Friday, June 18, 2010

After riding 500 miles in 10 days, much soul searching and weather forecast checking, I’ve made the agonizing decision to cancel my trip. I was prepared for the grueling physical activity and was willing to accept the fact that I wouldn’t be able to ride up some of the hills however, one of the reasons for selecting this time of year was that the weather is generally nice; this year is proving to be the exception. Wednesday and Thursday the high was 55 degrees and showery—the forecast for the next leg of my trip shows 2 partly cloudy days with temperatures in the low 70s and anywhere from 30 to 40% chance of rain and/or thunderstorms for the remaining days with temps in the mid-60s. I neither packed nor planned for this type of weather. I have long been a proponent of the adage ‘you don’t have to practice being miserable’; I’m doing this ride for my enjoyment and it’s miserable riding for 8 hours in cold/cool rain showers. In retrospect, perhaps I was too aggressive in planning such a long trip for my first attempt at touring and I will be looking at what I want to do next.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Snake River Canyon grade kicked my butt! I had to ride 8 miles upriver (up-slope) before I got to the real upgrade. I was alternating between walking and riding, depending on the steepness of the slope for about 6 miles when, during one of my rest breaks, a guy driving down stopped, backed up and asked if I was OK. I replied that I was and asked him how far to the top--he said about a mile which coincided with what I had already figured from a conversation I'd had the night before with someone familiar with the area. So, at the end of a mile I saw the 'Pavement Ends' sign I had been expecting; however, when I turned left as directed I found another mile and a half upgrade! I finally made it to Pullman at 3 PM and, although I had intended on going all the way to Garfield, discretion and my legs dictated otherwise. I ended up leaving my bike at one of Frances's co-workers in Pullman and rode home with Frances. I'll go into work with Frances in the morning and finish the ride to Garfield (25 miles) at a leisurely pace.

Snake River Canyon campsite

I made it about 18 miles up the canyon--bucking a headwind all the way. I'm not sure camping is allowed here, so I'll have to sweet talk the Ranger if one shows up.

No Ranger showed, but I didn't have service so I'll just add that I made it out of the canyon and am sitting in Pullman.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010


I made it to the summit in fine shape; the grades weren't as steep as I was expecting. It took me about 2 hours to grind up the first 10 miles and half an hour to cover the next 10 going downhill into Clarkston. I'm now getting ready to enter the Snake River Canyon; I don't know what kind of reception I'll have, so you may not hear from me until I climb out tomorrow afternoon.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Back on the road

I left Walla Walla about 9 this morning, having had a piece of warm apple pie for breakfast, compliments of Lucia, Mike's across-the-street neighbor. My initial day's goal was Dodge, about 55 miles on Hwy 12. I arrived there about 4 and, as I expected, there were no camping facilities. It seemed a bit early to end the day so I pushed on to Pomeroy for a distance of 66 miles. They have free camping in their City Park. I had just picked out a site and was starting to unload when a helpful local told me about the automatic sprinklers and where they didn't hit--so I moved my site. The Hwy has been pretty good: generally wide shoulders and clean although there were a few places with narrow shoulders. There will be a little bit of a challenge tomorrow--the Alpowa Summit is 2785'. I'll be starting at 1800' and the majority of the climbing is done in 3 miles. So, I'm going to try to get as much rest as possible tonight.

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Disaster narrowly averted

After our ride this morning I cleaned and oiled the chain on the bike, took a shower and started my last load of laundry. After brewing a cup of tea I sat down to begin recording the day's events in my journal. That's when I realized I hadn't removed it from my shorts before putting them in the washer! I quickly retrieved the now sodden book; luckily, I had opted to use moleskin and a pencil for the journal. I had anticipated encountering some perspiration and humidity moisture, but nothing like this. I was able to gently separate and dry the pages that had my entries and the pencil markings were still legible. I had brought another book and now have to buy another for backup--I think I'll look for moleskin.

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Ride Michael, ride

Michael was going so fast I nearly missed him as he came around the block...the first time; he's wearing what's known as 'recumbent smile'--a common occurrence with first time riders.

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Sunday morning ride

Mike, his friends Denton & Keena and I went for a leisurely 15 mile ride around Walla Walla. After the ride we (except Mike) stopped in the local bakery for some sweet pills and caffeine.

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Stop and smell the flowers

Today will be spent shopping and doing routine maintenance on the bike while Mike is at work. It's nice to just laze around having a second cup of tea intead of packing and getting ready to ride. Maybe I can even find a good cup of coffee.

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Friday, June 11, 2010


Made it into Walla Walla just fine; Mike's working so he gave me the key to his house so I could unpack and clean up. He told me there was a hammock in the back yard, but I don't think he knew how I was going to use it.

