Category Archives: Bicycling

Road Trip 2019: The Bicycle Video Diaries

Road Trip 2019, parts 1 and 2 are now completed.  One of the goals for our road trips in our 70s is to ride our tandem bicycle on great bike trails and routes across the U.S. and Canada. This trip was no different: we took time out to ride parts of:

  • Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes in Idaho
  • Missouri Headwaters Trail in Montana
  • Rapid Creek Trail in Rapid City, South Dakota
  • Iowa Great Lakes Trail around Lake Okoboji and Spirit Lake
  • Simcoe Loop Trail in Simcoe County, Ontario, Canada
  • Great Lakes Shore Trail along Lake Ontario near Bath, Ontario
  • Pheasant Branch Trail in Middleton, Wisconsin
  • Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes again
  • Shelton Valley Loop, a quick ride at home between the two parts of our road trip
  • Bear Creek Trail in Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada
  • Canyon to Coast Trail near Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada

Our total riding distance between the start of our adventure and the end was just a few meters shy of 340 km, while the bike rode nearly 15,000 km in the back of the van in that time.

As we usually do, we document most of our bicycle adventures with a video diary.

Edaville,Trail of the Coeur d’ Alenes from Larye Parkins on Vimeo.

This was a very cold morning near freezing, at the end of April, so we rode a very short way down the trail and back, from the trailhead we rode up the trail from last year.

Missouri Headwaters from Larye Parkins on Vimeo.

We camped overnight at the Headwaters State Park, where the bike trail ends, and rode into Three Forks in the morning.  It was cold, so we didn’t stop in town, but drove back in the car after the ride for our morning coffee.

Rapid Creek part 1 from Larye Parkins on Vimeo.

We drove a short way, from Belle Fourche to Rapid City, intending to ride the length of the trail.  We rode from the Founders Park, near downtown up the creek to the end of the trail, racing back to the car ahead of a rain storm, cutting our intended ride a bit short.

Rapid Creek, part 2 from Larye Parkins on Vimeo.

We stayed in Rapid City overnight, then started early on Saturday morning to ride the rest of the trail, again starting at Founders Park.  Bridge repairs near the end of the trail cut this ride a bit short, too, so we retraced a bit of yesterday’s ride and a spur trail to the north.

Okoboji2 from Larye Parkins on Vimeo.

In 2017, we rode most of the way around Lake Okoboji, anti-clockwise, from the east side, when we had a tire failure.  A runner on the trail gave us a ride to the bike shop, where we got the bike tuned and new tubes and finished the loop.  This year, we started on the west side and rode clockwise, completing the loop with no problems.  We didn’t know it then, but my cousin Jack Parkins lives at the top of the hill on the on-road segment of the trail south of the lake: we visited them a few days later.

Spirit Lake – Loon Lake from Larye Parkins on Vimeo.

Instead of riding from our resort and repeating almost half the previous ride, we drove to a trailhead in Spirit Lake and rode up the west side of the lake and took the Jackson County [Minnesota] trail to Loon Lake, where I spent several summers camping as a Boy Scout, in the 1950s.

Tay Shore Trail from Larye Parkins on Vimeo.

After some rainy weather that kept us off the mostly gravel trails near where we were staying, we drove up to this paved trail, which was very nice, but the rain caught us at the turn-around point near Midland. Still, it was a good ride.

Wasaga Beach – Collingwood from Larye Parkins on Vimeo.

This was quite a drive from our lodging, but was a route mostly on paved roads.  We had driven through Collingwood on the way to visit Own Sound a few days before and decided not to ride the gravel rail trail beyond Collingwood.  This one took us through beach home neighborhoods and through the Sunset Point Park on Georgian Bay, Lake Huron.

MillenniumTrail, Orillia, Ontario from Larye Parkins on Vimeo.

A short segment of the Simcoe Loop Trail, designated the Millennium Trail, runs along the shore of Lake Couchiching in Orillia. We rode this on Saturday of this long holiday weekend (Victoria Day), so there were lots of people out.  We also encountered thick clouds of midges, and had to stop and clean them out of my eyes, nose, and beard.

Loyalist Parkway from Larye Parkins on Vimeo.

We left the Orillia area on Sunday during the Victoria Day holiday weekend, driving east to Peterborough and then south to Bath, where we stayed at an AirB&B.  In the morning, we rode west from Bath along the shore of Lake Ontario before joining the heavy traffic into Toronto as holiday travelers returned home.

