Posted by: angrybeesound | October 31, 2008

4000 in 40

growing up in walla walla i had always heard about the 4000 in 40. you gain 4000 feet of elevation in 40 miles, oh scery. it might have been a ride or a race, i dont know. i was a mountain biker at the time and didnt give two hoots about those skinny tires and their climbing.

however, i knew the ride was tough, when i started riding road bikes it loomed in my mind like a menace. ive grown as a cyclist, it doesnt scare me, i was curious.

i was in walla walla at the end of september; i hadnt seen my mom, i needed to get out of the city and i had a birthday. i drove and took the ibis and the look, thinking the weather in late september could be wet and snowy or it could be gorgeous.

i lucked out. it was marvelous.

i got a map from the local bike shop and some inside information on the best route.

starting in walla walla you head to milton freewater, i chose to take the backroads through the vineyards and asparagus fields (i hate asparagus). it was a little tough as the roads keep wanting to dump you back onto the highway. you have to take turns that feel wrong.

the vineyards all still had grapes on the vines, it seemed late from what i remember of my enology.

soon enough you pass through milton-freewater, quaint little town just over the oregon border, i got little lost and ended up on the highway i wanted to avoid, but there was should wide enough to be its own lane. it was warm for the end of september, i started with shorts, jersey and arm warmers, i quickly ditched the arm warmers and unzipped.

the climbing starts to show itself outside of milton freewater.

then you get to weston and whew boy, weston is a shit hole. literally, when you take the road off the highway, which i had to ride on up this hill-

and you turn off you are greeted by a HUGE shithole. an acre sized, rubber bottom cesspool of cow shit, with more gushing from a sprinkler in the middle, making sure the sent gets in the air.  if you ever wish to discourage tourism to your little town, this is how you do it.


i got a chuckle out of the sign.

i hope some father threw on the 1 after his child was born. it would have been a whole different tone if the 1 was covering a 2. i stopped and filled my bottles at THE gas station, which is across THE street from THE real estate office.

i distinctly got the feeling that a city slicker infunny clothes was welcome to fill my bottles and grab some nacho cheese doritos, but id best be moving.

oh shit. this could be a bad idea.

that was what crossed my mind when i was 1 mile out of weston. the road went up at a discouraging rate. the first 18 had been of no real note, the hill on the highway out of MF was the only time i had to stop spacing out and focus on the ride and that was a little burp of a hill. this was serious. i was quickly in my granny gear, a 39×28, i can go 6 mph in this gear at a decent cadence. it didnt last long, the pitch toned down but was gently climbing till the top.

it felt good to climb for longer than 5 minutes, which is the maximum length of time it takes to climb pitches that i dont have to drive to in seattle.

this was my reward after a the initial mile.

bam! look at that money shot. my route up was through the trees in the valley.

from then on it was climbing, the road is straight for the most part, a few z’s but only one real turn. it is 39 x17 stuff, i was going 10ish, 12ish, i hit 17 on the flatter sections. i was having a great time. i was solo so i could keep my own pace, listen to music. yup, guilty as charged, i was riding with earphones. listened to seawolf for the first time, a new chad vangaalen cd, and some standbys of bike riding, ratatat, phillip glass and radiohead.

a gravel truck passed me honking madly. i got a little rattled because it was silent over the sound of my breathing. my first thought was trouble,  but he passed so far over the driver was in the shoulder of the other lane. when the truck had passed enough the driver gave me a thumbs up.

the road is the way to get to elgin and la grande (no shit, the town is named ‘the big’) from pendleton and walla walla. the people on it are mostly locals, i got a few confused looks from drivers, someone passed by slowly, they asked if i was ok, i said ‘im greaaaaat’ they kinda looked like they were thinking ‘when did the state penn (in walla walla) start doing day trips on bikes for the mental patients?’

20 minutes after the trucker, a truck coming the other way honked at me madly. the driver held out his hand to wave, but was holding two fingers out. id see the same driver 4 times in the day.

i had some spunk in me, id sat at an auto repair (long story) for 4 hours then driven almost as long the day before. i was much more inclined to do this sort of sitting today. having some mojo is easy to do when youre looking at stuff like this over your handlebars.

i had a dog follow me for a while. it concerned me because it was a highway with a speed limit of 60, but he seemed cool with it, after a mile he turned around. i saw him later, stopped and pet him, neat dog.

towards the top i had a flat, i was starting to think that my rear tire was cursed, i got a cut in the tire on my first damn ride, i booted it because im cheap, but it seemed i was getting a flat every other ride, not on the boot spot either. and yes, i flatted. i installed my spare and BROKE THE DAMN VALVE STEM.

fuck, its amazing how a perfect day of riding can threaten to collapse so quickly. for the life of me i couldnt find the hole in the first tube, but it was a slow leak, so i limped along for the rest of the ride on it. ride 10 miles, stop and pump. this was not ideal, but it was what i had. i had the option to turn around and make it home or keep going up, i figured i had 4 more miles at the flat spot, i went for it.

this debacle changed the tone of the ride, i looked at my damn rear tire as much as the scenery. but it looked like this, the scenery, not the tire.

then i got to the top, no singing angles, no big blow up ‘summit’ pillars, just a store. i got some stuff- fruit punch gatorade, rice crispy treats and a snickers. i sat and listened to the locals who are sitting at the lodge store on a tuesday afternoon talking about bucks theyd shot, women theyd laid, fortunes theyd lost.

pumped my tire, headed down.


hit 53 on the new bike. the dilithium crystals hasnt cracked but i was riding on a squishy tire so i reigned it in. saw my trucker for the last time with four fingers out the window.

i didnt stop in weston, i kept going. took a back road, stopped and pumped my tire. the thing about pumping with a really small pump is that you have to pump alot. i needed 100 strokes to go from 30 to 70 or so psi. the valve fatigued, if it broke i was screwed.

eventually it broke.

i walked for a spell, i was ok with this, the only thing was i didnt have my cleat covers. so i did some math walked in socks. socks are 9 bucks, cleats are 20. some nice lady stopped and gave me a ride. she was amazing, i threw my bike in her durango, keith has one, im good at getting bikes in them. sadly i stepped in 3 goat heads with the move. i think her name was katie.

milton freewater was less than a mile, the ace hardware had tubes. i thanked her, she said if it didnt have what i needed shed give me a ride to walla walla, some 9 miles away.

well the store didnt have what i needed, the road tubes were shraeder and too fat to fit in my rims, they suggested i drill the hole bigger. i said thanks and shot them a look i bet they thought was nasty, it wasnt.

my mom called, shed finished her last patient and wanted to go out to dinner with friends. she wondered when i was going to get home. i said the 10 miles would take me 2 hours.

yes, i, a late 20s male, got a ride home from my mom because i had a flat tire.

here are some vineyards

by the numbers

Total Time 5:09:57 4:47 pace
Moving Time 4:27:15 3:46 pace
Distance 70.83
Moving Speed (mph) 15.9 avg. 52.2 max.
Elevation Gain (ft) +5,805 / -5,800
Temperature (°F) 70.7°F avg. 73.4°F high
Wind Speed ( mph) E   1.2 avg. E   3.5 max.
elevant Data
Start Elevation (ft): 926
Finish Elevation (ft): 931
Min. Elevation (ft): 768
Max. Elevation (ft): 5,076

elevation profile

my route


  1. Thx for the pix, it makes me homesick! glad ur enjoying the “FC” cycle…looks like it went to the right home!!! It should belong in the PNW!!

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