Thursday, May 28, 2009

Updates from the Captain's Log

Day 4
May 24, 2009
Captain: Stephanie
Weather: Sunny and Beautiful
Town: Mazama, WA
Where we stayed: Danika and Adam's House
Total Mileage: 160

Following the Shenanigans of the bear incident, I think we all woke up feeling a bit frazzled and not sufficiently rested. We were lucky enough to grab a ride back up the mountain to our bikes from Andrew, one of the nice guys that let us crash on his campsite last night.

Luckily, our bikes were exactly where we left them. Unfortunately the bear had sunk her teeth into Kendal and Greg's water bottles and Rachel's bike seat. Oh, and our roll of toilet paper, too. It was a small price to pay for the fantastic story that came out of the experience.

While we were regrouping and reorganizing our panniers on the side of the road, along came a gentleman on his bicycle, loaded front to back with panniers---a clear sign that he was up to an adventure similar to ours. He stopped to say hello, of course, and it turns out that at age 60, Dick is making his second cross-country journey. We were all thrilled to find out that Dick is a contributing blogger on "Crazy Guy On a Bike," a blog devoted to cycle touring.

By about 10am we were ready to roll and take on the next grueling leg of the Cascade Passes. We rode 18 miles straight up the mountains, gaining several thousand feet in elevation before reaching Rainy Pass. One of my sweetest memories of the day is the encouragement that we received from passers-by on our way up to this first pass. When we had about a half mile to go, on gentleman slowed down as he passed, rolled down his window and shouted, "Keep going! You're almost there!" It was so inspiring to receive unsolicited support from complete strangers along the way.

As we neared the top of Rainy pass, the sun was shining and I was dipping in sweat, which was a bizarre contrast to the massive snow banks lining the road. We ran into a group of telemark skiers on the pass in full ski garb, which was also weird to see as I rolled up in my spandex shorts and tank top.

We took a nice long rest at the top of Rainy Pass, met many interesting people, as always, and boiled some snow since our remaining post-bear water bottles were totally empty.

We still had to push through a few more tough miles to reach Washington Pass, but it felt like a breeze compared to the two crazy days prior.

The scenery was breathtaking the entire day. And the 20 mile descent down the East side of the mountains was heavenly compared to the climb. True to form, Greg made the descent in record time by screaming down the mountain at terrifying speeds. I, on the other hand, held onto my breaks for dear life, making sure never to exceed 25mph. Rachel and Kendal were somewhere in between.

When we finally reached the bottom of the mountain and rolled into Mazama, we were greeted with a huge surprise. Martin and Katy, who we had met at the Cascadian Farms Ice Cream Shop a few days before, had been tracking our location online and met us at the entrance to town. They took our gear in their car and invited us to ride our UNLOADED bikes to the home where they were staying. We were overwhelmed by the gesture, to say the very least. Dick reached the bottom of the pass at the same time we did, and spent the evening with us.

At the beautiful home, which belongs to Martin and Katy's friends, Danika and Adam, we cleaned up and debriefed our mountain adventures while Katy and Martin prepared an amazing dinner for us. After dinner, Kendal and Greg soaked in the hot tub. We all felt like Kings and Queens.

We are quickly learning on this trip not to underestimate the kindness of strangers. Katy and Martin are a perfect example. We are so grateful for their kindness and generosity.

Day 5 - REST DAY!!!
May 25, 2009
Captain: Greg
Weather: Still Beautiful! (What did we do to deserve this?)
Town: Twisp, WA
Where we stayed: Riverbend RV Park
Total Mileage: 180

We started out the morning with a tasty breakfast prepared by Martin and Katy. After a night eating a great meal and chilling in a hot tub, the meal of bagels, eggs, and toast was just awesome. Everyone was groggy and pretty beat from the day before, so this was a welcome treat to just relax and hang with our new friends in Mazama.

After packing up the VW with our gear, we descended the insanely steep and perilous gravel road of death that nearly killed us the day before. We regrouped at the bottom and said farewell to Dick, who had decided to go on.

The rest of us went for a hike and saw a really cool suspension bridge and hung out. After hiking back to the trailhead we said our goodbyes and Martin had one last chance to use Steph's camera for an impromptu photo shoot. They were truly fantastic people and hosts and we were super fortunate to have run across them. They set the bar very high, and we felt spoiled!