Pheasant Branch 2019 from Larye Parkins on Vimeo.

We had ridden the Pheasant Branch trail, near our son’s house, in 2015 and 2017 and counted it as one of our favorites.  We were appalled to find that the trail had been almost totally destroyed in a flood in August, 2018.  Fortunately, most of the bridges had been restored, but it was largely rough gravel and sand down through the canyon, so we returned via the city streets.

Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes: Cataldo MP 39-44 from Larye Parkins on Vimeo.

On the way home, we camped in Cataldo, Idaho, taking an early evening ride up to where we had turned around on that freezing April morning more than a month ago.  Passing our campground to ride farther down the trail, we spotted a young moose headed toward the trail through the campground.  We stopped for a few long-distance photos, then pedaled on.  We hadn’t gone too far when the  storm clouds building to the west flashed lightning and a very close thunderclap.  As it was warm and humid, we hadn’t packed our rain gear, so we turned around and sped back to camp.  However, the rain passed to the northwest.  So, we have a 10-mile section from mileposts 29 to 39 yet to ride on the lower half of the Trail of the Coeur d’ Alenes, plus the section from Osburn to Mullen through Wallace on the upper end.  The weather has never cooperated with us: it’s taken us 15 years to complete 96 miles of the 144-mile round trip ride on this trail, and 61 of that was the first time, in 2004.

Shelton Valley Sunday from Larye Parkins on Vimeo.

When we really need a bike ride and don’t have time to drive to a trail or rural area, we ride the 10-mile loop through downtown Shelton and around Shelton Valley, just west of town.  We can choose to ride clockwise or anti-clockwise, and there is enough climbing to give a good workout.  This was an anti-clockwise run.

Grande Prairie from Larye Parkins on Vimeo.

We thought we might get to ride some on the way to and in Prince George, but the weather didn’t cooperate on the way up and our weekend was entirely taken up with the fiber arts conference.  Then, we stayed with relatives on a gravel road west of Dawson Creek, so there wasn’t much opportunity there.  But, we found this delightful urban trail down the creek running through the middle of Grande Prairie, Alberta.  We camped next to the trail, but the wind was too strong to ride the afternoon we arrived, so we broke camp in the morning and rode from the parking lot at the mid-point of the trail.  The trail was a good workout with curves and rolling up and down the sides of the canyon, with a lot of children in summer programs along the trail, so we took the city streets back to the van, driving another 175 km south to our next stop: we should have pressed on another 150 km, as we drove that the next morning–in a late June blizzard along the Rocky Mountain Front.

Chilliwack–Fraser Valley from Larye Parkins on Vimeo.

Our last ride started where it all began, 33 years ago.  In 1986, one of our first big group rides was an 80-km (50-miles, a “Semi-Century”) ride from Nooksack School in Washington State, down the Sumas River, across the border to Chilliwack and return.  This trip, we parked on the north side of Chilliwack and rode the dyke along the Fraser River to the Rosedale-Agazziz Bridge and back along the Camp Slough, reminded on the way back of the persistent wind that blows up the Fraser valley: that long-ago ride, we fought the wind all the way back, 40 km, arriving an hour later than the rest of the quite large group, though we had been with them at the turn-around.  Choosing to ride along the cottonwood-lined slough was a good choice: we had much less wind.

Road Trip 2019: There and Back Again

Road Trip 2019, Part 1, chapter 2

Day 9: Mitchell, SD to Spirit Lake, IA. Not a long drive, but the rain that has chased us all week comes and goes. We stop in Sioux Falls for fuel, our fifth fill-up since leaving home and our most expensive category so far. We decide to head south, taking Highway 18 this time: we’ve been across Iowa Highway 9 before. The rain catches us at when the route jogs north or south. We’ve traveled this area before, headed for the Starbucks kiosk in the Hy-Vee supermarket in Spencer, and restocking the groceries for our stay a short way north, on the west shore of Lake Okoboji, the gem of the Iowa Great Lakes.

