East to West; Dry to Wet; 43 miles to Canada!

Over the last three days we've cycled 170 miles to cross the Northern Cascade Mountains from east to west.   East of the mountains it was dry with irrigated fields and orchards everywhere and now we're in the land of water, water everywhere.   In fact, on this morning's short 35 mile ride we were soaked by rain for the very first time on the whole trip! 

Yesterday we did a beautiful but arduous 79 mile ride over Washington Pass and Rainy Pass on SR 20, the "Northern Cascades Scenic Highway".   Definitely check that stretch out if you're up here and now that territory is on our "come back to backcountry hike and camp" list.   We had a camera malfunction the day before and today was just rain and so all the pictures above are from yesterday's ride.

I'm a bit under the weather at the moment and so we're taking tomorrow off (while waiting out the forecast rain) but then on Tuesday, we plan to ride the remaining 43 miles to the border at Sumas, WA.    Tuesday is also our 31st anniversary and so that'll be some nice timing if that works out.   Behind the scenes we've been pushing for that timing for the (cycling) finish for over a month and so it's pretty sweet that it looks like that's going to work out.


Counting down

Some easy riding today brought us safely to Pateros, a small town along the western shore of the Columbia River.   On the way we passed two hydroelectric dams, Rocky Reach and Wells, with two gigawatts generation capacity between them.   But more importantly, the visitor area for Wells provides a most excellent napping spot as I can now personally attest ;-)

We also cycled a few miles of the Lake Chelan shoreline.   I wish we felt like we had the extra day needed to take the long boat ride up to Stehekin, a landmark PCT trail town that is only reachable via foot, boat, or airplane -- there are no roads to it.   The shoreline on the southern end of the 55-mile long lake (where we were) is developed but the northern end is pristine.   We'd like to see that.   Perhaps we can work that in somehow on the return.

In Pateros our first stop was the Post Office where we picked up our new tires.  Thanks, Bill!  

From here we could ride just 82 miles up Highway 97 to Canada but instead we'll keep following the Sierra Cascades route as it works its way back across the mountains to the coast and finally up to Canada at Sumas, WA -- about 209 miles.    In addition to being a more scenic route closer to the PCT it also avoids a wildfire that remains out of control along the shorter route.

Tonight we're also trying to work out the logistics of getting Tina back on the trail once we do reach Canada.   Questions include where, which direction to hike, how/where to get Tina's gear back, etc.

Until later, David

Smooth running

Although the day started with a tough couple hours riding uphill into stiff winds, as soon as we descended a few hundred feet on the north side of a ridge about 20 miles out wind was no longer a factor and the remainder of the ride was straightforward and pleasant.    We still had the 2000 foot climb up to Blewett Pass but then we had a wonderfully drawn out descent on the far side that lasted a full 21 miles -- 21 miles that took us only 50 minutes to cover --  it doesn't get much better than that!

So tonight we're near Wenatchee, WA.   We spend most of the day tomorrow following the Columbia River with about 10 miles of riding along Lake Chelan, the 3rd deepest lake in the country, thrown in for good measure.    We hope to make it to Pateros, WA before their Post Office closes for the day since we've got new tires from Blackbar Bill waiting for us there.

That's it for the usual coverage, but here's an update on the "strange things found on the road" series.   The bungee cords continue as reported before.    For instance, when we rolled into Naches a few days ago, Tina's score was 17 to my 12 for the stretch.  Today it was 8 to zero in my favor .. and so the saga continues.   Our lesson so far is don't use bungees for anything that matters and especially don't use the black rubber ones.  :-}

But that's old news.   On that same stretch into Naches we traveled over 20 miles continuously finding whole, broken, and smashed carrots along the road.   Occasonally we'd also see a corn husk too.   Quite the mystery and we have a fun time developing theories and testing the further evidence presented .. ;-)  

Then on the run into Ellensburg we saw five dead snakes on the road.   That's nothing that seems significant on its own but I hadn't seen a dead snake on the road since southern California and then all of a sudden there are five in one day.   What?  

