Saturday, July 31, 2010

Finishing the trip in Everett, Washington

7-30-10 Day 55: Gold Bar, Washington to Everett, Washington: 39 miles in 2:23. Rt 2 west to Everett Ave to Broadway Ave to Mukilteo Blvd to Mukilteo Speedway Rd.

The journey is complete – Houlton, Maine to Everett, Washington, 4012 miles across the United States, crossing Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho and Washington. I’m feeling a great sense of accomplishment and finality to the journey. More on that later.

First to bring you up to speed on the rest of last evening. Now I’d be fibbing if I were to tell you that I didn’t get “shnookered” last evening drinking five bottles of Black Butte Porter prior to going downstairs to eat, that after devouring about 2 pounds of cherries. Barney had some Hop Czar beers and the both of us watched this crazy show on the tube about knuckleheads doing crazy stunts on bikes and skateboards and such as I was finishing up the blog. Then it was downstairs to this little restaurant for dinner. And let me tell you, this was just the best. Now I’m not taking like 5-star restaurant thing, being all fancy and posh. Nope, just the opposite. This was a mom and pop place with a hometown atmosphere and a friendly, jovial waitress slinging grub!

Menu looked really interesting, but it ended up the we both got the very same dinner – Chicken Fried Steak. Yea, you’ll all probably rolling your eyes at that. But I’m telling you, there was just something about the restaurant and the atmosphere that told us to order the Chicken Fried Steak – like a voice from God or something…..”Order the Chicken Fried Steak with all the delicious, fattening gravy, and the scrumptious home made mashed potatoes …..order it and you will be happy cyclists.” Well, we must have both heard that voice because that’s indeed what we did. I also threw in an order of onion rings. And when those plates arrived and we dug into that thick, rich gravy – ahhhhh we were in another dimension! That was sooooooo good that I literally spooned up every last spackle of gravy from the plate. Barney enjoyed a glass of wine while we just talked life, our bucket lists and anything else that kind of flickered through our minds on the end of such a marvelous day.

Then I convinced Barney to walk over to the grocery to quench our – MY – sugar Jones. Got inside and right in the entry isle was a display of sugary treats – Eclairs! “Got to have those,” I thought to myself. So with that treat ingrained in my mind I wandered over to the ice cream isle and picked up a Ben & Jerry’s New York Style Fudge. Barney meanwhile was eyeing these “dessert wines.” Now I’d never heard of a dessert wine, my being more of a suds-aholic, so this stuff was like totally foreign to me. Well, he snagged it, and it was just this thin little bottle in like a paper casing. And on the way out I snagged the éclairs to go with the ice cream. Well, we got back, Barney opened that wine and I’ll BD, that stuff was sweet and alchoholly, really good! Perfect with the ice cream and the éclairs. And those éclairs were SUPER for being bought in a grocery – A-1.

I ate way more than Barney, finishing probably ¾ of the ice cream. And that bottle of wine was gone in like a flash. We finally settled down to watching the 2010 Giro De Italia on Versus – and we both literally ended up being knocked out on the beds snoring by 11 PM. I woke up all grogged out and Barney was just sawing logs like a lumberjack in the adjacent bed. Off went the TV and lights and that was a wrap for the day – a most memorable day indeed!

Got up at a casual 6 AM on this, the finial ride of the trip, and tapped out some blog while Barney was still sawing logs – and yes the man is a human chain saw when it comes to snoring. Once he rousted we went downstairs for a breakfast, and be damned if they didn’t have the chicken fried steak of the breakfast menu. DONE! Barney just was amazed that I went for the same freaking thing for breakfast as I had just had for dinner the previous night. But to me, that dish was just gastronomic heaven! Got two eggs and toast with it and life was good. We packed up and were on the road by about 9:15 AM, probably the latest start I’ve had in over a month – but who cares, I just had to ride 39 miles. The morning was cool, and fog enshrouded and off we went down Rt 2 west to the town of Monroe to dump my yak and panniers in Barney’s SUV. That ride took us exactly an hour. We checked into the Monroe Visitor’s Center for some route information to Everett, to kind of find a good end point for this trip, because hell, this was no “Cape Spear” like the last trip. On the Canada trip that was THE absolute end game. Here, I had no real designated place to call the end – I just wanted to make it to the Washington coast.

So we got a good map of the city of Everett and picked out a nice section of the coast where there were several parks and beaches. Picked a spot along a road called Mukilteo where there was a lighthouse and beach, and bingo bango, done. Then took off all the junk off mand stowed it in Barney’s vehicle and off I went to meet up with Barney in Everett at the intersection of Everett Ave and Broadway Ave. Ten min in I had to strip off my long sleeve Underarmor and leg warmers as the sun had finally broken through the thick fog. The ride was another pretty easy section that, now naked, I could just zing down at nearly 20 mph. The traffic was just thick as hell, but luckily I had this bomber berm to ride where there was no hassles from the vehicles.

Barney stopped a couple times along the way to take some pics and sag behind me. Round about an hour in I could see the downtown of Everett – and feel the crisp, refreshing scent of the ocean. The end was near. But I had one more obstacle, and it was like a carbon copy of our last day or riding in Newfoundland, where we had to get on a section of “restricted” highway, meaning no bikes allowed, to get to our destination. Yup, Rt 2 had a sign posted about 2 miles outside of the city that said: Motor Vehicles only! And it was there that the road really turned into freeway entrance ramps for I-5, which goes into Seattle and Vancouver. My berm narrowed down to about 2 feet wide and it was like this massive stretch of elevated interstate leading right into downtown Everett. And there was no getting around any other way, I mean I had to traverse this intercoastal marsh and a river up on the elevated highway.

It was just so close that I said to myself, *&^&^$# it, I’m going for it. What’s an officer going to do, tell me to throw my bike in his car?” “It’s just two miles.” So I just clicked down three gears and hammered it on this thin, crappy section of berm into Everett, on the very final two miles of Route 2, a road I’d been on since Ignace, Michigan up in the UP. I rode like my life depended on it hoping to make it through there without a policeman spotting me. And I did, right past the I-5 entrance ramps and into the city of Everett. I rode over to Everett Ave and that’s when Barney caught up to me. Then it was on to Broadway Ave, and finally Mukilteo Blvd, which was to snake it’s way down to and then along the coastline of the Sound. We had a bit of trouble finding that road due to recent construction, but finally got situated.

This pup was not easy, as it had some pretty stiff little ups and downs. Thankfully they felt pretty easy with me not having a yak to drag. Made it to two parks, but both had no, or very limited access to the water. As we were in one of these little community parks I asked a lady parked in a car where the parks were where we could go to a beach area. She gave me directions for a place three miles down the blvd, and off we went again, with my climbing and descending these rollers. The road finally dropped right down to the water at a ferry crossing for Whidby Island where there was a lighthouse and beach area. THAT was the endpoint – looked good, had all the elements for taking some finish pics. DONE.

The beach by that time, just after 11 AM was just packed with people. Was as if it were a Sunday afternoon down there on a Friday morning. The parking areas were darned near full. We got Barney parked and then I rode to the beach gravel, and then walked the bike down to the water, putting a front wheel in the Sound. And that was it – trip complete! We shook hands and then …….time for a beer and lunch. Ended up going to this awesome little micro brew pub that makes their sandwiches by bring you out this hot slab of rock, supposedly at a temp of 700 degrees, where you cook your sandwich meat on the rock, yourself, at the table. Pretty cool little gig actually. We each ordered our beer and then got the same sandwich – the sliced prime rib with beer dipping sauce – awesome!

Next up – on to Seattle to the REI store for a bike case and a duffle bag. And let me tell you, you think that traffic is bad back in little old Ohio…..hell, from Everett to Seattle it must have taken us 1 hour in bumper to bumper on I-5 south, around noon time to boot! And the distance is only like 20-22 miles. Got to REI and I was going to buy a Thule bike case, but coming back on Amtrak, they have weight stipulations on luggage – 50 pounds max – and the weight of that case and my 29’er was way over 50 pounds. So I talked it over with the folks at REI’s bike dept, and they suggest that I just use a regular cardboard bike box. And these were awesome people, as they gave me the box, the tape, the bubble wrap, and directed up to drive Barney’s car into their shipped dept bay where we could tear down the bike and gear and pack at our leisure. Between tearing apart the bike, yak, and all the gear, that took us 3 hours. But we got it done, even with the help of REI’s mechanics having to use a 2-foot long pedal wrench to break loose my clipless pedals. Great folks there. I bought a duffle for the broken down yak and even more gear and we got everything loaded in Barney’s SUV, and next up – finding my sister’s friend Duane in Seattle for our place to stay.

That was a breeze as he lives just 6-9 blocks from REI. Duane was kind enough to let Barney sack out for the night on the floor, and let me hang for a couple of days as I get my Amtrak stuff taken care of. He has this breathtaking view of the city from his living room window – I mean it’s like spectacular. So got all our gear up in Duane’s appt, and then we all went to a local restaurant just a block or two away for dinner and drinks. Had some great meals and just kind of relaxed. Couldn’t help but get the guys in the mood ……by taking them into going to a grocery for some Ben & Jerry’s ice cream for our night cap. We each got our own pint and then went back to Duane’s place, and up to the rooftop to eat ice cream, drink a beer, and look up on this fantastic night cityscape.

