On Sunday, March 11, some blonde-haired, middle-aged, black jacket wearing dipshit stole Carrie’s bicycle. The bike was parked near the Trader Joe’s at Almaden and Blossom Hill in San Jose. The thief cut her bike lock and rode away.
If you happen to live in or frequent San Jose, please keep an eye out for her beloved Dilby II.
One of the most enjoyable parts of touring is completing the goal you set. That moment when you say to yourself at the end of a tour, I made it!, feels like a big accomplishment, even if the accomplishment was merely enjoying a vacation. Still, you can take that good feeling and roll it into daily life. For instance, you can motivate yourself at work by thinking, I just rode 1,650 miles, surely I can help this upset customer/boss/coworker with her problem. An altered perspective can be powerful. This is just one of many reasons why I love bicycle touring.
On July 6 we completed our journey from Stampede Reservoir near Truckee, CA, to Seattle following the Adventure Cycling Sierra Cascades route with some improvisation at the end. Overall it was another great trip, and we’re a bit sad it’s ending but also excited to go home to friends and family, to our comfy bed, to cotton towels, to regular showers, to clean clothes, and to a kitchen capable of more than boiling water.
We spent the last four days visiting the San Juan Islands, an archipelago west of Anacortes. We visited the three main islands Orcas, San Juan, and Lopez. Each island had its own personality, from introverted to festive to friendly, and each island was worth the visit.
Whoa. We went crazy with the fancy food today. Maybe we felt we needed a reward for battling headwinds all day. Or maybe once I see a bakery I lose all self control. Carrie would agree it’s the latter.
The highlight of the day was riding over Washington Pass, at 5,400 feet above sea level, and getting up close to some of the Cascades’ glacier-carved peaks. Most of time we’ve been viewing the mountain peaks from a distance. We’d catch glimpses of Hood, Saint Helens, and Rainier between openings in the trees, or in Hood’s case between a break from the rain clouds. But along Highway 20 we got a front row seat of some of the second tier peaks, like the Liberty Bell and Jack’s Peak.
Today we returned to my favorite pastime of riding over passes. Grinding along the Yakima valley in the heat and wind was getting old. A good climb in the woods was a perfect antidote to the valley blues.
The benefit of sleeping on top of a pass is that you get to stay your day with a long descent. We started at around 4,500 feet above sea level in an Alpine setting and quickly found ourselves on the dry east side of the Cascades.
The main event today was to ride over Elk Pass on FR 25, to go once more over the Cascade range to the drier east side. We were looking forward to some dry weather. The only problem was FR 25 was closed.
We decided to spend an extra day in Sisters to ride up to MacKenzie Pass, which every year is closed to motor vehicles until the highway is completely clear of snow. That means cyclists and hikers have a short window of opportunity every spring to enjoy a quiet piece of road without the motor menace.
With more winter weather threatening we continued to seek out indoor accommodation. Perhaps we’re getting weak or just losing our nerve. Or perhaps sleeping in a real bed is just that much better. Either way our wallet tells us that this new habit of ours can’t go on forever.
Our first rest day of the trip coincided with my birthday. To celebrate we got some Subway sandwiches and watched too many movies in our motel room in Chemult. It was great to celebrate another birthday with my best friend while on another fun bicycle adventure.
Today was supposed to be a rest day. We were going to loaf about Ashland: eat some pastries, sit on a bench, avoid contact with our bicycles. That was the plan anyway. That was the plan until I looked at the weather forecast.
This was to be our big day of the trip, about 85 miles with a decent climb near the end. We normally like to cover about 50 miles, especially this early in the trip, when our bodies are adjusting to riding every day and sleeping on the ground.
After a lovely slumber under our nylon roof, Carrie and I started the day eating the rest of the food in our possession: some oatmeal and a Snickers bar. Well, I got some of the Snickers. I ate my half and left the rest for Carrie in the wrapper on the picnic table. We left the Snickers at the table while we finished packing up the tent.
Yesterday was the day of the false flat. We climbed forever but didn’t gain much elevation. Today was the day of the false summit. The big climb of the day never seemed to end because it would continually go up a bit then down a bit less, go up some more, then down a bit less.
Forced to bypass Lassen Volcanic National Park because the roads had yet to be plowed of the bounty of snow that fell last winter, we rode east around the park on A21 and Highway 44 to reconnect to the Sierra Cascades route at Old Station. This day will forever live in our memories as the day of the interminable climb in the pine trees.
