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In the spirit of the entire trip, I figured I might as well be late posting this final wrap up of our trip. I apologize once again for the long wait. Marissa and I are now safely home back in Brooklyn trying to put our lives back together which has required a fair bit of adjusting. But anyway, the last bit of the trip went something likes this…
The last major day of riding took us to Anacortes, WA where our Adventure Cycling maps ended. From Marblemount, we continued on along Rt. 20 where we found Cascade Farms that our friends Steve and Kim had recommended to us. Even though it was only 11AM and we still had a very full day ahead, we stopped in for two scoops of pumpkin blueberry ice-cream each. They may not be family owned anymore but they make some delicious treats.
Properly fueled, we spent the majority of the day riding through the fall wonderland of northwest Washington. We may have hit bad weather, bugs, and other detriments to our trip by leaving so late in the year but this last day’s ride made up for all of it. The Skagit River valley was so incredibly colorful and sunny as we rolled along between the river and the last of the mountains. The late start and ice-cream stop meant the last 20 miles of the trip had us feeling our way through the dark. That was okay though. Nothing could really take away from the feeling we got when that first breath of salty air reached our lungs. Wow, we made it! Haha. Once again, we had to stop and reflect on the fact that we had actually pedaled our bikes all the way here (well, almost but close enough). And so we continued on, across the last bridge and into town as we looked forward to a good couple days of rest.
We thought about heading into the San Juan Islands from there before heading to Seattle to meet up with Marissa’s friend Sarah in Vashon. Then, looking at the amount of time we had left, I thought it would be better to go to the San Juans and then straight up into Canada on our way to Vancouver. I had just finished stating my case when we heard back from Sarah that she would gladly drive up to get us and thus save us the 3 day ride south. Before we knew it, we found ourselves loaded into a car with Marissa in my lap while the bikes hogged up all the back seats. Sarah and her husband Sam were wonderful hosts as they showed us around Seattle. We ate some great food (including KFC’s Doubledown, finally!), played dress up with all their great vintage clothes, went to a fashion show, and even made chocolate chip cookies.
We stayed in Seattle a bit longer than I had originally intended and were left with only 4 1/2 days before our flight back to Cleveland. Wanting to spend some good time in Vancouver, we opted to train it up to the Great White North. I have to say, if I were to do the trip over again, I would have made Seattle, or even Portland, our final destination. Now, I’m not saying Vancouver is not a great town but given the circumstances, it would have worked out better not going there. We did not have any connections in the city so we ended up paying for a hotel during our stay. It also rained every day and managed to keep us mostly indoors, though I can’t say that was entirely unexpected. What really got under my skin though was getting our bikes back to NYC. I researched almost every aspect of our trip very thoroughly, except for dealing with customs. I guess I always assumed I could just drop the bikes off at a shop and they would take care of everything. Wrong. Most of the bike shops in the downtown area only cater to tourist rentals with a few frames hanging in the windows for show. So, it was up to us to box them up and drag them over to UPS. Without going into this too much, let me just say that this was an incredibly expensive endeavor with very little good will being extended towards UPS.
Speaking of good will, I do have to mention one very positive experience in Vancouver. My good friend Mie, who has followed our whole trip and been very supportive of our journey, gave us a very special gift on our last night. She generously reserved a room for us in the Lord Stanley Suites just off Stanley Park where we were treated to a wonderful view of the downtown Vancouver and a prime location to explore the city on our last day. Thank you so so much, Mie!
And so the trip ended on one last good night. With our bikes shipped and our bags packed, we finally made our way to the airport the next morning for our flight back to Cleveland. It was a whirl-wind weekend and a great way to celebrate ending such a trip. I took my friend Clayton out to a shooting range with a couple of friends before the drinking began on his bachelor party night. Then, there was rehearsals and dinner, hotel parties, trying on suits, plenty of photo sessions with the bride and groom, and writing my speech as the best man about 15 minutes prior to the ceremony. It was one of the best weddings I’ve been to in a long time. Congrats Clayton and Nicole!