I grew up just over the state line, in Minnesota. As a teenager, my buddy and I would drive down to Arnolds Park, an amusement park and namesake town on the south shore of Lake Okoboji, just to watch how people with money spent theirs. Of course, we did have to explain to our parents why we were two hours late coming home from Boy Scouts. I don’t think I spent a dime at Iowa’s playground then, and haven’t since we have passed through several times in this decade, including three years ago when we stopped by on a late Sunday afternoon with our 15-year-old grandson. He declared the wooden roller coaster a death trap. But, it’s been a popular tradition for generations of Iowans, since 1927.

Day 11: The rains came again, with a vengeance. Flooding is a big problem in the midwest. Although we think the bumps are hills, the region is relatively flat, the ground is saturated from the winter snowmelt, and the rains run off into the shallow river valleys, where the rivers spread out and up to make things miserable for residents and travelers.

Our resort only offers complimentary WiFi in the lobby, so we have made our daily pilgrimage to the main building to connect the computers to the Internet. We have our phones, but two weeks on the road have depleted our data plan for the month already. We have resigned ourselves to bumping up our plan, but still have three weeks before it rolls over, so prudence is still required.

Day 11: It is still cold in the Midwest, but the rain has subsided for now, so this is our big ride day. Two years ago, we camped in our van near the lake and rode our bicycle around, counter-clockwise on the Iowa Great Lakes Trail, missing a few kilometers due to a blown tire and a Good Samaritans’ lift to the bike shop in the town of Okoboji.  We set off around the lake, clockwise this time,  After it warmed up a bit, we headed north on the paved concrete bike trail, clockwise around the lake this time. The trail switches to the west side of IA-86, diving under through a tunnel which is, thankfully, dry. A few miles later, past farms and a golf course, it dives back under the highway to end in a residential area of RV parks and beach cottages. The route follows the roads around the north end of the lake, resuming as an off-road trail through the prairie and a nature preserve before crossing US 71 at a traffic light. So far, the trail has been rolling, but soon turns south onto a rail-trail that takes us into the town of Okoboji, swinging out to follow US 71 through town. The route signs take us through a beach condo parking lot and across the bridge between the east and west arms of the lake to the town of Arnolds Park. The trail turns left at the town cemetery to wind around Minnewashta Lake, crossing a bridge between Minnewashta and Lower Gar Lake. The trail soon dumps us back on a road, headed west. We climb a long hill, past—as we later discover—my cousin Jack’s house, cross US 71, and wind around the south end of Lake Okoboji through the West Okoboji beachfront, then out to follow Highway 86 north past where our 2017 ride ended in a tire blowout, then through the hills, prairie, farms, and fens on the west side of the lake.  No issues this time. We get in the full 33.4 km circumnavigation of the lake. It seemed a bit more hilly this early in the season, but we managed to make it up all the bumps on our wheels.

Day 12: Rain, lots of it, and door-hinge-busting wind. Our plan of the day takes us to Rabab’s for lunch, a  newly renamed (formerly Chick’s) bistro on US-71 on a spur of the bike trail just north of where we crossed yesterday. It’s a few weeks ahead of the tourist season in the Iowa Great Lakes, so many businesses aren’t open at all, and those that cater to the locals off-season are only open two or three days a week. The place is crowded, as the outside patio seating is rocking back and forth in the gusty deluge. Unlike the usual midwest fare that gives you a choice of one or all three main locally-grown food animals, liberally seasoned with bacon, the menu serves up big-city hipster dishes like avocado toast and “southwest” salads, topped with egg, of course. Someone has to eat all these farm products…

After lunch, we visit the nearby nature center, which we had ridden past the previous day. By some fortune, our visit is between hands-on sessions for toddlers and pre-schoolers, so we wade through the piles of confetti and wend our way around tiny tables covered with plates of prairie humus (aka plain old dirt) and wildflower seeds to look at the tanks of turtles, cases of small-animal skeletons, and lifelike examples of local fauna preserved with the taxidermist’s art. Hands-on children’s exhibits are fun for adults, too, as we stroke pelts of badger, fox, coyote, and other beasts we only see in fleeting moments on the bike trails.

