'm heading to Elbe, so I pick that route. Turns out it's the "short cut" over the BIG HILL, either road would have been fine, they're practically next door to each other. In Elbe, it's getting late and the route to Packwood via Morton is another 45 or 50 miles, but I could cut up to Ashford and take Snake Creed Road. I meet Dave at the corner market sitting on a bench, and he recommends the Ashford route, so that's what I take. Along the way, there's a large iron sculpture park and I get some great pictures along with a very large high-wheel bike. So I'm riding along to Ashford, and it's getting later and later. Sundown is 8:00. I finally make it to Ashford and find Rt. 52 at 6:30. The sign says it's 23 miles to Packwood! My avg. speed is under 15 mph, and with rest stops, more like 10 mph, so that's 2 hrs, not get into Packwood until 8:45 or 9:00 and well past dark. OK, well let's ride on and see. 3 miles later, I'm thinking about catching a ride with a passing pickup truck, but there's no traffic at all in my direction. Ride on, and hear something coming -- two RVs but no chance at a ride. Another 10 minutes, and a GM SUV passes by. 7:15 now and still 14 miles to go, and I hear something coming. A pickup! Stop, dismount, put out thumb. He's stopping! James agrees to take me to Packwood, bless him. He bombs down the road and we're there by 7:40, and I bid him adieu with my most heartfelt thanks. I believe I could have made it if I hadn't been fighting the clock, but I still had 113 miles on the ODO in 8 hrs on the bike. 14mph avg, 10:15 hrs overall.
I hit the bathtub, and find the palms of my hands are now starting to feel numb. It goes away after 20 minutes, but didn't start until I had soaked in the tub for a few minutes, and didn't re-occur. After the day's ride, I'm reconsidering how much I like long-distance cycling, esp. with all the gear I'm carrying. Had fried chicken for dinner, with pie for dessert to eat later.
Day 2, Subway club sandwich for breakfast, on the road again by 9:00. First few miles are flat then it starts the climb to White pass, 12 miles of a very steady climb. I'm spending all my time in 30-27 and 30-30, at around 6 mph or so. Not brutal, just a steady pace of 68-80 RPMs. The scenery is killer, with sounds and views of streams in the chasms below on my right. There are two stops for work crews and flaggers. Without any problems, I reach the summit 20 miles after I start at noonish, and refill my water and Gatorade bottles.
The descent is very fast for 3 miles and then turns more gradual, until you hit the lake dammed by the Tieton dam, where the road turns flat along the lake for 10 miles, then through a scary short tunnel and following the grade of the river, we have another 20 miles of downhill with a few short hills. I pass Rimrock without filling water, bad decision. I start running short, and wind up getting water at a Nat. Forest Campground, OK to drink but turbid and a bit mineral-tasting. I mix up a bottle of Gatorade with powder I bought, and it takes really odd; drinkable but only barely. I'm really plowing through the liquids now, it's warm and dry.
As I reach the end of the Tieton river at Rt. 410, I turn right and pick up a tailwind. Speed increases to 18-20 mph along the flat straight road. I get an ear of hot buttered sweet corn from a roadside vegetable and fruit stand for a buck, mmmmmmm very very good! The road starts to upgrade, becomes a divided highway, and later limited access. My exit is up ahead, 1st Ave. My motel is the "All Star Motel", an older property where the water runs rusty when you first turn it on, and the air conditioning is central air, you get what you get. But it's clean and works for me.
After a shower, I fall asleep for an hour or so. When I wake, it's 7:30 and I walk south to find food, wind up at Jack in the Box with Bacon-cheese burger and chicken burger w/Oreo shake. Get a Hostess pie for dessert to eat later at the ARCO gas AM-PM. Watch some TV and hit the sack. 73.51 miles, 6 hrs on the bike, 8 hrs total ride time, 12.4 avg mph.
Day 3 I got up earlier, got ready and headed on my way by 7:30 AM. I had spotted a quaint looking waffle house, and figured it a good choice for breakfast. After "Seating myself" according to the directions inside, I perused the menu and chose the two-egg meat and waffle breakfast. If you upgraded to the three egg version for a buck more (at 7.95 and then added and finished another waffle (3.50 more) you could get permanently added to their "Iron Man" hall of fame. I was somewhat tempted but after 5 minutes of waiting, nobody had paid the slightest attention to me, so I got up and got going. I didn't have time to waste on food, I needed to get going. (My wife had some pre-wedding tasks for me to work on later that day at the destination.)
I rode down 1st street in Yakima looking for a Subway to repeat yesterday's breakfast, but it was not to be, not a Subway in sight. Five miles later I was on Rt. 97 heading through Union Gap, and with a peculiarly strong tailwind, was reaching 27-29 mph! Once through the gap, the wind settled down but I was still scooting along at a very comfortable 18-20 mph, aided by the wind. Rt. 97 headed south after a few miles, and I decided to give little Route 22 a try, it heads in a easy arc over to Prosser.
Well, after just a half mile, the asphalt turned very very rough on this back road, and there were few services, so I began to consider an alternate route. After 10 miles, I swung onto Rt. 223 and headed east across the Interstate to the Yakima Valley Highway. This was a nice improvement, better scenery and better road. I passed through fields of dill, mint, and corn along the way. I smelled the dill and mint before I even got there.
When I got to Sunnyville, I had eaten nothing but Powerbars and was dying for some real food, so I stopped at a mini-mart which sold Noble Roman's pizzas and subs, and got a small roast beef sub. They had to open every ingredient because I was the first sub of the day, so it took 10-15 minutes, but it was really really good eatin' when it was done. Back on my way, still with a tail wind, and I find a bike path! Probably a rails-to-trails, and it was smoother asphalt than the road and traffic free, also free of other people. Near the end of the trail, I came up on a wild dog who spotted me and trotted down the path ahead. I followed slowly and managed to get a picture or two of him while riding along. As I turned off the trail, another one came up behind me and followed the first one.
After Grandview, I cut over Route I-82 to the Old Inland Empire Highway and continued heading east. Then, all of a sudden, the wind shifted 180 degrees and turned into a headwind! And the hills started, too. So I slowed down a bit and kept going. There was starting to be quite a bit of haze and smoke in the air from Forest Fires in British Columbia. I made it to Benton City, crossed the river, and was climbing up the far side of the hill when my phone rang. It was my wife, wondering how far away I was. Fact is, I was just 6 miles away, and with the hills and wind, about a half hour. But I was going to miss a tour of my friend's workplace that was leaving shortly, so I agreed to meet him on the road in a few minutes. I rode a bit more and then pulled over and changed out of my bike clothes into street clothes, and he came by shortly thereafter and we toured two facilities designed to treat nuclear waste that he's working on. That was it for me for riding that day; I didn't quite make it to their house, but was satisifed anyway. Day 3: 75 miles riding, about 16 mph avg. 5:30 riding, 7:00 total time.
After a 3 day tour like this, I'm satisfied with my long distance performance. I like riding, but wouldn't say I love it. I would do something like this again, but would work hard to cut weight on my gear if I had to do an equivalent amount of climbing. My Fuji Touring held up great, it did exactly what it was designed to do.