Friday, July 12, 2013

The end of one adventure, is simply the beginning of the next.

Typed 6/27/13

So the destination of an epic adventure had been reached. Now what? Well, while it has been a wonderful trip, I was ready to go home. I knew there was nothing available for public transit that far out, so I began the ride back. I stopped at a convenience store in Clallam Bay, where I saw/ met (extremely briefly) Gabe Rygarrd from Rygaard Logging from History Channels show, Ax Men. It's kinda funny when you are star struck by a logger.

I got on a bus in Clallam Bay and after a few connections, I discovered I was one bus rotation late to get all the way to the ferry that night. I was dropped off at Discovery Bay, about 30 miles from where I would take the ferry from Kingston back to Edmonds. It was POURING rain, and getting dark quick. It was a 60mph speed zone, but I had a decent shoulder so I felt semi-safe. For the first time ever in my life, I decided to stick out my thumb ad see if I could hitch a ride. It took a few miles, but eventually a white pick-up pulled to the shoulder. One of the nicest guys I've met along my trip, Vaughn, and his newly aquired pup George, picked me up, wet as a fish, and went out of his way to bring me all the way to the ferry. If you ever read this Vaughn, thanks a million, again! When we pulled up the ferry dock the 820PM ferry was pulling away from the dock, but it was OK, another would run at 940, and I made it here safely, and could get a decent meal now. By the time I was off the ferry in Edmonds, it was dark, and my GPS batteries were dead. I thought I knew the way back to the motel I stayed in a few nights before, but in typical fashion, I can't navigate a city at night worth a damn, and I got lost. I got some new batteries and made it to the motel just a bit before midnight. The next morning I made my train reservation, repacked and minimized a few things. I snapped my bike tool trying to get my pedals off, so I went to a mechanics shop to borrow a real 8mm Allen key, and
broke them loose. Normally getting a bike into a box is a bit of a chore. The Amtrak boxes are HUGE. I probably didn't even need to lower my seat. I took the stem off, but probably could've just rotated it. Once pedals are off and bars are tweaked the bike literally rolls right into the box. I slid my front panniers in the bottom of the box, and took my rear bags as carry on. Now I'm sitting on the train. A bit over a day down, just under 2 days to go. I am stiff as a brick and bored as a board.

I'm honestly not sure what I was was expecting finishing to be like. I honestly can't explain what it was like. The emotions were kind of numb compared to what I expected.  If numb doesn't explain them, mixed definitely should. The night after finishing the ride, and before the hike, I fell asleep laughing my ass off, with tears pouring out of my eyes. Nothing was funny, and I wasn't sad in the least. Hiking to Cape Alava was less epic than being able to ride my bike all the way, but the trail was A) Completely unrideable with my rig, and B) Wilderness, therefore illegal to ride.

A lifetime goal, over a year in planning, saving money, dreaming, and 45 days worth of full on physical, mental, emotional, and (anti)social commitment, boiled down to standing on a seaweed covered rock off Tskawahyah Island. The sense of accomplishment was huge. All I could think was, "That's it? What now?"

Everyone has different priorities in life, and many times, those priorities change with time. I have had an immense amount of time to think of what my priorities are on this trip. I think the separation from home, friends, and family, has once again proven to shine a light on just how amazing my life in the Northeast really is. I have the most supportive parents I could imagine, who have my back through anything, and are pretty damn cool for a bunch of geezers. I have an amazing big brother who has a completely different focus in life when you look as each of us on the surface, yet when you look a bit deeper, we are on parallel paths through life. We respect each other for who we each are, and put aside the surface details, and there is no one else who I can relate to, understand, or confide in better in the world.  I have many friends from all walks of life, many of who would do anything for me, as I would for them. You should know who you are, and thank you to all of you. My VT "family" and the whole KSP staff mean a lot to me as well.

I have never been one to conform to standards. The standard life option is get the highest paying job you can achieve after a given amount of schooling, have a family, and retire once your old and decrepit and finally have time to enjoy what you've worked for your entire life. All the while talking about things "you wish you could do" or things you "should've done while you were younger," etc. I've heard it a million times, "I want to take a trip like that, but I can't because of....." This is where I feel I have gained clarity on my life focus on this trip. Some people have a bucket list, I prefer to say I have a life list. A bucket list being things you'd like to do before you die. I have a list of things I would like to do while I am still living life to the fullest. This list is dynamic. If my hopes and dreams change, I have no hard feelings to take something off of my list, and there is always room for something new to be added on. If I can support myself well enough financially to keep working on my list, I am in a good place in life. I don't ALWAYS need to be doing something from the list, trips such as the one I am on require many months+ to plan, save, and complete.

To all the people in the world continuing to come up with excuses why "you cant this or cant that..." STOP. Life is a series of decisions with various outcomes and consequences. If you work hard, stay focused, and always keep the goal in mind, almost anything is achievable. You've got to want it bad enough to be willing to deal with the consequences. Nothing worth having comes easy or without consequence. Don't wait. The adage, "Good things come to those who wait," I don't believe it, not for a minute. I could've waited my whole life, and riding across the country would never have gotten any easier (with the exception of a bit more training before hand, but that would still be work towards the goal, not waiting.) The journey may in fact be more important than the destination, but never loose sight of the destination. Without a destination, a journey is simply aimless wandering, which can be fun, but has little chance of successful payoff. I may seem as if I am coming off harsh, but as a motivational intended section of this write-up, this is how I motivate myself. Anyone who knows me well, knows I am a perfectionist, and am extremely self critical. Good enough is almost never good enough. I hold myself to a high standard of completion and success, and almost never back down. The payoff of success has proven time and time again to be worth the hard work, and occasional sacrifice.

This trip has been no different. All the painful days of riding long distances through blazing heat or more frequently bitter cold or pouring rain, have been totally worth the final sense accomplishment. More people than you would expect ride bike across the country, but the percentage in the scheme of things is still very small. I am very proud of my accomplishment, and riding solo, unsupported adds to the "win," for me. This trip was not a race, it was not a charity, and had generally no greater meaning. The most frequent question I got along my journey was, "Why are you doing this?" After completion, still the best answer I can come up with is "Why not?!?"

Wallace, ID to Cape Alava, WA

Typed 6/27/13

Leaving Wallace, it was still raining in the morning, but, at least for a few more miles, I had a rail trail to keep myself off the highway. Just before the Fourth of July Pass I got back on the Freeway and continued to Coeur d'Alene where I picked up another bike path that would bring me into Spokane. I was finally in the last state, and it felt good! I was way ahead of schedule, and feeling strong. At this point I was planning to only ride about 85-90 miles and stay in Spokane. I decided to keep up the high mileage days and make a break for Davenport, WA. I cut it close and got there a bit before dark, and just as the manager was leaving the motel. I debated camping, but motel comfort was well worth the cost. There was a painting on the back of the door that read "Make your life a story worth telling." This sign helped keep my moral high. At this point I wanted to go home, a lot. The trip was fun, and I wanted to finish, but enough was enough.  Being alone for that amount of time and also dealing with the physically stress of pushing so hard everyday was wearing me down.

