Monday, August 18, 2014

Washington Cascades, Day 10, Forks to Port Angeles

Truck route mountain pass Washington Cascades 2014_0224
Read all the posts about this trip in backwards order (or better yet, start at the bottom and work up) here.

Forks may be famous for vampires and werewolves, but being in Washington we were pretty sure there would be coffee, too. So when we headed out in the morning, destined for Port Angeles, we were confident we'd find coffee six miles up the road in town. And indeed we did, at a lovely little drive through, or in our case, ride through. The coffee was fine, and it got us ready for what we expected would be a relatively easy 70 miles (which turned out to have almost 4200 feet of climbing. Oh well.)
coffee in Forks Washington Cascades 2014_0217
The first 20 miles or so were a delight, with very little traffic through wooded areas and past a small lake. Just exactly what you dream of when you dream of bicycle touring.

Then we saw the sign, or rather the first sign.
Read notice Washington Cascades 2014_0221
Which directed us to the next sign.
Read notice 2 Washington Cascades 2014_0223
Just in case you didn't read it, it says, roughly "If you ride this road you will be killed by a motor vehicle, and it will be all your fault becasue you do not belong here and so too bad for you."

That's the road we turned on. Not because we're crazy, but because that's the way you need to go to get from Forks to Port Angeles. But hey, it's only 40 miles or so of RVs and logging trucks, so what the heck.

What bothered me even more was that, after we turned on the Hell Road, there was not one, not one, sign warning motor vehicle users to watch for cyclists, or share the road. Nothing. Washington is a great state to ride in, but this is a major fail.

Here's what I'd like. In addition to this sign, a sign for drivers that reads:
Drivers, please exit your vechicle at the gate and sign the statement that you understand cyclists may be on the road, and that if you so much as startle one by driving closer than three feet you will lose your drivers license. If you come in contact with one and injure them, your head will be placed on a spike to the left of this gate along side the other heads of careless drivers.
 That's not too much to ask, is it?

That said, we saw few motor homes, and the giant logging trucks that flew past us made the attempt to give us as much room as they could. Mostly we listened for them, and when they passed us we had already stopped our bikes and were waiting in the dirt off the road. Some of our group just rode, and trusted the trucks to give them space. I just couldn't.

But there weren't that many trucks, and the ride was beautiful. The top photo is a view from the highest point on the Hell Road. And, again, Curtis Flower Photo Hater saw so many beautiful flowers he couldn't resist photographing them himself. Yikes.
Flowers again Washington Cascades 2014_0235
Technically not a flower, but I don't care.
Flowers again 2 Washington Cascades 2014_0237

Aflowers again 3Washington Cascades 2014_0245
At several points during the ride I was sure I could smell the ocean, and indeed we weren't that far away. We took a bit of an off-route detour to add a few miles (and hills) and get closer to the water. Sarah Palin claims she could see Russia from Alaska, but we could see Canada from our lunch stop.
Can we see Canada 2 Washington Cascades 2014_0253 copy
Eventually, and in no big rush, we arrived in Port Orchard and set up camp. We hadn't had showers available the night before, so the hot water at this camp site was a big hit with all of us.
Port Orchard camp Washington Cascades 2014_0213

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Washington Cascades, Day 9, Wenatchee to Forks

Forks Rain forest Washington Cascades 2014_0268
Read all the posts about this trip in backwards order (or better yet, start at the bottom and work up) here.

With fires sweeping through Washington and our planned destination, Winthrop, completely closed and off the grid, I assumed we'd sit tight and wait. After all, natural disasters are beyond the control of Adventure Cycling, the tour company for our two-week ride through the Washington Cascades. But our leaders Heather and Greg had other ideas. Instead of doing nothing, they bundled us up and drove us to the Olympic Peninsula, home to a rain forest and, perhaps more importantly to 13-year-old girls (though we had none with us, so this is just a theory) home to Forks, the setting for werewolves and vampires in the Twilight novels and books.

If there had been no fires, our group would never have seen the inside of the tour van; we'd have ridden every mile of our tour. Instead, we got to take a long drive. While I wasn't thrilled about being stuck in a vehicle, I was very thrilled about our alternate plan. And really, the van ride wasn't too bad, and was even reasonably comfortable. I just slept a lot.

The Van, or ship of fools Washington Cascades 2014_0255
When we got to Bogachiel State Park just south of Forks, it was stunning. It wasn't even raining, a pleasant surprise for a rain forest. The campground itself seemed magical and impossibly green.
Tricia in rain forrest Washington Cascades 2014_0287 copy

Curtis goes Twilight Washington Cascades 2014_0274It had been a long drive so it was a bit late to take a serious ride, but Tricia and I saddled up and rode out to explore Forks. They've done what they can to take advantage of their Twilight fame. There are a few cheesy stores and tours available, but the whole Twilight fad seems to be on the edge of fading away. Still, the visitors center does have a signed, but fading, movie poster hanging in their window.

