Category: S24O

Portland 3-day bike tour

Instead of heading to the mountains last weekend, Nick and I took off for a three-day, car-free adventure in Portland. We started with croissants and espresso – the breakfast of champions – before riding to Seattle to catch a train to Portland. We were super fortunate to stay overnight on Friday with two amazing women we connected with through Warmshowers.org and their sweet cat Thursday. They took us to see the fireworks and enjoyed pizza and salad with us for dinner.

On Saturday we headed out to LL “Stubb” Stuart State Park to camp out. The ride was only 40 miles, but we rolled in exhausted thanks to the heat. We felt much better after cool showers and even had enough energy to go to a ranger talk about skulls and fur! We poked around the fire pit with some other families before heading to bed.

I slept super soundly and woke 45 minutes later than we wanted to the next morning.

We jetted out of the park around 8:30 a.m., riding 3/4 of a mile down dirt paths to get back to the paved bike trail. The initial 10 miles of the ride was downhill and we completed it about half the time that we did the day before. The rest of the ride was a rolly-poly adventure through the blueberry and wheat fields that lie to the west of Portland. One huge, final climb at the end made way for a ripping descent into town. We finished with lunch at the Bridgeport Brewery before heading back to the train for the ride home.

Tenth Anniversary S24O

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Nick and I got married ten years ago, Our honeymoon involved seven amazing (and challenging) days of biking from Telluride, CO to Moab, UT. It was only fitting then that we celebrate our 10th anniversary on bikes! We joined two friends – Jamie and Gary – for a three-ferry S24O adventure to Port Townsend. This was our adventure:

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Ride Around Mt. Rainier in Two Days

Saddled up and ready to roll on day 2

With my Pickets trip cancelled, I had a whole weekend of nothing to fill with endless possibilities. In accordance with my duties as the family’s Chief Vacation Officer, I called Paradise Inn at Mt. Rainier National Park to see if Nick and I could get a room on Saturday night. (A long shot, but one that proved successful.) So, on Saturday morning, we drove to Enumclaw, the start of our second sub-24-hour bike adventure of the year.

Our intention was to follow the grueling RAMROD route but in two days instead of one. We would ride in a counter-clockwise fashion 150 miles or so around the park, riding over two major hills for a total elevation gain of more than10,000’. Some people call this two-day ride “wimp-rod.” With loaded touring bikes, it’s anything but wimpy!

Day 1 dawned cloudy, which was just fine by me. Riding in the heat can be exhausting. We rolled out of the Safeway parking lot and headed toward the sleepy town of Buckley. The roads were flat and the traffic relatively light. Before long, we were enjoying the solitude of country roads near Lake Kapowsin. We took our first break at a public boat launch on the lake where we met the local sheriff and a sheriff-in-training. Both were quite friendly and advised us to ride Camp 1 Rd for beautiful views of the surrounding area. We agreed to follow up on his suggestion on our next ride in the area.

Relaxing on the public dock at Lake Kapowsin

From the lake it was a short ride into Eatonville and the start of hand to hand combat to get to Hwy 7. The Alder Road Cutoff is not for the faint of heart. There is no shoulder, traffic is heavy, and cars generally don’t care much about bikes. We rode defensively and made it through this section of the ride without incident. Needless to say, Alder Lake and the 8’ wide shoulders along Hwy 7 were a welcome sight.

Riding along Hwy 7 next to Alder Lake

We stopped in Elbe for the obligatory French fries at Scale Burger and were treated to the sight of the Mt. Rainier steam train heading out on its afternoon tour. If you’ve never seen a steam train take off, it’s a pretty awesome. Very loud actually. But cool. I was surprised to discover that even after it got going, we could ride our bikes faster than the train. Maybe it wasn’t at full throttle pulling tourists.

The Mt. Rainier steam train in Elbe, WA

We continued to roll east towards the park and were happy to see the big log arch entrance, welcoming us to the final 17-miles of our first day’s ride. We rolled along the twisty forested road through dappled sunlight to Longmire where we took a brief break before what would prove to be one of the most grueling climbs I’ve ever ridden.

Measuring time at the Longmire Museum

Beauty is commensurate with how hard you have to work to find it. And Mt. Rainier is one spectacular mountain (even if we only got peek-a-boo views on Saturday).

Christine Falls

My first view of the Mountain. Almost to Paradise!

We arrived at Paradise in plenty of time to enjoy a beer on the patio and chat with fellow tourists before indulging in salads and a big plate of pasta at the Inn’s dining room. A ranger talk capped off the evening and we dropped off to sleep, dreaming of the next day’s ride.

We intended to sleep in, but bright sunshine drove us from our beds at 7 a.m. No matter, when the mountain is out, there’s hiking to be done! After a big buffet breakfasts, we headed out for a short hike to Myrtle Falls and Alta Vista. The mountain didn’t disappoint! Wildflowers, mountain vistas, THIS is what it’s all about!

Myrtle Falls

From L to R: Stevens Peak, Boundary Peak, Unicorn Peak and Little Unicorn Peak. Oh, and Mt. Adams too!

Avalanche lillies

Remembering that we had a many-thousand foot descent ahead of us, we didn’t linger. The ride into Stevens Canyon was cold but oh-so-amazing! Twisty, mostly sans cars, and with views galore!

Box Canyon

We stopped briefly to look at Box Canyon – a river carved slot hundreds of feet below the road. Then it was on to the hardest part of the day’s ride – the ascent over Cayuse Pass. Nick thought it was the most beautiful part of the ride. Long, winding, not too steep and very rewarding.

We were somewhat surprised to find no happy resting spot at the top for lunch, but when you have another fast descent ahead of you, the miles roll by until a more suitable spot presents itself. There’s not much to say about the final 30 miles or so of the ride. Once you’re out of the park, cruising along 410 to Enumclaw, the road is busy and cars don’t give you a lot of room. We simply put our heads down and rode. It wasn’t long before we were pulling back into the Safeway parking lot, dreaming of a big bag of cherries to refuel us on our way home.

Was this ride worth it? Absolutely. I’ve grown up with Mt. Rainier in my back pocket, and it was amazing to experience the mountain at a different pace, on two wheels instead of two feet.

Weekend bike tour: Harrison Hot Springs

Nick and I have dipped our toes into cycle touring several times in over the last eight years. With the exception of two trips, someone else has always carried our gear, leaving us free to ride unencumbered through beautiful landscapes. And even when we carried gear, we only carried clothing and water, relying on hostels and motels for accommodation.

We’ve done enough backpacking and seen enough presentations by Willie Weir to know, however, that as delightful as it is to have the gear truck following you wherever you go, we were missing something. An element of adventure that only comes when you’re fully self-sufficient.

So, after realizing that I couldn’t climb this weekend due to a recently sprained ankle, I invited Nick to join me on an overnight trip to Harrison Hot Springs, BC. The modus operandi: carry what we would need to camp overnight, worry about where we would sleep when we got there, and enjoy the ride.

The drive up to Mission, BC was entirely uneventful. We found just the right parking spot at Canadian Tire near the start of our route and loaded up. All told, I think my bike and gear weighed about 60 pounds. Knowing we had about 40 miles ahead of us, we made the first great decision of the weekend: Timbits for lunch!

Before we’d even placed our order, a gaggle of about 10 recreational cyclists from Vancouver mobbed the restaurant. Nick answered questions about his Recycled Cycles jerseys while the group eyed us suspiciously. Apparently, panniers loaded with granola and underwear do not mix with carbon fiber Euro-faux-pro.

Once we were sufficiently amped on powdered sugar, we hit the road – and coincidentally our first bump in the road. Nick’s rack system, which had worked well supporting two panniers on previous trips, wasn’t up to the job of carrying the added drybag with tent and sleeping bag. Every time he hit a big bump, the rack would rotate backwards and start rubbing on his tire. After a couple of quick-fix attempts, we pulled over in Dewdney, got out the tools, and showed the rack who was boss.

Thankfully, whatever bike-whispering Nick did seemed to work for the rest of the trip. We did make a mental note, however, that a new bike for Nick with eyelets for attaching a rack properly to the bike frame was on the list upgrades we’d make for our next trip.

The rest of the day we felt like we were flying with the gods thanks to a brisk tailwind and mostly flat road. Views of various lakes and rivers kept opening up to keep us entertained.

We pulled into the town of Harrison Hot Springs around 3 o’clock. Given the late hour and the fact that we didn’t have a campsite reservation for the night, we decided to forgo exploring the town and head out to Sasquatch Provincial Park. Four hilly miles later, we got to the park entrance and the sign that said all campsites were full. We debated whether to go checkout the campsites anyway. Chief among the arguments against this was fact that it was another 4 miles uphill on dirt road to reach the campsites. On the other hand, turning around surely meant camping in an RV park or spending a lot of money on an overpriced hotel back in town. With the remote possibility of sharing a campsite with a nice couple or finding a sympathetic ranger who would let us camp on a spare patch of grass, we continued on.

The gods must have still been with us, because about 2 miles in, we flagged down a ranger who was able to direct us to an open campsite near Deer Lake. The people who were supposed to be staying there were evicted the previous night when their drunken party got out of hand. Their bad, our luck.

B.C. campgrounds don’t have showers, but they do have lakes. So after setting up the tent, we rode a mile or so down the road and washed off the day’s hard work.

When we got back, our neighbors from Ontario – John & Barb – had fired up their camp stove and invited us to share the corn they bought earlier that day. Of course we said yes (it was the polite thing to do…) and that led to an evening of telling tall tales about our road adventures, swatting mosquitoes, and drinking cherry wine (it’s as bad as it sounds). When we finally crawled into bed, sleep came easily.

The following morning, we packed up and headed back into town. Morning light on Harrison Lake was beautiful.

All good vacation towns have a beach-side promenade, and Harrison Hot Springs didn’t disappoint.

We picked up some sandwiches, Okanogan cherries, and roasted hazelnuts from just down the road. We also paused to greet the local wildlife.

I wish I could say that the ride back to Mission, BC was as pleasant as the previous day’s ride. Headwinds make for a pretty miserable bike ride when your bike is shaped like a refrigerator box. I kept glancing down at my odometer, watching the tenths of a mile slide by at a geologically slow pace. “Let’s see,” I’d say to myself, “we’ve covered a mile point three, which means we have only sixty point….” About then a car would whoosh past, and I’d lose my train of thought and have to start my calculations all over again.

Thankfully there were all sorts of interesting things to see on the second leg of our trip, including several drive-through corn stands.

And happy cows.

Around lunchtime, we found a beautiful road-side park, where we could practice the fine art of cycle-lingering. Whenever we’ve been on group bike tours, I’ve always been amazed at the number of riders who hop on their bikes at the crack of dawn and zoom to the day’s destination. As far as I know, there is no podium at the end of a day’s bike tour. Taking time to stop forward motion, pause, and soak up your surroundings…that’s what bike touring is all about.

As we continued on, the winds got stronger, and our strength melted. Downshift and spin was about all we could do. When we finally made it back to the Mission Bridge near our car, we mustered big smiles, knowing we’d had one heck of an adventure.

If you’re even remotely interested in following our wheel, here are the maps for the two days. Click on the pictures to go to turn-by-turn directions.

Day 1:

Day 2: