The night in Riverside was fraught with worry. A few hours after we settled down to bed we heard a bomb shelter alarm that very much shook me and barely phased Stephanie. (For my part, not much I could do about a nuclear apocalypse in our tent though. -S)Though I debated getting out of the tent for several sleep addled minutes, I eventually decided that if there were indeed an emergency, someone would probably come get us. Or worst case we die in each other's arms as romantically as can be.
Then around 5am the same siren went off. I was pretty sure it meant nuclear war with North Korea had just started and that we missed the memo by missing the news. But, since the weren't any zombies, big explosions, or mutated nuclear people running to and from our tent, I decided it might have just been the fire truck at a nearby firehouse playing a prank on us foreigners...
Since we were to have a long day ahead of us today with much climbing, we got up early “for us”. The laundry I had hung up the night before was dry enough and after we finished tearing down camp but before we were fully packed up, Stephanie made friends with another good dog. So after, let's say 45 (definitely more like 15. -S) minutes of petting the pup and telling it what a good dog it was, we set out to scale Wauconda Pass, home of the Black Panther, and the most incredible technological advances we could ever dream of.
Before encountering such a marvelous place, we biked about 15 miles to Tonasket, often called Tonka Set by those unwitting characters that bike around the country dressed in pink. We stopped at a wonderful little place where there was a cute kiddo playing with a wooden puzzle, and the best serving of biscuits and gravy one could hope for. Here's a post meal me so that you know it was legit! Orange short sleeve was a poor life decision, if you don't fully cover in pink, you turn pink yourself... Lesson learned...
So on we went toward Wauconda pass! Home of the most incredible technology, and by that, I mean a ghost town...
And by that I mean it sounds really cool, but then turns out to be a little bit disappointing... Let me paint a word picture for you since my art skills leave you with the feeling that something more could be had...
The day was hot and long, we'd been climbing and climbing most of the day, our water getting dangerously low. We knew from looking at the maps that Wauconda was mere miles away from us, a lush wonderland for those with the proper roots, and a safe place to rest for those without. Fueled by that knowledge we persevered. Climbing, climbing, the heat engulfing us, water levels shining and shrinking, we just knew Wauconda would take care of us. Rounding a hill, I saw it, in all it's glory, a big purple building, with big bold letters, stating GENERAL STORE! I was rapt with anticipation, my pedal strokes getting ever stronger, bolstered by the possibility of a cold drink and a sweet and salty snack. We get closer and closer, I'm for the first time today catching up to Stephanie. We unclip, are greeted by two older men, locals, and we see... We hear... We feel deep down to the bone... The general store is closed... At 4pm on a Wednesday, it's closed. It's been closed for months, maybe years, or possibly even hours, it's hard to say, hard to comprehend. (Or that’s what it feels like. In reality, it’s been closed the last 15 minutes because it’s just a backwater post office in a more backwater town that happens to sell some salty treats. The irony of the day is that we would’ve made it in time, only we were fixing a flat on my new punctureless tires only an hour before. -S) Our dreams of water snatched away by this demon. The old men joke with us, banter with us, but it's not enough to keep alive the spark of hope. It's too late for that... One of the two tells us that despite it's impeccable exterior finish, the proper General Store has been closed for a while, because the woman who runs it had been mean and nasty to her employees, driving all of them to quit. The only store this little town had left was a postcard and soda selling post office.
He then tells of of a fabled, little old school house turned RV camp ground, just a quarter mile up the road. You can see it right there he says. But with tears in our eyes, it's hard to see anything... He warns us that the camp manager sits atop the hill overlooking his domain with a loaded 38, but the promise of water the last shred of it leaving our bodies in the form of one last tear, allows us to laugh off that warning... Perhaps to our own peril...
With lightly renewed hope and a whole butt load (very sore by now and fairly toned I'd like to add) of determination, we trekked through uncharted territory to the watery promised land of an old school house with wells for RV hook ups. We pull up to the little school house, sensing no danger, and that's when it all went wrong... Stephanie saw a yellow jacket!
It didn't actually bother us, and I never saw it, but it was almost certainly left as a trap by the murderous land owner we'd been warned and had forgotten about. Having escaped the near certain doom of that one yellow jacket I never actually saw, we go to the first frost protected pump. My bike is leaning against the post. I open up our first water bottle. I placed it under the spigot. I lift the handle, cautiously at first. No signs of danger yet... And that's when it strikes! Water shoots out in all directions. I scream! My clothes... They get sprinkles of water on them, and my water bottle got none! Acting with as much speed and alacrity as I can muster, I slam shut the treasonous pump, and valiantly save myself, my bike, and my damsel (this damsel had suggested that perhaps Alex move his bike a little out of the way before filling up and was herself a safe distance from the hydrant. -S) from a misfortune of cataclysmic proportions.
