The rutty sections and rocky climbs had taken a quite a bit of energy as well as taking their toll on the bikes. My rear tire was starting to show some serious wear, and Shawn's was starting to go bald in the middle. We rode along the ridge keeping a close eye on the source of the smoke, past a cell tower and up to an intersection. Straight continued down the ridge for a number of miles before intersecting a road. Right went South towards Selah. Left descended to the North in the direction of the smoke. Shawn was running low on fuel, we had to take our chances and try to get to Ellensburg.
Approaching a small valley things didn't look good. A bush fireman in full gear stood on the side of the trail chatting on his radio, watching the helicopter dousing flames with water from it's bucket. I asked "Hey, can we get through here?" After looking us over he turned and looked down the road, the ground on each side smoldering black and replied without expression "Yeh, give it a shot. I'll let them know you're coming."
None too confident we pressed on, hopeful the fire had passed through here by now. Bernie led the way down the rocky descent, we all noted the sudden blast of heat radiating from the ground. After a few minutes of riding through smoldering ground, small fires still burning here and there, we made it far enough North to stop and snap a few photos.
We rode through the small stream, popped the locked gate and rode by the firefighter's staging area and up the other side of the valley. Almost to town, we passed an abandoned Winnebago parked diagonally in the middle of the road - Breaking Bad style. A forest ranger and police 4x4 with their lights on were investigating and waved us around. A short stint on dirt and we dropped down into the flatlands on tarmac.
It was getting damn hot by the time we arrived in Ellensburg to get gas. We fueled up and decided to just chill for a bit and recover from the exhausting heat of the afternoon. It was around 5:00 and we had done 1.5 legs of the WABDR and we all felt it. I paid for the best ice coffee ever from Starbucks in pocket change, tipped the rest of it and walked back to help (watch) Shawn try to fix his saddle bags.
The strap system had broken and effectively clamped the side fairing to the muffler, melting it into a yellowish curled mess of heat shield and white plastic. Another helper came by exclaiming "oh I've got the same bike, this is how you should fix that!" and I was pretty sure Shawn was going to rip his head off.
I declined the use of Shawn's WD-40 for chain lube and bought a bottle of ATF and a toothbrush. The chain was getting pretty dry and we had been hard on them all day. I packaged up what I could in a smaller waterbottle and figured I'd use it until we could find proper chain lube.
Finally ready to get rolling, the day had worn on pretty long and we really needed to make it to Chelan tonight. I made the tough call to skip sections 3 and 4 with the hopes of being able to complete 5 and 6 tomorrow. Sunset was near and we sped off for Rt 97.