Between learning my new job, training classes and running back to Oregon on weekends off, I haven’t explored much of eastern Washington yet. Yesterday afternoon I took a few hours to check out one of the many opportunities for road riding in the Spokane area. No matter which direction I go, there are lots of options, most having a number of hills.
I chose to begin and end on roads I’m a little familiar with so I headed out downstream along the Spokane River, roughly following the return route from SpokeFest earlier this month, and returned via Wall Street since I’ve done a few 20 after work rides along the Little Spokane River.
In between, there was a 5 mile climb up onto the hillside to the north of the river, a 50+ mph descent from the high point followed by just over 20 miles to find my way back to Spokane.
The weather has been in the upper 70’s lately with some pretty crappy air from fires in Idaho to the east and the Cascades to the west. However, yesterday afternoon’s air quality didn’t seem all that bad.
Living above the 45th parallel at this time of the year, I’ve already noticed it’s not quite so bright on my ride into work at 6:30 am. In fact, today the sun still wasn’t above the horizon for a while after I got to work. Fortunately, there was plenty of ambient light and the full moon (remember this moon later in the story) was still high in the western sky. My white blinky light up front and red ones in the back help to keep my visible to the drivers not fully awake, but still driving. However, I hadn’t been noticing when it was getting dark in the evening. I’ve been home studying or playing with Sabrina by then. Can you guess where this story is going…?
Getting errands done yesterday, I set out about 4:30 or so in the afternoon for a nice 45 mile ride through the rural backroads of Spokane and Stevens counties. Along the Centennial Trail, I found a few dirt connector roads and trails to make the ride more interesting. This exploring slowed me down a bit.
Climbing up from the river was rather steep and slow going. Once the initial climb was done and I saw Lakeside High School, I also noticed the sun was rather low and the time was getting short. Rather than turn around and return the 17 miles or so, I decided to push on and continue my exploration.
Climbing resumed for another 3-4 miles with a wonderful prairie view at the crest. At nearly the halfway point, I was loosing good light quickly but figured I could still make it back before dark.
As I turned east and continued to lose about 50 feet per mile, I was averaging nearly 25 mph. That rarely happens with the cranks turning but I was not thrilled about darkness settling in when I had no idea where I was, other than the cue sheet I’d brought along to remind me of my intended turns.
Heading south finally, the light faded quickly and out of nowhere, deer started bolting across the roadway every hundred yards or so. In no time, I was hearing them running before I saw them. It was dark now and I was 15 miles from home on unfamiliar roads.
Preparation seems to not be my forte lately. Not expecting to be out after dark, the only lighting I had were the little red blinky on my helmet and the Planet Bike Superflash Turbo blinky on the seat stay. I clipped the little one on my jersey so any vehicles on the road would have some indication I was there and used the Superflash to read my cue sheet by.
Needless to say, my average speed dropped almost as quickly as the elevation did on the steep descent into Dartford. At least the full moon provided a bit of road illumination but I was travelling only as fast as I could see the road ahead. After finally climbing onto Mill St, the street lights were a welcome sight. Now I just had to make sure to be as visible as possible to the many cars heading out on Saturday night.
Obviously I made it home without incident and having the huge full moon light my way on a dark roadway was magical but slow riding. I put my small headlight on my bars this morning and it will stay there. I can’t wait to return and do this ride again with a bit more daylight. There are lots of roads waiting to be explored up there.
Next weekend I’ll be back in Oregon for our 11th wedding anniversary!!!