Before we dive into a log of today’s events on the first day of our Sierra Cascades trip, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the events that occurred yesterday, for they were far more noteworthy than a simple bike ride along a forested highway.
After our tour through parts of Europe last summer we were exhausted. We rode too much and relaxed too little. It felt so good to come home, to eat familiar foods, to see friends, to be stationary again.
There are countless ways to make a steel bicycle frame and countless tools to help you build it. But tools alone won’t a frame make. A builder needs skill, patience, perseverance, and above all, the ability to improvise. In many ways a spring clamp is more essential than frame jig. With this in mind, when I decided to get back into framebuilding recently, I didn’t want to nor financially could spend a lot on fancy tooling. Instead, I tried to focus on a minimal setup emphasizing accuracy over convenience. Here’s a look at my current setup:
It snuck up on me. After brazing some water bottle bosses to the underside of the down tube, I put down the torch and thought about the next step in the process of building Carrie’s new touring bike, but there was no next step. Am I done? I went through my mental checklist and saw tick marks in every box. Well how about that! My fifth frameset finished in ten years. That’s how you spell p-r-o-d-u-c-t-i-v-i-t-e-e.
While spending five months on the road in Europe, I had plenty of time to daydream. Most of my daydreams included the consumption of ice cream. But sometimes I’d think about bikes. In particular, touring bikes, and what I believed to be the ideal touring bike for me and Carrie. I was enjoying my touring bike, but Carrie often described her touring bike with four letter words.
On the menu today was a big helping of kilometers. The kilometers were sunbaked and mountainous and served on a bed of lonely roads with a sprinkle of gravel. This was one of my favorite meals in Spain and perhaps one of the best on our whole trip.
The last two days have been good to us. As we rode from Casalarreina to Anguiano yesterday and from Anguiano to Quintanar de la Sierra today, we traded lush lands for dry, coastal terrain for mountains.
From Bilbao we’ve begun our journey south to reach Madrid, where we’ll be ending this great adventure. Although Spain has been a delight so far, Carrie and I have been fighting colds most of time we’ve been here, which means we’ve been sleeping indoors a lot more.
In order to get to Madrid in time to fly home on October 14, we decided to take the train from Arriondas to Bilbao, as we planned to follow a suggested route from Bilbao to Madrid. If we knew the hurdles we would have to overcome to get to Bilbao again, we probably would have chosen a better option. But we knew not what we were doing, so we pressed on with the plan. Perhaps sharing our experience will prevent others from making the same mistakes.
Over the past few days we didn’t make it far because the cold I had broke through Carrie’s defenses. As a result, we didn’t budge from our hotel room in Potes all day yesterday to allow Carrie to recuperate.
We had a good reason to sleep in this morning. Rain was forecasted until about 10am. So we left our campground in Sopela around 11. Then it rained. But it didn’t rain long enough for my worn out rain jacket to start leaking, so all was good.
This post will be even briefer than originally planned because the writing app I use for blogging erased the file with descriptions of the last four days. Thanks Obama! Instead you can see a few photos.
Exhausted from a tough ride to Aurillac yesterday, we decided to spend today in the great indoors, a hotel room. Plus, it was our ten year anniversary. We had ample excuses to splurge on sleeping in a real bed and drying off with cotton towels.
There are only two events worth talking about today as we rode to Saint Flour. That’s not too say the riding was uneventful. Indeed, we got lost a couple of times and stood on a big rock overlooking the whole Lozère dèpartement. But these two events rocked our world.
From Florac we headed northwest into the least inhabited dèpartement in France, the Lozère. After passing through a gorge popular with tourists, we rode essentially by ourselves all the way to Marvejols.
The past three days we enjoyed the quiet roads of the Parc Naturel Regional des Monts d’Ardèche, or more commonly known as the Ardèche. We’d been looking forward to this area ever since Norway, where we met a French couple who recommended it.
This morning we rose early, ate breakfast, and hopped on our bikes without all of our luggage. Upon leaving the campground we turned left and in a matter of seconds we were riding over words painted on the roadway. Go go go. Allez FDJ. This way to the top.
Today we tested how hard riding in the Alps can be. We arose at dawn and from our campsite immediately began to climb the slopes of the Col de La Croix de Fer. It’s a climb often featured the Tour de France, and for good reason, it’s a beast.
What we thought was going to be an easy day, turned out to be a day of tough climbs in hot weather. Twice we stopped to top off our bottles in villages along the way. Most villages have a fountain that was probably used by all before indoor plumbing came along. Now the fountains mainly aid weary cyclists.
