The Ride is Over (July 20, 2019)

Image result for don corleone

If it is not one body medical condition, it is another.

Two years ago I had to cut my Northwest ride with Kim short due to an inflamed prostate ... this year my ride has been shortened due to a dental problem which has caused my jaw to swell ... kind of looks like this guy, but only more pronounced.

So instead of doing the planned ride until August 4, I am flying back to Tucson, from Seattle, today.

Kim will be pedaling on for another several days prior to her return to Atlanta.

After a wonderful rest day in Spokane, we rode the 39 miles to a small town west of Spokane by the name of Davenport.  I mention riding west because the wind was definitely coming out of the west ... definitely!!  Tough day.

Upon awaking the next morning, my left jaw was quite swollen ... kind of like that Vito Corleone guy, but only MUCH more pronounced.  After riding the 20 miles (again, strong wind out of the west) to a breakfast cafe in Creston, WA, we made a decision to modify our plans and ride the 29 miles to Grand Coulee and rent a U-Haul truck (then drive to Seattle).  Again, LOTS of wind riding those 29 miles.

The road was very straight and seemingly aligned perfectly with the source of the wind.  The road was also seemingly forever going quickly down and slowly, painfully back up.

My attitude was not good.  On top of the disappointment of curtailing the ride due to my dental problem and an over all feeling of being physically tired, I had been dealing with a number of tire problems.

Okay, what else could go wrong?

About 8 miles outside of Grand Coulee, after the many, many, many short climbs, the road leveled off.  "This is good," thinks I.  Then the road sign all touring cyclists enjoy appeared (sign indicating 6% down slope, for next 4 miles).  "Whew," thinks I.  I am flying down the hill at a very controlled, comfortable speed of somewhere between 20 and 25 MPH ... "Happy, happy, happy," thinks I.

In a nano-second a gust of wind pushes me off the pavement into the 1 1/2" deep gravel, heading toward a ditch.  "Oh, shit!", thinks I. (A moment like this does not encourage civility of thought.)

In a situation like this, things really do seem to slow down, and different trains of thought co-exist:  1)  Do not brake too hard, just brake easy and try to keep the front wheel straight, 2)  Don't panic, just stay upright, and finally 3)  "Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit."  Actually ... "finally" was hitting the ground with helmet, left forearm, left shoulder and left knee.  Years ago there was a great Daniel Day-Lewis movie called "There Will Be Blood".  Indeed.

Other than the blood, there was no real damage to body or bike ... seven hours later we had covered the 200 miles between Grand Coulee and North Bend, WA (30 miles from Seattle).  Smallest truck they had was a 20 footer ... more than ample space to place two bikes and assorted pannier bags.

Yesterday, after dropping Kim off so she could plan out her remaining days, I (and the lady Google hired to voice the Google Map directions) spent the day driving a 20' truck all over the Seattle downtown and Sea-Tac Airport areas ... quite a rude immersion back into the world of cars and trucks from the bike touring world.

Things happen that oft times can (and should be) prevented.  Plans change without prior approval.  But in the over all, it really does not impact worldly events very much.

But ... "Ah, shit!", thinks I.

Side note:  Due to having taken four years of English 101 in high school, I have never understood where a closing quotation mark should fall in relation to commas, periods, etc.  If, while reading my words, you feel uncomfortable with my lack of knowledge in this area, then I would suggest you re-think what may, or may not, be important in your world.

Tao (July 15, 2019)

Tao ... in Chinese philosophy means "the way or the path".

For me, the path(s) are definitely the way.  Since leaving Glacier National Park eight days ago, we have been blessed with a number of paved paths that allow for stress-free, car-free riding.  The Departments of Transportation of Montana and Idaho seem to have been very generous in their consideration for touring cyclists ... with one notable exception which I will discuss later.

Some of the paved paths run along side of the main highways, while others are wonderful rail-to-trail paved paths.  Fortunately for us, a few of the rail-to-trail paths the last few days included a slight downward slope and a slight tailwind ... nirvana to tired legs/bodies.  It would be wonderful if more states would embrace the philosophy of bike touring Taoism and provide separated bike paths ... but then I have often wished for World Peace and I doubt either will ever be achieved.

Since leaving Missoula (after a wonderful rest day), we have traveled the 36 miles to Alberton, the 47 miles to St. Regis, 67 miles to Kellogg (all in Montana), and finally yesterday the 56 miles to Post Falls, ID.

Post Falls is 10 miles west of Coeur d'Alene.  We stopped here so that I could spend some time with high school and college friend Phil Beckhelm, whom I had not seen in some 45 years. Spent a very enjoyable evening with Phil and his wife Libby ... unfortunately Libby had to put up with Phil and I talking about people and events that she did not experience.  But she smiled and allowed us to reminiscence about days long gone by, so she should be applauded.

I mentioned earlier about a notable exception (read:  great anger on my part!!) with the Idaho Department of Transportation ... so bear with me if I use some words that I would not say aloud around my grand kids.

