Ashes to the Ocean

Ashes to the Ocean

posted in: Bicycle Touring, Washington | 46

Day 106, August 13th – Tonasket to Twisp

Rain and a shift in the winds cleared the skies today.  The plan was to try and ride to the “Bicycle Barn”, which is a couple who lets bikers camp out near their barn.  Someone had told Charlie about it the day before.  Things were on track for us to make it there, but in Okonogan Charlie and I were split up and I missed the turn to stay on Highway 20.  It wasn’t until 10 miles down the road while stopped to get some fresh peaches from a roadside stand that I figured this out.  So after rerouting and beginning the hot climb up Loup Loup Pass I eventually reconnected with Charlie who had took a long break before the 2nd climb of the pass to see if I showed up.

Loup Loup Pass really wore us down.  Perhaps because we’d already put in a decent number of miles (myself especially after the missed turn).  So instead of continuing on to the barn we had heard about we looked for camp options in Twisp.  The town was active with fire crews fighting fires in the area.  Coming over the pass was the first glimpse we had of the effects of the fires.  We asked a few locals about camping options in town and it seemed there wasn’t really anything available.  With all the fire crews staying in town, they didn’t think it would be a problem for us to put up a tent somewhere.  After looking around, we found a nice remote spot, made dinner and headed to bed.

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This guy had done the Northern Tier route 3 years previous and was driving a section with his girlfriend.  They picked up a bunch of snacks to give to cyclists they saw along the way.
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Doing a little route planning over coffee at McDonalds (Free wifi)
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Charlie sharing an overview of his US route with me.  He uses paper maps for everything and keeps pretty detailed route notes in an atlas of the US.
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Lots of helicopters scooping up water to fight fires.
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Clearer skies here though.
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Dry, dry, dry… no wonder the fires take off when they start.
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Irrigation is a wonderful thing… the fire had come up to the road just opposite the orchards.
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Evidence of the fires became more and more apparent.  From missing guard rail supports…
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To charred suspended fence posts…
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The burned sections of forest were turned black and grey.
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The more tragic scenes were what remained of homes.
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Tucking away from town to relax, have dinner, and sleep.
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And of course with Charlie we get to enjoy some tunes from the local radio waves from his $10 battery powered radio.

Summary
Miles: 80

Day 107, August 14th – Twisp to Winthrop.

It rained started raining at 6 AM this morning and the forecast was looking like more rain for the rest of the day.  During a break in the rain we scrambled to pack everything up and head out.  After a quick coffee stop at the gas station we pressed on to Winthrop where we thought about taking the day to let the rain blow over.  Washington Pass was supposed to be beautiful and we wanted to see it.  Rain clouds would likely obstruct most of the views and wet roads make for a brake pad eating decent.  When we arrived at Winthrop it was raining pretty good again.  We took a pass through the grocery store and bought some food for lazing around… chips, salsa, etc.  We were sitting under the awning outside the store looking up some motel options in town when a couple, Vicki and Danny, came by and started chatting with us.  After talking to them about what we were up to they did a round with their car in the parking lot and pulled back up, inviting us to stay at their place.

I’m sure fortunate they invited us because it really came down today.  Their place was a great spot in the valley and they had an impressive garden which they picked from to make some tasty meals for us.  The weather forecast for tomorrow didn’t look much better, but to our delight Danny and Vicki invited us to stay another night.  It was a relaxing day… cards, great food, and great conversations.

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Leave no trace camping… well almost.
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The river was clear when we pulled into town last night. All the rain this morning has swept ash into the river.
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Pulling our bikes out of the truck when we arrived at Danny and Vicki’s home.
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Playing some Euchre and Charlie filling us in with strange Aussie rules.

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Danny cranks the tunes out in the garden.

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They have a great irrigation system that runs through their property. Danny’s picking apricots out of a tarp he catches them in.
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The pellet gun keeps the mule deer out of their plants.

Summary
Miles:  10… rain day
Acts of Kindness:  3 – Danny and Vicki let Charlie and I stay with them on a whim.  Great hosts!  Good food and very entertaining.