And that's how the spinning wheels go 'round, David

Repairs in Ellensburg

Our ride from Naches up to Ellensburg was scenic but the mood was dampened by hours spent at the side of the road working on the bike.   The games began with a rear flat just outside of Selah.   Rear flats on this bike are always a messy hassle that always seem to chew up at least a full hour as we unload all the bags, detach the trailer, remove the idler gear, remove the Rohloff gear actuator, work the thing free, and then wrestle the very tight-fitting tire off and back on.    With this one we got some bonus fun with a problematic valve stem but no problem since we'd wisely prepared for such a low moment by packing a couple honeybuns -- Tina's photos capture me doing away with one of them ;-)

With that flat fixed we headed turned north on Canyon Road which follows the Yakima River up to Ellensburg.   But just a couple miles into the canyon the tire was low again -- down to the 30 lb range where it starts to wiggle on us.   At first we engaged in the denial strategy -- pump it up, bike a couple miles, pump it up, bike a couple miles, etc .. but pretty soon it was clear that we were going to have to find some place to setup "camp" again.  

Luckily a picnic area materialized and we were able to work mostly in the shade for this next one.  This time it was an easily-patched goat head puncture but in the process we discovered a quarter inch glass cut in the tire.   We booted that too and eventually got back on the road again. We didn't have a third flat but then in a bit the cleat on my left shoe, which had been getting very marginal, stopped holding at all and so in that form we limped into Ellensburg yesterday evening feeling pretty beat up.

This morning we packed up and headed for the bicycle shop planning to cycle on after addressing some issues like the cleat.   But one thing led to another as I asked them to take a look at the front wheel, which had recently come out of true, and to check the chains for wear.  Things got pretty involved with the front wheel (a whole other long story) and, as I suspected, the chains were worn out and so those had to be replaced as well. 

By then it was the afternoon and after an hour of peddling uphill and upwind we, um, "reconsidered" and decided that we needed repair too and so we turned tail having decided to take a "zero" day back in Ellensburg.   Some days just aren't destined for travel .. :-}

But tomorrow morning early we're off again hoping to get out of this valley (complete with wind turbines -- always a bad sign for cyclists!) before the winds are back to full strength.

Before going, I'll quickly report that yesterday we met a Czech rider who had started his ride in Alaska and who intends to reach Tierra del Fuego in just 9 months!   He looked very fit, strong, and well equipped and so we're betting he'll make it.   We asked if he was keeping an online journal we could follow.   The answer was yes but that it was written in Czech and so ... :-}

I'd also like to give a shout out to the ReCycle Bicycle Shop in Ellensburg.   A very impressive high volume operation that has somehow managed to hang onto all the small shop positives and atmosphere while operating at a larger scale with all those benefits too.   A fantastic shop that I suspect others should study.

All the best, David

Past St Helens and Mt Ranier; 400 miles to Canada

Happy Birthday to Tina!!  She's not saying how old she is but assures me that in any case she's very much younger than me!  ;-)

Over the past two days we've cycled about 122 miles and climbed a couple major mountain passes.  Along the way we passed by Mount St Helens, reached Mount Ranier National Park, and then turned east following US 12 out to Naches, WA.     Although the climbs are always tough, we've really been enjoying life up here in Washington State.   California is still our favorite, but Washington is tromping all over Oregon for us so far.   The trees aren't quite as huge but the landscapes have been very dramatic.   And now that we're east where it's dry we're liking that too (this, of course, is not being fair to Oregon which gets plenty dry in the east -- it just speaks to our routes through the two states).

As things stand, Tina's hiked about 800 miles, the tandem has logged about 2300 miles since beginning the trip, and we have 396 miles to reach the northern terminus of the Sierra Cascades Route at Sumas, WA.    Physically Canada is much closer than that but our route goes through substantial zigzags as it works its way up crossing the PCT when it can.  

Today we saw droves more of cycle tourists headed southbound -- often in groups of 3 or more.   We had to laugh a bit because they look so shiny and clean with their equipment unfaded by the sun and the dirt not caked on quite so deep.   The difference between our appearance and theirs is not nearly so dramatic as the difference between starting and finishing thru hikers, but it's nevertheless there and real.

Tomorrow looks like an interesting one .. 

