Sunday, August 24, 2008


Sunday, 24 August

idyll n - a work in poetry or prose that deals with pastoral scenes or suggests a mood of peace and contentment

This piece of bloggery deals with an experience that brought a mood of great peace and contentment. Yesterday we did one of my absolutely very favorite rides, and it was absolutely perfect. I dropped Old As Dirt and his trusty Marcroft steed in Marblemount, drove to Newhalem, and set out on my bike for Mazama. If you've never ridden over the North Cascades Highway, I can only wonder why you are afraid of heaven on earth.

The rain we had in western Washington last week had scrubbed the smog away, and the skies were blue blue blue. Diablo Lake where you cross the bridge at Colonial Creek was a sheet of blue-green glass, broken only by a few kayakers. The view to the north over Ross Lake was crystal clear. After the road drops down to Panther Creek, the unrelenting climbing starts--but yesterday there was enough tailwind that I did the first part of this in my big chain ring. I finally passed another cyclist a few miles before Rainy Pass, and then another as I started the final climb up to Washington Pass. The peaks were breathtaking. The descent down the east side of the pass usually makes me...uncomfortable, but yesterday there was a solid (not swirling) headwind that kept the speed from getting out of hand, and I just cruised those seven miles down to Lone Fir. I rolled into the Mazama store thinking (nay, knowing) it was the most perfect ride I had done all year. Whatever happened on the way back--headwind, bad traffic, rain--I would just tell myself that the first part of the ride required that I pay a price.

But where the heck was OAD? How could have not caught up with me in 60 miles? Was the price of a perfect ride for me some misfortune for him? Fortunately, I was too busy enjoying my blueberry zucchini muffin to let panic encroach too far into my blissful state--and after about 10 minutes he rolled in. It was 82 in Mazama, a perfect temperature for an afternoon nap. But we had to retrace our tiretracks back to Newhalem and couldn't linger.

He gave me a 6-minute handicap, and I rolled out to enjoy the stiff tailwind that blows from Winthrop to Mazama and into the mountains. The only problem with a tailwind up a climb when it's 82 degrees is that you get pretty toasty, and there's no water along this route. But I kept picking off the landmarks that break up this part of the ride. A couple of times I nearly rolled into the ditch when I tried to take pictures of peaks to the left (I'm right handed, and somehow the crossover just doesn't work). I searched for the mate of the armwarmer I found after the Cutthroat Lake trailhead two weeks ago, but no luck. And before I knew it, I was at the base of that hairpin switchback just before the top of the pass. I stopped in the switchback and looked back down the several miles of road that cling to the side of the canyon, but I couldn't spot OAD (only the guy I'd just passed who sounded less than convinced when I assured him we were almost there). The last half mile between the hairpin and summit is cliff-dweller terrain, but I stopped and peered over the edge, and then behind me, and there he was in hot pursuit. He caught me just after the top of the pass. It was perfect timing because then we rode together all the way back to Newhalem.

The biggest bummer of the entire ride was a dead deer in the road going up to WA Pass. There were a lot of miscellaneous car parts along with her. The worst traffic was two pickup trucks that didn't give me a whole lot of space. For a 121-mile ride, that's miraculous. The weather could not have been better: temps in the 70s for the whole ride, thin cloud cover a few times, but no sign of the heavy weather moving in from the Pacific. Shorts, jersey, and armwarmers were the only clothes I had. The hurricane-force winds that often pick up in the afternoon above Ross Lake were just a moderate breeze. You gamble when you ride in the mountains (as we did two weeks ago, when it poured and we chose to bail and drive east to sunnier climes), and yesterday we were lucky winners. I thought I had the most perfect day ever on a bike, and my husband wondered how many other cyclists have wives who think a perfect day involves 8 hours on a bike. :)

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