I wanted to make a photo of Tricia in front of the Forks town sign holding a knife and spoon, but we lacked the necessary props.

Forks Washington Cascades 2014_0273
We did a little exploring by bike and discovered a charming little town. I love this house. It's somehow just perfect. If I ever make a movie this house will be in it.
Forks perfect house Washington Cascades 2014_0277
Back at camp I never stopped marveling at the setting. Try clicking my panorama to see it full screen. It looks so much better big.
Foks camp Washington Cascades 2014 Forks Bogachiel State Park iphone_0618
Bonus photo of the forest, just being all foresty awesome, and because everybody needs some fisheye every now and then.
Fisheye trees Washington Cascades 2014 iphone_0615

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Washington Cascades, Day 8 Ellensberg to Wenatchee

Windmills Washington Cascades 2014_0323
Read all the posts about this trip in backwards order (or better yet, start at the bottom and work up) here.

Here's the thing with wind and photos: It's hard to tell just how windy it is. In the photo above maybe it's windy, or maybe those huge blades are just waiting for a breeze.

Look at this one. Can you tell that we can barely make any forward progress? Can you tell that for the first flat 12 miles we were fighting (and sometimes losing) to keep our speed up near 10 mph? Well, we were.
Can't see the wind Washington Cascades 2014_0310
Maybe this will help

Our day went on with wind, and then a climb, which was at least a lot more fun. We were riding 67 miles with 4,300 of climbing. That's enough even without the wind. With it made for a long day.

Happy Curtis Washington Cascades 2014_0328 copyWe also got to ride along a busy highway for a while. There was room for us, but having big trucks fly past just isn't very romantic. Heather, our ride leader,  suggested an alternate route when we neared the summit. Some riders said the road was bad, but Heather said we'd like it anyway. When we reached the turn I was still undecided. Right then two huge, loud trucks blew past, Tricia gave me a look, and our decision was made. It was so very much the right thing to do. Within a few hundred yards we were all alone, with no traffic noise and beautiful trees all around us. We laughed and chatted our way to the top. It was the first time I'd felt good all day.

Optional route Washington Cascades 2014_0330
We saw only one car driving our alternate route. Such a deal.
switchback Washington Cascades 2014_0336

Torn Tire Washington Cascades 2014 0095We returned to the highway, enjoyed a lovely downhill and turned to follow the Wenatchee River toward Wenatchee. We had some wonderful short climbs and some short, quick descents I love. On Dead Man's Hill I reached the bottom and waited for Tricia. She's usually just a second back, but I didn't see her. I panicked and rode like mad back uphill. I was relieved to see her pushing her bike, meaning nothing too horrible had happened. Tricia has a policy: Never do a ride or ski run with death in the name. I can see why now. Somehow something had put a huge gash in her tire. When the tube hit the road, it exploded. Fortunately, we were prepared. We booted it and were on our way. (See what the heck that means here.) Unfortunately an emergency repair like this doesn't make for a smooth, confidence-inspiring tire.  We limped the rest of the way to camp.

We did at least come across a young entrepreneur selling some darn-near perfect lemonade. She also refilled our water bottles.
lemonade Washington Cascades 2014_0344
We also got to take our bikes over the freeway on a bike-ped bridge, (Why can't we have those?) then ride up Easy Street where we saw a pumpkin cannon, unfortunately not launching that day.
Bike bridge Washington Cascades 2014_0349
That evening we found out that due to fires where we'd planned to ride we were going to load our bikes on the van and head to the land of werewolves and vampires in the morning.
Greg on van Washington Cascades 2014_0364

Washington Cascades bike tour, Day 7, Windy Point campground to Ellensburg

Tricia after Windy Point 2 Washington Cascades 2014_0374
Read all the posts about this trip in backwards order (or better yet, start at the bottom and work up) here.

We rolled out of Windy Point, riding along the tree-lined river, knowing we were leaving the greener parts of our trip and headed East where there is significantly less rainfall.  We also knew that, once again, there would be long stretches with no water for us to drink.

After stopping in the tiny town of Naches for coffee and having a nice chat with a semi-local cyclist on a trip of his own, we headed out of town, uphill and into a different climate. I was amazed how little time it took for the landscape to completely change as we rode our first short hill.
first climb Washington Cascades 2014_0378
It was green behind us, and parched in front.

Bring me some water Washington Cascades 2014_0381We were worried enough about water that we made a short side trip into Selah, just outside Yakima, to stock up on cold water. Just before we did I had a wonderful descent on a delightful road, only to turn around and not see Tricia anywhere. She'd seen the turn we needed to make. I hadn't. Still, the ride down was worth the climb back up to my waiting wife, who just gave me an eye roll and soldiered on.

