In a recent discussion about the Cascade 1200 and what one of the riders, a good friend of mine, went through to complete it, one person said, “SOUNDS HORRIBLE.” Well, here’s my response to that individual:
NOT horrible, just long. This is one of the most beautiful and prestigious rides in the United States. 1250 Kilometers (roughly 775 miles) and the rider has 93 hours to complete. One must work very hard to get him or herself into both physical and mental condition to do this kind of an intense athletic event, and should be extremely proud when they achieve such an amazing completion of a hard-fought for goal. Many try, but only the strongest and most determined succeed. It is kind of like that in a lot of life, it seems to me.
The ride starts in Monroe and travels down the west side of the Cascades to Highway 12, then over White Pass an into Yakima the firsst day. On the second day route then goes thru the rolling wheat fields of eastern Washington, sometimes in excruciating heat, often with strong winds either pushing or pulling the rider this way or that, wending its way through Quicy for another night of rest then on to Ephrata, Soap Lake and up to Coulee City along the river, with an incredible view of the ancient "Dry Falls", and west hrough Moses Coulee, one of the most geographically significant spots in the state. After a pause in what most people would consider desolate little Farmer, the journey drops again to the Columbia River and over Loup Loup Pass into the Methow Valley, a place so serene that it looks like it is still caught in the early 1900s in a lot of places.
After a night at Mazama, riders are treated to a climb over Washington and Rainy Passes, perhaps the most beautiful stretch of mountain highway the state has to offer, and an area so scenic that people from all over the world come to ride, hike, camp and climb in the woods, small lakes, streams and revel in the grandeur of these "American Alps."
This year, we attracted riders from Japan, Germany, France and Canada, as well as several other states. They came because of the beauty and the challenge. "Horrible"? We think not. Difficult and challenging? Absolutely.
And the real beauty of it comes because, unlike being trapped in a car where the distractions keep us from really focusing on our surroundings, on a bicycle, one is acutely attuned to everything around him or her. The rushing waterfalls, the coolness of the air when it is 85 degrees out and you ride past a snowbank or a waterfall rushing down the cliff next to you, the songs of all the birds, the clicking of a deer's hooves as he bounds across the highway in front of you. And then there is the riding at night. Alone in the mountains under a full moon, with no cars on these rural roads, the air crisp and clear, the night songs playing in sweet harmony to the constant melodious whoosh whoosh of your pedal cadence and often the only other sound being your own rhythmic breath, which most people can't even hear most of the time because of the noise around them and their mental separation from the reality of their body’s capacity and limitations.
On the bicycle, one sees it all, hears it all, feels it all and experiences it all. One becomes a true part of his or her surroundings instead of just sitting inside a leather, glass, metal and plastic machine blundering along with the only purpose being to GET THERE, whereever 'there' is, and do it as FAST AS POSSIBLE, regardless the consequences. On the bicycle, we see the carnage that the cars cause. The dead deer, birds, porcupines, raccoons, coyotes, dogs and cats that they leave behind. The empty beer bottles they discard as they drive down the road. The bags of half eaten big macs thrown thoughtlessly out the window. The discarded washing machines and refrigerators, dumped illegally in the ditches. The stuffed animals, left innocently but forgotten on top of the car when loading the kids’ things for the trip to grandma’s house. The crosses by the side of the road decorated with plastic flowers, beads, trinkets and the names of some lost loved one killed by a drunk driver. Yes, we see it all. We feel it all. We revel in the beauty and at the same time cry because of the lack of respect that many of those individuals in automobiles seem to have for their marvelous surroundings.
And you have the audacity to say the ride is horrible? I'd say driving that 775 miles would be horrible by comparison. Give me my bike any ol’ day of the week, thank you very much.