Day 4: Hell Canyon

September 6, 2002
Lake Wenatchee State Park to Waterville
66 Miles Google Map

Started off the day wearing the ski gloves I’d brought along to keep my hands warm on chilly mornings. By mid-afternoon I was applying suntan lotion. Late afternoon had me checking into a graceful century-old hotel in a lonely high plains town, just ahead of a rain squall.

If the goal of this trip was variety, then I can stop right now. 

It took almost an hour and a half to pack up camp this morning. Not sure why. Folding a small tent and its cover isn’t exactly rocket science. Good thing there was a restaurant not far down the road as I was running late. For the second day in a row I had a full breakfast, but this time it wasn’t smothered in potatoes. While shoveling in the food, I was treated to John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy”. Nice to know the (ex) Beatles are still with me.

The first stage of the ride was a long and winding downhill coast as I descended the east slopes of the Cascades into the Bavarian community of Leavenworth. Plenty of tourists ambling about, which gave the town somewhat of a festive air which I took in while relaxing for awhile in a park. Riding out of Leavenworth, the road straightened and leveled off and I got into a nice cycling groove. I resumed this after lunch in Lincoln Rock State Park as I turned north, following the Columbia River up to Orondo. At that point, I was only some eight miles from my destination for the day. What could possibly go wrong?

If there is a cycling hell, it must surely include the stretch of Highway 2 east of Orondo: over five miles of constant five to six degree inclines as the road tortuously climbs up through a canyon. Worse yet, the inclines had countless false endings. I’d pedal up towards the end of a long curve expecting to be near the top only to encounter a new stretch of ascending punishment.

I knew I should have gone to church last Sunday.

If given the choice, I’d rather do Steven’s Pass a second time instead of today’s death ride. The highway to the pass is a bit steeper, but at least it doesn’t tease you. By contrast, there were times during today’s relentless grind when I swore I could hear the asphalt chuckling.

Reaching the long-anticipated top, I felt I was in some kind of reverse “Wizard of Oz” scenario. What greenery there was had been gradually disappearing the entire day, leaving me in what looked like Kansas. All around were plowed brown fields with occasional patches of yellowed wheat. Soon thereafter I caught sight of my destination: the rustic community of Waterville, which is the highest incorporated town in the state of Washington — a fact I could have easily gone without knowing.

I counted myself very lucky that the village had a hotel. Given its size and remote location, it’s a wonder there’s even a grocery store.

The hotel owner, who’s up to his elbows doing restoration work on the place, gave me a cozy, tiny room and helped store my bike. I feel like I’ve gone back in time here — the guy has done a superb job of re-capturing the past. The bedrooms, for example, have no TV, just restored antique radios dating from sixty to seventy years ago (according to the owner). And while I have a sink in my room, the toilet is down the hall, past old photographs and other snug bedrooms, which make the atmosphere more intimate and welcoming. Almost like staying in someone’s house. It helps a person understand how people got by in the old days without all the snazzy accommodations hotels now offer. 

Time for one more trip to the ancient bathroom of yesteryear. If I run into anyone, I may ask what they think of President Roosevelt and whether we should stay out of that European war which is brewing. Then, I shall sleep for the rest of the month.

Postscript: Just prior to hitting the hay, I tried the old-fashioned radio and instead of hearing Glenn Miller, was treated to Paul McCartney’s “Jet”. Now there’s a song that would have had a 1920s wheat buyer, passing through on his way to Spokane, probably covering his ears!

    Today:       66 Miles
    To Date:  180 Miles / 290 Kilometers

Breakfast By The Lake

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