Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Out of the Desert, Onto an Airplane

1100 Miles down!  After 3 weeks of pedaling, I take a short break.  Check out this link to see my route so far:

Blog Day 20: Richland, WA to Palouse Falls State Park: 79.6 Miles

Another incredible day! I continue to enjoy all of the wonderful little things that this trip is helping me to see. Today I noticed grasshoppers – thousands of them- jumping out of the way of my wheels as I rode through endless wheat fields in the desert southeast of Washington. They sit, sometimes in little clumps, all over the road. I think it may be mating season, but I also see some grasshoppers hanging out next to dead ones that have been squished on the road. This intrigues me.

A tumbleweed chased me for 100 yards up the side of a canyon while I rode slowly up a hill.

I stopped to take photos of an abandoned farm house in the middle of nowhere.

I stopped in the shade by the side of a pesticide warehouse, where I met 2 guys working there. They were friendly and smiley, even though they were the only signs of human life for 30 miles in either direction.

I gazed upon vast, open, empty planes of grass that seemed never ending. Some of them were wheat, but most were a mix of invasive European grasses and yellow star thistle. I stopped to contemplate what a Ranger at Pinnacles National Monument had told me once about the yellow blossoms of star thistle being so attractive to honey bees that they neglected to pollinate native species because they were too busy with the star thistle.

I rode into the Lyon's Ferry Canyon, the Snake river winding through, an elevated train bridge rattling with constant traffic crossing the river next to me. The canyon walls of steep, red basalt contrasted with the green trees lining the river and the cool, blue water. Fluffy white clouds floated in the sky. An Osprey chased me away from its next on top of the bridge as I crossed.

My day is ending in the campsite of a Pastor and his son, who invited me to camp with them after I asked them if they'd be interested in splitting a site with me. David, the father, immediately invited me to camp, refused my money, and gave me a hearty dinner of steak, potatoes and carrots. It was tasty, timely and so incredibly kind. We are camped at Palouse Falls State park, home of 198 ft. high Palouse Falls. They have made me feel welcome, and we just finished roasting marshmallows around the fire.

Day 21: Palouse Falls to Coffeepot Lake: 93.1 miles

Tired. Today I pedaled for 8 hours and 26 minutes. This is the time I spent on the bike, actually pushing my legs around and around. I went 93 miles and ascended 4962 vertical feet. Not all at once, but over the course of the day.

Some people might question a guy riding a bike uphill through the middle of nowhere in the desert in July. I saw opportunity in the challenge.

My skin is about 5 shades darker, with tan lines that would make fake tanners jealous.

I stopped at 3 homes to fill up with water (I drank over 6 quarts today), because homes were the only human development along most of my route, and there were no streams.  At the first, an old man opened the door, I asked to fill up, and he pointed at the faucet outside next to the doorway. Simple. At the second, I was greeted by 2 dogs, one semi-friendly who walked up to me after a few barks, and then went back to lay down in the shade. The other dog was attached to a serious chain, and went totally nuts barking and growling and snarling at me. I was glad to be out of range of the chain. I heard other dogs barking behind a fence, but could only see a nose and some ears. I stood in the driveway, waiting for someone to come quiet down the racket of the over-excited barking dog, but no one ever did. I looked around for an accessible hose, but only saw one behind the fence, where more dogs were hidden. On my way out of that driveway, I noticed at least 4 other dogs barking at me from behind a chainlink fence, most in a rather unfriendly way. I guess no one was home. At the third home, I met a nice young lady who was happy to let me fill up from her outside faucet. The houses are all on wells, and the water tastes very good. After a short conversation about her parents who sell machinery to wheat farmers (I had been surrounded by wheat fields all day), I departed.

Tonight I am camped at Coffeepot lake, a BLM managed site used primarily by fisherman. In the most unlikely place, Coffeepot lake simply appears in the middle of the desert, and is surrounded by picturesque basalt cliffs in a small canyon. Tomorrow, I will jump in before I leave.

Day 22: Coffeepot Lake to Spokane, WA: 69.3 miles

I completed my 1000th mile of the trip yesterday. Today was more of the same. Coffeepot lake, with its cool waters, green vegetation and flocks of birds, is a far cry from most of Eastern Washington. Wheat fields and fluffy clouds filled my eyes all day. I sprinted the last 15 miles to Spokane (averaging 18mph) to make it to the post office in time to collect the package that I mailed to myself general delivery from Ashland. It felt good, and my legs feel strong enough to climb the rockies. I am ready for this 4 day break. The most time-crunched portion of the trip is now over.

I got a nice look at downtown Spokane on my way to the home of Ian Farquhar and Michelle McRory, whom I worked with for many seasons at Naturalists At Large.

Ian and Michelle are in a comfortable apartment in the northern neighborhoods of the city. They have a crowd of vegetable and flower pots on their back patio, and an uncluttered feel to their abode. They were already cooking dinner when I arrived, and we chowed down on grilled turkey burgers, potatoes and breaded zuchini sticks followed by cookies and ice-cream. It was a wonderful meal to be welcomed with. Tomorrow, I fly to Minnesota after running some errands in town. You'll hear from me again soon!

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