Monthly Archives: June 2014
West Glacier, Lake McDonald and Glacier NP
From Whitefish we started our journey to Glacier National Park. A part of the trip we’ve been anticipating for nearly a year now. Since we got that awful storm the week prior (remember, when it was raining for 244 hours straight and I lived in a groceery store?), we heard that the weather in Glacier had been pretty bad with avalanches wreaking havok and causing road closures, so we didn’t know what to expect.
The ride down the 486 to Blankenship road and the 2 was great. the 486 and Blankenship are scenic, and you’re only on US2 for about 2 miles before you hit West Glacier and enter West Glacier National Park.
Once you turn left off US 2 into West Glacier, you’re on the infamous Going-to-the-sun road and you’re basically in Glacier National Park. Once in Glacier National Park……. you’re basically in Disney Land. Which means there’s tourists everywhere and RVs and traffic and little kids eating Chicken in a Bisquit crackers and it’s kind of an Americian mess. (Unless you’re into that kind of thing.)
We knew going into West Glacier that Sherman Pass was closed and that we would not be able to ride down the Sun road and over the pass to continue our journey eastbounnd (bummer!) but we did want to explore the Sun road anyway just as an up and down daytrip since we’d heard so much about it. I am so glad we did!! Seriously. The scenery on both sides of the sun road from Avalanche campsite to the Loop is some of the best I’ve ever seen.
- The Sun road from Avalanche Campsite to Sherman Pass was closed to cars but open to bicycles and hikers (amazing!) This meant we could explore 16 miles of Going-To-The-Sun road without any fear of getting run over (!!) We could stop whenever we wanted to; we could use the whole lane; we could swerve all over looking at waterfalls without having to worry about Cruise America (or CanaDream) running us off the road. It was better than anything else I could have ever asked for.
- The weather was perfect. No rain; not a cloud in the sky.
- The elevation from Avalanche to the Loop is no big deal. We couldn’t ride from the Loop to Sherman Pass, so I don’t know what it’s like up there, but the Sun road up to the loop is not even comparable to a climb like Washington Pass. (We saw people riding the road with their families on cruiser bikes with four year olds and baby wagons. You can do it.)
- We camped on Lake McDonald at the Sprague Creek campsite ($10 per night for two people in hiker/biker camping!) and it was amazing. That lake looks like a postcard. If it’s not full, skip Apgar and camp at Sprague Creek for sure (and if it says it’s full… the hiker/biker spots probably aren’t full so check it out anyway).
Cut Bank, MT
As mentioned, due to a huge storm and lots of snow, we couldn’t get over Sherman Pass on the Sun road, which means to continue eastbound we had to go down the Sun road and all the way back out to West Glacier to get back on US2.
Good ol’ US2….. also known as Maria’s Alterate. Also known as the Highline. Also known as the longest, flattest road ever to run straight across Montana from West Glacier to infinity and beyond.
- Riding on US2 from West Glacier to Cut Bank is……… alright.
- After climbing Maria’s Pass we crossed the Continental Divide (!) which was exciting
- East Glacier is….. not West Glacier. There’s an Amtrak station there and a convenience store and one (beautiful!) view of a big snowey mountain, and then it’s done.
- The scenery turns real plains-ey real fast.
- Shortly after East Glacier US2 takes you into the Blackfeet Indian Reservation where not much changes scenery-wise.
- A big truck blew by and shot wet garbage juice all over us.
- Cut Bank was exciting for us because it was the end of Map 2 (out of 12) and on our way into town we rolled over 1,000 riding miles!!!!!! (We celebrated with a hotel room and a shower and some bathtub laundry.)
Shelby, Chester and Havre, MT
From Cut Bank we headed toward Shelby, MT and then on to Havre, MT. All on the US2…the road that never ends. On the bright side…. at least I don’t have to navigate anymore! Now we just turn left and keep going. It’s like playing roller derby (with less hitting).
- Arriving in Shelby was exciting because two of my best friends are named Shelby. (That was pretty much the most exciting part.)
- From Shelby we rode 45 miles in relentless non stop rain to Chester, MT. Seriously, it started raining before we left, there were supposed to be “scattered thunderstorms” throughout the day, and it never stopped raining!