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Yesterday when I was walking across the Umatilla bridge, I noticed 9 quarters on the shoulder. That may not sound like a lot but the shoulder is only a foot and a half wide, so it would seem 9 would represent only an infitessimal percentage of the coins that actally made it into the river. What's up with that?

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History lesson for the day; I'm not going down to the site--I'll save that for when Barbara is with me.

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Brunch in Touchet

Ok, it may not be health food but it tastes good! Got a late start and just taking my time into Walla Walla.

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Thursday, June 10, 2010


What a day! I started off in Roosevelt with my goal of making Umatilla and finding a campground. I got spit on by a few rain clouds, but nothing major. I had a 10 - 12 mph tailwind, and as long as I was moving everything was peaceful and quiet; however, when I'd stop for a break, I was assaulted by the wind. There were no towns, rest areas or trees for windbreaks. I made it to the bridge at Umatilla, and just as the bridge started, the shoulder went from 4 feet to about a foot and a half! With a 12 mph crosswind, there was no way I was riding that, so I ended up walking over--still scary as hell! Since it was only 1:30, I thought I'd ride a bit farther for the day. At about 60 miles there was a State Park (with no camping) right next to a Good Sam campground where I planned to stay. However, I got tqalking with the Ranger and he said there was a free campground about 5 miles ahead, mostly downhill. Since free sounded good, I took off. In this case free was not better--all the camp sites were gravel! Remember that tailwind? If I turned around, I'd be bucking a headwind, mostly uphill. Figuring there would be something else up the road, I continued on. The picture with this entry is of Lake Wallula, about 15 miles upriver from McNary Dam. I was heading right into those storm clouds. I hit Hwy 12 at about mile 80 and still no place to stay. Finally, at 85 miles I saw a sign for an RV park. It was down a very steep, gravel road that I'm going to have to walk up tomorrow, but I got my tent set up before the rain hit. Pierce's Green Valley--$10 for tents with a power outlet. The 85 miles is a personal best for me--by 13 miles! Luckily, I only have 24 miles to Walla Walla tomorrow and then I'll take a one (maybe two) day break.
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The gorge is gone...

At least the awesome rock walls; they've been replaced with rolling hills and a mundane ride with no trees or rest areas.

To all of you who have left comments on my previous posts: I read and appreciate your comments and support. I just haven't figured out how to reply to a comment. Thank you all.

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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Room mates

Two of these (swallows?) are sharing the gazebo with me.

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This is my accomodation for the evening; the host at Roosevelt City Park said that since there was no one else tenting for the night I could just set up right in the gazebo. That means I won't have to struggle with the tent in a fairly brisk breeze. It's a nice park--lots of grass for tents, free showers and no fees. They maintain a biker's log for everyone coming through; the host said I might catch up to the 3 who came through yesterday but I told him I was too slow to catch anyone. It was a nice ride today, although boring--too much majesty detracts from the awe of the actual river and gorge.

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John Day Dam

I don't think I'll go down there, but it does look nice.

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Doesn't it seem appropriate to visit Stonehenge in the rain?

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The edge

Finally, after 3+ days, I've arrived at the edge of the State.

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Scenic view

Or what I could have seen if there were no clouds.

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The hills are alive...

With windmills just outside of Goodendale.

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I accidently hit 'send' -- the entry should have continued that after looking at the weather situation, I went the additional 10 miles into Goldendale and stayed at a motel. Good choice 'cause it started raining half an hour after I checked in.
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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

First Pass!

Satus Pass was the first named pass that I've been over; although it's 'only' 3107
Feet, it kicked my butt. The grade wasn't overly steep as I approached and I was cruising along at 5 or 6 mph but, about 3 miles from the summit, reality set in--this was going to be hard and I really had to push to maintain 3mph! As long as there was a 3 or 4 foot wide shoulder I could weave back and forth to maintain steerage however, there were some sections that the shoulder was only a foot right next to the guardrail. I didn't feel like arguing my right of way with an 18 wheeler, so I walked those sections. After cresting the summit it was a breeze getting to the campground
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Mt Adams

Another good day; however, today I'm starting it with pancakes, sausage, eggs and coffee to get ready for Satus Pass. I saw Mt Adams in the distance and was going to send this post this morning. Due to my inexperience with this magic box, compounded by 18 wheelers whizzing by, I decided to wait.