The day was done. Mission accomplished. Man, it feels Soooooooooo good to be finished! I just love doing stuff like this, but there always has to be an end point, something to think about once in a while, a goal, a place, the final destination after all the effort. That’s what makes these journey’s so satisfying – the end. Well, this is it. I’m going to sign off for the day, but tomorrow I’ll put up my …….kind of post trip synopsis. And I’ll blog for my journey back to Ohio on Amtrak. But once I reach Cleveland, that’s it for another season. So anyway, talk to you tomorrow from beautiful Seattle, Washington…..cheers…….pete

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The......Billion Dollar Ride

7-29-10 Day 54: Wenatchee, Wahington to Gold Bar, Washington: 95 miles in 7:31 hours all on Rt. 2 west.

THIS was the best day of the trip. It was like the Grand Finale of the cross country journey. But first let’s drift back to last night. Barney and I walked into the Wenatchee Downtown District to search out a good local pub/restaurant. Walked about 2 miles south and did indeed come to a really neat little downtown, with old style buildings and motif. We were sent to a place called McGlinn’s, and it was definitely a great place. Barney got the home made pizza and I got a chicken burger with the taste of the west. Our beers were micro brews that were awesome. We chowed in a big way and ripped through several mugs of suds. As we were at the bar the storms rolled in, and I mean they were just gully washers, with the rain coming in horizontally at times. We managed to time it right and walk back to the Motel 6 in a window of no rain. That’s about when my sugar Jones kicked in and we ended up going to this pie restaurant for some home made pie and ice cream. I got 2 slices and Barney one, and each of us got a scoop of ice cream. I feel kind of like a bad boy encouraging Barney to eat like a freaking hog like I’ve been doing.

Back to the motel and then the rain returned with this just amazing lightning and thunder storm going on through 10 PM. It was still storming like crazy when we hit the hay.

Got up around 5:30 AM, and we readied our gear to hit the road. Decided to skip breakfast there, and ride up to Leavenworth and then stop for breakfast. So the plan in place, and off we went. And it was a climb up as soon as we left the Wenatchee city limits, and that’s about the time Barney dropped my sorry ass up the non stop series of rollers stair-stepping up into the mountains to the west. From the get-go you could see the snow covered Cascade range from outside of Wenatchee. It was just amazing to see this because to me this meant that that was my final barrier to getting to the west coast. The day was just stellar, with just the perfect starting temp – somewhere in the mid to upper 60’s. I was tank top from the start. Now you could tell that the day in Wenatchee was going to be a scorcher, and we were riding the heck out of that and into the cool, crisp mountains.

Barney waited for me a couple of times as we worked our way up to Leavenworth, which as it turned out, was like about 20 miles or more from Wenatchee – we had it figured at about 12 miles. So just a little more time in the saddle to work up an appetite. Made it to Leavenworth in about 1:45 hrs, and it’s a wonderful, charismatic little town, looking like a some hamlet tucked way up in the the Austrian Alps. Just a very cool place. It was surrounded by all these high, snow covered peaks, and just had character oozing in every direction. Barney got the dope on the best breakfast place and there we went. I opted for a coronary clogging delight – biscuits and gravy, eggs and sausage – I needed something heavy to get me over 40 miles of climbing. Barney at least opted for some cakes and eggs and bacon.

Got our coffee Jones to finish off breakfast and then off we went – for the amazing 40-mile climb up to Stevens pass. Yup, 40 miles of climbing up to this pass, and hell, we’d already climbed about 18 miles up to Leavenworth, so add 40 more to that…….and well, you do the math. I mean the day couldn’t have been any more perfect – cloudless blue skies, light breeze out of the west, cool, crisp mountain air, on bikes climbing up the Cascade Range, and we’re totally surrounded by these amazing mountain peaks. The pitch of the highway was quite low at this point, being somewhere in the 2-3% range, and it was not bad at all. Got me thinking that hell, this day was going to be a breeze if the climbing was all like that. Barney was point man riding strong and easy up front. I’d draft off of him on occasion. Stopped numerous times to snap pics, so I drifted a bit back for a while. And the climb just went on and on and on with this marvelous false flat into the mountains. There were points where we were ticking off the miles at like 13-14 mph, and then others where the pitched bumped up a bit and dropped us down into the 9 mph area.

About 1:30 hrs after leaving Leavenworth we hit a sign that said that Stevens Pass was just 19 more miles, so I was pretty jazzed to have completed the first half of the climb in under 2 hours – we had figured that we may average 10 mph for 4 hours to complete the climb, so we were well ahead of schedule. Got me thinking, “shit it just can’t be this easy.” And it wasn’t! Right after that sign things changed, at least for me, in a very big way. Yep, the pitch increased to like 4-5%, and I’ll tell you, it felt like much more than that, and that’s when we really started to gain elevation. Up to that point I’d done all the climbing in the middle ring. But we were getting into sections where I was in my easiest gear in the middle ring and starting to feel the effort – big time. Barney…..he went up those pitches seated and just left me in the dust, riding like he was on a mission. I was out of the saddle trying to keep a rhythm and stay away from that damned little cookie.

Finally got to a point to where I was just hanging my arse off of the end of the saddle cranking in that middle cookie, and I said to myself, “ok dude, time to suck it up and drop into the little cookie.” And with that I relinquished and dropped down to the mini. Damn that felt good, just spinning away at like 5-6 mph. So Barney was gone by then and it was just me, the mountains, the beautiful day, the second to last day of cycling across the United States. Life was good no matter how tough the climbing could get. I was just in a state of ecstasy doing this ride. So bring it on! About this time I started looking at on occasional mile marker to get a handle on how far we’d gone on the climb – that and the time. By three hours into the climb I was just amazed we’d been climbing so long. Never had I done just one climb that lasted this long. This was just off the charts amazing!

Now I was plodding along just getting into the moment when I saw a sign that said that the road gets steeper, and I’m like, “damn, I’m already in the little cookie.” And the road sure as heck steeped out again and I was in my easiest gear, in and out of the saddle. It was appropriate though, this being the very last mountain range to climb before the finish, that I get throttled just a tad by the mountains. So it was just the breeze, the mountains, my breathing and my pedaling up, up, up. Now there was a point where I was really starting to think that I was close to the pass. I mean the elevations were going up by like 400-600 feet every 20-30 minutes and the last elev. sign I saw was 3800 feet. Add to that the fact that it looked as if I was about to kind of go across this little saddle between two really high peaks. So I just kept it going in and out of the saddle. Then I saw these cars parked on the side of the road and people mulling about several hundred yards ahead of me. That was it, because there off to the right was Barney standing and taking pics of me coming to the top of the pass. Damn that felt good – about 3.5 hours of non-stop climb up the mountain. We hit the top and got some water from a couple of folks who were headed east in their car. There were no services up there, and this gentleman offered up some ice cold water to Barney and I when I had asked him if there was anywhere around where we could fill up our bottles.

After getting our water fill, we just sat on some concrete barriers and ate our lunch – beef jerky, gorp, and a couple of sweet and salty bars. Man I’ll tell you, I was worked on those last 19 miles of climbing. Felt so good to sit on that concrete barrier and hand my sore arse over one end and just relax. We were up there for about 30 min. And we talked about having gotten there so early, why not just bypass Skykomish, where we were going to camp for the day, and just ride all the way back down to the town of Monroe where Barney had parked his car yesterday. DONE. We were going to go for the full Magilla. Barney said that it was just a descent for 40 miles. So might as well go for it.

Got back on the bikes for this BALZ descent down the west side, where the pitch was crazy steep, and the mph was going well over 35 with us hitting the brakes on a regular basis, but the crazy thing was that once we got going down on the west side, the wind had picked up to this just nasty gusting and blowing. I really had to grip the bars a bit more than normal, and this really started to pump up my forearms after about 30 min of straight descending. I mean we were jamming down the mountain, with these guardrails on our right, protecting us from taking multi-hundred foot screamers down the mountain if we screwed up. I’d look off to the right and like a thousand feet below I’d see the road and these tiny things moving – cars! So we were each shaking out our hands and arms on occasion to get the muscles limbered back up again to grip the bars. So we just had this steep section where we descended about 6-8 solid miles and lost like 2000 feet of elevation. Then it settled out a bit, and that’s when the gusting wind really affected us. I mean we had this big time headwind in our faces, and you could look over at the trees and see the branches and leaves just bending to the east with the force of the wind. It was definitely slowing us down in a huge way.

We’d hit little sections where the road kind of flattened out, or conversely, where the road just pitched up a tad, and what with the headwind, it was as if we were right back there climbing up the mountain, except that we were DESCENDING! So our decision to ride all the way to Monroe, that was beginning to look like a pretty tough cookie to complete with the wind. We passed Skykomish and just kept it rolling down. And when the pitch was fairly steep, it felt ….just ok. But when the pitch settled down, wow, that wind really put a damper on our descending efforts. Round about this time both Barney and I started to get the bonk going on. Me, I was starting to get the shakes. And with that I knew that I had to get some sugar in me asap. Barney stopped to knock down a gel or two. I told him I had to ride on to find a place to get a coke and candy or cookies. So I kept going. About 2 miles further I just had to stop and get some of my emergency stash – a couple of strawberry yogurt energy bars. Munched them down like they were my only meal in days.

