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!
Lots of these going thru Winthrop (along with tanker trucks and fire crew trucks) – WA National Guard helping the fire crews:
Ash from the fires landing on my arm last night:
Simple pleasures! Jim loves having something to lean the bike against:
Saturday’s ride – each line is a 1,000′ elevation change:
Random thought – if they pave “Dirt Road”, will they rename it?
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!
Day 89 – Tonasket, WA to Okanogan, WA – 27 miles
We had a very comfortable, restful evening at the home of our Warmshowers hostess, Ivetta and woke up to the smell of fresh coffee brewing. Our plan for the day is to position ourselves for the climb up Loup Loup Pass tomorrow. There is a big stampede in nearby Omak, so the campground at the fairgrounds is quite busy. In addition, it is still very hot and we plan to be riding at sunrise tomorrow morning, so we had made arrangements for a motel room for the night.
Ivetta made a delicious breakfast of eggs, sausage, homemade bread and cantaloupe for breakfast. In fact, her neighbor just picked the cantaloupe this morning from his garden and brought it over while we were drinking coffee and it was ripe, sweet & delicious! We sure had a nice time with Ivetta and it was certainly tempting to linger longer, but we didn’t want to have to ride in the heat, so we packed up, said our goodbyes and hopped on the bike. We have had such wonderful WS hosts!
The first 10 miles always seem to go by so slowly and today was no exception, however, in the cool morning air we were able to appreciate the beauty of the high desert around us and we took a lot of pictures. Before we knew it, we were rolling into the grocery store parking lot in Omak. We needed to stock up on food for tomorrow’s mountain pass climb. This pass tomorrow isn’t as high as some of the others, but we’re at the lowest elevation we’ve been at since Minnesota, so it will certainly be a challenge. Heck – all of these passes are a challenge for us middle-aged flat landers! So, for us, it’s another early morning for a ride that will start at dawn!
Shawn, Jim, Ivetta:
Day 88 – Republic, WA to Tonasket, WA – 45 miles
After spending 4 days in Rebublic, we were itchin’ to get back on the bike this morning. We felt like we had adequately imposed on our warm shower hosts, DiAnne and Boyd and with the bike fixed, it was time to move on. Unforgettable kindness, great company, lots of stories, wonderful food (Boyd’s huevos rancheros and DiAnne’s pico de gallo were amazing!), and the use of a vehicle – they certainly made our weekend enjoyable and memorable!
When Jim got on the bike this morning, for whatever reason, he pushed both buttons on the bike computer to turn it on. One button is all that was needed, because both buttons resets the odometer. Three months he did it properly, but today we have a cleared odometer. Oops! From now on we will have to add 3,554 miles to the daily mileage.
Right away upon leaving Republic, we were climbing. Our pass today was Wauconda Pass. It was not too bad doing this one because we were starting from a higher elevation, although there was still plenty of climbing. It took a couple hours to reach the pass. It wasn’t too bad, as we were riding in the cool of the morning. Several miles after reaching the pass, we coasted right into Wauconda, which consists of a post office, restaurant and convenience store in a big purple building with red & yellow trim. (The colors sound kind of wild, but it really looks pretty cool!). After a yummy breakfast & quite a bit of conversation with the proprietress, we were on our way again.
While the first 18 miles took several hours, the next 20-some were fast and we made good use of the drag brake! There were 2 or 3 1-2 mile 5% grades downhill with some 6% grades mixed in too. The last 6 miles was all 5% or 6% grades downhill. Those were fast miles and we were so happy to have the drag brake to slow us down! Suddenly, the terrain had changed drastically. We were riding thru high desert – the evergreen-capped mountains were replaced by rocky mountains and fields of sagebrush.
By the time we got to Tonasket, it was nearly noon & it was heating up! We grabbed a Gatorade & a snack at the gas station, enjoying some AC as we ate our snack at a table inside. Then we decided to check out the town before heading to the home of our WS host. We did need something from the hardware store but also checked out a few other shops. Nice town! By the time we got back on the bike to go the last few miles to our WS stop, the thermometer in town was reading 102F.
Our WS host for the night, Ivetta is an incredibly kind woman who greeted us at the door with a warm smile! She had fresh fruit, homemade cookies and cheese & crackers on the table and immediately offered us cold drinks. Ahhhhh! A wonderful oasis from the heat! We talked (and snacked!) for quite a long time before hitting the shower, then enjoyed a fantastic dinner of vegetable lasagne with fresh vegetables from her garden. Wow! What a treat to have fresh produce! And we even had fresh sweet corn – our first of the summer! We spent the rest of the evening enjoying great conversation. It’s so wonderful to be back in an area of the country where there are Warmshowers hosts, as these experiences are the highlight of our trip!
