After arriving at our starting point, we took a few quick photos and headed out on the road. We knew the day would be long, hot, and smokey so we tried to start as early as possible. Our ride began much like yesterday’s ended, long straight roads cutting through wheat fields. We had seen just about enough wheat for one lifetime and were on the verge declaring a gluten free lifestyle when slowly the terrain began to change.
Before the change in scenery began we had a moment that I won’t soon forget. While riding along HWY 174 we were passed by a semi truck which came within less than a foot form me. I had to stop and gather myself and nerves before I could continue. This moment reminded me why I am doing this, and what I am advocating for. I don’t want to blame the truck driver for this, although my crew feels different. There was on coming traffic and the truck was unable to move away from us and go into the other lane. This is something that can and will happen. If highway shoulders are not wide enough to accommodate the size of my chair, I will be put into situations like this again.
Once I was ready to continue on, we began a long descent into Grand Coulee, the wheat fields gave way to pine trees and beautiful hillsides embedded with rock formations. We all welcomed the change. The air became a little cooler (for a while at least). Just before making a right turn onto HWY 155 at mile twelve, Jimmy put his running shoes away and got on his bike. Shortly after joining HWY 155 we rode past the Grand Coulee Dam. I’m not sure what I expected, but the magnitude of the Dam was impressive to say the least.
After passing the Dam we had to cross a narrow bridge, before following the Columbia River for almost the remainder of the day. We were a little nervous about crossing the bridge, but we got some help from my mom in the support van. She got behind us, turned on her blinkers, and made sure nobody messed with us. Once across the bridge, we stopped and started to prep me for the heat we were about to face. My Glacier Tek ice vest was put to use for the first time on the trip, and we made sure the spray bottle was full and ready to use.
Once I was prepped to manage the heat we headed back out. We found ourselves riding along a quiet road following the river. This may have been the favorite part of today’s route for all of us. The real heat hadn’t kicked in yet, there were very few cars, and the scenery was great. This road also provided us a chance to talk to one another, which is usually difficult on highways and busy roads in general. This little oasis didn’t last nearly long enough. We were back on the highway after a few miles.
It seemed as if the temperature increased dramatically just as we got back on the highway. Dr. B. started to increase the frequency of spraying me down, although he would have to ramp this up even more as the temperature approached 96 degrees Fahrenheit. At one point along the road Jimmy was requesting to be sprayed as well, and I had to remind Jimmy that the name of the ride is Iansride, not Jimmysride.
Increasing the difficulty of riding on the noisy, hot highway was an odd feature of the highway I never encountered before. Between the road and shoulder was was a narrow gap filled with tar. The heat of the day made the tar soft and sticky. Every time my left wheel would come in contact with the tar it slowed me and pulled me toward the highway. I was constantly working to keep my chair straight, which was challenging. I’m here writing the blog, so I can say I beat the highway. #winning.
Relief from the highway came eventually as we turned onto a road that brought us back to the river at water level. If it weren’t for the heat and smoke, we would have enjoyed the road and scenery more. As it was, we could still appreciate what we were experiencing. Other than the beauty of the river, there were very interesting rock formations for the final ten miles. As an avid birder I am always looking and listening for birds. This trip has allowed me to hone my skills. We saw cormorants, red tailed hawks, and heard many sage grouse, but saw only one.
Toward the end of the today’s ride I was feeling light headed and felt as if I may pass out. When my body temperature gets too high, my blood pressure drops, and I feel light headed. At one point I pulled off the road to tilt my chair to help with this. For the last few miles we were very careful to increase the frequency of being sprayed. And yes, Jimmy got sprayed more too. We reached our destination to find a man named Joaquin who wanted to ask us some question about our journey, welcome us, and wish us well. It was a very pleasant way to end our day, which was beginning to wear on us.
After our conversation, we hopped in the air-conditioned van, then headed back to Wilbur (near our starting point) where our hotel is. Driving back to the hotel put in perspective the distances I am able to travel in my chair. I sometimes impress myself. Today’s route was 40.6 miles, thirty of which were powered by my new lithium battery. This marks my longest single day ever.
Back in Wilbur we went for dinner and drinks at The Alibi to celebrate the completion of another day. While there some of the locals gave us a cash donation. It’s those moments that mean so much to me. The support we receive has been overwhelming. People that meet me, get what we are trying to do. The more people I can meet, the more people will get behind our cause.
I’d like to make a point before signing off that I dedicated today to one of my sponsors, Nelson Boyd Attorneys. They have been behind us from the beginning, back when Iansride 2016 was just a crazy idea in my head. They helped convince me this ride, this idea, is bigger than me. They convinced me and helped me turn this into what we have now. They are board members of my non profit. I am so proud to call them friends. they have done so much for me and my cause. Today was a day I set aside to thank them and acknowledge their efforts.