The next morning on my way out of Davenport, I met a group of touring cyclists east bound. I think there were six of them, a father and son team going to Maine and others breaking off along the way. The were riding about 60-70 pound bikes and riding about 60 miles a day. I told them where I was going and the father told me I wouldn't make it, but I knew what I could do. He honestly did not believe me when I told him the mileages I was riding. The father was quite over-the-top. I warned them about the Route 2 MT/ND situation, and the others seemed to accept it, while the father just wanted turn by turn directions through VT, NH, and ME, as if I remembered exact route numbers from 3000 miles ago. I wanted to get an earlier start, so I finally broke from the mapquest for NE session, and got on my way. I stopped for lunch in the town the passing group had camped in the night before. I was riding into headwinds, but certainly not the worst winds I've had. Eastern Washington was the desert. Incredible cliff lined valleys with steep decents into them and steep climbs back out. It also got quite warm this day. Dropping into one of the valleys I blew out a tire at about 35mph. Not the normal...pppssssssssstttttt flat. No, full on BANG, flat tire, blownout sidewall. Again, I've got to give it up to my incredible disc brakes, I came to a stop safely. The worst part was I have a tiny 2 foot shoulder, a guard rail with about 6 feet of gravel, and then a 60 foot drop to the drainage ditch below. If I stayed on that side of the rail I would've been hit my traffic, and it was about a 2 mile walk down the hill to pass the rail. I boosted my bike over the rail and swapped out my rear tire for the tire I had carried all the way across the country but hadn't used due to more than desirable tread. I was certainly glad to have the spare with me!

The difference of a pass and a valley is where the pay off is. In a valley, you get an epic decent and pay for it by grinding pedal all the way back out, sorta like getting a new truck with zero down payment. Riding a pass is more like a theme park. The wait/work comes first, and finally, you get the payoff and you get the ride of your life. Actually riding a huge mountain pass is NOTHING like a theme park ride, but you probably get what I mean. Just after Waterville, WA I had the most epic descent of the trip. It was about 8 miles of 6-7% grade dropping down into the Columbia River Valley, just north of Wenachee. I was easily sustaining about 40mph and the shoulder was tiny, but had regular pull offs so I rode in the center of the lane, and pulled off when traffic was coming behind me. Traveling at near the speed of traffic, I wasn't being passed enough that it was an issue. Once down in the valley, I was heading south to Wenachee, and the wind was brutal.

 I made my way to a county park, and sat in the Day Use Area for a bit while I called my parents. With dark begining to set it, I went to find a campsite, and put up my tent. I was approached by a woman on a golf cart, who told me there was "no tenting." I explained my situation, that I had ridden 130 miles, and it was now dark, and I was on a bicycle. She threatened to have me arrested, I'm still not sure why, so it was back to the highway. I ended up in Cashmere where all h/motels within 5 miles were full, there was a wedding going on at the town park, no restaurants were open anymore, and I had yet to eat, and had nowhere to stay. I used to wifi at the library, and didnt have anyluck finding anywhere to camp. Back to the town park I went, where I began to set up my tent in a picnic area just as the sprinkler system came on. I moved on to the soccer field where I got my tent up, and tucked inside about a half hour before the sprinklers came on in that field also. I finally had a night without rain, and got some atficial rain instead. Knowing that the "Park Closed At Dark" was about 50 yards from my tent, I was on the road by 515 the next morning, and I made it to Leavenworth for breakfast. The was a big charity ride going on locally, so there were bikes everywhere. In the high class waffle haus I got talking to some other riders who were on a short tour, I cant remember where to. I aslo got involved in a conversation with the table on the other side of me, who later picked up my check. A great breakfast, and interaction with nice people restored a bit of faith in humanity after the night before, and I set out for Steven's Pass with a smile on my face. It wasnt raining terribly, but it was a bit on and off. I saw a bear in a field on my way up, first wild bear I've seen...ever. I met a group of riders at a convienience store on my way up. I left, knowing they would pass me, being they had empty bikes, but it was still crushing to watch them pull away as fast as the did when passing. They were being shuttled from the top due to the sketchy western desent.

Dropping off Steven's Pass was probably the scariest thing I've ever done on a bicycle. Narrow to no shoulders with guard rails and concrete barriers. The shoulder were littered with rock, sand, garbage, and wheel-eating drainage grates. The traffic was very heavy. I was smelling burning brakes, and didn't think much of it until I realized it was my own brakes when I looked down and the top of my rotors were singed brown and they were steaming from the rain/ road water spray. I took a lunch break when things mellowed out a bit. I was stopped for about 40 minutes and got back on the road. Not too much farther along, traffic was stopped, but the shoulder was wide enough for me to get through. I found myself passing vehicles that passed me BEFORE lunch. Only thing I could see that caused the back up was a few stop lights in small villages with such high volume sunday evening traffic. Pushing into Edmonds, just outside of Seattle, I was in good position for an early ferry crossing to the Olympic Pennisula.