DiAnne & Boyd – Wow! So many kindnesses! Thank you!!!
Day 87 – Republic WA
We are still in Republic, enjoying the generous hospitality of our Warmshowers hosts, DiAnne and Boyd. They have been so very kind to let us stay so long and even loaned us a car so we could enjoy the beautiful area outside of town!
Yesterday we attended church at the Lakeview Bible Church, which is the church where Dave preaches. (You may recall that Dave’s wife, Lin (Linda) picked us up on Friday after our bike broke down and then Dave drove us around all afternoon trying to help us find someone who could work on our bike.). We enjoyed Dave’s sermon and the welcoming congregation. Then later we enjoyed a delicious dinner at the home of Lin & Dave and met their 4 children (Natty, Jon, Sandy & Cory), dog (Lady), 5 cats (Little Guy, Ivy, Monkey, Teddy Roosevelt and Biscuit) and their flock of fowl! Hope we got the names right! We weren’t going to try to remember the names of the chickens and turkeys! Jim got a kick out of feeding grasshoppers to the chickens and turkeys!
We received a call from the Republic Post Office this morning that our package has arrived – this is our spare rear wheel that Shawn’s sister, Sheila mailed on Friday afternoon. (Thank you so much, Sheila!) On Friday, we had called both of the bike shops closest to Republic (one an hour east of here by car and the other an hour west of here by car) and neither of them had a mechanic in until Tuesday. With DiAnne & Boyd’s car, we thought we might be able to drive a little further and get the wheel work (drag brake and rear cassette put on the good wheel) done today and sure enough, there was a bike shop in Spokane that said they’d do the work today. So, Jim is headed down there right now and hopefully we’ll be back on the bike tomorrow morning!
In other news, on Friday we had been concerned about some new forest fires possibly causing us to have to reroute and we were looking into other options thru Canada. We spoke with another Warmshowers host in the affected area yesterday and he said right now things are looking good to use the Adventure Cycling route. Of course that could change quickly, so we’ll continue to watch. Our WS hosts are hosting another cyclist tonight who just rode thru the area we’re headed, so we’ll be sure and find out what we can from him, as well! Keeping our fingers crossed that we get the bike fixed and the fire activity diminishes!
Day 84 – Kettle Falls, WA to 3 miles short of Sherman Pass, WA 25 miles
The best laid plans of mice and men…
We knew we had a strong game plan for our first major mountain pass – the 23 mile climb over Sherman pass. We were well stocked with food and water, woke up at 4:15 am and were ready for the doors to open at the Little Gallea Restaurant at 5 am. We wanted to get an early start on the climb to beat the heat. We were ready & riding as the sun rose at 5:30. We had no idea how this day was going to go, could we make the climb?
We had about 4 miles of downhills leaving Kettle Falls, heading to the Columbia River. We commented that this down hill was not so fun, knowing that every foot we dropped, would just be added to our climb on the other side. We crossed the River and made an immediate right turn, starting the up up up to Sherman Pass. We dug in, and made the climb. In about 1/4 mile there was a tiny down hill, another climb, another tiny downhill and we both thought, well this isn’t so bad. We continued making great progress up the climb. Before too long the little breaks of down hills went away. It was now be impossible to take any coasting breaks to give our legs and backsides a rest so our only way to get relief was when we took some “off the bike” breaks. And we stopped pretty often maybe every 2-3 miles. We were both pleased, we were making the climb, we were getting tired, and the breaks became more frequent, but we were going to beat this thing!! We started counting down the miles after we passed Graves Mountain road, we knew we had 7 miles to go, the countdown started, 6 more, 5 more, 4 more, 3 more…and then, clunk – our pedals slipped. We got off the bike thinking it must be a broken chain, but the chain was intact. We saw that our crank arms (where the pedals attach) would spin freely in both directions. Jim remembered this problem happening 7 or 8 years ago. The pawls, the little pin that drops and holds the “ratchet” of the hub was broken or disabled. Our day of pedaling was over and we were so close to the pass! We were getting it done but now stuck 3 miles from the top!
