Day 53: Final Push to Seattle

 My last day of riding on this opened up after a good few hours of sleep in one of the motels in the town of Clu Elum, at the start of the Cascades Mountain region. I came back to the same place I had my supper the night before, The Sunset, for breakfast. And some breakfast..:) lots of everytjing really, and calories to burn me all the way to town.   The Sunset was recommended to me by Rich in the photo below. He stays at the same motel as I did last time. But he pays for a month at a time. When his wife died 11 years ago, he decided he could not continue living there. The memories of his wife were simply too overwhelming. Would you believe that Rich is 86? 

 The only way to Seattle from Cle Elum was along the I-90. As a matter of fact this Interstate like me, started in Boston, spanning the northern part of the United States. Biking on the Highway is allowed in a few select states, among them is Washington. There are other options to cross into Seattle of course, but the I-90 is quick and direct. There is an old railtrail, called the Ironhorse Trail or John Wayne Pioneer Trail that goes from Plummer in Idaho and all the way to Seattle. Unfortunately this is not paved, and in most section only rough rock, so one really needs mountain bikes tires to safely ride on it. Speaking of safety, riding on the I-90 feels quite safe, due to the width of the shoulder. I have a red taillight blinker that is powerful enough to even in bright daylight gives the drivers a heads up as to my whereabouts. 

  In the distance you see some hills. They are part of the Cascades, the last mountain range before the pacific. There were some, but not monstrous climbing up to Snoqualmie Pass. Just seeing the number of miles to Seattle drop by each stroke of the pedals were fuelling me up the hills. Due to road construction there are sections where bikes are not allowed. They advice you to actually get on the railtrail. I got lucky and the road inspector gave me a ride in his pickup truck pass the blocking. 
 The scenery in this region is absolutely beatuiful. If it were not for the fact that I was riding next to three lanes of traffic, often at speeds of up to 70 km/h, watching for glass, metal and other stuff in front of me, I would have stopped and taken more and better photos of the beauty around me. After all the endless plains, often without any trees, in temperatures of 45 celcius and beyond, it was nice to see lots of trees, cool temps, and rugged mountains. It looked alot like Norway actually. 
    
    At the bottom of the descent and slightly beyond, I ran into this fruitstand, where they were selling cherries by the basket. I needed the stop and the treat to get off my adrenaline high riding down the busy mountain. 
    I was served by Blake. He resides in Little Rock, Arkansas. He had that lovely accent, being southern folk. He comes up to Washington in mid summer to sell fruits from the surrounding orchards. Among many things Washington is especially known for their cherries. And the Rainier kind especially. This orangecolored gem has a perfect balance of sweet and sour. Needless to say they did not last long. 

Little Rock, Arkansas is where Bill Clinton resided in his early years of working as an attorney, before making his way into politics. Blake talked highly of Clinton and was hoping to see Hillary make office in the upcoming elections. 

 Shortly after having come off the mountains I was able to bike on bikepaths and smaller roads all the way to the city. You can see how green this place is.    Seattle has done alot to allow for bicyclist. All over you see dedicated bikepaths and lanes. 

 A much need refreshment on my first Seattle sitdown came in the form of a ginger beer (I love everything Ginger) and a bottle of cold brewed coffee in a bottle. 

  Gone is rural America, as the Seattle skyline enters the picture. I have come to the end of my journey and it feels real good I tell you. 
 After 52 days on the road, with 45 actual riding days, I kind of met my mark of riding one day for every year I am old, but originally the intention was to total at 45 and to be in Seattle for July 4th. But with a trip of this sort, plans are one thing and reality something quite different. I could have biked faster, rested less, talked less, to fewer people, eaten while riding, etc….but I made the choices I did, in attempt of finding a balance of pure progression along the road and immersion into the the encounters and serendipity of people and places along along that road. After all, in the end this trip is mostly about the people I met, some about the landscape I saw and very little about the actual biking. The multitude and diversity found here is simply unmatched anywhere, at least in my experience. People here share their joy, their pain, their heartaches, their worries, their hopes, their homes and their food. Time and time again I am struck and often overwhelmed by the generosity and hospitality shown. 

 I was very happy to roll into a store to buy myself some clean shorts and a t-shirt. I will spend a couple days in Seattle, hosted by Roar and Per’s cousin Dennis, before I fly back to Boston on wednesday to reunite with my dear Lynda. 

I thank you all for taking time to follow me and my ramblings online. It has been a source of energy to read your encouraging comments along the way. It has also been an exercise in staying open and sharing of my experiences, becoming less of an introvert that way, which is nice. The best in life is always better when shared. 