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Monday, June 7, 2010

Day 2

I got my 9AM start today, although I'd wanted to get off a bit earlier so I could make up some of the miles I didn't ride yesterday. The canyon was, well, the canyon; it was fairly green from all the rain, but the only animals I saw were a nesting bald eagle with two fledglings. The hills were quite challenging as the only other time I've ridden them was on an unloaded bike. However, there were no feal photo ops and once I hit the Yakima area I wasn't looking at too much besides traffic. It wasn't as bad as I expected but nothing that warranted a picture. I was going to stop in Wapato for the evening but there was no campground or motel; so, I had to ride another 10 miles into Toppenish--which is where I had planned on spending tonight before I had the rain delay.

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Sunday, June 6, 2010


I made it past Ellensburg (total of 30 miles) and will spend the night in a campground instead of pitching the tent somewhere in the boondocks. I've ridden the canyon road numerous times but always see something interesting. Today there was a deer grazing right on the side of the road. It didn't notice me until I said "Hi, deer"...figured I'd better warn it so it didn't jump in front of me.

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On the road!

The weather finally cleared enough for me to start, albeit somewhat late--11:30. So, I'm heading down the canyon road to Ellensburg; don't know how far I'll get today, but at least I've started.
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Saturday, June 5, 2010


The sun is shining, it's a nice, comfortable temperature and just a slight breeze...a perfect day for riding. However, I'm putting the finishing touches on my packing and going over the bike to prepare for the trip. I'm leaving tomorrow when the forecast is for cooler and 40% chance of rain; unless it's an absolute downpour I intend to start. Although I don't have a schedule to keep, I'd just as soon get on the road...even if I don't get as far as I'd like, I'll actually be traveling rather than planning.

Friday, May 28, 2010


This has been a rough couple of weeks. In addition to the gusting winds and seemingly continuous rain showers, Barbara developed an infection and was hospitalized for a short time. I've been unable to maintain any sort of riding/training schedule. However, now that Barbara is on the mend I'll once again try to focus a bit more on my journey. I've replaced the rear tire which was slightly worn and have checked over most everything else on the bike. I'm not too concerned about not being in the absolute peak of conditioning--I can just take it easy for the first few days and build myself back up. That's a good thing about not being on a strict time schedule: you can't fall behind. Eight days to D (Departure) Day.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Lake Cle Elum

The lake is quite low and there's not much snow left in the hills. Looks as though it's going to be a dry year for the irrigators.
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New phone

I've gotten a new phone that I'll be using to update this blog during my journey. I think the first postings are going to be rather short until I become a bit more proficient at using my thumbs. I guess the old phrase about someone being 'all thumbs' is actually high praise for a texter. :-)
I'm posting this picture just for practice; it's taken from the road to the gravel pit--one of my more frequent rides.

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Friday, May 14, 2010

Making the grade

To prepare for my ride I've been going online to figure out the steepness of the hills on my route. The longest and steepest grades that I've been able to find are the ones coming out of Snake River Canyon and going up to Sherman Pass. The main climb for each is between five to seven miles at generally a 5% grade with some sections going up to 6 or 7 % grade. I'm sure I'll come upon some grades that are over 7% however, they won't be overly long. I've loaded my panniers with canned food (about 25 pounds) and have been doing my rides to include some hills around this area. Just to give everyone an idea of what type grades there are around here, I went out today and took some measurements. To give some perspective for my local readers, I started with Lower Peoh Point Road:

It starts out at a 7% grade but kicks up to 8% for the final grind; luckily, it's not too long but it definitely gets the heart muscles working.
The longest that I've come up with is Thorp Prarie Road; I haven't ridden it yet this year but it's one you don't forget.

It starts off at a modest 5% grade which continues for over a mile. Then, just as you start going around a curve, you notice the grade is increasing; because you're going around a curve you can't see the end of the climb or how much the grade is increasing. Finally, you see the top of what has become a nearly 9% grade but as you reach what you thought was the crest of the hill you see that it's merely a decrease to a 6% grade which lasts for another quarter mile. The feeling of accomplishment you have upon completion of a grueling climb is indescribable; plus, you get to relax and enjoy the scenery on the way down.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I'm still experimenting on the best way to load my bike. Today I adapted a rear rack from one of my old bikes to fit on the front; I plan to use it to carry my sleeping bag. On the short test ride I took it seemed to work OK, although the steering definitely felt different. I guess I'll keep it on for a while so I can get used to it. I'm also going to start riding with some heavy items in the panniers I'll be carrying on the rear rack. I thought I'd have plenty of room, but as I keep adding little things here and there I'm finding out they're not as big as I thought! The weather seems to be moderating a bit and I'm able to ride a bit more; however, I find that I really have to psych myself up--it's just a ride and I want to get started on BATS.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Today was laundry day but I spent the waiting time between loads doing something practical to get ready for my journey. I gathered together most of the items I'll be taking with me and did some packing.
Not shown in the picture are the extra tubes and tools I always carry and food which I'll be buying pretty much every day.
Here are a couple of views of the loaded bike--

it still handles pretty well although I didn't try going up any hills. I know I'll be a bit slower but I'm not looking to break any speed records. In the next week or so I'll load everything up again and go for an overnight trip just to make sure I have everything I need before I take off on the real thing.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