We decided to get lunch at the general store in Mazama and meet some of the locals. We met a guy from Cape Cod in his 60s riding solo all the way to Bar Harbor, ME. After an hour or so, we hit the road. I don't know how everyone else felt, but I was having a tough time going rest-day speed while having my backpacker guitar act as a parachute in the monster headwind.

Eventually we arrived in Winthrop where I went to replace our bear-flu ridden water bottles, and the other stopped in at the Lost River Winery for a tasting. John, the owner of the winery, was fantastically knowledgeable about wines and his selection was very very good.

After hanging out after closing, he showed us a faster way to get to Twisp that bypassed the hills and ran along the river. It was wonderful and we had the opportunity to run with the local deer who were out to test their legs.

Deer: 1 Us: 0 They were too fast!

We got to our campsite and I was super hungry, so I went into town where I stopped in at Paco's Tacos and ate a burrito. I then met up with the gang at the local brew pub and ate some smoked salmon carbonara. I'm hoping that'll help replenish the fuel stores. We had a great time! I'm pretty sure it is safe to say that the first few days' jitters are a thing of the past.

After a campfire, some singed hair and s'mores, we sang a few songs and called it a night.

Day 6
May 26, 2009
Captain: Kendal
Weather: Paradise
Town: Tonasket, WA
Where we stayed: The Tonasket Visitor Center
Total Mileage: 240

Today was our longest, hardest day yet, but we're really proud of hitting our target daily mileage (and actually surpassing it!)

We had such a lovely night last night, laughing together, eating s'mores and sharing a beer or two from the local microbrewery...we were all in a really great mood to get started today. The sun rose over the river, and we each went through our own routine in peace and quiet.

Stephanie and Greg went into town to a local bakery (Cinnamon Twisp) to get some coffee and catch up on their journals...I selpt in a little bit, and Rachel did yoga on the riverbank.

Around 9:30, we all met up for breakfast, donated by Paco's Tacos (absolutely delicious breakfast burritos!). Hearing how delicious the Cinnamon Twisps were, I stopped in with Rachel to get my sugar fix before the big climb up Loup Loup pass.

We got on the road around 10:30, and started the 12 mile climb. We were all feeling pretty strong after our rest day, and the climb wasn't too steep. It took us a couple hours to reach the top, but it was nothing compared to the previous two passes (Rainy and Washington). After the climb, it was a pretty quick coast down to the bottom.

The map showed that it was mostly downhill to Tonasket, where we had set our sights for the evening...but it was a pretty gradual downhill, so we were still pedalling away for almost 8 hours, total.

We rode through Okanogan, Omak, and Riverside before reaching Tonasket. We were chased by a few dogs for the first time, and saw a couple of snakes sunning themselves on the highway. While in Riverside, the town fire alarm went off (the old-style crank siren), calling out the volunteer fire squad. Later, as we climbed out of town, we saw a raging house fire, three or four miles off in the distance. The smoke column billowed high in the sky, and our hearts went out to the family affected.

It was very sad for me to see the blight affecting the native tribes living around Omak and Okanogan. It was a reminder to me that the mistreatment of native peoples isn't a thing of the past...but a very present reality for so many people.

By the time we reached Tonasket, we were pretty wiped out. There weren't a lot of camping options available to us in town, so Mission Control (my Dad) arranged for us to camp at the town Visitor's Center right in the heart of town. We had a fantastic dinner at Whistler's Family Restaurant in town, which was donated by a kind local person who heard our story and wanted to contribute.

As it got dark, and we thought about pitching our tents, a few sketchy characters kept walking past us and eying the ladies in ways that made us a little uncomfortable. Feeling uneasy and trusting our intuition, we packed all of our gear into the bathroom of the visitor's center (a room off the back of the building that had been left open for us), and slept in the locked hallway leading into the bathroom.

It was a cramped night---very hot and close quarters---but we were glad to have a place to stay after such a long day in the saddle.

Day 7
May 27, 2009
Captain: Rachel
Weather: Slightly Overcast, hot (or was it the hills we climbed?)
Town: Republic, WA
Where we stayed: Northern Inn
Total Mileage: 281

We began the morning at Sarge's Burger Bunker, a block up from the visitor's center where we stayed. Sargent Art (a 60 year old with an 8-pack and a handlebar mustache) was at the fryer, and Rodeo Wendy was on coffee duty. Bruce, a sweet skinny old local that apparently helped out around Sarge's, greeted us a the door. We spent a fabulous 3(ish) hours with the three of them, learning all about rodeos, gold prospecting, and general adventuring. When Kendal left the diner later, he informed me that I had been voted the very honorable title of "sexiest biker chick to ride through Tonasket," which kept me blushing til Wauconda.