Day 108, August 15th – Winthrop (rain/rest day)

After getting treated to some homemade smoothies and lattes Danny asked if we wanted to check out some of the area by mountain bike.  I was quick to say yes and I think after a bit of my enthusiasm Charlie agreed to go with.  Danny swung by the neighbors to get me a mountain bike to use… a sweet old school rigid Raleigh.  Danny doesn’t look it, but he tells me he’s 66 years old.  This guy flies on the bike!  Charlie and I were pretty much left in the dust on every hill.

After witnessing some of the burned land and homes nearby on our ride Charlie and I got some laundry done and got the tents out to dry.  We got a good movie night in after another great dinner before retiring to bed.  Great rest days with Vicki and Danny.

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My loner bike on the left and Danny’s Trek 8000 on the right.
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Danny about to turn on the robo legs and take off.
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Checking out a home that burned down.
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Not much but twisted metal from the roof remains.

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Not quite as orange or fragrant after the flames hit… I prefer the smell of vanilla to the charcoal smell.
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I found a pic from a few days back for comparison.

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Only the steel wire from this tractor tire tread remains.
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Raleigh conquering the char.

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This fire was put out just as the flames were licking his neighbor’s truck (across the road and up the hill).
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Easy to see where the fires stopped. Of course Danny is way ahead…

Summary
Miles: ~10 by mountain bike
Acts of Kindness:  4 – Another great day with Danny and Vicki.  Food, mountain biking, laundry, and more

Day 109, August 16th – Winthrop to Newhalem

It was time to say goodbye to our hosts and hit the road again.  The skies were clear and the mountains were calling.  Today’s riding was phenomenal to say the least.  Jagged peaks, towering cliffs, and large evergreens lined the valley.  I’d have a hard time ranking which was better… Logan Pass in Glacier or Washington Pass.  One thing Washington Pass definitely had going for it was that it was a less busy (even on a Saturday).  We spent a good three hours climbing the pass… I climbed ahead of Charlie and waited for him on the top of the pass while enjoying lunch.  We split again at lunch only to meet up again at another scenic overlook on the descent.  We continued on again together, coasting at 30+ mph down along the mountain side down to Diablo Lake and on to Newhalem Campground.

Daylight was slipping away as we descended further down the west side of the pass.  I decided against pushing ahead to Marblemount, so Charlie and I looked for camping options together in Newhalem.  All the campgrounds were full, but a ranger told us to go ahead and camp at a picnic area in one of the campgrounds.  Charlie and I enjoyed our final night of bad radio music, dinner, and travel tales before retiring to bed.  Now that I think about it, I don’t think I’ve filled you in on Charlie’s travels.  Just in this trip he’s traveled almost 25,000 miles traveling back and forth across different latitudes of the US.  But before this trip he has travelled many different parts of the world… Alaska to the southern point of Argentina, South Africa up the Eastern coast of Africa, India, Australia, New Zealand, and more.  I believe he said he’s been to 103 countries since he started touring 14 years ago.  If I remember right, he’s put 150,000 miles on this latest bike which he bought in South Korea.  Proof that if you have the will to travel, it really doesn’t matter what you use to do it, but that you just do it.  Charlie is definitely one of the most interesting people I’ve met with an incredible insight of different cultures around the world.  Never a dull conversation.  I’m glad he found me interesting enough to let me tag along for a while.  Wishing Charlie well as he finishes his tour around the states and wherever his bike takes him next!

 

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Picture with Vicki and Danny before heading out.
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Back on the road with clear skies!
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Glad we waited out the weather because the views today were amazing.
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The Cascades on Washington Pass had intense peaks.

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Liberty Bell Peak. I talked to some climbers who finished climbing a route up the left.  They offered me a beer but I kindly declined since I wasn’t sure how much climbing was left.  I later remembered my sister telling me to look out for this because they climbed a peak on the right.
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Looking back at the scenic climb.
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What a road!
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The hard work is over! Well most of it.
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High calorie lunch is in order.  Bagel is from the bakery in Mazama.

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Ok. NOW the climbing is over.  Sort of.

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Stopping to enjoy the view with Charlie.

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Coasting with great views. It doesn’t get much better.

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Found a spot behind the picnic area to set up. Things have went from desert-like to rainforest. I didn’t even need a sleeping pad with 4 inch thick moss on the floor.  I’m going to miss calling this home.

Summary
Miles: 84
Acts of Kindness:  4 – Breakfast and coffee before heading out from Danny and Vicki’s place; Free blueberries from a family in a van who chatted with me at a scenic overlook near Washington Pass; Free beer offer from the climbers; Ranger let us camp in a picnic spot for free since the campground was full.

Day 110, August 17th – Newhalem to Bellingham

Last day of riding for the trip… Bellingham was about 85 miles away and Charlie and I planned to split in Sedro-Woolley.  We had a little bit of downhill left before things flattened out.  We grabbed a few snacks and a coffee in the next town and talked to a couple on a Harley.  They gave us the rest of their peanuts to snack on as they headed out.  In Sedro-Woolley we stopped for lunch and I gave Charlie my map for the rest of his ride west.  Soon my sister Krista and her boyfriend Dennis showed up and a couple minutes after them Adam Zabler pulled up on his road bike.  He had text me just a half hour or so earlier saying he was going to ride the last segment with me.  Luckily we were able to coordinate my last minute route change to skip Anacortes and head to Bellingham.  Both cities are technically in a straight or bay so I figured why not just head to Bellingham.  It’s still saltwater so close enough!  Though I may still make a short trip out to the islands west of Bellingham to do a mini tour.

Charlie and I said our goodbyes and Adam and I continued on towards Bellingham.  Highway 20 was pretty busy today, so it was nice to get on some backroads with Adam.  It was great to have Adam along!  He kept me moving at a decent pace into town.  Krista and Dennis followed ahead in the car, stopping at turns to direct us the right way and of course Krista had to get out of the car to cheer and do some sort of jig as we passed by.  She really wanted to ride the last couple of days with me, but unfortunately sprained her ankle less than a week before.  Still, she stubbornly insisted on riding the last few miles in with me.  So that she did.  Before long I was on familiar paths in Bellingham with Bellingham Bay in view.  It’s a funny feeling to have arrived.  A monumental feat (for me anyways) that ends with the simple dipping of my front tire in the salt water… 5500 miles from where I began.  Lots of thoughts pop into my head about what adventures await and what’s next, but that can wait.  For now I’ll relax and enjoy the great company in Bellingham.

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Still hard to believe the change in humidity from yesterday to today.

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Bigfoot lives!
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The blackberries were so thick that the branches look liked they’d snap in their weight. I told Charlie I had Ziploc bags handy and the next patch we saw we were stopped and picking away.
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My hands (and probably face) were covered in purple stains. So good.
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Adam Zabler met me in Sedro-Woolley to finish the ride into Bellingham. Thanks for keeping the pace up Adam!

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Krista and Dennis were our cheer squad.
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Krista even joined the final miles in… She moved pretty fast for being gimpy!
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Home stretch to the shoreline. I’ve ridden this before, but thinking about having ridden my bike all the way from the east coast to get here is starting to feel like a pretty long ride in retrospect.

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Typical excited Krista face.
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Probably dreaming up the next tour.
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Krista and Dennis had a celebratory beer waiting for me. A good one!

Summary
Miles: 85
Acts of Kindness:  4 – Peanuts from some motorcyclists; Krista and Dennis met up to see me through the end of the ride; Adam Zabler joined me for the last 20-30 miles; Krista and Dennis are letting me crash* here for a bit.

 

*Note – crash literally and figuratively… I had a decent spill the day after finishing my tour that rattled my mellon pretty good.  So… definitely relaxing this week.  Feeling good though and quickly recovering.