Day 13: Another blustery day. Thanks to social media, we are informed that my cousin Jack Parkins—who I thought was in Arizona, having lost track of him 20 years ago—was living nearby, In fact, as noted, we had ridden past his Iowa house on Tuesday, where he and Sue spend summers, when not at their Arizona residence.  We meet them for lunch and a pleasant afternoon catching up on a lifetime. Jack, who is six years older, had taught at Mankato State College in Minnesota before becoming a snowbird and settling in a retirement home in the summer playground we all grew up in. As elderly folks do, we compared health and medications, finding—being close relatives—we have a lot in common. Reluctantly, we cut our visit all too short, as we had a dinner date across the border in Minnesota, with 98-year-old Aunt Jo, my mother’s sister-in-law, and cousin Cathy and her husband Bill. We hadn’t expected to see Bill this trip, but his planned activity of the day, relocating game bird stocks, was cancelled because of the bird-walking weather. Apparently, the wild game I remember as being so abundant in my youth now are reared in pens like fish and the fields stocked to satisfy the demands of 21st-century hunters and fishermen.

Pizza, BBQ, and “Coney” (hot dog slathered in BBQ) night at the veterans club, with the usual choice of Chicken, Pork, Beef, or all three, the quintessential Minnesota comfort food, presented its usual dilemma for the strict vegetarian, so dinner for me was a heavily salted soft pretzel dipped in chipotle seasoned liquid nacho cheese, which made a reasonable substitute for the yellow mustard I remember from my years in New Jersey, back in the 1970s. But, we had a good visit. It’s Aunt Jo’s weekly night out, and we had a good visit, holding our own against the boisterous crowd of younger folks (Jackson High School Class of ’65, still wild at 72) behind us, and the bar did have a few bottles of Guinness to satisfy us aged western hipsters who don’t drink “beer you can see through.”  But, it was great seeing everyone this trip.

Day  14 dawned cold, but clear.  After it warmed up a bit, we suited up and headed for a trailhead, Kiwanis Park in Spirit Lake, and headed north on the Iowa Great Lakes Trail, a rolling and sometimes winding trail that is partly on the road around the west side of Spirit Lake (the body of water).  Across from Minnewakan State Park at the north end of the lake, we cross into Minnesota on the Jackson County Trail, which follows the roads and then meanders along the creek between Loon Lake and Spirit Lake.  We stop at Loon Lake for a snack and to enjoy Loon and Pearl Lakes at Brown County Park.  When I was in Boy Scouts, 60-65 years ago, our troop spent at least a week each summer on the east shore of Loon Lake, where a farmer had graciously let use his lakefront.After our snack stop, Judy’s saddle fell off the bike, 16 km from the car.  Fortunately, all the parts were intact; one of the seat rail clamp screws had loosened and fell out while we were stopped on the paved trail.  Out came the tool kit and the repair was quick and successful.   The trip back was much more enjoyable than pushing a broken bike would have been. We chatted briefly with another grandfatherly cyclist we met at the top of the steepest hill while stopped for a scenery view.

Back at the condo, we started packing for the next stage of our road trip, destination Orillia, Ontario, beginning our third week on the road.

To be continued…

Warm Showers 2018

A typical morning scene: a round of photos and sendoff for our guests (Emilie and Sheena), as seen from our webcam.

2018 was a typical year for our Warm Showers activities.  We hosted 29 bicycle tourists this year, turned down a half-dozen or so that passed through when we were out traveling or bicycling ourselves, and a few who made inquiries but ended up bypassing us  due to routing or scheduling.

Our first guest of the season, Luci, had traveled two years from Brazil, intending to tour Canada as well.  However, she ran into a stumbling block when Canada refused to issue her a visa.  With her US visa expiring, she retreated to Mexico and is still planning to continue when and if she can get permission to enter Canada.  Meanwhile, she has seen much of the U.S., thanks to the many friends she has made in her journey.

Our next guest, Liz, a British free-lance journalist, had traveled from the U.K. via Europe and Asia, continuing her trip down the U.S. coast to Central America before returning home to the U.K.

Sheena, from Maryland, and Emilie, from New Jersey, had met on a Bike ‘n Build crew a few years ago and decided to tour together down the Pacific Coast.  The discovered, to their surprise, while looking through our guest gallery, that two others of their crew had stayed with us when they continued touring after the group had reached Seattle.  We narrowly averted a disaster when Emilie slipped on the top stair and took a bumpy ride down to the living room, fortunately unhurt.

Tom and Becci, originally from the UK, but living in British Columbia lately, passed through in early June on a tour of the Pacific Coast.

