Just like when I left Bar Harbor, there was no fanfair, no parade in my honor, I had gone for a ride that day in July, and now the ride has ended. As simple as that sounds, I am forever changed in ways I have just begun to comprehend. I think it is much easier to understand why people have been making pilgrimages and traveling in other various ways since recorded history began. We may set out to discover new places but we will inevitably discover new places inside ourselves.Read More
September 15: When I wake up it’s (shocker) freezing. I do a few jumping jacks to get the blood flowing. I hear an unknown animal call while eating in my tent. I elect not to investigate. It takes the first hour of my day to go 4 miles. It’s a pass! Wacouda Pass, somehow I missed it on the map. It wasn’t nearly as difficult as Sherman Pass, just annoying. After Wacouda, I traveled 20 miles downhill. It was amazing. Traveling downhill really gives you the opportunity to look around and enjoy the scenery.
I stop for lunch in Tonasket, Washington, eating my signature burger with an egg on it.
Tonasket has a campground but I decide to keep going another 25 miles to Omak. I stop in an outfitter store there and stock up on some more camp meals. I’ve become mildly obsessed with raspberry oatmeal in milk.
I stay in a small, town-run RV park in the middle of town. Even the tent sites have electricity, which is AWESOME. I meet the couples staying on either side across from me and they are super friendly, asking me a lot of questions about my travels.
September 16: I wake up before my alarm even goes off at 5:30. I’m feeling really good. Rested. Strong. I know I have another pass today. Loup (pronounced “Loo,” I think) is the french word for wolf. I am warned by locals that there is a wolf pack living on the mountain. Wonderful.
I arrive at the local diner in Omak before it opens at 7am. I eat my customary giant breakfast. I love breakfast so much these days. Besides having all the foods my body seems to be craving, breakfast is the one time of day I have a plan, the plan hasn’t crashed and burned yet, my bike isn’t broken, and the day is full of promise. Sometimes I even have wifi.
I accidentally travel the wrong way for about 3/4 of a mile. Breakfast bliss has evaporated by 8:30am.
I head out of town, climb a few hundred feet without too much trouble, then lose all that elevation on a large downhill before the start of the pass. Omak has an elevation of 800 feet. The top of Loup Loup pass is 4,020 feet above sea level. Even though I walk a good portion, I am able to ride some too. I still feel good, strong,
On my way to the top, during one of the portions when I am riding, I hear a large animal off to my left. I’ve become pretty used to hearing things moving in the woods along the roads I travel down, so I don’t pay much attention. The rustling is periodic, but moving closer. Definitely closer. I pick my head up and look up in time to see a large, black form moving through the trees towards me at a high rate of speed.
Then the black animal stops short of the road and gives out a loud, indignant, “MOOOOOooooooooo.” It’s a bull. A bull contained by a barely visible fence. Why is there a bull on a mountain. The bull turns and follows me along the fenceline while my heart tries to calm back down to a human rate of beating.
Getting to the top takes between 3 and 4 hours. Riding down the 11 miles on the other side of the pass takes 30 minutes. The west side of the pass is eery, clearly there was a large wildfire here sometime in the last few years. All the dead trees are still standing, like ghostly monuments to man’s inability to preserve our wild spaces.
After the pass, I ride another 11 miles to Winthrop, Washington to stay in the Pine Near RV Park. This is a pretty nice campground. They have coin showers (not ideal) that only take Sacagawea dollar coins… what? Ok, fine, that’s a little weird, but doable. They have an exchange machine you can put dollars or quarters into to get the appropriate coins to operate the showers. I take my shower. Then I go to do a load of laundry and the machines take… quarters. Why. I go root around through my stuff for any stray quarters I still possess that I did not turn into Sacagawea dollars.
I camp next to a band called “The Sky Colony.” They are playing at the local bar tonight. They seem really nice, we talk for a while and they all give Dobby some much-needed male attention.
We have traveled 3,103.1 miles.