We had a tough ride at the beginning with traffic down to one lane due to construction, but we had 2 very sweet construction ladies with gravelly voices and pink fingernail help us through and tell us which side of the road to take.

It was a long slow climb to the top of the pass, and 2 miles below the top, we hit "Where-the-heck-is-Wauconda, WA", Population: Whoever is at the post office/gas station/cafe/restroom (All one building...and the entire "town"). There we met postmaster Bob, (who smoked a cigarette at the gas pump), who lives for his rock & roll band every Friday night. Rock on, Bob!

At the top of the pass, Greg was diligently waiting for us, sitting on a tree stump, strumming his guitar and singing "Don't Stop Believing." A care noticed him and had to investigate. Vesta and her two youngest kids (of 7!) got out and started chatting up Greg, Kendal, and eventually the rest of us.

Turns out, Vesta's nephew is riding a similar route on his bike, and she got to house them, and wants to regularly house stinky, exhausted, starving cyclists (CRAZY!!!) on a regular basis, so she's going to call Adventure Cycling and put herself on the map! Woo hoo!

We we got to Republic we found that Vesta called ahead and offered to buy us pizza in town. Pizza offered a great environment for a much needed group heart-to-heart (remember, most of us have only known each other 7 days, and in those days have spent almost every waking hour together....AHHHHH!)

We've now returned to our hotel (YES!!! Generously donated by Kathy at the Northern Inn...who is one of the nicest, smartest ladies you'll ever meet!), to finally drink the bottle of wine that Steph and I lugged up 2 mountain passes from John's Lost River Winery in Winthrop. We had a toast to our first week on the road. Turns out, hauling the wine was totally worth it!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Track our progress!

We're carrying a satellite personal tracking device, called the SPOT tracker. It was donated by Northwest Arkansas ATM, and we're so happy to have it! It allows anyone to follow our progress across the country in real time.

In order to see where we are, just visit our Shared Tracking Page. Our tracking device sends out a message every 10 minutes to show our current location, and the system logs all of those points for us to go back and review later.

The map will only show 50 check-in points at a given time, so you have to play with the menu options on the left-hand side of the page in order to see the early days of our trip.

Let us know if you have any problems using the tracker! It's been really helpful already: Katy and Martin tracked us all day yesterday, and met us at the bottom of our descent from Washington Pass. They picked up all our gear in their station wagon, and pointed the way home, allowing us to ride those final miles without all the extra gear weight. I have to say, I almost cried when I saw them! After such a challenging couple of days, it was such a welcome sight to see two familiar faces there to cheer us on!

Updates from the Road!

We haven't done a very good job of keeping this blog updated...there's just been so much commotion leading up to our departure that it kind of got pushed to the back burner. Now that we're out here, actually DOING this thing, we're keeping a daily journal (a "Captain's log", if you will) that we'll transfer to the blog every chance we get.

Here's a recap of the past several days:

May 18th: The team arrives in Seattle

May 19th: Last minute frantic errands, getting set up for our send-off party at Stephanie's House, planning to leave the next day. We learn that one of the bicycles was delayed in the shipping process, setting us back a day. Send-off party was a HUGE success: Special thanks to Dave the Chef who prepared an incredible meal for all of our friends.

May 20th: Our Planned Day One (Though no actual cycling took place!) A few more last minute good-byes and errands, and some lovely sight-seeing in downtown Seattle (Park Place Market, etc.).

May 21st: Our first REAL day of riding....

And now, the Captain's Log:

May 20th, 2009
Captain: Stephanie
Weather: Sunny, blue skies
Town: Seattle
Where we stayed: Cam's House (Stephanie's Brother)

It's day one and here we go (sort of)! We ran into our first "bump in the road," so to speak, when we found out yesterday that Rachel's bike and gear wouldn't be arriving right on time. BZut as problems often go, it turned out to be a huge blessing in disguise. I think all four of us were feeling a little frantic about organizing our gear, making last minute purchases, and getting to know one another. So rather than kicking off the journey today in Anacortes, we savored the extra time to run errands, visit friends, and get organized.

We did, however, have a fantastic kick off party last night with about 30 of our amazing friends and family members. The food was prepared by my friend an talented chef, Dave, and all our friends generously contributed to the cause.

We just used the leftovers from last night to make a delicious team meal of pasta, shrimp, and spinach pesto. And, of course, took the opportunity to toast a fantastic day that put our target milage for the whole trip at a solid negative 57!

