But it was no means a "great" tour. I got to see some areas I had not seen before, namely the Palouse region of SE Washington. But two days of the Palouse was enough. There weren't a lot of "scenic highlights" when I got outside of the Columbia Gorge, so a lot of a day's riding has already blended together in my head. And the black cloud that settled over my head on Day Two and lingered through Day Three colored the trip. In the end things worked out, but I really don't know why the whole "What am I doing?" feeling came over me so sudden and so strong. During this span of twenty-four hours, I wondered if doing this tour was a good idea. I started to think about the tour I should be doing right now, whether it be a more intense exploration of the Columbia Plateau on the Oregon side, or biking around the Puget Sound after all. I started to doubt all my actions. "Well, maybe I should have stayed on the Oregon side and camped at Deschutes River State Park instead of Horsethief Lake. Maybe I should have gotten a crappy motel in The Dalles instead. Or shouldn't I be heading out to Minneapolis for Lake Pepin?" The six miles on a horrible gravel "shortcut" was icing on the cake. My mood didn't lift until I got to the free campground in Roosevelt at the end of Day Three.
This was by no means the first time I had this feeling on a tour, and by no means will it be the last. But it veered dangerously close into the "scuttle trip" territory, and even after almost two weeks of it being over, I still don't understand why. I've ended tours early before, but I've only scuttled one: A tour from Minneapolis to Madison that I planned to take in October of 2009. I had even taken the train out to Minneapolis and started riding but ten miles in and after a flat tire I decided I wouldn't do it. The flat wasn't the entire cause of the scuttle, just simply the last straw. I had an uncertain situation back home, the forecast promised a trip full of bad weather, and the reason behind going to Madison (a zine show) never materialized. I had little inspiration to do the tour after all, besides doing the tour. If the first day started off good, I probably could have overcome the obstacles and put my head in the right place. But when the first flat happened even before I had left St. Paul, I knew I just didn't have it in me. While the Portland-Gorge-Spokane tour had an eerie parallel with a flat just ten miles in, it didn't have the same factors as the Minneapolis-Madison tour. Things back home were pretty certain, the weather would be a lot better than if I had stayed in Portland, and there were no other outside factors in deciding the tour besides just doing the tour.
I think the uncertainty of the end of my trip fueled the black cloud. When I thought I had less time for the trip I was going to end in Pasco. But when I realized I had a couple extra days to play with I decided to shoot for Spokane as the endpoint. This had the effect of not just doubling the mileage, but routing me through an area with scant bike-touring information and few services. There were a few different routing options, but I had no clue as where I'd stay on Day Seven. In the end, I located a Warmshowers host in Pullman. This decided the routing, but ended up adding even more mileage than expected. This was a good choice, as I learned after riding through the region: there ain't nothing out there in the Palouse. Actually, it is a heavily cultivated region, but the towns are few and far between, and no campgrounds that I could find during my many internet searches. Theoretically I could have stealth camped, but besides some areas near rivers, there really wasn't any good options, as everything was farmland.
Still, there were enjoyable moments throughout the trip. The most interesting thing was how certain areas reminded me of bike tours past. While the rolling farmed hills that made up the majority of the second half of the trip weren't the most scenic portions of my ride, they reminded me a lot of the rolling grassy hills in southern Alberta when April and I toured through there during our Cross-Country Tour in 2011. The only thing missing would be the epic Rockies in the background. These same hills and small towns would at other times remind me of riding through Saskatchewan. When I thought of these places, the Grand Filter Of Time made sure I remembered the good times, not the bad. If it didn't remind me of specific moments, it reminded me of the feeling of the time, the good feelings, sans the stress.
In the end, this trip fulfilled a wish, an idea that had been brewing in my head for a few years. I finally rode the Columbia from Portland through the Gorge and where it turns northward at Wallula Gap. I had also finally rode between Portland and Spokane in one trip, and got to see the only corner of Washington State I had not been to at least once, the deepest part of SE Washington. Would I do this trip again? As a whole, no or at least not anytime soon. I'll be biking through the scenic areas of the Gorge again, of course. I'm sure I'll find an excuse to go back to Spokane and Walla Walla is good for a pass-through every 3-5 years. I still need to explore the Channelled Scablands region in Central Washington, an area I bypassed on this tour. But I doubt I'd go back to the Palouse. Once was enough. Hermiston and its surroundings had few charms, and biking the less scenic part of the Columbia Gorge was a bit monotonous. In the end, I'm glad I did this trip. I've stuck to my commitment of traveling through an unexplored area on all my trips. But I'll be a lot happier with the next tour and its mountain scenery.