Barney joined back up with me and we kept it going, with me still wanting to find a place for a coke – the proverbial heroin spike in my veins for riding. And we found it just a few more miles down the road, in the hamlet of Baring. Stopped at a little place that was post office/diner/general store/hardware store. Got a Pepsi and this coconut, chocolate chip thingy which Barney and I split. THAT was the ticket. We chatted for a bit with the two ladies there about our trip. I asked about the distanced to Monroe, and they told me it was about 30 miles away – a bit too far for me to make, as we were already at about 81 miles for the day. She suggested staying in the town of Gold Bar, about 13 miles away, where there’s a little motel, a restaurant, and a grocery store. So we decided that Gold Bar it was for the day’s destination.

Did that last 13 miles with a bit more energy from all the sugar I ingested in Baring. I pulled a bit and Barney pulled a bit. About a mile outside of Gold Bar Barney pulled into this little stand where a lady was selling cherries. Barney bought probably 5-7 pounds of them!! And again, off we went, into the town of Gold Bar about 1.5 miles down the road. We got a motel, actually a really laid out place with a full kitchenette - really awesome place. Ended up with about 95 miles of riding in 7:30 hours of saddle time. Damn what a day. This was the penultimate day of the trip – great scenery, amazing weather, awesome friend to ride with, a journey that is just 39 miles away from being completed. All the elements were there to make this so very memorable.

We got settled in, got some micro brews, skyped our ladies, and we’re just sitting here veging and waiting for me to finish this blog so we can go downstairs to eat dinner at the restaurant. This is a very cool little town, surrounded by mountains and river. Great place, great day. Tomorrow is a casual day. No early start. No big day in the saddle. No more tomorrow. The trips ends in 39 miles. Time to go eat dinner. Talk to you tomorrow from the Pacific Ocean…..Pete

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Welcome Barney

7-28-10 Day 53: Ephrata, Washington to Wenatchee, Wahington: 50 miles in 3:31 hours northwest on Rt 28 to Rt. 2 west.

Well gang. Almost there. One teeny, tiny little mountain range called the Cascades, and then it’s a dash to the ocean. Been a long haul man, a real long haul doing the majority of this thing solo and fighting headwinds on and off for the past 4000 miles. I’m looking back fondly at the hard days I endured to get to this point. Heck I kind of had this moment in my head way back in Maine, but I just couldn’t even attempt to conjure it up for more than a few seconds. No, you really just have to have the goals set from smallest onward: Goal for the hour; goal for the day; goal for the week; goal for the month; and then the overall goal – the end of the journey. And son of a gun, I’m like 2 rides away.

No I have to come to the confessional right now with respect to yesterday. You see I ate at Subway around 12 noon, and then went to Safeway and got a Ben & Jerry’s New York Style Fudge. THAT was a lot of food! Ok, so fast forward to yesterday evening. What did I do? Went back to Subway and got two more foot longs, and be damned if I didn’t eat 1.5 of the two. So I ended up with like 3.5 sub sandwiches in my stomach. Then, to add insult to injury, I needed a sugar fix, but was too lazy to go back out for something, so I got a fork and just ate peanut butter right out of the plastic jar. I feel so ashamed of myself…….not really! I swear, the less you ride doing a trip like this, the more time you have to just eat all day. Well, that was the case for yesterday. Then, to top it all off, I got on the net and map quested Wenatchee to see if there was a Subways close by the cheapie motels, and I hit a gold mine – a Chinese buffet. It was centrally located in the city, so I got the address and saved it for when I pulled into town to kind of line up the lodging with the Chinese buffet. Pretty sick isn’t it?

So today….Well, it was the same old same old for the morning and my usual routine – except that I had .5 of a Subway sub to add to the bananas and yogurts. Got on the road at like 5:45, despite the fact that I had just 45-50 miles to ride today. But the forecast was for super hot and mildly humid out, so I just wanted to get the riding out of the way before the heat machine was turned on high. Pulled out of Ephrata with the temp at 68 degrees, and I was in the tank top mode from the get-go. Had what seemed to be a nice little cross tailwind out of the southeast. Got into Quincy at about 15 mph average and was feeling ok. But then I started doing this climb, and it was steep at first and then kind of leveled off, but was a false, false flat. I mean I was looking at my mph and it was just killer to hold 10 mph, and I’m looking down at my tires to see if I flatted. NOPE. Looked behind me and I could see this ever so subtle false flat. Ok, shifted up a gear or two and just spun, and this thing went on forever. The only good thing was that I could see, way off to the northwest, the snow covered Cascade range.

After some 3-4 miles of this gradual false flat I finally kind of topped out, but I topped out on nothing. Wasn’t like I was at the top of anything, and there ahead of me was a steep descent sign, you know the one with the icon of the steep slope and the truck going down it. And I was looking around thinking, “what the hell, not as if I just climbed a steep pitch here.” “Why in the heck is there a steep descent sign here?” Well, I rode on for about 200 yards and then I saw it…..this massive descent, long and sweeping that had to be 3-4 miles long, taking you all the way down to the Columbia River. It was mind blowing to look at this thing. Shot a few pics at the top and then down I went, and it was just wild, totally out of control, and I had to feather the brakes just so I could stay in an “under 40 mph” mode. Get going any faster on a bike loaded down like mine and if you get into something bad, like chuck holes, rocks, junk on the berm, you’re just going to fast to react safely and then it could be ……BAD. So I stayed at a good speed and just descended and descended. Descended so long that when I finally did have to pedal my legs felt like I’d been sitting around doing nothing for 10 min. They were stiff and unresponsive.

Well, I needed those puppies to perk up fast, because I had a series of rollers to get over once the big descent ended. But I still wasn’t right down on the Columbia, nope, it was down in a gorge and several hundred feet further down. Now by this time the temp had climbed up to the low 80’s, and add to that just a hint of humidity, so the heat machine was definitely on it’s way up. I’d hit sections, because I was now riding in a northwesterly direction, where I was shaded by the canyon walls, and the temp difference was just amazing – felt great. So I was climbing small grades, and then descending even more for a bit, ever so slowly working my way down to the waterline of the Columbia.

Got to one section where there was a warning sign about super strong crosswinds, and it even had a wind directional down at the base to let you see how hard the wind was blowing and from what direction it was blowing from. Well I hit that area and like out of nowhere, and I mean from nowhere, the wind just cut into me like a gale as a headwind. Was as if someone had just turned on a giant wind tunnel. Well, it had something to do with the wind funneling down into this canyon at a specific point to be super concentrated. And it was, for about 3 miles with me struggling to maintain 10 mph, and I thought that I’d be just creeping into Wenatchee with a headwind like that. But be darned if the road didn’t kind of turn back to a westerly direction and the wind was darned near gone. It was just beautiful down there riding along the mighty Columbia, but a big dam just south of the town of Rock Island kind of put a damper on the wild river thing.

From Rock Island up to Wenatchee it was like cycling through the desert, very much similar to riding in the Flaming Gorge area in the US – hot, hot, hot! The foothill mountains were just blank and hot looking, with just a smidge of trees here and there. For the most part this place with just an inferno along the deep blue Columbia. That wind never really quit, it just softened out a good bit, but it was still blowing in my face. I just plodded along knowing that I really had a mellow ride for the day, not some killer 80-miler in the wind and heat. Finally looked at a mile marker and it read 4, meaning I had four more miles on Rt 28 to get to the jcn with East Wenatchee – totally doable no matter how hot it had become and how tired I was (telling you, I’m just totally beat down right now, fully functional on my bike of course, but I’m really spent with respect to the legs – they’re hosed!). Made it to East Wenatchee, and then crossed the Columbia River on a bridge and rode another 2 miles through town and bingo bango, I was in Wenatchee.

Scouted out the street where the Buffet was on which is Wenatchee Avenue, and then got a motel – got a motel for two people! Yup, Barney is on his way, or maybe even at the Wenatchee bus station as I write this. He will ride with me for the last two days of the journey, and I’m really looking forward to hooking back up with this guy – he’s one hell of a good traveling bud. Now there were a couple of cheesy places here as far as efficiencies go, but with Barney coming I thought I’d get something in the middle, not a 8x10 prison cubicle with a frige and microwave with a bed, so I went to Motel 6 and snagged a good sized room that would accommodate the both of us and our bikes. Problem was that it was just 9:30 AM and the dude did not have anything ready to move into on the first floor at that time. Said I could have something on the second floor, or wait till noon or one pm for a first floor room. Second floor it will be!

Got my gear in and got my computer going and found a message from Barney’s wife, Val, telling me that Barney had gotten up at 4 AM and was on his way. So I skyped him and he was just getting into the town of Monroe, Washington where he was going to catch a bus into Wenatchee with his bike on board. Done! Went to my little Chinese buffet and just went crazy. Another great buffet. I’ll spare Barney the buffet routine this eve, so I just really put the feed bag on and went to town this afternoon.