We fled Switzerland as soon as possible, but not so soon as to avoid paying around $16 for lunch fixings at a grocery store. The Swiss must enjoy traveling in Europe. Everything to them probably seems as if it’s on a blowout sale.
Today we tackled our first col. Col is French for mountain pass. The cols are where races are won and lost. For tourists cols are where we analyze our pack list and wish we would have brought less of everything.
After a week and a half of rolling hills, we finally got our first taste of the mountains on our way to Saint Claude. These weren’t the cols and monts that make France a good place for a challenging bike race. We were merely sampling a mountain apéritif.
We got a late start out of Vesoul and so suffered more than we liked under an intense sun. This was especially the case when we climbed two steep hills used in this year’s Tour de France. On the streets painted in the French red white and blue were encouraging words for cyclist Thibeau Pinot, a strong climber and France’s current hope for Tour glory.
Today being a French holiday, we didn’t know what to expect. Would markets be open to buy food? Would the roads be busy or quiet? Would we be able to find a spot at the municipal campground in Vesoul? What do the French do on a holiday?
We’ve had to change schedules since coming from Norway. In Norway we could stay up late and start the day around 11am because the weather was consistently mild to chilly and the sun didn’t set at all for most of our journey. Toward the end of our stay in Norway we’d find ourselves rolling into camp around 9pm.
As we headed south from Brønnøysund we started to see a lot more climbs. The terrain also changed from farmland to what I can only describe as Lake Tahoe at sea level. Firs and pines covered the hillsides, with the steeper cliffs plunging into the salt water.
Today we managed to ride three ferries during the leg from Nesna to just north of Brønnøysund. While the ferries are a convenient way to skip between islands and isolated sections of road, the price of each ride adds up. It’s hard to stick to a $50 budget in Norway when a couple of ferry rides cuts out about 20 percent of the pie.
Today we rode through three tunnels on our way to Nesna. Two of the tunnels were about 3km long. Every day we ride through at least one tunnel, the longest being 4km. The longest tunnel in Norway is 57km. That’s a half hour drive! Cyclists aren’t allowed in all tunnels for good reason.
The day started off on the right foot. We had a short ride to catch another ferry. On the ferry we chatted with a friendly Finnish family and then watched what we believe was a minke whale, to the delight of everyone on board, jump out of the water a few times close to the boat.
There was something in the air today that powered us. From Saltstraumen we cycled south to Ørnes. We arrived in town to pick up food and just in time to catch the last ferry to Vassdalsvik. From there we cycled another 36km to a campground at Forøy.
When the sun shines in Norway and you happen to be on a bicycle, the best course of action if to keep pedaling. That’s what we did today. We started at 9am and finished at around 10pm, only because it started drizzling.
When you come to Norway you’re not here for the food, unless you like to see money quickly vanish from your wallet, and you’re not here for the people, unless you’re dead set on meeting aloof models. No, you come to Norway to see Norway.
The most interesting part of the day to write about was the end. Flat roads, a light breeze, and actually warm weather carried us to a beach on Hadseløya, where we watched children play in the calm water while we cooked dinner.
What makes bicycle touring so much fun, you ask? It’s a simple recipe with the following ingredients: equal parts tail wind and sunshine, a big helping of fjord scenery (substitute coastal or mountain scenery if you like), and at least one friendly riding companion. Serve raw or slightly sunburnt.
It’s rare that we get on the road early but whenever we do it turns out to be so pleasant. The wind is usually calmer and the roads are empty. The latter is especially true on Sundays and even more pronounced here in Norway because the country is essentially shut down.
When you travel and sleep in places where others are sleeping nearby, it’s inevitable that you’ll be serenaded by snoring. My defense strategy is to use ear plugs. Carrie’s defense strategy is to fall asleep. She’s a champion sleeper. But on the ferry ride to Aberdeen we were introduced to the Duke of Snoring. Both of our defenses were no match for his onslaught of sawing.
The main reason we decided to visit the Shetlands was to do some kayaking. Carrie read that the kayaking was superb. But we were running out of time and the weather was not making kayaking or doing anything outdoors possible.
It’s hard to come up with a good excuse to not go for a bike ride. If it’s too hot, ride in the morning or evening when it’s coolest. If it’s too cold, wear more layers. If it’s raining, put on a rain jacket and don your sense of adventure. If it’s snowing, be glad it’s not raining and get out there. If it’s so freakin’ windy that it’s hard to stay upright, well then you’ve found a worthy excuse to stay indoors.
