The Steel Steeds

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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Journey Ends

Friday, Augusts 27 we left Omak to ride over Loup Loup Pass to Twisp on Rt. 20. We rode through Okanogan, just south, where we picked up Rt. 20. The ascent was gentle for many miles passing through fruit orchards.  The steeper ascent began at the intersection of Rt. 20 and Pleasant Valley Rd. Go figure. From the start it was 25 miles to the 4,020 foot pass. The route was bordered by many cliffs which caused Rosie extreme anxiety. Around 19 miles out she got a flat. Walked the bike about a quarter mile up to where I came down to and said she could not ride along anymore cliffs. She called Jason and he returned from his scouting in Twisp.  Solo, I crested the pass and viewed the Cascades.

The descent was eight miles at 6% and a rolling four into Twisp. Rosie and Jason were waiting in front of our overnight. Some sipping of Glen and a couple fine cigars culminated an enjoyable 40-ish day. BTW, the motel had self-laundry service which Rosie used.

Saturday, August 28 was a 30 mile day to Klipchuck Campground just beyond Mazama. I had ridden through Winthrop 21 years ago from the west. The town had been transformed from a dying timber town to a western theme tourist trap. Didn't recognize anything. Our camping experience began with comfortable temperatures to be followed by 30-ish temps in the night. Our camp food included chilliemac, Chef Boyardee Beef Ravioli and Spaghetti-O's. I would have sent Rosie out to hunt with my jack knife, but she was tired. Rosie took refuge in Jason's truck while I fought the elements. If we had to contend with such conditions throughout the trip we would never have completed the ride. We had talked about camping the next day, but after that night I announced we would not repeat such torture. Jason, of course, a mountaineer, was in his element and didn't use his sleeping bag half the night and wore flip flops. I created a freak! We never did finish our card game before retiring. The ounce of Glen left in my cup, resting on the picnic table, still had ice cubes in it from the night before.

Sunday, August 29 I had planned to ride to Marblemount, about 70 miles, including Washington and Rainy Passes. Rosie said she could not endure the cliffs anymore and opted out. I layered up and headed out soon stripping the excess as I climbed. The Cascades were one of the most scenic parts of the ride. It was about 15 to the first pass and another five to the next. After that it was 25 downhill to Diablo where Jason and Rosie were waiting. Half the downhill I had to pedal against a headwind. The winds continued and storms loomed over my route. We were two hours north of Lake Stevens where family resided. We shared our inclinations and I concluded 2966 miles and 60 days on the road were enough; that the tour need not be extended a couple more days. This is Diablo.

Tuesday, August 31 we are enjoying our stay with James and Jenni (my cousin), Uncle Ralph and the kids. We have until Sept. 9 to explore the area.  Jason, Rosie and I visited two micro breweries today.  Rosie is already missing riding. She is enjoying her new found libation beer. We purchased clothes. I am two sizes smaller than when I started. Oh, what to do with my XXL shirts? Rosie said due to nature's graces, she wears the same size shirt. I told Rosie I'm planning our next adventure. She gave me the eyeball.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

WA- Days 56 and 57

Wednesday, August 25 we rode from Republic to Tonasket.  We left Republic at 10ish believing at least half our miles would be downhill after climbing over Wauconda Pass. The 13.42 mile climb was comparatively gradual. There were few exciting vistas and the summit must have been summarily marked. The first few miles of the downside was at a 5% grade enjoyed by moi at least. It leveled out here and there. Thirteen miles from Tonasket we were hit by winds from all directions requiring us to pedal downhill to maintain a 10 mph pace.  We rode around the wind at eight miles which quicken our pace reaching the last five miles which was downhill at 5% grade right into town. At the junction of Rt. 20 and 97 sat the Junction Motel, our digs for the night.

The best part of the day was meeting up with the Boy who is sagging us the last week of the trip. We were eager to see the boy. It was over a year since we saw him.

Jason and Bear, his boxer, arrived with complementary spirits, cigars and desiccated turkey. The evening was spent sipping on Glenlivet and gnawing on good stogies. The boy had grown as much as I loss weight on this trip. Horse would be an inadequate description.

