Special Delivery

So, if you’re reading other blogs about this bike trip there’s a good chance that you haave already heard that there was a little excursion on Monday that added a few miles to the route for three cyclists. If you are only reading this blog, I’m sorry that there wasn’t an update on Monday but the two events are related.

Reuben Vyn (Portland Oregon) left his bag of toiletries in Settle last Monday and had it shipped via UPS to Sunnyside (our Friday stop) so that his medication would meet us there. It didn’t arrive due to some lousy communication at the front desk in Seattle before Independence day… it was then set to be delivered to Sunnyside by the end of the business day on Monday. The trip from Sunnyside to Kennewick last Saturday was an 80 km ride and the ride from Kennewick to Pendleton set for Monday was a 107 km ride. Reuben recruited Nicolas Ellens to come for the extended trip to pick up the medication on Sunday afternoon. I was out for a run in the park on Sunday evening and upon my return to the campground the invitation was placed in my lap to come for the ride. I flip flopped on the issue for about 15 minutes before agreeing to come.

I was up at 5:30 which you might think is early but is actually “sleeping in” by seatosea standards and we were on the road by 7 am. The ride back to sunnyside greeted us with a headwind to begin our day but our legs were fresh from the day off and hoping to be in Sunnyside to coincide with the earliest possible delivery of the package at 9:30 we co-operated well and managed to average 20.5 miles per hour. In and around 33 kph. We arrived at the delivery address on time and began to wait on the arrival of the package. While sitting on the front step of the local school a UPS truck drove down the road. Unfortunately everyone had their bike shoes off and we weren’t able to chase the guy down. After a bit of searching in town the UPS truck was found but the news wasn’t exactly ideal. There were two trucks making deliveries in Sunnyside that day and the package was on the other one. It would arrive around 2 pm, which was going to make for an extremely late night so we arranged to meet him a further 8 miles up the road in the next town at 12:30.

While visiting the truck stop in the next town (Granger) we put back a sizable lunch and continued to consume water at an incredible rate. We had a few good conversations with the locals there about what in the world we were doing. Both the package retrieval as well as the poverty cause we were riding in support of. One gentleman filling gs askedus how far we intended to ride that day was rather astonished with the reply “oh about 170 miles” that he gave us some apricots from the back of his truck that had been picked fresh that morning. They were a hybrid variety of his own making and were by far the best and biggest apricots I’d ever eaten (peach sized).

Mr. UPS arrived as agreed at 12:30 and we greeted him on the curb, and immediately mounted our bikes and started to head in the correct direction for the first time that day. Instead of retracing our steps and picking up where the rest of the group was riding we opted to climb out of the valley and cut across the mesa south towards the Columbia River. Setting out with what we believed to be 107 miles left to ride for the day we picked up where we had left off with the 20+ miles per hour pace. Water continued to disappear and while re-filling at a gas station just prior to the first big climb Reuben and I questioned one another when the last time Nick had eaten anything was… The answer wasn’t quite to our liking and the reminders began. Drink even though you don’t want to drink. Eat even though you don’t want to eat. Turn over the pedals even though you’d rather coast. Take your turn at the front even if it’s short because the rest o us are hurting too. While it was Nick who needed the first reminder it was only a matter of time until I needed to be reminded to keep eating and even Reuben himself was reminded on occasion that it was a good idea to put away a few more calories.

The 5% grade out of the valley has just been paved within the past few years and still had the really black blacktop that new asphalt has for a few years. It was HOT! The climb culminated with a rather intimidating sign warning truckers to check their brakes before the descent and we broke out of the valley and onto the top of a mesa that stretched out for 30 miles to the south and s far as we could see to the east and west. We battled a serious headwind while riding south and arrived in the columbia river valley almost run-dry on water and in need of a bit of recuperation. The truck stop that hosted us was rather entertaining one. Staffed by a lone 30 year old woman and having 6 men in line to order take out supper we parked ourselves at the table in front of the A/C machine and helped ourselves to the gatorade in the fridge, the water in the washroom and the entertaining posters on the walls. After cooling down we set out eastwards towards the bridge over the Columbia River. I forgot how big rivers can be, the Bow, North Saskatchewan, etc etc, in Alberta are all pretty tame in comparison.

The wind was mostly from the side through this section and were within an hour of the river crossing within a half mile of getting back on the intended course for the day. We stopped at a state park that had a funny geological formation called “Hat Rock” to refill water and take a peek at the big rock. The general store was “Closed Mondays” so we helped ourselves to some warm hose-water from around back, stuffed back another few hundred calories and once again started climbing. After climbing out of the valley on a 5% grade for a few miles the hill smartened up and was much more gradual. We decided that farmland in this area must be very expensive as the road wound its way through the bottom of a steep sided valley instead of arrow-straight across the plain. With only 50 kms left to ride the heads were down and effort was high, there was a rather significant amount of saddle shifting going on and even though we were climbing at a quick rate we managed to keep the average above 18 miles an hour for the final stretch up the hill.

We arrived at the summit (well second summit) for the day around 7:30 and could see down in the valley the town of Pendleton. We descended into town and were at camp at approximately 8pm. My totals for the day were 21 bottles of water, (30 lbs of water!) 12 pee breaks, 281 kilometers, 8 hours and 46 minutes ride time, 31.7 kph average speed. I estimated burning 8500 calories and ate approximately 5500 while on the bike. (2.9 times my BMR!)

The devotion last night with small groups pondered the wonder of a bicycle wheel, the different components working together to make an amazingly functional tool. The commentary suggested that for a cyclist perhaps a wheel is the kind of illustration we need to remind us what it is like to be members of the “Body of Christ”, our community of cyclists and believers. Well, the body of Christ is so called because it’s a fine example in itself of different parts working together. While there’s was a whole ton of effort put in by the leg muscles yesterday they did little complaining today. The effort put in by the mind yesterday was amazing, I could tell We’d put in a solid day’s effort of mental energy. The effort put in by the digestive system was amazing, while it started out taking everything I was throwing in it’s direction it eventually decided that it only wanted to process sugar, and in some sense that’s OK. But it didn’t get any reprieve when we rolled in to camp, it got to work hard for the next couple hours. The effort put in by my “seat area” is one that non-cyclists are always amazed at. Well I don’t typically like to admit that a bike seat can be anything other than comfortable, the final 50 kms riding with clothing saturated in sweat did put that notion to the test. If “hurting the next day” is the best way to measure the amount of effort put out, then the backside contribution takes the cake.

The question other cyclists around here like to ask when you mention that you’re not sitting comfortably today is “are you worn raw?”. Now I have no idea why someone in their right mind would ask that question when there is the potential of dealing with a “yes” response, but plenty did today none-the-less. Oh, and by the way the answer is no, I am quite content to keep riding thank you very much.

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