I know what it feel safe like to walk on these stairs….
It’s called Sherman’s Pass…
Today I decide to go it alone…there is something important about doing these four rides by myself. My mother always said “ You are born alone and you die alone…That’s life”…a tad pessimistic for me but I would add “ You also climb mountains by yourself”.
The Wildflowers have done so well that they do not need my help at this time and I can revert to White Rabbit Mode.
I leave early at 6 after a cinnamon roll and coffee at the Lodge. I am blessed with no traffic on a Sunday morning and speed downhill to the Town of Coleville 30 miles away on the Valley Floor.
Colevill has a notorious history as the most violent town in Washington during early logging and mining days. Local authorities could do nothing to stem the crime so federal troops were brought in. And the solution that brought the violence to an end? All the private stills in town were burned to the ground…
Today Coleville is very quiet as I coast in stopping at a Safeway to eat a blueberry scone, and to stock up on water since I will have no help today. I manage to get nearly five liters of water to carry on my back along with 3 bananas which I will ration out on the climb.
I drop down farther towards Kettle Falls and cross the Great Columbia River just as it enters Lake Roosevelt to the South.
I admire the wide expanse and begin to head up…at about 200 yards to my right a Huckleberry Bush is bursting at the seams with fruit “Come pick me clean!”
I smile but ride on…
The first 8 miles goes smoothly at a gentle 5-6 degree climb. I am shaded most of the time by hardwood and evergreen forests. I stop a third the way up and drink a bottle of water and each a snack.
I text back to tell the route leaders that I am safe…having switched from White Rabbit Mode to Mountain Goat Stance.
8 miles later the ascent steepens and I stop again to drink my ration of water and eat my second banana. By now the sun has risen high in the sky and so too have the temperatures climbed…my pace here is slow 5.5 mph and as I look to the ground I can see I am leaving a thin trail of sweat.
At 19 miles I must again rest and drink my second to last bottle of water and eat my last banana along with a nasty tasting protein bar.
At 20 miles the ascent steepens again and the sweat flows faster than the fluid I am drinking in. Now I must stop every two miles to rest a bit…never more than 3-4 minutes at each stop.
At 23 miles I see the support van coming down the Mountain Pass from the otherside for water help. I do not know how anyone can still have something to drink…they are 7-8 miles behind me and none use a camel pack. He motions to me from ahead to see if I need water but I still have a half a bottle left so I tell him to go down to help others in need.
At 24 miles I know I must be somewhere near the top…I can feel Zephyrus’s breath gently cooling my face. Finally I see the sign for our rest stop near the top
and pull in to find the second van parked under the shade in a small park. With GREAT relief I pull in and drag myself off my bike…dripping sweat like having left a sauna bath. I find a chair and sit…my legs feel like spaghetti and I can barely move them much less walk.
I drink a liter of water, eat some dried pineapple, and rest a bit. After 15 minutes I decide to head down.
Within 1 minute I am up to 30 mph and carefully guiding my bike through the curves before my eyes. I use brakes here, no pedals, and concentrate on balance and quickening speed with each curve. I keep myself below 30 mph for the next 30 minutes…
This may seem like an easy phase to you dear reader, coasting down, but imagine yourself sitting still for a half hour with total concentration on the road foot by foot in an effort to stay alive…the mental work is beyond belief…this is not living in the moment, this is living in the nanosecond of time.
14 miles down I enter a curve to feel a hot blast rising from the valley floor below. These headwinds act as an airbreake and slow me down to 19 mph.
I remember there is a small cafe just before our park and as it comes into view I decide to pull in to eat…I am at 83 miles and have had at best 700 calories all day…
Being a White Rabbit without a support van is not a romantic life…believe me…in fact it is a little insane.
As I sit down at the table in the small Cafe the waitress approaches and asks what I would like…
My thinking is a little clouded, was probably about to Bonk…” Just bring me something and a lot of it to eat”.
She smiles, probably “been there, done that”, with cyclists coming down the Mountains Pass…” I’ll bring you a club sandwich and fries if that’s is ok with you”
I nod…anything would be OK with me.
I cannot finish the sandwich, it is so huge, so I take the rest with me just down the road to a Park where we stay the night.
Over the next three hours all the rest roll in and collapse on the lawns in the shade, each in different stages of exhaustion, some famished, some not, some about to bonk, some not, all with stories of running out of water on Sherman Pass…but one and all we have mastere this test…
Pour reward? Chalk one up, tomorrow we all get on our bikes and do it again…