Road trip day 5 – Endurance

When the guy at the gas station in Biggs said that he didn’t know how the heck I could ride a motorcycle in that wind I realised that I’d just done something pretty amazing/foolhardy.

The day started easily enough with a browse around Best Buy in Bend considering the merits of a tax free 64Gb 3G iPad. Another of those road trip moments occurred when some guy asked where I was from. When I said SE England he mentioned that he’d visited Tunbridge Wells on a couple of occasions. Tunbridge Wells is no more than 30 miles from where I used to live in Maidstone. Small world moment. Oh, and no iPad as I couldn’t be sure that I’d get it back in one piece.

I was following the 97  with my target for the day being Yakima. The route took me across what get’s referred to as desert but to me was more prairie/scrub as there’s a fair amount of vegetation. What was a bit of a shock was to get delayed by roadworks – resurfacing no less. By the time I hit the roadworks the wind had got up and was making riding a touch unpredictable. The wind was constant with occasional gusts. The Ducati is a light bike and was thus being blown around. Little did I know that this was only the start of a very windy journey (and not a can of beans in sight, well, it is sort of Blazing Saddles country).

The ride became more interesting after the roadworks as I had collected fresh tar and gravel on the tyres. So, now it was 2 wheels with a ring of gravel and wind. Great. I needed a break and Shaniko came along at the right time.
Shaniko was, well, strange. It appeared to be a small collection of buildings aimed at tourists, but who on earth would visit, and why? Anyway, another road trip moment saw me chatting with another biker, he was riding a BMW and was on his way back from a rally in Seattle. He said that the wind was pretty bad. Surely it couldn’t be as bad as what I’d already ridden through? I was about to find out.

Biggs is the last stop in Oregon before crossing the Columbia river back in to Washington. It was 58 miles from Shaniko and I don’t know how I made it. I could feel the back end starting to slide away on more than one occasion as cross winds hit me hard. Add in the huge wall of pressure created by tractor units lugging 53 foot trailers passing in the other direction and one has the recipe for some real yeehaw moments. I soon learned that laying down on the tank can sometimes be an act of genuine streamlining to aid self-preservation rather than it being for crotch rocket riders trying to get an extra few mph out of their screaming 650cc.

During this testing period I’d realised how much ‘in helmet’ self talk and singing goes on at times. I’m now trying to remember the internal soundtrack of my road trip. “I will survive’ would have worked well on day 5, but for some reason that particular track passed me by.

On an aside for a moment. I forgot to mention the day 4 somethings down my T-shirt moment. A few miles out of Bend on day 4 I suddenly started to get slight stabbing sensation around my navel. Sure enough when dismounting in Bend I shook out a hornet thing that had managed to get sucked down my T-shirt. Fortunately my protective spare tyre had saved the day – no harm suffered.

Back to day 5. When the guy at the gas station in Biggs said that he didn’t know how the heck I could ride a motorcycle in that wind I realised that I’d just done something pretty amazing/foolhardy. I still had to push on, Yakima was another 70 miles away. The wind dropped slightly during that section of the trip, or maybe I was now just used to the conditions. Yakima was reached, all I had to do was grab a motel for the night. |For some strange reason I started to look for bargain basement, not even budget. Why I decided to check in to a $35 a night place is still beyond me. The place was truly the pits, a dive, a hovel or worse. Decision made, replan, I could not spend the night in Yakima and Seattle was only 1.5 hours away. I’d head to Seattle.

Only Seattle was out of reach as the wind now seemed even stronger as I crossed a high range outside of Yakima. The target was now Ellensburg. The 30 miles was covered very gingerly, sometimes at a mere 40 mph, trying to hide in the wind dead spot behind a tractor trailer going up a hill. A real motel was spotted and booked in to. Time to east and rest.

Today was about endurance. I’m still an inexperienced rider, but learning all the time. Wind is definitely the sworn enemy of road trip bikers. Day 6 could be the last leg of this intro to road trips.


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