The Ride

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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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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Day 91 – Winthrop, WA to Mazama, WA

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Day 91 – Winthrop, WA to Mazama, WA – 14 miles

Today is another positioning day – positioning us close to the mountain passes we need to climb tomorrow. So, we went to bed early and slept late this morning! (Late is 7 am for us, these days.). When we got up, our WS hosts were nowhere to be found so we packed up & left a note thanking them for their hospitality.

It was a quick half-mile, or so ride downhill into town. A lady asked if she could get our pic so we obliged and then asked her advice on where to get breakfast. Winthrop is an interesting town – all very western looking, complete with wooden plank sidewalks. There are quite a few shops for such a small town. Anyhow the woman who took the pic recommended 2 restaurants, one being the Rocking Horse (think of a horse with a guitar, rather than a child’s play horse) Bakery, which was where we went. There was quite a line when we got there but it went fairly quick. We got breakfast, great coffee and in addition, Jim got his long-sought cinnamon roll (absolutely delicious!) and Shawn got an equally delicious pecan roll.

As we were riding out of town, a car coming from the other direction slowed down and we saw that it was Carolyn, our WS hostess. She yelled encouraging words and we yelled our thanks.

It was a beautiful morning riding thru the Methow (pronounced met-how – we had to ask!) Valley. Clear blue skies, beautiful views, comfortable temps. We had a headwind but for the most part, we were sheltered by the trees. So if you’re interested in the headwind vs tailwind days count, we’ve had 1 more day of tailwinds than headwinds in the entire trip. We wouldn’t be surprised if that evens out on the last day, as we ride into Anacortes.

We got to Mazama quite early and have checked out the Mazama Store and the local outfitters store. We got coffee and then sat down at the picnic tables outside the store to take an inventory of our food supply for the next couple days. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, we think we have just 2 more days of riding before we dip the front wheel in the Pacific! We have 2 mountain passes (the 2nd one is 5 miles from the first) in our way, so how we do on those are the big determining factors! It will sure feel good to have those behind us! So, the rest of the day is for resting up, eating & hydrating for one last 5:30 am mountain climb tomorrow! And then Sunday should be flat or downhill to the Pacific!

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Lots of these going thru Winthrop (along with tanker trucks and fire crew trucks) – WA National Guard helping the fire crews:

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Ash from the fires landing on my arm last night:

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Simple pleasures! Jim loves having something to lean the bike against:

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Saturday’s ride – each line is a 1,000′ elevation change:

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Random thought – if they pave “Dirt Road”, will they rename it?

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Day 90 – Okanogan, WA to Winthrop, WA

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Day 90 – Okanogan, WA to Winthrop, WA – 47 miles

This was our Loup Loup Pass day. A long climb of about 3500 ft. We would be climbing for roughly 20 miles. On these climbs we average about 4 to 6 miles on these climbs, so we had about 3 hours ( or more) ahead of us. And we used to think Fulton Hill was a challenge – that was about a 15 minute climb!

We like to start these days early and have every detail planned to a “T”. So when we got on our bike shortly before 6am, we were prepped and geeked for our long climb. We started out on a bit of a downhill from the motel onto the highway for the climb. Shawn was loving the feel of the air blowing in her hair, when she realized that there was a bit too much wind in her hair! She had left her helmet in the hotel room. At about 1/4 mile away, she added a full half mile to our mountain climbing day! Hey, every quarter mile counts!

For the most part, with very little exception, we spent the next 20 miles in our smallest gear or the 2nd smallest gear. It was a long slow climb, slow & steady. At first, there was very little traffic but then we saw truck after truck transporting fire crews. There have been new fires started, in addition to the Carlton Complex fire which is now contained but is the largest fire in Washington state history.

About halfway up, we found ourselves on the cliff side of the road with no guard rails! It was bad enough at Glacier with guard rails but this was kind of crazy! Sometimes when we’re moving slow, it is hard to ride in a straight line and with these steep drop offs (sometimes 500 feet down), well, we decided not to ride the shoulder! This only lasted a couple miles but a couple miles at 4 mph is a long time.

We kept seeing signs for road construction and finally came upon the flag man. They had a signal truck escorting traffic thru the construction zone but they just radioed ahead that we were coming and she told us to stay to the right. We were stopping every couple miles to rest, eat and hydrate. At one of our rests, the signal truck told us to watch out for the moose up ahead. Several other cars slowed down and also warned us. When we got to the end of the construction zone, we were happy to not have seen hide nor hair of that moose!

Our WS host from Tuesday night had sent us on our way with a ziplock bag of homemade cookies. Each time we got off the bike, we each had a cookie and multiple swigs of water or Gatorade or Strive. We also ate several Payday bars – Payday bars are fantastic energy food and have no chocolate to melt in our bags. We timed our rest stops to coincide with the groups of cars coming thru the construction zone – they came every 10 minutes, or so. Otherwise, we had the lane to ourselves – it worked out great! They had newly tarred chip seal – not great on the shoulder but the traffic lane was smooth. The reason for the one lane of traffic was for a crew to install the reflectors on the side of the road.

At our last rest stop before the pass, a guy pulled over to see if we needed anything. We thanked him & said no. Then he said, “Good job – you’re 2 miles from the top!” Well, that fired us up and we rode those last 2 miles with renewed energy! It felt so good to see the sign at the top of the pass! We were tired, but we made it, 3500 feet, 4 hours or more of hard work, it was such a good feeling to be done! There’s one more monkey off our back!

At the summit of the pass, we got off and took the obligatory pic. Then we broke out our sandwich for a more substantial fueling. About the time we were thinking of getting on the bike, another cyclist came up from the other direction. He was soon joined by the rest of his group. It was a group riding a supported tour of Washington. One of the group took a pic of the two of us and after a bit of conversation, we were back on the bike. We immediately saw the sign saying 6% grade for the next 8 miles. Needless to say, we didn’t pedal for more than 8 miles and made abundant use of the drag break. In fact, a couple miles down from the pass, we pulled over just to see how hot the drag brake was – and it was hot! Good thing we have it! It kept us at a sane speed going down that mountain!

Also on the other side of the pass was when we saw extensive fire damage! This was the section of the road that was closed several weeks ago, prompting us to consider a reroute. Incredible fire devastation on both sides of the road for as far as you could see in very rugged, steep land. As we rode along, we noticed new electricity poles and we saw the old, burned poles lying on the ground. We also saw a few farm buildings that had burned but luckily, the homes were intact. South of here, however, several hundred homes were lost. Obviously, the fires are a major concern in the area, and always a center of conversation at restaurants and watering holes.

Jim spent the entire climb dreaming of the cinnamon rolls that were available at the first town after the pass, Twisp, Washington. The “Cinnamon Twisp ” bakery had been mentioned by many bikers – we just had to try them out! We went in and looked around the entire store, no cinnamon rolls! They were sold out. The bakery lady said a guy came in and bought 17 this morning! The likely culprit, the support team for the bike group we saw on the pass. Grrrr! The first disappointment of the day! But Shawn was quick to point out that we enjoyed some fantastic goodies, despite the dearth of cinnamon rolls!

After Twisp, it was a quick ride to the next town, Winthrop. We had made arrangements to stay at a Warmshowers home. We spent a bit checking out this cute little (albeit tourist) town before heading over to the home of Tom & Carolyn. Today is Carolyn’s birthday and they are having a party, so we made ourselves scarce and enjoyed a fantastic pizza dinner. Walking back from dinner we were amazed by the sight of smoke billowing over the mountains from the fires still burning and also the color of the sky at sunset. Sitting outside, ash was landing on us!

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