This post was written in December 2016 about the events of August 2nd. The writing is based off our memory, notes taken during the day, and Strava data.
Day Eight-Four began at Trinity United Methodist Church in Ritzville, WA. We were less than 400 miles from our destination. Already, Eastern Washington had begun to wear us down. It’s tough headwinds and barren landscape made the days long and difficult. To make matters worse, we had set ourselves to a challenging schedule with long mileage and no rest days until the end. At the start of the ride, we were going 40-50 miles in a day. We would be going 75 miles on this day.
After looking for churches and campsites in George, we could only find one option, Christ the Saviour Lutheran Church. Though he was reluctant, the pastor allowed us to camp on their property that night. His only warning was that they had sprinklers and he didn’t know when they went off.
Despite an early start, this would be one of the longest and most challenging days of our ride. We were on the road by 8AM. Our destination for the evening was George, WA (isn’t that the best name?). While other hard days were a result of unusual circumstance, challenging terrain, or bad weather, Day Eighty-Four was a nightmare because of wind. For nearly the entire day, we had a 15 mph headwind and gusts of up to 40 mph.
Only a couple hours in, the wind began to separate us. Each of us rode at our own pace and these paces were very different from each other’s. Dakota disappeared into the dust ahead of me and G.O. disappeared behind me. We rode along interstate surrounded by farmland. It was brown and yellow all around us and the whole region reeked of manure. So along with the dust and dirt blowing in our faces, we had that smell. To make matters worse, each time a semi-truck would pass us, the draft from it would cut the headwind for a brief moment, destabilizing us as we were leaning into the wind.
These circumstances made it impossible for us to focus on anything but the riding. I struggled to find music, podcasts, or audiobooks that would help me take my mind off things. I tried calling my family, but the wind was too much for anyone to hear me over. I honestly felt angry. On a normal day, we would have been riding at about 12 or 13 mph, but today G.O. and I were riding at half of that speed.
We dreaded stopping because we knew that we had so far to go this day. After eight hours, we finally stopped in Moses Lake for lunch. Though we had eaten granola bars and snacks throughout the day so far, we were starving when we got there. Dakota had been waiting for us. It still confounds us today, but he had gotten there an hour and a half before us. We sat outside of a McDonalds, eating canned salmon sandwiches grabbing at our meals each time the wind tried to blow our food and things off the table. It was so awful that it made us laugh. We dreaded it, but knew we needed to get back on the road. We bought ourselves some junk food as motivation, and then got back on the road.
It was still brutal outside, but the break had made things easier for us. I listened to messages from Bob Goff as I rode and I felt it lifting my spirits. He talked about generosity and joy and it was an important reminder for me of why I was on this ride.
With about 20 miles to go, the wind decreased and our pace had increased from around 6 mph to nearly 8mph. There was less traffic and we were beginning to catch a beautiful sunset. I felt some peace while riding for the first time all day. But we were still tired and struggled to push ourselves to move faster.As the beautiful colors of the sunset turned to darkness, the stress came back. We road on a wide shoulder, but it still wasn’t ideal to ride in the dark along the highway. Dakota had
As the beautiful colors of the sunset turned to darkness, the stress came back. We road on a wide shoulder, but it still wasn’t ideal to ride in the dark along the highway. Dakota had ridden far ahead again and I reduced my pace to try and stick with G.O.. We started to realize that it wasn’t going to be a challenge to get to town before everything was closed. We didn’t have food for dinner or breakfast yet.
At around 9:50PM, we could see the light of a gas station ahead of us. It seemed like we would make it just in time. Dakota had disappeared ahead of us a while before and I was keeping G.O.’s headlight in sight behind me. I looked back and G.O. was stopped. I could see his light a half mile behind me and the gas station a half mile ahead. I called G.O. and he didn’t pick up. After a few calls, he finally picked up. He had hit an obstruction and fallen. Some of his things had fallen out of his bag and he was struggling to find all of his things. He had our team credit card and we were not going to make it to the gas station in time.
When we finally got there, Dakota was waiting outside. He had purchased a loaf of bread with his money, but didn’t know to buy dinner supplies, and couldn’t have because he didn’t have the credit card. The only thing still open in town was a small dive bar. Our options were PB&J sandwiches or bar food. We went with bar food. We pulled up to a dimly lit bar with about ten people inside. They were all drunk and being very loud. Exhausted, we quietly sat at the bar. The bartender told us that the grill was closed and that the frier was still on so we could get french fries, onion rings, or mini corn dogs. G.O. and I had mini corn dogs and Dakota had some fries. We ate our greasy bar food and tried to ignore the drunks around us. They, of course, noticed us coming in and had lots of questions about our bikes and our ride. After a long, frustrating day, we just wanted to eat our mini corn dogs in peace. In what felt like being “saved by the bell” the bartender decided to close the bar early since we weren’t looking to stick around and everyone there was too drunk to have more.
The bar was a short distance away from the church we were camping at that night. It was around 11PM when we arrived. We were exhausted and eager to go to sleep. We had a lot of distance to cover the following day and hoped to have an early start to avoid another late night of riding. Heeding the pastor’s warning from that morning, we carefully set up our sleeping arrangements to avoid sprinklers, just in case they went off in the night. G.O. and I had tents and Dakota was sleeping on the ground with a rainfly pitched above him. G.O. put on his tent’s rainfly as an extra precaution. He asked me if I was going to put mine. I brushed off his question and quickly went to bed.
At around 3AM, I woke up to a loud sound and the feeling of cold water spraying over me. I sat up, only to be blasted directly by a sprinkler right next to my tent. It was shooting through one end of my tent to the other, just above my head. Dakota had put his sleeping pad directly on top of one. When he got up, it was shooting directly into the underside of his rainfly and raining down on him and his things.
We frantically grabbed our things and ran to the other side of the church, where it was dry. We were soaked completely and so were our sleeping bags and tents. We laid down our sleeping pads in the dry grass and tried to go back to sleep, wet and exhausted. Just a few minutes later, we heard the sound of sprinklers again. Of course, there were sprinklers on this side of the church, too. Dakota grabbed his things and ran into the high grass just off the church property. He laid down his sleeping pad and went to sleep.
I grabbed my sleeping pad and sleeping bag and went as close to the church building as I could, where it was still dry. As the sprinkler oscillated, the reach of its spray moved closer and closer. Finally, it reached where I lay, spraying me from head to toe a few times before oscillating away from me again. I simply pulled my sleeping bag up over my head and tried to ignore it. This happened several times before the sprinklers on our side stopped and the sprinklers on another side of the church would begin. Throughout the night, the sprinklers turned back on and repeated their march and subsequent spraying of me two or three more times.
Day Eighty-Four was hard. I’m grateful for it, though. I think that if our last week and a half of the tour hadn’t been so difficult, we might have remembered the whole of it differently. We ended it struggling, just as we had started. But now we were stronger, more prepared, and so much closer to our destination.
Next stop: Cle Elum, WA