I was told that after Steven's Pass, I was in the clear as far as hills/ passes. Whoever came up with that conclusion clearly never rode the Olympic Peninsula on a bike. I stopped in a Visitor Information booth, to get some extra road info. I should've known by now that these people have no idea about the realism and practicality of bike routes. I was told matter of factually that the hills were all behind me, and the ride to the coast would be mostly flat. I proceeded to put on another 4500 vertical feet in the next 75 miles. It was raining all day. I chose to ride WA 112 which was the coastal route. It was like riding a track out of Mario Kart. Up, down, left, right, over hill and dale, through the rainforest, and finally...the Pacific Ocean! I wasn't quite finished, but I could taste victory. I still had another 25 miles of some of the worst rolling pavement I had ridden since ND's "broken pavement." It was as if they layed down 3/4" stone and dumped a bit of tar on top. After a final push, my legs were spent, but at 7:54PM June 24, 2013 the most epic ride of my life to date was complete. I had not yet reached the westernmost point of the country, but I did reach the ranger station where the Cape Alava hiking trail continued through wilderness rainforest to the coast. I didnt set out for any kind of record, so it wasnt worth attempting the 9 mile roundtrip hike that night. I camped at "The Lost Resort," which had a small store and bathhouse. I really couldve used some food, however the store was closed. The only other camper was the groundskeeper who refused to give me the wifi password, even though I was staying there!! I wanted to use the store again in the morning, but it was still closed. Oh well,
free camping I suppose. I continued on my way to the hike. The dense rainforest was like no other environment I've ever been in. The boardwalk was not like an Atlantic City wooden foot highway. It was slicker than owl shit, and, boy is that slick! I arrived at the Pacific during an extremely low tide, So I hiked the beach of Cape Alava and all the way out beyond Tskawahyah Island to as far west as the Contiguous 48 states would allow me to go! I had carried my rear wheel with me on the hike for a few photos and to dip in the pond off the left coast!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Miles City, MT to Wallace, ID

More Typing 6/26/13. Now aboard Amtrak Train #8 The Empire Builder from Edmonds (near Seattle), WA to Chicago, IL.

Leaving Miles City, I had lost one day in my skip-a-day plan. I put my head down, and started putting serious mileage behind me. I made it to Billings, MT. I was on the interstate all day, with moderate headwinds and climbing. I was starting get a head cold, but I just kept pushing through. 3 flat tires in a day is discouraging when your trying to make that kind of mileage in a day. I didn't know anywhere to camp in Billings, and I felt like garbage, so I got another cheap motel. This cheap motel, well, it was the biggest dump I stayed in the entire trip. The door framing was packed with newspaper to "stop draft." The sink took about 5 minutes to drain per 30 seconds of running water. I literally slept in my sleeping bag on top of the bed. The next morning I was up early and feeling just as crummy. I could not breathe through my nose, which may have been convenient to avoid the stench of cigarettes in my wonderful "non-smoking" room. If I was in a nicer place I would have considered a day of rest to kick the cold. Instead I made the 120+ ride to Livingston, MT.  My original plan was to ride to Big Timber, but I was making good enough time, so I decded to make the push. A generally uneventful day with considerable climbing, but still rolling hills and not yet mountain passes. Leaving Livingston I had a decent jump on the day. Exit hills, enter mountains. I started the day with a nice 14 mile climb. Mid day I had another 10 or so mile climb, and to finish it all off, I cleared the Continental Divide (Homestake Pass), about 16-17 mile climb, bringing me into Butte. When I say climb, I'm not talking about gradually gaining elevation. I am talking 4-5% continous grade with a 6-7% grade Pass for about 3 miles at the top. These are generalized numbers. I think its important to rememeber at this point, I am riding a fully self supported touring bike weighing in at no less than 85lbs, typically closer to 90-100 with sufficient food and water supply. I have two options on these climbs: sit and spin at high cadence, or gear down, stand up, and crank each pedal stroke with all of my 145lbs.  Neither way is easy, and as any cyclist knows, the different pedal storkes work different muscle groups. The biggest thing I notice with the loaded bike, is that when standing up and pedaling, you can't push as hard as you can on an empty bike due to the fact and the side to side balance and resistance.

