Welmoeds Big Ride Journal
Of course, preparation for the Big Ride started way before leaving for Seattle. I trained for a year (at least as much as time permitted), raised over $6,000 for the American Lung Association, arranged child care for my two kids for the summer, and tried to make sure my wonderful husband, Bob, would survive having to be both dad and mom to the kids for seven weeks. I thought about keeping a journal during the training period, but figured it wouldnt be terribly interesting who wants to read about training rides? So I decided to start the journal at the beginning of the adventure itself.
Friday, June 12, 1998
The Adventure Begins!
The day began far too early. Lingering cuddles with Bob so reluctant to part. But there was too much to do to stay in bed.
Most of the packing had been completed last night. I was trying to be terribly organized: outfits packed in plastic zip-lock baggies, clearly labeled. Absolutely everything was in a plastic bag, down to the vitamin pills and playing cards. I didnt want to take any chances with my stuff getting wet during the ride, since Im sure well have to face bad weather sooner or later.
Today was "loose ends day" getting the thank-yous mailed, making sure the bills were paid, answering final e-mails, stuffing last-minute items in odd unfilled corners of my duffel bags. I weighed them last night and came up with sixty pounds, so Ill be under the 70 pound allotment. Its still two bags, and the guidelines said you could only have one. But I dont think my back could take carrying one heavy bag after a day of biking. I have one duffel with my tent, sleeping bag and sleeping pad, and the other holds everything else. And, of course, Ive scrawled my name and rider number on everything.
All morning Bob and I kept turning to each other and hugging. Trying to build up a reservoir? It is hard to imagine such a long period of time without him, without the contact. How is it going to work? Will he be all right? Will the kids have a good summer? Will I feel guilty for being away? I really cant even guess at the answers.
At last it was time to leave for the airport. The weather didnt exactly instill confidence: heavy fog and threats of rain. Oh joy. After checking in at the counter and relinquishing my duffels and bike, bob got me into the US Airways Club. The parting wasnt drawn out; best get it over with. More hugs, but no tears. After they left I got a cup of coffee and took my Xanax (which my doctor had prescribed for anxiety, as I am a white-knuckle flyer).
At about quarter past three I ventured out to locate my gate. Its a good thing I checked, because they had changed my flight. The original flight was delayed and they had moved all the Maryland Big Riders to another flight to ensure we would make our connection in Pittsburgh.
At the gate, we were met by a few representatives from the Maryland ALA, who gave us packages with Team Maryland T-shirts, Maryland pins, address labels, postcard stamps and a Maryland flag. Then it was off to the plane.
The short hop was very choppy. Luckily the rider across the aisle from me, Bill, didnt mind having his hand squeezed during the worst parts. We barely made our connection; why is it that the less time you have to make your connecting flight, the further away it is? We were at opposite ends of the terminal and had less than ten minutes to sprint to the gate. And then the flight was delayed as we sat on the tarmac for about half an hour.
This flight was better, although it did have its moments. During the flight, Team Maryland started to forge bonds already. We became one of those loud, boisterous groups that other passengers frown at.
The last hour of the flight was the most awesome. We had a spectacular view of the snow-capped Cascades, as well as Mt. Rainier, Its just so beautiful, and well be riding through it in just a few days!
Margie Darling, daughter of my Honorary Rider Dick Darling, met me at the gate. We retrieved the luggage everything came through unscathed! Ive also made arrangements with Ted, one of the Team Maryland riders, to reassemble my bike tomorrow rather than wait until Sunday and have the Ride techs do it. Also, on the flight we hatched a plot to ensure that Chris, the German exchange student, will be able to do the ride. Hes way short of pledges and didnt even bring his bike! So now were trying to figure out how to get the bike to Seattle, or to Kennewick, or something.
Margies dog Chooch and cat Chuck are vying for my attention. I think Ill have Chuck for company tonight. The adrenaline is starting to wear off. Sightseeing tomorrow!
