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Issue 25: Save Mode in the Swakane Canyon

Just one of the pitches up on the Swakane Canyon Climb

There are many stories to tell from the Gran Fondo Leavenworth, but the “My car got stolen!” mind thrashing before the Swakane Canyon climb is probably the most entertaining (not at the time though). After a couple 90 minutes climbs, treacherous descents, and before starting the 2 hour Swakane, I was on the Highway 2 shoulder with chipseal resonating through my bike at a very uncomfortable frequency. Keeping pace but saving it for what was promised as a, “You opened the box and your soul belongs to me” climb, I'm rolling along and see a white Audi Allroad…

There isn’t very many of those on the road and if my friend ​who owns one too had already finished, he'd travel towards I-90 and not drive by on this highway.

Not the top, but you think it is, until the climbing starts again.

So I think that’s my car because I left the keys out, as bike racers do for whoever finished first, and a thief has my car now. Damn it! Then all the iterations of what that meant: camera, iPad, credit cards, license, etc, etc.

That car-stolen-mental thrashing abruptly ended though, as I went into save mode on the first pitch of the Swakane. The sun had burned through the cloud cover, and the temperature was at 111 degrees. The slope of the canyon walls and alignment of the planet in the universe at that moment, meant solar rays heated up the dirt road like a convection oven. Conserving here meant energy later for the descent.

It’s a heaven and hell experience in the Swakane, because this is what you witness after all the desperately-hard climbing.

It was Africa hot and at times in the 36 x 36 gear, I was crawling so slow, the GPS stopped tracking. Buzzards could’ve carried me up the slope to their nest faster than I was moving. Everything had been done right so far…. eating, hydrating, bike handling, and set up. No cramps, flats, or mechanicals either. Checked my ego and let the fast guys go at the start too.

Breathe and pedal.

In a heavyweight fight with the Swakane climb, took every pitch up like a punch, and it didn’t knock me down.

Turns out my car wasn't stolen either.


Ed. note: After a good run of 42 issues, our magazine app is no longer available, but we’ve archived the content here for Medium members.