Frank, from Germany, convinced his Swiss employer that an English immersion experience would help him with his new assignment as sales rep to English-speaking countries, choosing a bicycle tour down the West Coast as the best way to do that.

Charlie and Becci, both veterinary surgeons from the UK, took an interesting approach to touring, ordering new bicycles delivered to the U.S., then riding them from Vancouver to San Ysidro, California, where they sold the bikes and continued their tour by public transit to Mexico and Cuba, where they had very interesting (and amusingly related) adventures and volunteered their skills at veterinary clinics (albeit clandestine ones in Cuba, where small-animal practices are not licensed).

Ramon, a teacher from San Diego, and Peter, a pediatric oncologist from Indiana, arrived separately and went their separate paths the next day, though both headed south.

Daniel and Claudia, from Germany, had pedaled across Europe and Asia, then north through the U.S. and Canadian Rockies before heading back south along the coastal and Sierra Cascades routes.  When back at home, Daniel is a neurologist and Claudia is a political science graduate student.

Jennie and Daniel, aspiring actors from the East Coast, started their Transamerica tour in Arlington, WA, headed down the coast to the western terminus at Newport, Oregon to begin heading east to New York.

Tom and Amanda, from Alaska, were “drop-ins,” contacting us by phone late in the day after realizing they weren’t going to make it to their intended stop.  We usually prepare a meal for expected guests, but Tom and Amanda arrived late, so cooked their own.  We still got in a good visit.  Tom has had several pieces published in Adventure Cyclist, the membership magazine of Adventure Cycling.  They were on a tour around the Olympic Peninsula starting from Seattle.  We had just completed a car-bike camping tour around the same route, in the opposite direction, so gave them some tips, and got good feedback from their experience.

Yanouk, from Montreal, had ridden across Canada with a friend from the Gaspe Peninsula to Vancouver, then solo to Vancouver Island and around the Olympic Peninsula before returning home to continue his university studies.

Bill and Dave, Christian pastors from Oregon, on a short tour together in the Pacific Northwest.

Neeka and Kegan, from New Zealand.  Kegan has an outdoor job, so they devised an ingenious plan to spend  a couple New Zealand winters in Canadian summer to combine work and touring, intending to ride to San Francisco before flying home to New Zealand in time for spring building season.  Unfortunately, one of their excursions over the summer took them to Port Angeles, where the clock started on their U.S. visa.  After I asked them about the timing, they checked their visa and discovered they had mere hours to get back to Canada by bus and train before it expired.  Hopefully, they will be able to return to explore the U.S. next year.

Chris, from Colorado, made a fast tour of the Pacific Coast on her recumbent, by virtue of being a very early riser, getting on the road well before sunrise.

Alain, from Montreal, arrived the same day Chris did, but from a different route, delayed slightly by knee issues.

Carlton, from Michigan, and his friend Rachel, fellow travelers who met on a group tour several years ago, had traveled with a group of other cyclists from that first group down the Canadian Rockies, splitting off to ride the Washington Parks Loop on their own, arriving from Yakima via Mount Rainier and Elma on their way to Seattle.

Connie, from Colorado, and  Isabella, from Oregon, who met on a supported bike tour of Puerto Rico years ago, decided to tour the Olympic Peninsula Segment of the Washington Parks Loop route, with a side trip to the San Juan Islands.  The biggest problem they had in planning was where to leave their car, as the loop brings them back to the starting point.  We don’t have room to park extra cars, so they ended up starting their tour in Montesano, 60 km west of us.  Connie’s Bike Friday New World Tourist is the first BF in our garage besides our own “Q” tandem.

David, from Spain, toured across Canada from Montreal and was headed down the Pacific Coast on his first North American tour.  He was quite the celebrity on the Warm Showers network, as he was the first Spanish tourist most of us had hosted. I ended up picking him up near the airport north of town, to spare him the hill climb to our house and the rush-hour traffic through town, made worse by the extensive road and utility repairs that have made navigation across town interesting this summer and fall.

So, another season under wraps.  We had a few requests in October, as we usually do, but weren’t home, so no guests in October.  2018 brings our total number of guests hosted since we joined Warm Showers in 2011 to 216.  This year brought us guests from two new countries, Brazil and Spain, and cyclists from a variety of professions, as usual, including journalists, physicians, teachers, religious leaders, students, and retirees.  Yes, our food, water, and electric bills go up a bit during “the season,” but we do enjoy sharing our mutual passion with these world travelers.  With some, our contact is brief, but others we keep in contact with for years, passively through their blogs, or actively on social media.  One of last year’s guests is nearing her goal, the southern tip of South America, currently entranced with the scenery and people of Chile.  An early guest from 2011, now 76, continues to tour around the world, sharing his photos and stories in his blog and on Flickr.