Marissa’s mom drove out to Cleveland with her brother Nolan to pick us up on the 18th and see the the Rock Hall before returning us to this crazy city. I think we both have felt a bit overwhelmed at times as we slowly readjust to city life. I’ll try and write a bit more on that in another post as I put together some of the final points on the trip. For now, thanks so much for following us along and offering all your support. We are eternally grateful to everyone who has helped us out. Oh, and I’m still working on the pictures but they will be up shortly.
So I know there’s been a lack of blog posts lately. It took me forever to finish Pt. 2 to my last post but I have a really good excuse. We’re on the west coast! We’ve been concentrating on not concentrating at all for the past few days and the blog has sort of slipped to the back of list. Sorry. Thanks for your patience; here’s what you’ve missed lately:
After Sherman’s Pass, going up to Wauconda was about the equivalent to a leisurely glide over the Williamsburg Bridge. We were so worried about crossing another pass right after nearly killing ourselves the day before that we barely recognized the top when we got there. I guess we are in much better shape than we thought. The descent down the other side was about as inconsequential as the ride up. We did stop in the town (if you can call it that) of Wauconda for lunch and it just so happens to have a very interesting story to it. Apparently, this town had gotten so small and undesireable that it was actually put up for auction on E-bay! Crazy. A really nice couple ended up buying it for about $300, 000 and are busy whipping it back into shape. Read their story here. Maddie stopped to chat with us about stocking some small bike supplies and food stuff in their grovery. She also recommended a nice hotel for us when we finally reach Anacortes, WA, or last stop on the Adventure Cycling Northern Tier.
After lunch, we coasted down the rest of the hill and set our sights on Omak for the night. The scenery in the valley ride along the way was absolutely gorgeous. We were now completely surrounded by mountains everywhere. Much to our surprise, the landscape had also become a desert microclimate in the middle of Wahsington State. It was quite surreal. We couldn’t believe we had had now cycled through snow and desert climates. This trip was just full of surprises. Anyhow, we reached the little town of Riverside which was just before Omak and decide on calling it quits for the day. We stayed in Maggie’s RV Park which turned out to be absolutely beautiful. We enjoyed a small campfire under the stars while we ate a makeshift shepard’s pie and wondered at our good fortune again.
Loup Loup Pass was our next challenge the following day and, we quickly discovered, was one of the hardest climbs of the trip. Another midday start meant the desert climate was already cooking as we started our ascent. Loup Loup is about the same height as Wauconda but you start at a much lower altitude and the grade is significantly steeper. We got all comfortable at first as we passed orchards and desert valleys but we soon filled our noses with the smell of wet wool as we sweated our way up a good mile of 8% graded road. Marissa was soon giving me a look of utter dread and weariness as we wondered what else this SOB had in store for us. Thankfully, we had packed a fair number of energy bars and fresh fruit and we took our time climbing and eating our way to the top. It was tough but not impossible. The descent was a real treat as we barreled down all those steep grades and on our way into Twisp.
Soon enough, we were pulling out our lights and checking the map to guess where we might stay when we finally reached the town of Winthrop. Our route took us right past a KOA Kamp so I gave them a ring thinking we were all set for the night. Instead, I was informed that tent sites were $27/night! WTF? The whole point of camping is to save money. Feeling betrayed, we started checking the list of motels in town thinking that if it was going to cost a bit of money, we might as well sleep in a bed. While we were figuring out our plan of attack, we rolled into the nearest grocery to figure out dinner. While we were being rung up, Marissa inquire with the cashier if she knew of any place to pitch a tent nearby. Before long, we had five different suggestions from the other customers nearby. Great! The best was yet to come though. As we packed up our groceries, a friendly guy name Rob stopped us and asked if we had found a decent spot. While he tried to improve the directions we had been given to local park, he suddenly stopped, thought for half a second, and then asked if we’d rather just come back to his house? Of course! And so we ended up camping in Rob’s small orchard in his front yard after enjoying the benefits of a full kitchen and bath for the night. Thanks Rob! Hope your trip to Hawaii was great.