So that’s about it. I’m kind of hanging here waiting for Barney to arrive – got some beer in the refrig – and enjoying the AC. It’s just a purgatory out there right now, although I see clouds moving in from the south as I look out the window.

Barney thinks we can make Skykomish tomorrow – a 70-mile ride – and then do an easy Friday ride by descending down to the coast. We’ll likely be camping up in the mountains tomorrow in Skykomish, so I may not have internet access, and thus no posting of the blog that day. So if nothing’s up, that’s probably the reason. Anyway, almost to the end here. I did check out Amtrak, and it looks pretty good from the perspective that I can take all my junk on board and not get charged anything extra – well, save for a $5.00 charge for a bike box. Yup, five bucks to ship the bike with me! So I’m leaning heavily on doing Amtrak back home. The neat thing here, not accounting for the fact that I just love trains (I used to hop trains when I was a kid – sorry mom and dad), is that I’ll be traveling along some of the very roads I cycled along. That I think is very cool, to look out at what I’d just ridden for 1500 miles.

Well, Barney just made it here and we sat around and BS’ed for a good hour, with a few beers of course. He’s putting his bike together right now. Going to be a very awesome two days to the finish. More to come tomorrow. Cheers all……..Pete

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Spared from the heat

7-27-10 Day 52: Wilbur, Washington to Ephrata: 60 miles in 4:01 hours west on Rt. 2 to south on Rt 17 to west on Rt 28.

Man, I’m just really beat right now. Think it’s just part and parcel of riding cross country and going at it day after day. I think I had like 4 off days for the trip, and I’m starting to feel it. Thanks goodness these last few days are just mini-rides and not gonzo rides.

So did my usual breakfast thing with yogurt and bananas and got on the road at about 6:15 AM. Hell, I knew it was just going to be a 60-mile day, but I’m always waking up at 5 AM now, so I saw no use in just sitting around and twiddling my thumbs. Plus the weather folks out of Spokane were forecasting a front moving in from the south from Oregon that had the potential for some isolated storms later today. So, I got it rolling knowing that it would be a short ride into Ephrata, with an ETA of like 10 AM!

Got going and it felt much better than when I got up. The wind was light and out of the …EAST…..nice one there. This first section of Rt 2 west out of Wilbur was just rolling and rolling and rolling. With nice little hills and swales. The terrain was more of the farmland type as I’d experienced in the Great Plains. Off to the south, sure enough I could see the front moving in ever so slowly. Now the temp this morn was pretty sweet considering it damned near hit 100 yesterday, and that they were forecasting the same for today. But with the blanket of cloudcover moving in, the sun just wasn’t able to penetrate like it did yesterday, at least making it appear cooler out. Rode with the long sleeved jersey for about an hour, and then it was tank top time.

Made it through a couple of tiny towns and then arched southwest towards the the next big town – Coulee City. I hit a nice, fairly flat stretch and just jammed to Coulee City in no time. Made it there from Wilbur in like 1:45 hrs. Now I wanted to take somewhat of a detour from Rt 2 today and get away from just the desert and Great Plains type topography, so I opted to go on Rt 17 south through this monster gorge that was formed from a gargantuan flood eons ago. This rather than just ride west on Rt 2 to the town of Waterville where there are limited amenities. Plus, by going south through the gorge, I’d only have to do a 60-mile ride today and a 47-mile ride tomorrow, and be able to have my stopover in the town of Ephrata, which has a lot of stuff compared to most of these towns along the way. So 17 south I went, and it was just spectacular.

On the opposite side of the Grand Coulee and south of the Dry Falls dam, is this three and a half mile-long scalloped precipice known as Dry Falls. It’s supposed to be ten times the size Niagra Falls, and thought to be the greatest known waterfall that ever existed. Geologists speculate that during the last ice age epic flooding channeled water at 65 miles per hour through the Upper Grand Coulee and over this 400-foot rock face. At that time, it’s estimated that the flow of the falls was ten times the current flow of all the rivers in the world combined. According to the Visitor’s Center, nearly twenty thousand years ago, as glaciers moved south, one ice sheet plugged the Clark Fork of the Columbia River, which kept water from being drained from Montana. Consequently, a significant portion of western Montana flooded, forming a gigantic lake, Lake Missoula. Eventually, enough pressure accumulated on the ice dam that it gave way. Geologists believe that this process of ice-damming of the Clark Fork, refilling of Lake Missoula and subsequent cataclysmic flooding happened dozens of times over the years of the last Ice Age.

So I checked this Dry Falls out from the Visitor’s Center and it was just amazing to think of water cascading over it. And the gorge below was just wild looking. I rode down into the gorge for about a 2-3 mile descent, down to Park Lake, Blue Lake and Lenore Lake. There were places on the sides of the gorge where you could see the flood residue cemented together, these giant boulders and cobbles that formed giant sand bars of sorts, but this wasn’t sand, it was stuff as big as tables and basketballs and cars. Above that are these basalt cliffs with vertical columns of basalt just as I’d seen in Iceland. Matter of fact it looked just like a couple of the river valleys I passed on my cycling trip around Iceland – topography and terrain was almost identical.

Really happy I took this deviation, though it will add about 10 more miles on to my trip west – big deal there hah? The road undulated up and down along the string of lakes up alongside the basalt walls. Now just about 4 miles from the town of Soap Lake, about where the gorge was opening up back to plains, I started getting bitten by these horse flys, and damn they were viscous. Got a bite on the shoulder, back, hip…..ass! I mean I thought I was going to be in the hurt locker with these things for the remaining 10-12 miles. But as soon as I got away from the water the flies were gone.

Outside of Soap Lake I got on Rt 28 east and headed back towards Wenatchee and my destination, Ephrata. This was a nice flat stretch with a slight southwesterly headwind, but at that point I was just 10 miles away and couldn’t care less. Made it into Ephrata in just about 4 hours for 60 miles. Not a bad average for a day where I was just feeling tired and beat down. Got a little place on the west end of town – two blocks from a Subway. The cloud cover had set in by then and the temp was no where near what was predicted. Almost looks like it could rain for a bit.

So looks like a go to meet up with Barney tomorrow in Wenatchee. Then we’ll cycle across the Cascades to Everett for the finish. Looking forward to seeing Barney after nearly a year. So that’s it. Was a short one today, and even shorter tomorrow. I’m pretty beat and tired but really happy that my goal of coast to coast is just over the final mountain range. That’s a wrap for the day…….Pete

Monday, July 26, 2010

Cycling through the Washington inferno day 1

7-26-10 Day 51: Spokane, Washington to Wilbur, Washington: 70 miles in 4:40 hours all on Rt. 2 West.

Knew this was gong to be a hot trek across the Washington “Badlands”, so I had talked with Barney last night and pushed our meeting time to Wednesday due to the long distances I’d have to cover Today and tomorrow to get to Wenatchee on Tues. So we settled on Wed, which actually worked out better for him. Me to, hell I just have to do 3 60-70 mile rides through this freaking purgatory instead of 90-mile rides for two days in a row.

So I asked politely at the Comfort Inn reception desk if they could let me eat my free breakfast at 5:30 rather than 6 AM as is stated in the hotel. This so I could get on the road at 6 AM. Heck, I had a free breakfast coming, and that I did not want to miss. Got to get my money’s worth when I’m splurging! And they were just totally cool with letting me in a half hour early. So I got in the breakfast room and chatted with the gal who puts out all the grub. Nice lady and she was more than accommodating with my early arrival, and when I told her I was riding west across the desert to Seattle on a cross country trip, she just flipped, telling me that that was crazy to ride through Eastern Washington on days like today. I assured her that I would be fine, and that this is why I was eating early so that I could stop before the heat of the day set in. Then she started asking me a host of questions about my riding cross country, the first of which was “what is your cause?” I’m getting this like every day - my cause. So I explained to her that my cause was time and mortality. Got to do it now, or maybe I’ll never do it. Yup, my cause is mortality …go for it, Iive life and push yourself into situations that are just totally out of the norm. The reward is just an amazing sense of accomplishment. I don’t think she totally “got the pushing yourself” part but she was very cool in trying to figure it out. She even said she had read a couple of books, one about a guy who walked across the US, and the other about a guy who biked across the US, so obviously she has an interest in stuff like this were people go out there and just do it – living rather than just existing. If I can impart anything to people about doing things like this it’s: go out there and take a walk outside of the comfort zone, take chances, live your dreams, experience life. Yup, life’s about taking chances. If you don’t take chances you leave so much on the table. Enough said there.

So I had this great breakfast at the hotel, with biscuits and gravy, some eggs, yogurt, muffins, doughnuts. Yup, I was just packed. And then off I went, riding into downtown Spokane to try to beat rush hour and the impending heat of the day when I reached the desert. The hotel staff had given me a route to get through the city rather than take Rt 2 onto the I-90 – which is a no, no. So I road a net descent down into the middle of the city, and then turned on 2nd Ave and finally onto Sunset Blvd which exits the city west to eventually hook back up with Rt 2 which comes off of the interstate west of the city. Didn’t really have much of a problem what with the early hour and the light traffic in the downtown.

