It’s a BOY!

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It’s a BOY! Paxton James was born on 9/12 at 9:12 pm, weighing in at 7 lbs 10 oz. He wasn’t in a hurry to leave his nest but what a sweet, precious bundle of joy! Mom & baby are doing well. The highlight of a fantastic year! We are abundantly blessed.

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Bittersweet Day

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Bittersweet day today as we box up Mango Tango for her journey home! She’s been a trusty steed, performing so well from the Atlantic to the Pacific, over hill & dale, prairies & mountains, under rain, overcast & sunshiny skies and in headwinds, tailwinds, crosswinds & no winds! Wow! What an adventure it has been! Looking forward to many more miles and adventures with her and my co-pilot!

We’ve spent the last 10 days riding & camping in the sunny San Juan Islands. Today we rented a car and are ready to zip up to Vancouver when Baby Rathbun decides to make her/his appearance. In the meantime, this grandma- & grandpa-to-be will continue our adventures via motor vehicle.

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Now what?

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So we landed in Anacortes over three weeks ago. What is a vagabond couple to do?? We have been waiting in the Pacific Northwest waiting for a certain Vancouver bundle of joy to make his or her appearance – our first grandchild! When we were on our way west, we had a goal, a destination, each and every day, now, “not so much”. It’s been a waiting game and a much different game indeed!

We spent the first three days after dipping our tires in the Pacific Ocean in Anacortes. We relaxed, we had thank you post cards to print and write up, we condensed the blog to print up for Shawn’s mom, and relaxed some more. It was a fun break for us. Then we backtracked our way out of Anacortes and headed north along the coast and rode Chuckanut Drive. What a beautiful scenic drive! We camped out a night at Larrabee State Park before heading into Bellingham, where our son’s and daughter’s friend Dana lives. Dana and her husband John have such a beautiful home in Bellingham, and they had plenty of room for us to hang out for a couple days. We enjoyed being in Bellingham. After leaving the Midwest, this is the first place where we felt like we’d could “fit”. It is a lively town with great transportation opportunities, bicycle friendly and a hardware store that made Jim giddy.

Dana and John dropped us off at the Amtrak station before heading out crabbing. They enjoyed great success crabbing, by the way! When we returned to Bellingham later, Dana shared their bounty with us! Fresh dungeness crab! Yum!

We took the Amtrak Cascades train right to Vancouver. What a comfortable, beautiful ride! Then a couple of easy transfers to the Skytrain, the Seabus and a short walk uphill and pretty soon we were at Walt & Leanne’s front door! Gotta love public transportation – especially for a couple of road-weary cyclists! We spent about 5 days with the expectant parents, enjoying some big city amenities (shopping) and a very crowded free day at the PNE (Pacific Northwest Exhibition), as well as knitting and helping out the kids with a few home projects. Then back on the Amtrak – this time to Everett!

Jim’s niece, Candy lives in Everett with hubby Adam and their 3 boys and 2 dogs. We spent a couple of nights with them before they left on vacation and sure enjoyed the good nature and high energy of our grand- nephews! What a fun family! We stayed at their house for the next week, dog sitting their 2 German shepherds and enjoying the town of Everett. Early in the week, we went up to Bellingham with our truck and retrieved our bike and packs.

We also took the bus into Seattle and met up with Shawn’s nephew, Nathan and his girlfriend, Hannah for lunch and picked up a bag of cold weather gear that we had sent on ahead to Nathan to hold for us. While there we enjoyed the soapbox races downtown Seattle – what a riot!

Once our dog-sitting duties were done, we said a teary🙂 goodbye to the dogs (they were fun and the bitch was such a sweetheart!), loaded up the bike and rode to the Boeing Future of Flight Museum for a tour of the museum and the Boeing plant. It was the day before Labor Day and the plant was rather quiet, but still the tour was fascinating! After the tour, we hopped on the ferry to Whidbey Island.

We took our time traveling up Whidbey Island, riding the 60-some miles across 3 days. The first day we rode 30, or so up to Fort Ebey State Park. What a beautiful park and an interesting place! It was a military installation during WW2 and the gun battery bluff has a gorgeous view of the water! Our hiker-biker campsite was just a couple hundred yards from this viewpoint so we took plenty of opportunities to enjoy the view. We were told that it was a great place for whale watching, but we didn’t see any whales. We did see a pair of hikers contemplating their options for camping. We knew we had received the last hiker-biker spot so we told them they were welcome to pitch their tent on our spot and they took us up on the offer. This made for a great evening of conversation!