- In Shelby Dustin rolled my glasses up in tent and I didn’t realize I wasn’t wearing them until we were about five miles into the ride, so that was…say……exciting not knowing whether my glasses were at the campsite or smashed inside the tent I have bungee-corded to the back of my bike. (Good thing I couldn’t see anything anyway because of the rain!)
- We played the name game (also known as “drink while you think”) for four hours. We played so long that we couldn’t think of any more S names and I was using shit like “Sonya from Mortal Kombat” and “Sylvester the cat.” Oh, and “Stonewall Steve Jackson” which was a rain-brain mashup of Stonewall Jackson and Stonecold Steve Austin that Dustin and I still find really, really funny. The game kept us moving and not dieing on the side of the highway.
- Since it was raining cats and bigger cats, the traffic wasn’t too bad. That’s a bonus!
- When we got to Chester we stayed in the MX Motel in a clown-car room where I had to shower with sandles and step around my panniers to pee. (But it wasn’t in the rain!! So that was awesome.)
- After Chester we pushed onward 60 miles to Havre — “the gem of the highline” — a “college town” with a population of 7,000-ish and a Walmart. I say “college town” in quotation marks because I haven’t seen a college yet (?). What I have seen are lots and lots of “Lucky Lils” Casinos and dark dive bars. Like… one every block. But! They have handmade pie here and an IGA with fresh produce and doughnuts so I’m not going to kick the little big city out of bed for eating crackers.
- I saw antelope on the side of the road between Chester and Havre!! (So cool!!!!!)
From Havre, MT we’ll turn left and continue down US 2 toward Chinook, MT and then onward through the rest of Eastern MT until we hit Glendive where we’re going to rent a UHaul to haul us across North Dakota and into Fargo (a manuever we’re taking for a couple reasons, but primarily so that I can make it to Michigan to see my best friend get married August 7th). More on all that as it transpires…..
I’m going to try to be better about updating this blog on a more regular basis so the posts don’t have to be so epic. Until then…. comment! I (we) love to hear from you. It makes us feel loved and it brings a little bit of home to whatever small town we happen to be in.
Some of you may have noticed it’s been a minute since I’ve updated this blog. Ok, it’s been 425 miles and two states since I’ve updated this blog. I tend to blame the lapse in posts on the Internet (which is a legitimate excuse; we’ve rarely had phone service over the past couple weeks), but I also have lots and lots of rain to blame as well as…… supreme, utter laziness. WIth that backstory out of the way here’s a highlight reel of what we’ve been doing over the past couple weeks. Since a lot has happened in 425 miles, I’ve broken this beast into two posts: Sandpoint to Whitefish and West Glacier to Havre, MT.
After we conquered the Cascades, Eastern Washington came and went and we found ourselves crossing our first state line into Idaho. Coming into this trip, I didn’t expect much from Idaho but Dustin and I ended up loving Sandpoint enough to stay an extra day there just to explore. Sandpoint is a real hidden gem with a suprisingly progressive culture and lots of young people. It’s been added to our “places we would consider moving to” list.
- Sandpoint, ID is in the Northern “panhandle” of Idaho and has a population of 7,200, the Kootenai River and lots of community
- We saw a bunch of Osprey with nests.
- We met a new friend (Warren) who was gracious enough to share his home (and his shower) with us for two days.
- Two technicians at the local bike shop (Greasy Fingers; highly recommended) told us about a critical mass-esque full moon bike ride and invited us to come along, so we did that.
- We saw this cinnamon bear (a brown-colored black bear; truly the bear enigma) between Libby and Rexford.
- And this Bald Eagle:
- And this stuff:
When we lefft Sandpoint it was raining. Warren said we could stay with him as long as we needed to (and that we were crazy) but we decided to ride in the rain because the weather forecast was predicting rain for another five days and, since we knew we couldn’t just live in Sandpoint for five days, we thought now seemed like as good a time as any to get soaking wet. So we powered through in the rain to Clark Fort (where we camped in a mosquito infested USFS campground) and then onto LIbby.
In Libby we woke up to pouring rain pounding down on our tent. After lots of deliberating and mileage calculating and weather.com confering, we decided that it made more sense to hold tight in Libby and then ride two long days once the rain lets up, rather than riding four short really wet days (since you can’t ride that many miles in the rain anyway). And thus started our life living in the Libby, MT Rosaurs (Re: the local grocery store).
- We made it to Montana!!!
- We slept in a tent, but more or less otherwise lived in a grocery store for two full days.