We move onto the next pump... And everything worked just fine. We got our water and went on our merry way having drank our fill and refilled fully. There is a good chance it was all in our heads...
The climb up Wauconda Pass was one of the least awful. Mostly because of the promise of super heros. It was still very hot and very uphill. Luckily for me, I did encounter a super hero at the top of the pass. Check her out!
After meeting my hero, Stephanie materialized up the pass, and one of our old man friends who didn't share his name with us pulled up next to us in his pick-up and introduced us to his pup, Dog Man. Stephanie obviously geeked out over Dog Man, and it felt like I caught a glimpse of my super hero in her, for just a second... Strange...
The ride down from Wauconda Pass was cool and delightful. We met a hitch hiker we'd seen earlier that day who'd been all over the world and now just bopped around from place to place doing odd jobs. His favorite summer work was landscaping. Give him the right tools he said, and he turned it into a lush landscape.
We moved past him a bit for another 3 miles down hill to a beautiful park camp ground. They had the sprinklers on prepping for a big BMW bike really coming into town a few weeks later, but for that night, we had the pick of the litter, camp spot wise. We chose a spot near the bathroom under a big tree and by a fence so we could bear bag, dry clothes, charge electronics, and pee with ease. (Actually, the first thing I did was lay down in the wettish grass to undeaden from the heat for 20 minutes while Alex did important camp prep things. – S) The city park manager told us about showers for $0.25 for 3.5 minutes and traded us some quarters for a few dollar bills. Stephanie found an extra quarter in the shower already, and since she'd forgotten to bring a towel, I snuck in to conserve water with her. We used only one of our 12 quarters for both of us to shower and launder our clothes. Talk about some good quality efficiency.
After we got cleaned up, Stephanie put together our tent and give while I prepped lentils, rice, and broccoli. I had the chance to call my mom, let her know I was well, and then sit down for a nice meal with my favorite person (sorry everyone else) as we shared food and checked in about our day and our hopes for the next day. It was a tasty meal thanks to copious amounts of garlic powder and swiss cheese. Yum.
(Also, our camp neighbors had come to shower and brought 2 of their 11 (!!) dogs with them. One was white, part wolf and gorgeous. We had a mini-therapy session where we each got scratched behind the ears and assured the other we were indeed good girls. The other was less friendly but busy at maintaining the safety of the truck bed. I understand... it’s a tough job. -S)
We got to bed fairly early, and then realized that the downside of being near the bathroom was the lights, so we had to throw on the rain fly for light blocking and missed out on stars a little bit. We slept we after such a hard day.
I’ve been writing mornings and evenings just for you my fears so now we are only 9 days behind on writing. So here we go! And by that I mean we are at another Quaker’s today who runs a traveling book store. You’ll hear more about her in the 12th post but she donated $20 to MCS to help us out! How freaking cool is that! Saint Rita’s traveling books and literary apothecary! Look her up.
We woke up today in an enchanted wonderland. From the top of our loft bed we could look out the window and see the valley stream 200 feet below us that had lulled us to sleep the night before. I got up a bit before Stephanie and just set outside after having started my coffee. The view from the deck was the rolling mountains on the other side of the river and the sun shining on it all. I sure felt lucky to be alive. The morning was mostly puttering (We're really good at puttering. -S). Coffee sip, contemplation, coffee sip, sigh of relief, coffee sip, look at the map, coffee sip, wave to Lila, coffee sip, start big post backlog, coffee sip, make more coffee. When Stephanie got up, we shared that similar experience, and got to really enjoy each other. We might have had some conversations, we might have shared in silence, or we might have laughed our heads off with fart jokes, whatever it was, it was good.
One of the best parts of the morning is that Stephanie offered to make breakfast while I kept on writing. Talk about being well cared for! I discovered that writing is really meditative for me during that time, which was a bit of a surprise. So as I wrote away, Stephanie made some killer oatmeal with peanut butter, chocolate, and currents. Once she came out with it, I called it a day for the writing and went on to spend some quality time with her chatting or looking at the mountains or both.
Lila and Jerry had told us that the Twisp parade would start at 11, so being the industrious couple that we are, Stephanie and I enjoyed the show that morning until about 10:15, at which point we kicked it into gear and got ourselves out by 10:45, with just minutes to spare, until of course we realize we forgot to take pictures of the place (see last post) and we had to turn around, do it, and bike into Twisp in record time.
It was such a fun ride going into town. It was virtually all downhill, and Stephanie pointed out a super cool metal bird sculpture in the river, look up Twisp River Road street view to confirm its existence. Hah! Now you have homework too!
Anyway, we got into town for the parade with a minute to spare before 11 and set our bikes up against an old barn looking building and took up some seats curb space right bring where a group of older men were standing and discussing life. They kindly let us sit there so long as we got them parade candy. It was a fair deal, and despite the joke like tone, Stephanie and I "yes and-ed" (improv reference. To "yes and" something is to take a suggestion and really really run with it S.) the hell out of it, pushing over small children to beat them to the candy, distracting older kids with stolen puppies while reaching into their bags, and even lifting back the candy we'd just given the poor suckers just to give it back to them! It was ruthlessly good fun.
