Thursday, June 27, 2013

June 26, 2013: MIM Day 11, Dayton WA to Hermiston OR

Having rested up for a day, I suprised Fred by appearing right on time to ride out at 7:30. We were looking at an 85 mile day, so we wanted to be sure to get an early start. The air was cool and the sky was overcast, but it was not raining and there was no wind. The first 45 miles was a slight downhill and we made the best of it, finishing that first section in less than three hours. US Highway 12 (which has been our primary route since turning onto it a week ago in Lolo, MT) morphed into a four lane, divided highway with broad, smooth shoulders as we passed through Walla Walla, WA. Eventually, it returned to its usual format as we got back into the more rural areas. We stopped at a convenience store in Touchet, WA for 15 minutes or so, then it was back on the bikes to finish our time on US 12 and start several days of riding along the Columbia River. Worth mentioning is that a seemingly unending array of wind turbines sat up on the ridge a couple of miles to the left of the highway. Very few of the blades were turning at all, a testament to our good fortune wind-wise.

The Northwest's answer to sweet Vidalia onions.
In other respects, the weather was not quite as welcoming. The sky was getting darker and the air was getting cooler as the clouds thickened. Rain threatened, but never amounted to more than a few drops here and there -- not enough for any of the oncoming drivers to bother to switch on their wipers. We finally reached the intersection of US 12 and US 730, the latter being our route west along the south bank of the Columbia. 

First look at the great and historic Columbia River. Note the heavy, gray sky. 
Unfortunately, 730 has much narrower shoulders, and far more traffic. The number of trucks was rather  alarming at times, and the amount of oncoming traffic often prevented them from moving over, assuming at least some of them would have done so if it had been possible. There was one place where the shoulder all but disappeared as the road went up and around a blind curve. I was in front and tried to time our arrival at that part of the road so that there were no trucks coming up behind us right then. The only safe option was to take the lane, leaving any traffic coming up from the rear with no option but to wait until there was an opportunity to pass in the other lane, or simply to slow down and let us get over the hill and back onto the shoulder when it reappeared. Anyway, we were fortunate that we had the hill to ourselves, with the exception of a single car.

In addition to the traffic, we now had the Columbia's prevailing west wind in our faces, so our pace fell from the effortless 17 MPH of the earlier part of the day, to 12 or less. We finally made our turn off 730 onto Diagonal Road, which runs, well, diagonally inland toward Hermiston, our destination for tonight. After seven or eight more miles we were at the Oak Tree Inn, which turned out to be quite nice and to have decent food choices, a supermarket, and a Dollar Tree nearby. By the way, it did start raining about ten minutes after we checked in at our hotel! Pretty good timing.

All in all, it was a satisfying day. Although one of our longer days, it was not overly tiring and it gives us confidence for our longest day tomorrow. The weather is forecast to take a dramatic turn, though, becoming clear and hot. As a result, our plan is to be riding no later than 7:30. I will be glad to switch to my normal Florida biking kit, and every indication is that we can put away our rain gear and cold weather stuff for the remainder of the trip. Fred is not quite as enthusiastic, but if we can just get through the long day tomorrow, the shorter days that follow should be manageable.

Today we rode 85 miles in 5 and 3/4 hours, climbing 1,600 feet along the way.

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