Saturday, June 13, 1998
My body is still on Eastern time! Woke up at around 5:30 to the tinkling of a windchime and the purring of an insistent cat. But the sleep was deep and very restful. Margie got up an hour later and walked the dog while I had an argument with the coffee machine and generally lazed about. Called Ted at his hotel and made arrangements to bring my bike to him for assembly at 9:30. Margie drove us to Starbucks for morning coffee, then dropped me at the Roosevelt Hotel (after a marvelous detour through the Pike Street Market) and I went up to Teds room. There were already two empty bike boxes in the hall, one more coming out, and at least four guys trying to start their day. I really am beginning to feel like Im back in college! Ted wont have to buy any of his own beer or food tonight; I think hes got at least five riders beholden to him for bike assembly.
Right now Ive just finished putting all the frills back on my bike and Margie and I are riding downtown for my shakedown ride and to have lunch at the fish market. Heaven knows it will be easier to park a bike in town than a car!
To say that the remainder of the day was hectic would be a vast understatement.
We biked to the Needle without incident. Ill say one thing for Seattle, it is pretty bike-friendly. And it felt very good to be back in the saddle again.
We parked at the Needle. Margie passed on going up (a problem with heights) and I admit to a moment of trepidation but I wasnt going to let the opportunity pass. It was glorious! The view wasnt clear but it was still stunning. I took a picture due east homeward bound! and imposed upon a tourist to take a picture of me with the Cascades in the background.
From the Needle we headed for the Pike Street Market. It was just too much! But even the sensory overload was fun. I got a big kick out of watching the fish throwers. I never did get too much to eat; I was to busy looking at everything. I also bought some salmon and some hot pepper jellies to be shipped home to Bob. Hope he likes them.
Events were catching up with me and we headed back for the apartment. We took a small detour to visit the Troll under the Fremont Bridge; I remember reading about its construction in Fine Homebuilding or one of those magazines. We also took a detour to a bike shop to replace the pump Bikes USA neglected to pack with my bike. Ill save the bill and get them to reimburse me for it. Then it was time for a rest, some reading and nibbling on a very nice Morbier I picked up at the market.
Margie dropped me off at Gameworks for the pre-ride party and suddenly I felt very alone among the groups. Everyone in line seemed to know someone else, and there I was on my own. But the feeling didnt last very long as people started snagging me in delighted recognition. I was able to attach faces to familiar names: Susan Bauer-Drake, Randy Wheeler, Leo Holly and Dick Ryan to name a few. The atmosphere was far too noisy and I had absolutely no desire to play the majority of the games, but I throat was raw from talking. I got one beer and never did get anything for dinner.
Tomorrow promises to be just a hectic. I need to get all my paperwork squared away and ready to hit the road not much later than 9 a.m. Ill probably stop for breakfast on the way in. Im biking to the center cant forget to ask Margie for a plastic bag. Itll be tough to relinquish my bike to security!
Ive been telling folks that I feel as if Im headed for the labor and delivery room its really happening, and I have to go through with it. Eeeek!
Sunday, June 14, 1998
Registration: Seattle City Center
What can I say about a day spent standing in lines?
I woke up early again and read for a while; managed to finish "Starship Troopers." By eight I was getting the wanders, so I decided to pull myself and my registration stuff together and head for town. That was a nice ride: very little traffic, cool and overcast.
When I got to the Center, there were already ten or so people waiting at bike check-in. They opened up the bike parking at around 8:30 and I parked my bike and went in search of coffee.
Back at the Exhibition Hall, the line was already forming to get in. I managed to locate Chris, the German exchange student. He and I stuck together the rest of the day, which was nice. He was still trying to drum up the $4000 he needed to make his pledge minimum. And he had a lot of company: from everything I could see, only about a third of the riders had made their minimums before arriving in Seattle. At eleven Chris was finally over the top, and we went inside to start the registration process, even though we hadnt found the other Maryland riders yet.
Then the waiting really started. We stood in the pledge line from around 11:30 until we got our turns at around 2:15. Lordy!