I'm glad we did plan that extra water stop, because as soon as we left, the road turned up and the day started to get hot, and we were, again, climbing.

The Yakima River we rode near is a tubers' paradise. We saw pickup after pickup stacked with inner tubes and filled to overflowing with very large, very white, very shirtless young men, all looking like they'd be badly burned by tonight if they weren't already. For all the water so close by, it was a hot, dry ride.

Hills into Eastern section Washington Cascades 2014_0385

Riding uphill in the dry heat wasn't really that bad. The landscape was interesting and almost all of the pickups were careful to give us safe passing space. But then the wind started to pick up. By the time we got to the flatter part of the ride it was downright tough. It makes it impossible to share a conversation, and there's no feeling of accomplishment like there is when you climb a hill. We spent the last 15 slightly uphill headwind miles at around 10 mph (not that I'm complaining, Heather)

I have no idea what this sign means, but I didn't like it.
Wind Tours Washington Cascades 2014_0395

We got just a tiny bit confused with our directions when we were half a mile away, so we stopped and asked for some help. After we were straightened out, Tricia asked about the wind and was answered "It's always windy here, but not this windy."

When we found camp we headed right back out. It was our turn to cook and we needed to shop. Tricia did a wonderful job. She made quinoa — a high protein, rice-like dish — with tofu; a mixed green salad with feta cheese and dried cranberries; and sauted vegetables that required a lot of chopping and slicing. What with the fresh strawberries and whipped cream over pound cake for dessert, I think it was the best meal we had on the road. I, as assistant chopper/slicer and getter-of-items, have no photos to show for all her hard work. I was just too darn busy. So here's a bonus photo of Tricia that looks a lot like the others on this page.
Tricia after windy point Washington Cascades 2014_0388

Washington Cascades bike tour, Day 6, Paradise and Mt. Rainer to Windy Point campground

Lake and Ranier Washington Cascades 2014_0410

Read all the posts about this trip in backwards order (or better yet, start at the bottom and work up) here.

Leaving Paradise (what an odd phrase to type) we knew we'd have 30 miles of wonderful downhill, with only one small climb in the middle before we'd have to climb again. We dressed warmly and promised to stop regularly and enjoy the mountain, vistas and morning light. There's so much to enjoy.
Tricia lwaving Rainer Washington Cascades 2014_0424

Descending Mt. Rainer Washington Cascades 2014_0429

Tough brake break Washington Cascades 2014_0433We were having a wonderful day until we reached the mini-climb about 16 miles into the 30 mile descent. As we headed up Tricia downshifted and — nothing happened. We stopped and started bicycle triage. The shifter clicked, but had no resistance and the rear derailleur didn't move. It didn't take too long to discover Tricia's shifter cable had broken. She'd had her bike inspected before the trip and was rather annoyed that the kind of problem she'd thought to avoid had just happened. So, what to do? There's no way she's going uphill in high gear.

Rescue Washington Cascades 2014_0437When we'd finished cursing, we made a plan. We'd turn around and ride downhill to a wide spot and hope that Greg and the support van hadn't managed to sneak past when we were in a restroom. We also flagged a car and asked them to keep an eye out for the van at the bottom of the hill just in case we'd missed it.

Eventually, in a not horribly long time, though it seemed like forever, Greg drove up, and noticing our wild waving and perhaps tears, pulled over. In an amazingly short time he fished the frayed cable out of the shifter, installed a new one and pronounced us ready to go. Disaster averted.

Heather, riding "sweep" for the day, rolled in while Greg was working and tossed a small feel-good bone to us by saying "Well, you two aren't who I expected to catch."

And with that we were back on the road and headed for still more wondrous views.

More Rainer Washington Cascades 2014_0449

Not only are the views and flowers interesting, the geology is fascinating as well. Even my untutored eye could often see how glaciers and water had carved, and continue to carve the earth.

Rock Washington Cascades 2014_0442

After our long downhill we got to climb back up to 4400 feet and Whites Pass, where we stopped at a gas station for lunch. Unlike most gas stations this one had, in addition to the usual fare, locally smoked salmon. Not too shabby. We also realized it was a mail pick-up point for travelers hiking the Pacific Coast Trail when we saw a backpacker picking up the package they'd held for him.

 After our last climb of the day we got to enjoy a 15 mile slight downhill and a mild tailwind. It's sections of the road like this that trick me into thinking "Yep, I've got this cycling stuff down. Am I strong today or what?" Delusions can be a beautiful thing.