September 1: I left Hingham and the Hi-Way Bar at around 8 am. There was no wind! It was awesome. Compared to the previous day, I felt like I was flying down the flat Montana highway. At some point during the morning I realized it was September. Woah.
The wind picked up again around noon. My pace slowed to a crawl yet again. As the afternoon wore on, the wind became stronger and stronger until I felt like I was battling to remain in the same place, nevermind moving forward.
I reached Galata, my goal for the day, around 5pm. My map had said there was an RV park here, and I was hoping maybe the proprietors would let me set up a tent for the night. I saw no RV park. There was dust blowing down the road, giving the wind a visible shape. Had I not been wearing sunglasses, I doubt I would have been able to see. What I did see was the Galata motel. A small, quaint looking building consisting of one row of rooms, maybe eight total. At this point in the day, I figured it couldn’t hurt to at least check the cost of a room.
The office had been newly converted into a small store. Inside I met Sue, the owner. I was so grateful to be out of the wind. When you’re outside all the time, you get used to what nature is throwing at you, even the unenjoyable parts. Then when you’re removed from the elements, you finally remember what life is like without wind, rain, snow, freezing cold etc. Sue regretfully told me she did not have any clean rooms, as she had been completely rented out by a construction crew paving roads nearby. They were gone for the holiday weekend, (this was the Friday before Labor Day) but Sue hadn’t cleaned the rooms yet. Consequently Sue offered me one of the rooms for the night free. As much as I love free stuff, I felt better earning my keep. I helped clean two of the rooms while Dobby took a nap in our room. Flipping rooms was nothing new, as it was something I had done before when I worked on a ranch in Wyoming. After I had finished cleaning, Dobby and I watched Criminal Minds on TV and then YouTube videos on camper renovations. Free place to stay. Honest work with a wonderfully kind woman. Out of the wind. I couldn’t have asked for more.
We had traveled 2,542.4 miles.
August 29: Upon waking up to another cold morning, I made the decision to rent a U-haul in Valley City. I could say this was a difficult decision. I could say that the reality was if I kept at my current pace I wouldn't make it to the west coast before snow covered the mountain passes. I could (and did) say that I needed to get safely past the wildfires in eastern Montana. While all of these things are true, I will also say I was a little bit sick of biking. I had traveled almost 2500 miles to date on a bicycle, towing almost 100 pounds behind me. That's like trying to run with a parachute attached to your back. I calculated I had approximately 6 weeks left on my trip, which would put me well into October before I finished. Some mountain passes in western Montana and Washington close in early to mid-October, and I really didn't want to take any chances of coming so close to my goal and falling short. I have zero regrets about the decision to drive through some of the route.
I loaded my bike into a 10 foot U-haul truck, (the smallest option you have if you're not bringing the vehicle back to the same U-haul location) rented in Valley City, and laughed at how little space I took up with essentially everything I currently owned. You really don't need nearly as much stuff in your life as you think. I had to reacquaint myself with driving since I hadn't driven a vehicle in almost 2 months. I don't think I exceeded 50 miles per hour for the first 100 miles, which I'm sure made the other drivers on I-90 super happy. I drove most of 600 miles and stopped at a rest stop somewhere in Montana. The great part about all that extra space in the back of the U-haul was that I had plenty of room to set up my sleeping pad and bag, no tent-pitching necessary. I closed the gate to the U-haul, leaving it open just a few inches to allow fresh air and a breeze inside. It was an incredibly peaceful night.
August 30: The next morning, I drove the rest of the way to the U-haul drop-off, located in Havre, Montana. I spent most of the day in the library, updating a severely out-of-date blog (like I'm doing right now). While sitting in the library, my phone went off with an alert about a wildfire twenty miles south of town. I returned the U-haul around 4:30 and biked back into town to Havre RV Park. The tent camping was really just a grassy area next to a gas station but it was quiet, had the nicest showers and even had laundry! I thought I might not want to get back on the bike, but it was like coming home. I might officially be a cyclist! Sitting outside my tent eating dinner, back up against a tree trunk, the ash falling on my tent was reminiscent of snow.