We headed for the mandatory safety video show at 2:30. And lo and behold, there was the Maryland crew. We sat through the video (which was alternately lame and scary) then went back to get our tent assignments so we could stay together. Meghan is my tent partner! The remainder of the process was quick, thankfully. There were still people in the pledge line when I left at four!
I went to bike parking to put my rider number on my bike, then posted my first e-mails at the Big Star truck. Then I hoofed over to where Margie was to pick me up.
I realized that all I had had to eat all day was an oat scone with my morning coffee. But I wasnt really hungry, just very tired and worn out. Margie to me to a brewpub near her house for a light dinner. The shrimp were pretty good: marinated with garlic, cumin and coriander, then boiled in beer. Then we split a veggie pizza with olives and whole cloves of roasted garlic. No vampires here!
Back at the apartment, I put a small load of laundry in. Bob called while Margie was walking Chooch. He related to woes of the power outage they were having due to a massive storm that swept through yesterday and downed lots of trees. They probably wont have power restored until Wednesday because all the outages elsewhere on major feeders. He ended up buying a generator and said its doing a fine job of keeping the house powered up.
So now Im waiting for the laundry to come out of the dryer, then Ill finish packing and lay my stuff out for tomorrow. Margie rented "As Good As It Gets" which I hadnt seen before, and Im watching it with half my attention. I was hoping to be asleep by nine but I know Im too nervous to relax.
Full of curiosity about tomorrow. The adventure of my life awaits!
Monday, June 15, 1998
Camp One: Easton, Washington
Im not sure if I want to write about today or simply try to blank most of it from memory. But here goes.
I woke up at 4:00 a.m. after much too little sleep. Most of my gear was packed so it was pretty short work to get ready to go. I asked Margie if I should pull out my cold weather gear for the ride into the Pass. She said, "Oh no, itll be nice up there this afternoon."
Mistake Number One: Listening to Margie.
We got down to the Center in plenty of time. The gear trucks were lined up in the parking lot to receive our duffels. There was an air of general confusion, and it felt as if we were all getting ready to be shipped out to summer camp. But spirits were high, the weather seemed poised to cooperate and the excitement was palpable. I met up with Chris, whose bike had been shipped to Seattle the day before by his host family! Seems they had more faith in him than he did. So that was one less thing to worry about.
In the stadium, I went in search of something to eat as we had been told a "light breakfast" would be available. Well, it was very light. By the time I got up to the concourse the bananas were gone, there were a few apples, some orange juice and coffee dregs. Not too encouraging. But I gleaned enough to satisfy myself, butterflies notwithstanding.
Opening ceremonies were nice; I cried. Dan Pallotta spoke about his first cross-country trip, and there was a moving bit with a riderless bicycle led to the stage. The music was very nice too. I went to get my bike and was still crying; now I was starting to feel homesick already.
Ride-out didnt happen until close to 7 (I think wasnt paying much attention to the clock!) but so what; it was great to be cheered by the crowds! We left the city via streets blocked of by police. That was really neat. And one of the best views came when crossing the "floating bridge" out of the city.
At mile eleven I got my first flat tire (by no means the first of the ride: the honor went to a rider not two blocks out from the starting line!) caused by riding over some glass on the bike trail. Two kind souls helped me change the tube and I got underway within about fifteen minutes.
At about mile 18 the first real hill began. I ended up walking most of it but I had company. There were also some steep descents, which were really scary, especially since I had lost my mirror at registration. There were a few kamikaze trucks, but most of the roads had good shoulders.
I pulled into pit one at around 10:30 and was demoralized on two counts: hearing that the number of riders was only 730 and not the 1200 I had thought, and hearing that there were only 35 riders behind me. I really hadnt counted on being in the straggler group so early on in the day. Plus, there was no more Ultima or snacks, just water and oranges. The earlier riders had snatched up everything. Total bummer.
I made the "one mile steep climb" up to Snoqualmie Falls and stopped to sightsee. I was crying a lot by then: homesick, sore, scared and alone. At the falls I was comforted and reassured by three other riders, and that did help get me through the day. So I went on. Two bike shops I passed along the way failed to have a replacement mirror; Im hoping Ill find one in Yakima.
