Here's my belated report on the Cycle Washington trip Tricia and I took in July.
Wow, and double wow.The report:
We drove to Ashland, Oregon, intending to camp. We ended up at Jackson's Wellsprings, a funky campground with hippies and, of course, hot springs. It was much nicer, and a good deal more fun and relaxing, than we expected. The next morning we took our bikes on a 30 mile jaunt through the nearby hills, soaked in the springs, packed our gear and headed to Salem. There, we camped at a depressing KOA in the shade of a freeway.Our Cycle Washington tour, run by Adventure Cycling, started Saturday evening at a school in Redmond, where the leader Tom introduced the crew and gave us a rundown of what we would be doing. The set up is that Adventure Cycling will transport our tent, bags and such and feed us breakfast lunch and dinner. They mark the road and give out maps, have daily briefings on the route and even provide support on the road. As we prepared our baggage for the bus we suspected we had perhaps over prepared...
Sunday morning we were bussed from Redmond to the top of Stevens Pass. We emerged from the bus into a foggy, cold drizzle. Everyone began digging through their luggage, searching for warmth. Properly attired, we began our long, sweeping descent. Wide shoulders and breathtaking vistas made up for the chilly start to the ride, and by the time we descended 20 miles, we were peeling off those extra layers. After about 50 miles, a short steep climb and a rousing downhill that was a blast, we landed us in Leavenworth. We pitched our tent at the KOA and wisely put on the rain fly. Around 2:00 AM, we were awakened to thunder, flashes of lightening, and the syncopated beat of rain on the tent. Yikes.
Monday, Day three, dawned on a misty morning. Our bikes were a bit wet from last night's rain, but none the worse for wear. After a hearty, hot breakfast we headed east along US route 2. To get us off the main highway, we were routed on to Deadman's Hill Road, a violation of Tricia's strict policy to never ski or ride anything with "Death" in the name.
In this case, it turned out to be a fun little hill. The route took us through some beautiful farmland back roads, and then along the Columbia River where we spotted a sign to "Watch for bighorn sheep." I didn't see any, but some riders claimed they saw one. I thought they were like unicorns, or some never see-able endangered critter, but apparently they sometimes hang out by busy roads.
There's a tradition on BikeForums.net amoung the fifty-plus group to ride your age on your birthday. Since this was Tricia's birthday, she rode her age, plus her grandchild's and assorted nieces' and nephews' ages that day. We did mark the spot that she rode her actual age, but discretion requires we withhold the precise numeral.
Fighting a fickle headwind, we continued toward our camp by beautiful Lake Chelan. Five miles from our destination,Tricia and I stopped at a winery and I, to much amusement from the other wine tasters, loaded two bottles into my jersey pockets to carry back to camp.
When we rolled into Chelan, Tricia was all ready for her birthday massage. Yes indeed, there was an actual masseuse that traveled with the group-- this isn't exactly bare-bones camping. We followed that up with a glass of wine and watched "Revolutionary Road" in our tent on the iPod Touch using a headphone splitter. Life on the road can be rough, and isn't for the faint of heart.
After these first few days, Tricia and I were almost getting the hang of setting up a tent every night, then tearing it down in the morning to load on the truck. Well, she was anyway. I had a lot of trouble not losing stuff, and packing what I'd need that day, then having to unpack and find it. Every morning was an adventure for me.
Tuesday was our fourth day, or, as Tricia calls it "Day of the Dogs" in honor of being chased, in three separate incidents, by a German Shepherd, a Golden Retriever and a Black Lab. She's gotten pretty good at using her big Mom/teacher/crazy voice and shouting "No!" at them, which causes them to hit the ground like they've been shot.
The day started with another wonderful breakfast, this time down by the lake. As we chased our food-laden paper plates across the lawn, we grew pretty nervous about the day's ride, but it had calmed by the time we hit the road. The ride from Chelan to Winthrop, 62 miles, had a nice climb past lots of vineyards and rolling farmlands. We pedaled first along the Columbia and then the Methow River, ending at our camp on a river at what must be the nicest KOA in existence.