I wil try to write a summary of the lessions learned along the way, once things settle down a bit. 

Keep the Rubber Side Down & Peace Profound!
  

Day 51-52: Washtucna:Vantage:Cle Elum, WA: 220 km

For some reason I have not been able to relax and get good sleep in my tent the last few nights. My adrenaline is high even after having ended the days ride, making me extra alert and on guard for everything around me. But so far no harm done to me or any of my possessions. It’s all in the mind. 

Anyway, below is my breakfast of yesterday morning, moving out of the little town of Vantage. There were no other options, but I can bike a long stretch on that muffin!-)

The day started with a very long and energy consuming hill. After that the landscape flattened as I entered the old inland sea basin. I was told it would be a desert by some people I met before, but it was way more than that. Most of the way it was productive farmland, much thanks to irrigation system allowing water from the big Columbia River to be spread across what otherwise would be dry desert.    

    
  This photo shows how far the corn has come, compared to when I biked through Michigan a month ago. 

Further down the road I saw more and more fruit orchards and potatofields. Along the way they also were harvesting huge amount of timothy hay. Apparently their timothy is world class. It sure smells good as you bike along. 

With the more labor intensive agriculture as orchards and wineries, comes the influence of Mexican and Latin American labor. That yields way more mexican restaurants and mexican soda pop, that all tastes real good in the heat. 

  Finally I spotted the mighty Columbia River. Coming down there put me right into the strongest winds felt sofar on this trip. I am was coming down a pretty steep hill, and when I stopped pedalling the wind actually halted me. 
    
    
Crossing the river on the bridge along Interstate 90 was rather brutal. The winds were super strong and the traffic was heavy. No roadshoulders along the bridge. One of my scariest moments sofar, as a truck with a big boattrailer almost ran me over as I was making me way across. The rush that some people are in!?

A long day was suddenly made not so bad by the sight of this:

 The night was spent in the motel in Vantage. Lynda had called in and made reservation for me..:) it sure felt nice to lay down on a proper bed. Even the Surly enjoys staying inside for a change.   Riding out of Vantage along the Old Highway 10 presented some nice climbing, with some headwinds to make the climb extra fun. Afterall the ridge I was climbing toward, host one of the larger windmill parks on the west coast. Wonder why?-)

The landscape is very dry and barren, but has its own poetic vibe to it. 

    I stopped for food in Ellensburg and headed west  along the Yakima River. I am seeing more trees again. 
 In the distance I am also seeing the Cascades, the last mountain range to cross before I descend to the sea level around Seattle tomorrow.   Yeah, so I have one last day of riding left. From my place of stay in the town of Cle Elum, I have about 140 km left on this trip. It is somewhat hard to fathom that by end of tomorrow’s ride the trip is completed. It for sure will take some time and effort to process it all. 

I am saying goodnight to you now, as my day tomorrow starts early tomorrow. 

Thank you for your attention!-)

Day 50: Rosalia, WA to Washtucna, WA: 130 km

After a night of interrupted sleep in the town park in Rosalia, due to kids goofing around, dogs barking and coyotes hauling, I was up at 6.30 and on the road again an hour later. Fortunately the skies were clouded allowing for cooler riding for longer into the day.    
  These rascals were giving me a hard time this morning. Dogs hate bicyclists, that is well known, but usually they are easily scared away or simply know their boundaries. These mutts did not settle without a standoff. I had them muffled up by throwing pieces of a choclate chip cookie at them, but that was as shortlived as a Middle Eastern seizefire. Right when the last cookie crumble was had, they were at it again. The owner stood by the house up the street and did little to nothing to call them home. I am usually a humble fellow, with little intent in harming any being, on any number of legs, with or without fur. This time though I actually pulled out my tentpoles and was getting ready to give them a whip they would not forget. Fortunately for all involved I was able to scare them off by one big verbal attack. I got the feeling that the old saying of the owners and their dogs are alike were true in this case. Darn mutts and hopeless owners for not raising them properly. 

  Further up the road I came across this crash site. I did not come to think about my medical emergency training in this incidence, as I think the driver is dead, of old age now, did he come to survive the blow. The tree had big marks from the impact. A peculiar sight for sure and makes you wonder about the circumstances. 
  The landscape changes all the time. Gone today were the rather grumpy hills and rather were the hills today of a more mellow and sweeping nature. They were all mostly covered with wheatfields, and in this area they were well into harvest. The giant harvesters were chewing off the crop at amazing width and speed.   
    Here and there I also meet with some horse and cattle. It is funny how aware they are of their surroundings. They don’t seem to mind the cars so much, but they seem to know you coming down as a bicyclist almost before you see them yourself, often from quite a far. If one individual notices, the other are quickly brought to attention as well, even though there is no alarming sound given by the first one. It is almost as they share some common awareness. 
   I stopped by the fence for a while and they all came towards me. Some braver than others, leading the way for those not so brave. It is interesting to observe such group behaviour. Nevertheless, they are all very beautiful and especially so in surroundings like this. 

   Wheat, wheat and more wheat. Other crops they grow here are barley, sweetpeas and lentils.  I inspected a straw and found, much to my anticipation, that the grains are small and light, compared to what they should be. Good grain is way more plump than this. I farmer I talked to at the general store in the nearest town confirmed this and said that they did not have their normal “billiondollar rain” this year. This land is dry and don’t get much rain, apart from some really big and soaking rainfall in late spring, just after seeding. This year the tilling of the land started two weeks earlier than normal, and the much needed rain did not come. This has led to a small crop, harvested way earlier than normal.  Regardless of the yield, the fields are absolutely beautiful and they smell wonderfully. The smell almost makes you salivate over the thought of fresh bread. 

It does not show well in the photos how hilly the fields really are. I am astonished as to how easily and perfectly they are able to work the lands. They have harvester that level up in the hills, and I see farm tool specially designed to operate in such terrain.  Here is a photo I pulled from the internet, that shows the lands in late spring. It is like an ocean of green. Quite pretty in my eyes!

 
    
  Towards the end of my day of riding the landscape turned more rocky and even drier. My home for the night is the town of Washtucan. This town sits at the foot of the last hill, before the great open flatland, that reaches all over to the Cascades to the west. Some have referres to it as a desert, with harsh winds. I will know by the end of tomorrow and I will tell you about it, if you don’t already know. Luckily the temperatures are said to drop in the 80s, but I don’t believe it until I feel it on my own skin.   

 Some of the abandoned commerical buildings on the Washtucan Main street. There are many such building that tells stories of a different time. 

Happiness today was found under the canopy of a big maple tree in Bassett park, free of charge, courtesy of the Washtucans. There is even a public swimming pool here. It seems like every little town, regardless of how poor they comes down as, they offer a place for kids in all ages a place to swim. Back in Norway, often referred to as the wealthiest nation in the world, many pools do not have the funds to operate. Go figure! 

Day 49:Harrison, ID to Rosalia, WA: 75 km

Biking today started at around 6.30 am and I was biking along the Lake Coeur de Alene for a good hour, before the trail took a turn, across a big bridge and into the fur tree forest, leading up to the town of Plummer.  This was an absolutely fantastic ride, on perfect pavement, surrounded by lush forests, with majestic fur trees and poplars. I spotted a bunch of different birds I had never seen before. Such a highlight!  This entire region of Coeur d’Alene is a native American reservation territory. The picture below has some explanitory text describing the story behind the trail through this remarkably beautiful area. 
  Shortly after Plummer the landscape changed into something very different, more wavy, hilly farmlands, with lots of grass seed production and wheatgrowing.    These silos belongs to a farm coop sitting on the state line between Idaho and Washington. 
  It was a special feeling seeing the sign wishing me Welcome to Washington, as this is the last state I will travel through on this trip. 
  With all the land to farm, big tractors are needed to get the jobs done. These machines sports about 600 hp. I wish I could hop in and take it for a spin!  I entered the town of Tekoa round noon. It was a peculiar and interesting place. 

  I was charmed (very easily) into buying a few choclate chip cookies from this group of siblings. They had various homemade cookies and bread on sale to raise money for field trips.   
At the diner I met this young couple. They were quite interested in my trip. Shane, Jessica, Toby and Braxton. A sweet young family, all born and raised in the small town of Tekoa. Shane just recently started a coffee roasting company, and his business is doing real good. He wanted my address so he could supply me with a sample of his beans. I am looking forward to it!

  
  After Tekoa the landscape opened up even further and it was hilly wheatfields around me everywhere. Much of the wheat is getting ready for harvest soon.   
  Seeing and smelling ripe wheat reminds of the fall, at least from where I come from. It also reminds me of the length of the trip, as lands were still being tilled and seeds put in when the trip began in  May.   
 I had rather high ambitions for today in terms of mileage, but due to the intense heat I had to call it quits after 75 km only. I decided to stay in the tinytown of Rosalia. I will try to make up the time tomorrow by getting out early, but the forecast is for another hot day with temperatures in the high 30s Celcius.  For long stretches today my meter showed 42-43 degrees. It is fairly intense, also due to the fact that there is very little shade to be found along the way.  

And yeah, another iconic sign on the wall of an old brick building in Rosalia. The sign is from the days before they started adding high fructose corn syrup. Now these drinks for sure will kill us, through obesity and diabetes.

 

Day 48: De Borgia, MT to Harrison, ID: 140 km

I woke before 6. The owners of the campground allowed me to sleep on the couch in the campground livingroom. Since I did not have to deal with my tent, I was able to take of rather quickly. There was quite a chill in the morning air, but I knew it was goint to be a hot day eventually.    Not so long after De Borgia I came into Haugan, a little dot on the map with a gas station, a truck rest area and a casino. They had an ATM for me to get some needed cash. I started out with a coffee to go with some energybars. 
  After about 50 km I had climbed up to Lookout Pass, at some 4800 feet. Not a gruelling climb, but had to be done. Due to som serious roadwork the entire left lane was shut down for repairs, giving only one lane for all trucks and car to come down from the top through. Due to this bicyclist need to call for shuttlebus to bring them down.   
  The shuttlebus brings you to the Coeur de Alene trail. This is an amazingly well kept railtrail that runs 75 miles from Mullan to Plummer in gorgeous surroundings, with forest, wetlands, farmlands, along creeks and lakes, and through small towns, one quirkier than the other.  

Entering this trail was heavenly. Not since Minnesota had I been on a biketrail. For the longest time I have been mixed up with all kinds of motorized vehicles in a noisy and smelly, but fairly safe coexistence.       One of the quirkier towns was Wallace, not far from Mullan. Wallace is an old miningtown. The hills around hide some of the largest silver deposits in the world, or used to at least, before it was mined.  As a biproduct of the mining alot of arsenic and lead are biproducts. Apparently Wallace had some of the largest bulletfactories in the nation and was making alot of the lead bullets needed to fight the germans and the japanese during world war 2.  

     Today Wallace makes alot more peaceful products, such as coffee and cupcakes. 

 In the heydays a lot of stuff was going on in this town, as if often the case were alot of men work hard for good money. Kind of what is happening around the Bakken-oilfield in Norh Dakota.   The Coeur de Alene trail is an investment into tourism in the area. Most of the mining is gone and the logging does not create so many jobs as it used to. The trail brings people in from many places and they come to ride their bicycles, as did Marlee and Mike from Spokane, WA. 
    
    If you look closely in the hills, you see roads. It is absolutely amazing to see the big loggingtrucks make their way up and down. Not for the rookie drivers for sure. 

I was warned of moose on the trail, especially further down the trail, around Harrison. And the warnings were in place. I almost was run over by a big female moose today. Quite an experience really.  

 I ended my day, after about 150 km of riding, on the lake ine Harrison. I even went swimming in the nice water. Perfect way of cooling down after a long day in the sun. I met another biker here too, Matt from Berkeley, CA. 

 

Day 47: Missoula, MT to De Borgia, MT: 160 km

I was up around 6 am this morning, an hour later than I aimed for. I guess Jack Daniels kept the brothers and I busy for a bit longer than so. Anyway it was nice to celebrate a bit with the brothers. I will not see them now until we all meet back in Norway in late fall. After a tiny breakfast at the Motel we all stayed at, I was out on the road at 7 am. Temperatures were in the 60s Fahrenheit moving into about 90 Fahrenheit at the height of the day. All in all a comfortable day of riding. I started out on the frontage roads but soon went out on the interstate highway, as it is way straighter, legal and most often quite safe, and in ways safer than the smaller roads. 

  

  In the tiny town of Alberton I met this beautiful group of people, Karen and her grandchildren Shay  and Willah. Karen is an avid biker herself and enjoys endurance rides. She was born and raised in Pennsylvania, but loves Montana and all the values that follows his place, with its conservative and yet liberal values. People in Montana don’t mess around. They just want to be left alone living their Montana lives and not be dictated by politicians fron outatown.   Karen runs the second hand bookstore in town. Nice place that I wished I had time to spend with. 
  Karen guided me to the best foodplace in town, (the only one really). The food was excellent and hit the spot perfectly.   
    
After that plate of food I was ready to head on out into the mountains ahead. The riding was done both on the interstate highway and on smaller roads, often along the pretty St. Regis River.   
    
    
  The forestfires up north are still feeding a lot of smoke into the area. 

After a few hours of riding I rolled into the town of Superior. Not a big place, but it has its bars, motels, shops and of course its Masonic Lodge. This one being among the smaller and less extravagant one I have seen sofar.   
    