One highlight of the day was stopping in North Bend. On one corner was Twebes Restaurant: "Home of Twin Peaks Pie." So I went in and had pie and coffee at the restaurant where the series was filmed. And it was pretty good pie, if you go for pie.
At Pit 2 I began to realize that I was way underdressed for the weather. The temperature wasnt much more than 50 and it was damp. The weather report from further up the pass was worse. And maybe I wimped out; I was cold. After some thought I asked to be swept to Pit 3.
I ended up riding shotgun in one of the sweep vans. On the way up we encountered two more cyclists in trouble and picked them up. One was a triathlete who Im not sure will be able to ride again: she pretty much blew her knee out and had to be carried out of the van. We got up to Pit 3 at the top of the pass and it looked like a war zone: there were riders huddled under the tents, stuffing food in their mouths and pockets, wrapping their chests and feet in mylar to ward off the cold. Meanwhile theres freezing rain falling and an ambulance has just pulled out to pick up a rider injured in a fall on the slick roads. Is this supposed to be fun? One of the pit crew saw me with my bike, wearing just my jersey and shorts, and came to offer me some mylar so I could keep riding. Um, no. I declined and asked to be brought to camp. Hey, Im not an idiot!
I got to camp around four, and the rain had let up for a while. The ground was damp but not too muddy. Everything was set up but finding stuff was interesting. The gear trucks were a heck of a long way away from the tent sites, and trying to decipher the grid system of tent addresses simply added to the confusion. A lot of riders were operating under mild hypothermia anyway, so this just added to the general stress level. But all in all, I kind of figure that its trial by fire. But it certainly pointed out that the ride management wasnt as well prepared as they probably should have been.
I got my tent set up and promptly had a pity party in it. I cried and called Bob, wailing about this big mistake I made in coming on the ride, and how I wasnt able to do it, and how disappointed I was with myself for not riding more (I did 40 miles today). His response was to tell me I had to go out and help other people set up their tents; there were other people who were more tired than I was and needed my help.
Not ten minutes later a crew member came by with a megaphone and a general plea for help: riders coming in needed help moving gear, pitching tents and getting warm. So I went off and helped. I pitched tents, lugged gear, brought ice to the medical tent, tucked in thermal blankets and played gofer. Eventually I just stayed at the medical tent to assist. My god, but there were a lot of hurting people. At least a dozen came in wondering why they couldnt seem to get warm even when they were in their sleeping bags; they were issued mylar blankets, hot water and a seat in the warm-up van.
During this whole ordeal (I started helping around 5 and now its 9:30 and Im sipping the first drink Ive had since dinner) I realized Im simply not prepared to ride tomorrow. The forecast is for more of the same; tonights temp is going toe be in the mid-30s. So I offered to crew tomorrow at the medical tent, which was gratefully accepted. I just cant see going down I-90 in the rain. Even some very good riders had accidents today.
So the upshot of today was that I found a way to be a part of the ride and no one thinks less of me for it. And thats a wonderful feeling. And with that, Im going to get ready for bed.
Tuesday, June 16, 1998
Camp 2: Yakima, Washington
I feel a lot better today, both physically and mentally.
I got up at the unholy hour of 4:10 a.m. after not terribly much sleep. Ate breakfast (eggs, bacon, potatoes, yogurt, coffee) and packed up my gear. Then I went to the medical tent and started working. There were a variety of jobs to be done, from tracking down medications in the truck (talk about disorganization!) to improvising fingertip bandages for a rider with frostbitten fingers that would allow her to ride today. I was also sent in search of someone who could put gasoline in the generators so the asthmatic riders could get nebulizer treatments. Finally I tracked down an outlet at the shower truck, and was sitting there with Marina while she took her treatment, when an ambulance pulled up and loaded a rider who had been complaining of chest pains. They swung by me and the driver yelled at me to come on board; they wanted someone else from the ride to go along, and I was the most dispensable at that point. So I got to speed down I-90 to the little clinic in Cle Elum at 95 miles an hour, with the siren screaming. Of course the guy was fine; the nurses in the medical tent just werent taking any chances.