Thursday, August 26 was a day off with miles. We planned to ride to Omak or Okanogan, the furthest being 28 miles. Prior to leaving, I did a bike check and found Rosie's rear tire had flatten.  Changed that and lubed the steeds. Just before mounting I double checked the tires and found Rosie's rear had lost air. We were back to square one. We were off shortly after repairing it again.  Jason drove to our potential overnight, visited a bike shop for tubes and looked for appropriate lodging. Meantime we rode a gradual ascending grade against a steady headwind. Half way the smooth road changed to rough chipseal making a short day longer. Jason met us as we entered Omak. After lunch we decided the Omak Inn was suitable lodging. Besides, it was adjacent our lunch site.

Tomorrow we are scheduled to ride to Twisp over the Loup Loup Pass. Rosie is once again reluctant. Having a sag makes it difficult to cajole her.  I'm thinking of offering Rosie two free pedicures.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Days 54 and 55 - Clewelah to Republic, WA

Monday, August 23 was a day off with miles.  Rode about 30 miles from Chewelah to Kettle Falls. Followed the Colville River on Rt. 395, a busy highway.  Passed through Colville and  rode seven more to Kettle Falls. The Kettle River Range was on our left. Relaxed at the motel, stretched out on comfy chairs, and caught up on postings while enjoying a few beers and a good cigar. Rosie didn't have a cigar. She prefers chatting with her girl friends.

Tuesday, August 24 trepidation has set in once more. Rosie fretted during the night, while I slept, about climbing yet another pass. After riding the Flowery Pass the other day she wasn't keen on doing another. Flowery was on a county road and Sherman Pass, the one planned for today, was on a state road and I was sure it would be an easier grade. The ascent began three miles outside of town just after we rode over the Columbia River. Twenty-three miles later we were at the top and this was Rosie's expression:

While at the top we met three other riders approaching from the west.  Two were from the Syracuse, NY area, the other from Portland, OR. Another small world experience.

It was more or less 18 miles downhill to Republic where we found the Northern Inn. Nice digs.

Tomorrow, we cross over Wauconda Pass, 4310 feet. Locals said it was easier than Sherman. We are meeting Jason in Tonasket and he will be accompanying us the remainder of the trip. Haven't seen the boy since 2009. Rosie is doubly happy because she said she has had it with passes. Tough on her knees. We'll see as the day turns.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Our Last Days In MT, A Day In ID and Our First In Day In WA

Thursday, August 19 I nudged Rosie at 0530 suggesting an early start. She gave me the eyeball. Coffee might have helped, but this one light town hadn't started brewing yet. I repaired yesterday's flat and lubed the bikes. Rosie finally decided to join the day. Our destination was Plains via St. Regis and Rts. 135 and 200. We would continue to follow the Clark Fork River.

The only access to St. Regis was I-90. I might have mentioned before that you can ride on I-90 in many of the western states because of the lack of other roads. Taking frontage roads doesn't normally change the scenery and the drivers, although fewer, have less road to work with. However, I'm always looking for alternate routes. 

The leg to St. Regis was 14 miles. About five miles out, the road builder decided to put narrow rumbles across the entire shoulder about every 30 feet.  This lasted for about four miles when the shoulder changed to moderately loose chipseal. I preferred the narrow rumbles.

St. Regis is just another one block town providing gas, food and lodging for travelers, however this time it also had an antique store. Rosie's alternate route found no treasures, but they did sell good beef jerky.

From St. Regis we took Rt. 135 along the Clark Fork River and through Lo Lo National Forest, AKA The St. Regis Paradise By-Way, nestled in the Bitterroot Mtns. This was the most scenic day of our trip to date. We had one brief delay when plagued by yet another flat. We've noticed more glass on the shoulders in this part of the state.

Route 135 took us to Rt. 200. When we turned onto that road the winds seemed to hit us from all directions.
The route travels between two mountain ranges. As we crossed over the river to get to Paradise we saw a large eagles nest, including chicks, on top of a train trestle. We ended our day in Plains at the Dew Duck Inn, probably the best little motel in MT.