We thought about walking the last 3 miles and then seeing how far we could coast down the other side but knew there would be plenty of walking on the other side in the 20 miles to Republic. So, it was time to use the thumb. It didn’t take long and a woman driving a jeep pulled over. She asked how she could help. We told her the bike was broken & we needed a ride to the bike shop in Republic, the next town. She said, let me move some things around and I can drive you there. We were a bit worried about space, as she was quite loaded with her recent purchases, until we noticed the bike rack on the back of her car. We unloaded all our bags and got the tandem on her bike rack and Jim squeezed in the back seat, while Shawn sat upfront and we were on our way. We were so grateful!
Turns out this woman, Linda lives in Republic with her husband and 4 children. We got into town and started trying to find the bike shop that our maps indicated was here. That is when Shawn recalled our WS host mentioning in her profile that the bike shop closed. Linda checked around town and someone directed her to a place on the east edge of town. She drove us back out there but sure enough, no bike shop there anymore. OK, time to regroup and consider our options. We were tired & hungry. Linda had to get home so her kids could get to work so we had her drop us off so we could get some lunch & make a plan B. Shortly after that our phone rang and it was Linda’s husband, Dave calling to see how he could help. We finished our lunch and he came by and picked us up. We took the bike & bags up to our WS host’s house before heading off to Omak and Okanogan. Long story here, so I’ll keep it short. Dave was so wonderful to take 3-4 hours out of his afternoon to drive us all over the place. We haven’t figured out the details except we have our spare rear wheel being shipped to Republic (arrives Monday) and a Tuesday 10 am appointment at the bike shop in Okanogan (50 miles west of here).
Dave dropped us off at the home of our WS hosts, DiAnne and Boyd, who were outside. We had exchanged text messages, so they knew there was a long story coming their way. 🙂 They showed us into their home and had a wonderful dinner nearly ready. We had a nice evening of conversation but had to cut it short due to sheer exhaustion on our part. It’s been a very long day. And a day of many kindnesses shown to us. We’re going to be here for awhile, but it’s an awfully nice place to be. Time for sleep!
Day 83 – Colville, WA to Kettle Falls, WA – 15 miles
Last night we stayed at a bike hostel, which is about 6, or so miles east and quite an elevation above Colville. It was incredibly hot yesterday and more heat is in the forecast today. In fact, someone told us that it was 107F in Kettle Falls yesterday. Evidently the heat caused a poor cell connections because we had absolutely no signal until the sun went behind the mountains last night.
With our biggest climb coming up just west of Kettle Falls, we decided to keep today short so we could take care of some errands today and be riding when the sun comes up tomorrow morning. We needed to stock up on fuel (aka “food”) and we also took the time to mail our cold-weather gear forward.
We left the hostel by about 6:30 am and had one climb before racing downhill (with drag brake on) the rest of the way to Colville. It looks like a neat town to explore but it was still quite early in the day and not much was open. We did our grocery shopping & then rode on to Kettle Falls. The post office was not yet open so we stopped in at a nice little German bakery for a snack. The sun was heating things up, so we found a bench on the shady side of the street to enjoy our baked goods and then just hung out there until the post office opened.
We have some stretches of riding ahead that will be rather slow, so we want to make sure we have plenty of space in our panniers for extra food & water. Plus, with the heat wave forecasted to continue, we won’t be needing our cycling pants and more than one long-sleeved shirt. The package we mailed ahead weighed 8lbs 4 oz – about the size of a healthy-sized baby! 🙂
We enjoyed a great cup of coffee at one of those little drive-up coffee stands before checking into our air-conditioned (!) motel room. Jim noticed that our rear tire is showing wear, so he replaced it with one of the foldable spares. Jim assures me the spare has another 330 miles in it. Of more concern to him was a broken pedal that he just noticed today, which was causing his foot to unclip unexpectedly yesterday and today.
At lunchtime we walked a few blocks down the road to the local microbrewery, Northern Ales. We toasted another 500-mile milestone. 3500 miles down! And had a great lunch, followed by a root beer float made with Northern Ales’ homemade root beer!
Still thinking about the broken pedal after lunch, Jim said, “I’m going to see if I can find a welder.” He walked out the motel room door and the biggest building he could see was a welder! So, he walked the bike over to DW’s Welding and five minutes later he’s back! Dave Willey fixed the pedal! This engineer captain of mine is quite the problem-solver!
So, now we’re hunkered down in the air conditioning this afternoon, planning a very early bedtime and a very early morning attack on Sherman Pass! Thank you to all of you who have send us messages of encouragement! We’re gonna do this!!!
Big bug on the screen at the hostel this morning:
Broken pedal, before welding: