Jun 26

 

Bicycle tour Cycle Montana with the Adventure Cycle Association

T minus 9 — I thought I’d get in shape for both cycling and hiking by running up Mailbox Peak. Mailbox Peak (the new route), is just outside of North Bend, WA, and is about 4000 feet of climbing over 4.5 miles. It was stupendous. I tried out some new shoes, the Altra Lone Peak 3, and they worked wonderfully. More nice, they have a loop built-in in front and velcro behind to accommodate Dirty Girl gaiters. The “climb” was dry going up, but continuous rain on the descent, and at the top had to endure a bit of hail. I recorded the hike on my eTrex but messed up so that I was unable to download the trip to the computer.

The summit of Mailbox Peak, with a mailbox! And, no, I am not trying to imitate Mickey Mouse with my gloves. I usually wear cycle gloves while hiking since I always use hiking poles, but decided to try out cheap cotton gloves that jewelers use, and actually liked them better.

T minus 8 —Went up to son Jon who lives in Arlington, WA to do a variant on riding the Centennial trail front which added a bit of hill climbing. I was sore from the day before, but figured it was different muscles being used, so it shouldn’t matter.

T minus 7-3 — now I’m really sore since it was a lot of the same muscles (!). . . too sore to do some serious bike rides. So, I sat at home, resisting to feed my face, since I knew that I still needed to loose 10-15 lb.

T-minus 1 — I woke up early Friday morning, with the car completely loaded with my bicycle, and other stuff. It took about eight hours to drive to Missoula. I was able to get to the ACA offices early, where Arlen was able to give me a tour of the facility. It was quite impressive, but unfortunately I wasn’t lugging my camera around to document the event.

T-0 — this is officially day 1 with the ACA, though there is no riding that occurs. Since the event starts about 3:30 pm, I had time in the am to stop by REI where I got some new touring cycle shoes, made by Pearl Izumi. They were remarkably comfortable. The evening intro, orientation and dinner were standard for ACA rides, and the biggest challenge was that of trying to remember new faces and new names.

T-1 — Missoula to Darby, 66.1 miles, 1752 feet elevation gain.
This day was mostly on a public bike path that headed straight south of Missoula, with a few variants to get us off of the main path, which was a very busy highway. The weather was cool but without rain while riding, though it had rained last night. We spent the night in an RV park. Most things in town were closed, but we caught the closing minutes of a brewery owned by the mayor of town to cherish a Schluck of brew.

Our first (and last!) landmark structure, THE COW!!!!!

First bridge to cross, just while leaving Missoula.

Our eager ACA workers, Brian and Sarah

Sarah hanging out with some scraggly old fart dude that came along.

T-2 — Darby to Wisdom  58.01 miles, 3615 feet elevation gain.
Wisdom was heavily infested with mosquitos, as the campground situated adjacent to the mosquito breeding grounds. To get to Wisdom, we had to go over Lost Trail Pass, which put us briefly into Idaho, and then over Chief Joseph Pass, giving us some fairly substantial climbing. I was riding with Cindy von Gillette, who was giving me a substantial challenge to keep up with her on the hills. We got our obligatory photographs on top of the pass, which was also the Continental Divide. On the lengthy descent, we had a lunch stop at a seriously mosquito infested Nez Perce battle site. Further descent brought us to our campsite. It was uncomfortably hot, which led to our retreat to a local tavern for beer.

Cindy in perfect form, climbing the pass.

Welcome to Idaho

Barely made it up the pass!

In the vicinity of Nez Perce Battle Site, buffalos replaced by bovines.

T-3 — Wisdom to Wise River – 38.8 miles, 518 feet elevation.
During the night, Cindy had been throwing up, and a trip to the Krankenhaus (see previous post for explanation) diagnosed profound hyponatremia and volume depletion. This meant that she had to stay in the hospital for at least a night, leading to her dropping out of the tour. Her husband came to get her, and a day later she dropped by (at Fairmont Hot Springs) to get her bags and say goodby. From then on, I rode mostly alone or with Dave von Seattle, and on day 3, the ride was short and hot. A few people did extra miles, but not this kid. The tavern in town was owned and operated by an old Scottish dude who was at times the lead singer for Van Morrison and Paul Revere and the Raiders. After dinner, some dude from Montana Conservation Commission (I don’t remember the exact name) gave us an interesting talk on the loss of the buffalo. The night was too hot to engage in mental cogitation, and I crashed early.

Without Cindy, we were left with two old farts, me and Dave, leaving the herd.

Beautiful Montana

More of beautiful Montana

T-4 — Wise River to Fairmont Hot Springs 39.8 miles, 1690 feet elevation gain.
This was another short day, and ten miles of the route was doubling back of what we did yesterday. I rode with Dave von S, and it was a most beautiful day. The climbing was not too difficult, but it again was quite hot. We went over an unnamed Pass that crossed the Continental Divide, but which we named Chief Running Dave Pass. A marvelous descent brought us to a large resort where we were staying. We went into the hot springs swimming pool which had quite warm water with much minerals, making it hard to swim in, and deprived us of the coolness we needed for a hot day. Still, the resort had enough luxury to make it a nice place to stay.

Dave now barely making it, using a cane he found on the side of the road.

Dave on the continental divide at a pass which is now named Chief Running Dave Pass.

T-5 — Fairmont Hot Springs to Phillipsburg 73.3 miles, 3451 feet elevation gain. This was a 41 mile route, with an additional 32 mile option that I took. The ride was thankfully quite cool, but VERY windy with a predominant Gegenwind (headwind). The first 8 miles retraced our previous steps, but then entered the town of Anaconda, location of a previous large copper mining operation. The climbing was not challenging, save for the very strong Gegenwind making it feel like a 9-10% grade. The optional 16 miles there and 16 miles back to the Sapphire mine was most worth it, with spectacular beauty, and a nice way to put mileage on the day. Phillipsburg was having its 150th birthday, but I decided that a shower and food and sleep were more fitting for me.

 

Always a welcome site, the water break!

Waterfall seen when coming down from Georgetown Lake.

Sapphire Mine addition

T-6 Phillipsburg to Ovando 64.5 miles, 2031 feet climbing
The morning started out freezing cold, with ice on our tents and bicycles. The ride started later than usual, and I was bundled up with mittens and other accoutrements to maintain warmth. Then I realized that I just wasn’t feeling well. Perhaps it was the same crud that did in Cindy von G. I don’t know. Anyway, it was too cold to stop riding, so I did some vomiting while pedaling away on my bike. I’m glad nobody was with me. I continued to feel ill, and it was miserable climbing over a minor pass, though the temperature became acceptable. I was too cold and feeling too miserable to snap any photos, or to really enjoy the sights. The only memory was that of dodging a cow in the road. It was a night with minimal food, certainly NO beer or cigars, and my only effort was an attempt to stay hydrated. Ovando had awesome ice cream at the village store which will go long remembered.  Sorry, but I was too sick to feel like taking photos.

T-7 Ovando back to Missoula 58.1 miles, 1112 feet climbing

I spent the night having runny diarrhea, which continued into all of the next two days. I didn’t wish to worry the tour directors, and knew that I was otherwise okay, so just bucked up and enjoyed the ride. To play it safe, I decided to ride a bit slower, and just hang out (ride) with Dave von S., who is a most pleasant and enjoyable character. There was a minor amount of climbing, but for the most part, the ride was totally flat, if not a bit downhill. I stopped very briefly by the ACA headquarters and said hello to Emma, and then dashed on, wanting to get home before another diarrhea spell. The drive was very smooth, and I was able to hit the front door before 6:30, a 7-½ hour drive for 493 miles.

My tent

Tent village of a herd of migrant bicyclists
crossing the plains of Montana.

The caterers Jack and Kathy talk with Lisa and Fido

The final road

Thoughts on the ride.