Rites of Passage: Remembering STP 1983

The Endurance Cyclist*

By the winter/spring of 1983, I was 39 years old, and at a crossroads in my life. The rocky marriage had finally crumbled into dust, and I was once again car-less and homeless, living in a camper in a co-worker’s back yard. At least I still had my job, which my boss had pulled out of the fire by sending me to a counselor. And, I had my bicycle.

The 4th running of the Seattle-To-Portland Bicycle Classic (STP) was coming up in June. I had heard of the first event, in 1979, not long after getting the Fuji, my first quality bicycle, and had begun to consider the possibility that one could actually ride farther than the 12-20 kilometers per day I spent then, cycling back and forth between home, work, and the customer site. The idea of a 200-mile (325 km) ride was intriguing, to say the least, but, at that point, only a curiosity.

But, now, having boosted my commute from 6.5 km one way to 28 km one way after transferring to Washington State and having lived nearly a year in ’79-’80 without a car at all, long-distance cycling progressed from a curious anomaly to an achievable goal. The bicycling season in the mild climate of Puget Sound begins with the Chilly Hilly, a 50-km tour of Bainbridge Island, and I signed up for the 1983 edition. The Chilly Hilly is also opening day for registration for the STP, and I got an application.

The STP application form stated that the event was “a grueling test of endurance for those who have properly prepared themselves.” So, I bought a $300 car (about the same as I had paid for my bicycle), started training after work instead of commuting to and from work, had my steel rims replaced with aluminum alloy, and settled into a progressive endurance training regimen. On Mother’s Day, 1983, I rode my first century (100 miles/ 160 km), a ride which included three ferries: Port Townsend-Keystone, Clinton-Mukilteo, and Edmonds-Kingston, breaking the ride into three roughly 53-km rides, but all on the same day.

After a few more 125-km rides on weekends, I thought I was ready. The day before the event, I went home with my boss, who lived on the Edmonds side of the ferry run. We got up at 3:00 am, and he drove me downtown Seattle, where the one-day ride started at City Hall, with nearly 800 riders registered. The two-day riders had left the day before. At 4:00 am, the first group of us pushed off, headed south up the Green River Valley.

It was a shock to ride with so many other cyclists. A peloton of 100 or more riders formed for the run up the valley, three abreast, running at 35 km/hr, a speed I knew I couldn’t sustain for long. After a few highway crossings, the group broke up, and I settled into the 28 km/hr pace that was my sustained commuting cruise speed, cranking up the hill between Puyallup and the aptly named town of Summit with relative ease, at a comfortable pace.

By the time I reached the town of Yelm, in Thurston County, I realized my food plan was inadequate for the long ride. In my commuting and even long training rides, I had not worked out a nutrition and hydration plan. For this ride, I had brought a supply of granola, traditional backpacking fare, and a bag of Gatorade powder, as I had read that electrolyte replacement was necessary for endurance cycling, but hadn’t tried it before. The granola was too dry and a choking hazard to eat while riding. I stopped at a local diner and ordered a meal, cutting into my overall time considerably.

Out on the prairie, the flow of riders continued, punctuated by vans supporting organized teams of riders, scantily clad women tossing bidons and musettes to the riders as they passed. Transcontinental cyclists Cheryl Marek and Estelle Gray whooshed by in pink kits on their tandem, with a claque of domestiques in pursuit, and soon disappeared in the distance. They had started in daylight and finished in 9 hours 38 minutes, setting a new record for the four-year-old classic double century, with an average speed of 34 km/hr. The next year, they would set a cross-country women’s tandem record—5000 km (3000 miles) coast to coast in less than 11 days, just 3 hours short of the existing tandem record set by married couple and professional racers Lon Haldeman and Susan Notarangelo in ’82.

In those early days of the STP, little thought was given to event-provided support along the way. After several hours of riding, nature calls were a problem, but the more organized teams solved it in the classic Tour d’ France method: groups of riders pulled off the road, faced the pastures, and let fly.

After passing through Centralia and crossing I-5, the route climbed into a rolling plateau, through the tiny towns of Winlock and Vader, before paralleling the freeway. I stopped again near Castle Rock for yet another meal at a roadside diner. I removed a clothing layer, setting my shirt temporarily on the rear rack, remembering too late, miles down the road: by that time, the shirt was gone. By now, the ride was well past my previous training distance, and I was in new territory, physiologically. Soon, Longview and the Columbia River came into view, with an exciting climb over the high bridge, the narrow shoulder littered with chunks of bark and other debris from the logging industry, which dropped off huge trucks rushing by an arm’s-length away.

Once on the Oregon side, the effects of eating large meals, drinking too much Gatorade, and hours of strenuous exercise took their toll: a sudden bout of intestinal cramps sent me off the highway up into the woods, kilometers from the nearest town. Seized again by cramps a bit farther on, I spent some time at a convenient gas station rest room, then continued down the road, only to turn back a kilometer or two later for a return engagement. This was early in the start of the extreme sports craze, and most of us were clueless to the effects on the human body and how to properly fuel and hydrate for such an event.

Meanwhile, we slowest of one-day riders began overtaking the slowest of two-day riders as we approached the city, so navigation into Portland was a matter of following the line of bicycles to the Portland City Hall, where we checked in. My time: 14 hours, 50 minutes, 570th place among the 750 one-day finishers, for an average overall speed of 22 km/hr, having spent more than two hours off the bike during the run. My moving speed remained at a steady 28 km/hr, which would have meant a time closer to average, had I been better prepared with a food and hydration plan.

The registration forms had offered shared hotel rooms, intended for people traveling together, but most of us, simply looking for a bargain, checked the box, and got—to the consternation of the front desk—paired up with complete strangers for our overnight accommodation. While waiting for my assigned roommate to finish showering, I stretched out on the bed. And, awoke at dawn, very hungry, and still in my shorts and jersey.

In the early days of the event, the ride started on Friday for two-day riders and Saturday for one-day riders, with a big brunch buffet and awards ceremony on Sunday morning. Needless to say, I filled my plate several times. At 39, I thought I was old, but the ceremony honored the oldest finisher, at 72. My lack of support (I was carrying a change of clothes, food, water, and electrolyte powder in panniers) and my ill-advised restaurant stops had put me far down in the ranking, though it technically wasn’t a race. But, I had finished a double century! 202 miles, 325 km, all in one very long day.

Later that day, those of us who didn’t have friends and family supporting us along the way loaded our bikes into a baggage car and boarded the train at Union Station for the trip back to Seattle. On arrival at Union Station, I rode my bike to Coleman dock, boarded the ferry to Bainbridge Island, and rode home to my borrowed camper near Kingston.

*Updated 16 February 2019, to conform to revised version as one chapter of a larger narrative on my life behind [handle]bars.

Road Trip 2018: Part 1 – Southwest

Hoping for some time to ride our bicycle this winter, we packed up our van “White Knight” for our annual circuit through the Southwest to visit relatives.  As usual, our schedule was full to the max: we left immediately after the Olympia Weavers Guild February meeting, arriving in Pendleton, Oregon well after dark.

Our rather unrealistic plan for this trip was to camp in parking lots and truck stops along the way to save a few dollars to offset the cost of gasoline for the truck.  However, we were somewhat disillusioned on arrival at the travel center outside Pendleton: it was cold and windy; the parking lot sloped a bit more than we would have liked, and the only seating area in the center was in the McDonalds restaurant.  Feeling a bit out of touch with the reality of 21st century truck stops and nostalgic for the 20th century when such places had full-service restaurants, we drove back into town and checked in at a renovated 60’s motel.  The building winter storm across the West changed our plans quickly to include nightly stops in a bit more comfort.  Fortunately, winter lodging prices promised to be less of a burden on our travel budget.

Snow

In the morning, we returned to the truck stop to refuel.  Oregon is one of two states (the other is New Jersey) which outlaws self-service fueling.  But, this year, the legislature exempted certain rural areas, which Pendleton is not, but the truck stop is on and operated by the Umatilla Nation, which has its own rules, so we finally got to pump fuel legally in Oregon.  A small satisfaction.