And by that, I mean we very much enjoyed the parade hooting and hollering for the people in it and picking up spare hunks of hard candy as they came within arm's reach, except for that Reese's peanut butter cup that Stephanie pried out of the hands of an octogenarian. (Lies. It landed right in front of me. The chocolate fairies were definitely watching out for me. -S) Some parade hilights for me included seeing a girl standing on a horse, a unicycle rider giving candy to a 4 year old, a 95 year old woman who started the EMS services, and the fire trucks at the end spraying water for kids to run into. Stephanie's favorites were the Reese's peanut butter cup, all the puppies she got to pet after the parade was over (4!! real puppies!! 4!!! -S), the unicycle guy, a girl in a really pretty dress, the 95 year old woman who started EMS, and all the super cute fire fighters who were walking down the street.
After the parade was over, Stephanie got some sweet, sweet puppy love, one so cute it just rest it's sleepy head on her chest, and of course we got a picture of that, this trip has basically been cataloguing all the pup love Stephanie can get going from town to town. We then biked around trying to find Jerry and Lila, and not having found them, we proceed to the park as our last resort.
At the park we saw Sarah the aerialist, so we asked the ticket people if we could sneak in real quick to say hi. Stephanie and Sarah geeked out over the Lyra for a bit, trying to figure out which poses would work best together. The bat hang was not one of those, because despite how pretty an idea is in one's head, gravity and lever arms tend to win almost every time, so the answer was the koala hang. Stephanie gracefully mounted the Lyra and talked Sarah into the pose, and I was the to immortalize it. I think we can all agree who the real hero is here...
Sarah let us know she'd seen Jerry and Lila but we were unable to find then ourselves, but she did tell us she'd send along our farewells. Tangent, there was also a poi artist, here's her. Twisp was a very cool place.
We left Twisp in the noon ish range and stopped by Hanks to pick up peanut butter I want to say, and while I ran inside Stephanie met the man, the myth, the legend, Hank himself handling produce. (I'd only heard Hank's praises in Twisp. People said he kept grocery prices low in town, cut 100 cords of wood by himself only to give 60 away to the elderly in the community. Plus there he was stacking his own watermelon outside the store that bore his name. Awesome. -S) She thanked him for his good work because she's a delightful and conscientious person and we rode Eastward.
The ride today was fueled by some wonderfully positive energy, and of course puppy love. Without much trouble we made it past Loup Loup pass, which in French means wolf wolf pass, and we flew past Omak just to be stopped by this sweet statue that I had to make friends with!
How cool is that! Though he told me his story, I don't have the time to recount it yet, so it will have to wait until get back to Wisconsin.
We nearly made it out of Okanagan unscathed, but we got negative scathed by a delicious taco truck. Stephanie saw it and had to stop, and it was one of our best decisions for the day. Stephanie demonstrated her superior Spanish skills, impressing the locals and wowing the cook. It got us 3 delicious tacos and a mazipan style peanut treat for the same price as the locals got it! She shared the story of our trip and from my limited understanding of Spanish and the oohs and ahhs of excitement from the rapt audience, I can only assume she was talking about how great a cyclist I was and how brave and strong and wonderful I've been through the journey. Sometimes, not knowing the language sure has it's perks.
Regardless, the tacos were phenomenal! We ate the lime slices like we had the onset of scurvy, the cillantro and avocado complemented the juicy meat bits perfectly and we were very satisfied with the meal. After the meal a new crew of Spanish speakers were in, so Stephanie used that chance again to sing my praises in a foreign tongue. (. ;) -S)
We departed the taco truck feeling great with only another 10-15 miles until Riverside, and though it was a gorgeous route, it was hard hard hard! Thank the gods, especially the taco gods, that we had tacos in our system, because ugh... Heat and head wind or just being tired made that last part of the journey very difficult. When we finally made it to Riverside, we saw a cute general store with bikes as decor, and asked if we could camp in their lawn, and nearly got a yes, but the owner was out of town, so we got a no. We thought about camping in the town park after eating some tasty ice cream, a drum stick for Stephanie and a coconut bar for me, but the skeeters and the high visibility made us too chicken, so we went to the RV park that had showers and fewer skeeters. We showered and zonked out in pretty short order after paying our $10 each. It was money well spent. I even showered with my clothes so that they'd be clean and dry by the next day.
