Day 5 Whitmore Lookout to Okanogan: Cattle Guards and Cedar Planks


According to Woody Guthrie, the world’s “greatest wonder is in Uncle Sam’s fair land, it’s that King Columbia River and the big Grand Coulee Dam,” the latter of which we passed on our way to the day’s start point, the former of which we rolled alongside for a little while at the beginning. People began building that behemoth dam in 1933, and 9 years later the final concrete was poured. At peak flow, the dam is the largest power generator in the United States.  


From Whitmore Lookout, we rolled west along the river for a little while, alongside the tall mullein stalks and the Conyza spotting the roadside before the expanses of sagebrush. The smoke was as thick as it has been on this trip. On the plus side, there was barely any traffic on Columbia River Road (BIA Route 140) through the Colville Indian Reservation, which we spent the majority of the day in. For the first few miles, nobody passed us going in our direction. Only a few passed going the other way. Before long, we turned northwestward away from the Columbia toward Omak Lake. We passed small wetlands and tule rimmed ponds along the way, enjoying the waterfowl and the dragonflies moving about. We were able to ride quite freely on the roadway and to converse with ease. Chauncey would shout out “Car Back!” whenever a car appeared behind us, and we’d all fall into a line along the road side. Jimmy, who ran the first 16 miles, didn’t speak much while his hearing aids were off. He can’t wear them when he sweats, and the day’s heat steadily built. We transitioned from relatively smooth asphalt to a fresh, pitch black chip seal that provided a different feel beneath our tires (and running shoes). It made things feel hotter. Dr. B began spraying me regularly at this point. He would generously spare some water on Jimmy, who was sweating copiously at this point. Right around then, we noticed clusters of wild horses running about. Before long, we moved in over the clear blue waters of Omak Lake.


While we were rolling alongside the lake, my mom appeared with our friend Lena Lemke in tow. She used to live next door to us in Port Angeles, and she has since moved to central Washington. Food and liquid reinforcements had arrived! We replenished ourselves. After 16 miles, Jimmy jumped onto his bike. At this point, we had gained about 1000 feet, and there was another 1000 feet of elevation gain ahead of us. Lena and my mom leapfrogged ahead of us. We cruised ponderosa dotted slopes down to low gullies filled with elderberries. We continued to thoroughly enjoy the sparsely used road and the ability to ride more freely. 


At mile 25, we ran into our first major road impediment of the trip: a burly cattle guard that I could not cross without the smaller wheels of my chair being swallowed by gaping chasms. I almost thought about cheating and going into the SAG van to get over the cattle guard, but as it happened Lena had cedar boards on the back of her truck that, once appropriately set up on the guard, I was able to drive over. Those cedar planks enabled me to cross over that section that otherwise would have been insurmountable. Thank you, Lena!


About three miles on, we encountered another cattle guard. This time, despite having the cedar planks on hand, we decided to attempt going around the guard on the roadside. I quickly got my chair stuck in soft sandy gravel. Jimmy and Dr. B pulled me out of that one, but a mere 6 feet from there, on the other side of the cattle guard, I really got bogged down in some soft sand and gravel. Fortunately, I’ve got a lot of muscle with me, and Chauncey, Dr. B and Jimmy all worked hard to get me out of that quagmire. If it wasn’t for them, right now I would be a shriveled, dried up piece of meat being feasted upon by turkey vultures. My heartfelt thanks to the crew.


Throughout all of my journeys, many things rock me all around: potholes, cracks in asphalt, uneven concrete, rocks and other objects on the roads and paths, attempts to go over or around cattle guards, etc. I’d like to extend a special thanks to BodyPoint, our sponsor of the day, for the straps that they manufactured that keep me solidly in my chair. They have been very supportive, in multiple ways, of Ian’s Ride 2018. Thank you, BodyPoint!   

Onward we went through the pretty country of north-central Washington. We passed some more native sunflowers, which appear to be Dr. B’s spirit flower, given the level of interest and passion that he directs toward them.


After about 31.5 miles, we arrived in the town of Okanogan. We went through charming neighborhoods. A diverse vegetable garden grabbed our attention. We moved through downtown, and decided to add 5 miles to the day’s journey to get a little ahead. We are now coming into the North Cascades, and the next 2 days have high elevation gains. Tomorrow we climb more than 4000 feet, so we whittled away at that with some additional miles today. Julie Martin, a local who found out about our efforts through social media, provided a cheer along the way. We all really appreciate the supportive waves, honks and cheers that we get from many people as we work our way along. We started up state route 20, which will lead us through the entirety of the Cascades. In a few days, after another 120 miles, we will be meeting Russell in Marblemount.


After we settled in the Quality Inn of Okanogan at the conclusion of the day’s ride, we enjoyed some beer that Lena generously provided, and enjoyed visiting with her. My mom appreciated Lena’s SAG companionship. We had a fine Mexican dinner at the very hospitable Rancho Chico Family Mexican Restaurant in Omak. 

Now, we prepare for venturing into the Cascades.