July 27: Winthrop to Newhalem, Washington - The Great North American Sticky Bun Hunt - CycleBlaze

July 27: Winthrop to Newhalem, Washington

Pellos: sometimes copied, never bettered
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TODAY AT LAST we saw mountains worthy of the name. They stood high and arrogant, gazing in expressionless contempt at our sweat-stained efforts to scale them. They reminded me of the cartoons that a Frenchman called Pellos drew during the Tour de France in the 1950s and 1960s. He gave the mountains smiling, avuncular faces and arms that held bags of loot just out of reach. But more usually he gave them faces that scowled, behind which a green monster waited with a raised hammer to pound those who thought themselves strong enough to race their flanks.

Our cols through the Rockies have so far been without snow and, frankly, often without interest. But Washington Pass is different. It climbs less than Sherman Pass but the rocks are angrier and they're topped and streaked, even in July, with long lines of snow.

Have mercy, Mr Pellos: we are but humble souls about to mount those climbs.
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What it would be like to climb in normal weather, I don't know. Today we climbed in 38 degrees, the sky only intermittently milky, the sweat soaking but the road surface sweet. To climb in 38 degrees is not normal. Nor is it pleasant. Even relieved of

Grovel, grovel... the stony rise after the final hairpin was debilitating.
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Much blood was shed to get this picture...
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some of our load, which Tim and Jill squeezed into their bright yellow motorbike trailer, we struggled like mules. And I, always prone to the thinness of air above 1,500 metres, felt no better for that.

The road goes up less steeply than Loup-Loup and in principle it should be easier. But it is longer and it is more daunting. In cooler weather I don't think it would have been half the problem. But we were canned by the hairpin that leads to the summit and grateful for the cold beers that Tim and Jill pulled from their trailer.

Tim and Jill from Revelstoke: two Canadian cyclists taking time out on a motorbike.
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The interesting thing is that while Tim, on the front of the motorbike, noticed Rainy Pass that follows soon afterwards, Jill on the pillion spotted no difference. Such is the difference in perception from the seat of a motorbike and the saddle of a bicycle, even for experienced cyclists.

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Other than the scenery, this wasn't a happy day. Rainy Pass isn't much, just another hook in the road once it has started descending. It is another col sign for the collection but without much effort to justify it. And after Rainy Pass comes 30km of descent. Whoopee!

But only half a whoopee. Because halfway through that drop the wind funnelled between the rocks and forced us to pedal as we descended. If we didn't pedal, we slowed where, previously, we had been rolling at 65kmh. We didn't stop but we were down to 20, the speed we would ride on a smooth road on the flat.

The moment the road reaches lower ground, it hoiks back up. It does it several times and it is debilitating.

I wouldn't say that the glory of Diablo lake justifies the effort but it helped. Why? Because the road rushes round a bend and then over a bridge. And what can I say about the water, except that it is a milky, glowing, turquoise, a soft, pearly green that twinkled in the sun. We stopped and we gazed and we marvelled. We have seen lakes like that at home and we are promised another at Lake Louise in Canada but it is hard to think that either rivalled or will rival what we saw this afternoon. It rinsed the pain from our legs and souls, although seven and a half hours in the saddle for 126km - that's seven and a half hours of pedalling, not just from journey's start to end - has left its mark.

Tim and Jill were worried at our lateness. But they have bought pasta and they are going to cook it. Our eyes are beginning to stop moving independently.

AMERICAN FLAGS SEEN: 24

BUCKETS SWEATED: Many

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