Friday, August 20 we continued on Rt. 200 to Noxon. The road is bordered by the Coeur d'Alene Mtns., part of the Bitterroot Range and the Cabinet Mtns. We had little wind in either direction and a comfortable 62 mile day.  With respect to our accommodations, we stayed at the Noxon Motel. Our first indication that this nine room gem was on the rough side was that there were weeds growing up around a car parked in front of one of the rooms. Guess we could have tented along the road, but that's becoming a tougher option.  The room was small and lacked AC, although it did have a window fan. After I secured the fan on the sill with a length of rope tied off the curtain rod, so we could rotate it to regulate the flow of air, we were set for the evening. We did have great sirloin steaks at the Rusty Beaver, only a half mile walk from the motel.

Saturday, August 21 we crossed into Idaho on Rt. 200 heading for Sandpoint. En route Rosie thought she saw a Black Bear in the bush next to the road, at least it was black and hairy. We actually did see Big Horn Sheep grazing next to the road. We stopped in Clark Forks for our morning lunch. We had gained an hour, riding into Pacific Time. As we were leaving town we saw a group of bikers. Stopped to chat and learned they were from Pittsburgh, PA on a week long supported tour. The tour operator said the all inclusive tour costs $1,400.00, including middle shelf wine and speed rack whiskey.  They were staying in resorts, not Noxon Motels. Rosie and I both got the impression many wanted to but didn't have the time to do a self-contained tour. We ended our day in Sandpoint, a 50 mile ride.

Sunday, August 22 we were on the road early having a 71 mile day ahead of us. Our destination was Chewelah, WA. We took Rt. 2 along the Pend Oreille River. Had some tailwind and enough downhill to quicken our pace. Rosie let me know she preferred a 15 over 18 mph pace. In any event, we made it to Newport, WA, 30 miles, in short enough order. From there we headed north on Rt. 20. Had to climb about a mile out of  Newport, but the next 14 miles was a gift. We stopped at a restaurant just outside of Usk. A happy go lucky guy saw my camera around mt neck and offered to take our picture. As you can see, we were still in fine spirits after the first 45 miles..

The night before I had changed our route hoping to cut off a few miles. I found a road connecting Usk and Chewelah. Keep in mind, Google and printed maps are not current.  I questioned several people in Sandpoint and the inn keeper in Chewelah about the road and they all said it was paved and beautiful. Well, it was, however I didn't ask and they didn't mention after the first five miles it was uphill for 18 to Flowery Trail Pass, 4024 feet. Not many cars and not a soul for miles. The climb up was often an 8% grade with a mile and a half at 6 and 7% down and then back up.  Rosie counted it as two mountains.  At times I heard voices I thought were coming from the woods, but I finally realized it was Rosie lamenting when was the climb going to an end. Then there was the other side, eight miles downhill into Chewelah, much of it at 8% grade. I was in heaven. Rosie wanted to put me there. We had a nice motel. To calm her nerves, I fed her Jameson and bought her a sub for dinner. Well worth the climb.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Montana Days 46-49

Sunday, August 15 we left Helena, MT under blue skies. Our destination was Drummond via Route 12 which took us over MacDonald Pass (6320 feet). We had traveled 2,319 miles uphill to get to this point. What point might that be? Considering the last three days of wind and rain, the pass was a piece of cake. From our hotel to the base was 12ish miles. The climb was 6.5 miles on a road that curved along the side of the mountains giving those that dared a spectacular view. Yes, Rosie hugged the other side telling me she'll look at the pictures. Down the other side we passed through Elliston, Avon and Garrison before arriving at Drummond., following the Black Foot River. It was 50ish miles downhill.  Cool haystacks along the way. See the pics. Drummond, as described by the owner of the bar I visited to get on the Inet, is a piss stop. Let's just say you could hit a golf ball the length of the town against the wind from the men's tee. Even my sister could do it.

We again experienced tire problems. Rosie's rear tire was delaminating. Had three ugly bumps that deflated after we got into our room and turned on the AC.

