Any Road Tour: Day 51 – Two passes, thousands of wows

My campsite was splendid. I was awoken by cold air so I stuck my head out of the tent. The skies were clear and full of more stars than I’d ever seen. Wow!

I awoke a little after dawn. I heard very loud buzzing outside my tent. I had seen some yellowjackets yesterday, so I feared I’d be stung by the biggest wasp on the planet. Well, sadly, it wasn’t Evangeline Lilly. It was hummingbirds. They buzzed around me as I broke camp.

I hit the road with a harrumph from Stout the wonder dog. The wind died just after dark last night. It was like a switch was thrown. This was good because, before I threw my stuff in the tent, a gust sent it airborne. No gusts today, just gentle breezes.

After breakfast at the country store in Mazama, the work of the day began. 28 miles up to Washington Pass, at over 5,476 feet of elevation.

The ride started slow and a bit steep then flattened then steepened for miles. I could now see up close immense mountains, a few with snow near their peaks.

As I climbed it got hotter. Sweat was pouring out of me. I kept drinking, aware that my water supply was limited. I stopped now and then just to take a break from the tedium and to say Wow.

Rivers, creeks, waterfalls, rocky peaks, wooded mountains that went straight up from the edge of the road.

A cyclist was flying down the mountain. As he passed he smiled, waved, and said “Hi, John!!” I don’t know who it was but it was a welcome diversion from the work at hand.

Then, a mile ahead of schedule and after a wicked switchback approach, I saw the sign. That was hard. It took all morning to ride up the beast.

After ten minutes of smug satisfaction I zoomed down the west side of the pass. About four miles later I started the climb up Rainy Pass. In a few minutes I was at the top.

Next came descent number two. I am really getting spoiled. These downhill rides are a pure adrenalin rush. Whenever I sensed the presence of death, I feathered my brakes. Not much need though, the roads are banked and I was always under the suggested speed on the turns. Not by much but I was under.

I approached a dam and I had to climb around the side of a mountain. This was a climb that would have hurt a month ago. Now I didn’t care.

The waters of the lake behind the dam were an eerie blue green. The color looked totally unnatural but the entire Northern Cascades seemed otherworldly.

Riding down toward the dam, I saw a mobile home in one of the turnouts (places for slow moving vehicles). It’s owner flagged me down. His engine had “caught fire” and his cell phone didn’t work up here. He asked me to get him help.

Down the hill I went with renewed purpose. Over the dam, through two tunnels and down along the canyon of the Skagit River.

I arrived at Newhalem, my planned destination. The general store was closed. I had exhausted my energy bars and all but one piece of fruit. And I was down to my last water bottle, having gone through three bottles already.

The store was part of a National Park Service installation. There was an information office. The clerk called various tow companies but no one would drive way up the mountain because they were many miles down the mountain. Sorry Mr. Mobilehomeman, I think you’re screwed.

I ate my last bit of food. As luck would have it, I had purchased a peach the size of a football a couple of days ago. It was exactly, perfectly ripe. I nearly inhaled it I was so hungry.

I filled all my water bottles again, including my reserve store-bought empty bottles. Without food there was no way I could stay in Newhalem. I took off for Marblemount 13 miles away.

The downhill was now a gradual sloping one but it still made me feel strong.

In Marblemount I took care of business. I sat down in a restaurant and ate a massive plate of fish and chips. It took me over 30 minutes to eat it. In the middle of my feast Martin walked in! He was staying at the inn across the street. I looked into getting a room but they were booked. The hotel manager called a few other places but they were booked too.

He recommended the town park in Rockport, eight miles further west. Off I rode. I found the park. It’s along the river. The showers were clean and it has WiFi of sorts.

Tomorrow I ride to the western end of the Northern Tier Route in Anacortes on Puget Sound.

Miles: 94.5

Tour Miles: 3,674.5

6 thoughts on “Any Road Tour: Day 51 – Two passes, thousands of wows

  1. Chapeau Sir Hwy 20 North Cascades is not for the faint of heart, congrats!! Hey in Anacortes you can have Sushi or Thai, both places are good and lots of other places, I seem to recall you can get a nice greasy spoon breakfast at the bowling alley. Welcome to the Wet Side of the State.

    1. Sore. Lol. Pretty psyched to see Puget Sound but also getting weary of life on the road. There’s still so much more to see but I’ll probably ride to Astoria then head east to Portland for a little epilogue to the tour

  2. One multi Modal option is that on Amtrak from Seattle to Portland you can reserve a spot for your bike in the baggage car -it was $5 last time I did it but that has been 5 years ago now – you have to remove the bags but no boxing was required, your bike gets a hook. They server NW micro brews in the canteen car…..just sayin.

    I doubt anyone would fault you for taking the train on the final leg of the journey, you’ve earned it. There is also a station in Mt Vernon which is about 5 miles from to where I-5 meets Hwy 20 in Burlington, not sure about bike boarding there in MV though.

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