Monday, September 13, 2010

The End of this Adventure

Well, that's it. I rode back into Seattle the day before yesterday and unpacked my panniers last night; trips over. It was an incredible journey, one that I know that will be a big part of me for the rest of my life. The year flew by filled with countless unexpected surprises, filling me with hope, gratitude, and a desire for more. When I left, I knew that this trip would change my life in some way. But despite many guess as to how, I didn’t know what would actually materialize. Well, it turns out that most everything I’d guessed came true and more; I never imagined it would be so good.

The last few days of my journey were no less wonderful then the whole year. The ride from Cheney to Cle Elum, that I'd anticipated taking three days, I rode in two long days. Subconsciously, I guess I was more anxious to finish up then I realized, my legs just kept pedaling. Whereas the rest of the year, I did anything I could to avoid riding on main interstates, which often meant adding extra miles, I found myself just giving in a taking I-90 for 10-15 miles a day in order to shave those miles off. The first day I even had a rare tail wind as I rode through the rolling wheat fields and into the sage brush. It was fall for sure as the nights have gotten cold and was raining most everyday.

Soap Lake, full of all sorts of minerals and supposed to be "healing waters"

My last night sleeping out, a baseball dugout in Ephrata

Columbia River Gorge!

I did not anticipate the 12 mile climb out of the Columbia River Gorge, it was slow but beautiful. As I then entered the Kittitas Valley, the winds the area is known for hit me hard, making the last 40 miles of the day a struggle. It was a gorgeous ride though as I reentered my home territory riding into Cle Elum (where I'd been working the last three years for the Forest Service).

The spectacular road to Cle Elum

It was late by the time I got into Cle Elum and I was fully exhausted. All I could think of was food from the Thai place, only to be crushed by finding it had closed. I spent the next while living my old life as though nothing had even changed. In the morning, I walked across the parking lot with my backpack ready for work! Having arrived a day earlier then expected, I took the opportunity to get out and work with trail crew. It was wonderful to see so many of my Forest Service friends again, many of them have given me so much support this past year and I am so grateful to them. Trail crew was the same as always, full of fart jokes, impersonations, and hard work. We were up in the Teanaway, one of my favorite areas on the district. Although it was a bit cloudy, I was rewarded with some views of the fresh snow on the higher peaks. It felt great to have a tool in my hands again and to accomplish something of substance. My hands were in a good deal of pain though, not being used to holding a tool anymore, especially breaking apart rock.

Doing some tread work with trail crew!

That evening, a bunch of FS folks gathered for dinner. So nice to be with everyone again!

My Forest Service family out to dinner

After visiting the weekend crew in the morning, and getting the lab report from Mikki, I rode out up to Snoqualimie Pass. I ended up riding around 20 miles on a gravel rail-to-trail pathway. It was very peaceful and I didn't see another soul. The only tough part was a trying to get through a chain-link gate that was locked for some reason.

This was a bit difficult, with no way around and not wanting to ride a few miles back to circumvent this gate, I somehow squeezed everything through. It wasn't pretty.

Riding into the Pass and then into Gold Creek Valley was a little emotional for me. This is the place my family built our cabin over twenty years ago, where we spent our winter weekends and summers growing up, where I learned to love the outdoors, and where I'd lived the past three summers. I was ecstatic to be back in the valley, this place is more Home to me then anywhere else.

Home in Gold Creek Valley to spend a day at my family's cabin. After seeing a year of North America's sights, this is still my favorite place in the world; nothing makes me happier then to be in this valley.

Knowing that once I rode into Seattle, it would be difficult to reflect and relax without distraction, I tried to make the most of my day and a half at the cabin. Making a fire to warm the place up, listening to NPR all day, making great food, and enjoying the mountain air were just what I needed. Geoff, a friend who's been one of my biggest emotional supports this past year came up and spent the night which was wonderful.

The next day I had mostly to myself to go on walks, carry and stack fire wood, and go for a fantastic run up the valley. It was such a nice way to spend my last day alone, though I could have used a full week up there.

I got to reminisce a little looking through our old photo album in the cabin. Random, but I love this picture (I don't think I fell in).

Ready for my last day of riding.

