It was with great anticipation and excitement that I left Missoula, MT and began heading directly north. I was leaving the TransAmerica biking route and heading up towards the Northern Tier route, meeting it by Glacier National Park. When I turned westward just before hitting Canada, I truly felt like I was in new territory... because I was. This feeling only heightened whenever I crossed into Idaho as this was my first visit. Granted, I spent less than 24 hours in Idaho, crossing its narrow northern Panhandle, but it was a new state nevertheless. Now I am in central Washington, another new state for me. The eastern portion contained vast forests and tall passes giving way to a desertscape in the center of the state. It was really odd making that transition in about 15 miles of riding and 3000' elevation loss. The 100 degree temperatures and winds make me feel like I'm back in Missouri or Kansas. The desert atmosphere hearkens back to eastern Colorado or Wyoming. So odd.
When I begin riding tomorrow, I only have about 3 days of riding left until I hit the Pacific coast at Anacortes, WA. From there some island hopping with the assistance of ferries will get me to Seattle. It is so odd to be sitting here only days away from completing a cross country bicycle ride. On one hand, it's nigh impossible to believe that you biked across the entire United States and only have 3 days left. Then you reflect on the past 3 months of pedaling, think back to the climbs, the dogs, the miles, the junk food, the campsites and remember all of the effort that went into it. It makes it a little more believable. My sense of accomplishment is a little diminished, not because it wasn't difficult as it does take some doing. It's diminished a little because the trip was so fun with each day better than the last. It seemed like such the right thing to do. It's so logical to bike across the country. Somehow, with it seemingly making good sense to do, it has less of an impact on me. Odd. Don't worry. I'm still quite pleased with myself though.
FULL DISCLAIMER: For anyone who haven't followed my travels the whole way, my ride may not qualify as an "official" full cross country ride. I started in State College, PA and rode southeast first and came closest to the Atlantic coast at Baltimore's Inner Harbor. No, I didn't dip my wheel in. Since I had ridden 500 miles to join up with the TransAmerica route in Ashton, VA I didn't bother to go approximately 80 miles east to the coast at Yorktown. So, I guess I won't bother contacting Guinness... The reason I mention this is that some cyclists that I have encountered actually care about this stuff. I am not one of those people. Obviously.
Of course this is assuming that I can pull myself out of Omak, WA and finish the remaining 210 miles to the Pacific. Talk about putting the cart before the horse. Jeez, Tom!
|Justin getting his portrait taken at Adventure Cycling headquarters in Missoula, MT. His portrait and mine will be part of the National Bicycle Touring Portrait Collection|
|Greg Siple, one of the original founders of what would become Adventure Cycling, taking our portraits behind their headquarters|
|The police in Missoula have a far lighter bike lock solution than I|
|Drift boat fishing for trout on the Blackfoot River along the route leading north from Missoula|
|Let's play "Spot the Wildfire"! It's not too hard. And if you win, it means you're an idiot because you're biking within sight of a wildfire. So I guess you lose. Condon, MT|
|That isn't early morning fog. A pall of smoke from a wildfire hangs over the Swan Range.|
|Convenience store wisdom. So true. Swan Lake, MT|
|I ran into this couple on day One of their Great Divide bike trip. How did I know it was day One? They're still smiling. Just kidding! Sort of.|
|Biker gang at Cafe Jax in Eureka, MT. The Great Divide and the Northern Tier routes intersect here so you get a number of cyclists passing through. The pancakes were delicious.|
|My friend, Kipp, should be a fire marshal. He doesn't go anywhere without a bucket of fresh bacon.|
|The shores of Lake Pend Oreille in Idaho. It's pronounced "Pawn du Ray". Get it right or people will snub you. I asked while I was still in Montana.|
|Same lake and beach again at dusk.|
|As I was biking 4000' feet up Sherman Pass on a 95 degree day a couple who had ridden sections of the Northern Tier stopped their van. They put out quite the spread for me!|
|Did you smear cupcake frosting all over your hat again, Tom? Nope. That's all sweat- the fruit of my labors over Sherman Pass. I'm going to visit Outdoor Research in Seattle. I'll commend them on their hats' sweat crusting technology.|