Wednesday was the jewel in the crown. And, the map directions were awesome. "Turn left out of campgrounds. Ride 98 miles. Stop at Rockport campgrounds." We rode 32 miles uphill to the top of Washington Pass. Elevation 5477'. What a great road. The story is that it's closed in winter, so it never gets plowed, leaving it smooth as a ... well, something really smooth. The road goes up and up, and provides postcard views. If it was in a movie you'd think it was overdone and that nothing could really look that magnificent. It was well worth the work it took to get there.
From the top there is a delightful downhill that isn't at all technical, just down. We were a little leery of this descent after noticing the permanent signs cautioning us about "Severe Crosswinds Next 27 Miles." The downhill would have been nicer without the wind, but still , it was a blast. There were waterfalls flowing right by the road, and stunning views of Diablo Lake. Tricia discovered they were serious about the severe crosswinds as she rode the bridge near the bottom and was blown in 4 directions at once for about 100 yards. Even I, though being a bit more...weighty... rider, found the crossing... interesting.
We followed that by zooming through a dark tunnel. Sunglasses did not help. It was very exciting, like braille riding at 20 mph.
Tricia had spent the day focused on her goal, a berry smoothie at Cascadian Berry Farm at mile 92. She thought the ride was worth it -- what a delicious, satisfying blueberry smoothie they make. Six more miles along a shaded country road and we were at our campground. Both of us had massages after this day's ride!
Thursday, from Rockport, we rode 70 miles toward Deception Pass. We stopped briefly in the town of Concrete where, looking for a restroom, we spotted a bar open at 8am with a sign reading "Bikers always welcome." They may not have meant us, but they were very nice, and offered us "rest" as well as making sure our water bottles were filled.
Later in the day we were treated to a long flat run with a big tail wind for many miles that made us think, for a while, we were actually fast.
After a short ice cream break we got to ride across the stunning bridge at Deception Pass to our campground in a state park almost on the beach.
I'm used to overcooked pasta dinners following a century ride, and that's what I expected on this tour. I couldn't have been more wrong. We ate like royalty the entire trip, but Thursday was hardly believable. We started with local mussels and oysters. I'd have been happy to end it there, but it was followed by caught-that-day Washington salmon, local corn, and a salad featuring local berries that were bursting with yummy goodness. I just can't say enough for Kathy, our caterer. She made every meal a delight. Her meals deserve a blog all their own.
After dinner we watched a beautiful sunset from the beach. As beautiful as it was, the long days -- it's light until almost 10 -- were a little exhausting when we knew we had to be awake at 5:30 to ride again. That night, we were lulled to sleep by jet plane fly overs from the local naval air base.
On Friday we rolled from Deception Pass to the lovely town of Langley. We had beautiful vistas of water, as we did most days, but a lot of the rest is just a blur. We stopped at the very interesting Fort Casey State Park where guns were mounted during WWII to stop an invasion that never came. Tricia and I stopped for some wine tasting, and ended up toting back a couple of bottles by bike. Later, we bought more wine and some cheese in Langley. We lounged on the lawn at the County fairgrounds where we camped and enjoyed our booty with our fellow cyclists and tent neighbors.
Our last day included a ferry ride, which was a nice break after a bunch of up and down grunt hills that were too long for rollers and too short to call climbs. Though the elevation profile looked flat, with no big climbs, the constant up and down of 9% grades was pretty tiring. We eventually ended up on a bike path in Redmond and made our way to our car. Some of the riders rode to the school where we started, some to a hotel. The only disappointment was that there wasn't a big goodbye party to send off our new friends and wish them well.
We drove to Port Orchard to see Tricia's son Jason, daughter-in-law Lea and grandbaby Bishop, then spent another night camping in Ashland at a geodesic-dome-building, hippie new age festival. When we got home the kids hadn't burned the house down, and most of the plants and all of the birds were still alive, so all in all it was a very good two weeks. The house was suspiciously clean and tidy, but we figured "don't ask, don't tell" applied in this situation, so we didn't ask, and (according to protocol) they didn't tell.
If you find words spelled correctly, or an interesting turn of phrase in this post, it's Tricia doing a bit of editing and writing. I'm pretty sure any mistakes you find are mine.