Once Chip got the all-clear from the doctor, I called Dispatch and they sent Gene Montalban to pick us up in Taxi One (which should have been called Taxi Only!). He brought us straight to the next camp at Yakima. The scenery along the way was gorgeous, but looking at some of the descents I was again glad I had decided to sag.
Camp was barely set up, and my gear (purse, bags, etc.) was, I hoped on the medical truck. But the medical truck hadnt yet arrived. I helped set up Camp Services, then Gene came by and said he was taking a rider to a bike shop and asked if I wanted to come along. Yeah! So I was able to pick up a new mirror, tire irons, and kevlar tire liners.
When I got back to camp I checked my bike out of parking and was horrified to discover the chain had rusted! So I spent some time in the shade with my degreaser, scrub brush and lube (Im so glad I brought my own; the tech tent had none!). Meanwhile a camera crew from the local television station came by and shot some footage of me arguing with the chain. Once I was done cleaning, I left the bike at the tech tent to have the rear derailleur fixed (it wont shift into the biggest ring) and the tire liners installed.
Im now relaxing after a massage, shower and dinner. Tonight Im going to repack my bags, now that I can spread out a bit and take visual inventory. I need to re-evaluate what I take with me on the bike tomorrow. Im looking forward to getting to Kennewich; Im going to see Diane Ohl, whom I havent seen in years. Im also going to write some post cards. I just hope this nice weather holds up. Tonight Im drinking a lot of water, and Ill have a bottle on my bike as well, thanks to Chip, who gave me an extra bottle cage. Ill use that cage for a bottle of Ultima, even if it tastes like crap.
Hey, Im a Big Rider!
Wednesday, June 17, 1998
Camp 3: Kennewick, Washington
Woke up shortly before five absolutely convinced there was a critter eating my gear. It turned out to be the rider behind me packing up his gear and crinkling his plastic baggies. Well, I was awake anyway, so I got up and got the day started.
Breakfast was good, as usual. I was planning to ride out with Chip, but somehow we missed each other at bike parking, so I rode out on my own. Getting out of Yakima was ugly, but once we were on Rt. 24 it was pretty: hop farms, vineyards and apple orchards on both sides. Pit 1 was lovely: a homeowner had donated the use of his driveway and yard, which had a pond and a lovely view of Mt. Rainier. I suggested the riders sign a thank-you card, so the pit crew found a piece of poster board and people started to sign it. I also called Bob from the pit with my own phone and we chatted for a while; that was nice.
The ride from Pit 1 to Pit 2 was glorious: incredible scenery, flat roads, wide shoulders, very little traffic. At one point I was spinning along at 20 mph! I rolled into Pit 2 feeling like I could tackle the world. I only had a little soreness in my left knee, which wasnt too bad. I was dreading the hill out of the pit, though: a 2.5-mile climb.
Just before I left the pit, one of the crew announced that there were stiff headwinds to Pit 3 and reminded us to hydrate well. I had already been drinking a lot; I drained two reservoirs by that time.
I left the pit and really just breezed up the steep climb; it wasnt bad at all. Then I gingerly made my way down the 2-mile descent. There were no headwinds; I thought they were bluffing. But then the headwinds hit, and hit hard. Ive heard reports that they were up to 40mph. And the road surface changed from smooth asphalt to slightly exposed aggregate, so the going was bumpy. And the road was straight as an arrow, drawn with a chalkline. And whats worse, it was through desert terrain, through the Hanford nuclear facility. Boring scenery to put it mildly.
I made it to the first water stop at 15 miles out of Pit 2; those miles took me nearly two hours. Ive never had to work so hard to maintain 10mph on a level course. I even had to pedal on the slight downhills to keep from losing too much momentum! And I wasnt feeling well: nauseous and sleepy. I pulled into the water stop and they said I was suffering from heat exhaustion. So I sat in the van and cooled off, then took a pee behind the van (boy, I envy the guys its so easy for them!). Back out front, I took off my shirt and soaked it with water. Putting it back on felt like wrapping myself in an ice cube! Delicious. Of course, within five minutes I was bone-dry again.
