Friday, October 16, 2009

Day Two Hundred Twenty-four, 091010 - Ellensburg, WA

Day Two Hundred Twenty-four, Date Saturday, October 10, 2009
Time in Saddle: 6:34
Distance for the Day: 65.35 miles From Topenish To Ellensburg, WA
Accumulated Trip Distance: 11,298 miles
Altitudes: Starting/Ending 681’/1468’, Highest: 1499’ Accumulated: 2169’
Speeds: Avg: 9.9 mph, Max: 30.2 mph
Weather: 41° totally overcast, but not threatening
Expenditures: $22

Woke and got up at 6:00am; broke down and ready to roll by 7am, still before sunrise. But, I had a nasty little surprise this morning – the gravel lot had goatheads, and my rear tire got another flat (#21). I had to fix it, and I also had to pick a bunch of thorns out of my two front tires, too. It’s a tricky operation: I have to rotate the tires, looking for little, light-colored ‘dots’ on its surface. These are the ends of the thorns that have stuck into the tire, but haven’t yet penetrated the tire liner. I used my Leatherman knife to dig out the current crop, and each tire had at least 4-6 of them, each. I didn’t have an air pump on me (as you may recall, it broke, recently), but was able to use another CO2 cartridge to inflate my repaired tire enough to make it to a gas station with a compressor. It takes a bit more space and expense to carry them, but that CO2 inflator has turned out to be a real convenience and time-saver, I tell you. At 8:30am, I stopped at the next gas station/mini mart, got a breakfast of hot cocoa and Danish ($5), and brought my rear tire up to full inflation.

At 10:31am I stopped in Union Gap for bathroom break and get more food items ($6), and stopped at a Burger King for a burger/fries/soda lunch at 10:55am ($6). I had to figure out if I wanted to take the side route, or the interstate to get through some mountains north of Yakima on my way to Seattle. I asked a local person outside of Burger King who, it turns out, was quite knowledgeable about the difference between the two routes. While the interstate had a wide shoulder, it went over three significant climbs, whereas the side road was much less hilly, but it was winding, had relatively narrow shoulders, and had medium traffic levels, including big rigs. Tough choice! I stopped in at a Clarion Hotel at the north end of town to use their free wi-fi, charge up my notebook, check the weather, and research the two routes. Kudos, by the way, to Clarion for their letting me just come in, sit in a comfortable chair, and use their free wi-fi and electricity. I ultimately decided to take the side (Canyon) road, and was very glad to have picked it. The traffic wasn’t that bad, the majority of the route had sufficient road shoulders (though at times it had *no* shoulders), it was *very* picturesque, and the climbs were indeed quite manageable.

I stopped along the way at 2:50pm for bathroom and snack break at the Rozer Recreation Area. It had a nice parking lot, *free* camping(!), bathrooms, picnic tables, and was very placid. The river widened enough to slow its flow down enough to make it seem more like a lake, and every now and then, the overcast sky would permit the sun to break through enough to send down a shaft of light that made the river sparkle with slow-flashing silver splinters of light. It was still somewhat cold, but there was no wind, and I watched as ducks swam and dove on the slow, brown waters. Thus refreshed, I made it out of the Yakima Canyon at 5pm, into Glen Ellen at 5:30pm, and stopped in at Subway for cookies and milk ($3). Then, I stopped at a mini mart for soda and chips ($2).

It was now 6:05pm; the sun was getting ready to set, and I continued on, determined to get as far as I could go toward the town of Cle Ellum to try to reduce the distance to Seattle as much as possible. I found a field off Rte 10 on the way to Cle Ellum at 6:45pm and stopped there for the night (N47 2.189’ W120 36.769’); it was some kind of crop that had been harvested already. There were no house lights nearby, it was pretty close to the roadway, but there wasn’t much traffic, and I knew as it got later, there would be even less, so noise wouldn’t be a problem. At 7:07pm, with the last light of day in the west, the stars began to come out. I could see bright Jupiter in the east, and the Summer Triangle (the three bright stars, Vega, Deneb, and Altair) was still almost directly overhead, even though Summer was over. Like me, it seemed to be trying to hold out against the approach of cold, wet Winter.

Ho-boy – my right-front tire went flat (#22) at 11,298 miles; it appears the magic combination of Mr. Tuffy tire liners and self-sealing innertubes was starting to wear off, as I have apparently started getting flats, again, after more than 4000 miles of flat-free riding. The states of Wyoming, Idaho, and Eastern Washington all have these wicked little ‘goathead,’ seedpods from a ground-hugging weed, which, in certain circumstances, have the ability to *sometimes* penetrate even Mr. Tuffy, and defeat the self-sealing innertubes. I’ve been picking their thorns out for a while, now, but because the tread on my tires is wearing thin, I think they’re now able to penetrate far enough to get through to the innertube and cause problems. I have three new tires waiting for me at my friend’s home in Seattle, and I estimated that I *should* be able to make it there before any more flats happen – I hope. It was very cold this evening – already down to freezing. The sky cleared up, and that lets the heat of the day escape to space. I decided to fix the flat tomorrow morning, knowing that this might be a mistake (it would be *really* cold, then), but the evening light was failing, and I didn’t want to get caught trying to do it in the dark.
The field *looked* grassy, but it was actually just close-cropped plant stalks, thick enough to poke up stiffly. I worried a bit that this might penetrate my ground cloth, penetrate my tent bottom, and poke up and puncture my air mattress, but it wasn’t quite sharp enough to do that, so I was okay. I set up my tent in the near dark, and cloaked my trike. I hopped in and munched chips, sipped soda, and read my book until about 9pm, when I went to sleep.

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