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The Climbing Club • View topic - Tour de WA & MT

The Climbing Club

at the University of Washington
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 Post subject: Tour de WA & MT
PostPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 11:47 am 
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UW Climber
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Joined: Thu Aug 21, 2008 9:13 pm
Posts: 107
Location: hopefully outside
TOUR DE WA & MT

complete photo set

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To celebrate finishing my master's degree and Jon's near-completion of his PhD, we went on a 7 week bicycle trip that ended with a family reunion in Glacier National Park and a train ride home to Seattle. We enjoyed many homestays through http://www.warmshowers.org and met lots of amazing people. This trip was a journey: every day had something pretty uncomfortable or difficult, but also many wonderful things. Thankfully, my selective memory has already forgotten many of the trials and I consider it to be an awesome trip!

Stats:
• Total length of trip: 50 days (June 17-August 6)
• Riding days: 35
• Hiking days: 6
• Miles ridden: 1842
• Hours on bike: 156
• Avg mi/day: 52.6
• Hrs/day: 4.46
• Avg speed: 11.8 mph
• $ per day: $36
• sticks of butter consumed: at least 25
• granny gear: NONE! (I'm referring to our lack of a triple front chainring)
• free campsites: numerous
• total time spent riding in rain/hail/snow: less than an hour

Our approximate route: We did end up following 2 major Adventure Cycling routes for portions of our trip: the Northern Tier (Bham-Sandpoint) and the TransAm (Yellowstone-Glacier). Most touring cyclists we met (and there were many) were crossing the entire USA! Wow!

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Part 1: Bellingham to Sandpoint.
Washington's Highway 20 is a tough but gorgeous way to cross our beautiful state, with five passes to ride up. Biking up a pass on a touring setup goes something like this: ride along at 6-7 miles per hour for 2-5 hours until you get to the top. Stop every 30 minutes for food, take in the views slowly, feel fully alive and present. Motorists are in awe of you, or may try to run you off the road if they are the bus RV-towing an SUV-towing bikes variety. Take lots of pictures of the summit view. Carefully enjoy a fun coast downhill. It's about the same aerobic/strength effort as hiking uphill with a pack: tiring, but something you can do for a long time.

Washington Pass: From the Gorge Campground (free, by the way!) it was 38 miles and 4 hours of riding to the top. What an effort! After, we took a rest day in Winthrop at the Bicycle Barn (http://barnbicyclecamping.blogspot.com/).

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Curious horses near Tonasket, WA. I have a carrot for them, but they're more interested in the strange, ungainly steel creatures with saddlebags!

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NE Washington is beautiful and friendly! We found a great little co-op and/or farmers market in every town, and stayed in a yurt in Republic, WA. Below is Jon with his favorite food: cultured, organic, pasture-fed butter that is a deep yellow in color and has a sweet flavor. (We went through 8 TBSP a day on most riding days, putting it in oatmeal and on PB&J sandwiches.)

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Part II: Sandpoint to Red Lodge
After a great homestay in Sandpoint, ID, we entered MONTANA!!!! We quickly found that Montana is beautiful but is made of highways. (All the back roads are gravel.) Most of the time, the riding wasn't relaxing or necessarily fun, though it was scenic. We relied heavily on our rearview mirrors to watch out for traffic.

Mountains, from afar
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Free camping at a pow-wow in Arlee, MT!
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After a particularly hard 80 mile day in 90 degree heat with semitrucks and 20 miles of very rough road construction...
fortunately we got a rest day in Bozeman in a beautiful guest room right after this! I had never experienced such generosity and hospitality from complete strangers. We hope to host touring cyclists in the future.
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Beautiful creekside dinner at a homestay in Helena.
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Getting to Red Lodge: a gorgeous but exhausting road with 10% rolling hills for 30 miles. Don't be deceived by the nice blacktop and lack of cars. This was some of the only nice pavement in all of Montana!
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In case you were wondering what we ate on this trip... here is a typical supply of food. We carried enough for 2-4 days since many towns in MT didn't have good grocery stores and we tried to avoid eating out to keep costs down. (We didn't skimp on grocery quality, though, since we found that high quality food made a big difference in our well-being, morale, and strength). Guess how long this lasted? (answer below)
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....this lasted only 2 days!!!



