Mesa to Pitt 2015

Mesa to Pitt 2015

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wilbur, Washington to Douglas, Washington Aug 26-27

August 26
On Monday morning we woke up and assessed the damages from the storm, which were worse than we expected. The wind and rain ripped through Wilbur, Washington for about a half a hour, and we knew some tree branches fell in the campground, and we knew one of our slide toppers took a beating. Well, entire trees blew over in town, about a half mile from us, and the entire metal piece that attached the cloth over the slide was ripped out by the screws and blown up on our roof. We thought this was going to be expensive and a major repair problem, but then Bob came along. The owner of the campground came by in his bib overalls, on his golf cart, and helped assess the damage. After discussing options, including driving back to Spokane, calling a repairman from 70 miles away, or just tying it on until we got to Seattle, Bob decided we could fix it. He disappeared in his golf cart, and a half an hour later, was back with two ladders, all kinds of tools that we needed but almost nobody has, and we had at it. Pam went to the hardware store to by some more self tapping aluminum screws, and Bob and I climbed the two ladders and bent metal, put slot A into tab B, drilled, screwed, and did a damn good job, fixing that slide topper better than it was when we bought it. If you know me, you know that Bob was the brains of the operation, and we did in an hour what I thought it was going to take days to get done. Thank you, Bob. You are the man! (This is the same guy who served us dinner at our picnic table last night! )
Bob - the friendliest, most helpful guy!  And his wife was darned nice too! (And a great cook!)

After killing most of the day at the campground, we took off to see the Grand Coulee Dam, which is only 20 miles up the road. It was okay that we got a late start because the dam has a laser show after dark, and the timing would work out well. We were shocked at what we saw when we pulled into the town of Coulee Dam.  There were huge trees down everywhere, power lines were down across the road causing detours, and power was out at the visitors center, portions of roofs were blown off of a restaurant and at the casino, and power was out in Mason City, which is the little town on Indian Reservation property on the downstream side of the dam. 
 If you remember, when we were at the Hoover Dam, the visitor center was closed due to backed up toilets, and now we are at the Grand Coulee, and the power is out. That is crazy considering the the dam produces more power than any dam in the USA. It sends power to the grid in eleven states west of the continental divide, but doesn't power itself. 
We walked around for a while, trying to figure out what to do, because nobody was around but utility workers and roofers. We ended going to the dam tour area to get the scoop on the situation, and we got to take a tour in the dam, and got to ride over the dam in a tour bus, escorted by an armed guard. No one can drive across the dam since the Oklahoma City bombings, and security was intense for us to even get on the bus. Pam couldn't take her purse, and they made me unzip my wallet so they could look inside. There was also the standard metal detector, and Pam had to make funny motions with her arms when she went through. We had a great guide who used to work at Hoover Dam.  She had some great statistics and stories, comparing the two dams (Coulee is WAY bigger and produces WAY more power). By the time the tour was over, there were rumors that the power was coming on, and there would be a laser show, which was in doubt. We got something to eat at a restaurant that had power, and then went to the visitors center, and it was open, with no electricity. We wandered for a while, and the power did come on in time for us to watch a movie, and attend the light show. I found out what a coulee was, which is something that has baffled me all my life. A coulee is French for a canyon. The name Grand Canyon was already taken, and there was a large French influence around here, so the coulee of the Grand Coulee Dam, was the grandest coulee caused by the Missoula Glacier Lake that formed coulees all through this area.

                                                             Laser show on the dam
The laser show was done right on the dam, after they opened the twelve metal gates at the top of the dam to let the trickle turn to whitewater, which was the background for the laser show. The show was educational in nature, talking about the Columbia River, which is what is dammed up here, to form Lake Roosevelt. There was some music, but I didn't learn anything that I hadn't already learned in the visitors center. A little disappointing for me, but it was a huge show, running from one side of the dam to the other, and the dam is a mile wide! We got home late, hit the sack, and were out pretty quick.

Lake Roosevelt behind the dam

Grand Coulee Dam

Panoramic picture

Carved statue in Mason City


Power lines running up the mountain from dam

On top of the dam - used to be a road that visitors could drive on

Standing on top of the dam looking down.  White stripes are water streams running down the down.

Columbia River 

Road blocked due to power lines torn down by storms


That would be rocks falling down the mountain!

Laser show on dam

Aug 27 - 67.87 miles in 5:54. I got out the door and hit US 2, with the typical beautiful conditions, 70's with no wind. Nor was there any traffic. It was very calm, riding through 25 miles of wheat fields as far as I could see. Most of the grain is now harvested, and the farmers seem to be turning the crop under. This is a good time of year to be riding through this country, because at least I get to see some tractors and combines out in the field. I usually just see a line of dust rising up into the sky, and if I look a little harder, I see a machine, or maybe it is just a dust devil, kicking up a mini tornado of dust. 
After about 25 miles, I descended into a coulee ( canyon), and came to the small farm town of Coulee City. There wasn't much there, but I did  cross a dam that was holding Banks Lake. That is a lake that is 27 miles long, and it is pumped uphill, out of Lake Roosevelt, by the Grand Coulee Dam complex. The original purpose of the Coulee Dam was for irrigation, not hydroelectric power, and this lake is used only for irrigation and recreation. After crossing the bridge, I had a 900 ft ascent, out of the coulee, and into the 'scablands' of Washington. That is what they call the unfarmable lava rock laden land caused by the volcanoes of the Pacific Rim of Fire. I guess there are 160 active volcanoes from here, through Oregon and California, and in the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii. Some of the land is barely good for anything except some grazing because of the lava of ancient eruptions. That is what they call the scablands, and they are mixed right in with the good fertile land sometimes. After about twenty miles of riding on this boring topography, I descended 850 ft into another coulee. Up until this point I had rough road conditions with expansion cracks in the road, and after 40+ miles of that, my butt and wrists were getting tired of the constant banging. As the wind of the afternoon picked up, at least the road was made of newer pavement down in this coulee. After a few miles, it was another 900 ft ascent, out of the second coulee of the day. I guess you just are not going to get through Washington without crossing these things. They are caused by prehistoric glacier lake floods as ice melted and let loose, and they were floods of water thousands of feet deep. They happened every time an ice jam broke, reformed, and then broke again.
At the top of my second coulee of the day, which had cliffs that looked like the Grand Canyon made out of lava walls, I traveled through more farmland, until I came to another huge descent. At the bottom of my steepest downhill of the day, there came a little town of about  ten houses, and there was Pam, parked in an RV park of about  ten sights, of beautifully manicured grass. There was a general store in front, but it was now a private residence of the campground owners, and it was filled with antiques, including an original soda fountain bar. It no longer sold anything. We spent a quiet evening watching TV and blogging, as not much really goes on out here in the farmlands.


These are plows that turn under the old wheat


Dust devils!

Combines!  They grow them big out here!

Farmer plowing his fields near the silos


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