Then got on Sunset Blvd and began riding west – right into this monster climb. Now I’d just made it across the Rocky Mountains without using the little cookie, but when I caught sight of this puppy my stubbornness evaporated – it was little cookie time! I’m telling you, this thing was a bitch. I dumped it into the little cookie and just spun in the third easiest cog in the rear, and occasionally dropping a gear and getting out of the saddle to change it up a bit. Must have taken me 15-20 min just to get up this climb and out of the city. Half way up I just stopped and stripped my long sleeved jersey due the profuse amount of sweat just running like small braided streams down my upper body. I was soaked half way up!

Finally got to the top and junctioned with Rt 2 off of the Interstate, and then it was just nice and flat. Went by like this massive strip mall complex outside of the city with some pretty heavy traffic. Good thing was that I had this just glorious berm that was a lane wide and smooth as glass with fresh asphalt. Once I got through all the suburbs and strip malls I was suddenly out in the middle of nowhere, just farm country, where I was surrounded by wheat fields as far as the eye could see. It was wild how fast I left the foothills and trees and entered this gargantuan basin. That’s where the road went back to single lane, and where the traffic just dwindled off to a low to moderate level. And that was it. Goodbye Spokane.

The early morning temp was around 65-70 degrees. But by the time I’d passed the suburbs to the west it had climbed up to the low 80’s. I rode a series of rollers and straights into what looked to be more and more like the very Great Plains I had left several days ago. This is definitely not the way most people picture the state of Washington. I mean there were just all these rolling hills as far as I could see containing wheat fields. It was actually quite beautiful to see the fields of golden wheat on one side, and green wheat on the other. The play of morning light on the fields was pretty cool. I had a light crosswind out of the southeast that enabled me to keep a really nice pace of 13-17 mph depending on the rollers.

About an hour later the terrain really changed drastically, like it was very reminiscent of the lave fields I experienced in Iceland when I pedaled out of the Reykjavik airport – just rubble fields of basaltic rock everywhere. I looked intimidating and menacing with such scorching weather. Yup, it was the desert for sure. I could just feel the heat magnify out there. It was wild. But I still had a coolish breeze from riding so I was being cooled off. No humidity here. This is just Arizona type heat. Eighty degrees felt ok. So I kept rolling on. Made it past Davenport with no stop needed, but damn, the last 13 miles up to Davenport seemed like a total false flat, just neverending. I mean I was doing like 15-17 mph going up this thing, but I could see cars just disappearing over the horizon each and every time they passed me. And when I’d got to the top of what looked to be the end, it just continued on to another top, and on and on and on.

Once past Davenport it was bloody well hot, really hot. I was going through these zones where it would be farmland fields of wheat and barley and then these “no man” zones of basalt and desert. That’s about the time my mouth started getting dry and cottony. I’d sip my water bottles to wet my whistle and just plug on. From Davenport it was 29 miles to Wilbur, with the small town of Creston about 20 miles in, and 9 miles from Wilbur. So I figured that at the very least I had plenty of water – 4 bottles – to get me that far. More false flats and rollers, and then long stretches of flats amidst these basalt fields that just looked like a freaking oven. My holdout for Creston was broken when I came upon a rest area with water. I stopped and just guzzled water by the bottle full for a good five minutes. Drank so much that I nearly had a stomach ache! But I was well hydrated and continued on to Creston.

I’ll tell you, now I can barely understand people living in like eastern Montana amidst …..just really nothing. But this place? It’s like a hell on earth out here. Just this one main road, Rt 2, and then nothing but these little one lane dirt roads that go off into the horizon, into the heart of the freaking oven. It’s a literal hell hole in some of these places. And there’s a farm here and there, just nestled down in a hollow with a grove of trees where there must be a water source. It’s just crazy to see people living their lives in this area. And the kids? Wow, such a different life. Made it through Creston and it was just a blink and you’re through it kind of place. And the final 9 miles to Wilbur were hot, hot, hot. I had toyed with the idea of pushing on to Coulee City, another 34 miles west, but by Creston that was a definite negative. Nope, just didn’t want to ride on into the scorching part of the day. I was going to go as planned and bag it at Wilbur.

That last stretch was a nice one where I could jam on at nearly 17 mph. And seeing a town out here was just like seeing a town out on the Great Plains, where you can see the grain silos from miles upon miles away. You can see the town 5-7 miles before you get to it just because of the nothingness across this vast landscape.

Made it into town and hit a little efficiency and got situated. I asked for the “guy biking across America discount” and the lady was kind enough to give me the room with no boarding tax. By the time I entered Wilbur it was round about 92 degrees…and just smoking hot. Now this is not much of a town, and again, I just am amazed that people live their lives here….like this little oasis of humanity amidst a massive desert of basalt and wheat fields. Just like two little diners to eat, so I opted for the local grocery store and ended up getting like this big bag of frozen dinners. Got the Banquet specials! Got lunch, a Ben & Jerry’s snack, and dinner….+ a few beers for this evening.

I sat on a picnic table under this huge willow tree in front of the motel and had a beer. Damn, I was very glad I’d decided to bag it here. Going for the extra 30 miles would have been just insanely toasty. Nope, I’ll do short 60-miler tomorrow to Ephrata, and then a very easy 47-mile ride to Wenatchee on Wed to hook up with Barney. And that will get me out of this desert. I’m now about 220 miles from the coast. Yipppe!

Well, it’s like 2:45 PM PST right now. I’m all done with everything really. I can work a bit on the computer and then take a nap. I’ll venture out for some photos later in the evening when the heat backs off and the light gets kinder. But right now I’m cocooned here in the AC loving life. Did my Ben & Jerry’s and feel very comfortable.

That’s it from Eastern Washington in the badlands. Late……pete

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Welcome to Washington

7-25-10 Day 50: Sandpoint, Idaho to Spokane, Washington: 72 miles in 5:11 hours all on Rt. 2 West.

Today was kind of a celebratory ride for me, as I entered Washington state after the first two hours of riding and am finishing up what I believe is my final week of riding on this cross-country trip. Great day. Hot day. Really hot day!

Got through my usual morning routine and got going on the bike at 6:15 AM. Not I had thought that it be a good idea to get going early as the weather was predicted to top 95 degrees today. Got going with no leg warmers and just a light long sleeved jersey out of Sandpoint. Had the roads to myself all the way through town and out into the mountains. Not a cloud in the sky, perfectly blue. Just a fantastic morning to ride. I just didn’t know what to expect today after yesterday’s mountain foray, so I just rode on the conservative side, spinning up the gradual rollers and keeping it mellow on the flats. I wanted gas in my legs in case I hit a substantial climb today. I was riding along the north side of the Oreille River all the way out of Sandpoint and to the west towards the Washington border.

This was a nice rolling section of highway, with plenty of berm and just some great scenery along the river what with the sun popping up on the eastern horizon. No tough climbing here, just rolling up and down along the river. Got to the town of Priest River, Idaho in two hours. Crossed the Oreille River and presto chango I was in Washington state, and on a section of berm that was just pure heaven – glass smooth and about a lane wide with a rumble strip on the far left side. Welcome to Washington! Yanked the long sleeve jersey off and it was tank top time, what with the temp hitting 65 degrees in the town of Newport, Washington. Pure sunshine. No clouds, and dry heat. It felt just wonderful. Good to be alive!

Seemed as though I was doing more down than up as I continued southwest in Washington, and then when the road went dbl lane, I was doing some serious down, for several miles. The landscape was more on the dry, almost semi-arid side with lodgepole pine and white pine all over the place, than and a sandy soil. After the big descent there were several little ups and downs but nothing major. Got to tell you that by this time I was OUT of the Rockies. And that had to be the absolute easiest traversing of that mountain range I’d ever done. This was just not that bad to ride across. Now I didn’t plan the trip specifically around this, but I knew that the Rockies in Montana were not anywhere near as extensive as they are to the south in Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. But those Great Plains of Montana – that made up for the lack of true mountain climbing. Really though, I just kind of lucked into a totally easy mountain crossing, where I never even used my little cookie for any of the climbing. Hell, I had a WAY tougher time crossing New York state and the Allegheny range!

By this time the traffic really started to pick up, what with everyone coming back to Spokane, or leaving Idaho for the day. Thankfully I had that giant berm as my security blanket as the big RV’s and 5th wheels moving past me. I stopped at a mega gonzo gas station/diner about 30 miles out of Spokane for an ice cold coke. Guzzled and off again, onto a series of long rollers where I continued to loose elevation rather than gain it on the way to Spokane. Road went dbl lane again and I started to see signs of a big city a good 20 miles outside to the north. The traffic was just amazing for a Sunday, but with my berm – I was golden! Now it was around 10 AM by this time and I had seen a time and temp sign where the temp was listed as 83 degrees. And as I said, this is a dry heat, kind of like the desert southwest, so that 83 actually felt pretty comfortable, but I know that I wanted to be done in another hour because that temp was really beginning to climb.