So this is my story:  In order to avoid some of the less desirable routes suggested by Google Maps' bicycle routes (often dirt roads/trails with steep climbs) we have been riding the I-90 Interstate Highway.  Riding Interstates, while sounding dangerous, actually is very safe as the safety lane (to the right of the two travel lanes) is about 12' to 14' wide so we can ride well removed from the traffic.  Other than the constant noise, riding the Interstate is okay with me.  Also, other than the possibility of picking up small tube-piercing wires from disintegrated steel belt radial tires (of which I was guilty the other day), there is little risk.

So, we had been riding I-90 safely removed from two lanes of vehicles that most often are traveling at 75 to 80 MPH (them, not us).  At about mile 40 of yesterday's ride (and after a 45 minute grind to get over the 4th of July Pass), we came to an area where, due to west bound lane construction, the vehicles had to merge onto the right-hand lane.  At this point, there was a large sign indicating that bicyclists and pedestrians were to exit the Interstate and traverse the 7.5 mile detour (around a 2 mile +/- construction zone).  The detour included a dirt section of road and two fairly steep and long climbs ... let me say that again ... two fairly steep and long climbs.  Tired legs ... two fairly steep and long climbs.

I rarely get angry when bike touring, but I was beyond irate.  At some point there was a meeting with representatives of Idaho DOT and the contractor in which they decided that it was too dangerous for cyclists to ride through the construction zone ... keep in mind that the traffic in the now merged right travel lane was now traveling at 45 MPH and that the 14' safety lane was probably continuous through the construction zone ... and it was Sunday, so they were not even working!!  So it is okay to ride adjacent to vehicles traveling at 75 MPH, but not at 45 MPH!!!  Extremely irate ...a dirt section of road and two fairly steep and long climbs!!!

But as you can see, I have now gotten over it.  Ah, the unexpected joys of bike touring ... much like life itself.

So here we are in Post Falls, ID.  We will decide this morning if we take a rest day here or ride the 25 miles (on a paved path) to Spokane, then take a rest day there.

Either way, Idaho DOT won't have an affect my emotions.  Ergo, life is good.     

It's a Long Road (July 10, 2019)


But sometimes it is a joy.  The above video was taken by Kim on a paved path that runs parallel with Highway 93 south of Kalispell, Montana.  This path ran for 8 to10 miles, and while providing a safe haven from traffic, it also mostly provides pure joy to we touring cyclists.

Since leaving Whitefish, we have traveled quite a few miles which provided both great beauty and great trudgery (if that is indeed a word).  

From Whitefish, MT, we rode the 47 miles to Avalanche Campground in Glacier National Park. The primary goal for touring cyclists when coming to Glacier N.P. is to ride up the "Going to the Sun" road to Logan Pass.  

Due to the extremely narrow road and the predominance of cars and trucks that dominate travel within the Park, cyclists are not allowed on the road between 11:00 AM and 4:00 PM in certain sections and directions.  Because of this time restriction, we needed to get an early start to traverse the 16 miles from the campground to Logan Pass ... the latter 11 miles at a continuous 5% to 7% slope (my estimation), which combined with the continuous impatience of those comfortably encapsulated in their climate controlled and motor powered vehicles can wear a person down.  If my bias against the restrictions placed on cyclists in order to better accommodate cars is obvious, then my words have been successful.

Anyway, we made it to the top in ample time.  It should be noted that we left our panniers at the campground so the ride was much easier than when I rode this back in 2010.


The time spent in Glacier N.P. was enjoyable, but it meant the end to our eastward journey from Anacortes, WA.  

From Glacier N.P. we have been riding south toward Missoula, MT, where we are today.  From Glacier, we rode 38 miles to Kalispell, 48 miles to Polson, and 66 miles to Missoula.  Certainly the high points of the three days of riding were the extended paved paths that run along side the major highways.  These paths, while not continuous are certainly a relief.  Speaking of a relief, the ride into Missoula was not an easy ride.  Lots of long shallow climbs (which can be very painful to tired legs) and warmer weather led to extreme "woe-is-me-ism" at about the 50 mile mark.  We were both running low on water, so we stopped at a bar to fill our water bottles.  While talking with the bartender and a well lubricated stool-sitter, I was told of the up-coming extremely downward 6 mile ride to come.  Having heard of such promises before, I was somewhat skeptical.  Six miles later the relief and smiles for both of us were extreme.

It is a rest day here in Missoula, with a visit to a few stores and to the Adventure Cycling Association facility planned.  Tomorrow we head westward.  Kim will be stopping in Seattle, then flying home to Atlanta later this month.  I will be continuing west from Seattle to ride on the north and west edges of the Olympic Peninsula ... down to Astoria, OR, then on to Portland from which I will fly back to Tucson on August 4.

It has been a long road, but an enjoyable road (for probably 90% of the time).

Glacier N.P. Eye Candy (July 10, 2019)

The ride up and down the "Going to the Sun" road, while hard or gleeful ... depending on going up or down ... provides one with incredible views.  Following are just a few of the vistas ... and it should be noted that the photos really do not capture the enormity, and beauty, of this area.  (As a reminder, an enlargement of each photo can be viewed by clicking on each photo.)