My last day of riding included a bit of everything. It was cool and rainy on the pass, and then got sunny down lower; I had dirt roads, both perfect and horrible pavement, bike trials and interstate riding. Making my way through the greater Seattle area, I struggled over some of the steepest hills I've had all year as I tried to find my way winding through the residential areas. I made it to my Great Aunts house where a number of family members met me. After a short visit, a number of them then rode with me the last 25 miles to my parent’s house where I'd begun my journey exactly one year ago.

Family welcomed me at my Great Aunt's house for a little food.

My entourage, ready to ride the last miles with me!

The family on the way in: parents, brothers, and sister-in-law.

Crossing into Seattle!

With my dad, back where this whole journey began one year ago.

So that was it. It was fun having family ride in with me and I'm so thankful for all of their support this past year. Now it's time to transition as I finalize this trip.

As I bid goodbye to one adventure the next begins shortly as I prepare to move to Whitefish to ski coach.

Back to city life: working in the yard with my dad. Our pears are enormous and so perfect this year!

The Final Tally for 365 days on the road:

Miles: 16,184 (26, 045 km)
Flats: 41 (none since way back in Vermont!)
Tubes: 15
Tires: 7
Jars of Nut Butter: 38
Nights under a roof: 128
States: 30
Provinces: 4
National Parks, etc: 38
Bike-free days: 58
100+ mile days: 21
Rain: 87
Riding in Rain: 48
Riding with companions: 29
Books: 24
Spontaneous hosts: 6
Ferries: 8
Farms: 2
Rear Wheels: 3
Warmshowers/Couchsurfing hosts: 17
Bike shorts: 3
Tubes Chamois B'tter: 3
Sicknesses: 3
Sunglasses: 3
Nights paid for: 13

I owe a huge thank you to everyone who has been invaluable this past year in making my ride possible. To those of you who have trudged through my spelling and grammatical errors, trying to make sense of my blog; to those who have opened their homes and hearts to me everywhere making sure I had anything I needed; for the phone calls and emails that have helped keep me sane and inspired to continue; to those who believed in me and didn't just dismiss me as crazy; to the other riders I met along the way, especially those who gave me some company for a short ways; to the countless anonymous folks who gave me waves, friendly honks, thumbs up, fist pumps, and even the one who blew me a kiss. Without all of you this trip would have never taken off and definitely wouldn't have been such a positive experience. I am forever indebted to you and hope that one day I can began to repay your kindness.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Back to MT for something a little different

After a relaxing and productive day off with Sarah in Cheney, John picked me up to drive back to Montana. That night we got to the camp on Flathead lake where we'd be staged the next few days. Rick (the groom) and a few family and friends where there. It was fantastic to see John and Rick again, to catch up with them and hear some Cle Elum and Forest Service news (we worked together the past few years).

While the boys did their bachelor thing, I got to relax around camp and explore a little on my own. The next day, John and I got an early start, drove into Glacier National Park, and set off on a hike up to a fire lookout. This was a different part of the park then I'd hiked in the other week, very different and nice. Being out hiking with John again was just wonderful; made me want to go back and ranger again!

John hiking up to Huckleberry Lookout

The day couldn't have been much better, warm and sunny. We enjoyed a little ridge walking and picked delicious huckleberries on the way down.

View from the Lookout

We got back in time to get John to the wedding rehearsal, then cleaned up for the rehearsal dinner that evening. It was fun meeting so many folks from all over the country gathered for Rick and Adair, such a great group of people.

After thunder showers in the morning and a little worrying, the afternoon of the wedding turned out beautifully. Flathead Lake was a picturesque setting for such a lovely affair.

What a beautiful ceremony!

Adair and Rick, the newly wed couple!

John, Rick, and me. For a couple of wilderness hippies, I think we clean up pretty well.

First Dance

Dinner and dancing that evening was a ton of fun! This sure added another fantastic element to my bike trip. Fortunately, my parents had gotten my dress to John so that I didn't have to show up in bike clothes.

Always early risers, after a short night, John and I headed back into the Park for another little adventure. We'd hoped to scramble up a few peaks, but the weather forced us to a back up plan-a very short hike up a small peak right at Logan Pass. As we left the parking lot, the snow started to fall and the surrounding mountains were rapidly engulfed in the clouds. Our first snow of the season and we were in heaven! The meadows and peaks around us began to turn white as the world quieted down. However, the winds were a little rough and we weren't exactly prepared for a snow storm, but were just so happy to be out there it didn't much matter.