  1. I love the way the ACA does tours, and especially their fully supported tours.
  2. 2. The staff were stupendous.
    1. Arlen is just a super guy, and a perfect tours director.
    2. Dave did a wonderful job at handling problems such as a meeting hall that suddenly became unavailable, and sick riders that needed to drop out.
    3. Sarah was most incredible. She was most certainly the most up-beat, cheerful leader that I’ve had while on ACA tours. You could tell that she loved cycling and adventure as she radiated it. I especially loved her rock quotes, which were different at each of the water stops that she handled.
    4. Brian was probably the best bicycle mechanic that I’ve ever seen on the ACA tours or other bicycle trips. And, he was confronted with multiple challenges, such a broken bottom brackets, fractured derailleurs, etc. I would have loved to work in a repair shop with him for a few months to acquire some of his bike wisdom. Besides, he was a super guy that I really enjoyed being with.
    5. Amy was awesome. She is a real entertainer, and especially funny when it came to the “talent” show. What a delight.
    6. Bill was silent, behind the scenes, but always a most pleasant person. He had the job of hauling all the luggage around.
    7. The ACA gets an award for going out of their way to support bicycling. They really stick to their goals and objectives to encourage bicycling. We had people drop into our camp that were on cycle tours, and they were allowed to share our campsite and…

Now that I’ve met everybody, I’ve gone back over the google group introductions that everybody provided, and it is so nice to be able to put a face and personality to each person. My only regret is that the week went too quickly, and there wasn’t enough time to get to know everybody as well as I would have liked. But then, there is always an excuse for yet another tour.

A quote for Sarah

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Aug 13

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Courage Classic 2016

I originally did not intend to this years Courage Classic, but the appeal of the fat tire option, and encouragement of a few friends, it seemed like the reasonable thing to do. I was riding as a part of the Auburn Cycling team. I did not take many photographs since I had done this twice before, and did not carry my camera on the bicycle except for the fat tire option of the first day.

Saturday 06AUG — Snoqualmie Pass.  I woke up at 4 am, quickly loaded the bikes, and took off to North Bend. The first day, I was riding my mountain bike, and it followed the Iron Horse trail all the way from North Bend to Cle Elum. I had ridden up to the Snoqualmie Pass tunnel many times, but had not done anything east of the tunnel, so it had a great appeal to me. The start of the ride was very strange, in that it made you ride in reverse to the town of Snoqualmie Falls in order to get out the trail, a distraction of about 3 miles. Getting up to the pass was fairly easy with a steady 3-4% grade, but it was only a very slight descent to Cle Elum on the other side, making riding easy. My only problem was my legs cramping up, and I should have taken in more electrolytes. There was a small amount of road once one entered Cle Elum, and then the fat tire riders were again directed to a gravel road, the Coal Miner’s trail, bringing me into camp. I was anticipating by my Garmin about 10 miles more riding than I actually did , but was grateful to be done with the trip. Oddly, my Garmin read about 56 miles, but others had up to 67 miles on the fat tire option. I was sort of wasted, got my tent set up, and then met a number of friends at dinner. Bedtime was 8 pm, and I slept like a baby.

Sherri Olson and husband in excellent form.

Sherri Olson and husband in excellent form.

At the start

At the start

Ready to roll

Ready to roll

Iron Horse trail, east of Snoqualmie Pass

Iron Horse trail, east of Snoqualmie Pass

Sunday 07AUG — Blewett Pass. I woke up at 5:30, got my tent down, had a cup of coffee, and took off. The morning was downright cold this am, and had to keep cycling to stay warm. Most of the ride up Blewett Pass was 2-4% grade, but the last few miles were 4-6% grade. They had a great lunch on top, and the descent was awesome. Oddly, they had a very convoluted path to the finish line once in the town of Levenworth. We were back in camp before noon. Much of the last half of the ride was with Ronn Goodnough. It was a lazy afternoon in town, and dinner was as usual at Lion’s Park, with one beer in the beer garden afterwards.

Monday 08AUG — Stevens Pass. Today, I was up at 5:15, and able to get on the road by 6 am. It was cool, with rain anticipated. I was well up Steven’s Pass when the rain started at precisely 9 am. It was another couple hours to the top, which was then in heavy rain and quite cold. I was in a cluster of about 8 loosely spaced riders that were the head of the pack, wanting to get over the pass before the rains became too bad. I had a very quick lunch, and then bolted down the west side of the pass to Snohomish. The route along the old Steven’s Pass highway for about 4.5 miles was the most delightful part of the whole trip. I was able to catch the first shuttle bus back to North Bend, and got home about 5 pm.