Until then, David

First looks at Mount St. Helens

Turns out we have just a wisp of a Verizon signal here at "Eagle Cliffs Store & Campground" and so here we are with a small report.   :)

Per plan we took it easy again today and rolled just the 40 miles x 4000 feet of climbing necessary to get us over Oldmans Pass and lined up for the longer haul tomorrow to climb up to Elk Pass and back down to one of the small towns beyond.

The big news today was that we got our first looks at Mount St Helens.   Even though we were seeing it from the south and southeast (opposite of the crater) it was still a breathtaking.   As with most things, our pictures didn't come anywhere close to capturing it.    I suspect we're going to see a good bit more of the mountain in the coming days and so hopefully we'll capture more of it.

In other news, most days we meet southbound cycle tourists and today was no exception.   We met a German couple riding southbound and had a nice chat about road conditions and so on.   They're only going as far as Crater Lake as is another cycle tourist we met here in the campground tonight.   Yesterday we met an American couple who were in day 3 of a coast to coast tour along the Northern Tier -- headed for Maine.   Anyway, increasingly we're getting the sense that we've actually accomplished something.   In the beginning we were the newbies and all the cyclists we met had come much further already.   Now the tables are turned and we're the ones who have come a long ways and it's the others who have just started.   Tina commented today that soon we should actually be able to inventory the number of major climbs we have left and start a countdown.   Sounds good.  :)

That's all for now, David

Over the river and into Washington State

The doctor declared that Tina's various ailments were all due to her poison oak situation.  A couple doses into her prednisone prescription she's doing much better.  Great!   Prednisone is an immunosuppresant, however, and so we did short miles today and will spend the next few days ramping back up as the dosage ramps down.

Nevertheless, today we successfully crossed the Columbia River at the Bridge of the Gods and entered Washington State.   On the ride we had to do about 11 miles riding the shoulder of I-84 west along the river but it was so scenic that we really didn't mind that much.   In total we only did 24 miles and 1500 feet of climbing and so it was a very pleasant day overall.   

One exception to the "pleasant" was the quarter mile of steel grate surface of the bridge -- complete with stiff crosswind!  Having had the extreme non-pleasure of crashing with several others on glassy smooth steel grate bridge once in PA on a group ride and carrying the evidence to this day, I was fairly well mortified.   But that was in rain and walking the bike seemed like it'd be even more dangerous an operation and, so traffic to the rear or no, I took the center of the lane and we worked our way across.   We were so happy to reach the real pavement on the other side that for a bit we forgot to celebrate that we'd reached Washington!

But, back to the pleasant -- the Columbia River is certainly impressive.   The consistent winds down the gorge have made the area a mecca for sail and kite boarding too and man does that ever look like a blast.   Maybe some August we'll have to come spend the month learning and getting proficient at both.  

From here we take a fairly circuitous route working our way north to the border as we crisscross the PCT several times but we're hoping to reach Canada in a couple weeks time.   Tomorrow we'll be on forest roads for the next couple days and so likely there'll be no update for a couple more days.

Rolling on!  /David

Cycling around Mount Hood to the Columbia River

I was tempted to put the picture of Sasquatch first but then I thought a leading picture of Mount Hood might be nicer to see at first glance.  You can scroll through the pictures to get to Sasquatch later ;-)

As I mentioned in an interim post, we reached the town of Hood River last night after three full days of cycling from Sisters.   The first day out was physically modest (58 miles with 2800 feet of climbing) but was intensely nerve wracking with the worst traffic we've experienced over the whole trip (Tina counted 72 cars passing us in 5 minutes) as we traveled the two lane highways 20 and 22.    The next day was completely the opposite: very demanding physically (5300 feet climbing over 49 miles) but over the very quietest roads we've experienced -- with it often being more than 30 minutes between the passings of (slow) moving vehicles, zero commercial traffic, zero private property or commercial facilities of any sort.  Strange to have such sudden contrasts.  