Everyone is currently doing some final last minute organizing and bike adjustments, all the while wrapping our brains around the fact that this is actually happening.

Some notable people and highlights from the past few days, are Miljen (pronounced "million" ) who checked us out at Trader Joe's and generously provided us with our new team catch phrase: "And remember....Don't forget." We had a power hour of food-tasting at Pike Place Market that included everyone's first taste of Chuckar Cherries, local jams, olive oils, fruit logs, and chocolate pasta. Greg used his afternoon to see Seattle from the bike saddle, making his way through downtown, into Fremont and back to Capitol Hill, up some of Seattle's steepest hills.

Kendal, as usual, was a logistical all-star making copies of all our vital documents and maps. And, of course, we all went to town this evening at Trader Joe's, buying an obscene amount of trail snacks, including 5 jars of peanut butter. Awesome.

I, and I think everyone, am super anxious to get on the road tomorrow and finally, after much preparation, get a taste of what the open road has to offer.

Day 1
May 21st, 2009
Captain: Greg
Weather: Absolutely Perfect!
Town: Sedro-Woolley, WA
Where we stayed: Riverfront Park
Total Mileage: 34.5

We have officially begun! After Rachel's bike finally arrived we loaded up Steph's parents' truck and hit the road. Rachel's compadre Susan, who by the way is an outdoorsy EMT like my old roommate, was kind enough to take us to Anacortes and drive the truck back. She also happens to be a writer. She was interested in writing a story on us and we hope it gets picked up by a major magazine! (Crossing fingers!)

After the ceremonial dippin of our wheels (and my brief swim) in the Puget Sound, we were off. The travel was eventful. Kendal had two spills ,we got a smidge lost, and Rachel had a birdnest in her dérailleur (a piece of fishing line got caught in the drive train), but we survived in tired but good spirits.

Anacortes -> Bayview -> Sedro- Wooleey: CHECK!

Day 2
May 22nd, 2009
Captain: Kendal
Weather: Gloriously Beautiful! All Clear Skies!
Town: Between Rockport and Marblemount, WA
Where we stayed: Wilderness Village RV Park
Total Mileage: 73.5

We woke up this morning to another absolutely gorgeous day. It took us a while to get started, as we're just beginning to form our daily routines and figure out what camp life is all about. We got up, had some oatmeal, broke down camp, stretched, charged our phones, etc., and finally got on the road around 11:50am. That start time will surely speed up as things move along.

The riding today went extremely well: Except for the few sore rumps and other aches, we got to our destination without any difficulties, crashes, or snags. For that we are very grateful!

We rode the majority of the day along the South Skagit River Highway--a scenic little off-road through pine forests along the southern bank of the river. We were sad to see a few patches of naked mountains, especially when big logging trucks passed us on the road. (Though they do give a nice tailwind, and smell like Christmas!)

We rode about 40 miles today, and strayed from our Adventure Cycling maps a bit to land here at the Wilderness Village, where Ingeborg the caretaker put us up for free! We feel so spoiled to have free lodging, showers, and laundry so early in the trip.

My dad is acting as our Mission Control center back in DC, making calls ahead to the towns we'll be visiting to find us places to stay and eat. We are so enormously grateful for his help!

In addition to connecting us with Ingeborg, he also arranged for us to have a free dinner at the local diner (SUCH GOOD FOOD! Marblemount Diner...GO EAT THERE!) which was so amazingly delicious after a long hard day. The diner had hummingbird feeders outside each window, which buzzed with beautiful birds during our entire meal.

Just before we got into camp this afternoon, we stopped at the Cascadian Farms Fruit/Ice Cream stand on SR 20, where we met the AMAZING Katy and Martin, who offered to host us in Mazama tomorrow night (or whenever we get there!) after we cross Washington Pass.

It has been so wonderful to meet such open, giving people today. It helps so much to have Dad scouting ahead for us, but we're also meeting loads of warm folks along the way.

Personally, I'm a little anxious about the climb tomorrow. There's been a lot of Memorial Day traffic along SR 20 today, and I'm hoping it slows down tomorrow. We'll be climbing over 5170 feet (vertically!) over the course of 70+ miles. So I should probably get some sleep! I'm so grateful to be here with people I love. Who knows what adventures await us?

Day 3
May 23, 2009
Captain: Rachel
Weather: Still Glorious!!!!!
Town: Somewhere 10 miles east of the Diablo Dam
Where we stayed: Interesting story....