We arrived on the main island of the Shetlands early in the morning with no concrete plans what to do. Carrie read that the kayaking was good here, but the only guy who led kayaking trips wouldn’t commit to a date because of the inclement weather.
From Thurso we took a ferry to Sternness, a small city on the main island of the Orkney Islands. Although the ferry ride was a bit over an hour, Carrie and I quickly fell asleep. Our poor Hubba Hubba tent makes such a racket in the wind that it was hard to sleep the the previous night.
Yesterday we took a real rest day. We only rode to the small market for food resupply. Otherwise, we sat in the cozy lounge of our hostel reading books, eating, and watching the nasty weather roll through. It was a good day to be indoors.
We decided to stay an extra day at the Tongue Hostel, where we camped the night before. This hostel seems to be unique in Scotland because it offers camping. In Ireland, we stayed at several hostels that allowed camping. As I’ve mentioned before, this is our favorite type of accommodation.
From Durness, we headed east along the North Coast 500 to the village of Tongue. Like every day we’ve ridden in Scotland, we rode mainly in a light drizzle. It’s impressive how consistently it can lightly drizzle here.
We planned to ride from Lochinver to Durness, but the hills, wind, and rain advised us to cut it short and seek refuge at a holiday park in Scourie. Despite this self-imposed setback, we had a marvelous time. We even created a new sandwich.
The original plan was to make it a short day from Tain to Lairg, but when woke up something was wrong. The sky was blue and this strange yellow orb was glowing above us. It was time to alter our plans.
Thanks to our Warmshowers host Karen, we were able to plan a route for the next week or so that will be taking us to the remote northwest of Scotland. She also recommended that we get head nets to prevent midge swarms.
It’s a miracle! We were finally able to connect with a Warmshowers host in Inverness. We’d tried six times previous with no luck. Either the potential host said no or we had trouble with the logistics to get together.
Although tempted to summit Ben Nevis, UK’s tallest mountain, we were robbed of sleep by some loud city folk during the night, and it was threatening to rain at any moment, so we instead wussed out and went to a café in Glen Coe for second breakfast.
With rain in the forecast for the foreseeable future, we had a choice to make: complain and travel to drier climes or deal with it and wring out as much fun as we can. We’ve chosen the latter. It’s nice to know that all it takes is an attitude change to go from glum to giddy.
In the morning we took a ferry from Islay to the mainland at Kennacraig. There were camping options near Kennacraig or about 50 miles away in Oban. After four days of little cycling, we were ready for a good ride, so we decided to go the distance.
As Carrie and I started planning our last days in Ireland we began to get a wee bit sad. Ireland had treated us well for the past month, with fine weather, friendly natives, and fantastic cycling. We experienced all of the above today.
We weren’t sure where we were going to camp that night, so we needed to formulate a plan. Without proper maps or any guidebook, all of our planning is done with help from the internet. So we headed to the nearest café to have a second breakfast and to plan the day.
We decided to spend another day at the Glencolumbkille hostel because we missed seeing the Slieve League Cliffs yesterday due to us being thoroughly drenched. The Slieve League Cliffs are twice as tall as their more famous cousin, the Cliffs of Moher.
The owner of the Blue Moon Hostel was right. We started our ride and within ten minutes it started to rain. Normally a little rain isn’t so bad. The trouble was that the little rain ended up lasting all day.
Our new favorite place to camp is at hostels. We usually pay €20 for the privilege of pitching our tent in the backyard, plus we have access to all of the amenities available to people who pay for a bed. This includes free breakfast, showers, wifi, and places to lounge indoors on comfortable furniture.
The wind forecast showed more strong winds from the north. After our battle yesterday, Carrie and I didn’t want another fight on our hands. We decided to take a short day to Bundoran, where we’d shack up in a hostel.
We weren’t sure which way to go today. Do we head west to the coast or north east through the mountains. I was ready to let a coin decide our route until we met a group of four tourists, two of whom were Irish.
We woke up late with stiff legs. Yesterday’s effort against the head wind had taken its toll. But rumors of great scenery further north motivated us to keep moving. Would the steady drizzle that we awoke to continue all day?
After last-minute plans fell through to visit the Aran Islands, we decided instead to make our way to Galway. We got the pleasure of retracing some of our route through the Burren from yesterday, until we passed Ballyvaughan. Then the road quickly became overrun with motor vehicles.
