Daily miles – 85. Total miles – 1138.
We knew today would be a late start because the bike shop would not open until 10am, so we got up a little later and slower than usual. We checked out of the hotel, had breakfast at a little downtown cafe (Pheasants Lounge on main street), got some groceries at Safeway, and went another block to Scott’s Cycle and Sport at 10 right as they opened. The experience there was indicative of why small towns still hold value over the big city – at least the people in them often do. I explained the situation with our tire and showed a mechanic there the blowout. He instantly assumed it was the brake pads rubbing the tire sidewall. I had suspected that also, since I had just replaced them. But, we looked and they seemed adjusted fine. The only other likely culprit we could think of was the Mr, Tuffy liner rubbing from the inside. In any case, after a bit, Scott – the owner – came by and took interest in what we were up to. He insisted that I use a bench in the shop and his tools for mounting the tires, and sold me an inexpensive but el plusho 700 by 28 tire that should be more suitable for the back of the loaded tandem. This was a far cry from getting blown off by River City Bicycles in Portland where, understandably, they did not want us to use their shop for working on the bike. Scott was just generous and very helpful. We stowed the foldable spare, got the new tire and old Gatorskin Conti in place, and bought a few tubes. I also got some cheap but good new gloves since most of the padding had fallen out of mine and they were giving me raw sores on my palms. We left with four new tubes – sold to us at a large discount, the tire, gloves, and a handful of energy gels and stuff given to us by Scott. He also hooked us up with bottled water and sent us on our way. They see lots of cross-country travelers at their shop, and seemed to really enjoy being helpful.
We finally hit the road at 11 and had a strong tailwind as we rejoined the Oregon shore of the Columbia. The terrain was beautiful as we followed the shore on 730 as it entered a part of the gorge with mesa-like basalt walls and a wide, dammed and slow lake-like river between. The surrounding landscape was so dry, despite the constant recent rains. The road was smooth and although truck traffic was moderate, it was much quieter than the interstate. We crossed into Washington and joined Highway 12 which would lead to Walla Walla and ultimately on to Lolo, Montana. The riding was easy and fast with favorable winds and not much climbing. Despite back to back loaded centuries, we both felt remarkably good. Chandra’s uncle Sterling hooked us up with a contact in Lewiston Idaho who we can stay with tomorrow night. We decided we should take a rest day there, so we knew a push today was required. It just didn’t hurt like past long days have.
Turning east from the Columbia River, we entered a landscape of rounded hills covered in sage and scrub, gradually giving way to orchards, sweet onions and wineries approaching Walla Walla. We bought some Walla Walla sweet onions to add to our dinner tonight, had a short Wasa/Sardine lunch and cranked on. We made Walla Walla by about 430 and after finding a Starbucks downtown, correctly surmised there must be a real coffee shop nearby, found it, and had cookies and coffee – a great afternoon break! It started raining for the first time today as we drank our coffee so we put on our gear and headed out for the final 26 miles to the campground in the rain. The tiredness was starting to hit but we were so excited to be seeing a different landscape and just to be out riding together – the final couple hours were the most enjoyable riding of the trip so far I think! We marvelled at the smooth hills of monochromatic green looking like ocean waves. Initially, snow-peaked mountains were a backdrop, but we got swallowed by the green foothills. I could adjust my color perception only slightly and imagine a Hokusai woodblock print of the crashing blue sea waves and half expected to see a boat riding on the swells. Our conversation was pleasant, the light rain was refreshing, and we felt the fullness of being together, in the moment, focused on our mutual goal.
Earlier in the trip, when I looked down at the road, I could see the decals of the bike and imagine I was on any familiar training ride. Now, I look down and see the piston motion of my legs, feet spinning, pavement moving by, and I know when I look up, I will see some crazy beautiful landscape. I think we were so happy with that last hour of riding because the bike felt like home and we felt like a team, a unit, a family. We are all these things to each other.
The rain lightened and we were able to set up camp and make dinner in the relative dry. We forwent showers tonight to catch up on the blog and warm up in the tent – it’s cooler here than it has been before now.
This park is along the trail where Lewis and Clark left rivers and travelled overlandfrom the Columbia. Tommorow to Lewiston, crossing into our fourth state. Now sleep.