Winter arrives


Great visibility on the summit

John and me, summit shot

The hike was short and we quickly headed back down to a lodge for the blazing fireplace and a warm meal. This morning we packed up and drove back to Washington.

So, here I am back in Cheney and getting ready for the final few days of my bike. It hasn't yet some close to sinking in that I have a mere five riding days left. My line across Washington will be about a direct as it can be as my year is almost up and I'm looking forward to my next step: Whitefish, MT! I got the job coaching the Glacier Nordic competition team there and am super excited for the move!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Western Montana

I'm in Washington!! But first off a quick review of the past however many days (I loose track of time like nothing).

So, riding out of Whitefish I headed south towards Missoula. On the way I pulled over to talk to a cyclists who was stopped in the middle of a hill talking aloud to himself. Now, I hate to stop in the middle of hills, but it was obvious this guy needed to talk. He'd just started riding the Continental Divide trail (from Canada to Mexico on single track and dirt roads). His second day was so bad he had gotten off the trails and onto paved roads where I met him, he was thinking of calling it quits. He is also from Seattle and a seasoned tourer, but I couldn't believe the amount of stuff he had with him: full front and rear panniers as well as a fully loaded Bob trailer! Lugging around all that weight I'm not surprised he got off the dirt. We talked awhile, then rode on, but I was quite a bit faster and ended up losing him pretty quick.

That night I rode out to Inky's river cabin, my Warmshowers host for the next number of days. I met Inky and Danny and their friends Ellen and John also stopped in for the night. I had a blast listening to the four of them, all such interesting and spunky people! The cabin is a historical site on the outlet of a beautiful lake. We ended the evening roasting s'mores, I think those were the first of my whole trip!

Ellen, Inky, and John with Holly
From the cabin, I rode on to Missoula where I stayed in Inky's house with Danny and Inky's daughter, Meghan. She lives up in the hills out of town surrounded by public land and with a gorgeous view of the valley. I spent the next three days resting, catching up on a few things, and exploring Missoula. It was wonderful to not feel rushed.
I visited the University of Montana and met with the chair of the geography department graduate program. We had a good talk, but I came to realize that I'm still a few years away from applying to grad school. I'm glad I found that out for sure.

University of Montana and "the big M"
Missoula had lots going on. They had a summer food festival and concert series both Wednesday afternoon and Thursday evening, which I enjoyed listing to lots of classic rock covers. I was impressed with the showing for a weekly event. Otherwise I wandered around town, spent lots of time in the library, cleaned up my bike, and caught up with lots of friends on the phone which was wonderful.
Weekly summer Out to Lunch food and music gathering

A great view of smoke from Inky's house
On my way out of town, I stopped in at Adventure cycling Association's headquarters. They told me they see around 600 tourers a year! They have it all figured out, Jill, one of the magazine editors, gave me a tour of the building, they have a lounge for tourers with books, maps, computer, ice cream and pop. I had my portrait taken with my bike and signed their registry. I also got a chance to speak with the head of ACA's tour's about leading trips for them; I'd have to wait two years unfortunately, but it's be a lot of fun. I also spoke with Jill about writing an article for their magazine, I'm pretty excited about the idea and need to get a proposal out in the next few weeks!

Adventure Cycling Association
From Missoula I rode northwest towards Idaho. Not having had a hard days ride in what seems like a long time, I rode myself to exhaustion the last three days. Idaho was a quick crossing through nice river valley's and along the lake.

Lots of river valley riding; nice and flat for the most part!

In Idaho, Lake Pend Oreille

Riding across Pend Oreille

I spent last night just 3 miles from the Washington boarder and was ecstatic to cross over this morning. Now I'm in Spokane, meeting up with a friend in the area this evening. Then I (hopefully) will get picked up and driven back to Montana for a friends wedding. So, it'll be a few days before I continue riding west. I figure I have only 5-6 actual riding days left which is crazy, but I still have lots of stops to make to drag out the 13 days left in my year...

Saturday, August 21, 2010


The Rockies...umm...yeah, they're big and beautiful and I could stay around these mountains for a long time.

So, I met up with Iain in Jasper and we set off down the Icefields Parkway which runs between Jasper and Banff. This area is the "jem of Canada," full of tourists and a haven for cyclists which were everywhere. The road was fantastic with a good shoulder as it climbed and wound around and over the mountains. The views were stunning, it's hard to think of a more beautiful place to ride in North America.