- On one of those days it rained for 24 straight hours. Seriously. It was pouring rain when we woke up in the tent, it rained while we walked to our grocery store home, it rained all day while I read my book next to the window in the grocery store deli, and it rained all night. Inconvenicne aside, it was really pretty amazing.
- I read 150 pages of Water for Elephants (a book I purchased at the Colville Salvation Army because I needed a book to read and it was the only one they had that was not a cook book or an Alminac. I strongly considered buying one of those grocery store romance novels since I’ve never read one, but this is actualy turning out to be a good light read.)
- We took bathroom sink showers and drank a lot of coffee. (This is what happens when you live in a groceery store deli.) We also learned a lot about the people of Libby and their eating habits.
- We ate at this old school sit-in Pizza Hut:
- Dustin drew this picture of a hard partyin’ moose and a bear stealing a four wheeler:
- I caught this giant fish:
- Dustin and I spent a lot of time singing Kootenai Joe as we rode along the Kootenai river.
- We saw this:
After two days in Libby the weather finally started to break and it was time to ramble onto Rexford, MT — population 105. We actually wanted to ride to Eureka — populaton 1,037 — but it turns out the ride from Libby to Rexford involves a lot of what Dustin and I have taken to calling “Bart Simpsons” (jagged up and down hills, one after the other).
On the ACA Northern Tier maps there are two routes you can take from Libby to Eureka/Rexford: The main route and the west side alternate. Since it was going to be raining on and off all day, who knows how hard, we decided to take the main route because there were more lodging opportunities.
- The ride was beautiful! Even in the rain with all the unexpected mountain climbing, the ride was really pretty. This whole route runs alongside Lake Koocanusa, which is really beautiful. The mountains were really pretty; the foliage was pretty; the lake was pretty. It was work — but worth it.
- Traffic wasn’t bad (probably because of the rain)
(All those vertical lines are marks from the drill bits they shove drive down into the mountain to stuff full of explosives and blow the mountain up to make the road. Crazy!)
- We slept in our tent behind a bar in Rexford and got to take untimed showers in the am.
- It did not rain all night and it was dry when we woke up in the morning!
From Rexford we trekked 72 miles (!) to Whitefish, MT. It didn’t rain (yay!) but we were on the 93 for a while and that suuuuuuuuucked. That road is really rough with a really crappy, broken shoulder, lots of gravel and a fair amount of impatient traffic. When we got to Whitefish we tried a couple campsites and found them to be full, so we turned to Warmshowers.com and ended up staying in a beautiful house with three other cycling tourists.
- There’s some good climbs from Eureka to Fortine, MT, including one steep climb that the ACA describes as “At the Historical Village turn right, then continue uphill onto unsigned Old Highway/Tobacco Road.” Word to the wise: When the ACA says something is “uphill” they are serious. (Also, I find directions like “turn right at the Historical Village” really funny and satisfying).
- The trek from Eureka to Stryker is pretty and scenic. It’s after Stryker when you get closer to Whitefish that the traffic clusterEff starts.
- Dustin and I said “Stryker?? Damn near killed her!” about 200 times and thought it was equally funny each time.
- Farm to Market road (an ACA detour off the 93) is really beautiful with lots of cows, a wide road and little to no traffic. If you’re thinking of skipping the Farm to Market road detour and just staying on the 93 (which you can do, you will still end up in Whitefish…) don’t do it. Seriously. The 93 sucks and there’s lots of traffic and a crappy shoulder and Farm to Market is beautiful.
- Between Twin Bridges Road and Whitefish the traffic shit really hits the fan. Beware.
- We are so grateful we got to meet Chuck — our warm showers host — and his other THREE warm showers guests (!), Patrick, Maria and Andrew. Patrick and Marie are riding recumbent bikes just about around the world on a year-long adventure, and Andrew is riding solo East to West from Vermont to Seattle. (Worth mentioning: Maria also told us she’s a champion rollerblader and that she and her husband (the aforementioned Patrick) have ROLLERBLADE TOURED. Like, went on a 300-mile tour on rollerblades pushing a cart with Ortileb panniers on it in front of them (they showed us a picture. It was/is amazing).
- We ate some really bomb ice cream in waffle cones in Whitefish and saw a Solstice sunset that pictures will never do justice.
- Oh, and we got to share the 2014 summer solstice with four other bike tourers eating a perfect hand-cooked dinner. How special is that?? (And it only rained for like five minutes — which yielded a rainbow!)