The beauty of a long trip is that your itinerary is flexible. There’s no where you have to be, so when the unexpected arrives you can take it in stride. In this case, the unexpected was a folk music festival happening in the tiny town of Doolin we just happened to arrive at the day before.
The highlight of our route today as we made our way out of the Dingle Peninsula was Connor Pass, the highest pass in Ireland. Despite this claim to fame, the pass only gets to 1200 feet, lower than all of the climbs up to Skyline Boulevard at home.
The Dingle Peninsula is well advertised as a place of unrivaled beauty. We decided to take a look for ourselves by doing a day ride known as the Slea Head drive, a 40km loop along the edges of the peninsula.
While still in the midst of the bank holiday weekend, we had to decide whether we wanted to stay in Killarney or head to the Dingle Peninsula. We decided to go to Dingle despite the threat of increased holiday traffic.
Instead of continuing around the Ring of Kerry, we relied on a suggestion from cycleireland.ie and headed for the center of the Iveragh Peninsula. This area is home to Ireland’s highest mountains, the McGillicuddy Reeks.
We had a choice to make: continue on the road around the Beara peninsula, complete with ocean views but auto traffic, or take the mountain pass in the middle of the peninsula to limit both ocean views and auto traffic. Easy choice for me. Fewer cars means more fun.
After battling and losing against a fox the previous night, we had to decide how we were going to fix the tent. After considering tape and glue as possible solutions, our tired brains finally realized that sewing the hole shut would be best.
With two cups of tea and six pieces of buttered toast and jam in our bellies, it was time to leave our hostel and bid farewell to Cork. Before we left the city centre, we had a few errands to run. I mailed home the tarp we brought because it was taking up space and not providing any useful application. I picked up our second butane cook canister because our first one was getting low. Carrie popped into the tourist information office and came out with an armful of guides, maps, and leaflets describing what we just discovered was a coastal route around most of Ireland called the Wild Atlantic Way.
Today is the day we bid goodbye to the UK and hello to Ireland. We planned to stay longer in the UK but the bank holiday this weekend spooked us. We feared we wouldn’t be able to find a camp site in the tourist-heavy region in southwest Wales.
The Welsh road builders must have an axe to grind against cyclists. As we made our way through farm country, we regularly tackled climbs with gradients above 15 percent. Although none of the climbs were long, it was the combination of several climbs throughout the day that had us chomping down granola bars for extra energy.
Fresh from another night of 12 hours sleep, perhaps the best part of touring, Carrie and I planned an assault on the Castle of Caerphilly. Little did we know we’d be in for the best cycling day of the trip so far.
We planned for a shorter day to take advantage of good weather so we could do some laundry and air out our tent and rain gear. Little did we know we’d be riding on one of only 7 working transporter bridges in the world.
It was a mistake not to bring maps. Today we were at the mercy of the small Route 4 signs to guide us to our next destination. While plentiful, the signs were often obscured by overgrown bushes or in locations it took us some extended searching to find.
As the departure date approaches, we’ve been analyzing and tweaking our pack list to get it just right. While this whole pack list analysis can get tedious, I still have fun trying to envision how each piece of gear or clothing will make the trip that much better. For instance, just today we totally revamped our cook kit. Carrie got inspired to try making more elaborate meals. She couldn’t picture herself enjoying another pot of mushy mac n’ cheese after five months on the road.
We’ve decided to take a trip. We’ve chosen the location: Europe. We’ve determined the duration: 5 months. And we’ve settled on the mode of travel: tandem bicycle single bicycles. We’ve also discussed the tools and cooking supplies we’ll be bringing. Now it’s time to talk clothes.
During our five-month-long Euro tour, we want to be as self-sufficient as possible. To reach that goal, we’ll bring a small collection of tools that should help us solve the most common bicycle maintenance mishaps. For the rare exploding bottom bracket or rim failure, we’ll rely on the closest local bike shop to save the day.
Over the years I’ve made changes to most pieces of equipment we use for bicycle touring. From toothpaste to tent stakes, everything is open for scrutiny. Nothing is safe from the wary eye of the gear nerd. If there’s a way to further optimize and refine the pack list, I’m game to experiment.
There are few tasks more gratifying than preparing for a long tour. This is the time to play make believe, to dream of all of the exotic places we’d like to visit and then to scheme of a way to link them together. When Carrie and I decided to take a trip to Europe this summer, we looked at a map of the continent and started naming attractions and regions and countries that we wanted to see: The Giant’s Causeway, the Alps, Norway, Prague, the Mediterranean coast. The dream list grew quickly.
