79.6 miles: Curlew Falls to Coulee Dam
We scooted out of camp and into Republic. Our Tandem Talk communication headset had broken the day before, so we went into town and waited for the Radio Shack/Hunting Supply store to open. When we headed out again, we were on the very tail end of the group.
We caught up with our friends Thyce and Amy on a very long, steady downhill run through a canyon which funneled wind straight up at us. On our own, we’d have been able to make pretty good time. Thyce was struggling with his third day of intestinal distress, though. We took them in tow, cut our speed, and helped get them to the lunch stop at 45 miles. Thyce was refusing to get off the bike, despite everyone’s best efforts. We finally staged a sit down strike until he got on the sag wagon. He was in no shape to go up (or down) the hill which was coming.
At 60 miles we headed up Manila Road. It was about a mile of very steep climbing, then it leveled out. After another 2-3 miles the real climb started. It was at least 5 miles long. We climbed 1700’ in those five miles. We had to just get in our biggest gear and crawl up. It was the first hill we’ve ever experienced where we considered walking. For those of you who are in the know, the average grade was a 9% for the last mile. It was also fully in the sun with the temperature probably hovering around 90. No other word than brutal will describe it. There was a beautiful vista at the top.
Once over the top, we couldn’t even enjoy the downhill run to the river. There had been road construction, so there was loose gravel on the incredibly steep, twisty, no-guard-rail road. We rode the drag brake all the way down, never breaking 33.
Eventually, we made it into Coulee Dam. After dinner we had an awards presentation. Sheila got her number picked for a prize… a Camelback water system. We don’t use them, but plan to swap it out at REI for something good. Later that evening Spencer watched the laser light show on the dam with tandem buddy Steve and a mess of other cyclists. Our stokers just didn’t want to walk to the show.