In which I get my first DNF in a while ... photos at

I posted a while back, asking for suggestions for a route from Yakima to 
Pendleton. A great resource turned out to be the Desert River Randonneurs, who 
have many routes on RideWithGPS. My goal was to ride the 135 miles (a bit over 
200km) from my daughter's apartment in Yakima to my brother's house in 

This was also the first trip for my recently repainted Bleriot/Travelo. We took 
Southwest so the bike flew free :-).

The forecast had been looking great, but a couple of days beforehand the 
forecast began to include some troublesome predictions about wind. I'd be 
traveling generally south and east, and the forecast was for the wind to clock 
around from south to west. At 24 hours before departure, the forecast was for 
winds to get over 20mph with much stronger gusts. Looking at the route and the 
timing, I thought I might be able to miss the worst of it, and the final run 
into Pendleton would be mostly downwind.

Departure from Yakima around 7am was cloudy, cool and darker than I hoped, 
which made me regret leaving the lights at home. That didn't last long, though. 
Everything else about the bike felt fabulous. The Bleriot is a terrific 
all-around bike and, with the fork pulled for a bit more rake, handles a full 
Boxy Bag nicely. Given the plan to spend the night at my brother's, I had to 
bring some clothing and "overnight" stuff. MUSA long pants are ideal for this! 
Compass EL tires are a perfect match and sing over the generally rough 
Washington roads.

Something like 70% of the hops grown in the country come from Yakima, and it's 
easy to believe as you roll south out of the city. All the farms seem to be 
small scale, but they all sit next to each other, resulting in endless lines of 
pine poles strung together at the tops, ready to receive the year's growth of 
vines. It's hard to do justice to the sight with a quick cell phone grab shot, 
not wanting to take too much of a break so early in the ride.

Navigating out of the city area should have been straightforward, despite 
having made a last minute change to the route. We had discovered a couple of 
days earlier that my selected route was closed as a result of an entire 
hillside being in danger of collapsing. We had driven an alternative route that 
involved a small bit of climbing, but was quite scenic, so I just made that 
adjustment in RideWithGPS, downloaded the new file to my Garmin, and printed 
the new cue sheet. I skipped the all-important step of double-checking the cue 
sheet, though, and it turned out that RideWithGPS generated a few wrong turn 
directions.  Eventually I found my way, and the climb helped me warm up a bit. 
I have a couple of bikes that are noticeably lighter than the Bleriot, but I 
never miss them when I'm riding it. I'm light and have modest power output, but 
the Bleriot frame has always felt like it swings pretty well for me.

The descent brought me to the Yakima Valley Highway, with runs parallel to 
I-82, southeast along the Yakima River. This is very productive farmland, and 
you roll along a nice, flat road past all manner of orchards, vineyards, and 
farms. Annoyingly, the wind isn't south-southwest, it's coming in more 
southeast, pretty much on the nose. In the town of Zillah, home of the Teapot 
Dome Gas Station National Historic Site (I didn't stop to investigate...), my 
cue sheet says right when I should turn left, so I get in a couple of bonus 
miles. Naturally it's a mile of downhill before I realize I'm off track, so a 
mile back uphill ... Emerald Rd out of Granger is beautiful and lined with 
vineyards. I was hoping the skies would have cleared by now, but the moody 
skies match the late winter/early spring browns of the landscape. Eventually 
the skies clear a bit and I get occasional glimpses of mountains when I look 
back to the west. 

When the road comes back to I-82 and the Yakima Valley Highway, there is a bike 
path running down to Grandview. This is about the 1/3 point, so I snap a shot 
of the town welcome sign and send an update IM to my family. I pick up the path 
on the south end of Grandview and take it the rest of the way to Prosser, where 
I will cross the Yakima River and climb up to Horse Heaven. The skies finally 
cleared at this point, so I enjoyed a bit of a rest, snapping a few photos and 
filling a fresh bottle of liquid fuel.

The climb out of Prosser is on a popular road for trucks, but it's a steady 
6-7% grade with a reasonable shoulder and it seemed like no time before I was 
at the top, even taking a quick break on the way up for a photo op. Another 
photo op at the top, and I climbed over the crest and found the promised wind.

Horse Heaven is a high, arid area that stretches out forever, with nothing (and 
I mean NOTHING) to block the wind. It's around 20mph at this point, 
south-southwest, and I need to make 20 miles, mostly due south. An ominous sign 
warns that I'm entering a dust storm area for the next 24 miles. It's rolling 
hills through here, but the wind means there's no break on the downhills. The 
wind speed climbs, and my bike speed slows. Around half way across the wind is 
up to 25-30 (and gusting higher) and starting to kick up the dust. I stop to 
tie a bandana around my mouth and nose and struggle to get moving again. I've 
also come back to the truck route, and there is a steady stream of them flying 
by me, them going 70, me going 8. Another stop is required to clear a 
tumbleweed from my gears. At this point I'm starting to think I might not 
finish this ride.

A sequence of gravel roads provides a break from the trucks and a brief bit of 
downwind, but mostly it's still south and into the wind. I finally get to Hwy 
14 and get to head east on a smooth road with a big tail wind, running parallel 
to the Columbia River. There's an ominous layer of brown blowing across the 
land on the other side, where my route will be taking me. All too soon I have 
to take another leg south and fight the wind for another few miles. Then it's 
six miles of blissful tailwind along the Columbia. As I ride along a farm lined 
with trees, the wind makes an amazing moaning sound in the branches. It's nice 
to be coasting, but I'm pretty fried. 

Crossing the Columbia is done on a bike path on the east side of the I-82 
bridge. That means climbing into a tailwind with a steady stream of cars and 
trucks spraying me with sand and grit. Coming off the bridge, turning right to 
go under the highway, the wind gusts and brings me to a complete stop. And 
that's enough to make my decision. I made my way to a gas station/Subway, 
ordered a salad, and called my brother to tell him to fire up than new pickup 
truck and come pickmeup. It's hard to accept a DNF, but it was almost 100 miles 
and 20 of the hardest I've ever ridden, in a bit over 7 1/2 hours, so I can't 
feel like it was a total failure. 

The Bleriot (with S&S couplers) is, for me, the perfect travel bike. The 
wheel/tire size is just right for a very wide range of conditions, the frame is 
the right combination of strength/weight/resilience. It was inexpensive enough 
that I don't mind it getting dinged up. (Though I'm bummed about the scratch it 
got in the new paint on the trip home!) I'd prefer a steeper head angle for 
less trail, but with the fork pulled out a bit I felt that the handling in 
severe crosswinds and with a loaded front bag is neutral enough.  I might be 
taking it to Ireland in May. We'll see how it handles the Conor Pass.

Ted Durant
Milwaukee, WI USA

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