Monday, August 16 I discovered Rosie's rear tire was flat. A quick fix before we headed for Missoula on I-90.  Another 50ish miles downhill. All sun and no wind. Now here is a oxymoron, sometimes life is good when you're going downhill. We arrived at the Thunderbird Motel and decided we needed a day off.

Tuesday, August 17 we spent the day seeing the sites in Missoula. Visited Adventure Cycling, had three helpings of their complimentary ice cream and obtained useful information used to decide what route we would take the next 12 days. While cruising the streets Rosie spied an antique shop, better identified as a junk shop. Good thing there were no good junks. I found a bike shop that had a Brooks saddle wrench. Gave it to me for half price. An important tool to help regulate the tension on the leather. Soon after that I found a great sports bar. Rosie agreed it was better than the junk shop.

Wednesday, August 18 we left our digs in Missoula with the intent to ride 58 miles to Superior, MT.  Lubed and spruced up the steeds before we departed.  All looked copacetic.  We had to ride through town to the west side, about five miles.  While Rosie was off-loading excessive fluid, I checked our rubber and found a blossoming bubble on my front tire.  Same problem we've been having. We found the Trek dealer and he replaced the tire, pinching my tube in the process.  So I got a new tire and tube. We could not replace Rosie's. They only had one tire that was the correct size. This was the first Trek dealer to admit knowing about the delamination problem. The other shops denied such and didn't honor the warranty. I've written a letter to the manufacturer.

We finally got out of Dodge about 11:45 AM with an additional 10 miles added to our day. We had good road, however at 48 miles out we rode into a storm, including marble size hail.  Rosie voiced her displeasure yelling ouch and than some.  I grinned as the hail splattered into pieces as if it was hitting armor plated steel, although as we were fast approaching an overpass I halted so Rosie could obtain needed relief.  We waited about 15 minutes and the storm seemed to be hung up on the mountain. I pointed to a patch of blue just west of us. I told Rosie we could sit here for hours or head for the blue. She begrudgingly followed. About 1.5 miles later we found dry road. Our clothes dried quickly. We were six miles from Superior and looked forward to relaxing when my rear tire flatten.  I grinned once again and made repairs. We were back on the road in ten minutes and arrived at our motel much sooner than later. Thank God Rosie bought meds before leaving Missoula. My armor plated steel needed repair.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Days 43-45: Wind-Rain-Wind

Thursday, August 12 we rode from Harlowton to White Sulphur Springs, MT. It was a 59 mile ride on Route 12. We climbed from an elevation of 4227 feet to a mile according to Squirrely, our bar maid in White Sulphur Springs.

Now, let's just say it was the toughest day of our trip. Not only was it uphill, but we had a constant 20 mph plus head wind and more rough road than Charlie Rangel has had lately. The scenery improved from brown grasslands to green forests, but it wasn't enough to quell the drudgery. Rosie, within the first five miles, was ready to abandon ship. At first she quietly said, "Let's hitch hike." That comment grew louder as the day progressed. I promised her things would change weather-wise or terrain, but it never happened. Just one mile at a time I'd say, "grin at the wind". It took us 5 1/2 hours to do the first 37 miles. The wind and rough road conditions were taking a toll. For at least ten miles it felt as if we were riding over rumbles.

There was one stop midway called Checkerboard. Rick, one of seven residents, owned and operated Checkerboard Bar, which is also a restaurant, the post office and town hall. Food helped mitigate our discomfort. Rosie's knee was bothering her and I started to wonder whether proctologists did rear end replacements.

We finally reached the Hot Springs Motel in White Sulphur Springs about 4 PM. Eight hours to do 59 miles is ouch in many ways. On the plus side, our motel actually had natural hot mineral spring pools. They promised it would cure our tender joints and after a couple hours we became believers, but the several beers beforehand might have been a significant variable.

Later that night, we had dinner at The Mint. Had broasted chicken and more beer. Our hostess was Shirley, nicknamed Squirrelly.  She had a sparkling demeanor.  A good sense of humor and someone who laughs at my jokes was definitely good medicine.

The day was summed up by a poster in the bar that read, "Life's journey is not to arrive safely at the grave, in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting, "Holy shit, what a ride!"

