What an amazing first week! 350 miles into the trip, from salt water to dry Eastern Washington farmland over the North Cascades. Tail winds most of the week, great weather until the heavy lift over the mountains on a cold, wet day 7.
My ride across the top of the Olympic Peninsula was lovely after my first-day trial with the rigs on highway 112. I found portions of the Olympic Discovery (bike) Trail which were quite wonderful – quiet, off-road, just me and the birds singing – a real gem for bicyclists in this area. I swept through Port Angeles along the waterfront, and through Port Townsend where I had a nice lunch visit with former co-worker Cindi Alberti before catching the short ferry ride across Admiralty Inlet to Whidbey Island. I enjoyed a relaxing rest day with Baz Stevens in Freeland, including a visit from Mary Sue who came up after work from Seattle.
Then my route took me up Whidbey (including getting strafed by Naval Air Station Growlers – EA-18G, carrier-based jets); over the always-impressive Deception Pass Bridge; then across the Skagit Flats and up valley into the edge of the Cascade Mountains. Giant steelheads lurked under the bridge over the Cascade River. The guy at the cash register in Marblemount General Store asked, “So where are you headed?” “Maine.” He gazed into space over my shoulder with a look as if to say, “The loonies are back,” and sighed, “I guess it’s that time of year again.” (I’m now officially on the “Northern Tier” cross-country bike route as mapped by the Adventure Cycling Association — this guy must see his share of us loonies as we head east! I am one of the first of the season.)
After a wet night at Colonial Creek campground on Diablo Lake in the North Cascades National Park, I had my first really challenging day as I rode in the cold rain up and over the Cascade Mountains. As I slogged uphill going a robust 4 miles-per-hour in low gear, an SUV stopped ahead of me and out popped Lisa Niehaus, a former co-worker on her way to Winthrop for the weekend. What an unexpected treat! The ride was a relentless 31-mile, 6.5 hour climb to Washington Pass at 5477 feet above sea level — my first major milestone, snow still deep by the sides of the road. The following 18-mile downhill was a bit scary until I got more comfortable at speed with all the weight I’m carrying, on wet pavement, plus so cold that I was hypothermic by the time I reached the Mazama Country Store. Three cups of hot coffee to wrap my hands around eventually warmed me back up.
Since Kim and Steve at North Cascades Basecamp are swamped launching a new field course this weekend, houseboat neighbor Lucy Reid and her friend Lee “Bernie” Bernheisel, who both have houses in Carlton in the Methow Valley, appeared on a moment’s notice like angels to sweep me up, give me a roof, bed, hot shower, soup and great conversation! Angels indeed. I’m enjoying a restful day off at Bernie’s place right on the Methow River, drying out my gear, doing laundry and listening to the birds singing outside.
Speaking of birds, I’ve started a list which I post on a separate page. All the way from Neah Bay to the Cascades I have been serenaded daily by Black-headed Grosbeaks and Western Tanagers along with many other varieties. I’m paying attention to what I see and hear from my handlebars as I peddle along. List to date in close to 70 species! It was fun late yesterday to hear my first meadowlark, a sure signal that I’ve left the coast and crossed into the Inland Empire. No more salt water for a long while.
The old body seems to be holding up so far, with one rest day in the first seven and 350 miles under my belt. I must admit that yesterday’s long, cold, wet climb over the mountains was the hardest day I’ve ever spent on a bike. It was with joy and a few exhausted tears that I stopped to celebrate having achieved the high pass.
My friend Baz says that I need to articulate WHY I am doing this ride. I wondered, sometimes aloud, about this as I slogged over the mountains yesterday. I’ll write my thoughts in a separate page. But I do want to close with a note of appreciation for all my friends near and far who are watching over me, worrying more than I am about my daily challenges, and supporting my ride through postive thoughts. I’ve already had many moments where suddenly things have gone right — I’ve thanked my mom Rita many times for helping me out from above, and I expect that your positive thoughts are involved too. Thank you. Even on a solo adventure, I’m close to so many kind souls that I feel blessed.
Onward to the east. Next major challenge: the Rockies in about ten days.
P.S. I’ll continue to post more photos on a separate page (“Photo Gallery”). In addition, I am trying to post daily maps (“Where’s Dave?”) so, if interested, you can check in between blog posts to see where I am.