Suffering up Blewett Pass

July 11, 2019

Today I was up against Blewett Pass. I’d been over this pass by car twice before, and I knew it was going to be a long climb, with semi truck traffic, followed by unsurfaced road and construction on the descent. I was not looking forward to it.

A woman at the hostel kindly cooked me eggs, kale, and berries for breakfast. I chatted with her as I packed up my panniers, which had erupted into a mess these past few days. I hopped on the bike and felt quite sad to be leaving Leavenworth, and not eager to be back on the saddle again.

I took a quick stop to buy a peach from a farmer’s stand and turned on music. The road climbed and I shifted into my lowest gear. I stopped at a hip coffee roastery for some motivational cold brew and apple cake. After what felt like hours of suffering uphill, I reached the top of the pass and took the downhill. Construction, gravel, and bumps forced me to be alert and cautious. Semis passed a little too close and scared the shit out of me.

I took a left towards Ellensburg and the landscape changed to picturesque golden rolling hills with red barns. Traffic was lighter here, and I was relived. I cranked up my last big hill and glided into Ellensburg at 40mph. I was blissed out, a huge contrast to how I felt this morning, and bobbing my head to music. The last 20 miles of the day passed very quickly.

I was spending the night with a Warmshowers host named Gerard. I arrived at the house and there were two other Kiwi bike tourists there. Gerard, his wife, the Kiwis, and I went to a restaurant for dinner. I felt out of my comfort zone for most of the day, so spending time with two sets of parents made me feel quite at ease and safe. On this tour, I’ve spent a lot of time holding my guard up but right now I finally felt okay relaxing. Both couples told me that this trip I was doing was safe and the right thing to do for me. Having the blessing of two sets of parental units got me excited to be out on the bike again, challenging myself and cranking out miles. These people understood the magic of bike touring and didn’t look at me like I was a crazy person.

Gerard, me, and his wife

The kiwi bike tourist couple on the left

Raspberries from Gerard’s garden

July 12, 2019

I stopped by the Safeway this morning for groceries and cranked out 14 miles before breakfast down Ellensburg Canyon. Breakfast was fried chicken, a local peach, and cold brew. Pretty damn tasty and amazing to enjoy right by the river. The simple things!

I ran into two bicycle tourists from Sweden going the opposite direction. We chatted for a while, then I pedaled on into the heat. I stopped in Selah for lunch at about mile 30 and was appalled that I still had about 40 miles uphill left in this heat. I stopped again in Naches after cycling some lonely orchard roads for a pastry. The woman at the bakery cheered me on. About 30 more miles. I wanted to be done already!

I grinded through, stopping every now and then. The heat was waning and I saw familiar sagebrush growing around the road. It reminded me of home. Moss-speckled basalt columns stood mighty above the road. Highway 12 was very scenic and lovely, except for the semi traffic and tiny shoulders. 25 more miles… 24 more… 23… struggling. I had 14 more and stopped at the only roadside cafe for miles. I plopped down at the counter and spent a while chatting with a sweet older lady, CJ, who was telling me all about the cyclists on this road. She mentioned a campsite just 3 miles up the road and I was happy to stop there.

Columnar basalt columns

I rolled into camp and immediately met some other folks that were here rock climbing, and had bike toured in the past. I wolfed down two tacos and they invited me over for wine. We chatted well into the night and I hopped into my sleeping bag feeling socialized and connected with the Tieton river valley.

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