We left Kennewick on a morning which was threatening rain, crossing Kennewick's Blue Bridge, and heading out along the river bicycle path . The day was supposed to start out very flat, then we were to gain about 1800 feet in 30 miles.
The first stretch really sucked -- headwind the whole way to Pit 1. We did stop at several Historical Markers, though! The first was a stone marker for a Nez Perce chief (unfortunately, we can't read the name on the stone). The second was a sign for Fort Walla Walla, with the freight trains and the Snake River in the background. A second picture of the sign is actually legible. Several bikers stopped here, actually; the headwind was definitely something to rest from.
We then turned onto State Route 12 East, the start of the climb. However, as some of us were suspecting, this made riding much easier: we had a tailwind up the hill! As we got to the top of the last semi-steep climb before lunch, I did take a nice scenery shot back the way we'd come.
The road still climbed a bit, into Touchet, a really cool little town. I got a squeaky red plastic frog there to stick in my handlebar back and started a run on them after walking around for several minutes squeaking it at people. heh heh. It was a really cool Texaco station/ general store (everything from gardening tools to food), which as one local told me, had been originally built on the other side of the road but had been burned down in the early 1900s (I think I remember that right). It certainly seemed to be a local meeting and hanging-out place.
We left Touchet behind, and passed through Lowden (we didn't see a center of town, just a lot of factory/grain buildings and almost no people), stopping for a stretch break a couple of miles afterwards. We then started passing lots and lots of onion fields -- Walla Walla Sweets, as this sign proclaims. We checked in at Pit 2, got my front wheel re-trued a tiny bit, and headed into town (Walla Walla, that is!) in search of lunch.
We found lunch at Pastime's Cafe, a diner joint known for it's lasagna, italian sausage, and clam chowder (all homemade). We sampled them all; they're totally worth their reputation. The riders in the picture are Steve, Ro, and Joe (Steve broke his collarbone on day8, as it turns out, walking *to* some off-the-route hot springs -- they're making him work crew now).
At this point the day had turned totally sunny with scattered clouds, warm but not too hot, and just overall gorgeous. The only drawback was that Ro got 2 flat tires between lunch and Pit 3! One in each tire -- first the front, then later on the long descent into Waitsburg, just before Pit 3. However, in between we had passed through Dixie (lots of farmland and several barns), and stopped at the Dixie town grocery store, a place "where smiles are free".
We then climbed out of Dixie and over Lewis Summit, after which the glorious long descent into Waitsburg was sheer heaven -- rolling hills, sun and clouds, deep blue sky -- even when Ro's second flat happened, it didn't diminish the enjoyment too much. It was just too nice of a day! A couple of pictures show the view ahead, down the hill, and the hills behind.
Well, we stopped briefly at Waitsburg for Pit 3, then headed over the last 10 miles into Dayton (the Gateway to the Blue Mountains) where we stayed at the Fishing Ponds Park. It turned out that it was the Dayton All-Wheels weekend, when a sort of convention of car enthusiasts would all show off their highly-tuned, highly-polished, classic cars. They were gorgeous, all of them -- some of them were awe-inspiring, even to me, who knows nothing about cars that isn't Z-related. The camp was nice, but was the first sign of things to come; the area wasn't big enough to put everything in one place, so we had to walk about a quarter mile between the tents and the showers/food area. Oh well, it was still nice. The only drawback occured when 3 riders decided to hike up a path to the top of the hill near camp, then try and find a short way down the cliff. Well, they got stuck; one had his foot caught in a crack. Two other riders went up to try to help, but couldn't; eventually the sheriff and the paramedics from the ambulance got someone to unstick his foot, and they all walked back up the hill and down around. We never heard for sure what happened to them, but I think the first 3 up were all suspended for 2 days of riding, and put to work as crew.
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