Jay Wilker is one of 200 bicyclists in the "Big Ride," a
summer-long bike-a-thon sponsored by the American Lung Association to
raise public awareness and funding for respiratory health. This is the
first in a series of letters that began in Washington State and will end
in the nation's capitol. Writing for World Travelers of America, Wilker
offers a unique view of America from across the handlebars. In his other
life, Wilker, 56, is a litigation attorney with Oppenheimer, Wolff and
Donnelly, LLP, in New York.
Across America - Leg 1
Hi from Spokane . . .
I have just finished a four-day bicycle ride across the state of
Washington, the start of our journey from the Pacific to the Atlantic
We left a dreary Seattle on Monday and headed into the Cascade
Mountains for two days of riding, climbing up through Stevens Pass where
the sun was bright and the snow pure white. After a long descent at speeds
over 45 mph, we were in desert-like terrain for a long time until we
climbed again to a high fertile plateau.
On the third day we did over 100 miles with several pretty tough
climbs. It turned out that this was the first century (biking parlance for
100 miles) for a number in our group including Paul, the oldest rider at
We camped out at the Grand Coulee dam, a massive piece of technology
damming up a tributary to the Columbia River. Yesterday morning I rode
alone across the dam around 5:45am as the sun rose over the reservoir and
spread a beautiful glow onto the dam itself. It was quite a memorable
Yesterday's ride was 90+ miles to Spokane from Grand Coulee. We had a
strong tailwind and the riders in our immediate group - a lawyer from
Florida, an engineer from Santa Fe, an IBM consultant from Dallas and
several young riders who talk biking rather than about their careers -
averaged 17 mph for the entire ride, not including a couple of water
We rode through a very fertile plateau with virtually endless fields of
wheat and grain. Crop-dusters flew at head height above the farmlands, and
two-story combines lumbered along just below. The road was full of large,
double-trailer trucks carrying grain to and from the massive elevators
along our route. The scale of all of this industry makes one appreciate
the wealth of American agriculture.
We are now in Spokane for a rest day where we are staying in a
dormitory at Gonzaga University. Spokane is a charming city on the edge of
the Rockies. The city is bisected by the Spokane River, a raging
white-water raceway surrounded on either side by verdant parks. Numerous
footbridges with bicycle paths criss-cross the river throughout the city.
This place feels like the next Denver.
We managed to find a New York-like Irish pub with the Yankee/Red Sox
game on television, but our group, not exactly the youngest riders on the
Big Ride, faded around 8PM.
I went to bed just as my roommate, Justin, who recently finished
college, was heading out for the evening.
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