Friday, October 16, 2009

Day Two Hundred Twenty-five, 091011 - Seattle, WA

Day Two Hundred Twenty-five, Date Sunday, October 11, 2009
Time in Saddle: 22:28
Distance for the Day: 118.73 miles From Ellensburg To Seattle, WA
Accumulated Trip Distance: 11,416 miles
Altitudes: Starting/Ending 1468’/339’, Highest: 2996’ Accumulated: 5453’
Speeds: Avg: 7.6 mph, Max: 57.7 mph (false)
Weather: 20° clear, becoming high stratus layer overcast
Expenditures: $20

It was *very* cold this morning, even penetrating my sleeping bag at about 4am. That’s rare. There wasn’t anything I felt like doing about it, so I semi-dozed and suffered a bit, until I woke up at 5am, but still couldn’t quite bring myself to get up that early. So, I waited until 5:45am before getting up – the stars were glorious, but I couldn’t stand still and admire them: it was too cold! I discovered my water and Gatorade bottles had frozen solid (first time). The only thing that didn’t freeze was my fruit drink, which was in an inside pannier, under my stealth cloak. I don’t know why it didn’t freeze, too, but that’s what happened. I hadn’t prepared for this level of cold the night before by bringing all the usual layers into the tent with me, so I had to do the extra work of putting on the layers I had, run outside and retrieve the other layers, dive back inside and remove the outer layers so I could put on the inner layers, and then put the outer layers back on. I also broke out two sets of the instant chemical heat packs – one pair for the hands, and the other pair for the toes. Then I had to break down and stow away my camping gear. The sun was not up yet by the time I finished at 7:10am, my fingers were numb, and despite the layers I had on, I was still on the verge of hypothermia, and, I still had to try fixing my flat. I moved the trike out of the field to a spot closer to the side of the road, and waited for the heat packs to thaw my fingers, some, before beginning the repair work. I could only work for a few minutes at a time before my fingers became too numb to continue. I would then pause long enough for the heat packs to thaw my fingers enough to keep going. Since the heat packs weren’t really *that* hot, this would take several minutes. The sun rose, and I would also stand in its faintly warm glow every now and then, to keep myself from getting too cold. Eventually, I did manage to take out the gooey self-sealing innertube (when they get punctured, they leak sealant until the hole seals, and it’s a little messy), I cleaned out and inspected the tire for remnant puncturants (I made that word up), put in the second, spare (regular non-self-sealing) innertube in, and inflated it with my second-to-last CO2 cartridge (my hand air-pump broke, remember). I was ready to roll again at 8:08am. The sun was well up, but nothing was thawing, yet – even the ice on my trike hadn’t melted. Cold!

At 9:40am the air temperature was still 30° F, and my feet felt like blocks of ice. The toe warmers kept my toes from going painful to numb, but the rest of my foot wasn’t helped. However, the warmers made things tolerable and even doable, and I was glad to have them. The terrain had started to climb upwards, and I was seeing interesting limestone layers where the road cut through some low hills. The skies to the north and west were somewhat clear – a good sign, and the skies to the southeast, where I’d just come from, were much cloudier – I hoped they wouldn’t catch up with me. I was thinking about what I should do once I got over the Cascade Mountains – should I continue on into Seattle, or should I find a stealth camp, and then go into Seattle the next morning. The last weather forecasts I saw said chance of rain on Sunday, but I didn’t recall whether it was supposed to be early or late, or the percentages. I would definitely be riding at night, if I decided to go for it.

I stopped off at Cle Ellum from 11:15am to 12pm for a quickie breakfast of muffin, cocoa, and a breakfast bars ($5), when I got to talking with ‘Doug’ who was a trucker who hauled fruit, locally. He was a real gabmeister, but he gave me some interesting viewpoints on how truckers see cyclists. He really pushed for getting a single LARGE reflector for the rear of my trike, but was somewhat mollified by my three small ones. I ate my breakfast, and we chatted for a while, before I had to extricate myself from what could have been a much longer conversation, and continued on my way. A west wind came up, making it a mild tailwind for me, which was good – it was strong enough to make it feel like I was standing still, and this reduced the wind chill factor, making me a little warmer. Temperatures were still very cool, and my water and Gatorade bottles were only just starting to thaw, even though it was mid-day. I stopped in Easton at 1:30pm for a quickie lunch ($5) of a hot dog and soda, and continued on. I rode several miles on a nice bit of road construction that cars couldn’t use, yet, when I hit an obstruction that at first I thought was going to really screw me up: that newly constructed concrete roadway ended, abruptly, and there was no shoulder for the single lane of traffic just to my left. After a minute of considering my options, I realized the original two-lane highway had split, and there was another, slightly higher lane, also going west, up and to the left. I walked over to it by walking forward about 20 yards to get past a guard rail, crossed that lower-right lane, crossed a bit of grass and dirt up to the higher lane, and saw that it had a somewhat better shoulder – one that I could use. So, I went back to my trike, waited for a gap in the near lane traffic, rode my trike up the road past a guard rail, then up the grass/dirt divider to the other, higher lane, and continued on. It was still a bit tight, and the cars did slow a bit when they got close to me, but in about 20 or so minutes, after a few more miles, the construction zone ended, the roadways came back together, and the highway’s older, regular shoulder returned. Whew! I hoped there weren’t too many more of those.
It wasn’t too bad, but as the afternoon wore on, the constant roar of the end-of-weekend traffic got to be a bit much, even through my earplugs (not that I could do anything about it). I got off the interstate twice to take a few short, parallel roads, one going through a ski resort (Summit Central), but for the most part, I stayed on the interstate. After passing the summit at close to 3000’ ASL, I began to hit long, downhill stretches. As always, and especially on interstates, going fast meant dodging debris, mostly in the form of bigrig tire retread shreds, with their deadly steel-belted wire strands – ugh! Sure keeps you on your toes, though. By the time evening began to settle, and just before it got completely dark, I made it to Issaquah. From there, cyclists are no longer allowed on the interstate, so I got off, spent a bit of time looking for a suitable restaurant, found a Fatburger, got a hamburger, fries, and soda ($10), and called my friends Joe and Joanna to let them know I was going to continue on until I got to their place, which I thought would be around midnight. Joe helped me pick a suitable route to get there, and I left the restaurant at about 7pm to resume the ride. In retrospect, I should have just laid up somewhere for the night, but I got a ‘bee under me bonnet,’ and had to make this major goal tonight, do or die. My biggest regret for doing it at night was: I missed a lot of photo ops. I passed over three bridges, went through several very nice looking parks and interesting neighborhoods, probably had some good overviews of the city, but couldn’t see anything (sigh!) Of course, it ended up taking longer than I thought it would – Seattle had a lot more hills than I remember, the few other times I’ve visited here, and I didn’t pull in to my friend’s home until 2:40am, Monday morning. That was a record: I’d been up for 21 hours, and rode 118+ miles all in one shot. Joanna wanted to greet me when I came in, but it got too late for her, and went to bed. Joe stayed up, though, and we chatted a bit while I ate a late dinner (the burger I’d eaten 7 hours previously was completely burned up by then), and then we called it a night, and I went to sleep on their guest bedroom floor, right around 4am.

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