- I got this glove tan:
As someone who has recently cycled fully loaded over the Cascade Mountains I can easily say without hesitation, lighter is better when you’re pulling a mountain (…and when you have 4,000 miles to go after said mountain is pulled).
That said, with two weeks under my belt and 3.5 more months on the road to go, I can also just as easily say I am happy every day that I have the following 10 lightweight luxury/creature comfort items with me. If you’re planning a bike tour and thinking about what to bring, maybe consider some of these gems…
10 Luxury Items I’m Glad I Have On Tour
I consider these items “luxury items” because you could easiliy tour without them and nearly none of them pass the “does it serve more than one use” ultra-light pack test. (They do, on the other hand, pass the “this shit makes my life better all the time” test with flying colors, though.)
These items are listed in no particular order, but if they made this list I use them regularly and I would not trade them for 14 Clif bars.
1) Zip-Front Fleece Hooded Sweatshirt
What it is: A zip-front fleece Patagonia hoodie intended for climbing, so it’s lightweight, wind and water resistant, warm and packable.
Why it’s luxury: It’s luxury because I could easily wear my yellow windbreaker jacket or a baselayer + windbreaker (etc.) combination when I’m cold; I don’t need a fleece zip-up jacket to keep my warm.
Why I love it: But..man do I love it. There’s something really excellent about being able to get off your bike and not be wearing bike clothes anymore. This jacket keeps me warm, it allows me to look like a civilian when I’m mingling at a farmer’s market, I can sleep in it without smelling like an 8-hour sweat fest, and it has nice warm, comfort-lined fleece pockets. This jacket is like a nice big fat plate of mashed potatoes after a rainy ride. And it only weights apx. 9 ounces — or about 4 Clif bars. Totally worth it in my book.
2) “The Stick” Mini IT Band Roller Stick
What it is: It’s a stick — aptly named “The Stick” — used to roll out sore muscles (and in my case, IT bands) and break up lactic acid after strenuous exercise. It comes in three different sizes; The Stick, The Travel Stick, and The Mini Stick. I have The Mini Stick and it’s more than big enough for me to roll out my legs, my neck, and my own back.
Why I love it: If it wasn’t for this stick, I’m not sure I would be able to walk. When I rode my bike from SF to LA in 2012 (545 miles in 7 days) I had a TON of trouble with my IT bands; first my right, then my left. It was awful. I cried and felt like I had robot legs for days. I was that guy who had to go see the medic to get taped every morning, and then I still had to straight-leg stick-man waddle my way to the bike and take off at about 5-minutes till close with all the other broken, sunburned, messed up ALC folks. Thanks to this stick and lots and lots of stretching I’ve ridden nearly 700 miles on this tour with no problems! I even rode over the Cascade mountains with 40+ pounds of crap strapped to my bike. If you have IT band problems, buy this stick. It weighs about 5 ounces — or 2 Clif bars — as the crow flies (eg: according to my totally not scientific close my eyes and estimate weight on-road methodology).
3) Prana Active Jeans
What it is: Special “jeans” made by Prana for active wear. They’re super light weight (7-9 ounces I’d guess. Equal to 3-4 Clif bars), they’re stretchy (I’ve seen pictures of people rock climbing in these pants, and I’ve definitely worn mine on bike rides), and they look and feel like real jeans (they’re not “jeggings” or those North Face zip-off pants that you see people wearing to SurfRider meet ups) without the weight.
The Why2 of these jeans is basically the same as the zip-up sweater: I love these things because they allow me to wear not bike clothes when I am taking a day off; they allow me to look like a civilian when I am in Seattle (or anywhere where I don’t want to look like bike guy Joe); and they’re super light and easy to pack. Also, a fancy hair dresser complimented me on my jeans in a really nice hair salon in Southern California before I left on this tour. So, there’s that.
4) Sharkk Bluetooth Keyboard
What it is: An ultra-thin bluetooth keyboard that will connect with any Bluetooth-enabled device, like an iPad and/or an iPhone. It probably weighs 3-4 ounces (less than 2 Clif bars). It charges using a Mini USB (no batteries makes it super light) and it’s flat which makes it very easy to pack (before this keyboard I bought a Bluetooth keyboard just like the Apple model and that keyboard had a big fat brick across the top; the brick is nice because it give the keyboard a slant, but otherwise, awful because it adds weight and makes packing the brick/keyboard combo in a pannier much harder).