Boy oh boy, this bike , eat, bike, eat, bike, eat, bike, eat, bike, eat, camp, sleep, eat, uncamp thing is taking up a lot more time than we realized. So yesterday we had our first real rest day with no bike milage with loaded bikes. We still used them to get around town in Sandpoint, because, well, bikes... So above is the view from the previous rest day house we got. We are some lucky lucky ducks! This past rest day was brought to us by the Quakers, not the ones on the oatmeal box, but the silent kind type, like Stephanie and her family, and more and more, like me! This time we had the good fortune of ending up at Nancy and Tom Renk's home in Sandpoint, which you might hear about if I ever get to July 10th. Another big update, is that we realized that we had set an unrealistic grueling, and miscalculated schedule for getting to Madeline Island, so instead we are going to aim for Fargo and get a train back to the Dells. That way we can actually use our bodies when we get back and enjoy the sights a bit more. So, let's try to recap where we were... on...
July 2, Washington pass
That's not actually it, the picture is on Stephanie's phone which is too far away, but don't I look cute...
So digging back into the mental archive, we started the morning at Colonial Creek Campground, with our first bike friend having torn down his camp before we were even awake. I made coffee and oatmeal, and we were out at an impressively early hour all things considered. Probably before 8! This was a 60ish mile day with a pass to climb after all.
This day was hard. We still hadn't realized that Ibuprofen was a good thing to buy, and our knees were achy for much of the day. The climb was basically an all morning and much of early afternoon affair. As I mentioned earlier this day was our apple stem day to finger:
We basically climbed this beast at a rate of 3 miles per hour, and celebrated with a kiss at the top.
The climb up was kinda fun in a cruel way. Since we were still on the Seatle side of the world there was still signs of rain, and because it was called rainy pass maybe? I dunno... Point is, there were waterfalls coming off the mountain almost all the time. The best best thing about climbing, is that it give you a ton of time to watch the gorgeous scenery around you as you slog through the day. This is what Stephanie and I decided to call Awesomeness in Drudgery, possibly a future band name, or maybe the name of our first two kids... TBD...
The climb was nice and hot, because we worked worked worked for it. The top was such a relief and a joy. Stephanie waved down a car to take our picture in front of the sign (her phone so imagine it because I'm too kind to wake her up for it (read lazy to go 5' across the room). After a while of celebrating, we then bundled up for the glorious descent that was about to come... Short sleeve, long sleeve, fleece, rain jacket, and gloves (and yes, I did have an extra pair for Stephanie because I'm that awesome and full of foresight). It wasn't enough. The first 30 minutes of carefully bombing down the rainy mountain was so damn cold! We had to stop to warm up our upper bodies and keep from shivering.
Fortunately, the lower we got, the warmer it got, and eventually we were able to warm up again. I don't think I shed my layers until we got all the way to the bike barn at mile marker 286, which sadly for Stephanie's goal oriented mind, she thought was at 285, so the last mile for her was made grudgingly, while mine was only done a little sorely.
Slow down Alex, what the heck is the bike barn? Oh yeah, you're not in my head yet, because I don't write regularly enough... My bad... The bike barn is where we stayed the night of the 2nd. It's a place created by a biking family where they host bike-campers in their lawn next to a barn. They've installed an outdoor solar shower (augmented by propane if needed) a composting toilet, have wifi, and some very windy cooking conditions.
Best of all... They have a dog check you in! You ring the bell, yell "Camper" and Scout runs up to you to take you to where you can read more directions on where to camp!
We were taken aback by this, because as soon as we pulled in Scout and his friend ran up to us, then ran away. After we read the directions on the bell, and rang it, then he did it again. There we met Jim, who was telling us this was already a busy day, as a family with 2 kids on tandems with burly trailers had already arrived and settled in. Ana and Travis introduced themselves to us, but the other two will forever be a mystery...
Anyway, we set up camp, enjoyed a warm outdoor shower, saw our friend from the night before roll in, cooked peanut butter garlic pasta with brocoli holly cow that was good despite the super hard windy conditions but run on sentences are fun and Stephanie will hate this sentence without enough punctuation and finally settled in for a good night's sleep after a little admin email checking but not time for blogging :-p
60 ish miles of up then way way down. It was great!
July 3rd. First rest day in Twisp, and amazing kindness from strangers.
Today we biked only 20 or so miles to get to Twisp. It was a beautiful ride, and fairly uneventful. We were the last to leave the bike barn, but that was ok, because today was our rest day!
We kicked off the day by going to Winthrop's bike shop, since both of our rear deraileurs were feeling janky, and I wasn't fully confident in my rear tire given the larger than needed tube in it. Since it was a nice, down-hill ride, we enjoyed the hell out of it.