Meet Big Boy. Big Boy is blue and big. Big Boy carries us and our gear without flinching. Big Boy soothes crying babies. He wears a cape and thwarts criminals. Big Boy is a hero and he’s magical. He can split into three pieces and fit into two suitcases. Last week he won a spelling bee. He’s an outstanding student at no less than 17 elementary schools. Although we’ve only owned him for three weeks, we think Big Boy is such a good boy.
You read that title right. Backpacking, not bikepacking. We left our bikes at home for a four day trip through some beautiful portions of the Hoover Wilderness and Yosemite National Park. At the end of the trip however we both agreed that our bodies prefer cycling to hiking. It’s nice to let the bike carry our stuff while we use the magic of mechanical advantage to move quickly, but not too quickly, through our landscape.
If a bike is going to live with me, it’s not going to be a toy. I want my bikes to be practical, reliable, safe, and fun. Adding dynamo lights on my bike accomplishes all of these goals. So when I designed my new frame I wanted to integrate my dynamo lights as much as possible.
Under the heavy spell of Jan Heine and his magazine Bicycle Quarterly, I decided to build myself a randonneuring bicycle with help from Dave Bohm in Arizona. The previous several posts described the framebuilding process with Dave. But I’ve yet to include any glamor shots of the bike built up, and more importantly because the World Wide Web is surely dying to know, I’ve yet to post my initial impressions of how the new bike rides. With about 400 miles on the bike so far, it’s time for a review, broken into the major categories that define this type of bike. But first off, a glamor shot:
I started the day with a pile of braze-ons and not much time to get them adhered to the frame and fork. Brake studs, rack mounts, stay bridges, brake and shifter cable guides all needed a place to call home. I was a little nervous that I wouldn’t get them all on before I needed to pack the bike for shipping back home. Since I don’t have convenient access to an oxy-acetylene rig, I really needed to work efficiently.
The morning started off well. I tacked the chainstays on and they only required minor tweaks to meet the three alignment criteria for rear dropouts: equal distance, equal height, and equal and proper spacing. The rear triangle is much trickier to get aligned perfectly. I was relieved when everything was where it should be.
The past two days were dedicated to brazing up the main triangle of the frame. I had to cut the main tubes to length, which was nerve-wracking because Dave ordered a special top tube for my bike. If I cut this tube too short I wouldn’t have a backup tube with the same thin walls. With just one chance to get this right, I spent way too much time rechecking my measurements and second-guessing myself.
It’s too late to write a thorough summary of today’s events. For the most part I worked on preparing and brazing the seat tube to the bottom bracket. Dave says we’re on track to finish our frames by Friday but oh man is there still a lot of work to be done.
On Saturday I spent all day preparing the parts that will allow me to build a frame with bilaminate joints. Bilaminate construction is essentially a half lug silver brazed on one tube and fillet brazed to its mating tube. It offers the sleek, seamless look of a fillet with the traditional refined edge of a lug. And yes, it’s a hell of a lot of work to do it.
The last two days were all about building our forks. Dave likes students to start with the fork first because the brazing is relatively easy, but all of the steps we used to build the fork will apply to building the frame. The basic steps to framebuilding are:
Back in 2007 my obsession with all things bicycle was reaching ludicrous heights. It wasn’t enough to just ride the beautiful machines, and it wasn’t enough to merely take a bare frame and add components to it. I was looking for something more. I wanted to ride a bicycle frame that I designed and built myself.
Carrie and I have been bicycle touring for about eight years. And in that time I’d only once joined a friend for a tour. We have friends who ride bicycles regularly. We have friends who love to camp. But it seems we don’t have many friends who want to combine the two activities. I don’t know what’s wrong with our friends.
We left the Burlington Campground knowing that we only had to ride about 30 miles today to get to the Richardson Grove State Park, so we were in no rush. It was nice to continue on Avenue of the Giants. It’s so tranquil riding under the redwood canopy; there’s only a hint of wind, the sun beams through in small pockets, there’s little traffic, and the road is smooth. This is the same tranquil feeling I have when riding at night, except I can see my surroundings.
Today we had the great pleasure of leaving Highway 101 behind early in the ride and rolling along the magnificent Avenue of the Giants, a quiet and shady stretch of road lined with some of the largest trees on the planet: sequoia sempervirons, or rather, big ass redwood trees. Now in my neck of the woods, it’s fairly easy to go for a short road ride through a grove or two of redwoods. These groves are indeed fantastic. But out here on the Avenue of the Giants, we got the opportunity to ride through maybe 15 miles worth of groves. This was a whole different level of experiencing the redwoods.