Why it’s a luxury: I could update my blog using the on-screen keyboard on my iPad and it serves me no purpose other than blog updating.
Why I love it: ….but updating the blog would suck.so.much.more without this keyboard. Seriously. I am a blogger; I have lots of words to say. If I had to two-finger touchscreen tap every blog post I would never do it. With this keyboard I can prop the iPad up, turn the keyboard on (by flicking a switch) and I have type with both hands and all my fingers like a big girl. If you hate my long, detailed blog posts you have Sharkk to thank/resent. If you want to blog on the road via iPad (or even iPhone!) I highly recommend this keyboard.
5) Eno Twinkly Tent Lights
What it is: These are tiny christmas lights with a tiny battery pack. Eno sells hammocks and I think these lights are largely intented to decorate/light your hammock, but they’re working just dandy in our Marmot tent. Ours are multi-colored, but I think they sell sets that are all a single color as well. We ditched the bag they came in and keep them strung up in our tent’s gear hammock all the time (we just roll them up in the tent, so we don”t have to take them down and put them back up again; that would make them a hassle). They add probably 6-8 ounces (or less) to our tent weight (apx. 2-3 Clif bars).
Why it’s a Luxury: They’re battery operated Christmas lights. You could easily use a headlamp for less weight, or for even less weight you could just use your bike’s head light(s).
Why I love it: ….but bike head lights are so much less fun!! We use these lights for in-tent lighting at night. We just get in the tent and turn on “the disco lights” so that we can see in the tent. They make our tent feel a little like a homestead, and they also add function since using them means we never have to fiddle with a lantern that’s never in the right place, or aheadlamp that keeps shining someone right in the retna.
I’ve rolled them up in the tent 11 times now, and strapped said tent to the back of my bike using three bungee cords 11 times and every single light — and the battery box — is still in tip-top condition. Love these things.
6) Aligator Handlebar Feed Bag
What it is: A bag shaped like an aligator that I use to hold my dog/bear spray and my road snacks. I bought this at Target for $14 and it’s intended to be something like a handlebar bag for a little kid’s Razor scooter. It has eyes and feet and the zipper is a mouth. It’s awesome and it weighs about 4 ounces (less than 2 Clif bars). Real cycle retailors, like Adventure Cycling Association, sell “feed bags” similar to this one in an adult model (RE: no eyes. No teeth zippers. no feet. no strpes. All black.) for about $30.
Why I love it: The handlebar bag makes things accessible, but this thing makes things really accessible. I’m eating a riding all day! It’s nice to be able to just reach in the gator mouth and grab the other half of my Clif bar (weight: apx. .5 Clif bars) without having to reach around my camera and my buff and my click-stand and my toilet paper and any other need-for-today crap that’s placed precariously in my handlebar bag.
This aligator also keeps my pepper spray easily accessible so I can spray a rabid dog (or a huge bear) in the face in seconds (without having to move any crap out of the way, which is what I would have to do if it were in the handlebar bag).
7) REI Backpacking Chair with Back Support and Four Legs
What it is: A fold-up backpacking chair that has four legs and back support (some backpacking chairs like the “butterfly” only have two legs and you use your own two legs as the other legs to support the chair). This chair seriously takes a minute or less to put together and break down.
Why I love it: Two words – Back. Support. After a long day of riding it’s really effing pleasant to kick your heels up and lay back around the fire. Sure, a picini table or a rock will due just fine if you’re a single Jansport kind of tourer, but if you’re touring for four months like we are and you’ve got some room in your pannier, choose back support. It’s awesome.
8) Hair Genie Turban Towel
What it is and why I love it: A turban-ey towel that is made just to hold your hair when you get out of the shower. They sell these at Bed Bath & Beyond. I think I bought mine at Target. I have long hair and I use this towel every day at home; it’s an excellent way to keep your long wet hair out of your face and off of your clothing after you get out of the shower (or after you’re done hobo bathing in a bathroom sink).
My towel isn’t quick dry so I usually strap it to the back of my bike on top of the tent to dry it while I ride. It weighs about 4 ounces and it’s totally worth 2 Clif bars.