Put it down as best I could for the last stretch, loosing my berm as I entered the city limits of Spokane, and a final out of the saddle climb up to and across the Spokane City Limits. Made it the 72 miles in just over 5 hours. I was feeling in a really great mood – hell I made Washington state and was less than a week away from completing my journey. Time for a treat! Yup, no little efficiency today, nope, I decided to splurge on a real hotel, the big time – Comfort Inn! I know, not exactly the Hilton, but to me, and all the cheesy little joints I’ve stayed in across this country, this was a freaking palace. Yup, 87 degrees out by the time I finished and I was just happy to get my salt encrusted ass off of the saddle and into the AC.

Got checked in, showered, skyped Judy and then off to this Chinese buffet, and this pup was like the KING of all Chinese buffes – they had it all and it was just fantastic. I had 5 plates, a bowl of soup and a cup of frozen custard. Waddled out like a duck for gosh’s sake, and by then the temp was just torrid. Went back and grabbed a nap with the AC just jamming….and here I sit. Just feeling really great about this last stretch of riding.

Now I have a desert of sorts to ride through in the first half of Washington. And the forecast is for 98-100+ degrees for the next two days, and nothing but sunshine for the next week. So this is my window to complete the journey in. I’m suppose to meet Barney in Wenatchee on Tuesday evening, but I just bought a map of Washington and that means that I have to really jam on tomorrow’s and Tuesday’s rides, maybe like doing 90+ miles on one of those days. I’ll have to line up all the towns just right on this stretch because there are sections like I rode back in Montana where there is just total nothing for 30-40 miles at a crack. So you have to lay up….or go for the green. And going for the green with it’s 100 outside is not what I’m looking forward to. Heat is my Achilles heel, so I just DO NOT want to be on the bike past, say 1-2 PM max. Just have to see how soon the heat sets in, and how strong a headwind I may have. I’m not going to bang it out into a 15+ mph headwind with those kinds of temps for 90-some miles!

Then it’s just a matter of one more mountain range to traverse – the Cascades, where the temps go down and the road goes UP!

Well, that’s it for today. It’s just so freaking hot out that I’m not even going to go out and walk around. I’ll see the city of Spokane tomorrow as I ride out of here early in the morning. That’s my photo opp time.

From the state of Washington…..I’m out……Pete

Saturday, July 24, 2010

No legs today

7-24-10 Day 49: Libby, Montana to Sandpoint, Idaho: 82 miles in 6:17 hours all on Rt. 2 West to Rt 2/Rt 95 South.

I’m just rocked….totally beat to hell, completely done for the day. Well, I’ve said it when we were riding across Canada: Always expect the unexpected. And today was one such day.

Up at 5 AM and on the road at 6 AM, and I expected today to be even easier than yesterday – a little climbing, but a lot of flats along river valleys for a pretty mellow day. NOT! Got going out of Libby and did some gradual climbing on my to Troy, Montana. Now, just a slight backtracking about Libby. I really enjoyed this little mountain town. Was a shame I couldn’t hang out longer and soak up the atmosphere and do some hike in the nearby mountains. This is a totally “no frills” town. No nonsense, no junk shops, no bumper cars and giant slides and goofy golf courses. This was much bigger than East Glacier, and had a ton of character as did East Glacier. Wish I’d of had the energy to go out and scout around, but hell, I was in bed at 9 PM and sleeping way before it even got dark out. Too bad.

So anyway, started out with temp at about 49 degrees, wearing my leg warmers, and dbl long sleeve set-up I had on yesterday. I got going up these mellow climbs for a bit, taking my higher above the Kootenai River. The scenery was just fantastic as I entered a kind of gorge that the river had cut into walls through the mountain. There was on point where there was a local park called Kootenai Falls just off of the road, but the sun hadn’t even crested over the top of the peaks, so everything was in shadow. Was pretty cool to look down at the rapids, the falls, and the turbulent water several hundred feet below me. Took a few pics, but the lighting was just not there yet. So I just motored on. Round about on hour and a half in the sun finally started to illuminate the higher echelons of the mountains, and that’s when I did my first climb up towards the town of Troy. This wasn’t too bad and I made it in about 15 minutes, but man, the legs were just so lethargic, in or out of the saddle. Troy also looked like a pretty cool little town, and I salivated smelling fresh bacon and eggs cooking at a little diner along the side of the road.

I was so tempted to just stop and pig out on a big breakfast of greasy food. My 2 bananas and two yogurts were totally overshadowed by that smell wafting through the cool mountain air. It was all I could to keep the bike pointed straight ahead and keep rolling. But I plugged on. And the riding instead of being this nice flat stretch along the river was a long and endless series of power climbs. Now part of my mistake was listening to the owner of the efficiency who had told me yesterday that it was a bit of a climb up to Troy and then just soft pedaling the rest of the way. Funny how people who do not ride bikes often mistake the terrain I’m riding on by their “automobile conscious” judgments. Well, he totally didn’t perceive the moderate power climbs that undulated along the river, and then the biggie, the climb that really made my legs just suffer like a dog. Yup, he totally forgot about that one!

This pup came about 8 miles from the Idaho border and it was round about 3 miles long, and at a pitch of somewhere between 10-12%. And it felt LLLLLLOOOOOOOONNNNNNGGGG! I was in and out of the saddle for probably like 25-30 minutes, all in the middle ring in the easiest cog in the back. It just kept switch-backing around and around until I finally topped out with about 5 miles to the border. Then I was treated to a mild descent, not loosing anywhere near what I had gained. Nope, I was up on the top of a mountain, and I was there to stay for a good bit of time. I finally came to mile marker #1 on Rt 2, the last mile in Montana. I was so jazzed that I stopped and took a pic of mile marker #1, and kind of shouted out “Love ya Montana, but gotta go!” And I pedaled on into Idaho. Nothing really changed. I was still up on the mountain on a single lane road out in the middle of nowhere.

And this is where the riding just got downright gnarly, what with these long, gradual swales I had to go up and down. It was like non-stop, just a series of rolling up and down, what nary a chance to get into a rhythm. Nope, shift down two gears and pedal slightly down, and then shift up 2-3 gears and get out of the saddle and get over the top, again, and again, and again. Just felt my already tired legs totally getting the hammered, getting thoroughly tenderized by the rollers. This is where I realized that today was going to be a LONG, hard day. The scenery was just wonderful, so I tried to concentrate on that, and stop occasionally to take pics. But I’ll tell you, when the legs are like pillars of concrete, the mind just cannot fully get away from the pain.

I did notice that I was kind of riding away and out of the higher mountains and into an area that was more of foothills and plateau. I ended up stopping just short of Bonners Ferry, about 51 miles in, at a mega gas station/restaurant. Had to get off of the bike. Had to get some food in me. There was no “riding through” this one today. It was going to be a bit of a battle on the physical side. I stumbled in and sat down in the restaurant, noting one of the waitresses bringing out an order of biscuits and gravy. So when my waitress told me about the biscuits and gravy special, I was there. That and a cup of coffee and all the ice water I could drink down. I must have wolfed down the 4 biscuits and gravy in like 5 minutes. Sucked down several waters and a coffee and then back on the bike again.

I had 31 miles to get to Sandpoint, and I had to literally pry myself out of that booth for fear of getting rigor mortis if I stayed too long. Yup, that was going to be a very trying 31 miles, especially when the heat was just climbing by the minute. Now I had gained an hour by crossing the border and entering my final time zone – Pacific Standard, so in actuality I left Bonners Ferry at 9:30 AM instead of 10:30 AM for Mountain Time. But still, the temp had just started to skyrocket by then. Now riding south on Rt 2/Rt 95 I had stripped off my first jersey back before that long climb, and now I had to get ride of the long sleeved Underarmor and the leg warmers. That happened when I descended down and across a bridge over the Kootenai River and spotted another gnarly looking climb going to the south. So I put a tank top on, and rode with shorts for the first time in three days. Lucky thing I peeled when I did because I must have climbed for a solid 40 min, up a steep pitch at first, where it leveled out for about 2 miles and then went back up on a very long gradual.

Luckily my legs actually started to feel “back” what with the breakfast I’d consumed back in Bonners Ferry. So this climb was ok, long, but ok. Got to the top and started to feel a gradual increase in the wind – out of the south of course. And that made the riding much tougher, especially when the temp was just climbing as if I were in an oven. Onward. And again, it was just this endless series of rollers, gradual climbs and gradual descents, on and on and on. After another 15 miles of that my legs were right back in the hurt locker. By this time I noticed that I was really in a different type of climatic zone, one more hot and dry, where it felt as though I was in some kind of high basin with mountains way off to the east and west of me, and much lower in elevation, more like foothills than actually mountain ranges. And man, you could really tell the difference with the heat just kind of blazing away in this basin. It felt like the day we left Barney and Val in Penticton BC in the Okanagan Valley and rode to Kelowna. It was hot, windy and I was just totally spent. Ditto today.