 

Thanks to all who’ve been following and the support along the way.  It’s been an amazing trip and I can’t say enough good things about the hospitality of the American people along the way.  The U.S. has an incredible variety of climates and geography.  I don’t think I could truly appreciate them the same as from the inside of a car.  You are very approachable on a bike and it’s amazing how many things seem to happen to you on a daily basis.  I’m surprised how much of that I seem to remember, but probably because almost everyday is such a new experience.  By bike, every mountain top is a view struggled to see.  To me, pushing on the accelerator to get to the top doesn’t yield the same satisfaction and sense of accomplishment.  Still, there are many great ways to travel and having a curious mind and the ability to find an adventure about anywhere will make your travels great.

I don’t think I could have dreamed up a better trip.  It has been the greatest way I’ve ever gone about seeing the country… and honestly I’d love to see more of the world in a similar fashion.  Keep an eye out for some sort of trip recap in the coming week.

-Brad

46 Responses

  1. Congrats Bud! You did it! What an adventure. Proud of you! Love ya!

    • Thanks Mom! And thanks for all your support! Nice to have someone I can always phone on some of the quiet evenings.

  2. Tom Jakab

    That is so cool!! Congrats on finishing the trip! Such an amazing read over all these many weeks!

  3. Well done son… and well documented… thanks for taking the rest of us along for the ride!

    • Thanks Dad! Wouldn’t have been the same without the support from you, Mom, and Krista!

  4. Congratulations on your amazing accomplishment, Brad! I’m very proud of you for setting a very challenging goal and achieving it, while enjoying wonderful times with family and friends.

    Now… where’s my lighthouse photo???

  5. Way to ride brad ! I’m kind of sad that I won’t be “riding ” any more!!it was a blast following you on your adventure! You are amazing….

    • Thanks Chris! I’m sure I can find another adventure to write about 🙂 Mini tour with Krista and Dennis coming up in a couple weeks. Stay tuned.

  6. Awesome adventure, Brad!!! Your blog has been wonderful to keep us up on your travels! We are proud of your accomplishments along the way! Take care!

    • Thanks Corine! Let me know when you and Jon decided to motorcycle through Washington!

  7. Paul Phillips

    Congrats, man! Thanks so much for sharing all these great stories and photos with us. It was awesome to see the country with you. I can’t believe you’re already done with this trip. I’m sure there will be more to come.

    • I think you can count on a few more posts on random adventures out of this blog and hopefully some more big trips… think I’m good for another. My legs are finally healing up!

  8. Dean Norem

    Congrat’s Brad!! And only 110 days… Nicely done. Enjoyed the blog, and I’ve been impressed with your eye for framing photos, and the wit in many of the captions. Thanks for tracking & reporting the acts of kindness, it restores my faith in mankind. Thanks for blogging your travels, and permitting all of us to tag along with you. Take care, and best of luck in your coming chapters! >Dean

    • Haha I’m not sure that 110 days is exactly a record by any means, but I enjoyed the pace and the route. Glad you’ve enjoyed the ride along Dean. I definitely had a good time. Hope things are going well with you!

  9. brad martin

    Congratulations man!!! I enjoyed every mile…through technology 🙂

    • Haha well I’m glad you were able to enjoy too! See ya in a few weeks maybe?

  10. Jean Ryan

    Well done Brad! What an accomplishment. I’m so proud. Beautiful scenery. I would have had a hard time keeping my eyes on the road. But knowing me, I would have had my eyes glued to the road and missed the scenery. Besides the memorable sights there were the even more memorable people who made your trip just so real. I can imagine Krista and Dennis are excited to have you there. Enjoy your time with them. What’s this–a fall after making it all around the country?

    • Thanks Grandma Jean! Haha sometime I caught myself staring at the scenery a bit much to… LOTS of picture stops. Having fun out in Washington. I’ll have to give you a call and fill you in on the wipeout 😛 Hope to see you soon!

  11. Congrats Brad on completing the adventure! Of course none of us doubted you wouldn’t be able to do it! Your blog with photo’s and commentary made it almost feel like we were along on the ride with out, but we had the easy, part, sitting in a chair in front of the computer! haha It was a joy to follow along on this blog! Hopefully see you back around home after a little while…?