The next day was to be our last big climb, Washington Pass followed quickly by Rainy Pass. Taking Rob’s suggestion, we stopped back for coffee as we passed back through Winthrop. Of course, it was so good we ended up getting a second breakfast on top of the eggs, cheese, strawberries, and oatmeal I made that morning. I’m sure you can guess by now that our start wasn’t all that early yet again. I think we made it about halfway across the 14 miles to the next town before the pass when we decided we would rather hike for the rest of the day than attempt another climb. This was one of our better decisions of the trip as we enjoyed the pine forests and mountain streams of the Cascades. We retired for the night at our first B&B of the trip in Mazama, the North Cascades Basecamp and B&B. We really enjoyed talking with Steve and Kim about our travels and how they’ve enjoyed the few months since they started running the B&B. As part of the agreement to staying in such a posh set-up, we were going to attempt our last chance to put in a century ride over the pass. Upon hearing this, Steve made us an amazing breakfast of palenta, eggs, sausage, bagels, and coffee, coffee, coffee. It was absolutely wonderful stay and I’d like to personally recommend it to anyone traveling that way.
We did our best attempt at an early start for our big day which ended up being about 9:30. Impressive, I know. The map pointed out that there would be no services for the next 76 miles so we packed sandwiches and plenty of water for the ride. The weather was great and we made fairly short work of the first bit of the trip. Feeling so good about our early start and finishing our last climb, we took plenty of breaks to enjoy the beautiful scenery and keep our energy up. The last half of the climb was no picnic but we made it with smiles plastered across our faces and just a little bit of whooping. After some quick pictures, we shot down the other side and then back up to Rainy Pass for lunch. We both figured the descent would be steep and quick followed by a lot of general downhill riding for the rest of the day. Wrong. The descent was definitely steep at times and it went on forever but it also had it’s fair share of climbs too. My neck muscles were soon sore after holding the unfamiliar tuck position for 8 miles of descents at a time. It was both absolutely amazing and incredibly exhausting. I wish I could have taken more pictures but it’s very hard to stop an 80lb bike going 35mph, especially when my brakes were starting to wear thin. So, I had to settle for some of the rest stop overlooks.
It took us a heck of a lot longer to get off that mountain and through the valley than we thought. We pulled in to a town called Marblemount just as the last of the light of fading in the sky. We ate an overpriced dinner at the first spot we came across for fear that everything else in the town would be closed. Of course the were not as we later discovered by oh well. Camped in an over priced RV spot too but we wanted showers and this was our best option.
I’ll stop here since this post has gotten ridiculously long. Sorry. I’ll try to fill in the rest soon. Oh, and we’re in Vancouver now!
Sherman’s Pass. That giant spike on our elevation chart that first jumped off the map and into our nightmares way back in Fargo. Our highest climb of the entire tour and the first of 5 before we could dream of salty ocean air and resting our poor bodies. When we first opened our Adventure Cycling maps at that downtown post office, it was there leading the charge of heart rate spikes across our last state. How were we every going to do this? It iss nearly 23 miles long and 5000 feet of climbing not including all the lead up hills. The lines on the map went straight up and down at points. Montana’s map didn’t even have an elevation cart!
Considering all this, we were surprisingly optimistic and even a bit giddy to start this climb. The highest climb we had tackled yet was way back in New York State and was something in the neighborhood of 1,500 feet high. I think maybe we had forgotten what real hills were like. I think maybe it was because we had 30 miles of daydreaming to go before even saw the climb. We managed to bring those lofty expectations down a little bit with some overly-cheesy Mexican food for lunch before the ascent which was not the best decision but oh well.