Because of Peter’s painful knee, we’ve decided to shorten the trip a bit. Instead of riding about 80 miles per day and ending our trip at Bodega Bay, were now planning to ride about 50 miles per day, ending in either Leggett or Fort Bragg. Peter’s dad agreed to pick us up further north.
Yesterday was highlighted by scenic coastline. Whenever we took the surface roads off Highway 101, we’d be rewarded with stunning ocean views. Today was more of the same, but instead of ocean views, we had the pleasure of riding through redwood forests.
Since riding from Corvallis, no, since reading about riding this route, I’d been anticipating viewing Oregon’s ruggedly beautiful coastline. Yet since we’d hopped on the Scenic Highway in Florence, we’d had only little glimpses of what Oregon had to offer. Occasionally through a clearing in the dense forests that surround both sides of the highway, we’d see some dark blue water in the distance. Through towns like Coos Bay, we crossed a bridge where river and ocean met, but we had no real views of the famous coast. I was beginning to think that all of the splendid views were north of Florence, that we’d be stuck with only a taste of the coast: fog and sand dunes.
After a late start it wasn’t until 20 miles into our ride that we sat down for breakfast in Reedsport at about 11:30am. The waitress, recognizing that we were cyclists, sat us at a table with a nearby outlet. The staff must be used to seeing Paciﬁc Coast cyclists come in with all their gadgets.
After a good night’s sleep at Taryn’s place, Peter and I set out do what we came to do: ride bicycles for lots of miles while eating whatever we could get our hands on. We accomplished both goals today.
The wonderful thing about traveling by train is that you don’t have to travel in an airplane. The full-body frisks. The cramped seats. The sense of your impending demise. It’s as if airline executives and TSA officials meet regularly to come up with new ways to make airline travel more uncomfortable. Bathrooms? Let’s get rid of them. If they don’t pee before boarding they’ll just have to hold it. That will also take care of the problems with smoking and humping.
About a week after we returned from our adventure in Idaho, I got a call from my friend Peter, who wanted to know if I would like to ride with him along the Paciﬁc Coast from Albany, Oregon, back to the Bay Area. To that I responded, “Heck yes!” as my Idaho politeness hadn’t yet been rubbed off by the cruel streets of San Jose.
Ahh, shucks. Do we have to leave Idaho? We’ve had such a good time. We’ve met some of the friendliest people on Earth. We’ve ridden through some beautiful landscapes. We even managed to soak in some hot springs, but there were so many we missed.
We had a decision to make today. Do we continue on route over the big pass outside of Idaho City, camp at Cottonwood Campground, and then retrace our tracks on the unappealing exposed washboard road back to Boise, or do we head straight for Boise on Highway 21, arriving in Boise a day ahead of schedule? We opted for the highway.
As planned, we arose early and arrived in Crouch before 9am, where we stopped at Wild Bill’s Cafe for a hearty breakfast and then stopped by the well-stocked grocery store for a few rations. The town of Crouch consists of a handful of humble buildings scattered haphazardly in close proximity to each another, like the town planner was on vacation so they asked the grocery clerk to provide the town layout in an afternoon.
The Idaho Posse arose to a rather frigid morning. Harry made a fire that we huddled around while eating breakfast and breaking camp. We then moseyed on down a quiet residential road before hitting the dirt. Our climb du jour was steeper than we expected, but the road condition was decent and it hadn’t gotten too hot yet, so I at least enjoyed the effort.
In the morning we headed to The Pancake House, which our rafting guides from the day before recommended. At The Pancake House we met up with part of the Idaho Posse, Jay and Harry, who said that the portion of the Secesh Singletrack section that they attempted was extremely difficult, almost all of it requiring hike-a-bike. They seemed to be a bit upset about the experience, believing that more of the route would be rideable. They also warned us that the portions were huge at The Pancake House. I figured that the meal would be comparable to our huge breakfast at the Noth Shore Lodge. Boy was I wrong.
Our rafting guides from Salmon Raft picked us up at the Scandia Inn early in the morning. Drew, Stephanie, and Greg were to introduce us to the wonderful world of rafting. Both Carrie and I were a little nervous, as neither of us had ever been. The guides reassured us that it would be safe and fun. They were right on both accounts.
Today is the day the Idaho Posse disbanded. It was a glorious one day as a posse, despite the lack of gun fights and hangings. Jay and Harry headed north to check out the Secesh singletrack option of the Idaho Hot Springs Mountain Bike Route while Carrie and I headed to McCall on the main route via the Lick Creek Summit. Vicki was also planning to head to McCall but got a later start than us.