The climb over the Wallawa mountain range brought snow, lots of it, over Emigrant and Deadman passes, with occasional rain through the valley.  After lunch in Ontario and picking up a few groceries, we headed across Idaho.  The speed limit on I-84 is 130 km/hr, but we usually keep our speed under 105, to save wear and tear on the 22-year-old truck and get better fuel efficiency as well.  The trip settled into stopping every 600 km and taking on 90 liters of fuel.

Fortunately, fuel cost in the American West is kept reasonably low, averaging between $0.60US and $0.70US/liter in the Rocky Mountain region, varying between $0.55/liter (west Texas) and $0.88/liter (southern California).  Staying at older motels, and foraging in groceries keeps our out-of-pocket travel expenses under $125/day, despite the higher fuel consumption.  The only way to reduce this would be free camping in parking lots, which isn’t going to happen with the return of winter weather.  Using motel chain loyalty cards and making on-line reservations keeps our motel costs to sometimes less than camping in commercial RV parks, when you consider motels usually provide some sort of coffee-and-doughnut (or waffle) breakfast.

With the storm licking at our heels, we pressed on, crossing into Utah at sunset.  We had estimated we might reach Ogden this day, but the slow progress in snow and the prospect of driving late and tired in heavy traffic revised our estimate a bit.  Weary, we pulled off I-15 at Brigham City to Cheap Motel #2.  This one bore the name of a once-prestigious chain of motels and family restaurants that spread across America with the construction of the Interstate Highway system in the late 1950s and 1960s, along with many other lesser-known chains that also still exist.  Most of these are on near the center of cities, on the old highways that now serve as main streets of decaying cities.

Our room was small, with the usual sticky doors warped with age and abuse.  The standard motel air-conditioning system was defunct, so there was a small space heater supplied.  Like many of these refugees from the age of family car trips, the sheets were thin, the towels threadbare, but there were no funky odors or loud neighbors (the motel was nearly deserted, making one wonder what state the other rooms were in if ours had make-shift heating).  Breakfast was adequate–we ate alone in the tiny lobby: no pretense of a breakfast room here, and no TV blaring out CNN or the morning talk shows we only know of because we travel and they are on in hotel breakfast rooms.

After our usual stop at Starbucks for coffee (espresso is kinder to our constitutions than brewed coffee, so we almost never use the motel coffee service), we are on the road again.  Not so long ago, it was difficult to find a decent coffee shop between the Cascade Crest and the Mississippi River, or at all in the Beehive State, but Starbucks has rolled into Utah on the wave of all the other food chains and big-box outlets.  The most common place to find them is in supermarkets, and this was no exception.  But, we were surprised to find one in one of the largest purveyors of milk and honey in the heart of the Mormon empire, indeed within the shadow of the local Temple.

We got an early start to run ahead of the snowstorm forecast for later in the day. We turned off I-15 at Spanish Fork, headed up the canyon on Highway 6 toward a blue hole that promised better weather. We stopped for lunch at Moab, where the skies were clear, but the wind blowing stiffly. We ended the day at Cortez, Colorado, which we had bypassed before but not stopped.

The morning dawned cold and still windy, with snow forecast there, too. We stopped for fuel at the Ute Nation casino just north of the New Mexico border, turning east at Shiprock and southwest at Farmington, headed once again on a four-lane highway toward Albuquerque. The wind continued, pushing the morning’s rain squalls ahead of us. We caught up with the rain at Cuba, despite pulling off the road briefly for lunch from our on-board larder.

In Albuquerque, we bypassed the city on the Tramway loop, checking out the bike path that skirts the east side of the city, realizing that the path climbed more than 100 meters above where we would be staying. Our meeting with our granddaughter wasn’t for a couple of days, so we settled in to plan our stay. The next morning, there was a dusting of snow in the parking lot, so we explored Old Town, checked out the riverfront bike trail, had lunch back on the east side, visited a Nob Hill yarn shop.

The next morning, the weather looked a bit more promising, so we bicycled the north half of the Paseo del Bosque trail, meeting our granddaughter and her new daughter-in-law for lunch in nearby Old Town after, and visited the Aquarium and Biological Park next to the trail with our youngest great-grandson and his somewhat older new nephew. On the way back to our hotel, we had the oil changed in the truck, as it was due, and picked up some supplies for the continuation of our Southwest adventure.