Sunday, July 29, 2007

Wander Around Washington -- 7-22-07

7-22-07 Richland to Yakima.

Paul made great lentil tacos last night and we're up early this morning to go riding. We get some coffee at a local Starbucks and at 7:00 AM we meet up with Paul's friends Nat Beasley and Jason Fuller.

We aren't riding very quickly but it doesn't take us long to roll out of town and onto some beautiful quiet roads. We follow the Keene Road to 224. I manage to get a few shots with my pencam and also chat a bit with Nat and Jason. Both of the guys brag about the great riding in the area and I can't disagree. We do talk about tackweed, the local thorn that makes Paul tend to favor Armadillo tires and thick tubes over something skinnier and faster. Once again, I'm glad I opted to take a tough-but-not-fast approach to this tour. My heavy Schwalbe Marathon tires are if anything even tougher than Armadillos.

We stop at the Conoco station in Benton City where I snap a few more pictures. Jason and Nat will turn back here, making the morning loop about 25 miles for them. Paul will ride further with me, but he's a randonneur and randonneurs are used to riding long distances.

The Benton City Conoco has a few unique features including a little fountain and a miniature model of the station itself. It would have been really cool if the model of the station included a tiny model of the station and so on to infinity but I guess the artist had to draw the line somewhere. The station also has a couple of peacocks who hang out on the roof that shades the picnic tables.

Paul and I ride from Benton City to Prosser along the old Inland Empire Hwy. As I've often found, there is great cycling along these old roads. All the busy folks take the newer main highway and these lesser roads are really only used by local residents and local cyclists.

At Prosser we connect up with a bike path that runs all the way up to Sunnyside. Paul is turning back here and I thank him for his excellent hospitality.

The old road here is called the Yakima Valley Hwy and I'm pretty sure it's headed where I need to go. It's hot (of course) so before I leave Sunnyside I stop at a minimart for a frozen Klondike Choco Taco and a pint of milk.

This is warm, dry country but the Yakima River provides the water to maintain a narrow strip where green things can grow. I see a llama cooling off under a sprinkler and goats resting in the shade.

At 2:20 PM, I know I'm getting close to Yakima and I stop at the Peppermint Stick Drive In in Union Gap for a wonderful cheeseburger, a very big lemonade and the best cherry milkshake I've ever had.

It's 94 degrees when I roll into Yakima. If I was more organized I'd have people to meet here but my planning for Yakima was sketchy even by my own loose standards. So I fell back on one of my favorite techniques, I followed the signs to the local visitor center. I was taking a bit of a gamble, since this was a Sunday and I had no idea if the visitor's center would be open. But Yakima takes pride in it's city, even on the weekends and the visitor center was open and staffed by a couple of friendly women.

Yakima has a good bike map that shows not only what is in town now in terms of cycling, but what is planned. I ask about camping options and I'm directed to both the state park and told about the KOA in case the state park is full.

Sportsman State Park is wonderful and not overly crowded. A find a nice shady camp site by a creek and settle in. It's really too late to check out any local bike shops and I realize that I've pretty much been going non-stop for a week. I roll out my bivy, write up some notes and relax in the shade. My little Nokia N800 portable computer can do a variety of things besides let me review the day's photos and type up notes. It has a built-in FM radio, so I scan the local radio stations. I find the public radio station, the country station and the rock station but nothing is quite matching my mood. But the Nokia also is an MP3 player and one tiny SD can hold the equivalent of a whole bunch of CDs. I didn't get to see Bob Dylan at Budokan but I've got the recording. And like a rolling stone, with no direction home, Bob and I, a couple of Minnesota boys who wandered onto the road a while back and just kept going, well each of us, in our own ways, we're here in Yakima tonight.

And don't think twice, it's alright.

Stats: Dst 88.30 miles Ave 11.5 mph Mx 25.5 mph

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