At the bike shop we were greeted by the bike shop dog, so Stephanie got to enjoy some bike shop dog love which counts towards her insatiable dog love quota for this trip. We unloaded all our gear from our bikes and my bike, since it was the least functional of the two, got to get worked on first. My problem was that any time I shifted down to lower gears the bugger either skipped or didn't want to do it. It was very stressful. The bike mechanic took a while to fix it most of the way but explained to me that the screw on one of the levers of the rear deraileur was stripped out, so he couldn't actually fix it without taking apart the whole darn thing and use plyers and a drill to get to it... Something else my bike sales team will have the pleasure of fixing when we get home with the free tune up. Unfortunately, my front rotors also got banged up at some point, so they are out of true, and they rub when I pedal if the brakes are tight. This wasn't an easy fix, so we didn't do it, but now I know that climbing I can unclick the brakes for easier climbs, and going down I re-click them to rub a bit more and give me more stopping power. Annoying, but workable... Stephanie's rear deraileur was such a quick easy fix that they just charged us for one rear deraileur job, and $26 and several hours later we were good to go. We also bought some biking gloves for Stephanie, that cool reflective triangle in the picture above for me, and a new rear light for me that would last 8-16 hours on a charge instead of the stupid one I have that I can't turn off manually without removing from my bike that lasts for about 6 hours tops which is shit when we are ending our days near dusk and no I'm not that upset about my bike not being 100% good to go given the money I spent on it but I was on the first few days. Ah, run on sentence used for effect to show past anger. The age old literary tool of champions. I bet Shakespeare used it, but I haven't read him in ages so I'll need someone else to confirm.
Super cool side notes of the bike shop in Winthrop.
1) We met Jonas Deichmann a guy who was going to break the world record going from Alaska to the tip of South America in 100 days (current record is 125). His training ride was biking up to Alaska from where we were. https://www.jonasdeichmann.com/
2) I inflated my tires and my tire change was done correctly
3) We were able to ship home a box of 15lbs of gear we didn't need or use
4) There were 2 dogs for Stephanie to play with... 2!
5) We found out about an aerialist in Twisp
After the bike shop break we decided we could just make it to Twisp for lunch (a 3 pm lunch) and to maybe get Stephanie's paneers fixed a a cool shop called EQPD who make super high quality virtually indestructible bags.
The bike ride to twisp was really nice, super gorgeous, a little more hilly than we'd have wanted, but mostly down-hill. We saw tons of bikers out. It was great!
We got to Twisp looking for Twisp Works, and the bag shop and a Sarah the Aerialist. At the bag shop, we first were greeted with dismay stating that they only help people fix things on Thursday nights and that these were business hours. Then when we went in with Stephanie's bags, our seamstress's response to the bags was, and I quote " Oh, that!" with a tone of this is something I could accidentally fix in my sleep. She got both bags fixed for us in under 3 minutes as we got to talk to on of the co-founders of the place, this dapper gentleman:
Long story short, he was a multi impact helmet designer who had 85% market share of lacross helmets, and when they started taking over the hockey industry, they got hostile bought up by a fortune 500 giant who then gutted the team, so he started this company and owns the whole thing. If you want or need a really high quality beautiful bag that will last you a lifetime go here eqpdgear.com
Oh but before we went in there, as I was looking at the Twisp works map, Stephanie got stopped in the parking lot by Jerry and Lila who out of nowhere offered us a place to stay that was just 2 miles out of town!!! It was our own private tiny house heaven for the next 12 hours. Holly beans (Stephanie turn of phrase adopted by Alex) was it great!
Since it was 3ish when we were done with bag things, most places were no longer open for lunch, but we got contact info for our Aerialist friend, met Jerry again on our way to the expensive grocery store, who told us to go to Hank's a local grocery store with a Chinese food line for food and groceries. Apparently Hank is an amazing guy who cut 100 cords of wood last year and gave away about 60 of them to the elderly over the winter. (Spoiler alert, we got to meet him the next day). Anyway, we ate literally a pound of chinese food each then did sensible grocery shopping, and biked up to meet Lila at her house and were blown away by it's beauty and her kindness:
Despite there being an aerial class we could have gone to that evening, we were too zonked out after our shower to do anything other than lounge by the river, and then share a delightful dinner with two new easy going friends. Jerry was an ornamental metal worker who's home was decorated with much of his work, and Lila was a retired Executive Director of a Food bank. Great people in a great place.
July 4th. Parade, puppies, lyra, and an RV park.
Insert information about puppies, more puppies, the other puppies, and some biking here.
Now that I'm caught up to the last time I wrote, I'm about ready to take another break from writing, so here's the cliff notes of what's to come next time I'm well rested
Alex is a bit more detail oriented than me. My original plan for this trip was to fly west and bicycle east-ish following bird migratory patterns and the next county-wide notorious diner. But Alex insisted we write a budget and an itinerary. Accordingly, he thinks I'm following his pattern of writing about our travels in chronological order and getting readers caught up to our current whereabouts. Instead, I've come up with a list of attention grabbing blog post titles and other scintillating thoughts during our last ten days that should sum up the adventure thus far.
1. All the rain. All of it. No one notices how badly I miss my mouth when drinking! (This was only for the first days of our trip. Now, despite sunscreen, I resemble a delicious crisp turkey leg.)