It is with great honor that I recount our most unforgettable story thus far in our unforgettable journey. It all begins with our very naive goal of making it across 2 mountain passes in 1 day.

Uh uh. Not happnenin'.

40-ish miles after starting, we're scouring the side of the road for the "National Forest" sign to tell us that it's fair game to drop our tents after a sudden uphill jaunt that seemed to last forever (like this sentence).

We found a spot: Mossy, overlooking the river, 20 feet from the road...Perfect. We set up camp, cooked some gourmet beans+rice+tortellini+couscous and were beginning to look for a place to hang our food out of reach of the bears. It was a very half-hearted attempt, as we were exhausted an a little disheartened by not making it to our goal.

As I was walking along the road looking for viable trees to hang the bag, a truck pulled up. A guy got out to pee, noticed me, and sort of awkwardly asked me if I knew where "Gorge" was. I had no idea, and thinking it didn't exist, started to quickly mosey away. The guy said, "Hey Lady, I think you'd better come back here..." and I thought "No thanks I'd rather go this way.", but he said "Seriously lady, there's a bear right there."

At this point I noticed his wife was in the front seat with her camera out, and I decided this was extremely well-staged assault, or more likely, legitimately a bear. Luckily (sort of) it was the latter.

I ran behind the guy's truck, and sure enough, a black bear was less than ten feet in front of us. James (my new hero) sort of grunted at the bear for a minute, but nothing happened, so he bravely marched into our campsite to notify the others. (Which I'm told was similarly startling for them.)

Everyone came stumbling out, gawking at our new camp friend, and Kendal immediately flagged down the first car we saw, which happened to be a state trooper from Sedro-Woolley, who had been called up to attend to an AVALANCHE!!! 4 miles up the road. Between James' grunts, Trooper Mike's headlights and megaphoned "MOVE," the bear did not budge. So armed with a machine gun and James, we went back in to the campsite, got everything but the bikes, and threw them in James and Alicia's truck.

By now it is pitch dark, which in camptime, is waaaaay past bedtime. James and Alicia were on their way looking for a campground named "gorge", but we thought maybe they were looking for the campground we passed earlier that day. So we asked them to take our gear there, and the state trooper crammed all four of us into the back of his squad car. It should be noted: Cop cars are NOT designed for the comfort of one, let alone FOUR. But of course we were not complaining. We were thanking ever god we could name that these kind, armed folks had stopped!

So we humbly retraced the climb that took us all 3+ hours by bike in 15 minutes in the trooper's car, unloaded our gear from Alicia and James' truckbed, only to discover that all of our gear had broken his brand new fishing pole! Ay yay yay. We felt so terrible!

By this time there were no campsites left in the campground, so Kendal put on his sad puppy face and asked the happiest, loudest party in the campgrounds if we could mooch on their site. The guys staying there were extremely nice---and very excited to hear about the bear---and apologized for being a little drunk and loud. (A small kid jumped out at Kendal and said, "I have to warn you, I'm totally hopped up on Mountain Dew!)

At that point, we were so glad to have a place to lay our heads, and so grateful to those guys for letting us mooch...none of the challenges of the day mattered anymore. Finally, we collapsed into our mummy bags and fell immediately to sleep.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

On our way!

Hi everyone! Kendal here. Sorry there isn't much time to write, but I just wanted to tell you that we are officially on our way today! Details to come!


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Only 2 Weeks Left!

We are only TWO weeks away from the beginning of this HUGE adventure and I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a little nervous. And when I say, “a little nervous” what I mean is, “I was having physical chest pains yesterday because I’m SO anxious.” Gear, training, nutrition, logistics, fund raising – it’s a lot to think about. BUT things are finally starting to come together!

While the real journey begins May 20, I feel like I’ve been on a journey for the last several weeks preparing myself mentally and physically for this trip. As a bicycle neophyte, I’ve had to learn (quickly) about everything from gear to etiquette; and after several weeks of preparation I feel like I’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg. It’s intimidating and exhilarating. A few months ago, I couldn’t remember the last time I rode a bike for more than a few blocks and now I’m dodging rush hour traffic to make it to yoga on time. I can sustain a conversation about disk breaks and panniers, words that held no place in my vocabulary until recently. And as this trip nears, I can’t wait to put these newfound skills into practice!

On another very important note, I’m (we’re) so thankful to all the people who have offered up encouragement and support so far. It’s inspiring to see so many friends, family members and colleagues jump at the chance to help us to make this journey possible! THANK YOU!