When we finally got started, it was 2:30 in the afternoon and we were fairly sobered up. The first stretch was a solid 6% grade at least but then it smoothed out into a steady climb with even the occasional downhill jaunt. We made good time for a majority of the day until we started getting up into the higher reaches of Rt. 20. With about 10 miles to go to the top, the grade got steeper and steeper till we could barely manage 5mph. Of course, that meant it was going to be a solid two hour climb till we crested the top. With all the high speed drive by’s from the logging and pick-em up trucks going back and forth, we were quickly over this whole climbing business. Needless to say, by the time we reached the top, the sun had already set and left us with a nice smoldering sky. Feeling twilight quickly approaching, we barely stopped to read the sign and take some pictures before we slipped on our warm woolies and bike lights for the long awaited descent.
I suppose one of the few benefits we’ve had form riding so late in the day is that traffic generally disappears after dark. This made riding after dusk much safer, especially at speeds up to 35mph on bicycle. I think the entire downhill swoop took us all of 45 minutes. Tired and cold, we grabbed a tasty dinner at the local dinner before we crawled into our sleeping bags in the local fairgrounds of Republic, WA. We had to get some sleep in before we faced Wauconda Pass the next day at 4,300 feet.
I have to say, once I got over missing Glacier, I’ve really been enjoying our trip a lot more. Even the train ride wasn’t so bad. We were treated to one of the most amazing sunsets right as we approached Glacier which we would never have seen had we decided to bike there. After that, we mostly tried to sleep the rest of the way to Spokane. Unlike New York where life outside is always visible from a train window, out in God’s country it’s pitch dark. In a way, it was probably best this way so that we could forget all that we were missing and focus on what lay ahead.
Our train got in to Spokane at 2:30AM which left us with very few options for lodging. We were downtown which meant all the hotels were expensive and I didn’t care to spend money on a 5 hour hotel stay before they kicked us out in the morning. Nor did either of us relish the thought of finding a campsite at that forsaken hour. So, a night in the train station was what we settled on. For better or worse, it was not long before we were awoken by the security guard and sent off the discover what the city had in store for us.
As I would later acknowledge, Spokane was good for the soul. The weather was excellent that morning as we searched out a nice place to grab some breakfast. We quickly decided on Satellite Diner but were none pleased when they didn’t open till 8AM and it was only 6:30. So, to burn time, we played on the giant Radio Flyer wagon in the park. Good times. Also, it gave Marissa time to look up an old friend who lives in Boston but grew up in the city and was able to make some great suggestions. Better yet, he called up his parent’s Lisa and Steve on our behalf and arranged for a lovely home-cooked meal and a roof over our heads. Thanks Blair!
After a great breakfast, we stopped by the local bicycle shop to pick up another rear tire for my bike. The Continental Touring Plus tires have only lasted exactly 1300 miles each before going bald. They haven’t given me a flat yet so I should be thankful but that seems awfully short lived for a touring tire. I replaced the rear with a Continental Top Contact folding tire which was half off from $90 and was handmade in Germany, not Taiwan. We even got Marissa’s bike tuned up for free as well as another offer for a place to stay, which we had to turn down. Thanks to everyone at Two Wheel Transit!
With most of the day still ahead of us, we took Blair’s advice and headed up the hill to Manito Park for a nap in the sun and then a stroll through the Japanese and formal gardens. Before we knew it, we were off again to his parent’s house for a great dinner and a lot of good company. It felt so good to have a nice, warm, home-cooked meal after all that time cooking in the cold through Montana. We both felt incredibly refreshed and ready to hit the hills ahead of us. It was such a huge turn around in a very short amount of time I think we were both a bit surprised.
Of course, we got a late start the next day after eating a massive breakfast and pulling all our gear back in from where we had scattered it about the house. We only managed 60 miles the next day but it was an incredibly gorgeous ride through some back roads before linking up with RT 395 on our way to Colville. I wanted to go further because the more we did that day the less we would have to do before our first major climb of the trip, Sherman’s Pass.