2. My secret belief that I can eat an entire pot of garlic and butter noodle pasta by myself is affirmed.
2a. I am hungry near constantly and our food delights me. I discover that pictures of food do not delight Alex. Here he is telling me “Stephanie, Don’t be that person.” But I can’t help it. Even convenience store orange chicken is gorgeous on tour. This is not the first time he’ll tell me this.
3. I enter all public spaces by first apologizing for our smell.
4. Alex is a riotously-colored flippin' rockstar in red camo leggings. I mean come on...
..5. We crossed 5 mountain passes- Rainy (4,875 ft), Washington (5,476 ft), Loup Loup (4,020 ft), Waconda (4,310 ft), Sherman (5,574 ft). On Bikes. This still floors me.
5a. Crossing a pass makes me believe in the perpetual awesomeness and goodwill of the entire world. No bushel for this bright candle...
6. Every pass is different and hard in its own right. Waconda was one of the hardest, even though it was less steep with less elevation, because it was a hot hot day and the road was unshaded. Also, while in need of water, the only thing to greet us at the top were two old men smoking hand-rolled cigarettes outside the defunct general store. When we asked about water, they laughed "Nearest town is only 17 miles away." I only felt slightly murderous at that point. Fortunately, after some banter, they pointed us to a spigot about a 1/4 mile away.
7. One of the men later found us on the road and introduced us to Dog Man. "This dog is a Buddhist Monk."
8. I say this with love. Never trust a non-bicyclist to tell you whether the upcoming roads are flat or if a pass will be difficult. One lovely man told us the pass should be easy, he could get to the top in 20 minutes going 60 miles an hour. We’re averaging 3-4 mph up passes, fully loaded. Another super friendly road advisor said “Don’t worry. After this the road flattens up and you don’t have to worry about
hills.” I tried not to hear her sweetly saying this in my mind as I used my granny gear seemingly unendingly for the next 35 miles.
9. The world is full of people who want to be part of your good juju. Strangers who answered texts from mystery travelers looking for places to stay, strangers who stopped us in parking lots offering riverside cottages, strangers who fed us bountifully out of their beautiful gardens. All now adopted into our road family. Thanks road family.
Holy cow this bike tripping thing is exhausting... We thought we'd have time to do acro, practice handstands, learn to juggle, play music, and blog daily, but all we have had time for on our long days has been making food, biking, eating, biking, being friendly with strangers, biking, eating food, biking, making camp, making food, eating food, and sleeping. So since today's our first rest day, 20 miles instead of 60, lets get caught up on the blogging bits...
Day 1 2 and 3 of biking with Mercedes & Chris 6/29/2018 to 7/2/2018
Day 1 of biking 18ish miles
The goal of the day was to get out to Port Angeles to get our bikes. And we were lucky enough to do it with these two fine folks, Mercedes, Stephanie's niece, and Mercedes' person, Chris:
The morning consisted of preparing our gear for the trip after having spent the night at Songhaia, a divine little intentional community that had raspberries for me to eat each time I took a walk somewhere. And needless to say, I walked between Mercedes and Chris' and the guest room many times :)
There were also cherries and strawberries to be picked and eaten. But I digress... (Stephanie's note here: But seriously, half of this blog is just going to be recording all the yummy food we get to eat while on trail.) Having packed up our stuff including the tandem for M&C, we loaded into the car and headed for the PCC coop to get a pizza lunch (yum!) and supplies for a few meals. Oats, lentils, rice, chocolate, garlic powder, salt, carrots, broccoli, sesame sticks, hummus, peanut butter, cheese, macaroni salad, GORP, and probably something else I've forgotten since. Oh yeah, it was heavy whipping cream. Stephanie (and I by proxy) inhales that in a dainty manner. (Stephanie here again. Only when on trail Alex! Miraculously-seriously, this is water into wine stuff. Instead of going bad, heavy whipping cream just turns into butter. Heaven...)
Headed to Anacortes, we stopped by a super cool bridge or river or gorge. Though I forget what it was called (S: Deception Pass) here's what it looked like...
Then we got to Bikespot in Anacortes where our bikes were in one (ish) piece. My rear rack had to be changed out bc the one that was sent didn't fit with the fenders, and my front racks had to be remounted since they were set up backwards, but the shop owners were super nice, hooked us up with a beer each and lent me the tools and parts needed to get the front rack ready to go. Here's what we looked like with our new bikes. This is the first time I got to ride mine!
We rode to the parking lot where M&C were parked with our gear and we started loading our paneers. Once all set, we had our inaugural wheel dip into the Pacific...
The ride to Bay View State Park was delightful. We saw otters and seals (all christened sea dogs by Stephanie), crossed all kinds of cool bridges and saw all manner of cute people. We only had one clip pedal related fall (3 minutes into the trip. -S) and the rest of the ride was smooth! At the park we were gifted a bigger flatter grassier site than the normal hiker bike sites and we got some firewood to celebrate. We set up camp had lentils and rice with avocado, garlic powder, and salt and it was delightful. We went to bed feeling pretty good about ourselves and the good times we got to spend with Mercedes and Chris.
