Thursday, August 23, 2012

Let's go surfin' now

I rode my bike across the country.  Wow.  What a succinct statement that sums up 3 months and over 5,000 miles of biking.  But simply put, that is what I accomplished by rolling into Anacortes, WA yesterday.  The date was August 22nd and it just so happened to be exactly three months from my original departure of May 22nd.  I am not sure if that counts for anything, but it was neat nevertheless.

The rest of Washington state continued the trend of each day being better than the last.  The central section of the state is mostly desert and temperatures were pushing into the low 100s again.  Climbing a few passes in those conditions made for interesting times, but the heat of Missouri and the climbs of Colorado had conditioned me.  One of the highlights of my trip came on the second to last day- riding over the Cascades.  Riding to the top of Washington Pass that marks the highpoint on the North Cascades Highway turned out to be the easy part.  Descending through the Skagit River Gorge was pretty breathtaking.  The scenery was out of this world.  The winds were as well.  Under calm conditions one could rocket down the gorge and average close to 30mph.  Headwinds kept me in the 10mph neighborhood.  Violent crosswinds throughout the gorge made some sections a bit harrowing at times.  Eventually I was disgorged (ha!) and continued along the Skagit River towards the coast.

Well, now that that is over I guess all that's left is to figure out how to get home...

I've seen plenty "fake" painted cattle guards in national forests along my ride.  They are used to control the swaths of open range that the Forest Service leases.  I understand the concept of physical cattle guards on roads.  I always wanted to see a cow interact with a painted one and see if it actually works.
The effects of 3 months of UV damage can be clearly seen on my bike panniers.  Most mornings I wore a long sleeved shirt for as long as I could bear it.  Otherwise I slathered myself in SPF 50 sunscreen.  Still, my glove tan is pretty impressive.
A short break in the Mazama Store was a good idea to wake up for the climb over Washington Pass.  I kept hoping that Steve House, an acclaimed alpinist, would stop in for his morning coffee.  He didn't.  Mazama, WA
This was my first time through the Cascades and I was excited for the ride over them.
The views did not disappoint along the way.
Yup.  There's still snow up in the pass!  I didn't dilly dally too much right here.  Those cavernous points fore and aft of my bike were formed by big blocks of snow cleaving off the bottom of the slope.  The large rock that my front wheel is sitting against fell off of the cliff face above.  Further up the pass, fresh rock scars could been seen along the cliffs lining the switchbacks.  Newly fallen rocks lay strewn on the side of the road opposite the scars.  Not the safest place for a picnic.
The North Cascades Highway snaking up behind me towards Washington Pass.
The last obstacle between me and the ocean has been surmounted.  Until you descend a bit and still have to climb a few hundred feet up and over Rainy Pass.  But who's counting?
A mini Lotus Flower Tower sits at the top of the pass found me wishing I had brought my rock shoes.  And a rope.  And a rack.  And a climbing partner.  Next time.  And there will be a next time.
Descending towards Rainy Pass
And then descending from Rainy Pass towards the Skagit River Gorge.  The steep part of the descent would go on for about 30 miles.  This was while it was still fun in the sun.  Then the walls closed in and the winds kicked into high gear.  I stopped taking pictures.
The gorge is so narrow in points that the road travels through a couple of tunnels.  That's a good way to spice things up!
I don't know what that means.  But I am sufficiently intrigued.  Marblemount, WA   
I spent the night in Marblemount at Clark's Skagit River Resort.  At the side of the bathhouse, I saw this sign.  What?
Uh, looks like about two dozen loaves of day old bread...
Turns out that one of the hallmarks of Clark's is the rabbit population hanging around.  I asked the owners  how many rabbits were around and they said "no fewer than twenty".  Then I read somewhere that usually they have upwards of a hundred hopping about when they're breeding.  Whoa.
Once through the Cascades, it's back to low lying farmland that reminds me of Pennsylvania.  Right now we're less than 10 miles away from the Pacific Ocean.
Yep.  Just chillin' with the cows a stone's throw away from the saltwater.
Fewer than 10 miles away from completion, they close the road on you.  I laughed a little as I made another slight detour .  It would take more than that to discourage me after so much riding.
The Tommy Thompson Trail leading over Fidalgo Bay to Anacortes
Down at the beach looking out towards the San Juan Islands and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  Yeah, I just wanted to say "Juan de Fuca".  Can't go much further west without getting wet!
The final tally?  Five thousand and forty three miles.  Plus maybe a few more from the times my previous bike computer kept dying partway through the day.


  1. Tom,
    Wow, what an accomplishment! You can be proud of the tenacity and determination that it took to complete such an adventure self-contained and solo.

    Mary thinks I have been living vicariously through you and your blog the last three months. I will probably go through blog withdrawal, so I am anxious to hear what is next.

    Blessings, Mike

    1. Keep on reading, Mike! Since I'm out here I'm going to start poking along down the coast for... a ways :)

  2. YEEEEE HAAAAAWWWW!!!! Eff yeah, Tom! That is so sweet. Who would have thought that, years ago when we were sitting at facing desks in retail purgatory, talking about biking down to Tierra del Fuego, that you'd step up and bike to Washington the long way. Very well done.

    Speaking of surfing, we'll be in North Carolina in a week and a half. Think you can make it? :)

    1. Might not make it to NC with ya, but speaking of Tierra del Fuego... We'll talk!

  3. Hi Tom,

    I'm so glad to see that you've made it to the West Coast safely! I just learned that my grandfather asks my mother about you often. I've passed your blog on so that they can catch up on your summer!


  4. Nice job, Tom! Very well done! So how far is it to Mexico?

    1. Hmmmmm, if I follow the coast from here I think it's roughly 1,600 miles. Oh hey, would you look at that! My passport is right here with me in my bag.

  5. Tom, I loved this chronicle and am thankful you shared it. I loved keeping up to date and Ieva and I often texted each other when you posted to make sure we didn't miss any. You really made me think and consider the world and how we all move and interact in it. Looking forward to seeing more chronicles! Thanks for sharing them!