Tag: bikes

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:

Why bother?

Cycling fashion sometimes baffles me. If you’re gonna wear bib shorts, shouldn’t you wear the bib part?

Sage Hills mountain bike ride

It’s been so cold and wet this spring that I am seriously behind on my Ken Putney domination plan. Nick and Matt helped me out today by accompanying me on a trip around the Sage Hills area of Wenatchee.

The trails were super smooth, so it was easy to get your groove on and enjoy the ride.

There were hikers, runners and mountain bikers all sharing the same trail. As you can see by the smiles on the hikers’ faces, everyone seems to enjoy this trail and each other’s company. I love it when we all just get along.

We didn’t waste a good picnic table, especially one with a view! Any of my old college friends recognize the Trek? It’s retired, except when Nick wants to come riding with me. Then it’s a better option than his Diamond Back, which is actually older than the Trek.

Can we call this epic yet?

Eileen and I needed a bit of sunshine and physical punishment this weekend, so we took our road bikes to Wenatchee this morning. Just north of East Wenatchee is an area called Badger Hill, which promised 18 miles of climbing followed by an epic descent back down to the Columbia River. Sounded like a recipe for paradise at the end of a cold, damp spring.

Sometimes rides don’t quite work out as planned. We ditched quite a bit of clothing before leaving the car because it was 60 degrees. Then we stopped about 1/2 a mile later to take off even more clothing. Those decisions came back to haunt us at mile 7 when the thunder started. You know the kind…it booms like a kettle drum for 1/2 a minute or more. Then, shortly after the thunder, the rain started.

Imagine, we’re creeping uphill at about 8-10 mph, soaking wet, looking for shelter just in case our hair starts to rise off our heads with the static. It wasn’t pretty, but neither of us were willing to give up yet.

Fortunately, two strong riders with deliciously beautiful calves caught up to us around mile 15. They looked more miserable than we did. One of them was wearing his special rain gear – the kind that soaks up the rain instead of rappelling it. They chatted us up before speeding on ahead. Their good humor was just the encouragement we needed.

At mile 18, I gave Eileen the choice of returning to Wenatchee the way we came or continuing on for another 30 miles. Apparently she thought I was having a really good time, and, not wanting to be a party-pooper, voted for the loop. I sighed inside, pasted a smile on my face, and we took off down the other side of the hill.

We couldn’t really enjoy the descent though. It was on dirt road, which was packed down for the most part but tended to kick grit up into our faces. Or maybe it was only my face that got covered with grit, since Eileen was smart enough to bring a bike with fenders. It was also cold. Really cold. Mounds of snow flanked the sides of the road and rain pelted us from above. My fingers froze into a death grip on the brakes. (Wouldn’t it have been nice to have those extra layers we left in the car?)

The dirt ended about 2 miles later with a deep patch of sand, which almost sent me flying. At the side of the road, I tucked my fingers in my armpits and tried to warm them while I waited for Eileen to catch up. Off in the distance, the quaint town of Waterville sat in an improbable  beam of sunshine in the middle of rolling green wheat fields. With visions of hot drinks, we took off for salvation.

Right before we got to town, two other cyclists with deliciously beautiful calves caught up with us. They were part of the same racing team as the other guys who passed us on the climb. We followed them into town to Coyote Pass Cafe, the only thing that seemed to be open on Saturday afternoon. Turns out, the cafe wasn’t actually open at all, but the owner saw us and took pity, opening up just for us. Bless her.

We were a pitiful sight. Six cyclists in various stages of undress, damp clothing draped on a lonely space heater. This was now officially an epic ride.

The owner of the cafe found a few blankets, served up steaming mugs of coffee and plates of homemade bread pudding and cinnamon rolls with generous smears of frosting, and entertained us with tales of her nomadic life. We offered stories of our cycling adventures in return. Turns out several of us had ridden the Pacific Coast and one of the riders was a fellow tandem-racing competitor.

Gradually, the six of us warmed to the idea of getting back on our bikes.

Eileen and I bid farewell to Team Beautiful Calves and headed west toward the Columbia. The descent from Waterville to Oroville is legendary – and for good reason. In seven miles, you drop 2000′. By the time we reached the river, any memory of the misery of the climb, rain, and freezing dirt road had faded. All I could honestly think about was the likelihood that someone would shuttle me to the top of the hill for a second go round.

I was afraid that we’d have a dreadful headwind on the way back to town, but miraculously, the river valley was calm. We road along the highway for about 10 miles before turning onto the Apple Loop Trail – an idyllic path that hugs the Columbia River. It was sort of like the Burke Gilman only way better because the trail is smooth and the river doesn’t stink like goose poop. It was awesome.

We rolled into the parking lot where we left Eileen’s car just as our odometers clocked 50 miles. Our lungs and legs were thankful for the adventure, and we set our sights on dinner at South.

If this is the kind of epic ride that would tickle your fancy, the route can be found in greater detail here.

Chilly Hilly pre-ride

Next weekend is the annual Chilly Hilly bike-a-palooza. Depending on the weather, anywhere from 3000-6000 riders make the trek to Bainbridge Island to test their winter legs on a 33-mile, ultra-hilly road ride.

Having participated a few times, Nick and I have come to the conclusion that no amount of group riding fun is worth the chaos and danger associated with that many inexperienced riders on such a short course. The route is awesome, though – beautiful mountain views, 2,700′ of climbing (and descending), lightly traveled roads. So what do we do? Ride the course the weekend before the event. (When you do something three years in a row, does that make it tradition?)

Most of our riding friends saw the forecast and wimped out. Matt and Mark either ignored the forecast or are just tougher than most.

The weather today did not disappoint. It was chilly:

25 degrees outside ... time to HTFU


There were plenty of interesting things to look at along the way:

Something out of Wright's workshop?


And when the hills get to be a little too much, all you have to do, is stop to take in the view:

Seattle skyline