Our new hiker friends, Margaret and Alexandra, are from North Carolina and both just graduated from college. One is headed for the Peace Corps and the other is headed to grad school. They are hiking the Pacific Northwest Trail & started on the northeast side of Glacier National Park in June. The trail ends on the Pacific Ocean, on the west side of the Olympic Peninsula, so they’re nearing the end of their trip and are within 15 miles of the 1,000 mile milestone! We swapped a lot of stories from our respective summer of traveling and challenges along the way. We thought it was such a drag to have to carry 3 liters of water and extra food thru some of the remote sections of road we traveled but they sometimes had to carry 10-14 days of food and 8 liters of water! When they went thru the last town, they weighed their backpacks for the first time – they’re all stocked up on food and are carrying 37 lbs each. They go a week or two between towns and have found themselves bushwhacking to find their trail. It was fascinating to talk with them & we’re looking forward to hearing how these last few weeks go. Incredible adventure!

Our camping next stop, about 20 miles down the road, was Deception Pass State Park. We had considered pressing on, but it was the Labor Day weekend and traffic was heavy. Someone told us that the traffic is always heavy because there s a Naval base on the island, but we were also concerned about getting a campsite. In any case, it was another beautiful park to enjoy. We had a bit of trouble finding the hiker-biker spots but eventually made it. It was a drag that there wasn’t better signage because this was a very hilly park and we didn’t want to climb any more hills than necessary. The trail to the sites was also narrow & steep, so we just took the first site. We made a small fire and Shawn was finally able to ceremoniously burn her threadbare, tattered clothing that served her so well on this trip (as well as past trips!). (Due to the fires burning, there had been a fire ban in the entire state of Washington when we first finished our trip.). After dinner, we walked out to the beach and enjoyed another beautiful vista.

The following morning, we walked our bike along the muddy, rock-strewn lakeshore trail to avoid some very steep hills on the park road and exited the park. We immediately climbed a long hill up to the bridges that span Deception Pass. These bridges were built by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) in the 1930’s and offered spectacular views! They were also quite narrow, so we walked them and the walkway was also quite narrow – in fact, barely wide enough for our loaded bike to fit with only about 2″ of clearance. The longer bridge was 976′ long & the other one was about a third that size (don’t recall the exact distance), which gave us plenty of time for pictures and enjoying the view and (for Shawn) fretting about the height (about 180′ feet above the water, depending on the tide). You can read more about it here: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deception_Pass_Bridge

Another 10 miles of hilly but beautiful scenery, brought us back into Anacortes where we dipped our front tire 3 weeks ago! Crossing our path from 3 weeks ago, we rode right to the ferry dock and bought tickets to the San Juan Islands. There is a nice ferry system for the San Juan Islands, where you buy one ticket and then all inter-island rides are free after that. Our plan is to just ride & explore these islands for next week. We hear there are some very nice state parks but with heavy rain in the forecast, we took a room at a hostel last night and were glad that we did because it was quite cold and rainy. Sunshine is the forecast for today & the coming week, so we’ll be enjoying some nice quiet island riding!

Us with Walt & Leanne behind! ❤️

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Candy & Adam & 2 of the guys (3rd one was in the car):

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Nate & Hannah with us!

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The DOGS!

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Alexandra & Margaret:

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Thank You!

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Thank You!

Whenever someone asks us what the best part of the trip has been, without a moment’s hesitation, we respond, “the people!” The people we’ve met have been so incredibly kind and we are so very thankful to so many people! At the risk of missing someone, we’d like to take the time to thank some of them because we couldn’t have done this without them!

1. Thank you to our Warmshowers hosts! Wow! How wonderful to have these kind souls along the way to provide a place to sleep and clean up! More than that, somehow it gave a certain level of security as we traveled thru a new area of the country to know that we had a friend nearby and someone was expecting us and if we ran into any trouble, we could call them. The conversations we enjoyed with our WS hosts distracted us from our fatigue or worry about the challenges ahead. And we enjoyed getting to know our hosts – what interesting people – each & every one! Plus, their advice on the local roads was incredibly helpful. We can’t express how helpful these WS hosts have been in so many ways! One of our own past WS guests, when we told them we were doing this trip responded with advice to do as many WS stays as possible and now we see why!

If you’ve been reading this blog and are not a WS host, give it some consideration! We’ve been a host for many years and have found our guests have enriched our lives in a way that surprised us. One of our WS hosts said they like being WS hosts because their jobs keep them at home all summer and WS brings the world to them. If you’re interested, check it out at Warmshowers.org

2. Thank you to our family & friends!

We quit our jobs and sold our house to do this trip! It was hard to sell the home they grew up in but our kids have encouraged us every step of the way! Aimee flew to Michigan from Alaska to surprise us at our send-off party! Matt & Luke drove over from Detroit to come to our send-off party! Then Walt & Leanne drove down to Anacortes from Vancouver to help us celebrate the end of this trip – with champagne!

Shawn’s brother, Boyce and brother-in-law, Brad drove us to Bar Harbor, Maine to start this journey – that was a long drive out there from Michigan and an even longer drive back! (Wow! It seems like ages ago!)

Shawn’s sister, Sheila has provided logistical support by getting our rear wheel to us not just once but twice, as well as other important things such as new credit cards and our favorite powdered sports drinks. She is also collecting stuff that we mail back to Michigan! Thanks Deeda!

Our brothers, sisters and friends sent us frequent encouraging messages and prayed for our strength and safety! We couldn’t respond to each one but so often, these messages came right when we needed them the most! Thank you!

Mom! My mom has been my inspiration all my life! When I was a kid, reading the Romeo Observer articles about the adventures of a couple guys from my hometown, my mom & I marveled at their adventure. She taught me persistence, perseverance, and true strength comes from within. I felt like she was with me with every pedal stroke and every time I spoke with her on the phone, she was so excited to get an update.

Cousins! I really leaned on my cousins for accommodations! Kim, Adam, Ann, Bella, Ronnie, Thank you so much for putting us up in your beautiful homes! And thank you to Ronnie & Bella for mailing our new tires to us after they arrived after we left your house! And what fun to have cousin Carol stop in to say hi at our hotel in Bemidji!

Scott – we really are family thru our sons! You are absolutely one of the best cooks we stayed with! And thank you for such a beautiful bedroom to stay in!

Judy – I’m so glad we met on that Wisconsin bike ride 2 years ago and have kept in touch! What a great evening we had together!

Garth & Karen – thanks for an evening at your beautiful cottage.
Nancy & Duane – thanks for a wonderful dinner at your place!

Thank you Dave and Lin! We were so very grateful when Lin picked us up on Sherman Pass after we blew out our rear hub! In addition, you both taught us to let others help us. We always want to think we can do this on our own but in reality, we do need the help of others and in accepting help, we bless our helpers. This bike breakdown also caused us to stop for a few days, attend services at your church and thank The Lord for our blessings. We are abundantly blessed!

Chris & Leslie in Ontario! We met you two as you were riding by on your tandem and we were fixing a flat. You invited us to your house for a drink and a snack and the use of your tire pump. We felt an instant kinship with you, as fellow adventurers and we wanted to spend more time getting to know you but the road was beckoning!

Leah, the ferry boat captain in Vermont who we met while relaxing in a park and you offered us a place to stay for the evening. We wish we could’ve taken you up on your offer but we had already made Warmshowers arrangements for the night.

Kind shopkeepers and locals, such as Debra from Ganonoque who offered us a comfortable chair and refreshing beverage and friendly conversation! Simple things mean so much to the weary traveler!

Oh my gosh and we have so many helpful bike mechanics to thank! These mechanics dropped everything to help out a couple of cross-continent bike tourers! Some of the repairs were quick & simple, sometimes just checking our chains but more often there were time-consuming repairs. You guys ROCK!

3. Thank you to our fellow cyclists! With a few exceptions, we only met for a few brief moments by the side of some road, often miles from nowhere but we always had great conversations, trading tips on the road ahead. More than that, it was great to meet someone who “gets us” – someone who understands the lure of bicycle travel and revels in it!

Tim, you came along right when our spirits were low and how crazy that we turned out to be such compatible travel companions for 10 days! I love how you kept things light and teased me about hooligans. 🙂 We always smile when we think of you and look forward to showing you the beauty of the Great Lakes on your next trip to the states!

Bala, you’re an amazing young man and what you accomplished this summer was incredible! You are going places in this world! We can’t wait to hear what comes next – after you finish your last 2 years of high school!

Andrew – we really had a glorious day riding together for 90 miles of tailwinds! But we loved hearing of your past adventures and sure do enjoy getting your email notes!

