east to west

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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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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Day 89 – Tonasket, WA to Okanogan, WA

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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:

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Day 88 – Republic, WA to Tonasket, WA

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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!

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DiAnne & Boyd – Wow! So many kindnesses! Thank you!!!

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Day 85-87 – Republic WA – Rest Days

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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!