I don’t remember it being this hard last year. Mike is up ahead about a hundred yards; he seems to be going strong, climbing well without a lot of effort, but I’m having to dig deep just to keep him in sight. The last mile or two, my right knee—the one I hurt working out a couple of years ago—is popping like crazy and getting stiff. I’m wondering if this is the day it finally gives out. We’ve ascended about 500 vertical feet so far. That leaves another 2,000 vertical feet to climb and nine miles to go. I’m only clocking about four miles an hour and having to rest every half-mile.
The situation has got me a little worried and I’m not sure I’ll make it to the top of the Loup Loup Pass this year.
Day One: Bicycling From Twisp to the Summit of Loup Loup Pass.
This is the first episode of a four-part series on our 4-day, 100-mile bicycle trip through eastern Washington State.
We left the car at a motel parking lot in the little eastern Washington hamlet of Twisp, on the Methow River, loaded up our touring bicycles and rode through town. At a bathroom break at a Chevron station, I came out to find my front tire flat. I’ve got about a thousand miles on a set of fancy touring tires that are supposed to be flat proof, but there I was, rolling around on the ground, wrestling with the wheel, the tire, tube and pump and looking for lost parts in the gravel.
Once I found the hole and patched it, I discovered that my frame pump would only put about 65 pounds of pressure in the tire, which is a little soft. We’d passed a bike shop back up the road but I was itching to get to work on the pass so I decided to ride it as-is.
The first pitch climbing out of the river valley is steep. Thankfully, it’s short and at a flattish area, there’s a nice pull out with a spectacular view of the Methow River, the valley and the road that winds through it. It’s the same road we’d be using in a couple of days during the return leg of our 100-mile loop through three river valleys a 4,050 foot mountain pass and a handful of small
We discovered this great ride last year and liked it so much we decided to do it again this summer. Eastern Washington is dry most of the year, but the spring had been wet and the hills were lush and green. A swollen stream rattled along beside the road and we crossed it a couple of times as we climbed higher into the Cascade Mountains.
The distance from the Methow River to the top of the pass is about 11 miles, but it’s all unrelenting up hill at a grade of up to 7%—in other words, steep.
And I was not performing up to par. My knee was giving me trouble and I felt weak. I had been drinking a lot of water and had gone through 3 bottles by the time we were three-quarters of the way up. Mike had a few drops left and we were beginning to worry, when we crossed near a stream. “What do you think?” I said, nodding toward the creek.
Mike pulled over. “You have your water pump?”
I stopped and dug around in my pannier, came up with my water filter, went down to the stream and filled our bottles. “The way I’m sweating, I’ll go through this in a couple of hours.”
Mike looked up the road. “Should be on top by then.”
We rested, ate some food then, started off. By my calculations we had another four miles to go. I guessed I could make that if I took it slow but I knew it’d be tough. After a while we rounded a corner and up ahead was a State Park sign. When we got even with it, we could see a small campground off to the right. We pulled in.
I went looking for more water and wound up talking with some German tourists. “Out of the creek,” said the man, “is good.”
We had planned to go another five miles and camp at Leader Lake on the other side of the pass, but we were both so tired, we decided to pitch our tents where we were. There was no running water other than the creek but it was flat with lots of room to spread out. We had dinner, drank too much wine and turned in early.
I knew the next day would be one hell of a ride. 16 miles of steep, winding downhill all the way to the Okanogan River. We would be able to hit speeds of more than 35 miles per hour if we turned it loose but Mike had noticed that his rear tire was in need of replacement and I wasn’t too sure about my front tire patch job. We both promised to take the descent easy, still, those big touring bikes have a way of getting away from you and I fell asleep that evening with visions of a catastrophic high-speed tire failure racing through my mind.
To be continued…