I was able to ride another ten miles, but then my poor bottom was so sore and my hands were getting numb, so I sagged into Pit 3 which was a mere 2 miles ahead. I had thought it was further out. Once I was at the pit, I briefly considered trying to bike to camp, but decided against battling those headwinds again and sagged to camp in a full bus.
Chris (not the exchange student, but the tall one from Pennsylvania) set up my tent for me, the dear. After a shower I felt almost human. I went to Camp Services to check for e-mail and there were several! And what a delight! they had roses waiting for me, courtesy of Bob. Now Im the envy of my tent section.
Im looking forward to some down time tomorrow: writing postcards and such. Tomorrow at 4 Diane Ohl is picking me up for dinner/swimming/laundry. Meghan and Bill may come; were sort of trying to turn it into a birthday party for John Morris, who turns 31 tomorrow.
Hm, its getting late 10pm already. Time to get ready for bed!
Thursday, June 18, 1998
Day 4 Rest Day
Camp 3: Kennewick, Washington
Today was our first rest day. I woke up "late" 6:30 a.m.! It was hard to hang around the camp until the stores opened, and I spent a bit of time wandering around looking at things. Still getting used to the flow of life! Since the layout is different at every campsite, you have to spend the first half hour just finding where the showers are, which are the nearest porta-potties, where is the meal tent, wheres Camp Services, etc. At least this is a very nice campsite, with lots of trees and shade next to the Columbia River. I hope theyre all this nice!
I actually rode my bike to get around town today; a lot of riders wouldnt go anywhere near theirs. I went to the mall to get my first roll of pictures developed. It was so weird recognizing people by their wristbands (Blue for rider, yellow for crew, green for vegetarian, and pale blue or red for the lunch program)! I found some postcards and otherwise wasted time until I could pick up my pictures. My next stop was the bike shop, which was already mobbed. I guess I could have expected that! I bought a new saddle (my present one is simply much too soft) and new gloves (the gel in my old ones has deteriorated). Then it was back to camp, where I installed the new saddle and spent a pleasant hour by the edge of the river, reading, writing postcards and munching on some cherries.
I met Diane at Camp Services at four and we went back to her house, where we watched her kids swim like fish in their pool while I did laundry and she put dinner on. As much fun as it was, I couldnt make it too late, so she took me back to camp at around 7:30. I also gave her some things to mail back home (of course I overpacked. Everyone did.) like my extra raincoat and the handlebar bag, plus some of my books.
Then it was time to pack up and get ready for tomorrow. Im glad I put things in plastic bags because getting them back where they belong is a real no-brainer! Each baggie holds a complete outfit, so all I have to do is pull out one baggie and thats it.
Im debating taking my tent fly off because its such a pretty night, but I dont think Ill take the chance. Im sipping my evening tea (Jasmine Blossom; our wonderful caterer has thought of everything!) and winding down from the day; now I think Ill read for a few minutes and then call it a night. Going to try and do the whole route tomorrow!
Friday, June 19, 1998
Camp 4: Dayton, Washington
Oh, Im so glad I listened to the little voice last night and left the rain fly on. I woke to the sound of zippers and assumed it was morning; lo and behold, it was only 2:30 a.m. and people were scrambling to put on their rain flies because it was pouring. I stayed dry and warm and went back to sleep, waking about ten seconds before my alarm was due to go off.
It was still raining, so I got a cup of coffee and breakfast, then went back to the tent to pack and organize. I took my time, hoping the rain would end, and sure enough it did. So I was able to take my tent down without having to wring it out. I also helped Kathleen take her tent down, since she broke her finger yesterday in a spill coming into camp (and boy, is she embarrassed about that!). Then I headed out.