Friday, August 13 the day began when Rosie looked out our motel window and saw wind and rain.  I told her this wasn't some 40 days and 40 nights ordeal, that I put in a special order for sun. I checked the weather channel when Rosie was out of the room. Hmm, I guess things could get worse.

We went to the motel office to reconnoiter. We met Boris from Austria, who was riding from Alaska to Florida and Paul, a retired pipe fitter, from Kansas City, retracing his past.

Boris said he works in the computer field; that he'd work and save for five years, quit his job and do a bike tour. Said he rode all over Europe, New Zealand and Australia. He met a guy from Spain on this ride that was a teacher. He was riding from Alaska to South America and because their system allows them to take two years off without pay without losing their job he could afford such. I recall meeting policemen from Australia that can save up to two years leave and do the same. Politicians will do anything to protect their jobs, but I digress. With respect to the inclement weather, Boris said he just "smiles at the wind" and trudges onward. Rosie rolled her eyes.  With respect to those that smile, tell me, do you not think they're crazy?  Think again.

One of the stories I told was about my first ride across country in 1972. All I had was $150.00 and figured I could spend $5.00 each day and make it across in 30ish days.  I was riding over 100 miles per day.  When in Kansas, I met two older bike tourists from Belgium. When I mentioned my daily mileage one man said I wasn't touring, I was racing. I told myself if I should ever do this again I'd do half the mileage. Well, I didn't during my second ride in 1976, but we are now.

Paul said he related to that story; that he raced his entire life and missed too much. He said he grew up in Montana and was trying to visit his friends from yesteryear while he had the chance.

With respect to our route, it was 50 miles to our campsite and we had to cross a 6500 foot pass in our first 19 miles on a 6% grade road.

We waited until 10:30, hoping the rain would subside. Rosie "bagged her brain" and we got back on the road. The wind helped us the first eight miles.  The first crest was at 14.5 miles followed by the 6,500 foot summit and downhill beginning at 19 miles.  We entered Deep Creek Canyon. The rain increased and rock slides were a hazard. The rain let up about the 26 mile mark and it was clear the rest of the way.  We came out into the flats to see one more hill before Townsend. It was a mile long and at least a 6% grade. Rosie said it was a piece of cake. 

Just north of Townsend we rented a log cabin. The winds increased during the evening. We soon realized there was a crack between a couple logs because we were serenaded by whistles and howls throughout the night. We just shook our heads and "grinned at the wind".

Saturday, August 14 was a day off with miles. We rode 26 miles to Helena.  Tomorrow we have a 60ish day.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Montana Days 39-42

Saturday, August 7 we had dinner at the only diner in town, Legends Grill. Rosie put a load of laundry in at a nearby laundromat while I secured a table and tested the beers. Now, don't get the wrong idea. Rosie has lost weight, but she doesn't trust me with reducing her cup size prematurely. After we were pretty much spent for the day, watched some stupid TV and read we called it a night.

Sunday, August 8, as we were leaving our room we met an elderly man leaving an adjacent room.  He was using four different oxygen support devices while he traveled the country. I helped him load them into his car. We had a pleasant chat and he was excited about our adventure. Just goes to show you the tenacity of individuals not content with sitting on their front porch bemoaning their weaknesses and playing the victim card. Unfortunately, the whining SOB's are increasing in number as they sit on their government subsidized front porches spending their delusional lives chasing the candy man.

We left Ranchester, WY and rode to Hardin, MT.  From the border to Hardin we rode in the Crow Indian Reservation. We traveled on I-90 until Lodge Grass, about 30 miles, where we took our first break. We met Joyce, an elderly lady, at an IGA who had plenty of questions about our trip. The man in Ranchester and the Joyces' of the world make our day. From Lodge Grass we took Route 451 and other frontage roads into Hardin, stopping one more time in Gerryowen, down the road from the Little Big Horn Battlefield. Off I-90 was a plus. The roads were flat and nearly traffic free.

In Gerryown, we stopped for a bite to eat. While I guarded our goods, Rosie forged for subs. As I waited, I met Mike Dench, who resides near London, Ontario. His son Ryan attended and was hoping to work at the Texas Longhorn Ranch, owned and operated by Fred and Gail Cahill. It truly is a small world.