Finally I saw a another giant gas station complex and just had to pull in for an ice cold coke. Well, no coke but I had a cherry-Pepsi fountain drink, like a 32-oz guy just chuck full of ice. Sucked it down and poured the ice into an empty water bottle and continued. Seemed like I rode for another hour just kind of hanging on, watching and waiting for some sign of Sandpoint. Finally saw a mileage sign down the road, and I was expecting the worst, thinking that maybe it would be 14-15 miles to go. But a great surprise – 8 miles. “Yup, I can do that,” I muttered to myself, “let’s take it home.” Rode into the headwind just kind of thinking about food, icewater, stopping, resting, being done.

Made it to Sandpoint about 30 minutes later. And I was just so happy to be done. That was a tough ride today, on totally lethargic, heavy legs. Got a place and then got situated and filled a bucket with ice and just sat in my room and poured ice and cold water into bottle after water bottle. Showered and then hit a Subway down 2 blocks. Did the same old thing with 2 footlongs. One of the young guys inside asked me if I was going to eat both of them, and I responded yes, that I’d just ridden 82 miles from Libby. He laughed and I told him that yesterday at the Libby Subway the girls working the deli stared at me as I was eating, like I was a bloody freak show, as I consumed 2 footlongs in like 15-20 minutes. I had told this young fellow to “load em up” because I was so bitch hungry. I literally had the hypoglycemic shakes waiting in a line that took some 30 minutes before I was up to bat.

After the Subway went straight-away to a grocery and got a six of on Oregon micro brew, a porter, and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s to feast on back at the efficiency. So that’s where I’m at now. Done with the ice cream, and still drinking ice water one bottle after another. The temp outside is now about 91 degrees, so TG I’d finished as early as I did. Tomorrow I hope to make Spokane, about 75 miles away. But it’s going to be a hot one, with the forecasted temp up to about 98, so I have to leave early and finish early.

Tentatively I’m to meet up with Barney from BC at the town of Wenatchee, Washington. He wants to ride the last several days with me to Seattle. I’m really looking forward to hooking up with him – that should be a grand way to finish this trip up. He’s looking at driving down to Monroe, Washington, and then taking his bike on a bus to meet up with me in Wenatchee. Then we’d ride up the Cascades together and down to the coast. So far it’s looking like that could happen on Tuesday, when we’d meet up that afternoon after my ride. Keeping my fingers crossed that his schedule remains as-is so that this plan is a go.

That’s it for the day. Tomorrow – Washington state here I come. I hope the legs get a quick recovery!.........Pete

Friday, July 23, 2010

Half a million dollar ride

7-23-10 Day 48: Kalispell, Montana to Libby, Montana: 88 miles in 6:23 hours all on Rt. 2 West.

Another just stellar ride in the mountains. Now there were little things that kind of dampened the mood just smidge, but overall this was an amazing day on the bike.

Tell you what, it rained like heck yesterday, especially later in the afternoon. There were thunder storms and 60 mph gusts that downed trees and knocked out the electrical. It was something to watch as I sat in a Wendy’s waiting for my Chicken something sandwich. I had to wait a bit for the rain to die down before I left. Otherwise I’d of gotten soaked in like a minute. And it pretty much stormed all through the night. But the trusty Weather Channel guaranteed that today was going to be great out here in Western Montana. So I went to beddie bye with visions of great weather to ride in for Friday.

Got up at my now customary 5 AM, readied my gear, slammed 2 yogurts and 2 bananas – which is now my tried and true pre-ride food – and got out the door and on the bike at 6:15 AM. I just LOVE starting early and finishing early. That 8:30 AM starts stuff is for the birds. It just puts you too far into the afternoon and into the toughest heat of the day. Today’s expected high was forecast at 88 degrees, so I wanted to be off the bike no later than 2 PM. Out here the temp just continues to climb up to about 5-6 PM where the hottest part of the day is.

So got rolling into a really cool morning – 46 degrees – with a very large blanket of cloud cover still looming over Kalispell and stretching off to the west, the remnants of the front that came through yesterday. So I had long sleeved Underarmor, long sleeved jersey and my leg warmers on. There seemed to be a slight breeze out of … guessed it – the west! But no real hassle for riding. Rode out of Kalispell and then on to the west on Rt 2. Now the bummer was that the berm just deteriorated from this 6-foot wide behemoth to a real nothing, in a matter of like 5 miles. And that was it. It was just this token little berm of like 1 foot wide. Now this isn’t too bad early in the morning as there is little traffic on the road with me, but later….I was kind of bumming there because I just didn’t know how long this would last. Could be like just a mile or two, or could be like the whole way to Libby.

I was riding in this valley surrounded by foothills, very reminiscent of or the ride on Rt 36 out of Boulder, CO up to Lyons. And then I started slowly climbing up these little stair step climbs – until I just started climbing with no relief, and I eventually dropped into the easiest gear in the middle cookie. This was definitely a pass, as I was climbing out of one drainage system and up to what I hoped was a drainage divide. Now this pup was may harder than the Marias Pass I had climbed out by Glacier National Park. Yup, this guy was longer by far. But no little cookie. I topped out on what was indeed a divide, and then I was in fog, actually the thick cloud blanket that I’d seen from Kalispell. And I rode in the fog, on a shit berm for nearly 15 miles. There were spots where the sun broke through, and there were other spots where it was just totally fogged in.

I did have the occasional log truck and gravel truck pass me, but they ALWAYS went well to their left to give me room on the thin ribbon of berm. The rest of the traffic was just as courteous. I was still a bit wigged about the fog and the lack of good berm. But at least people could see me and were giving me some space. Rode along the top of that divide for a long way, and then slowly began to descend down to another river valley – the Kootenai River Valley. This is where I started to run into a string of mountain lakes, McGregor Lake and the Lower, Middle and Upper Thompson Lakes. Some sections of this string of lakes area were ever so slightly illuminated by the sun through breaks in the low cloudbank, and then other sections were just totally fogged out. When I’d go though the sun areas I could see these wonderful mountains on both sides of me. In the fog, hell all I could see was about a third of the way up the sides of the mountains. But this was just awesome terrain.

Round about the Thompson Lakes area I got a great section of berm that took me all the way to this little, damned near nothing of a place called Happy’s Inn. Now that was my bail point if the day really sucked today, 49 miles west of Kalispell. But no way Hose’. I was bound and determined that with yesterday being an off day, I was going to do the 80-some miles to Libbly. So I stopped at one of two places in Happy’s Inn, the gas station/diner. Got a cold Pepsi and 2 muffins down my stomach in 10 min and back on the bike for the final push to Libbly. From Happy’s Inn I was doing a nice pace along the river, riding ever so slightly downstream at like 13-15 mph. Felt great.

Entered Kootenai National Forest and that’s when the thick blanket of low cloud cover finally broke. And when it did I was just treated to some unbelievable riding down in the river valley surrounded by the Salish Mountain Range. It was just spectacular with the sun out, shining down on the mountains with blue sky and cotton ball clouds up high. Ended up pulling off my long sleeved jersey as the temp was really starting to rise once the cloud cover had broken. I had to do another small pass as I rode northwest towards Libby and away from the Kootenai River, but this was no where near as hard as the fist pass of the day. And at that climb that’s where I lost my good berm again. Back to a little nothing of a berm the rest of the way. But the truck traffic had really died off by then, so again, not as bad as it could have been.

Once I topped out and descended I was on a pretty flat section of road that really resembled just a state or local road – but with these amazing mountains on both sides of me. It was just crazy beautiful to ride along this section. I was making much better time than I had figured on, because on this section there were points where I was jamming away at 15-18 mph. Yup, good to be alive! I rolled into Libby at about 1 PM, just before the heat really got going. Got a place a block away from a Subway. First things first – sink wash both tops and both bottoms and leg warmers. They were all pretty sticky by the time I got finished. Just set them outside of my efficiency door in the grass to air dry in the 88-degree sunshine. Then I just sat on a picnic table basking in the hot sun with shorts and no shirt with a big water bottle of ice water. Once I was hydrated beyond belief, I moseyed down to Subway for my 2 footlongs. Let’s see……ride 88, do wash, eat at Subway and it’s all done by 2 PM! That’s what I call a good day. Got a couple of Fosters Oil Cans for later at the local grocery and I’m set.

Tomorrow the temp is supposed to climb up to 94, so again, I’m going to shoot for a 6 AM start and hopefully shoot for the city of Sandpoint, Idaho. Yup, I’m just 32 miles from the Idaho border. I just cannot tell you how long Montana is. When I entered the state on Rt 2 the mileage sign read round about 670 miles! So I’ve ridden through 640 miles of Montana and I’m still freaking here. The panhandle of Idaho is very short, roughly a day and a half of riding if the weather is good, and then I’m in Spokane, Washington. I’m hoping to make Spokane by Sunday afternoon. You know, I can kind of smell the barn at the end of this ride now.

Well, I’m going to scrub down the drivetrain of my bike and then have a few beers in the hot Montana sun. Talk to you tomorrow…….pete

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Rainy day in Kalispell

7-22-10 Day 47: Kalispell, Montana – Off day due to weather.