Columbia Icefield

Some killer descents

Iain and me
Not having ridden in the three years since his cross-country tour, and coming fresh off of two months of leading hiking courses, Iain was a great sport ridding through his soreness, back and knee pain. This was a beautiful, but very challanging section to meet me for; we climbed a lot!

Gorgeous lakes

This was the longest time by far that I've spent riding with anyone on this trip; Iain and I were together for 10 days. I'm sure I was a big pain at times as I've realized just how used to my own routine I am; I'll admit I had some difficulties sharing my journey and changing my routine. However, it was good for me to be challenged and remember that I'm going to have to start compromising again once I enter back into the world of non-touring.
Riding into Banff we had some storms come through and bring fresh snow to the mountains. I'd hoped I wouldn't see that until September, but oh well. We waited out some heavy rain in Banff, then had to bundle up against the rain and cold the next day. We'd planed on staying up high and climbing an extra pass, but with the weather decided to instead retreat to the foothills. The roads there turned out to be fantastic, beautiful rolling through the hay fields with the high mountains on the horizon.

Fresh snow up in the mountains!

Way too cold for the middle of August

This property had hats on top of every fence post, there were hundreds of them.

We past through Waterton Lakes NP, then crossed the boarder back into the US. With every singe car in front of getting getting a thorough search, I was sure we'd get the same. However, they just asked us a few quick questions and sent us on our way. This was the first time ever that it was easier to get back into the US then it was to get into Canada. I wasn't as excited to return to the US as I thought I'd be, maybe it feels too close to finishing.
Our next stop was Glacier National Park. We stayed in the campground, which was a zoo, and started off the next morning climbing up the Going-to-the-Sun road which crosses 50 miles through the park. It was a good 12 miles climb with a steady grade, slow but comfortable. They're doing a whole bunch of construction on the road, so we got stopped in each place and had to wait 10-30 minutes to pass-gave me a break anyway. Up at the top at Logan Pass, we crossed the Continental Divide and made our way down the 30 miles of downhill-maybe 15 of which were 6% grade. After we got through the construction and bad pavement at top, we got onto new surface and had a blast winding down the narrow road blasted into the cliff. It's really something!

Enjoying the view while waiting for construction

Iain and I then rode into Whitefish (after stopping for huckleberry milkshakes!) where he was catching the train the next day back to Seattle. Our arrival was perfect, just in time for the farmer's market which we were both very impressed with. Both being in search of a good ski town to move to, we immediately liked the area.
Strangely enough, that evening when I called my parents, my dad told me about a ski coaching job that the Whitefish team had just posted. So, the next day I made some calls and was able to meet with one of the board members, Linda to talk about the program. She then invited me to spend the night with her family which was wonderful. I got the scoop on the team and the town and am very excited about the possibility of living here! Iain took off and I headed back into Glacier NP the next morning to do a little hiking.
With my hip bothering me, I was cautious, starting with a short hike to Hidden Lake. After getting past the lines of people, it was a glorious place.

Hidden Lake

Mountain goats were everywhere, I probably saw 25 on this little hike including lots of kids

The next day I took the shuttle back up to Logan Pass and set out on a point to point hike nearly following the Continental Divide. With perfect weather, the views were incredible and wildflowers were everywhere. I nibbled on wild chives all along the traverse. My hip was feeling good and I was happy to be on my feet. The last few miles were though a burned area and teeming with saskatoons, huckleberries, raspberries, and thimbleberries. The hike down was slow as I gorged myself on my favorite treats!

Looking up valley from the Highline Trail, the Going-to-the-Sun road is below

This gal was part of a herd of 15 sheep right along the trail

After returning from the hike, I high-tailed it back to Whitefish (so much back and forth!), and back to the Engh-Grady families place. This morning I helped out with a mountain run they put on to benefit the nordic team and was able to meet a bunch of the athletes and their parents which was a lot of fun.

Dave, Linda, Cassy, Maddy, and their dog Sage
It's been a crazy last few weeks. I can't believe how well some things have worked out, but that seems to happen a lot on this trip (I sure hope that continues once I finish). From here in Whitefish I'm headed down to Missoula where I'll spend a few days as I continue to take my time here in Montana. I'm so close to being back to Seattle, but still have three weeks before my year is up, so I want to make the most of it!