Thursday, August 16, 2007

Yakama with an 'A' are AOK.

I rode south from Yakuma for an hour with an eye toward camping out.
The valley outside the city is a patchwork of commercially cultivated
fields, small farms, and impoverished trailer parks where live,
presumably, the pickers.

Something about the quality of this disparity made me nervous about
approaching people for permission to camp on their land. Fortuitously,
I soon reached the Yakama RV park, a sort of Indian-themed KOA,
attached to a fancy pants Yakama cultural interpretation center.

After registering, I came out to find a flat tire on my bike. A quick
inspection turned up a small thorn. I don't know WHOSE ancestors
guided me here, but the timing could not have been better.

Setting up camp, I got lucky again, arriving just in time to watch the
slenderest crescent moon descend between two giant teepees and sink
into an adjacent field.

Who you callin' a Yakima?

I roll into Yakima at rush hour, and I can't tell you how thrilled I
am. 410 has turned into 12, which is an actual, real freeway. Common
sense tells me to GET OFF THE FREEWAY, STUPID, even though I can see a
sign for my next connection, 97 S, coming up in 3/4 miles. But I do
the sensible thing and exit.

And maaan, Yakima is a HOLE. Everywhere broad decaying streets, single
story buildings, and cars, cars, cars. It's the worst case example of
car culture sprawl. This once beautiful empty valley has had inflicted
upon it a real live Grand Theft Auto set. It'll be the first place to
go when the oil starts to trickle out. (Incidentally, I've started
laughing when I ride past gas stations.)

The only good thing about my visit to Yakima is that it comes still
early enough for me to get the hell out before nightfall. Of course,
by this time, I've lost track of 97. I work my way back to a highway

While I'm contemplating returning to the freeway, a yappy 'hua gets
all up in my grill (if I may attempt the local patois). I see that the
dog belongs to a young Latino guy tinkering with a weight bench in his
front yard, which is literally at the foot of highway 82. I ask him if
82 turns to 97, as I suspect. He has no idea, then turns away and
shuts his door on me. The dog chases me to the end of the street.

I try another couple, a middle aged woman and her 20ish son. They
share a dismayingly long whispered huddle before admitting that 82
MIGHT connect to 97 past Union Gap.

At this point, I'm ready to return to the highway, because anything's
better than BEING IN YAKIMA.

My eventual connection takes me up and around a bend, where I catch a
glimpse of the sun setting over the green valley Yakima once was. God
bless its soul; that oil shortage can't come soon enough.

Best three bucks I ever spent.

Coming down off Chinook pass into Natches, 410 parallels the Natches
river. A post-lunch dunk was looking mighty appealing. Much of the
riverfront here is private property though, and judging by the gated
bridges leading to homes on the far bank, they take their proppity
rahts seriously around here.

I pulled in to a random faceless trailer park and asked the first
person I saw if they'd mind me jumping in the river. By chance I had
found the owner, and he offered to "set you up for three dollars."

My kneejerk internal reaction was, "what, three bucks to jump in a
river I could enter for free?" Immediately I realized how asinine was
my reaction; I spent $3 on a package of trail mix an hour ago. The
deal was sealed when the owner told me that showers were included.

The river was shallow but swift here. I inched into the cold water and
lay myself down in it. The powerful current made it neccessary to hold
on; I lay face down and clung to the rocky riverbed as the stream
rushed over me. I let it wash away all the heat of the day, all the
pain in my body. Lying supine in the shallow rushing river felt like
flying, and I laughed beneath the water. It felt like freedom.

Afterwards I showered and shaved for the first time in three days. I
took my clothes in with me, soaped and rinsed them, put them right
back on wet. The hot road was waiting.

Whistlin' Jack Lodge

Lunch today at Whistlin' Jack Lodge, just outside the immaculately
tidy Stepford village of Glendell. Jack's is an establishment that is
unapologetically bristling with kitsch, without shame or cynicism. I
had a ground veggie wrap and admired the stuffed elk, bobcat, mountain
goat, carved schools of salmon, and portraits of other iconic American
wild animals. Only $210 gets you into a private cabin with hot tub.
I'm not sure if that's for a night or a weekend.

I am Jack's inflamed left knee.

Why has no one ever mentioned how much it sucks to get old? Maybe
someone once mumbled something to the effect while my attention was
captured by more interesting things.

I have for some time (a couple of years, probably) been developing
what is likely a mild arthritis in my knees, more the left than the
right. This trip has aggravated it like nothing else. On Wednesday
there were times when I had to grit my teeth, groan, and just keep
peddling. My habit is to dismount to lhe left, and in one instance my
left leg nearly buckled. Wednesday's continuous uphill climb filled me
with fear of pain ending my trip.

By Thursday I've come to the habit of taking more frequent but shorter
breaks to stretch, which has brought the pain to a more manageable
level. Frequent dunkings in cold rivers also helps, and I heartily
recommend it to other sufferers of the same affliction.

Quite a sight.

I just went through Chinook Pass. Fuckin' A, I rode over a mountain,
baby! Wooooo!

I spent the first 10 minutes of the downhill ride alternately
laughing, crying, and loudly humming the theme from Star Wars. After a
solid day of uphill yesterday, this felt like being born.

Best of all - there's SUN on this side of the pass.

Chinook Pass, elevation 5,432 feet.