Then yesterday we crossed over a flank of Mount Hood (after approaching it for two days) and experienced average to nice cycling conditions as we did 4000 feet of climbing to cover the 63 miles into Hood River although at the very first gas station we came to, Tina's prescription sunglasses were stolen from the restroom after having just forgotten them there for 5 minutes!   Quite a shock that was and certainly a huge bummer we'll have to deal with sometime soon.    Oh, in a final bit of excitement for the day we went over the one section in the whole route from Mexico to Canada that is called out as being "steep".   It turned out to be an 18% slope for about 200 feet (vertically)... I swear it looked like we were about to ride off a cliff and Tina was hollering to let her off to walk ... but we made it down alright.    Thank goodness we didn't have to climb it!   I've done that amount of incline climbing on a single but that was a first for this monster loaded tandem!

I'll let the pictures speak for more of the details but I do want to give a shout out to this tremendous orchard country that we entered once we got down below the 2000 foot elevation (we're now at the lowest elevation we've experienced since departing on the trip -- 295 feet).   We've seen lots of cherry, several varieties of pear, peach, and blueberries being grown.   All of it appears to be sprinkler-irrigated and most of it has visible freeze protection deployed (e.g., fans, kerosene pots, etc).    A fellow cyclist gave us about a pound of cherries that had just been picked yesterday morning.   They were gone inside of 15 minutes -- best cherries I've ever tasted!

Anyway, we're here for the day waiting for Tina's 5pm doctor appointment and are about to head off to wash both Tina's hat and shoes -- two items we realize now that have continued to expose Tina to the oils from her original encounter with poison oak six days ago.   Meanwhile, we've heard from the locals that neither pedestrian or bicycle traffic is allowed on the bridge we're supposed to take to cross the Columbia (and neither does the one nearest to us allow it) and so we've got to figure that one out too .....


Three Sisters and a Flat

Nothing too special today as we rode up to Sisters OR, an all out tourist city of 2000 residents -- a sort of miniature Lake Tahoe with perhaps a more artsy flavor.   If we could carry more stuff on the bike I'm not sure I'd get Tina out of the shops in less than a day -- perhaps one of the biggest features of cycle touring in my eyes ;-)

Tonight we're paying the most we've ever paid for a room at a roadside motel yet it's the cheapest the (now filled) town had to offer.   On the plus side, the room and motel are very funky and clean.   For instance, each room has its own garage with a roll up door and so, in a first, the bike is staying in a garage!   Then the rooms are like little 1950s apartments with full kitchens with appliances and furniture that were either restored or very carefully maintained.   Tina said it reminded her of her grandmother's house and I suppose it is the classic motor lodge in 1950s preserved condition.   We're talking Sisters Motor Lodge if ever you're rolling through. 

On our way to Sisters we had another rear flat.   We were of course on an overpass in the center of Bend when it happened but luckily we were also right by an exit with a grassy utility area we could use to safely replace the tire and tube -- both had been patched before and I decided the rear tire had about as many miles on it as we were going to get.   Looks like this time it was glass that got us.   We were on a very clearly marked bike lane but through Bend they apparently never run a sweeper over the thing and so it was a continuous minefield of glass, tire bits, etc --- so no surprise about the flat.  

Once we arrived at Sisters we walked over to a bike shop to buy a new tube to replace the one I'd just installed.   There I tried again to get a super thick tube like the one I have on the front (which I believe has literally saved our bacon) but no luck and I had to settle for a standard 0.8mm weight one.   Black Bar Bill, maybe add this to the shopping list in addition to the tires?   The big thick one I'm using up front doesn't have slime in it, it's just extra heavy duty.   It's maybe 3 times thicker than normal?   Something like that.

In separate news, the past two days Tina's been suffering from significant pain in her left calf, both on and off the bike.   We're hoping that it doesn't have anything to do with the sharp stick she impaled in it a couple days ago during a "back woods foray" but that's what the onset correlates to.   We see no signs of infection, however.

Onward!   /David

Friday update: We've concluded that Tina's left calf issue is the result of an RSI type tendon injury at the back of the knee (the popliteus muscle/tendon, we think).   We're going to hold here treating it in Sisters until Sunday morning (at least) before heading out into the hilly 200+ mile stretch that follows instead of potentially pile-driving things into a hike-threatening injury.