9) Portable Grocery Bag
What it is and why I love it: You get it. It’s a portable grocery bag made of nyon that folds up into it’s own tiny portable bag. It weighs about 2 ounces, it’s smaller than a tennis ball and we use ours all the time. We use it for grocery shopping, for laundry, to carry things around town when we’re exploring, and, basically, any other time we need to carry things without having to/wanting to lug a waterproof Ortileb.
These things cost like $2 and they weigh nothing. The bag is a luxery because you could get along just fine without it in the states using plastic bags or a sweatshirt hobo bindle, but I find having a real sack to be infinitly useful on the road.
10) Space Pen
What it is and why I love it: A pen that writes upside down! This pen is awesome for writing out daily turn-by-turn directions or postcards in your tent. It’s kind of pricey and not as light as that plastic pen you picked up from the Best Western, but in my book it’s infinitly worth the money and the weight to have a pen that writes on the side of the road in the rain when you frikkin need it to. The pen probably weighs about 2.5 ounces (excatly the weight of one Clif bar [in case you haven’t mathmatically figured that out yet]).
Day five we took a much needed rest day after climbing Washington Pass. After riding 10 miles from Winthrop to Twisp we spent most of the day doing laundry and updating the blog (much like I am doing again today..!), and then in the evening we met up with our WarmShowers.com futon host, Scott.
Some highlights from Twisp
- This grocery store that was more like a natural history museum:
- Meeting Scott! Scott was excellent; so glad we got to meet him. He lives in a tiny house that he built himself up on a hill. The house is built partially underground so it keeps the heat when it’s cold, and the hot out when it’s hot. On our night off we went to hear some local Jazz, we scoped out a local salmon restoration project and we spent the day enjoying Twisp.
Twisp has officially made it on our “places we would consider moving to” list. It’s small but the scenery is spectacular and the community seems to be rich with progressive-thinking, environmentally-conscious folks. Scott says a lot of people move there (especially people from California) and then leave because they can’t adjust to the lifestyle. I’ve been thinking a lot about what “adjusting to the lifestyle” really means — and about what lifestyle I want — since we left Twisp (lots of hours in the saddle means lots of time to think). I’ll let you know when I come up with some answers 🙂
Climbing Loup Loup, Wacounda and Sherman Passes
After a very nice day of rest and a warm shower, we headed back on the road to tackle days 5-8 and the next three passes of the Cascade Mountain range; Loup Loup, Wauconda and Sherman passes. Here’s a short breakdown of each:
Loup Loup Pass (4020′)
- The West to East climbing mileage is short(ish), but the “shoulder” is all gravel and rough pavement. It’s a real front-wheel slidin’ crotch vibrator — which makes climbing just a smidge harder than it needs to be.
- Of all four passes (Washington, Loup Loup, Wauconda and Sherman), traffic was probably the worst on this pass. Cars and trucks flew by fast and they seemed, say, less pleased that they had to maneuver around a couple slow-moving cyclists (we got a few red neck long honks; these are very different from the toot toot “good job” honks).
- We saw a spaced our carivan of Tesla cars in all different colors going up the pass. This was unexpected and kind of awesome.
- I found a tiny Alaska motorcycle license plate.
- The descent down the pass was awesome!!! We thought it might be gravelley and scary based on the ascent, but the road was (for some reason?) much better on the other side. This ascent was curvy and we were flying down at 30-plus-mph. I think this ascent was even faster than Washington Pass. Loved it; I can see why motorcyclists love it, too.
Wauconda Pass (4310′)
- Between Loup Loup and Wauconda, we passed through Omak and Okanogan. This is pretty much all I have to say about those two places:
Oh, and this:
The terrain was pretty dry. It looked like a good place to leave a body. We saw lots and lots of animal bones, some of which I may or may not have collected. And Dustin took this picture of me with a fisheye lens, which I find hilarious because it makes me look like a little person in a big world.
- Climbing Wacounda wasn’t bad. The elevation was manageable, the shoulder was decent and the gravel was sparse (excellent!)
- I found this bird:
- We stopped for lunch at a “cafe” + post office + gas stationn combination that was near the top of the pass. Neither the cafe nor the post office were open, so we ate our sac lunch at the picinic table and enjoyed these gems:
- The descent down Wauconda was excellent. Fast; safe; lots of shoulder; no traffic! We descended for about 12 miles (!) which I’ll take any day.
Sherman Pass (5575′)
Between Wauconda and Sherman passes we camped in Republic, WA at the state fairgrounds. Other than a little tikes rodeo, the place was pretty vacant so we made the “camp kitchen” cabin our home for the night.
At the Republic fairgrounds we took warm showers (25 cents for three minutes!) and we found this guy, who we aptly named “wizard eyebrows”:
- The climb wasn’t bad. The traffic wasn’t bad. The shoulder wasn’t bad. The sceney/terrain wasn’t bad.
- We saw this creepy abandoned mine on the way up (we speculate bears probably live in there now):
- We ate lunch at the top of the pass and learned all about the native americans that used to climb the pass via foot.
- Dustin wore this dongle-ey tripod on his helmet to capture the descent down our last pass. (And he made that face.)
- We descended — again at about 30mph — and crossed over the Columbia River Louis and Clark-style. (I am sure there was less road construction when Louis and Clark were crossing the river….. maybe…)
We found a lost flip-flop in Bay View, and then this gem around Rock Port. (We've noticed that, apparently, people in the country prefer to keep track of both their shoes significanlty more than people in the city.) (They do not prefer to keep track of both their gloves, though. We've seen so many of those!)
After the 3mph climb up to Diablo we knew we were at the beginning of the end and we had some good ol’ climbs ahead of us. After spending all night thinking about whether it was feasible to hire a Sherpa to carry my panniers up the mountain, we woke up early to start the climb at 7am — before all the traffic was awake, and to give ourselves lots and lots of daylight climbing time.
At 7:20am we rolled onto SR20 East and started climbing at about 5mph — which means the incline was less steep and crazy than yesterday’s climb! (yay!) We did this for about 11 miles feeling pretty darn proud of ourselves, then we re-entered Skagit county at the foot of Rainey Pass and shit started to get real.
The ACA maps promised us it would be 11 miles of climbing from the foot of Rainey to the peak, then another 5 miles from the peak of Rainey to the peak of Washington Pass. So, after about 11.65 miles of climbing in the granny gear…. we started to get a little frowney. Dustin was convinced something must be wrong. I reassured him that there was nothing that could be wrong — either you’re going up the mountain or you’re going down it; there’s no other options. So if we’re not going down it… then we must still be going up it. So we stopped and ate some Naproxin and trail mix and kept climbing. We finally arrived at Rainey Pass at around 13 miles where we were greeted with lots of snow. The climb took us about 7 hours.
From Rainey Pass we enjoyed a 2-mile downhill and then a coasting flat that turned into a 2.5-mile quad buster up to Washington Pass. By this time, having (finally) conquered th we were feeling optimistic but pretty snail-ey. We took made lots of little goals and conquered each of them with lots of baby steps. Granny gears were well-used, but we never had to walk! (Which was unexpected.) Finally at the end of climbing mile 29 we arrived at the top of Washington Pass where we shook our booties so hard it hurt. Pictures were taken; sighs of relief were breathed.
After telling the mountain I love it and reveling at how close to the top of the Cascades we were, we said sianara to the snow and started our 13-mile (!) 33mph (!) descent down the other side of the mountain.
On the other side of the mountain it was immediatly warmer at it looked a lot like Montana: big sky, big fields, really beautiful in a totally different way:
We had planned to end day four in Mazama, but decided instead to push onto Winthrop in hopes of finding a hotel with a hot tub, or at least a bathtub we could eat Hot Fudge Sundays in. 16 miles past Mazama we found the Winthrop Valley Inn, which did not have a bathtub (frown face), but it did have a hot tub! Unfortunatly, the hot tub was full of 45-year-old motorcycle guys wearing mardi gras beads and coors light cowboy hats (seriously). So…. we skipped the hot tub and instead made sweet sweet love to the television (we watched SO MUCH TV AND IT WAS SO AWESOME!!!!) We also slept in a real bed and took showers that lasted longer than three minutes, which was also awesome.
Today — June 6 — I am writing this blog post from day 5 where we have ridden just 10 miles down the road to Twisp, Today is a break day. We went to the laundromat and washed our really, really smelly clothes (my gloves and jacket were really not cool anymore), and tonight we’re staying with someone from WarmShowers.com. Tomorrow we’re going to do another climbing day — 12 miles up 4,000 feet to the top of Loup Loup Pass. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Day Two: Bay View to Rock Port, WA
After the Monday’s cluster… err…..rousing learning experience, we woke up early on day two to start fresh. Day two was scenic headed from Bay View to Rock Port. No one threw their bikes over any bridges. Swearing was minimal. Phone service was even more minimal. We saw a lot of cows and even more super green trees.
After climbing some pretty decent hills, we found a campsite, I called my mom to tell her I was alive, and we shared a campfire with two fellow Northern Tier cyclists — Mark and Jose. Mark had with him a tour-rigged banjo and he strummed us some tunes while we used The Mini Stick to tourture our IT Bands. For dinner we ate whatever the heck we wanted to, including a whole bag of Doritos Munchies and some Molasses cookies.
Day Three: Rock Port, WA to Diablo, WA
Day three we woke up in Rock Port, took speed showers in the campsite bathroom (3 minutes each), and set off East toward Diablo (a stopping point highly recommended by Lauren and Travis).
This day was really beautiful. Day two from Bay View to Rock Port was beautiful, but Rock Port to Diablo was even better. There was a whole section of the ride that felt like we were riding through the rain forest. It smelled great and it made the mostly-flat ride. Then we hit New Halem which, as I warned Dustin, was the beginning of the end (with the end being relentless mountain climbing).
From New Halem to Diablo we did about 9 miles of climbing. Like….real climbing. Like, going 3.4mph and stopping for a mini break every mile climbing. As the views got better the road got steeper. This was our first official introduction to what was to come on our day four ascent up to Washington Pass.
The ride from New Halem to Diablo was definitly a challenge, but I am really glad we did it (rather than stopping in New Halem, for instance). Doing it as the end part of day three gave us a good sneak peak which helped us mentally prepare for day four, plus the climb from New Halem to Diablo was pretty darn steep, so doing it as the end of day three meant we didn’t have to do it as a tack-on to the beginning of what was going to be an already crazy day four.
Some day 2-3 photo highlights:
See more in our FlickR in the right column of this blog
Not counting our ride from Everette to Coupville, we officially kicked off our bike tour with a ride from Oak Harbor (where Lauren and Travis Free live on Whidbey Island) to Bay View, WA. I’m pretty sure the mileage for this ride from point A to point B is only like 15 miles, but we road about 35 miles…. mostly in circles. Here’s how it went down in a neat bullet list:
- We left Lauren and Travis’ house around 10am (about an hour and a half later than planned because their puppy was too cute to leave and their couches too comfortable)
- We rode up SR 20, planning to skip Anacortes and take a short cut to get moving East
- We got to Deception Pass; we attempted to cross a very very narrow, very foggy bridge using the very narrow passenger walkways (because the bridge was so narrow and foggy it seemed unsafe to ride in the road); in an attempt to get across the very narrow passenger bridge as fast as we could…..dustin kncked a front pannier against the wall, which caused him to stop short, which caused me to ram into the back of him…which cause his wheel to turn into a wobbly piece of un-rolling poo.
- We backed our bikes off the very narrow passenger walkway (which was hard) and then we turned the bike over and swore a lot and used the spoke wrench and a small amount of science/skill/trial and error to tighten and loosen some spokes and swear some some until we could get the wheel spinning normally enough to get it to a bike shop.
- From there we rode up to Anacortes to find the nearest bike shop to get Dustin’s wheel fixed (“trued” as they call it in the bike world). With $16 taken from the “bike repair” fund, we headed East…again….to give it another try.
- Turns out Map one of the ACA (Adventure Cycling Association) maps is drunk; lots of ammendments were included and it was generally reallly hard to follow. Also. It was our first day of riding maps and we were in a more urban area so there was a lot of room for error. Long story short, we rode around in circles a lot and swore a lot and Dustin said he was going to write the ACA an angry letter and we rode across a crazy busy freeway bridge because we couldn’t find the mysterious pedestrian bridge and eventually we ended up in Bay View where we could camp and cry and forget about the magical glory (horror) of day one.
On the bright side:
- We started!
- We got to camp in a nice spot by the ocean for only $12
- Dustin’s bike got fixed (and not thrown over the bridge in a rampage)
- We saw this giant slug, which we named “poo slug” because he’s so big he looks like a poo, and
- We’d planned to skip Anacortes — which meant we were probably going to have to skip the Pacific Ocean tire dip — but apparently God didn’t want that, so we ended up seeing Anacortes anyway and we got to dip our tires in the Ocean, which made Dustin very happy. 🙂