Biking day 2, 34 ish miles.
Since I heard some drizzle noises when I woke early, I decided to set up a rain tarp above our picnic table, and rather than blogging about yesterday, I compulsively checked Stephanie's phone to see how France was doing against Argentina in the world cup. They won. Hooray. Then I went back to the tent for some cuddling time with my favorite person, sorry everyone else, and we woke up leasurely around 930. Had oatmeal, apples, and our oatmeal fixings, peanut butter, dried currents, chocolate chips, and cream, as well as coffee. That tarp I mentioned earlier came in super handy because it was raining steadily at that point. Despite the rain we had a nice little breakfast and spent some quality time all together before heading out just before 1pm (Don't judge us too harshly trail friends. Our start times get better but not by much. -S). The rain for sure put a damper on our speed, but we made it out and that was pretty darn good since there's always the option not to...
Leaving the park we stopped by the beach and met a nice fellow who offered us snacks. It was his sister's graduation party. We didn't stay for snacks but he recommended we bypass our stay in Concrete in favor of camping at Razar State Park. We didn't do that either but you will have to read further to find out that Stephanie sweet talked us into an awesome lawn camping spot...
I don't remember much of the scenery or conversations we shared on our way into Sedro Wooly, but Julie at Bike Spot in Anacortes had mentioned the Sedro Wooly market. So we stopped there, soaked and chilled from riding in the rain to share a BBQ brisket sandwich, a cheese steak, and a large multi refill cup of coffee. While warming up and stuffing our faces full of grease, carbs, and, flavor, a kind small town lawyer named Pat asked us about our trip and shared with us his own plan to do it five years from now when he retires. Pat offered us a map of county bike trails, some good advice for getting to our camp site, and two of the hoppiest beers he could find us. I forgot to take a picture of Pat or the beers he offered us, so here's some blank space for you to draw your own conclusions and mental image:
Leaving the market full of food, warm, and psyched about our beer, we immediately encountered a chainsaw art festival and had to stop to look at it and take several pictures. It smelled sweet of saw dust and was full of beautiful pieces both complete and being realized before our very eyes. (OMG OMG, there was an half finished T-Rex. OMG OMG... -S)
The rest of our afternoon ride was still rather wet. We were chased by dogs twice, the second time one nipped at Stephanie's shoe, and a passing car slowed down between me and the other dog to create a shield for me. It was scary and a good reminder that while on bikes, dogs are dangerous. It was also amazing how wonderful motorist can be. Shortly after our run in with dogs we had to stop for another issue, my front disk break was creaking and my fender was rubbing. The house we stopped in front of had a yippy dog (behind a fence) and a big Tom turkey coming down the drive way to cluck us away. Fortunately, my knight in spandex armor came to the rescue and showed the turkey she was the boss around here!
In the late afternoon we found a cherry tree and ate our fill of cherries prior to continuing on (So so so many cherries. I'm still smiling about it.-S). We stopped by a pretty river a few miles from our camp. I was stressed out by the stop and then a dog chased us away with his voice. Darn dogs... At least, for me, it meant we didn't linger. About 1 mile from our destination, Stephanie saw a house under construction with a dry, open garage and a man by his pick-up truck ready to leave. This was her moment of truth and our first chance to put our cost-savings-MCS- fundraising plan into action. Stephanie introduced herself to Jack, made a connection with him over our circus lives and his knowing some folks at the Seattle circus school, and when came time for the final pitch, Jack's offer was for us to camp out under one of his cedars by the road which was completely dry under the canopy despite the day long rain. He asked us to stay out of the garage since he'd and his neighbors to look out for squatters, but told us we could go in the unfinished house if we wanted. After he left we were elated that the plan had worked, and as we were getting ready to unpack, he came back to tell us to camp under and even better tree farther from the roof so we wouldn't have to hear the traffic.
The spot was dry from the tree's canopy and a good night's rest after a chilly day. Because it had been a long day we decided to just cook up broccoli and snack on our other food and enjoy one of Pat's beers.
Day 3, our first 60 mile day!
We woke up from a good night's sleep, slightly less motivated due to the drip drop sounds on the tent, but ready to take on the day anyway! The goal today was to get to Colonial Creek Pass, and it was about 60 miles with some decent climbing involved.