It was a fun ride. The first segment was along the Columbia River and had some nasty headwinds, which was quite tiring. Pulled into Pit 1 shortly after 9:30 a.m. It was cool, but tolerable. They had a "mail drop" for postcards, and they said there would be one at every first pit from then on. No more searching for mailboxes! So I was able to mail all nineteen of my postcards. I left the pit after about an hour; they promised tailwinds were just ahead.
About ten miles before Walla Walla and Pit 2 I was really dragging. My butt hurt, my shoulder hurt, my foot was cramping. Another rider, John from Seattle (with the neat tattoo on his arm), rode alongside me and kept me company (and distracted me) all the way to Pit 2. He is so kind; we shared our histories and talked a lot as we rode. The highlight of coming into Walla Walla was the incredible fragrance of the onion fields. Yum!!!
At Pit 2 I seriously considered sagging, but decided (after some ice and ibu) that I would attempt to go on. So I did, and started feeling better after a few more miles. I stopped at Klinkers for a peppermint ice cream (mmmm good!) and later on stopped at a little grocery store in Dixie for a snack. That was a great rest stop; Jed and I swapped neck rubs, I had a Red Bull Energy Drink, and we were all mentally gearing ourselves up for the long, slow climb out of Dixie.
Well, I started really well up the climb and got probably 2/3 of the way up before getting off and walking. Then came a glorious downhill, which I was able to relax and enjoy after a while. Sailed into Pit 3 in Waitsburg at 4:50, which meant a very short pit stop. Went back out in a good mood and headed for camp. For some reason my intestines started to act up. I stopped in Dayton before reaching camp and called Bob from a pay phone, but had to cut the call short for natures call. Slogged the final blocks to camp and received my cheering welcome; this was the first day I completed all the miles!
Went to find my tent site, only to discover that the place was spread out a lot. The food and showers were near the entrance, while the tents and gear trucks were a quarter mile walk down the path. Sheesh! Havent we gotten enough exercise for one day?!?
Chris had put my gear in my space, which was sweet. Meghan helped assemble my tent, then I got stuff together to shower and eat. Picked up my e-mails; the Gazette wants to do an article about me! Dinner was great: chicken cordon bleu. The shower felt wonderful, then I went to medical for help with my shoulder and tummy. Im feeling better now.
The evenings entertainment was a rock-climbing rescue above the campsite. The tents are set up at the base of a really steep cliff, and three riders decided it would be fun to climb the cliff after dinner. But once they got about halfway up they got stuck, and various emergency equipment and people had to be called. They ended up being guided up the rest of the cliff. I couldnt tell who they were, but Ill be theyre feeling sheepish right now!
Its getting downright nippy now, and I need to remember to retrieve my long tights from the lost and found tomorrow (I left them in the van at the water stop in the desert stretch on day 3). Right now I want to read for a few minutes, then go to sleep.
Saturday, June 20, 1998
Camp 5: Lewiston, Idaho
Today was sort of up-down-sideways. I woke up not feeling all that terrific, and dreading the long walk to the meal tent. So I packed everything up first and put it on the truck, and then went to breakfast. This way I didnt have to come back to the tent after breakfast; I could get right on the road and go!
I was moving really slowly, not really into the idea of riding. But somehow (after some Tylenol at Medical) I decided to just try for Pit 1. And I made it, pretty easily: it wasnt even 9 a.m. yet. But the ride to Pit 2 wasnt as nice; I had to walk one of the hills. I got to Pit 2 shortly after noon and stayed an hour. In retrospect, I stayed too long.
The long climb up Alpowa Summit was grueling. At one point the caboose caught up with me (thats the very last vehicle of the ride; it is not allowed to pass riders), which was really discouraging. However, seeing it gave me the spurt of motivation to get on with the climb. Eventually (after much walking) I made it to the top and celebrated with Nancy, the wonderful woman who rode with me and encouraged me all the way up. We took pictures at the summit sign and marveled at the view: from there you could see straight into Montana!