Ginna – we enjoyed lunch together in Shelby before you hopped on the train. We were so worried about the upcoming mountains and you encouraged us and gave us the confidence we needed to ride the mountains! You were right! We COULD do it. (We still can’t imagine riding the Cascade Mtns just for fun tho!)

Vincent & Victor – we shared Warmshowers accommodations with each of you on separate occasions but we felt like we knew you even better, as we ended up staying in the same places down the road several days after you!

Dakota & Chelsea – what a fun evening we had together! And thank you for your many encouraging messages! You guys have a great attitude & you’ll have a great trip!

Many eastbound cyclists! Wow! We met so many of you in North Dakota! Congrats to Pete & Deb and to Wendy & Casey for completing your adventures! Josh & Jess, Durrell and others are still traveling and we wish you well! We enjoyed reading your blogs to see what to expect ahead of us and also how you experienced the road now behind us.

We leapfrogged with fellow west bounder, George and were saddened to learn that the fires and extreme heat in Washington threw a wrench into his plans and he had to reroute and stop riding before he reached the coast. I think our hub problems were a blessing in disguise because it delayed us just enough so that we were able to go thru the fire-ravaged areas after the road reopened.

We were also saddened to learn that health problems caused fellow Michigan tandem riders, Loren & Dave, to abandon their west to east cross-country tour. We can only imagine the depth of their disappointment and we thought of them often as we struggled with the various challenges of weather, fires, heat, & mountains – things that we don’t typically experience in Michigan and couldn’t have trained for after a long, cold, snow Michigan winter.

4. Thank you to all readers of this blog. Sometimes we (OK – Shawn) ramble on with silly details but you’ve read these posts and encouraged us, either thru actual notes and messages or thru positive thoughts and prayers.

We’ll make one last request of you all. If you have enjoyed reading this blog, we would be thrilled if you would visit the website of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation and consider joining us as donors to this organization that does so much good in our community. The Foundation’s website is: http://www.grfoundation.org

Day 93 – Rockport, WA to Anacortes, WA

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Day 93 – Rockport, WA to Anacortes, WA – 68 miles

We slept well last night! We were absolutely bushed and slept 9 hours! We woke up refreshed & excited to finish this push to the Pacific! After packing up, we headed to the restaurant, eager to have one of Tootsie’s famous cinnamon rolls. Wouldn’t you know, they’re sold out! Every time we hear about someone’s cinnamon rolls, we’re unable to partake! Not a big deal – we ended up a much more nutritious breakfast, eventually. (The customer service was another story!)

Once we were on the bike, Shawn found that yesterday’s effort left her rather fatigued and sore. As we reflected on yesterday’s ride, we realized that we had spent 11 hours riding yesterday’s miles. We don’t generally keep track of time spent riding but we’re sure it was our longest because we started shortly after 6 am and ended shortly after 5 pm. Sure we took breaks but none of them were long, extended breaks in a restaurant because there wasn’t a restaurant to go to! But we were glad we got those miles done so we could have an easier day today!

Our son, Walt and his wife, Leanne were planning to meet us at our finish point in Anacortes, so we were especially excited to get to Anacortes. But we still had 60-some miles to ride that required food & rest stops. The route was mostly flat with some hills along the way as we followed the Skagit River for much of the way. Probably the toughest part was following our map thru such a populous area – it’s been awhile since we rode thru multiple towns of more than 1,000 people.

We enjoyed the difference in plants – we’re now in the northwest rainforest and there is quite a variety of trees and flowers and mosses hanging from the trees. And the blackberries! The blackberry bushes are everywhere and the bushes are loaded! We stopped and picked a couple handfuls in a matter of minutes. Yum!

Shortly after riding thru Sedro Wooley, we saw a truck towing a boat that was parked on the shoulder ahead of us. As we approached it, the driver got out of the car and it was our Warmshowers host from Republic, DiAnne! They’re headed out to the Pacific for a vacation of fishing and crabbing and she spotted us riding! She hugged us and congratulated us! How great to see her!

We had some nice riding on quiet country roads before rejoining route 20, which was quite busy. Shortly before coming into Anacortes, we hopped onto a very nice paved bike trail – there was a causeway across Fidalgo Bay and then the trail continued up along the shore into town. After that, we rejoined route 20 to head to Washington Park on the west shore.

