So, obviously I've fallen off the blogging wagon lately. The good news is, I haven't stopped riding since then. I just took a break from writing about riding, you know, since it's so hard.
All kidding aside, something that IS hard is riding your bike 600 kilometers (~ 373 miles) at a stretch. It's certainly something I didn't see myself doing this year when I decided to give the whole rando thing a shot. I had anticipated banging out a bunch of really scenic 200 and 300K rides, and giving myself a hearty pat on the back. Throughout 2010 though, I'd been doing longer and longer brevets, and given the encouragement (read: peer pressure) from a few other, more experienced randos, I decided that I needed to go for 600K.
Doing a 600 would give me the distinction of having acheived Super Randonneur status (pretty cool), and everyone I talked to was really excited about this 600 in particular. Tales of the scenery we'd encounter on our journey through the Cascades and over the 4 mountain passes on the ride implanted themselves in my head, and before long I'd mentally committed myself to doing the ride.
That's when disaster (of sorts) struck. As I wrote before, I screwed my back up pretty badly a few days before the brevet, and was in loads of pain. Against the wishes of my wiser and more level-headed partner Grace, I loaded up some painkillers alongside my food and water and headed out for what I hoped would be my defining brevet of 2010. The funny thing was, riding didn't actually hurt my back, but doing any sort of transition (getting on and off the bike, lying down, standing up, etc.) would send shooting pains up and down my spine. Yeah, stupid of me, I know.
Not wanting to be a "Negative Nelly" during the ride, I tried to keep my bitching to a minimum and keep my eyes open for all the scenery I'd been promised. The brevet truly delivered on that front:
After working our way up through the Snoqualmie River valley, and up over Stevens Pass to Leavenworth, we headed down to Ellensburg via Blewitt Pass. The mountains, snow, rivers, waterfalls, and Tolkein-esque valleys rolled passed with almost alarming frequency. With or without painkillers, this was undoubedtly the most scenic and awe-inspiring ride I'd been on.
We swung down near Selah and Yakima, and rode through the Yakima River Gorge as the sun was setting. Bats were flying overhead in the twilight, and I was almost overcome with the absolute beauty of what I was seeing. Being able to go from Western Washington farmland, through the awe-inspring Cascades, to ride through a desert gorge all in one day is truly something that Washingtonian randonneurs should remember and cherish. Where else in the country can riding like this take place?
After the gorge, darkness set in, and for the first time, I actually found myself wanting to nod off while on the bike. Even with the wind in my face, and riding companions both in front and behind me, my body wanted to shut down for the night. We still had to start the climb up Highway 12 towards White Pass, reaching our overnight at Rimrock Lake. By the time we rolled in, it had to be about 3 am.
After convincing my back to let me get off the bike and lay down, I nodded off for a glorious few hours of sleep. I woke up maybe 2 hours later, stumbled through a quick plate of pancakes, and headed out into the rain for the climb up White Pass. After that, it was a bone-chilling descent down White Pass, followed quickly by a climb up Cayuse Pass, which tops out at 4,675 feet.
Honestly, the rest of the ride coming down off Cayuse pass, and winding back up to Issaquah was pretty much a blur. The realization that I'd pretty much done it made the last kilometers fly by.
So, in the end, I completed my Super Randonneur series for the year, some some amazing sections of my state, and kept my back in one piece (just barely).
Amazing brevet, amazing terrain, and one very lucky rider/blogger.