Part 3: Beartooth Pass, the highlight!

Beartooth Pass was a vertical mile of climbing, culminating in a beautiful alpine plateau and an 10,900 foot summit. We were used to elevation by this point, and quite strong, so this day was FUN and GORGEOUS! Ok, we were exhausted the next day and ravenous for about 3 days afterwards. A giant breakfast in Gardiner MT a few days finally got us feeling back to normal. It was hard to get meat, eggs, and dairy on this trip, and we felt pretty depleted when we went for more than a few days on a vegetarian diet.

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roadside Peanut butter-jam-butter sandwich break. (our favorite!)
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When we reached the summit, a spectacular thunder/hail storm chased us down!
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Part 4: Yellowstone on Bike
I highly recommend seeing Yellowstone on bike. The scenery is pretty but not overly spectacular, so you'd miss all the details in the car and feel bored driving around the loop and waiting for parking spots. We took 6 days in the park and saw 1 area per day.

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A very common sight in Yellowstone:
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We saw 5 geysers go off, including this one, the Beehive!
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Part 5: Yellowstone to Glacier
This route, following the TransAm, was beautiful with free camping and homestays. The only downside was a headwind almost every day.

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People of all sorts go on bike tours. This guy was almost done crossing the USA, and he and his bike weighed more than Jon, me, and our 2 loaded bikes combined.

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We got to go to many farmers markets, where we got homemade jam, bread, and even 12 farm eggs for $1!! (Eggs kept fine in our panniers. We used them quickly and were careful not to be rough with the bike, and had no mishaps.)
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Finally, we reached Glacier where my family had rented a vacation house and we enjoyed some hiking and relaxation. Below: Jon & his dad
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Below: my family.
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Bottom line: touring is a cheap, wonderful way to see a place slowly, savor the details, and meet people. It is very different than mountaineering, but equally as wonderful. For the rest of this summer, I'm ready to be in some remote alpine areas rather than looking at mountains from afar, but we will definitely do more touring in the future.


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 Post subject: Re: Tour de WA & MT
PostPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 1:17 pm 
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Joined: Thu May 17, 2007 6:11 pm
Posts: 137
Looks awesome! Your pictures make me think again that maybe I should do some bike touring sometime. But riding along highways with cars speeding past me would limit my enjoyment. It sounds like you had a great (and I'm sure sometimes challenging) trip, though. And your food supply looks very tasty :P


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 Post subject: Re: Tour de WA & MT
PostPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 1:23 pm 
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Mountain Rhombus
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Joined: Fri Apr 11, 2008 11:32 am
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Location: Near the taco truck
Sounds like fun...I like your cross-country biking friend. I have a feeling hes not riding on a vegetarian diet.

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 Post subject: Re: Tour de WA & MT
PostPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 1:34 pm 
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Joined: Thu Aug 21, 2008 9:13 pm
Posts: 107
Location: hopefully outside
Most bike tourists over 40 seemed to do the hotel/restaurant route, which could easily surpass $100/day, while the younger set did camping and whisperlites!

I don't think we'll bike in Montana again, as there are probably many areas with quieter farm roads. (Oregon, Europe, parts of WA, etc).


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 Post subject: Re: Tour de WA & MT
PostPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 1:39 pm 
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Dr. Crevasse
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Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2002 11:17 am
Posts: 921
Location: Seattle
What an amazing looking trip! So glad you posted it.

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"It's not safe out here. It's wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross. But it's not for the timid." Q


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 Post subject: Re: Tour de WA & MT
PostPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 6:32 pm 
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Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 9:05 pm
Posts: 146
Having recently been in Yellowstone with a bum car, I can greatly appreciate alternate forms of transportation. Nice post, hope there's more bike touring TRs in the future.


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