We started day seven about a mile before our planned starting point. The town of Winthrop has a great multi-use trail, the Susie Stevens Trail, so we thought we should use it. This brought us to our original starting point, with a little extra sightseeing of Winthrop as a reward.
Once back on HWY 20 we headed west out of town. Before we could leave town, though, the Marshal pulled up behind us. Everyone assumed I had done something wrong, but it turns out he just wanted to give us an escort. I feel pretty important.
Somehow we thought we would be avoiding the smoke today, or at least have a better day than yesterday. This was not the case. If anything it was worse. The first fifteen miles or so were flat, but dealing with the smoke made this section less enjoyable than it should have been. We were surrounded by beautiful steep mountains on both sides, but could barely see them. Multiple times throughout the day we each took turns complaining that we felt cheated out of what must be spectacular views all around us.
Around mile sixteen, the climbing began. Jimmy was still running (like a lunatic) while Dr. B and Chauncey were riding their bikes. The hills today have been a concern of mine for a long time, ever since this route was chosen. Today would require all of my resources. Today, up to this point I had been using my lead-acid battery, and would continue to use it for the next two miles before switching to the lithium.
Once the lithium was in use, the pace up the mountain picked up, much to the dismay of my team. It turns out going up hill is easier for me than downhill, but the reverse is true for my crew. At some point I caught Dr. B pulling off the road to give Jimmy, who was still running at this point, some Gatorade. I had to remind him, not for the first time, the name of the ride is Iansride. I told Dr. B when we got to brewery he would have to write “This is not Jimmysride” one hundred times on a beer napkin.
At mile twenty-two we pulled over so Jimmy could switch from being a runner to being a biker, the way mother nature intended. Shortly after we stopped, my mom showed up with pizza for the crew. Yes, there was vegan pizza, if you can even call it pizza. On her way to deliver the pizzas she was pulled over by Marshal Tindal, the same Marshal who escorted us out of town. Apparently she was traveling a bit above the legal speed limit. She told him “Jimmy needs food.” My mom also has to now write “This is not Jimmysride” one hundred times on a beer napkin.
After food and a little rest we started back up the mountain. We really enjoyed the wildflowers, including a bitchin’ Indian paintbrush, and many birds, with my favorite sighting today being a blue grouse. We could see snow high atop the mountains at a few points. The temperatures were very mild, in the low seventies and high sixties. This is probably one positive side affect to all the smoke in the air.
The lithium pushed me eleven miles up the hill, but then abruptly died. We still had a little juice in the lead-acid battery, so we switched back over and continued on. This lasted for about one mile. Dr. B waved down my mom to let her know it was time to switch me into my backup chair. As I mentioned before, I would be using all my resources today. We were about a mile and a half from the summit and we were hoping my backup chair could get us there. I don’t use this chair often, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.
We reached the summit of Washington Pass (5477 ft) and were all very excited. We made it. The remainder of today’s ride was mostly downhill. As I mentioned downhill is more difficult for me. My chair is harder to control while descending, but at least I knew my battery would make it. The descent was beautiful, but we still felt cheated out of what it could have been without the smoke. We reached our planned stopping point, but I wanted to get a little bit more out of the day. We rode on for one more mile. As it turns out this last mile would pay off in the form of beer. A trail angel (bringing beverages to travelers along the Pacific Crest Trail) stopped and gave us some tasty IPAs. Sometimes it pays to be a celebrity.
Overall the day was hard, but good. We added two extra miles, one in the beginning, one at the end. We reached the halfway point of our ride, and we reached the highest point along our route. Both milestones were hard earned and rewarding. Once the riding was over, we piled into the support vehicles and headed back to the Old Schoolhouse Brewery for another night of tasty beers and dinner. We can’t say enough positive things about Troy and his crew at the brewery. They outfitted us with shirts for a day, and put up with our shenanigans.