Options were few in Hardin. Thought about staying at a KOA, but that cow pasture was dismissed given we rode 73 miles and the temp was 90+.  AC, indoor plumbing, a complementary breakfast and WI-FI made the choice simple.

Monday, August 9 we rode to Billings via Old Route 87 instead of I-90. Few cars. Forty miles out we entered a small canyon, then uphill for about two miles to a panoramic view of the valley where we first saw Billings. The ride down was on a switchback road. Without a car in sight, I used the entire road banking around turns. Rosie was a bit more conservative. At the bottom we met a guy from St. Louis that has been biking/touring for 2.5 years. Said he has visited all the National Parks and every state. It seemed the road had taken it's toll.

We entered Billings in the industrial section. Not a good first impression. The city backs up to a cliff in the north and spreads east and west. I wouldn't put it on the top 100 places to visit.  Having said that, our short stay did not afford us time to see the other half.

Our first stop was the Spoke Shop to buy new tires.  Still had some tread, but the road was chewing them up. About a mile from the shop we got our second flat.  I picked up a half inch brad that flatten my rear tire. I changed it out in quick order and made it to the shop. Dean handled our transaction, providing us with a couple Blue Moons, to the chagrin of a co-worker, while we waited.  I guess they get cross country riders in there everyday.  Another customer warned us of an impending storm. We had about two miles to our overnight and made it before the sky opened up.

Tuesday, August 10, we decided to avoid I-90 and ride north on Route 3 to Route 12 which is part of the Lewis and Clark Trail. Leaving Billings we took the Zimmerman Trail up to Route 3.  The last mile was an 8% twisting climb.  Rosie powered through it like a champ even with a hundred foot cliff to her right. 

Route 3 started with a great shoulder. About 30 miles out it turned to a loose chipseal and then to a narrow shoulder. The chipseal was jarring. It makes for a longer day.

Our destination was Lavina. We arrived after 47 miles. Like many of the towns that once serviced the railroad, it is now a quiet hamlet. In yesteryear towns were built every 15 miles to service the railroad. Some survived. Many didn't.

I visited the only occupied building in town, the Post Office. There I met Kim who welcomed us and said the church and school were available for our personal needs and we could stay in the city park. Rosie met Ellen Lenfeldt who was working at the American Legion/Town Hall.  We had a great chat with her. She told us about her biking adventures in New Zealand back in the 70's. She and her husband are ranchers. His family apparently began ranching in this area over 100 years ago. They have 1000's of sheep and Angus cattle.  She gave us the key to the town hall which was adjacent to the park.  Came in handy the next morning.

We also met Junior. He maintains the city park. Said he just turned 82 and had a catfish fry last week.  He caught the fish. The park is a labor of love. The lawn was like a carpet. We had a pavilion for our bikes. He turned off the automatic sprinkler system, scheduled to come on at 4 AM. If he hadn't, it would have been in addition to the rain that Rosie said came down all night long. I said, what rain..

Wednesday, August 11 we rode to Harlowton on Route 12, stopping in Ryegate for breakfast. Harlowton was 45 miles, Ryegate 17.  Before leaving Lavina we policed the grounds. Rosie mentioned everything was as it had been accept for the matted grass where we setup the tent.  I rolled my eyes and said, "You're thinking of fluffing up the grass, aren't you? I'll leave it to your imagination.

We had a relaxing coffee at the gas station at the corner of Routes 3 and 12 around 0730.  The bar next door was open, but they didn't serve food. We had a congenial conversation with the owner. She mentioned that the Lenfeldt's use the sheep and ship the sheep to other ranches to eat a toxic weed that affect cattle.

Our first 16 miles on the Lewis and Clark Trail were easy. We arrived in Ryegate to find the Buffalo Trail Cafe. Rosie gave the diner a "10". The food was great. We learned that the toxic weed is leafy spurge. It is an invasive weed and the plant's milky sap is toxic to cattle. Other people eating breakfast are a wealth of knowledge where ever we go.

Our day ended in Harlowton. We had our bath, bread and beer. Bon Soir.