Then we started the Long Drop. It was a seven-mile descent, and Nancy went ahead because she was much more comfortable with high speeds, unlike me. Luckily there was not much traffic. One of the unpleasant things was hand-written signs stuck up on some of the posts with messages like "Bicycles make great targets" and "Bicycles dont pay highway taxes so get the **** off the road!" Such a heart-warming welcome as we approached Idaho.
I stopped a few times during the descent to uncramp my hands and was struck by how quiet it was: the occasional bird, perhaps, but that was it. I really got the feeling I was alone in the world, and it was quite spooky.
Nancy and I arrived at Pit 3 just as it was closing, so we sat outside to rest (to avoid an automatic sag) with a few other riders, chatting with a local about the Ride. I really wanted to make the Idaho border under my own steam, but a rude remark from a passing motorist, coupled with the increasing traffic and my sense of isolation because I didnt have any other riders nearby, convinced me to flag down the next sag van, even though there was only ten miles to go. One positive note: sagging meant I managed to miss the Killer Hill (a 12% grade!!). But well go down it tomorrow morning.
I was disappointed that coming in so late meant I didnt have the time (or energy) to take advantage of the pool across the street. Wonder if Ill ever get the chance to use my bathing suit?
Home Sweet Home in Tent City
Although we were in a different camp site every night (apart from rest days), there was a comforting sameness to camp life. When you rode into camp, your first stop would be bike parking. Here you were checked in (or, later on in the ride, you checked yourself in, because there werent enough volunteers to do it), and you could park your bike in one of the rows of racks. The next step was doing a quick survey of the layout of the camp: where were the tent sites, where were the gear trucks, where were the showers, the meal tent, the medical tent, camp services tent. Some camp sites were compact and well laid-out, like the one in Kennewick. Others werent as convenient, like Dayton.
Once you had an idea where everything was to be found, the logical next step was getting settled. The camp sites were laid out on a grid pattern. Every rider was assigned a tent site number; mine was I-44. That meant that my gear was stored on the "I" truck, and once I retrieved my bags from the truck I took them to the spot with my number on it. For the first part of the ride I simply camped in my assigned spot because it simply didnt occur to me not to; later on I became a "tent rebel" and selected my own campsite. I usually did this at sites where my assigned spot was simply too far a hike from the gear truck, or I simply wanted a little more elbow room around the tent than my allotted 8-by-8 foot space allowed.
Once my gear was up my next stop was generally the shower trucks. These were two custom trailers outfitted with eight shower stalls each, plus a changing area. Outside the showers were wash-up areas for shaving, brushing teeth, etc.
After a nice shower I would head for the food. Our meals were prepared by the OKs Cascade Catering Company, which had its own fleet of trucks. Dinner was served from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m., although their beverage station was always open. The dinners werent fancy but the food was plentiful and there was a pretty good variety as well. Apart from the serving line was the beverage/condiment tent, where they had coffee, tea, milk, juice, water, cocoa and Gatorade. The dining area was usually under a big open tent, filled with long tables seating eight to ten each. It was always loud and I always found someone interesting to sit with.
Every night at 7:30 p.m. there would be announcements. These would be presented by Hammer, the route manager (who was pretty reluctant to reveal her real name; she said it once and I forgot) and interpreted in ASL by Allison. Announcements usually included important information about the days goings-on during the ride, especially safety issues, and provided information about the upcoming days route.
After announcements I would usually get a cup of Jasmine tea from the beverage tent (they had a really good selection of herbal teas) back to my tent, where I would call Bob if I was in cellular range, write in my journal, or sometimes read. I think I read as many as ten books during the entire ride, but then again I am a very fast reader. There was an informal book exchange at Camp Services, and the best book I picked up there was "Into Thin Air." That copy got passed around to several riders during the ride. (More about Camp Services later)
There was an official "quiet hour", which was 9:00 p.m. At that time, loud conversation and music was supposed to cease. This was usually respected, more or less, although there were nights when the noise went on until ten or later. But that didnt happen very often.
I usually woke at five in the morning and got my breakfast first, to allow time for it to digest. Then I would pack up my gear, load it onto the truck, fill my camelbak, pump up my tires, pick up the days route map, and hit the road!
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