I've set the starting date for my journey for 6 June; there's no particular significance for me, although it does happen to be the 66th anniversary of D-Day--the Normandy landings in WWII. Just as Eisenhower agonized over the weather for the day of the landing, I'm keeping an eye on the seemingly unpredictable weather which is occurring this year. Snow closed the North Cascades Highway (part of my route) yesterday and it's been unseasonably cool and windy for the past week. I've become somewhat accustomed to slightly warmer temperatures so it's kind of a bummer to have to start bundling up to go for a ride. Of course, the wind is always a headwind and I can deal with that--the side gusts really increase the pucker factor though. It's been said that the worst day on a dream adventure is better than the best day of a mundane life dreaming of the adventure; I can't wait for the adventure to begin!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Electronic assist for my journey. No, I'm not referring to electric assist which is a small electric motor that can be attached to a bicycle and is useful for going uphills (I don't have one of those). Electronic assist is probably a misnomer as the gadgets I'm talking about really provide no assistance--just information and safety. First among the latter items is a couple of rear blinky lights; they're useful in alerting drivers approaching from the rear that there is something in front of them. Coupled with a reflective slow-moving vehicle triangle, only the most inattentive, cell phone talker/texter driver will fail to see me.
To alert oncoming drivers that there is something in front of them and they shouldn't turn left across it's path, I have a five-LED blinking headlight; it also doubles as a constant light if I don't make it to a campground before dark. Powering those devices are AA and AAA batteries which could cause a major drain (groan) on my budget if I didn't use rechargeables (which I do). However, that just adds one more electronic device to my load--a battery charger. Under the information category is a speedometer; although there are super multi-function models that are tied to GPS and provide all kinds of data, I have a pretty basic model which gives speed and distance. A benefit to its simplicity is that the battery lasts over a year. Also for information I have a heart rate monitor--to alert me that I may be pushing too hard (or not hard enough) or that I may be getting dehydrated.
To record images of the trip I'll be toting a camera (four AA batteries) however, I need a computer to download the pictures. Since I have to draw a line somewhere, I've opted not to carry my Netbook and the picures I take with the camera will not be available until the end of the trip. However, I will be taking a cell phone (of some type) and I'll attempt to update this site with a few pictures during my journey.

For all of the gadgets I'll be carrying, I don't think my enjoyment level will be much greater than what I experienced as a 12 year old on a 15 mile ride with no electronic assist.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The first order of business has been to determine my route. After careful consideration of time/logistics I determined that I wouldn't visit the absolute extreme corners of the state but, rather, a general rounding of the corners. I'll start off by heading over Satus pass on Hwy 97 to the Columbia River Gorge where I'll turn left onto Hwy 14 until I cross over to Umatilla, Oregon on Hwy 395. Oregon highways will be used for about 20 miles before I cross back into Washington
and pick up Hwy 12 near Wallula. I'll stay on Hwy 12 into Clarkston and go up the Snake River Canyon into Pullman where I'll get on Hwy 27 and follow it toward Spokane. Backroads will be the order of the day between the Spokane area and Newport as Hwy 2 is a bit too heavily traveled for my taste. At Newport I'll jump on Hwy 20 and follow it across the Northern tier of the state to Keystone on Whidbey Island where I'll take a ferry to Port Townsend and continue on Hwy 20 to Hwy 101. I'll generally follow Hwy 101 around the West side of the Olympic Peninsula although I may pop over to Hwys 109/105 when 101 gets too far from the coast. Either way, I'll end up on Hwy 4 on the north side of the Columbia for the leg into Longview. Longview to Vancouver (Washington) will also be on backroads until I connect with Hwy 14 and follow it through the gorge to Hwy 97 and back home. That's about 1500 miles and I'm estimating four to five weeks to complete the trip. So, the route is now set in pavement; however, it is subject to change while I'm on the road.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

I achieved my goal of cycling 3000 miles last year and instead of just establishing a new, higher-mileage goal for this year, I began contemplating what other feat I could accomplish. The first thought of cycling across the country was summarily dismissed; not because I didn't think I could do it however, at the end I'd be sitting on the east coast with a daunting 3000 mile return trip before the snow started falling. A six thousand mile jaunt seemed a bit much--this year. While mulling over several options, I happened to see an Evening Magazine series where they visited the four corners of Washington State. That was the genesis for my goal to Bike Around The State: yes, I'm going BATS.