Before this trip started there were a number of days I had either nightmares or tossed and turned in my bed thinking for hours about part of this ride. Today is the first of these days.
I have an easy morning, just 28 miles to Vantage Washington on a flat road that ends in a steep downhill. Then comes the part over which I have lost sleep. Getting across the Columbia River. There is basically one bridge on this stretch of the river. That bridge has Interstate 90 running over it. The bridge is about one mile long, four lanes wide, no shoulder, no sidewalk and lots of trucks doing 70 miles per hour.
The Internet is filled with totally unhelpful suggestions for getting across. For example; wait for a break in traffic (doesn’t usually happen), pedal as if your life depends on it (it does) or call the State Police and ask for an escort. Another suggestion is that there is a dam nearby and if you call ahead by a month you can get security clearance to cross over the top of the dam. This is impractical since I didn’t know the date and time I wanted to be escorted over the top of a dam.
My current idea is to pull into a gas station that is located just before the bridge and see if I can get a ride in someone’s pickup truck over the bridge. Cross your fingers that this works. If it does the pedal to Moses Lake, Washington where I am planning on spending the night should be fine.
I left Ellensburg, Washington on a sleepy Sunday morning. It was 28 miles to the bridge. The first 18 miles were a slog. I wasn’t going very fast and the scenery was mainly scrub and sagebrush. I did have a nice tail wind, so it wasn’t miserable. After pedaling for 18 miles I stopped at the top of a large hill beside a giant windmill farm to take off my windbreaker. I was not looking forward to the next ten miles. I was surprised at what happened next.
From the windmill farm to the Vantage Bridge was a 10-mile-long steep downhill. The downhill was so long my fingers began to cramp holding them in anticipation of using the brakes. The experience was a scream (both literally and figuratively). I rolled into the gas station without pedaling once in the entire 10 miles.
I went inside the gas station to buy an ice cream and the clerk asked me if I was trying to get over the bridge. She said there was a woman in town who drove cyclists over the bridge for a nominal fee. She called, but the lady didn’t pick up. Clearly, other riders had hitched rides across the bridge if the gas station clerk knew what I needed before saying anything.
Since the unofficial lift was not there, I looked around myself. There was a boy and his mother selling cherries in the gas station parking lot. They had a pickup truck and no customers, so I paid them to give me a lift over the bridge. I worried for weeks about crossing the bridge, but it was relatively simple to get across safely.
The climb out of the Columbia River Basin once I made it to the other side was only a six or seven mile uphill. Maybe it was the sugar from the ice-cream or relief that I made it across the river easily, but the climb was not too bad. The last 50 miles of the day were okay. I spent about half of it on the I-90 service road. The scenery was mainly cars and trucks whizzing by, but I got to Moses Lake, which is where I want to be tonight.