I got an early start, knowing that I had a long day ahead of me. The AC Route uses a back road on the south side of the river that adds several miles to the ride and, more importantly to me, misses the places to eat near Marblemont. I rode highway 20, which was very pleasant, and had a good breakfast at one of those places. I ate with the motorcyclist that I had met the previous night and a friend who had joined him for the day. I also met them again up above Diablo, after they had stopped for a hike. Good company.
The route is essentially flat through and for a few miles beyond, Marblemont. Then it begins to climb. It is roughly 45 miles from this point to the top of Rainy Pass. In that 45 miles there is over a mile of climbing, and then you get to do Washington Pass which requires another 800 feet of climbing. After that you get a great 18 mile downhill to Mazama. Wind was also a problem/benefit. It was especially bad in the twisty uphills near Diablo. picture It was bad enough to be cranking a 80 lb bike up a steep hill, but to get hit with 20-30 mph head winds and then cross winds was a real pain. It was hard to keep the bike going into the head winds and even harder just to keep it on the road in the cross winds. Later, nearer the pass, it was a good tail wind. Not much help for getting up the hill, but it did help cool me down.
For the first 20 miles of climbing, climbs are often followed by downhills. After that things settle down into a pretty steady uphill to Rainy Pass. The actual climb is, from Rockport, about 6000 feet. The altitude difference is only a little over 4000 feet, so there is something approaching 2000 feet of altitude loss on the way. Then there is several hundred feet more between the two passes. Downhills are nice, but when they are immediately followed by a corresponding uphill, it does get tiring. My total climb this day was 6700 feet.
At 50 miles into the ride I saw a group of riders who had passed me earlier stopped by a support vehicle. I stopped to talk. They gave me a bagel while we visited and a bag of very good trail mix to take with me. This was a group from Seattle who had started from Marblemount and were heading to Mazama. The next day, Sunday, they would ride back. They were staying at the Country Inn in Mazama and asked me to stop by and see them when I got there. This was a very good break for me. I tend to get down about 50 miles or so into a ride and nothing gets me back up better than visiting with other cyclists. The bagel and the bag of trail mix helped too.
Shortly after leaving that group, I stopped to visit with a tourist coming the other way. He told me about a couple on recumbents who were 'dying' farther up the pass. He said I would catch them soon, but I pointed out that I was 'dying' a bit myself so I might not catch them so soon. As it turned out, I did catch them that night at Winthrop where we both spent the night, but I didn't actually meet them till several days later when I caught up with them climbing out of Colville.
Approaches and, in the center, Rainy pass
Getting over Rainy pass was a real grind and Washington pass was another, much shorter but a little steeper, grind. The scenery all day was great, although not great enough to distract me from the pain of the climb, and the scenery between the passes was truly breath taking. By the time I got to the top of Washington Pass, it was 5:30 PM. I had been riding since 7:30 AM, with a hour off for a good breakfast and socializing and several food/rest stops. I had ridden 70 miles and climbed 6500 feet. My left knee hurt, my four water bottles were almost empty and I was ready for a good hot meal. I had more than enough food and enough water, but I really missed my hot lunch and the coffee that would have gone with it. Mazama and the Country Inn was still 20 miles away. 20 miles downhill. I was at the Inn by 6:30 for supper (good, if a bit pretentious) and a brief visit with my new friends from Seattle. At 7:30 I headed on down the valley towards Winthrop.
Despite all that spectacular scenery in the mountains, the ride down that valley with the sun low at my back was the most beautiful part the day's ride. The climatic change was awesome. In 30 miles I'd gone from rain forest to high plains, complete with sagebrush! The valley opens out to the south east with the Methow river running down its middle surrounded by fields and woods. Lovely by the light of the setting sun. The slight downhill on highway 20 combined with the very light traffic and a tail wind to create great bicycling conditions. I finished the day with 105 miles of riding and a smile on my, tired, face.
Winthrop is a 'cowboy' town, complete with fake store fronts and lots of German and British tourists. It is also a popular mountain biking area for folks from the Seattle area. Despite a permanent population of less than 500, or maybe because the tourists outnumber the locals ten to one, it has several good places to eat, a nice bookstore, and the best bike shop I encountered on this tour. I took a much needed rest day, despite the tourist oriented motel prices, and had a great time. My wheel got a new spoke of the right length and an excellent truing that lasted for the rest of my tour. I also had my chain cleaned and lubed and bought a visor to replace one that I had lost. Winthrop is a very good place.
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