Friday, September 20, 2013

Day 4 August 19th Along Crab Creek

The Crucible
Coming into Smyrna and Goat Head Purgatory
Betsy hurt my back. The night was hot but we didn’t need the rain fly. We saw the space station again. There were no trains rolling by so we slept well. I was up at 4:30 to prep the bikes and make breakfast. It was going to be a long day. 100 yards out of camp I flatted. I replaced the tire with a non-slime tired and moved on. We were on farm road until the active line turned north to Royal Slope then we rejoined the abandon line heading west.

This was very beautiful farmland. Just west of Smyrna Mathew called out a flat. When we stopped he said you better have a look at your tires. Every tire was covered with goat’s heads. 26inchwheels had warned about this but I had forgotten. We were in a world of hurt. This is why we went with slime tubes but our bike slime tubes were worthless. The trailer tubes we made ourselves and they had lots of slime. Mathew was completely dejected. How do you repair dozens of holes with two tubes and limited patches? So one wheel at a time we pulled out the thorns and spun the wheels. Mathew’s wheels didn’t hold. My front wheel resealed and held and my back didn’t. We carefully pulled all the thorns out of Mathew tires with tweezers and replaced the tubes. We pulled the thorns out of my rear and started patching. We patched and rode and it would go flat again. We did this a few times and finally when it looked at its worst, I cut open one of our empty water jugs and filled it with water from my bladder to find all the holes. We patched the remaining 10 or so holes we found with patch pieces that we cut from our dwindling patches. We also repaired one of our holy spares. I kept the water pan and poured the dirty water into my empty bottle in case we needed it again.
Cut near Crab Creek

For those who will do this trip in the future, there is a white gate just west of Smyrna. Do not ride any trail east of this gate and you should miss the goat head zone.

Now we were on our last legs. Our bike tires have been repaired and are holding air. The trailer tires are still full of thorns. I decided to leave the thorns in the trailers and hoped they resealed as they leaked. If there was another patch of goat heads ahead, we were all done. We had one patched spare and a few patch pieces. All we could do was move on. I said a prayer to God and asked Joseph to pray with me as a father would do for his son. As I rolled over my bike, a pack of long forgotten old patches fell out of my saddle bag and I knew that we would be ok.
Tressel At Beverly
We pushed on having spent 2 hours on flats and still not at the Columbia River. When we arrived at the little town of Beverly on the Eastern shore of the Columbia it was noon and already very hot. We asked some workers for water and they let us use their hose and gave us two of the best apples I have ever eaten. We rested, had lunch and got ready for our climb up through the firing range.

The railroad trestle over the Columbia was locked and since Mathew did not get the combination, we would have had to ride about 20 miles around and over I-90 at Vantage. This was not an option so we climbed yet another and the hardest fence, walked our bikes across the mighty Columbia and set out on the long climb to Ellensburg. Since it is a railroad grade it is not steep. It climbs about 100ft per mile. However, it is at least 100 degrees, the wind is strong against, and the tread while not bad was still sand. This place is beautiful in its desolation. This would be a long day alone with our thoughts in the blistering heat.
Yakima firing Range notice the cuts in the distance

We slowly rode up in the heat stopping in patches of shade to eat, drink and rest. We constantly refigured the distance, climb, and time remaining until the top. We were excited to get to the top and ride down into Ellensburg fully expecting the evening Kittitas wind to be against us but still riding down to my daughter Sarah’s place with a shower, pizza, and my rebuilt bike. By now my back was hurting so much that I asked Mathew to take a pull in it. I was so glad to get on my old bike that fit well. Mathew’s first comments were, “How have you been riding this bike?” He took it to the top of the hill and let my back rest a while.
Tunnel at the top

We were excited to reach the top but our excitement was quickly tempered. Riding down to I-90 in a strong head wind, on tread that can only be described as cat litter, was harder than riding up. Our spirits waned greatly. It was getting late and a full night’s rest was slipping away. I was getting fearful that we might not make it to Ellensburg that night. There is a reroute around the trestle over I-90 and when we rejoined the trail 9 miles east of Ellensburg; I made an executive decision to ride the parallel road into town. Mathew didn’t like this idea but as it was, we arrived in Ellensburg after 9PM. Sarah had pizza waiting for us and the cleansing shower buoyed our spirits and helped us to sleep well that night.

Kititas Valley into the sunset

Stats for the day
63 miles 30miles short of goal
2,400ft ascent/1600ft descent
15hr 9min total time (longest day)
more pics can be found here

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