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Jul 23

I had signed up to do a bicycle event ride with my oldest grandson Patrick Flanagan last fall. After anxious months of waiting and a few training rides, it is finally coming to fruition. For readers, click on images to see more detailed views.

Day 0 — Sunday 17July — we woke up fairly early, Patrick staying over at our house in order to get a jump on the road. The day before, we did a short ride together on the Orting trail, and Patrick was having a lot of trouble with the bicycle. I was able to determine that a few things went out of adjustment and fix them. We drove out I-90 all the way to Coeur d’Alene and then south to Plummer, which was the start of the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes. Everything checked out ok, and we were able to meet a broad span of ages for kids doing the ride, with children as young as 7-8 doing the ride independently on their own bikes. That seemed to help Patrick think that perhaps he could also do it. *Nota bene-the ACA considers this to be day 1.

Patrick beside our tent, eager to start riding

Patrick beside our tent, eager to start riding

The cooks preparing fabulous food

The cooks preparing fabulous food

Part of the staff, including Mark, Bronwyn, Tom and Don

Part of the staff, including Mark, Bronwyn, Tom and Don

Day 1 — Monday 18 July — This was the biggest day, with 43 miles to ride. The trail had a mile downhill grade for about 5 miles, and then remained mostly flat. The morning was quite cool, but it became moderately warm by 11 am. We left about 7:45, and arrived at the campground in Cataldo at 12:30. Patrick was doing quite well, even eager to go swimming, in spite of this being his longest ever ride.

Patrick at the beginning of the first day

Patrick at the beginning of the first day

Approaching the step bridge

Approaching the step bridge

Opa and Patrick on top of the bridge

Opa and Patrick on top of the bridge

Flat! Beautiful!

Flat! Beautiful!

On the banks of the Coeur d'Alene.

On the banks of the Coeur d’Alene.

Terry instructing Bronwyn in the fine art of watermelon surgery.

Terry instructing Bronwyn in the fine art of watermelon surgery.

Patrick at the end of his longest ever (43 mile) ride

Patrick at the end of his longest ever (43 mile) ride

Day 2 — Tuesday 19 July — This was an easy day, with a short 20+ mile ride to Kellogg. Our first stop was the Old Mission, built overlooking the Coeur d’Alene river just outside of Cataldo. The Jesuits were spreading their influence to the indians. The ride was short from there to Kellogg, and Patrick was exceptionally motivated, being that there was a water park in town. He spent four hours in the water park, and had a grand time.

The Cataldo Mission - oldest existing building in Idaho

The Cataldo Mission – oldest existing building in Idaho

The Snake Pit?

The Snake Pit?

Day 3 — Wednesday 20 July — This was another easy day with lots of shuttling. At 08:30, we boarded ourselves and our bicycles, hopped on the bus, and traveled across the Idaho-Montana border on I-90 to the east portal of the Hiawatha Trail. It is an old section of the Milwaukie line that has been turned into rails to trails. We proceeded 14 miles down this trail, which included a 1.7 mile tunnel at the start, which passed from Montana back into Idaho. After lunch at the base of the trail, we we shuttled back up to the tunnel, in order to go through the long tunnel in reverse. We were then shuttled to the town of Wallace, and rode back to camp, 11 miles away.

The first Hiawatha Route tunnel

The first Hiawatha Route tunnel

Other riders eager to enter the cave.

Doug and Dane eager to enter the cave.

Trestles on the trail

Trestles on the trail

Day 4 — Thursday 21 July — Ride from Kellogg to Harrison. This was our second longest day, but it seemed like one of the easier days, being almost perfectly flat. The total distance was 38.5 miles, which Patrick did without any difficulty, save for the heat. We arrived in the camp at Harrison by noon, taking some time to get our tents set up, and then enduring temperature well into the 90’s. It was a lazy afternoon, waiting for the map meeting followed by dinner. In the evening a few of the boys (and girls) went out for a beer, bringing the event to a nice close.

Camping in Harrison. A hot day beside the Lake Coeur d'Alene.

Camping in Harrison. A hot day beside the Lake Coeur d’Alene.

