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!


recessionblog said...

I am loving reading about your adventures, guys. Sounds like your journey really is unforgettable -- especially the bear story! What an interesting first week!

Jery said...

While going through your blog i felt that it was happening to me too. The way you have described your experience is very interesting. You have such an crazy experiences. ]
Thanks for sharing you life experiences.
Good Day

SJLbikefun said...

What wonderful memories your blog has brought back. My children and I rode the Northern Tier in 2006 and your descriptions brought everything back again.