Getting There

To start from California, meant I had to be packed and mail my bike and gear a week before leaving. This gave me no time to test out the new components on the bike. I just hope everything works. It also meant no last minute substitutions or additions to my gear list. To mail the bike I used Bike Flights. Somehow using them and shipping through Fedex is cheaper than just using Fedex.

Hard to let it go.

In one week, I received and installed new pedals, tires, bar wrap, and cassette. The same day that I got my tires in and installed was the day I packed and shipped the bike. On the positive side, I will know exactly how many miles are on them. I got a bike box from Carr’s, LBS, and went to work. Everything except my electronics, clothes, and sleeping bag were going in the box.

Not a Cannondale

The night before leaving I packed what little I had in a $1 thrift store duffle and slept, sort of. I had confirmation that my bike was safely at the hotel, so there was no need for concern.

Oh, Jack! Jack contacted me about 5 months ago on Warmshowers, cyclist hosting site, for me to host him. Unfortunately, he had some “e-assit” troubles and ended up staying the weekend. Hosting him brought a little more excitement to my upcoming trip. He is a legend, at 74 years and 20,000+ miles of touring (I stopped calculating at 20,000).

Jack hitched a ride with us to Little Rock on our way to the airport and he was off again. Then, my parents dropped me off and said goodbye. The more of these trips I do, the shorter the goodbyes are getting. Maybe they are feeling better about my travels.

Going through security, I got my first pat down. I thought it odd they chose the person wearing the least amount of clothing to pat down.

Two flights and a bus ride later I was in L.A. and at my hotel. L.A. is a lot colder than I had anticipated. Now, the scary part. The front desk clerks found my reservation, checked me in, but could not find my bike. I described the box and showed them my confirmation. The lady even took my phone in the back to confirm, but still no box with my name. She did say that there was a box large enough to fit a bike, but it had the name Pam on it. The manager stepped in and said there may have been a mix-up and our bikes got swapped. THIS, is exactly the kind of thing I worried about when letting the bike out of my site. Never again!! I finally asked if I could take a look at the box and with some nudging they let me in their store room. IT WAS MY BIKE!!! I was so relieved when I saw that terrible duct tape job and new it was mine.

Pam was the original owner of the box that I got out of the dumpster of Carr’s. Not sure how I feel about the Fedex guy that took my box and said he would “take care of it for me”. No extra tape like I asked and old shipping labels still on the box. That wouldn’t fly over at Helen’s UPS.

All was good. Now for dinner. I had enough excitement and did not feel like unboxing and building until I got some food. Simple Google search yielded no viable food sources. For those not up to date on Jesse’s evolving diet, I am no longer VEGAN! Being vegan on last year’s bike tour was too difficult. So this year I am trying out a keto-vegan diet. You may have to Google that. Think vegan, but without sugar. I almost gave it all up when I spotted a Yoshinoya. Yoshinoya is a Japanese fast food chain that I fell in love with while wandering around over there, and we ruined it.

Luckily I found a little greek place where the manager hooked me up with a ton of salad and huge bowl of hummus to go. I have so much that I will probably have hummus and salad for lunch and dinner tomorrow. I actually went walking down the street from the hotel to a market that I thought I could find ingredients to make hummus and a salad, so this was perfect. The “market” only sold liquor.

I spent the rest of the night putting everything back together, organizing and getting ready for the next morning. I also contacted some Warmshowers down the road, but with no luck.

Round 2, The Trans-am!!

Last year I went on a once in a lifetime trip, cycling across the country. I made it from Russellville, AR to Seattle, WA in 60 days, covering 2800 miles. It was brought to my attention that I did not technically cycle across the country, only part of the country. So this year I am going on my second, once in a lifetime trip and cycling all the way across the country.

I am starting the trip in Santa Monica, CA and ending at a lighthouse on the far Eastern point of Maine. The trip is about 3500 miles and should take anywhere from two to three months, depending on how long it takes for me to get my legs back.

In preparing for this trip I have ridden a total of 14.6 miles. The first couple weeks may be slow and grueling and there is a mountain range and desert I have to cross. I have lightened my load and made some upgrades on the bike, which should help with my lack of fitness. I am carrying around 16 pounds of gear, excluding only the bike.

I switched out my clipless pedals and shoes for flat pedals and sandals. I upgraded my rear cassette from an 11-40t to an 11-46t (lower, easier gears for climbing). My dead GoPro Hero was replaced with a GoPro Session 5.

The cold was my biggest problem last year so this year my sleep system was my main priority. My inadequate sleeping bag was traded for a 30 degree down from Western Mountaineering and my uninsulated sleeping pad traded for an Exped insulated pad. The rest of what I will be carrying is basically the same.

The route I currently plan to take follows Route 66, hitting CA, AZ, NM, TX, OK, MO. At St. Louis I will head towards Indianapolis and go through IN, OH, and MI. I plan to cross into Canada through Detroit and follow the border back to Maine.

Thru-hiking Fail

For some reason I thought doing a short, 165 mile, thru-hike would be just as easy as jumping on the bike and riding for the equivalent amount of time, about two weeks. I was wrong! I was nowhere near prepared for a thru-hike. I guessed that I would be able to do about 15 miles per day and that it would take me 10 days. I hadn’t counted on the Ozark Mountains being so mean. The same Ozarks nearly killed me last summer on my trip, so I should have known better.

Recap:

My dad and uncle dropped me off at the trail Sunday evening and all seemed good. It was about 46 degrees at 5:30. My plan was to hike in a ways and set up camp. I passed by a few old, lonely chimneys, some random shoes, and several creeks.

I had only hiked 3 miles when I came to my first real water crossing, Frog Bayou. Aptly named because the frogs were singing when I got there and I heard nothing before getting to the bayou. At the boat the frogs don’t start up until around 9 pm. I could either cross the bayou and make camp or make camp and cross in the morning. I opted to cross then.

I took off my shoes and socks and waded in. The water only came up to my knees and wasn’t too cold. This is where the trekking poles really came in handy. I would have fallen in several times if not for them. Once to the other side I dried off and slipped my shoes and socks back on. There was a small stretch of semi-firm mud that separated me from the trail. I could see that someone before me had walked over the mud and I could see that his footprints were not deep. However, my first step and my shoe sank 6 inches into the mud and my foot popped out. I tried so hard not to get the shoes wet and it was sunk in the mud, filling with water and my sock now coated in mud.

About 100 meters in from there was an established camping spot. Established meaning flattened from tents and cleared of brush. I made a lot of last minute decisions for this trip. I wasn’t scheduled to go out for another week, but my plan got pushed forward because of a new job (moving to Pennsylvania).

  1. Switched out tent for tarp.
  2. Switched out 0 degree down bag for 45 degree down bag + down throw blanket (hopefully equaling 30 degrees)
  3. Add GoPro and accessories (parents got for my birthday to replace the one I fried last summer)
  4. Switched out tights I liked for cycling tights that fit weird.
  5. Added cheap, blue closed cell foam sleeping pad from Walmart.

So I added more weight than I had intended and had gear I had never used before. The 0 degree sleeping bag was too large and heavy to fit in my backpack. I decided that bugs wouldn’t be a problem, but rain would, so the tarp would be a better choice. GoPro plus accessories added another pound, and the tights just didn’t fit right.

I had never set up a tarp as a tent before, but watched a YouTube video and thought it would be easy. It took me 30 minutes to get something that I could sleep in. Oh, and I also tried hanging a bear bag, to keep the bears (rats and racoons) out of my food. (Bear bag ripped, need a new bear bag) Only 3 miles that day!

Because my trip got pushed forward I had not yet purchased my new sleeping bag or sleeping pad. The blue walmart pad, which I dub Blue, was a last minute effort to add insulation. Pads are rated with an R-value, or a measurement of the thermal resistance (how much the pad blocks the ground from absorbing your heat). My pad, the Nemo Astro, is not rated, but similar pads have an R-value of 1. An R-value of 1 will keep you from losing heat at around 48 degrees. That would explain my problem last summer. Blue has an R-value of about 2, which will keep you warm to about 36 degrees. It dropped to freezing that first night. I did learn that Blue on top of Nemo was much warmer than vice versa. The pad I intend to get for future trips has an R-value of 3.9, or about 15 degrees. That paired with my future 20 degree sleeping bag should keep me nice and warm from now on. My sleeping bag and throw blanket combind did keep me from losing heat to the air, but my backside was being drained of heat all night.

The next morning, after not sleeping, I picked up and set off. My goal was to get to White Rock Mountain and camp there. It was 15.7 miles away and doable according to my prediction of my hiking abilities. I felt so accomplished as I was passing the first two mile markers. After that, my body had had enough. Every place that my pack touched was sore. My shoulders and hips most of all. By mile 7 I was DONE. I found a nice big, flat rock to crawl on top of and took a nap.

My dad and uncle had already made plans to find me and bring me a warmer sleep system, but I was DONE. I told them I was less than a mile from a road and would start heading South on it, and I did. So much easier! No more up and down ravines and stumbling over roots and rocks, because I don’t lift my feet high enough because my hip-flexors are weak. I made it three miles down the road in an hour, where it was taken me one hour to go one mile in the woods.

It was just before 5 when I settled in at the backside of a church. I set up the tarp to keep the sun off of me and yet still allow for its warmth. I sprawled my sleeping pads out, one to dry and the other to rest on. Oh, right, my sleeping pad fell in one of the creek crossings. I was mentally checked out by then. I wass crossing a creek and the best way across was by balancing on a fallen tree. The creek was not but 8 foot across and the water was rushing by. I had just made it to the other side and was trying to get over another fallen tree making a fence between me and land and the Nemo slipped out and started washing down stream. This is where I should have stopped, grabbed the GoPro, and then chased after. Instead I tossed the pack and poles on shore and took after it. Luckily, it got caught in an eddy and I was able to catch with no problem.

I stop at churches a lot for water, to rest, or to get out of the sun or rain. In Dubois, WY, I felt so welcomed by the church and community that I stayed for five days. Unfortunately, my experiences are more bad than good. I was at this church for probably 30 minutes when a woman drives by, then circles back to question me. With a negative connotation she said, “What are you doing? What are you doing? What are you doing?” It was obvious that I was not welcome there, a church. I told her that I was on the Ozark Highlands Trail, jumped off, and was now waiting for my ride to pick me up. Not satisfied, I added that I would pack up if not welcome and try the church a mile down the road. She replied that I could stay but better not leave any trash or mess with anything. Just once I would like someone from a church to sit down with me, offer me some water and chat.

Lessons learned:

  1. Backpacking is hard!
  2. Need warmer sleep system.
  3. Don’t carry two full bottles of water when there are creeks everywhere.
  4. I’m not in hiking shape.
  5. Sheep sorrel tastes like sour apple candy.
  6. Don’t use the SOS feature on Samsung phones.

Samsung has this awesome feature that allows you to send SOS messages with the click of a button. Actually, three clicks of a button. It sends a message, reading,”SEND HELP”, two photos, a 3 second voice recording, and your GPS coordinates with a map. This sounds really cool, but it wasn’t. To open my camera I hit the power button twice. To send an SOS I hit the power button three times. See the problem? After a couple of accidental SOS messages I thought it best to turn the feature off. If you are a Samsung owner and want to worry your friends and family, you can find the SOS under Settings>Advanced Features>Send SOS messages.

Moving forward I will be doing day hikes and overnighters until I am used to carrying the pack and am comfortable with my gear choices.

Seattle

I’ve put this off long enough.  Not sure why I have been so hesitant to complete the journal.  Maybe because it marks the end of my journey and the return to real life, not that I have fully returned.  It has been nearly 3 months since coming back to Arkansas and I have dont nothing but boat work and dream of my next adventure.  

I left off at the campsite where I spent the evening talking to Lindsey.  The next morning I packed up and was out before she started to stir.  I left my travel card and a little money to help pay for the campsite.  It would be a nice, downhill ride all the way to Seattle.  

In my mind I repeated my to do list so I wouldn’t forget anything.  

1.  Get to Seattle  2. Lunch at some fancy vegan restaurant  3. Find a marina with cool boats  4. Fedex the bike  5.  Head to the airport for the night.

As I got closer and closer to Seattle I started seeing more people on the bike path.  I had never seen so many active people except during marathons.  I saw several groups of cyclists being led by people with different colored fish attached to a pole above their heads.  Seattle is serious about their group rides.  It was easy to pick out the skill level of each group based solely on their gear.  I was going about 15 mph, passing people and getting passed.  It was an easy pace and allowed me to observe everything that was going on.  

Everything changed when this girl, Bry, rides along side me and asks, “Have you been bike camping?”  I looked her over and kind of laughed and said, “You could say that.”  She was surprised at my answer to how long I had been camping and where at.  We chatted as we rode, me keeping cadence with her while trying to stay alongside and avoid the many pedestrians, cyclists, and dogs.  She eventually asked my plans and if I wanted to join her and her friends at some park.  I immediately pictured three more girls resembling her meeting us and thought it best to follow.

After riding for some time I asked her how far and when we would enter Seattle.  She told me that when the path turns to “shit” there will be a sign.  Within a few seconds the path dropped and we whizzed by a sign.  I thought she was joking!  I stopped to get my selfie and she graciously waited. 

 

We rode and talked and eventually she waved at a guy on a bike that joined us.  He was the first of the three girls that weren’t girls.  I hung back and let them talk until she made the introductions.  Like we always do, we checked out each others’ bikes and kept riding.  Not sure of where we were going or what was in store I kept following.  We stopped at a local brewery and got a pack of beer to take to the park.  The park was Discovery Park on the eastern bank of the Puget Sound.  I did not make it to the Pacific Ocean but this was sea water and good enough for me.  

At Discovery Park we met up with another guy and everyone started pulling food from their bags.  They had planned a picnic, a real picnic with cheese, meat, and crackers, and fruits, and vegetables and hummus and bread.  I didn’t think people still did this.  I pitched in what little I had and we sat out in the middle of a field snacking and talking.  Bry brought a slack  like that she had just bought and wanted to give it a try.  It took us a good 30 minutes to find a good spot, which happened to be next to a picnic table so of course the spread was layed out again.  By then, two more of her friends had showed up with even more food.

It was getting late in the afternoon when the group split up.  One of the guys, Ian, suggested walking down to the beach.  So, he, Bry, John?, and myself locked our bikes together and went for a hike.  We followed a sandy path that led to the side of a cliff and then down long winding stairs to the beach.  

The beach wrapped around a point where a lighthouse stood.  We walked towards it, all the while admiring the structures and carvings made with the drift wood.  At the light house we were like kids crawling on the rocks.  Me in my worn out bike shoes with plastic soles and no grip.  Oh, and I went ahead and put on my pants when we first got to the park. 

Not sure if it is animal cruelty, but the sea anemones will apply a small amount of suction to your fingure if you get too close. This entertained us for some time.  

Eventually, it was time to head back.  Fedex closed at 7 and I had about an hour to get there and get the bike packed and shipped.  First we explored the lighthouse grounds, we thought we were being sneaky by hopping the fence and then ringing the 3 feet wide bell.  We also stopped and sampled blackberries from the many bushes along the trail.  These were not as juicy as the ones coming off of the mountain, but still good.  

We four rode togther for some time until we came to our fork.  I stopped to check my map and they rode on.  Bry and I had this awkward moment where we tried to say goodbye from two blocks away, neither of us willing to ride the distance.  She probably unaware that we were even having that moment until I turned around and rode off.  We didn’t even trade information, but before the night was over we were connected on instagram.  Still unsure how she found me.

On to Fedex.  It took no time to find Fedex and to begin taking the bike apart.  Something I had not planned on is what to do with my bags or my gear.  I needed a duffle or something to put everything in.  My panniers were awkward to carry and I decided to ship them with the bike.  Next to Fedex was a CVS and there I found two large reusable shopping bags.  I continued shopping the rest of the evening for a more suitable bag, but with no luck.  All of my bike gear, shoes, stakes, and enything else I was afraid to take to the airport was put in the box.  I wouldn’t see the bike again for another two weeks.

From there I set off walking to the downtown market where I could look for a duffle and catch a ride on the airport lite rail.  I was only a mile and a half from the nearest rail station.  It was dark by the time I reached the station and it took what felt like an hour to reach the airport.  The rail was packed with rowdy football fans coming from some game in the city.

More walking and I was at the ticket counter to check in.  I kept a few slices of bread, some peanut butter, and jelly to eat for dinner and breakfast.  Jelly, by the way, is considered a liquid and you can’t take it in.  I had to throw it out.  At security one of my bags was stopped to be inspected for a strange object.  It was one of the rocks I had collected for my grandma.  We laughed about it and he said that it was a fine rock.  Dinner turned out to be a burrito from Qdoba.  As I sat there and ate, I spread out my gear and packed everything into one bag.  My plane was set to leave early in the morning so I found my gate and set up my sleeping pad and bag for the night.  I was the only person at the gate and it was easy for me to fall asleep.  

I was awakened by a passenger on the 6 AM flight checking to make sure I wasn’t missing it.  I set my alarm for an hour before my flight to give me time to eat and get around, but I went ahead and got up and packed my bed.  I got a lot of both strange and admiring looks from the different passengers.  It had been 4 days since my last shower and I had purchased some wet wipes from Hudson News and cleaned up the best I could the night before but even that didn’t help much.  My flight was to Houston via Dallas.  At Dallas I would hop off and ride a train to Little Rock.  This was the cheapest way of getting home and ended up costing $150 and another $150 to ship the bike.

At Dallas it was a short rail ride and walk to the train station.  This was the first time that I can remember riding a train in the US and it was nice.  I had two oversized reclining chairs all to myself!  I was on the train long enough to have two meals, take a nap, and finish several chapters in my book.  Thinking about the two months it took to get out there and then the one day it took to get back brings up so many different emotions.  

At the Little Rock train station, a place I had never been or even knew existed, I spotted my parents waiting for me to step off of the train.  They both embraced me and then my dad took my one bag to put in the car.  That one bag held most of my possesions that I carried for the last two months.  I was already having separation anxiety from being away from my bike.  It was my everything for so long and now it was gone.  

My dad stayed in Little Rock for work and I rode back with my mom, her filling me in on everything I had missed.  When we got back to Russellville I picked up a vehicle and went to the boat.  It would be a couple of weeks before my first good night sleep.  I wasn’t used to having such a nice bed.  I have not done much riding since I got back, but rather spend most of my time on the boat.  Everyone I meet keep asking me what’s next.  There are so many options out there.  The top of my list are hike the Appalachian Trail or sail the Great Loop.  If I took anything away from my journey it is that I want to keep exploring.  The people I met on similar journeys, whether hikers, cyclists, van dwellers, or even rollerbladers were the happiest, most gracious, and most content people.

To all the people I met along the way and everybody that helped, I want to say thank you for being a part of my trip.  Thanks to everyone that has followed along.  I didn’t realize that there were so many people reading these until I got back and met random people that thought I was still in Washington…sorry for the delays.  Will probably not be another update until the next season of travel.      

Two Days Out

Having only two days left on the road I thought it time to find a way home.  The fastest and cheapest way I found was a flight from Seattle to Houston with a layover in Dallas.  The ticket only cost $100.  From Dallas I would catch a train to Little Rock for $50.  For some reason a flight to Dallas would cost $350.  I would also have to ship my bike home which would end up costing as much as getting myself home.  

My legs were feeling better and I felt rested for the day.  I would conquer the last pass and ride as far into Seattle before stopping for the night.  Leaving the rest area I started the 18 mile climb to the top of Stevens Pass.  

The climb was uneventful by my standards.  I still laugh when people tell me how dangerous it is to ride on the highways or on certain highways where there is but a one foot shoulder.  By now, there is not much that intimidates me.  At the top of Stevens Pass there must have been a mountain bike festival or race.  The resort there was filled with mountain bikers.  They had a lift like you would see at a ski resort, but for the cyclists.

The rest of the day would be easy, and all downhill.  After coming off of the summit there was almost an immediate change in the landscape.  The woods resembled a rainforest with thick underbrush, moss clinging to everything, and the number of creeks and waterfalls I have never seen before.  It rained/misted the rest of the day which felt appropriate since on the other side was nothing but smoke.

Where it started to flatten some I started seeing blackberries!  Not just a vine here and there, but lining the highway.  They had to be at the peak of their season.  I couldn’t stop eating.  Back when I met the survivalist she mentioned grazing on blackberries and I never really understood what she meant until then.  I grazed and then got on the bike for a few miles and then would stop to graze again.  I started to notice that certain berries looked overplump.  These had started to ferment and were the tastiest.  I’m sure I was a sight on the side of the road in my spandex.  I was surprised nobody else was out picking.

It started getting dark earlier than I had expected.  Between that and the constant drizzle I thought it best to find somewhere for the night rather than pushing towards Seattle.  It was not even 6 o’clock and I had my lights on.  Wallace Falls State Park was just north of Gold Bar and it seemed like my best option.  I stopped in Gold Bar at a pizza pub for an early dinner.  I find it odd that if I order a meatlovers pizza they stack the meat on covering every inch of the pizza, but a veggie pizza looks like they purposefully try to spread the veggies out to allow them room to breathe.  And a cheeseless, veggie pizza looks even more barren.  So afterwards, I stopped at the grocery store for a snack.

The state park was a few miles North of the highway and up a hill.  When I reached the campground there was a girl standing in the parking lot brushing her hair and an older guy that had just pulled up.  The older guy and myself, both looking for a place to stay, inspected the area.  They had about 8 cabins that wrapped around in the woods, but no campsites.  Coming back to the parking area the guy asked the girl and she said there were only two campsites in the park and both were filled, one by her.  She offered to share the space with us if we liked.  I took her up on the offer and pitched my tent next to hers.  I never saw what happened to the older guy.  

Lindsey was in her early twenties and car camping for the weekend.  We stayed up talking about so many things for most of the night.  Most people reading would think it strange and dangerous to invite strangers to share your campground.  And even more to stay up talking rather than hiding in your tent.  Lindsey, like most others I met on my trip, have adventurous souls.  They forego the fear to allow the adventure to happen.  Hopefully she is off on another adventure.  We eventually went to bed, in our own tents.  

Coming to an End

Even after a good night sleep I was still tired and lacked all motivation to move on.  Not sure if my fatigue was due to the smoke or the thought of my trip coming to an end.  I also can’t remember my last zero.  I had been wrestling with continuing on or returning home after Seattle.  I think I had known for a while that I was going to head home after reaching Seattle, but didn’t want to admit it to myself.  Rather than spending another night with Deb I opted for a hotel room, using points to book it. 

My usual routine for off days is laundry, inventory, resupply, and bike cleaning.  In the evening I met Deb and her partner at a bar.  He had spent the weekend sailing Lake Chelan.  He was an interesting guy that dominated the conversation with his adventures.  I attempted to drink a local beer, but once again couldn’t stomach the taste.  It was almost 10 when we left.  Wenatchee has a bike trail that makes a loop around the river.  Even that late it was still busy with activity.  

I was just as tired the next day, but wanted to tackle Stevens Pass, the gateway to Seattle.  Everything up to the pass would be uphill.  I hardly remember riding from Wenatchee to Leavenworth.  Leavenworth looked like an old German village.  I didn’t stop to browse around because it looked too commercialized for my liking, but they had plenty of other people stopping to spend their money.

From there it was a steady climb.  My legs still sluggish I stopped at food truck for an overpriced veggie burger and coconut almond-milkshake.  I sat there for 2 hours looking for the energy to push on.  I also played with a couple of ground squirrels.  They weren’t shy at all about investigating my plate, my bike, or me.  One of them was bold enough to sit on my shoulder.

My next stop was the Nason Creek Rest Area.  It wasn’t five miles down the road.  I had gone 40 miles and was wore out.  At the beginning of my trip I would have considered that a good day.  Now, 40 miles is just a morning ride.  It’s amazing how perception can change.  Regardless, I was done for the day.  Like rest areas before, this one had volunteers working the concession.  And one of them had a razorback shirt on!  She was a transplant from Brinkley, AR.  We talked a little as I played with her dog, but I was tired and needed a rest.  

I scouted around looking for a place to camp.  I avoided being anywhere near the signs that said no overnight camping.  Not sure why those signs are even there or who enforces it.  Around 8 PM motorists start rolling in and they don’t leave until 8 AM.  I found a grove of pine trees out of the way and pitched the tent deep enough that it couldn’t be seen from the road.  One of the CDT hikers told me to look for pine needle beds to camp on.  He said they were warm and would add a layer of comfort, and he was right.  

Quinton found a hiker hostel for PCT hikers and bunked there.  He was 42 miles ahead of me.  My goal was to meet him there that night, but that didn’t happen.

Wenatchee

No problem sleeping that night.  Not so sure about Quinton.  It was warm during the days now and I wanted to get an early start.  I got up, ate breakfast, packed up, and still no movement out of Quinton.  I decided that meant he wanted the morning off.  So, I left.  

We had talked the day before about the route to take to Wenatchee and decided to get off of Highway 2 and go through the Coulee River Valley.  Google Maps on Samsung devices has an option to select bike routes.  In that option you can look at the elevation change of the selected route.  This is how I plot my route for the day/week.  The route would take us through a desolate stretch for nearly 40 miles.  What the map does not show us is the road type.

I zigzagged my way down to the river valley.  It took me through farmland and then some strange trailer park.  I later found out that they sale lots to people in Seattle that want an escape.  The landscape was spotted with these small buildings the size of storage buildings.  Most looked like they were abandomed and would make a great place to camp for the night.  

It’s never a good sign when Google leads me down a road with a sign that says “Pavement Ends”.  Google is really bad about that.  Nothing to do but follow it.  The next sign was a steep decline sign.  The road dropped to the bottom of the old river bed.  To either side were walls of rock that stretched up 100 feet.  I was back in the desert, which is odd because I was also in a river valley.  The scenary, if I could have scene it for the smoke, would have been spectacular.  I was a bit nervous moving forward but Google said the road went through.  This is also where I ran out of water, or started to worry about running out of water.  I had just enough to wash down my mid-morning PB&J.

I was flying over the gravel and pumping through the mogels.  I focused all of my attention on conquering the road and none on what I would do if I didn’t find water.  Two more times I went down a steep grade only to be deeper in the canyon.  The grade was so steep and the road so rough that I had a grip on the brake levers going down.  The third drop was the steepest and most nerve racking, but when the road made a turn and the canyon opened up it was to a farm.Two guys were standing in the courtyard and they looked as surprised to see me as I did them.  I rode over and asked if they had a water spicket I could use and the younger man  pointed to this.

After drenching myself and quenching my thirst the man came over and got a drink himself.  I thanked him and he asked what I was doing so far away from everything.  I told him my story and when I told him I was from Arkansas he said his dad had moved there from Arkansas.  When I took my focus off of the water I noticed I was standing in the middle of a corn field.  They had cultivated all  of the land in the canyon.  He said that there would be corn and apples until I hit the next highway, and there were.  

There were orchards after orchards tempting me to stop and steal apples, pears, and the occasional plum.  I was hungry again but wanted to wait for real food.  I felt like splurging at restaurant, mostly to be able to sit and drink something cold.  Rock Island was only 15 miles away and I could wait until then.  When I got there I was starving and wore out.  I ordered two bowls of veggie soup, spaghetti, and handcut fries.  I may have over did it, but I didn’t care.  Oh, and they had sweet tea.  I stayed there for a good two hours trying to figure out where to stay the night.  

Again, Quinton and I contacted every person on Warm Showers with no luck.  Yes, we contacted them the day before and not an hour before arriving.  I got ahold of Quinton and he was about 20 miles North of Wenatchee and me 10 miles South.  He avoided the dirt road and stayed on Highway 2.  I took a chance and called the Parks and Recreation Office of Wenatchee.  I did my spill and the woman forwarded me to the Housing and Community Planner, Brooklyn.

Brooklyn was amazing!  I went through my spill again and I could hear her mind working through the phone.  She first started with hotels and then campgrounds and then she started to understand.  It was when she started thinking of what places the cops don’t patrol at night that I knew I found that right person.  She eventually told me that she would call me back after reaching out to some people.  When she did she said her friend Deb volunteered to put me up.  I then received a call from Deb and we made plans for Quinton and I to stay in her spare room.  

I met Deb at her house in East Wenatchee and she was very nice.  She runs an AirBNB and was empty for the night.  I felt like she and I were kindred spirits.  We talked a little about triathlon and then a little philosophy, food, and even community outreach before she had to leave for a meeting.  I also found out from her that the Amazing Brooklyn was on the US Olympic Bobsled team. I caught a ride with Deb to the mall to look for new headphones.  Not five minutes into today’s ride did my headphones get caught on something and drop into my crankset.  With my new headphones I wandered around and eventually walked back to Deb’s.    

When I stay with people like this I usually offer to help out around the house.  This time I got to mow the lawn.  Afterwards I got cleaned up, did some typing, and then settled in for the night with a bowl of popcorn and a movie.  Quinton decided he was done for the day and would camp out where he was.  I think he was too tired to make it.  His route was much more difficult with 1000 more feet of climbing.  It sounded like he had a rough day.  We were only two days’ ride away.  We planned to meet the next day in Leavenworth before summiting the last mountain pass before reaching Seattle, but I would not see him again.  

Century

The night before we talked with our hosts about our route and where we are going next.  We were told that it was 100 miles to Coulee City and another 80 to Wenatchee.  They said we should stock up on water and food and try to do it in four days.  Between Spokane and Wenatchee was desert with only a few small towns.  It seemed like the perfect opportunity to go for the century (100 miles).  

The husband was up when we were and he had his bike ready in the garage.  He was riding an old steel 12 speed  road bike with cruiser bars.  He was wearing loafers and a polo tucked into his khaki shorts.  He rode stiff and proud and never faultered on the hills.  They were doing construction on many of the roads and he thought it best if he showed us how to get out of the maze.  He was a great tour guide: telling us about Spokane’s history, the native tribes, the economy, and so much more.  He even pointed out edible plants.  It was an enjoyable ride.  He stayed with us all the way to Hwy 2, which seemed like an hour.  He did get lost a few times and then took us offroading once.  Perhaps he was just trying to impress us the night before with his own adventures.  We do that sometimes when we first meet people.  

We were in a hurry to get out in the morning and only got a small breakfast.  Just a few miles outside of town was a Walmart that we stopped at to resupply.  The day before I reorganized my food supply to fit in a 1 gallon Ziplock.  This helped me compress my gear even smaller in the panniers.  Otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to fit the peanut butter, jelly, and loaf of bread that I got.  For breakfast I bought a dozen donuts, which lasted me the day.  I told Quinton then that I wanted to try for Coulee City.  He was onboard with it.  

We made good time and were soon ready to stop for lunch.  We stopped at a small city park.  If we weren’t just starting the day it would have been a good place to camp, having  We ate under a large pavilion and across the park were two kids playing on the swingset.  The air was so thick with smoke I’m surprised the kids were allowed to be out in it.

A strong wind came up and for the first time since turning West in Nebraska there was a tailwind!  The temperature was in the 90s and the visibility was maybe a quarter mile.  We were holding a solid 18 mph pace when I started to hear something.  I had started a new audiobook that day but could hear something like metal scraping.  Without stopping I check the rack to make sure it is still attached and then adjust the fenders, but I still hear it.  When I stopped to check if something were caught in a spoke I see a long piece of wire hanging out of the rear tire.  This was my third flat of the trip.

The rest of the day was a bit of a blur.  I was absorbed in the book, Eragon.  To the South were large rock formations that reminded me of when I first entered Wyoming.  I caught up to Quinton at a rest stop where we he stopped for snack.  I had been snacking on the donuts to keep my energy up so I wasn’t too hungry then.  I zoned out again, back into the book and before long we were pulling into Coulee City.  It was close to dark when we pulled into the first gas station.  There were tables inside that we sat down at to have dinner and use the WIFI.  We had ridden 97 miles.  There were several places in town to camp at, but we decided on the one on the other side of town so that we would be sure to hit 100.  It was pitch black when we left.

We went across a long bridge across Blake Lake that must have lasted two miles.  Riding across the bridge was like riding through a cloud of insects.  I head to put on my sunglasses just be able to see.  The bugs weren’t as bad on the other side of the lake.  From there we rode another couple miles down a washboard road.  The campground was just a porta-potty and gravel lots cut into the tall grass beds.  We got our 100 miles!

Video upside down?!

Spokane

(To clear things up: I am home now, but will continue to recount my trip to the end.)

Coeur d’Alene to Spokane was only 38 miles so we slept in the best we could then took the morning off.  What we did was spend the morning searching the city park for an electric outlet to plug in at.  There were either no outlets at the restrooms, pavilions, library, or docks, or the outlets did not work.  I charged my phone the night before at the Qdoba, but my backup and Quinton’s devices were all dead.

Near a group of flagpoles on the West side of the park I found light poles with outlets and benches at the base.  There I sat, watching all of the morning runners, cyclists, and dog walkers.  I was semi-clean, having taken a bird bath in the park bathroom before tearing down camp.   After riding every day it is difficult to sit still.  I became antsy and wanted to push on.  I told myself I would ride along the bike path towards Spokane and stop somewhere with breakfast.  I texted Quinton and he was already at a McDonald’s, but it was in the wrong direction.  He told me he got a hit off Warm Showers and we had somewhere to stay that night.

Warm Showers, the organization that helps connect cyclists to hosts is great, but has some flaws.  Quinton and I divided the list of contacts in Spokane and sent messages to every one.  It would be easier and convenient if we could send a mass message to everyone within a certain radius.  Of those people we contacted only one contacted us back.  The couple that offered us housing lived right off of the bike path in the middle of Spokane.  

I stopped at a couple of breakfast places, but they were either too expensive or had a line out the door.  I kept riding, now looking for somewhere to change into my riding shorts and shoes, when I saw the sign for the rest area.  Still no outlets, but I could plug in when we get to the hosts’ house.  I ate the rest of my veggie dogs and salsa and then snacked on apples while typing a blog post.  Quinton showed up some time after.  

The ride to Spokane was short and we took our time getting there.  We stayed on the bike path all the way to hosts’ house.  We were worried about camping in Spokane because of the size of the city, but along the path were many perfect camping spots along the Spokane River.  At one spot we found a structure that looked like it was built for us to camp in.  It was hard not to get distracted by the river and all of the activity on it.  

We arrived at the Doctors’ house a little after six.  They were waiting for us and had dinner prepared.  We were ushered into the garage to drop our gear.  The wife told us that we should shower and throw our clothes into the wash before dinner.  We quickly gathered our dirty clothes and put them in the washing machine and followed her downstairs.  She showed us the room we would stay in and then asked us to change out of our dirty clothes so they too could be washed.  It was a little awkward, but we didn’t want to refuse.  After my shower, I found Quinton upstairs surrounded by grey heads.  We were having a dinner party.  We were offered drinks, but Quinton and I both opted out for water.  Before dinner, they showed us their son’s book from his trip.  He too kept a journal and they had it professionally printed. 

For dinner, we moved out onto the balcony overlooking the river.  The Doctors were adventurous and they told some of the stories from their trips. They had travelled to several countries and were avid mountaineers.  I spoke mostly to the husband, who was an orthopaedic surgeon before retiring.  And like most of my conversations with Doctors, I felt somewhat talked down to.  

Towards the end of dinner I could see the many glasses of wine taking effect.  The three couples were tiring and when the men started telling uncensored war stories it was time for bed.  The next day I asked Quinton how he felt about it all and he too was made to feel like a lower class.  It is hard to say no to a bed, shower, laundry, and food, but I would rather stay in the woods than in that atmosphere another night.  The husband volunteered to ride with us in the morning to help us find our way to Highway 2, which would take us all the way to Seattle.  His tour of Spokane did a great deal to ease my feelings of the night before. They were such an interesting couple and we were thankful for their hospitality, but it was hard to shake that feeling.

Apple Pickin’

We started the morning with free fresh coffee and donuts from the volunteer stand.  Well, Quinton had coffee and I had hot cocoa.  Another one of the “hippie” buses pulled in during the night and we talked to one of its occupants.  He was much nicer than the last guy I tried to talk to.  He told us about their mission and what they stood for.  

In Ennis, at the distillery, I fixed my ground tarp to the bottom of the tent.  This kept it from moving around and made setup and tear down much easier.  Another idea I had was to leave the sleeping pad inside the tent when packing.  Otherwise it gets rolled up and put into its own stuff sack.  Now, it gets rolled up inside the tent, making the setup and tear down of camp much faster and easier.  I’ve gotten into a routine and it takes me maybe 3 minutes to get everything packed onto the bike.  That routine includes checking to make sure all of the bolts on the bike are tight and checking the air pressure.  For some reason, I didn’t check the air pressure the day before.  My front was sitting at 30 lbs and the back at 80 lbs.  I run both of them around 95 lbs.  That is probably why I felt so tired the day before.  I was rolling flat!

Eight miles to the top of Lookout Pass and then it was all down hill.  At Mullen, a few miles West of the summit, we found the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes, a paved bike trail following I-90.  This trail was a highlight of the trip.  We didn’t pedal all the way to Wallace.  Outside of Wallace we started seeing Apple trees and of course had to stop to pick.  Once our bags were full we moved on down to Wallace. 

In the middle of downtown and along the bike trail was some kind of market.  There were vendors stretched out for a mile.  The food from the food trucks was alluring, but expensive.  One guy offered me some type of sandwich with every type of smoked meat on it.  I had to decline.  We were forced to  get off the bikes and walk through the chaos.

It was nearing lunchtime but we decided to push another 15 to a Walmart.  Along the bike trail were these concrete poles.  They were placed at road crossings and occasionally for reasons unknown.  Rather than putting them on the side of the trail they stand right in the middle.  I was leading with Quinton on my left hip.  When we came to one of the random posts I let the bike drift to the right of it.  Out of the corner of my eye I see Quinton drifting to the right with me.  He was looking down at his phone and not at the trail.  Like in slow motion, I watch as he and his bike crumples over the top of the post.  He somersaults over the handlebars and lands a few feet away with his bike hanging off of the post.

Other than his pride he was fine.  The bike not so much.  The collision bent the front of his frame just behind the fork.  The next 30 minutes were spent trying to bend back the frame so that the front tire would clear the frame when turning.  Besides the small bubble in the frame, you could hardly tell anything happened.  For the rest of the day I made sure to point out any obvious obstacle so he wouldn’t be tempted to hit anything else.  

The ride to Walmart was pleasant.  There were so many people on the trail, either walking or riding.  The trail was littered with fruit trees.  We stopped and sampled from many of them.  The plums were not as ripe as the apples, so we kept them for later.  At the next town we ran into a peach vendor so I got a couple.  The vendor was from Coeur d’Alene and told us about the trail leading up to it.  He said we probably wouldn’t make it over Fourth of July Pass, but if we did to give him a call.  

Smelterville wasn’t much of a town, but it did have a Walmart.  We may have splurged at Walmart.  It was the first time in a while that we had the opportunity.  We both bought a bag of cereal and a carton of (almond) milk.  I got fresh tortillas, veggie hotdogs, salsa, and some things to snack on.  For lunch I had hotdogs with salsa and a couple of bowls of cereal.  We had to drink as much of the milk in that setting otherwise it would go bad.     

It was hot now and smokey.  Without resting after lunch we got back on the bikes, determined to make it over the next pass to Coeur d’Alene.  We followed the bike trail as far as we could before getting forced to get off and back onto I-90 in order to get into Coeur d’Alene.  “Peach’s” warning about Fourth of July Pass was warranted.  Quinton followed me as we started to ascend.  Without knowing how far it was to the top we rode until seeing a sign that said Fourth of July Pass.  I was so excited for it to be over, but for some reason the road kept winding up.  Assuming we were close to the top, Quinton took off.  Since my bike is geared lower than his it is hard for him to maintain my slow cadence.  It caused him to grind on the pedals when I was easily pedalling.  I settled in to my pace, stopping occasionally to rest.  The angle my body is in while ascending puts alot of pressure on the pudendal nerve, causing pain and numbness.  

I caught up to Quinton at the top of the pass.  By this time we were both out of water and in desperate need of it.  Coeur d’Alene wasn’t far and it was mostly downhill.  Still on I-90 we decided to stop at the first creek, pond, bar, restaurant, or gas station with water.  We must of been in better shape than we thought because we passed up a few water spots.  We came to another construction zone on the interstate and had the West bound lanes to ourselves.  Finally with some cell service we check the map to see where we were and what was up ahead.  Just to the South of I-90 following the lake was a bike trail.  It woul take us along the lake and straight to a bar!  To get there we had to Frogger across the interstate traffic and then descend a cliff.  Quinton opted to go straight down the cliff face.  I rode down a half mile, crawled through a fence, and then rode back to where he was.  There was a group of people coming off of the lake that sat watching us get down to the trail.

We were getting there as the sun was going down, which made for a wonderful view across the lake.  When we got to the bar Quinton went straight in and I got stopped by some locals asking us about the trip.  I walked in with them and stood at the bar as the bartender filled up my bottles.  Quinton was jealous of my cold water since he got his from the restroom.  There were lots of places to stealth along the bike trail, but we had already settled on the dog park in town.  I wanted to sleep on one of the many empty docks, but he was too cautious.  We split up at the dog park.  I went to Qdoba for a burrito and he went to find a campsite.  Qdoba was 3 miles uptown so I got a good tour of the town.  The park and town was full of people.  The bars downtown had people waiting outside and I even saw a party bike, which is a bicycle that seats 7 people and has a bar in the middle.  

After dinner I went back to the park and tried to find Quinton.  He was hidden so well I had to call him.  Behind the dog park was a wooded hill with paths cut everywhere on it.  He had found probably the only flat spot on the hill.  We had to push/carry our bikes through bushes and up a steep, rocky, path, but from the flat you could see the lights of Coeur d’Alene downtown.  I was a little afraid that we had grabbed some homeless guy’s spot, but he never came around.  I was also afraid that the guy in the park that thought he was a zombie might come up the path and try to eat us.  That also never happened.  It was a good night.