Hilly ... Most Hilly (July 4, 2019)

In the days of riding over the several Cascade Mountain passes, the climbs were long and tedious.  For the past several days the climbs have been short, but highly repetitive.

Since leaving Noxon, we have covered the 54 miles to Libby, 70 miles to Eureka, and the 56 miles to Whitefish ... all in Montana.  Today we are taking a rest day in Whitefish.  Since it is July 4th, I assume there will be a parade celebrating Independence Day ... but I have not seen any tanks, so they must not be taking it too seriously.

Hills.  Yes, hills.  To give a true picture of how hilly the terrain has been the past three days, I should construct a paragraph consisting of only the word "hill".  But this paragraph would consist of approximately 100 to 150 repetitions of the word "hill".  Then when one is tired of reading the word "hill", I will add another 25 or so "hills" ... but this paragraph would also include some rain and some headwinds.

As in previous days, the scenery is spectacular ... but come on ... some flat roads and a slight tailwind would be appreciated.

Tomorrow we enter Glacier National Park, then head south to Missoula.  I arrived in Portland about a month ago, and have covered about 1,000 miles in those 30 days.  The beauty of the Northwest is a constant companion.  Still somewhat amazed that I get to do this.

Speaking of beauty, the adjacent photo has nothing what-so-ever to do with bike touring ... it is simply a photo I saw on the Internet some time ago and found the simplicity of the photo to be quite beautiful.  If I knew who the photographer was, I would certainly give that person credit ... but I don't, so I won't.

For those amongst us who have not reached the vaunted status of retiree, I wish you a glorious 4th of July day-off from work.

Mistake's Happen (July 3, 2019)

In an earlier post, I attempted to provide a link to Kim's journal.

If there is one consistent trait in my life of late, it is my constant "inattention to detail" that plagues my being.

In creating the link, instead of inputting the URL to Kim's website, I re-entered the YouTube link to the Glacier N.P. video.  That has been edited in the previous post ... but in great humility, I now offer up the correct link to Kim's Biking With the Tailwind - 2019 journal.

I should point out that Kim is utilizing a different blog platform from her earlier biking and hiking journal entries.  Here is the link to her previous journal.

Along with my persistent character trait of "inattention to detail", I (more and more), have found myself searching for words that I know but can't seem to remember, while conversing with others.  The other morning, while carrying on a conversation with Kim, I could not identify a word that was critical to the context of my train of thought ... oh, the irony ... that word was "Alzheimer's".  'Tis easier to laugh than cry.

Vast Country (July 1, 2019)

Not so many days or miles since my last post, but it feels as though we have entered a different world.

We left Newport, WA, on Friday, June 28, and enjoyed the relatively easy 30 mile ride into Sandpoint, ID.  The easy ride and early arrival added to the "rest and recovery" planned for the following day.

Sandpoint is a very interesting town.  Located on the banks of Lake Pend Oreille, the town has a population of approximately 10,000.  Being the largest town in this part of Idaho, it is very much a vacation destination for both citizens of the U.S. and Canada who live in this general area.

Sandpoint is a very lively town, with a number of local brew pubs and restaurants which cater to the younger amongst us ... and since I am chronologically placed in the "elderly" classification, the "younger amongst us" comprises a large percentage of the population.  But the large number of bike riders, kayaks-mounted-on-car-racks, etc., seems to indicate a very active population of locals and visitors.  Very interesting town, and my experience in Sandpoint belies my general bias regarding towns/people located in what I consider "the hinterlands", as the general vibe is not that dissimilar to Southern California beach towns.

Anyway, the day-and-a-half of rest in Sandpoint did indeed allow for rest and recovery.

Sunday brought us to Noxon, MT ... a 52 mile ride from Sandpoint.  Included in the 52 miles was a 14 mile off-the-main-highway rural road that provided, for me, an other-worldly feeling due to the vastness of the scenery and the massiveness of the ice-age formed mountains.  Truly awe inspiring.  Truly a humbling experience, even for my massive "Leo" ego.  Again, I find myself thinking how fortunate I am to be able to experience all of this.

At the same time, I am reminded of just how thin of an edge we all live on in regards to our health and mobility.

In an email exchange with a good friend I learned of her biking accident, which has resulted in multiple broken bones, an extended stay in the hospital, and current confinement in a wheelchair.  Please understand that, for on old woman (her words, not mine), she is extremely fit and athletic ... she finished the last El Tour de Tucson 102 mile distance in a little over 5 1/2 hours.  But for a nano-second, resulting in her crash, she is now temporarily scooting around in a wheelchair.  A reminder for us all to celebrate our good health.

Today Kim and I head off to Libby, MT, and should be arriving at Glacier National Park in a few days ... then off to Missoula.  After Missoula I will be heading westward toward Seattle.  On the way I will be making a short stop in Post Falls, ID, for a visit with a high school friend (Phil Beckhelm), a then-close friend I have not seen in probably 45 years.  I think if we both are wearing our hearing aids, then we should have some joyful conversations.

So, here we are in a landscape that is most foreign to us both (Kim being from Atlanta, and I from Tucson), so I suspect the coming days will continue to fill our hearts with awe and gratitude.

Yep ... life is bountifully good.