The day of big climbs: 68 miles, 4550 ft of climbing; 4200 calories
Yesterday evening we spent a delightful hour with 2 cyclists Chris and Tom who we had met briefly at Raser Park. We had an enjoyable chat and they even produced wine – an unexpected luxury in a beautifully situated but basic campground (toilets and sinks but no showers!). Up at 6 today and the routine of packing up coming into place and we were ready to go by about 7.
We had also met Paul in the site next door to us on the csmpsite and he set off at the same time. He is a quiet chap with a bushy beard, probably in his 60s – an achetypal old timer on a bike who is impressively fit – we criss-crossed with him through day.
The reflections in the lake in the early morning sun were beautiful so we paused for photos and then were into a stiff climb – one of the steepest of the day in fact but a bit cruel on unwarmed up legs. However views over Diablo Lake and the surrounding mountain soon opened up and were stunning.
The road then contoured along the side of a new valley, a small downhill and then the long climb began – about 20 miles of up! The gradient was mostly reasonable so it was a case of getting into the right gear and plodding up – not thinking of how far there was to go but feeling the rhythm and soaking up the chaning views and scenery.
Lots of stops, brewing up coffee at one point. SR 20 is a good road but in those early hours it was cool and there was very little traffic. Later traffic built up a bit but never a lot of it. As a bicycle snob hauling up on out own steam I wondered how much those wizzing by in aluminium boxes were taking in. The 7 hours it took us to the top (with all out stops) probably took less than an hour in a car.
The views would still be stunning but on the bike each vista is absorbed and every little nuance noticed and the picture slowly goes by and is part of what I really enjoy. The morning began to heat up and the last pull up to the top of Rainy Pass was hot and tough but a real feeling of achievement when we got there (4855ft).
It did not live up to its name as the sky was still brilliantly clear and blue without a cloud to see. We stopped at the picnic area at the top for lunch and a longish lunch, lnowing we had another climb to come. No water, so we begged a fill up of our water bottles from an RV – we had already got through litres.
A fantastic whizz downhill for about 400ft then the last climb of a 1000 feet. I don’t know what the temperature was but it was HOT so this was really tough, stopping in small areas of shade to cool as little and drink, drink and more drink.
The top of Washington pass was 5477ft. A half mile track led to an amazing view point where we could see the road winding down.
We begged more water and the the fun began. 17 miles down hill with hardly a pedal. Good road surface and lots of it straight so we could really let ourselves go (my top speed 38 miles an hour- slightly scary!). It was so hot that it felt like we were flying down through a hair dryer. Going down and hotter and hotter so a welcome stop at the pretty little settlement of Mazama. Although it only had a population of a couple of hundred, it had a large shop/cafe that was blissfully air conditioned. There we met Jonathon, another cyclist. Arriving with a loaded bike opens conversations with everyone straight off. Jonathon, a photographer, was going to tackle the climb the next day going east to west. We were planning to stay at the next town, Winthrop. He had stayed there the night before and alerted us to warmshowers.org – a website where individuals offer accomodation to touring cyclists – and he gave us the contact of the couple he had stayed the night before and highly recommended – although unfortunately there was no answer when we rang.
The last 12 miles to Winthrop were down a pleasant river valley. The scenery very different and very ‘wild west’. legs now very very tired and no let off on the heat. We had already resolved during the day that tomorrow would be a rest day to recover from our first few days and today’s big climb. In need to more comfort that a campsite tonight we booked into the Rio Vista hotel overlooking the river, which luckily still had a room. A comfortable air conditioned room. Hot shower. Bliss!!
We then managed to contact Tom and Carolyn who were wonderful. They invited us down to meet them, and we sat in their stunning garden being fed icecream and making new friends. It was a barmy, hot evening and was such a delight. They had some friends from Iowa who were visiting and we all swapped stories until it was time to amble back to the hotel, tired and contented.