I woke up on day six at the Quality Inn in Okanogan happy to be starting five miles ahead of schedule, but had some punches to roll with: the lithium battery wasn't plugged in, so we were going to have to charge it as much as we could that morning and wait for my mom to deliver it en route. Dr. B lost his tiny but very masculine wallet (found under the seat of the van). Jimmy broke the valve for his tire tube while trying to pump it up. Good thing we had those five miles in the bank!
We finally started rolling through beautiful orchards, ascending into the Okanogan National Forest. The temperature was in the low 70s, and we think it might have rained a bit the night before clearing away some of the smoke. My cycling team are a trio of endurance junkies who really enjoyed the climbing. We added a male Western Tanager (piranga ludoviciana) to the list of birds seen on the trip.
We ascended into the pines, Chauncey and I feeling more at home among the towering trees than in the yellow fields. Patches of fireweed (chamaenerion angustifolium) dotted the road, which Jimmy took special delight in because that happens to be his Spirit Flower. We were lucky to catch them before their bloom was done!
The lead battery performed very well, climbing eleven miles and 2200ft up before it ran out. We stopped for a quick break near a cattle guard, which Dr. B promptly peed on. My mom was only a few minutes away with the (mostly) charged lithium battery, and the team went into pit-crew mode loading it on my chair and plugging me in. Freshly powered, we hauled ass the remaining few miles to the summit.
Since we didn't have a sponsor for the day, it was rider's choice for shirts. Jimmy wore his coveted tri-blend technical shirt, Chauncey wore thin merino wool, and Dr. B wore the remains of the original umbrella from the 2016 ride as a cape. It would flap behind him in a very superhero-like manner as we flew down the hill. We are quite the spectacle; I wonder what the people passing us in cars made of us.
It got a little spooky the farther down we went, past charred trees from a recent fire. The smoke grew heavier as we plummeted into the valley. We were all filled with a sense of foreboding, wondering what was in store for us in Twisp. It's really strange how the fire would devastate so much, but leave little surviving patches here and there.
Twisp looked like a war zone. Giant trucks and machines scattered everywhere, coming back from or heading into the fire. We met up with my grandparents for lunch, then returned to the smokey journey, unsure if we would be able to make it to Winthrop or if we would get turned back by officials (or worse, flames!). But car traffic was moving, therefore so were we. Onward!
The sky turned to an eery and ominous orange-grey. Were we riding into the fire? Perhaps, but the team felt ok and there's a really good brewery in Winthrop. Adding to the challenge was a busy road with no shoulder. I just kept thinking about how overcoming obstacles makes beer taste even better. That, and staying on the white line.
We had a little bit of respite on a mile-long side road that followed the beautiful Methow River. The skies lightened, as did our spirits. We were so close! An Osprey (pandion haliaetus) flew over us with a fish in it's beak.
We pulled into the western-themed town of Winthrop with ash snowing down on us and went straight to the Old Schoolhouse Brewery. The day was done, but not our hiccups: the door to the van got stuck and wouldn't close. Fortunately, Jimmy was able to fix it by hitting it with a bike lock. Thanks, Jimmy! I was finally able to enjoy my flight of beer after a long, stressful, but fun day.
Before I sign off, I really want to give a shout-out to my good friend and crew member Ben, who has been a HUGE help. He's not just schlepping our stuff around in the Uhaul - he's on the road checking up on us and on the conditions ahead, tending to vehicular maintenance, running all of our errands to meet the needs (and wants) of myself and the rest of the crew. It is no hyperbole to say we could not be doing this without him - we are all so lucky he offered his help. Thank you, Ben!
We're all settled in to our rustic cabins now, about to get some much needed rest. We have an even bigger climb tomorrow, which should be fun for the cyclists. I can't wait to see what the new day will bring!