Nearly a year of training, late meetings and sleepless nights finally led us to May 18th: launch day. I think it’s safe to say that May 18th came much quicker than any of us could have anticipated. The Men’s and Women’s teams just finished up a busy semester of school, (a few members just graduated, wooo!) so the stress of finals and moving back home still hung heavily on our hearts. We stayed at Aaron’s house in Beaverton, OR for a few nights before heading up to Washington, and had the chance to process the past few hectic weeks before beginning this daunting endeavor. The Men’s team had the privilege of staying with Hannah Sullivan’s (a driver for the Women’s team) family on the night of the 17th and their hospitality instantly filled us with joy and allowed us to put our weary minds to rest. Andrew, Aaron, John, and I blazed a trail to some train tracks in the Sullivan’s backyard area and conveniently found some Stinging Nettle – applying irritation cream to hands and legs is a heck of a way to begin this trip, but we all laughed it off.
May 18th Launch Day- Day 1
Anacortes, WA to Lake Diablo, WA
We started the day in Anacortes, dipping our wheels in the Pacific Ocean for the last time. Only a few minutes into the ride, we had some trouble getting on the bike lane for Highway 20 E. and got a bit turned around. I think it was pretty comical getting lost 10 minutes into our ride when we still had 12 states to go! Luckily we quickly found our way back and the entire team had a good laugh. We continued on Highway 20 E. for the entire day, stopping for lunch in Concrete, WA. We were feeling pretty good for the entire day until the climb came. Of course, the last 15 miles of our 88 mile ride would be a 3,200ft climb. After a long push we were able to make our way through to gorgeous Diablo Lake and celebrate a successful first day! A Huge thank you goes out to Matt and Nikki Delbosque for opening up their church, Citipoint in Marblemount, WA to us and providing us with more food than we could handle. We deeply appreciate the Delbosque’s hospitality more than our words could say and more than we were able to express in the short amount of time we had with them.
May 19th- Day 2
Diablo Lake, WA to Winthrop, WA
May 19th is a day we had all been dreading for a long time. Day 2 was our push through what some might call the physical and mental burden of cycling through the Cascade Mountains. Never in my wildest dream did I see myself doing anything this crazy, but here I was staring down some of the most breathtaking mountains I’d ever seen, and it was time to ride. Hands down, this was the toughest and most beautiful ride I have ever been on. This is certainly one of the most remarkable places that I have ever been to. After riding with a number of other cyclists throughout the day, making new friends and swapping stories, we celebrated the final push over Washington pass stopping to soak in the beauty of the cascades with as many photos as we could! We were rewarded with a long winding descent into Winthrop where we grabbed dinner and received the good news that thanks to the ridiculous hospitality of Michelle Dufenhorst and her family, the owners of Rocky Pond Winery, we would be staying at their guest house in Orondo just outside of Lake Chelan.
May 20th- Day 3
Winthrop, WA to Grand Coulee, WA
Today was hot. We have a 7 gallon tank of water that lives in the back of our support van, and we wound up emptying the entire tank – Aaron and I were able to refill the water tank at a spigot at the Chief Joseph Dam a few miles out of Grand Coulee. We stopped for lunch in Pateros right where the SR 153 hits Federal Highway 97 and wandered into the Sweet River Bakery. We talked with Chris from the Bakery for a while, told him about the cause, and they were sweet enough to donate a couple of the best pizzas we’ve ever had, which disappeared in seconds. The riders were feeling pretty confident after conquering the Cascades but were quickly humbled by the rolling hills along the Columbia River on SR 17 from Pateros to Grand Coulee. We spent the night with Ron and Corinna Hunter, the sweetest couple who have been married for nearly 54 years! The Hunters don’t even live in Washington – they traveled all the way from their home in Coeur d’Alene just to open up their church, The Church of the Nazarene, Grand Coulee, and fed us well.
Looking back on the first three days of the ride, the word that comes to mind is humbled. As a team we are blown away by the hospitality of the families we have met, inspired by the conversations we have had, and more motivated than ever to raise awareness for the global water crisis.