    • Thanks Jon! I think had the fun part, even if the legs got a bit sore once in a while. I’ll be back in the area for a while in September. We should definitely hang out!

  12. Really enjoyed following your ride Brad. I am dreaming of something for the bucket list. We shall see!

    • Thanks Lou! Hope you’re able to make it happen! It was hands down the best summer I’ve ever had!

  13. Elyn Simmons

    Way to go! I’m happy to see you made it & what a ride. Thanks for taking friends along with you through the blog. It was a great read through the summer! Give Krista a big “sister-hug” from me-I miss that girl~best of luck brad

    • Thanks Elyn! Been enjoying my time out in WA with Krista. Hope all is good back in Minnesota.

  14. Carl knutson

    Way to go brad

  15. Gramma & Grampa K

    Good Job! So thankful for the opportunity you gave to so many of us to “take a trip”. It has been a great trip with so many nice people and beautiful scenery. There is good in this world!! Especially thankful for your safety through it all. Have a great time now with Krista and Dennis. Love to all of you! Be careful!

  16. Jeff Brown

    Congrats Brad, thanks for taking the time out of your daily grind to share your experiences with us. Can’t wait to here where your next journey will take you.

    • Thanks Jeff! Maybe a journey will bring you along on a ski or bike trip sometime??

  17. Lisa Short

    Thank you for your generosity in allowing us to share your trip with you. I loved your adventures, your pictures, your stories and especially meeting all the kind people who opened their picnic baskets and homes to you! Well done, Brad, well done.

    • Hi Lisa, glad you’ve enjoyed following the trip. Lots of great people out there… it blew me away how I was continuously greeted with amazing kindness on my trip.

  18. Congrats Brad! This is indeed a life changing experience. A lot of the places you show in the pictures are simply jaw-dropping amazing.

    • Thanks Ricardo! Tons of great places to see in this country… and I only rode one small line across it.

      BTW lots of great photos on you site!

  19. Jeff Iverson

    Congrats Brad. That is an amazing accomplishment! It’s one of those things you’ll look back on someday (when your old like me) and really be glad you did it!

    Have fun recovering!

    • Thanks Jeff! Legs are FINALLY coming around again. Glad you found the blog a fun read! Remember – Never to late to go touring! Hope you can get that tour in some day!

  20. Congrats Brad! Thanks for sharing your adventures – I found this very inspirational. I have a ton of acoustic material generated from these blog entries – and I should probably release it on an album entitled “Brad Goes Biking” – so thank you. I urge everyone to head on over to SoundCloud and take a listen to “Journey’s End” while reading thru the favorite parts of the blog. To me the song has a bittersweet feel to it – it makes me happy that he achieved his goal and sad to know that it is over. I am looking forward to your next adventure, Brad, go do something big and don’t look back. JP

    • Thanks Jody. I love the tune! Honored to contribute some inspiration in the process of having a great adventure.

      Stay tuned for the next big thing 😉 Dreaming up something new everyday… We should catch up sometime! Be curious to hear about your process for making music.

  21. OK, now turn around and start pedalling back.

  22. Patrick McIntyre

    Awesome stories and pictures! Congratulations!

  23. Congratulations! Now relax 🙂

  24. Paul Stiller

    Good job Brad, enjoyed tagging along with you on your blog. It’ rich experiences like yours that help shape a persons direction in life.

    Paul

  25. Congratulations on your accomplishing the journey! I finally got the chance to experience NC bike route 2 today with my 12 year old son from my house in Cary to Carrboro. Great scenic route! Weaver street market has been fully renovated. Saw your picture of Dogfish head 120min. I like the 90 min IPA, didn’t know they had a 120 min, will have to try.

    • Thanks Rob!

      Very cool you and your son got to ride route 2 to Carrboro. Weaver street market was really cool. If I’m back in the area I’ll surely swing by there again.

      120 minute is definitely worth a try, but I’d say the 90 minute is an easier drinker.

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