Stage 14 – harder than….

A really big bag of hard things.

300+ miles and everyone of them into the teeth of a savage headwind or even worse a gusting side wind. Bikes as light as these – 250lbs maybe 300 with all spares and fuel – are blown around like leaves.

Better yet, grinding long hills – sometimes several miles long – where I could not sustain third and had to drop to second. The trick is not to fight it – settle for sitting upright (have a good stretch) and not having to lie prone on the tank – and set the throttle at 25-27mph and plod up. Don’t even try for a change up until after the crest. In second gear these bikes can tackle anything.

My uninformed perception of WA was sequoias and redwoods. So it was with considerable surprise to see high rolling hills and downs – brown and treeless – but always with that incessant wind. Occasional granite outcrops made it feel wild and lonely.

As we progressed – it became apparent that WA is an industrial agricultural powerhouse of colossal size. Thousands of square miles of rolling croplands, treeless and never ending – it felt almost alien. The bikes were taking a pounding, slogging up long ascents and then a fast descent to build up speed for next inevitable uphill.

We then descended to a wide farmed plain and it became a parody of Mad Max – dust storms and high winds. They were harvesting the onion fields – and the dust and onionskins blew across the road – reducing visibility and bringing thoughts of spaghetti bolognaise recipes. I kicked a loose onion as I passed then wished I hadn’t. Like kicking a half brick.

We had a mandatory lunch time stop at a Harley Davidson dealership and I had to ask someone where we were as I genuinely had no clue. The turn by turn directions don’t give you place names. Anyway the really cool thing was some guys turned up from SoCal Norton – David Belleville (Agent Orange), Greg McBride and Norm Michaud.

It was after lunch that we had approx. 130 miles to go and the hard grind really started. I’ve already alluded to the hills and wind but suffice to say – there were times when I would have been nervous but I was too tired to worry.

We rode down the Columbia river – under other circumstances I would have been entranced by the scenery but I was too worried about the beating I was giving the bike. The finish line couldn’t come soon enough.

Did you read this far? Then you should know we made it.

We arrived a little past the scheduled time – but well within our cushion. I said half jokingly that if this had been the first stage then I might have changed my mind about doing the whole thing.

The SoCal guys were there and also Richard Bowman and his son James. Richard flew in from Dallas. It’s really cool that we’ve seen so many friends along the way.

One more stage…… very mixed feelings about tomorrow being the last one.

pics to follow……

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