Let’s chalk up another off day today. Now I can’t say I’m bumming big time. Not really. I actually just lazed the day away napping like three times and doing my little Chinese buffet again. It all started like this…

Got up and readied my self at 5 AM for a 6:30 start. The weather forecast was pretty dead on from yesterday, as storms were supposed to move in during the late morning-the early afternoon. Checked the Doppler Radar and sure enough there was a system moving to the east/southeast out of Northern Idaho – I’m only like 120 miles from the Idaho border. Went for some morning coffee and noted that the wind was strong out of the west. So my choices were to shoot for Happy Inn and/or Libby with storms looming to the west, or, stay put and look forward to nearly a week of forecasted sunshine. The other factor was that Happy Inn is just barely a place of human habitation, with just barley any amenities, and more than likely I’d not beat the weather the full 84 miles to Libby where my choices were much better.

So I just decided to wait until tomorrow and relax here in Kalispell. So that was it. Came back to the efficiency and went back to bed for a couple hours of sleep. Then, round about 10 AM I got up and saw that the front had moved in and the sky was pretty grey and ominous. By 11 AM the rain had started. Felt pretty good that I wasn’t out in the mountains of Western Montana, out in the middle of bloody nowhere, riding into a gnarly headwind in the rain and regretting not waiting a day to have a pretty clean weather week of riding ahead of me. So it’s been kind of off and on storm/clouds/sun for the last 4 hours today here in Kalispell. It’s supposed to blow on by by early tomorrow morning.

I hit the buffet again round about 12:30, donning my anorak and walking down there in the rain. Did 4 plates and a cup of custard. Probably could have gone for 5 plates, but I just didn’t want the buda belly grumbling like an angry grizzly bear for a couple of uncomfortable hours. Then another round of napping post feeding frenzy. Funny how this cycling every day thing for 4-7 hours just really beats you down. It was like I went into the hibernation mode once I didn’t get on the bike today. I mean I crashed HARD on that third nap, waking up with drool on the side of my face! Must have conked out for a solid hour and a half of dream world.

Just looked out the window and it’s raining yet again. Coming down pretty hard this time. Well, I think I’ll just hit the grocery for a bit of hops and barley and get a smoothy at Wendy’s on the walk back! Yup, when you’re taking an off day it’s B. B. & IC – buffet, beer and ice cream. Have a great day and I’ll check in with you tomorrow……..Pete

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Million dollar ride

7-21-10 Day 46: East Glacier Park, Montana to Kalispell, Montana: 88 miles in 6:07 hours all on Rt. 2 West.

This was one of those “Million Dollar” rides. You don’t get many of these on a trip, so I just savored it despite having an awesome day with respect to the time and distance I covered today.

Hit the hay on the late side last night – round about 10:30 – because I was NOT going to get up at 4 AM to get on the road for a 5 AM send-off. Nope, got up at a leisurely 5 AM and prepped for the mountains. The morning temp was an amazing 29 degrees, so I popped out the tights, the Underarmor long sleeve, gloves, ear warmers and long sleeve jersey. Slammed a couple of yogurts and 2 bananas and got ready to roll. Hit the road at 6:30 AM and off on the road all to myself for the first day in the mountains. Now I knew I had a pass to get over today – Marias Pass – and then whatever else the mts threw at me.

Got going with what felt like a very slight wind out of the west, but nothing that was gnarly. Did a little descending to a mountain meadow and then started gradually moving upwards. It just felt great to have all these trees surrounding me. I had a couple of trains going by, as the RR was just to my right. Got in the middle ring and just started climbing, in and out of the saddle. Nothing really tough though. Stopped numerous times to snap pics as I was climbing upwards. And I was thinking that this was pretty mellow, so don’t get lulled into some kind of false sense of security and think that the whole climb was going to be like that. Dipped down a few times and then right back up. And then, round about an hour in I got up to this sign on the road that read: Marias Pass: The Continental Divide. I was bloody stunned. I was expecting that I’d be using my little cookie and just stopping for an hour working up to the pass. But this was just totally sedate. It was easier than Sunday Pass that we did back in BC on our second day in the mts.

Then I thought I’d get throw a couple of nasties somewhere along the way where I’d still have to drop down into the little cookie. So I rode over the pass and went through the town of Summit. Nice camping up there with plenty of cabins and little efficiencies. And then the descent started, and it was just a zinger, where I just kind of plummeted down for a good 12-15 miles. Now by this time I realized that the real challenge was doing Marias Pass from the west to east, because what I was descending looked just wicked to climb from the other direction. I had lucked out in a big way. All that false flat riding I’d been doing on the high plains had given me the altitude over days instead of just the several hours you’d have to put in on steep pitches going west to east. Then the Middle Fork of the Flathead River came alongside the road and the pitch kind of lessened out a bit, but still descend to where I could comfortably ride at like 15-18 mph. Now there were spots where the road arched back up to small 5-10 min rollers, but nothing crazy and long. Route 2 and the RR just hugged the Flathead River for a long, long ride down to West Glacier. The road had been repaved so I had some awesome road surface to descend down. The berm, well, a bit iffy in places but I felt pretty good even with the smallish space I had to ride in.

The scenery was just stunning, and I was off the bike every 20-30 min snapping pics of the mts and the river valley. Sometimes I’d roll up a couple of hundred feet above the river and RR, and other times I was right down along the river. There is camping and lodging all over the place along this beautiful stretch of road. The smell of pine just lingered in the fresh mountain air. After a while there were just loads of busses hauling up people and rubber rafts east up the mountain to put in somewhere along the Flathead. Looked like a very cool river to raft down. By this time I realized that I had gotten away VERY easy on this day with respect to mountain climbing. All the sweat and blood on the high plains had put me really high up in the mountains by the time I’d gotten to East Glacier. That took hundreds of miles to gain the elevation. But from West Glacier, all that elevation is gained in just 35-40 miles to Marias Pass. Also realized that I’d be in West Glacier, my destination for the day, in a matter of 4 hours of less. And that’s when I started mulling over the idea of riding to Kalispell, some 31 miles further west from West Glacier.

Got to West Glacier and the sun was out. Hell, I’d stopped about 15 miles out of town to strip off my jersey, gloves, ear warms because the heat had climbed up to the mid 60’s. NOT what was supposed to happen back in East Glacier. There the high for the day was predicted at 56 degrees with afternoon thunder storms. Much different climate on the west side. Well, I got into West Glacier at 10:45 AM, in roughly 3:45 hours. And let me tell you…..West Glacier is an ugly sister of Estes Park, Colorado, what with the bumber cars, slides, goofy golf course, junks parlors and stupid shops. It was just crawling with people - a zoo. NOPE, no stop here for food or drink. I just decided Kalispell was game on, and I’d grab something to eat and drink further down the line to the west, maybe in Coram, Hungry Horse, or Columbia Falls. So I just kept riding.

By then the temp had climbed up to mid 70’s, and those damned tights were getting a bit sticky! Didn’t want to stop though so I kept rolling along the Flathead River to Coram. By now the Flathead was not a fork or branch, it was a river that is very wide, very clear and clean and it looked quite inviting what with those cold rumbling waters. Got to Coram, and sign read: Columbia Falls 8 miles. So I kept rolling. Got to Columbia Falls and the sign read: Kalispell 15 miles. That was it, I was rolling all the way to Kalispell non-stop. Coram and Columbia Falls were just a smidge better than West Glacier with respect to the commercialism, but still, there was a lot of junk out there. Now as I began to ride towards Kalispell, the mountains really opened up on the north and south sides and suddenly I was riding in this massive basin which was pretty flat and dry. The high, snow covered peaks were behind me in West Glacier, and now surrounding the basin were much lower mountain ranges.

About 8 miles outside of Kalispell you could just feel that you were nearing a big city, with all kinds of commercial places along the roadway. Traffic was thick, but I had a nice 6-foot wide berm to ride on into the city. Got into Kalispell in just over 6 hours and 88 miles in. this was just a great day to ride, and I’m pretty happy I took advantage of the weather and the net down I had all day. By the time I got into town the temp was in the low 80’s. And you could just feel the dry heat. Actually from what I was expecting for the day – a high of 56 – this was awesome. Got a nice little place and then beat feet to a Chinese buffet down the road, just a block from my old standby Subway. Nope, this was a “buffet day” indeed. I think I did like 4 plates and a cup of frozen custard. Wonderful. Hell, I did the whole day on nothing but two yogurts and two bananas from the morning, so I was just massively hungry. Got a few beer to drink back at the ranch and I was just totally pleased with this day. Not only did I have a stunning ride, but I also made some great distance in great time. Can’t do much better than that when you’re riding cross country.

Tomorrow I’m in a bit of a quandary because of the distance I traveled today. I can either do Happy Inn, Montana, about 47 miles away as a “lay-up”, or I could go for the green and shoot for Libby, Montana, another 41 miles further west. There is nothing, and I mean nothing in between the two places. The forecast for this area tomorrow is for afternoon thunder storms, and wind out of the south. I’m just going to have to wake up and ride to Happy Inn, and then see how I am with respect to time, wind, terrain etc, to see if I go for the green and ride to Libby. Should be interesting. So that’s it. I’m down to 120 miles left in Montana – 2 to 3 days of riding depending on the conditions. Then it’s a short piece through Idaho, about 80 miles and then I’m down to just Washington state.

Well, time for another beer. All the best…….Pete