Book club Washington Cascades 2014_0458
Due to our earlier delay we arrived at camp a bit late. But we still had time to do some laundry and later soak our feet in the river and kick back some. Tricia's book club was reading Barbara Kingslover's  Prodigal Summer and Tricia found a perfectly appropriate place to read it.
Laundry Washington Cascades 2014_0454

At our map meeting we went over the next day's route, little knowing that, though Windy Point wasn't too windy that day, we would discover that Washington could indeed kick up a breeze.
Map meeting Washington Cascades 2014_0469


Monday, August 11, 2014

Washington Cascades bike tour, Day 4 and 5, Randle to Paradise and Mt. Rainer

Tricia on Rainer Washington Cascades_0189
Read all the posts about this trip in backwards order (or better yet, start at the bottom and work up) here.

Executive summary: Forty nine miles, 5,446 feet of climbing, temperatures that peaked at 106 on the road, waterfalls, snow, cliffs, and a cool toilet seat. Oh, and marmots.

We left Randle knowing we had a big day in front of us. But it was a beautiful morning with mist hanging above the ground, it wasn't too cold, and we were on vacation, so all was right with the world.

Start of Rainer ride Washington Cascades_0237

Seat at coffee shop after randleKnowing that our climb would get serious soon enough, and more importantly realizing that we'd have no services for a long, long time, we stopped in Packwood for a shot of espresso. We've noticed in our travels that in small communities there is often a coffee shop that acts as a magnet for the cool and creative. This one was no exception. Even the rest room was a lot more fun the the average commode. And how could we not love a place where our barista was very impressed that we'd ridden a whole 15 miles to get there?

In not too much time, we left the main highway and started into the park along a quiet tree-lined road.  Like the tonal quality in the park entrance photo? It turns out that stuffing a camera in a jersey pocket is a good way to accidentally rotate the control dial to the retro-hip, faux-art setting.

Rainer entry Washington Cascades_0246

We were concerned about water, having been told there was none between Packwood and our ride finish. The toll-taker at the pay gate entrance agreed we wouldn't see any. Only later did we find out there was a water fountain 100 yards past her that she didn't tell us about. Fortunately there was also a surprise water fountain about half way up, at Box Canyon. What with the heat, every ounce made a difference. Tricia and I were both grateful when a motorist where we had stopped for a photo shared a bottle of cold water with us. Heather said she'd kept cool by stopping and sitting in the small, cool waterfalls that popped up regularly along the road.

Water falll at start of climb Rainer Washington Cascades_0256

As we climbed and the day got hotter, the views became increasingly dramatic. I like to think I'm a pretty adequate photographer, and some of my photos are pretty darn swell. But as I go over them they just can't convey the grandness of the views we witnessed. I'm reasonably sure the word "majestic" was made up for this area.

Rainer cliff wall tricia Washington Cascades_0282

Tricia rides Rainer Washington Cascades_0283
Of course, it would be even  better if, way up high, there were a lake. Wait, there it is.
Mt. Rainer lean Washington Cascades_0293
We did eventually reach our goal, appropriately named Paradise, and got our first glimpse of where we'd be staying. We'd have been happy with "not a tent again" but this was even better. Our room window is the second from the bottom on the left. When we woke the next morning we could see deer looking for breakfast.
Our lodge Washington Cascades_0170
Indoors, with our own room, and bed, and space for the bikes. Ahhhhh.
Our room Rainer Washington Cascades 2014 iphone_0631
We all got to eat in the restaurant, like grownups. Our friends Bob and Catherine had to drop out of the ride earlier in the week, but as they live within driving distance, they came up to have dinner with the group. As if seeing them wasn't treat enough, Bob brought another bag of yummy coffee for us. Dinner and drugs, what could be better.
Rainer Dinner Washington Cascades 2014 iphone_0651

The day after was a layover day. Some of our group went down the mountain for a hike. I was exhausted. My big plan for the day was to power lounge in and around the beautiful lodge, which I did, napping and reading "Into Thick Air," a bicycle touring book. Tricia, not so wimpy, was ready to hike and even dragged me out for a bit. I say "hike" but really I mean short stroll on easy to navigate nearby paths. She'd have actually hiked. I made photos and marveled.

That tiny person in the photo is Tricia.
Tricia bridge hike rainer Washington Cascades_0198

Rainer flower 1 Washington Cascades_0142

Tricia Washington Cascades_0224

I'm doing it again. Flower photos. I have no excuse beyond the fact I was in a land of amazement.
Rainer flower 2 Washington Cascades_0158

Flowers 4 Washington Cascades_0229

Flowers Rainer again Washington Cascades_0221

I promised marmots, didn't I? I'd never seen one, but there they were scampering around just like they were regular ol' animals and not the magical beasts they are.
Marmont Washington Cascades_0163

I shot a panorama with my iPhone. The problem with this blog is that it makes it look like a tiny wide photo. Try clicking it and see if it looks any better bigger.

Rainer pano Washington Cascades 2014 iphone_0641