Carrie and I broke camp early so we could be first in line for breakfast at the North Shore Lodge. Since the lodge’s convenience foods consisted of not much more than ingredients for s’mores and some candy bars, we were planning to rely on a hearty breakfast to fuel us for the day. And fuel us it did. I downed a large stack of pancakes with blueberry sauce, whipped cream, and syrup, with a side of two eggs and hashed browns. Carrie got the same, including all of my bacon. Carrie probably ate about 1000 calories in bacon alone!
Although it did rain overnight, we awoke to sunny skies and cool temperatures, a perfect way to start a bike ride. We rolled about five miles until we stopped at an intersection for a snack. While stopped, a guy came out of the woods to tell us his car needed a jump start. Since we lacked jumper cables and a motorized vehicle, we couldn’t offer much help, but we did agree to stop by the Deadwood Lodge, which was on our way, to ask if someone could help the guy out.
Today, I have to confess, we cheated. Casey Greene and Adventure Cycling went through all this trouble to create another off-road touring route and here we go and decide to ride on the highway out of Stanley for the first 20 miles. But I tell you what, it felt really good to cruise on some smooth asphalt at 17MPH instead of some washboarded, sandy, dirt road at 8MPH.
We awoke dirty but well-rested after our ride from Ketchum the day before. With a four-mile, paved downhill into Stanley, we had he whole day ahead of us to eat, relax, and eat some more. We also had to figure out if Carrie would be able to replace her lost toiletries, including the all important contacts case and solution.
The day started off great. We broke camp before the sun popped over the Boulder Mountains and made our way to the Russian John Hot Springs for a sunrise soak. The hot springs weren’t terribly hot, but it still felt good to soak in warm water, and it was our official first hot springs soaking on the Idaho Hot Springs Route!
Since we had camped close to Ketchum the night before, we rolled into town mid-morning with a clear agenda: find a bike shop to get our chains lubed (they’ve been squeaking since day one), find a sewing kit so Carrie can repair the hole in her pants, eat lunch, hang out at the library (for blog posting, weather checking, midday sun avoiding), stock up on food for the next leg, eat dinner, get the heck back on the trail. We did those things in that order. Oh wait, before we left town we also got some delicious ice cream at the town square. This was our first ice cream of the trip, and I hope not the last.
All night at the Abbot Campground our closest neighbor was running the generator for his RV, while during the day his 10 year old boy was driving through camp on a grumbling ATV. We also chose a campsite that didn’t have a lot of trees protecting us from the afternoon sun. The idea of resting in these conditions didn’t sound appealing.
As soon as we broke camp at Neinmeyer, a pair of cyclists rolled up to say hi. They had started in McCall and ridden the route clockwise. They warned us that the climb up Galena summit, which we’d be facing in a few days, was rocky and steep and would probably require some hike-a-bike. They however made no mention of the beast we were about to climb that day.
It was hard to do, but today we left our beloved Boise. We decided to leave early in the morning to get most of our miles ridden before noon, as the forecast was calling for triple digits.
Instead of following the prescribed route from the Adventure Cycling maps, our warmshowers hosts Dan and Kristi suggested we take the Greenbelt out of town. So we rolled along the Boise River, continuing to admire the natural setting nestled in a state capital.
We now know where we want to live. Yeah, San Jose has the great job market and the temperate climate, but it also has terrible traffic and unbelievably high housing costs. Boise on the other hand may have more extreme weather, but the capital of Idaho feels more like a university town.
After a two-year hiatus, we’ve finally managed to scheme up a new, extended bicycle tour. In 2012, we had a fantastic time cycling along a portion of Adventure Cycling’s Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMBR) from Banff, Canada, to Whitefish, Montana. Touring off-road was a completely different experience. Instead of hugging a white line along a highway with the sound and smell of motor vehicles whizzing by, we were hogging forest service roads with the sound and smell of the wind through pine trees. Needless to say we wanted more.
On our twelfth day we spent the day in Glacier National Park. Carrie was especially excited to see the nation’s second oldest park. However we were only able to visit a small fraction of the park due to several rock slides on the famous Going to the Sun Road. We enjoyed a hike up to Avalanche Lake in the morning, followed by ice cream and an early dinner, and then an evening hike with a dip into Lake MacDonald to cool off. It was a nice, relaxing day in a beautiful park.