Day 5 — Friday 22 July —Harrison to Plummer and then home. This retraced all that we had done the first day for the first 15 miles, going 7 miles to the step bridge across the lake, and then a very gradual 5 mile climb up to Plummer. Though the grade was never over 3%, the persistence became a little challenging for Patrick, who was quite happy to make it to the top and achieve the end of the trail. The drive back home got us to the Seattle/Tacoma area right at rush hour, which took almost as much time exiting I-90 and driving back to Puyallup as the time to drive as the rest of the trip.

Back across the step bridge

Back across the step bridge

Eager participants (and Bronwyn) preparing for the climb back to the finish line.

Eager participants (and Bronwyn) preparing for the climb back to the finish line.

Patrick at the completion of his 5 day journey.

Patrick at the completion of his 5 day journey.

Day 6 — Saturday 23 July — North Bend to Hyak and Back. Wait a minute! This isn’t a part of the Family Fun Idaho trip, and I didn’t do it with Patrick, but I did it with family, my son Jonathan rode this with me. It seemed only natural to do it, since this rail-to-trail on the Snoqualmie Valley Trail and John Wayne (Iron Horse) Trail is simply a continuation of the old Milwaukie line, just before it ends in Tacoma, WA. This is the last big pass that the trail must encounter on its journey west, and includes large trestles, a very long tunnel as well as smaller tunnels (east of Snoqualmie Pass), and a grade/appearance very similar to the route of the Hiawatha. In fact, the tunnel is 2.3 miles long, more than ½ mile longer than the long tunnel on the trail of the Hiawathas. I knew that I would be riding the Iron Horse Trail in two weeks for the Courage Classic, all the way from North Bend to Cle Elum, about 64 miles, so did this 56 mile jaunt as a warm-up. We were able ride at a considerably faster pace than with Patrick, and a considerably longer distance, climbing over 2000 ft from North Bend to Hyak, which is just on the east side of the Snoqualmie Pass tunnel. Oddly, this trip left me a little sore in the buttocks, which usually doesn’t happen to me. I also got my first flat on a mountain bike, though it was quite easy to fix with a spare tube. The bicycles returned home VERY muddy, and with very dirty but happy riders. The Iron Horse trail goes all the way across the state of Washington to the Idaho border, and ends about 20 miles from the start of the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes.

Historical sign in North Bend

Historical sign in North Bend

Jon eager to ride on his Mountain Bike

Jon eager to ride on his Mountain Bike

The Milwaukee Line info-board

The Milwaukee Line info-board

west end of the 2.3 mile long tunnel

west end of the 2.3 mile long tunnel

One of the six large trestles on the route

One of the six large trestles on the route

Trestle view from above

Trestle view from above

Mile marker (from Chicago). On the route of the Hiawathas, the mile markers were in the 1700's.

Mile marker (from Chicago). On the route of the Hiawathas, the mile markers were in the 1700’s.


Summary of the Trip:

  1. The ACA gets an A+. They are an extraordinarily great group to ride with, especially as you get to know the staff.
  2. The people on the trip are awesome. I regret that I could not get to know better more riders. It was a little hard avoiding politics, and didn’t wish to contend with those who wished to make profound political statements which were farther left (and thus much stupider!) than my conservative approach to life, politics, religion, and things of that sort.
  3. The route was superb. I wish there was a better answer to the Hiawatha trail day — too much shuttling, but still not a day to be missed.
  4. Once again, the cooks were awesome
  5. My thanks to Tammy Schurr for making this a wonderful and special event for Patrick.
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Jun 20

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6/16 (Thursday) — Jon had come down to Puyallup the night before, and we headed off to Portland just before 7 am, arriving in Portland about 9:45. Our bikes were quickly unloaded at Gaylon’s house,  and Gaylon followed us for 15 miles. Our track went down Division St. to the 205 bicycle path. This we took up across the Columbia River to start the Washington portion of our adventure. We started on the old Evergreen highway until we got to Camas. Two miles before Camas, Gaylon left us to go back home. We were following the Washington alternative to the ACA Lewis and Clark bicycle route, which was not terribly clear. We ended up going through downtown Camas. Just before Camas, it began to rain torrentially. With rain gear on, we pushed forward. There was one significant uphill stretch, but other than that, most of the first day was rolling hills. The worst part was the persistent lack of shoulders to the road, and it was a very busy road, with about 30% trucks that would come uncomfortably close to us.  About an hour of heavy rain led to clearing and sunshine, so the decision to push on and camp out was made. Our camp was in the city park of Home Valley. This worked out well, save that the showers did not work, and that it was close to the train tracks. A train passed through about every hour, blaring it’s horn, which was loud enough to wake us. We did not get the best sleep.