Walt had called us earlier and told us that there was a very nice park that looked much more suitable for dipping our tire than the ferry terminal that Adventure Cycling suggested. He and Leanne were waiting there for us and sure enough, as we came down the hill toward the park, I could see someone standing in the grass watching for our approach – it was Walt! What an incredible feeling to see him standing there watching for us!!! Leanne was waiting for us in the park. (She is pregnant, so we certainly wouldn’t expect her to run out to the road!). We stopped for kisses and hugs! Then we all went down to the water for pictures – lots of pictures! Wow! I’m so glad we finished on a Sunday so they could drive down from Vancouver and join us! What a great family we have! Our other two kids came to our send-off party and these two came to our finish celebration. And they brought champagne! And beer! We enjoyed that champagne right there on the beach! Champagne never tasted so good!!!

We have so much to cover, and so many people to thank, but we’re tired and need to chill out for a bit. I’m sure there will be time for writing as we relax in Anacortes tomorrow!

What a ride, a dream come true!!!

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WE DID IT!

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Coast to Coast!!!

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Day 92 – Mazama, WA to Rockport, WA

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Day 92 – Mazama, WA to Rockport, WA – 78 miles

What a day! Two mountain passes and 78 miles! Holy WAH! (But boy we’re tired!)

We started the day with a quick in-room breakfast. As with the other passes, we wanted to get an early start. We took the time to apply our Detroit Lions tattoos – they were a gift from our friends Stu and Deb (so we wouldn’t forget our roots) and since the Lions have a preseason game today, we thought we’d support the team. (And they won – can you believe it?)

Today’s ride started right on the approach to Washington Pass (the locals call it Wash Pass), it’s an 18 mile climb so we dug in and slowly (4 mph top speed) made our way up. We take frequent breaks on these climbs and today was no different. About half way up, Jim asked for a break and we pulled over. He didn’t know whether it was a nutrition issue, maybe thinner air, or perhaps the effects of the allergic reaction from a bee sting he got the night before. We took an extended break, shared a protein bar, lots of water and the issue seemed to pass. We continued the climb. People had told us about the end of the climb where there is one switch back with a steep climb. Two miles from the end, the switch back was obvious to us. We took a break at the start of the switch back, looking up at the road we would be finishing on. Really, way up there? We’ll never make it! We started up, and the excitement of being so close to finishing our last climbs gave us the push we needed to make it up the switch back. We stopped at the top for photos and to marvel at the climb we had made. One of the best parts of Wash Pass is the views, the other passes did not open up to such spectacular views as much as this one did, and as we looked down the mountain(!) valleys we were amazed at our accomplishment. Certainly this view will be a memory frozen in our minds for the rest of our lives. The tire dip at the Pacific will be incredible, but getting over Washington Pass is our payoff for 3 months of “training”, and we both marveled at our accomplishment! We kept saying, “Damn we’re good!!”

We had a bit of a picnic lunch on a guard rail just after the pass, then we made our way down the pass. Wash Pass has a Siamese twin pass that is 5 miles from the main pass, Rainy Pass culminates with a 2 mile uphill to the pass. Our euphoria from our Washington victory pushed us up and over the two mile climb and we made it with out a break. A photo stop at the pass and then we started the long and fast downhill. We rode the drag break most of the way, although it was not always required for a safe descent. With such a heavily loaded bike, we had agreed to a speed of 30 mph or less on the descents. We probably had about 20 miles of coasting downhill. We deserved it though! We climbed all those miles, it was time to cash them in!!

We saw some great scenery as we cruised down the hill. The first thing we noticed was the greenery! The Cascades are the boundary between desert and rain forest in Washington. The transition between the two is dramatic and to be quite honest we are liking the quantity and variety of plant life we see. Our route also took us past high reservoirs, Ross Lake and Diablo Lake. There are high viewpoints to see these lakes and the water is an incredible blue! The mountains seem to stretch on forever, but thankfully they are on our left and right, and we don’t have to climb any more of them.

The only downside of today’s ride was the lack of services. We rode nearly 70 miles before we could get more food or water. We had been carrying lots of food and extra water, and today was the day we needed it! When we finally did get to a store, we grabbed some snacks and enjoyed just hanging out and sitting for a bit in a chair. It was already a long day!

We located a hotel room in the next town but that was 17 miles from our snack spot. We were tired and ready to be done, but we dragged ourselves out to the bike and headed out. What we thought would be a long 17 turned into a fun 17. We are following the Skagit River, making it’s way to the coast, so we had a nice steady down hill to the hotel. We we there in less than an hour!

We swallowed a whale today, and tomorrow, if all goes well, we roll into our destination town of Anacortes. It’s hard to believe that our journey is almost over!

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Alf, from Sydney, Australia:

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