  It’s telling that firedanger in indicated as extreme. All over you see sign of fires that have raged the area and marred the trees. It’s amazing to see some of the pine trees that are capable of withstanding the fires.   In the local bar I met with this gentleman by the name of Dennis. I thought he looked Finnish, but it turns out he is as Norwegian as it can get. An interesting guy to chat with. He enjoys his whiskey on the rocks and fortunately for him he only lives a few blocks away.
    
    
    
    
  
  As some of you know I have been very happy with the routing that Google Maps have suggested for me. Today was really the first day where I could not  quite consign to those choices. Google had me go on a railtrail, that was by far as developed as some of the other ones I have ridden on this trip. It was a rather rough 35 km until I got off and back onto the I90.

   Not far from where I reentered I found my home for the night, The Black Diamond guest ranch. I was welcomed by a friendly group of people, all residing and working on the premises. They had me over for some beers and drinks around the campfire. It sure was good company and alot of stories were shared. I am so humbled by being included in the way I am. Unfortunately I did not do any photos of these good people, so you’ll have to trust my words as to how well they treated me. I wish them the best for the future with their new business and new places to live for the future. 

 

Day 45-46: Missoula

After having survived the 4th of July celebration and the night of stealth camping in one of the parks of Missoula, that turned out so stormy that big trees were coming down hard to the ground around my tent. I had to evacuate at 3.30 in the morning and seek out a motelroom in town for needed shelter. What the hard winds that night also did, was to blow out the heat that had been lingering in area a while and installed a very different climate of temperatures in the way more comfortable and bike friendly area of 80s Fahrenheit or 20s Celcius. 

And wouldn’t you know who rolled into town today??!! The Prostate Brothers! They had caught up with me (much thanks to the generous help of Amtrak:-) It was a joy to see them again and to share some stories from the three weeks we have been apart.    Some things change every now and then, some things are in constant state of change, while other things are somewhat constant, as is Roar’s affinity for fine wines. I had spotted this excellent place called Liquid Planet, downtown Missoula, so I thought I would surprise my good friend by bringing him here. He picked up a bottle of 8 yr old Shiraz from Washington state to share with us as to honor our reunion. According to Roar this very grape fares particulary well in this region. Roar knows his stuff when it comes to wine, and even myself and Per could agree as to the excellence of this bottle. Thanx Roar!

  The city of Missoula is also home to the Adventure Cycling Association, ACA, http://www.adventurecycling.org

This is an amazing community of people, almost 40 of them, mostly unique weirdoes that all share a big love for adventures on bicycles. They have carefully developed maps for a host of routes for rides all over the United States. Greg to the right in the picture below is one of the founders from 25 yrs ago and he is still very much involved. With a mind for details and archives it was amazing to witness how quickly he was able to assess just how many Norwegians had paid them a visit over the years, a meager 5 in total, and a good 8 years since the last one did. 

    Below are some photos from within their office, which started out in an old church, before they added more space to accommodate their growth of activities and employees. A dream come through to work in such an amazing organization, surrounded by likeminded smiling bikers.         They photograph all the riders that come by and they hang the photos up on a wall in the entrance. Now this held riders from this year and a few from the last year.   While there people were dropping by constantly, some on foot and some on bikes, like this adventurous gent by the name of Joe. Joe is from Phoenix, Arizona and had been out for about three weeks along the Great Divide route. This stuff is not  for the faint of hart, as it is mostly a mountainbike route, that takes you along the Continental Divide from the border to Canada to the border to Mexico. This routes has some serious mountainclimbing and it is most remote with little access to services along the way. To add to the adventure, the route also takes you through some of the most bear dense area in the US, where sightings of Grizzly and Blackbear is very common. I bow to Joe for venturing out on his own on this fantastic experience. 

Today as all other days means finding food, and today’s choice Taco del Sol. This place is highly merited for their burritos. 

        I was impresses by their “hunting trophies”. I am not a vegan, but I still never quite understood how some people can cut another being’s head off and put it on the wall in their home for their own pride and amusement.  Missoula has a thriving bike scene, with bikelanes everywhere, bikeshops and lockup stations everywhere on the streets. A true joyous place to visit and highly recommended as a place to visit. 

It has also been a joy to meet my friends again. Today we were able to discuss the best ways of moving out on the finishing stretch of our adventure. We have about 880 km to go now, so we are definately seeing the tailene of this long and remarkable journey. 

We will part again tomorrow, as I need to fly out from Seattle on July 15th. My buddies have another good week or so at their disposal. 

Peace Profound!