Entering Washington with Gaylon

Entering Washington with Gaylon

Still fresh, ready to ride

Still fresh, ready to ride

View on the Washington side of the Columbia River, west of the mountains

View on the Washington side of the Columbia River, west of the mountains

6/17 (Friday) — We were up at 5:30, had breakfast, and were on the road by 7 am. The road on the Washington side started to have better shoulders, but it was still uncomfortable in some parts, especially in the seven tunnels that we needed to go through. Eventually, we got to the Dalles bridge, which did not have a bicycle lane, but was not to uncomfortable to get across. The weather was cool and cloudy, making for some good timing on the ride, and we got into the Dalles just before noon. Jon decided that he wanted to stop, so we found a cheap dive of a hotel to stay in. After some walking around town, we went out to dinner and prepared for the next day.

View of the Columbia River, Washington side, east of the mountains

View of the Columbia River, Washington side, east of the mountains

6/18 (Saturday) — Taking off on the road a little after 7 am, we were able to get onto the historic old Columbia River highway. Jon and I were now headed westward. Once we arrived in Rowena, we realized that a major bicycle event was occurring to raise money for completing the gorge bicycle trail. The climb up the Rowena curves to the lookout was fairly impressive, and immensely beautiful. The road immediately dropped down to Mosier (pronounced Moe-zure) and then started climbing on a bicycle only trail. There were the Mosier twin tunnels to go through, a bit more climbing, and then a descent into Hood River. Hood River was a rather hilly town, but on the western outskirts, the map put us onto I-84 for 11 miles. Getting off at Wyeth Bench Road, we stopped for lunch at the state park, only to have heavy rains start again. We had some additional and substantial climbing to do on Herman Creek Road, but it nicely dropped us into Cascade Locks. It had only temporarily stopped raining, and so considered seriously a hotel. They were either way too expensive, or full, owing to an event going on in town the night we needed to stay over. So, we stayed in the Marina, along with other cycle tourists, and also a SoBo PCT hiker. We enjoyed dinner with her at the brewery in the Marina, and then crashed early, sleeping well, but with episodes of quite heavy rain. The tent kept us dry, but things were quite wet.

Rowena Crest

Rowena Crest

A look down on the climb up to Rowena Crest

A look down on the climb up to Rowena Crest

Entering the Mosier tunnels

Entering the Mosier tunnels

Camping at Cascade Locks Marina

Camping at Cascade Locks Marina

6/19 (Sunday) — We got a slightly later 7:30 start this morning, but there were only a few clouds in the sky, and it was quite beautiful. This section I’ve done a few times before, but never on the touring bike headed in a westward direction. The climb to Crown Point was long but rarely more than 6% grade, and we made it back to Gaylon’s house by slightly after 12 noon. After chatting a bit with Gaylon, we loaded our bicycles and bags and took off back to Puyallup, and Jon back to Arlington.

Bonneville Dam from the bicycle trail

Bonneville Dam from the bicycle trail

Goodbye to a beautiful river.

Goodbye to a beautiful river.

All in all, it was a fantastic ride. I did not like the Washington side, and will never do that side again. The Oregon side was quite impressive. It was a total delight to be able to do this with Jonathan. I look forward to more rides with him.

 

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May 06

Spandex

Spandex Optional, by Peter Rice ★★★★

This is a short but cute little book about bicycle touring. It is an easy read, taking me about 2 hours to get through it on a leisurely basis. Peter discusses cycle touring from a non-traditional perspective. Some advice is not the best, such as riding any old beat up bicycle on a long distance tour. Much advice is great, such as just getting on the bike and doing it. The most salient theme was to simply RYOR (ride your own ride), using a similar phrase often used in the thru-hiking community (to hike your own hike); i.e., do it your way, as everybody will have their own individual style of doing a long-distance ride. It’s a nice read for anybody who feels that long-distance cycling must be performed in a certain fashion, such as wearing spandex shorts.

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