We started with our typical oats medley and coffee then started up slow but steady, until I noticed my gloves weren't on my hands but instead still on the back of my bike unattached... Or at least once of them was... So I pedaled back to our sit and sure enough it fell off by the shed... So after that light mishap we were off for real! Again the day was full of beauty, biking through rain forests, seeing giant trees being in awe of mountains, and listening for rivers and streams. The greatest riding joy for the day was when we turned off the main road and saw some thimble berries, which we promptly devoured for the better part of 15 minutes (so many thimble berries. Muhahahaha. -S). Before leaving we gave ourselves a generous 30 seconds to eat up as many was we could before heading out and since I didn't play by the rules, this was the result:
It was DIVINE! We then stopped in town to eat fries and a mocha milk shake and bought some organic tri-color pasta at a gas station for barely anything more than the spaghetti was. This turned out to be an amazing life decision for the next two dinners!!! The rest of the day was basically just climbing, so with sore knees, sore butts, and unyielding(ish) minds, we made it all the way to our camp site without any trouble.
Except we didn't... My rear, virtually flat proof tubeless tires designed and engineered to be virtually flat proof and good for my whole bike trip without me having to do anything... went flat... Though I was super bummed, my "deluxe " repair kit included 3 plastic tire levers and 2 metal ones so I was all set to fix this flat! Until we couldn't get the freaking wheel off... To keep my bike safe and theft proof when locked, some fancy only take off-able when upside down auto lock quick release were installed on my front and rear wheels. Infuriatingly, even when upside down my rear one wouldn't unlock. Stephanie and I spent at least 15 minutes trying to pry off that POS until we decided she should go get help or at least find us some plyers (not included in "deluxe" repair kit). While Stephanie was off saving the day, making friends with all kinds of kind people for us, I kept on trying to pry my quick release off. Finally, I did it! And then I popped off the tire inspected it fit damage, found none, other than the tube within it had just disconnected from the valve. Not sure how tubeless tires work, but I felt jipped. Regardless, I pulled out a new tube from my "deluxe" repair kit, saw that it was bigger than the tire was, decided that it would be better to ride on something that maybe would work than nothing and proceeded to field change my very first flat. I pumped it up to 40psi since I wasn't sure if more pressure it less pressure would be better and decided to err on the side of less (and hand pumps are hard to pressurize tires with). (For the future, we found out that more PSI is better though some hand pumps may not let you inflate past 60 PSI. -S) And I reassembled my wheel packed up my gear and started riding. Not half a mile into my ride a couple on a pick up truck ask me if I'm Alex and offered me a ride to meet up with Stephanie where she had AAA on their way to rescue us. She's the best, the bee's knees, the chocolate chips in oatmeal, the tailwind on a hard day of riding. Regrouping with Stephanie we decided to cancel the rescue call and bike the final 11 miles to get to camp for the night. It was literally all uphill from there. We took several breaks, went through a scary but amazing tunnel, ran out of taillights (duck you battery life!), went over a metal grate bridge sidewalk, took a short hike break to see a Vista, went though a less scary tunnel, and finally made it to camp around 8pm. We met another bike tour biker, Paul who was going to Nevada, set up camp, and had pasta with cream and garlic and broccoli. It was such a good meal after such a hard day, we popped our gear in a bear box and collapsed. I don't even remember Stephanie coming into bed after she finished getting washed and brushing her teeth. What a day!
Day 4 60 miles, but over a mountain pass or two
This was a hard hard hard day. We went from the Apple stem to my finger
According to ancient folklore as remembered by Stephanie, confirmed by geologist, and grossly misrepresented by Alex, Lake Crescent, seen behind us, was formed when the gods were having a boulder throwing fight. That is all... It was a gorgeous climb, on a gorgeous days, with gorgeous people. The trees were as wide as 3 of us linking arms or feet to make it around. In fact one of them was so large and so out of the Hobbit that it nearly swallowed us whole!
The morning started off spectacularly with us sleeping in until 8 or 9. We were fed breakfast by our lovely hostess that consisted of bacon, eggs, and toast with homemade jam. Yum! Then Kate sent us off with fried chicken hard boiled eggs and cheese to make our hike go from great to perfect.
Though Stephanie got us lost on the way to the hike, it gave us the chance to discover the Elwa river, which looked like it could have bears fishing for salmon on the banks! So we dipped our toes in it to our giddy delight. Though a salmon definitely didn't jump out of the water, kiss Stephanie, turn into a prince, kiss me, and turn back into a fish, it was still a magical experience.
When we finally got to the right place, Stephanie pet the requisite number of dogs, made friends with almost every group we passed by, and brought up great philosophical quandries for Promise and me to contemplate, weigh in on, and discuss. I love her for all of this!
The climb was steep, look at how badass Promise, our shuttler, inspirerer, and best of all friend, looks right before the steep part with ropes to reach the top:
Stephanie wanted everyone to know that I'm terrible at cut out picture face things, but I proved her wrong by being doubly safe (2 helmets!) and super cute, so I guess we all win. Our first day was so varied in transit forms! A cab, a plane, a train, a ferry, a car, and a llama! And only one of those wasn't utilized by the both of us... Promise met us and shuttled us through delicious food to our first of many delightful hosts... Kate! Pictured here below with Stephanie: