Here I am again! Seattle! So many great things about today; finishing, the ride itself, but possibly the best part was seeing Tony and Jennifer, my friends from the Northern Tier ride I did in 2017. Seeing them kind of closed the loop for me and made the whole experience worth it. Saying goodbye to some new friends would’ve been harder except that I will get to see some of them in a few weeks when I join up the Pacific Coast for a couple of days.
As I rode into Snohomish’ soccer fields, I had a sense of deja vu - I’ve already been here! I forgot that when I came out for the 10th anniversary party/celebration for Bike the US for MS, I rode out to Snohomish to ride in with the team on that last day. This time around, we had much nicer weather, and the sprinklers never came on! We’ve begun our “victory lap”; the ride was pretty easy and flat into Snohomish, and we were there before we even knew it. Sully (Larry Sullivan) joined us at the rest stop, and brought a ton of delicious food and beer for us, all of which we plowed through while sitting in the shade and filling out our “cards”; sheets of paper where we each wrote something that we wanted to leave our fellow cyclists with. It’s no secret that I didn’t bond with this group as much as I have in the past, but it still is awesome to share an experience like this with a bunch of fellow adults, and I think I made or cemented a few relationships that will last me moving forward. People we care about from other rides have started to trickle in, and that’s what’s fun: this has become more than a single ride for me, it’s become representative of a community, a community of people of all ages from all over the US; people I would never have met otherwise that have become friends.
As a sad side note, we rode past Oso, the town where in 2014, a landslide killed 43 people and buried a small town. A reminder of the power of Mother Nature.
I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to get around to updating the blog! Today we rode into Darrington, which is a small logging community near Seattle. Some of our more Seattle-familiar folks were surprised that we were staying there; there’s basically nothing there, but it made a handy stopover point. Last night everything I own got wet and dirty, so I was really glad that we had at least some space inside a church to lay down. We had a big wide open field so we played frisbee. Nick showed us his Mongolian Rap music (!) and Nick S. sprained his ankle, but by and large it was a pretty low-key kind of day. I can’t believe the ride is so close to ending.
Oh! I should also mention that we ran into 4K for Cancer again at Newhalem, the company town for Seattle City & Light. And that I rode with Emily and Ginger to Cascadian Farms and had an afloggato, while we watched an incredible downpour!
Today was the last of the climbs, and it was a doozy - two separate climbs to about 5400 feet and then back down and back up. Also, it was really pretty down at the lake, with the aquamarine water.
But enough about that - it was BROM! Brom is a thing we do near the end of rides (usually) where we just get all dressed up in thrift store clothing we find along the way and just play drinking games and have a good time. I love it. This year I dressed up as the Masked Cyclist, defender of justice and the cycling way.
Another day, another dollar! 71 miles, another 4000+ feet of climbing. We’re getting away from the desert slowly but surely, and today is Winthrop, a western-themed tourist trap of a town which still managed to be pretty fun. We swung by Twisp and had some baked goods, and then Ginger took us on a route to Winthrop that the cars take, which put us back on Highway 20, and there was a grain fire in Winthrop that the first responders were going to, which sent fire trucks barreling past us at 100 miles an hour sirens blaring. So that was a thing. Two old friends of mine, Brian and Ernie, joined us today because they are going to be route leaders on the next route, the Pacific Coast. It was great to see them both. I love it when this whole thing I do feels like a community. Today was fairly low key; everybody knows that tomorrow is the last of the big climbs.
Nothing interesting happened today. The end.
OK, OK, I guess I need to write something. Well, today I tested out my newfound sense of self peace by choosing to make a hard decision and stand up to a situation I thought was wrong, and that went well, so good news there. Also, we rode 43 miles, and dropped into the central Washington desert, where Kelly said it looked suddenly like the Southern Tier, all sagebrush and rock and sand. Not a huge fan of this climate or terrain so I’m sitting in their very pleasant public library (public libraries rock!) blogging and escaping the heat!
Starting to become real that soon this is ending. :(
Today was maybe one of the most important days of my life. At about 10:30 AM, outside Colville, WA, I had something of a spiritual experience. For just a moment, I had this sudden moment where I realized that I was going to be OK. It’s hard to describe, but the closest I can think of is the feeling when you’re watching a scary movie or a documentary and a friend walks in and tells you that the main character lives happily ever after. It’s like, “Oh, OK, I guess that’s OK then.” Douglas Adams tells an anecdote about an alien making the trek to find the meaning of life, and when he finally finds it, he just says “Oh, I think I’m OK with that,” and just dies. Not that I’m in a hurry to die. But it was one of those moments.
Riding-wise, today was a mountain to climb. Literally. The dominant story of today was the 4200 foot climb up to Sherman Pass. It was, predictably, exhausting.
First off, Mill Creek isn’t really a place; we’re back to camping in the wilderness now and stayed near Mill Creek road at a place called the Beaver Lodge, where I ate lunch and dinner. Some of the folks; Julia, Emily and Kelly especially, are filming a “music video” using the song “1000 miles” by Vanessa Carlton but substituting our own lyrics and they had me sing, which was fun, I hadn’t done something like that in a while.
Today was the day we left our 4K for Cancer friends so I wanted to talk a little bit about that. They are all younger, and the idea is that it was started by a younger guy (19) who got cancer and wanted a support system for research about cancer specifically in young adults. They have an age cap, and I think I understand why. It was like summer camp on wheels; they do morning dedication, which is a set of rituals including a song, a chant, a mosh pit, and a reading about someone they know who has cancer. Everyone dedicates the ride to someone; either the person in the reading or their own choice. They had a lot more togetherness than we do; some of it forced, of course. It really was like a parallel universe. I sort of hope we run into them again or groups like them because I think there are things we could learn from them and we shouldn’t be so afraid of togetherness.
On a final note, I rode for 7 hours today with Kelly and we talked about so many things; relationships, life, passions, family. I really cherish these long conversations and this one in particular was something I needed at that moment, it was very grounding.
There were 2 cool things today: kayaking, and meeting the 4K for Cancer ride. From a cycling standpoint, today was only 36 miles, much of which I had a tailwind for and was on a bike path. So that’s not terribly interesting. Kayaking was great; Sandpoint is actually the kind of place I could see hanging out in for vacation, between the food and the beach and the kayaking; I went out with Nick A and had a fun time with him hanging out on the water; this time I put on sunscreen!
We also got to meet the 4K for Cancer ride; I’ll have a bit more to say about that tomorrow, but I’ve never had that happen in 4 years, to have another team come and stay with us at the same time. The 4K for Cancer ride is, of course for cancer and it is a ride that only allows people up to 26 years old. They were really nice to hang out with but one of their riders put it best; encountering them was like seeing into a parallel universe. They’re roughly headed our way but they are going down to Spokane whereas we head more due west and go camping.
The town we were in, Newport, was a nice place, with an old-time soda fountain and a really nice five and dime store; right on the Idaho border, in fact Idaho and Washington split the town. Because of this, there wasn’t a Washington state sign!
OK, lots of interesting things happened today but the thing you really want to know about is axe throwing, so let’s get to it. Is it fun? Hell, yes it is. There’s something primal about hurling a hand axe into a wooden board. Am I any good at it? Well, I came in second on the team, behind only Nick A who got 9/10 because he is some kind of robot. Also, the tavern we did the axe throwing at is 101 years old and is an awesome dive-y place where we met the owner, a guy named Russ who goes around saving dive bars. He only charges $5 (!) for a whole group of folks to throw axes, just to cover his costs. (I checked: in Berkeley it’s $29/person). I’m definitely going to do it when I get back, though. It’s fun. I may even buy my own axe, which is not something I ever would have thought before.
Sandpoint is much more touristy than I realized. I spent a portion of the day out at the beach - an actual tourist beach with families and beach balls and suntan lotion. The water was amazing. I also spent a good deal of time in my hammock, reading a new book by one of my favorite authors Jack McDevitt. It was good. And then more philosophical conversations with Ted about being a teacher and a dad. All in all, a good day.
Well, we left Montana! Idaho seems nice; the country has gone back to being a bit more farmland and not quite so wild, and Sandpoint definitely seems a bit touristy. I can’t say I like it quite as much, but that’s OK. I’m a mountain-pine-tree-wild-country-rivers-and-lakes kind of guy, I suppose. Today we rode 94 miles. Sometimes when I write that, I forget that to other people that might seem kind of crazy, like the kind of thing they do once in their lives. To us it was just Thursday. My body is holding up OK; I’m tired but I can handle it. I’m really glad today is a day off though, and tomorrow is apparently only 36 miles. Had a good conversation about the meaning of life with Ted last night over a fantastic burger and homemade Idaho potato chips and a beer at this local brewery. I asked the waitress to tell me something about Idaho other than potatoes and all she came up with was kayaking. So, Idaho: It’s potatoes and kayaking.
Oh, and we got to go see the Kootenai falls, which were very nice - but even cooler was the swinging bridge across the river, which must’ve been 100 feet long and was newly rebuilt. Very fun. Makes me want to go explore the jungle.
Oh, and note for the future: the guy who takes the awesome photos is Nick Angelidis. He’s very cool.
The story of today is the story of Forest Development Road 288, which we rode for a good 50-55 miles of our 75 today. I’ve never been on a lonelier road; for the first 40 miles we saw a total of 3 cars, one of which was a Forest Service car and one of which was our van. It wasn’t the most remote place I’ve ever ridden; the Lifetime Achievement Award for that goes to Middlegate, NV forever. But even in Middlegate we saw occasional cars. This was literally the middle of nowhere. A beautiful ride along the dammed Kokanee River which reminded me a little bit of Lake Tahoe. My body is exhausted; the regular riding is leaving me a bit more exhausted every day, and tomorrow is a cool 94 miles which to be honest I’m a bit scared of.
The highlight of today was riding up into Canada. We rode about 60 miles to Eureka; they were nice miles, pretty easy riding, a good bit of nonsense riding on route 93 with semis going right past us (one came within about 10 inches of my face, which was a bit terrifying) but largely uneventful. I had pegged this day from the beginning as the best place for me to make my escape into Canada if I was ever going to; we came within about 7 or 8 miles of the border, and I had brought along my passport card just in case I got the chance. There was a really nice back road right through the country that went all the way up to the border. And when I say “all the way up” I really mean it; I rode within about 6-8 feet of the border, the only thing stopping me being a broken down barbed wire fence that looked like it was put up by the Canadian farmer that owned the land just north of it to keep his horses in. Such a contrast from the San Diego border. I took a picture of it that you can see below. Then we stayed overnight in a high school, and they had hilarious photos of their old classes up on the walls of the hallway we stayed in. A good day.
Today was a day off, and lord knows I needed it. I social engineered a shower out of the 5 star spa at the lake, which was amazing, and then had lunch there. I did laundry at the local dinky laundromat. I talked to Jenny on the phone. I took a nap and played some video games. I did some thrift shopping. It was an important day. Whitefish is pleasant, if a bit touristy.
Today was “only” a 30 mile ride, which you would think would make it easy. But I got up and went back up on the shuttle bus to Avalanche Creek and hiked out to Avalanche Lake, which ended up being about 7 miles, and so by the time I get on my bike I was already half wiped out. Then we had some tough riding; say what you will about Highway 2 (and I have), but the one thing that is nice is you can’t get lost. This day, in an effort to keep us off Highway 2, the ACA had us on some back roads, including some gravel, and I got a bit lost. By the time I got to Whitefish I was ready to just relax - which is good because tomorrow is a day off!
One thing that’s been nice is that I’ve gotten to spend some time on my own, and just think about things. This first picture sums that up:
Today we rode the Going-To-The-Sun road. This is an experience few will get to have, and I was grateful for it. Riding the road is a challenge, physically and mentally; it’s about 50 miles long and climbs over 3500 feet before descending down hairpin turns on a road built in the 1920s and considered a miracle of engineering at the time. We got to go on a hike to Hidden Lake up at Logan Pass which was beautiful and saw wild goats that walked right across our path. I saw a marmot, too, scurrying in front of my bike in the lowlands. By the time we got to Apgar I was wiped out but we still had time to go into town and buy firewood, and I bought my first Jet Boil and made oatmeal for breakfast. I finished my Perry Mason book from my hammock. Life is good.
Today we rode into Glacier National Park. It was 68 miles, the vast majority of which were once again into some stiff wind. But at least there was a reward at the end; the scenery has started to shift. We had a delicious breakfast/brunch at a super cute lodge on the way into the park. We ascended a lot more than I thought we would, and started to see trees and other signs of a different kind of nature that hopefully will accompany us moving forward.
Today, for the first time in my 4 years riding across country, we couldn’t ride. We packed the whole team into the vans, loaded all the bicycles onto the roofs, and made our way across country the old-fashioned American way, by internal combustion engine. Over the last few days the winds have been picking up, and the shoulders have been disappearing. Then, our team found out that there was bad construction along the way and, apparently, that was enough for Cassie and team to pull the plug. It happens, but I’ve been lucky enough to not have it happen on any of our rides. But my - our - luck ran out. So, today was a rest day and we got to explore Cut Bank, which bills itself the gateway to Glacier National Park. It was an above-average town. I got to go to the dollar store and buy some gear for Bike Prom - I got a fake sword and a cowboy hat and a cowboy shirt which I quite liked (not at the dollar store for that one). We ate at a local brewery which was good, hung out at the church, went to a consignment store, and got a good night’s sleep. Then McDonalds in the morning and back on the road!
Things are definitely improving, income-wise. Cut Bank had a lot more green parks and nice houses.
Riding into Chester was all about the wind. I shared the ride with Kelly and I have to admit by the end of it I was pretty grumpy. The terrain is still as dull as all get out. Kelly is great to ride with when things aren’t going well because she is always upbeat - “fake it till you make it” she says. She likes to play music too, some serious 80s and 90s jams with playlists with themes like “wind” or “jump”. One highlight was a tiny town we stopped in about 10 miles from the end - I can’t remember the name - where they had one bar, and we went to that bar, and it was exactly what you might imagine. Bar & Supper Club, it said, but eating there seemed…dangerous. Having a beer went very well, though, and the guy told us about the town dog, then Tim told a story about some other town dog, then I asked about his Syracuse poster, and generally speaking we just had a good ol’ time, until we had to climb back on and ride another 10 miles into the stand-up-in-your-seat wind. Chester, MT had a museum about the old days, where one sad lady turned the lights on for me and then followed me around as I looked at their old dresses (then presumably turned them off when I left). There was also an amazing cafe - Spud’s - where we had to go back behind the counter and serve our own soft drinks and coffee because the poor waitress/cook/owner was overwhelmed. Amazing biscuits, though. Oh! And I had Fry Bread, which was outstanding.
Oh, and that spot under the window is notable because that’s where I slept!
Today we rode 91 miles. The first 40 or so were super easy; we had a wind at our backs and made great time. After that, we got a taste of what was to come: stiff wind and a boring highway with a really crappy shoulder. This is apparently what the locals call “West Dakota”; it still has a very conservative, republican feeling, with lots of ranching and farming. I can’t say this is my favorite part of the country nor my favorite ride.
And, apparently, it’s pronounced “Haver”.
Also, I learned that I don’t like a sleeping pad that has too much padding. Nice and firm for me.
My right achilles tendon is starting to really bother me. I have it wrapped now.