All this bitching about the climb. What goes up, must come down. There really isn't a way to describe the feeling of cruising at 30-40mph on a bicycle for 10-15 minutes at a shot. It is an amazing feeling. It certainly seems short lived after the 1-2 hour constant grind to get there, but the high you experience is hard to top. The gyroscopic effect sets in on the wheels and the bicycle can be controlled much like a motorcycle at speed where you simple lean your head, and the slightest weight shift sets you into an arching corner. Dropping down the Continental Divide into Butte, I litterally had to slow down so that I wasn't passing trucks decending in low gear. While it would have been fun and exciting to say that I did pass a truck, the chance of a truck blowing a tire or any other number of things going wrong was too high, and it wasn't worth risking my life.

After Butte, I was on my way to Missoula. This day started with brutal headwinds and a nasty looking storm front was heading my way. I took a quick stop out of the wind in an underpass to call for a weather report. After my proven-most-reliable weatherman Allan S. helped me out, I knew I was going to get wet, but it looked like the thunderstorms were minor, and slim to no threat of hail. Pushing on in the wind, I hear/see the moving billboard of a rental RV eastbound beeping and waving. Now, I get several cars a day giving a friendly beep and wave, typically either a hippy rig covered in stickers or a vehicle with bike racks, but this has been the only rental RV. I knew my friends from VT were taking a rental RV trip in Montana at this same time. The coincidence was amazing that we had passed each other! As it turns out, they had seen me earlier, turned around to find me, but I was in the underpass getting a weather report, so they missed me. After
ransacking the small town of Drummond, they thought it was a lost cause, and continued east, until, once again, they saw me. Return chase, this time they caught me. We had late lunch together in Drummond. They'll probably read this at some point so: it was really cool to see you guys on the other side of the country! Shortly after Drummond the rain set in, and then set in heavier. I continued to Missoula where I spent the night with family of a friend. I had never met the family before and I cannot express how thankful I am for their great hospitality!

Departing Missoula in the rain, I could see what kind of day it was going to guessed it....wet. I have a long 70 mile "phantom" descent into St. Regis. It was generally downhill, but the grade was so mellow, it certainly didn't feel like it, especially with the wind and rain. There was supposed to be some sort of rail trail that lead out of St. Regis and connect to Wallace, ID. The day was getting late, and after a second failed attempt of trying to find the trail, I didn't want to waste anymore time, So back onto I-90 I went. Lookout Pass was not as bad as I was expecting after all the hype. It was about 30 miles of mellow grade and 3 miles of steep at the top. The top of the pass was the point where I crossed into Idaho and Pacific Time. The western side of the pass was also much colder. The eastern side was rain the whole way up, but with the effort of climbing and generally slow speed, I stayed warm. At the top of the pass, the rain had a hint of mixing rain snow sleet mix. While there was no accumulation, it did not fall like normal rain. The temperature dropped drastically once over the peak. After the first mile or so, I stopped and put on every layer I could, and I was so greatful I had thermals with me that I hadnt used since NY. My insulated leather gloves also came in handy. I was planning on camping, but the 40* temps and rain were a perfect combination to wimp out and get a motel for the night. A few miles before Wallace, ID I did find a paved rail trail that would take me down the remainder of Lookout Pass.