42.8 mi / 10.3 mph / 1415 ft. climbing
Home: Rose River Inn Bed & Breakfast
43 miles, a bunch of hills, and not a single bit of services between our endpoints. We knew that almost-desert Eastern Washington has super-empty wide-open spaces, but apparently southwestern Washington does too.
That means the day was pretty uneventful until it got super-eventful. Heading out from our stealth lunch spot on someone’s for-sale land, I suddenly noticed my rear tire was really soft. It wasn’t totally flat, so I pumped it up and figured I’d see what happened. But before there was barely time for any air to leak out, Rett’s front tire completely blew out. Front tire blowouts are the most dangerous kind, and for someone who had never experienced such a terror (may we all be so lucky) she did an astounding job of keeping her heavy bike under control on the downhill and bringing it to a stop. For two people who haven’t had a flat tire between us for literally years, this was some fucked up shit.
Rett went back and found it must have been a rock in the shoulder with a really sharp edge that rolled up and sliced a half-inch gash through both the tube, and worse, the tire sidewall. I remembered the old-school cyclist trick of using a dollar bill as a boot inside the to keep the tube from herniating itself out the hole, and then also eventually remembered that I’d tried my hardest to make our two bikes use compatible parts, so I could reap some early dividends from that choice by putting her dodgy tire onto my bike, since I’d still probably be more capable of handling a catastrophic failure at the wrong place.
And there would be few places more wrong than the Astoria-Megler bridge. That’s the one that connects Washington to Oregon across the gaping mouth of the Columbia River: 4.1 miles long, with no real shoulder, definitely no place to stop, and a 200 ft., 5% climb at the end. I would have been nervous about it even with 100% whole tires, and the fact that we had been struggling through headwinds (something that we never experienced in our home-base rides around Puget Sound, which disconcertingly has almost no wind) meant that our mental and physical state was not 100% either. I at least finally patched my leaky rear, we downed some sugar, and then we went at it.
As we turned on the long ribbon laid across the water, with Rett’s Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack playing from her phone, it was somehow obvious to me that her pained grimace had turned into a giant grin, even though I ride behind her and can only see her back, and even though such a mood change made no sense to me. That’s how much her body-language changed. Well, and maybe it made a little sense. It was a one-of-a-kind ride, with water all around, pelicans keeping pace alongside us, and the world’s most visible road incline rising ahead of us.
Even better, part of the way through, I saw another cyclist catching up to us fast from behind. It was Nik, the guy we had met on the road yesterday! He had seen us from a distance turning onto the bridge and raced to catch us. Even with the narrow space, it was great fun having the three of us together fighting off the traffic and conquering the challenge. And he got some great footage of us in a place that’s almost impossible to make any record of your presence.
And, our tires held! We made it to Oregon! Our second state, leaving 48 to go. We celebrated with Nik at the bottom of the bridge, and then headed to our well-deserved B&B after making it through Washington in our sort-of-planned 4 days, despite some deviations, over and above the earlier deviations that prevented us from being as prepared for this than we should have been. Something we’re both proud of that shows we already have more strength than we knew.