Bike Journeys of Solution 2.0

Wolf Point, MT to Glendive, MT; 93 miles, partly cloudy, 15-20 mph winds from the west

Today’s ride headed south on MT 13 for 40 miles or so. There was a cross wind, it was quite hilly but the road surface was good, and there was light traffic. Scattered showers were predicted and of course I was rained on for about 300 yards as I approached Circle, MT where we had lunch in a nice local deli. The plan was to continue riding for another 20 miles or so toward the bigger town of Glendive and then do a shuttle for an overnight stay. Well, the route turned east on MT 200 S at Circle and it was tailwind heaven.  There was one long climb to a high spot at about 55 miles but then it was downhill or level thereafter with a tailwind push. I do not recall any past rides where I had such favorable conditions for so long. I literally was coasting for minutes at a time at 20+ mph. All I had to do is hang on. So we easily made it all the way to Glendive for the evening. The landscape changed as we headed east from wheat fields to drier range land. The Yellowstone River goes through Glendive and I crossed it on an old road bridge converted to a bike path.

Glasgow, MT to Wolf Point, MT; 67 miles, sunny, W wind, and 50-70’s

A very welcome change in the weather today, just perfect biking conditions. The route today continued to follow US 2 east for the first 20 miles, then followed quiet back roads until almost reaching Wolf Point at 50 miles. The back roads are a relief from the erratic US 2 shoulders and fast traffic. We finally are leaving US 2 behind at Wolf Point after following it for 460 miles from West Glacier. The locals call US 2 the “Hi-Line”, I guess because it is the main travel route across northern Montana. Many businesses are branded with the name. We have also seen signs that urge support for “Four for 2” to make it into a four lane road. From personal experience I think there is much they could do to just improve the current two lane version. We now turn south for 100 miles before continuing east again. The Northern Tier route we are following used to continue on US 2 across North Dakota but was changed a few years back due to unsafe biking conditions through the Williston, ND oil boom region. We are also leaving the railroad behind with its frequent passing trains. I rode a little extra past Wolf Point as tomorrow is a long stretch between towns. In so doing we crossed the Missouri River.

Wagner, MT to Glasgow, MT; 80 miles, rain, NW winds 15-20 mph, 50’s

The good news is there was a strong tailwind all day. The bad news is it rained almost all day and I had not one but two flats. Those little stones on wet shoulders are the problem. Plus it is past time to put on new tires. Further the first flat was between towns and my bike pump failed so I had to SOS my SAG driver for assistance. However, that led to a pleasant experience of lunch in a very nice cafe run by a very nice lady in the town of  Hindsdale.  The second flat was in the overnight town of Glasgow so no big deal. It turns out that Galsgow is close enough to the Williston, ND oil patch that we had a little trouble finding a place to stay. I will be doing bike maintenance tonight; tires, clean, and lub. And a new pump was purchased in Galsgow.

Harlem, MT to Wagner, MT; 42 miles, rain, wind, and 40’s

Today was not a great weather day. In fact it made me homesick for Rochester weather in early April. We were confronted with a good old fashioned low pressure Northeaster. Light to moderate rain at first that became heavier midday. Light wind out of the NW at first growing to 25 MPH with higher gusts. Not much to block it around here. For awhile it was okay riding with the tailwind. I layered up with all of my rain and cycling gear and was wet but warm enough. However, as the shoulder narrowed and the wind gusts increased we decided to abandon the ride 8 miles short of our goal of Malta, MT where we are staying. It didn’t seem prudent to keep riding in those conditions as the wind surge of passing large trucks threatened to knock me off the road. The forecast calls for more rain tomorrow so we shall see how much forward progress we can make. Photo credits to the SAG driver, I wasn’t in the mood.

We had one of those road experiences that you can only get cycle touring. Lunch time is usually around 10:30-11:00. Sally found a store in Dodson, MT and talked the elderly owner into keeping the store open for us. He was very gracious to let us bring the bike in and dry off, and eat our lunch with some drinks we bought from him. It’s Friday so we will be having prime rib for dinner tonight. We have Friday fish fry in NY, in MT they have prime rib.

Kremlin, MT to Harlem, MT; 62 miles, mostly cloudy, head/tail winds, light afternoon shower, 40-50’s

A cold front came through last night so cooler temperatures. Snow in the mountains so we dodged that bullet. Today’s route for the most part was FLAT along the Milk River valley. There are some trees so it actually looks like Iowa river bottoms in some ways for you RAGBRAI veterans. As you may have noticed the route is paralleled by the BNSF rail line. There are constant freight trains passing to provide entertainment. Amtrak also uses the line. Lower mileage today because I actually had to pedal all day instead of those welcome free miles of coasting downhill. We are staying tonight in Chinook, MT. The distance between towns with overnight accommodations don’t nicely align with the distance I want to cover each day so we do the shuttle to and from end/start points.

Shelby, MT to Kremlin, MT; 78 miles, partly cloudy, 50-70’s, strong tailwind

Wonderful tailwind all day today, this west to east thing is working out well so far (I know sooner or later there will be headwind). The ride continued east across the plains. There are some cattle ranches but now we are seeing vast wheat fields, some planted, some fallow. There are little towns about every 10 miles or so to mark progress. I saw one pronghorn antelope prance across the road in front. Very low traffic at first but it picked up after noon. Another ferry was required to get through nine miles of road construction gravel and mud. I did a lot of coasting today, as the elevation slowly drops. The small complaint I have is the shoulder width varies from wide and rideable to narrow with the ever present rumble strip. The latter is essentially unrideable so one must ride along the white line. We are staying in Havre tonight, the nearest town with any services. The ride will resume tomorrow in Kremlin, 18 miles west. The last photo was taken at our lunch spot in Chester, MT.

East Glacier to Shelby, MT; 72 miles, sunny, tailwind, then a PM storm

Today’s weather was a tale of two extremes. The ride started in fair weather with a 10-15 mph tailwind. The route will follow US RT 2 for several days. The terrain is gently rolling plains. What a contrast to the last two weeks of forests and mountains. The road has varying width shoulders with the danged rumble strips near the traffic lane. The traffic itself is light. All and all the AM went well to arrive in Cut Bank, MT after 47 miles.  Looking back you could see the mountains disappearing in the mirror. After a quick lunch the goal was to ride another 24 miles to reach Shelby for the overnight. Scattered storms were predicted and there was one off in the distance that didn’t look too threatening. Well, said storm caught up with me about 6 miles from Shelby. Wind and rain of course, a few lightening flashes, but the worst was hail. I was pelted with hail big enough to raise welts on my back as bent over after stopping to protect myself, and a lump on my head. Fortunately a guy stopped and let me get in his car until the worst was over. We learned our lesson, the SAG driver needs to stay closer when there is threatening weather. The storms out here don’t mess around.

East Glacier, MT;  0 miles, partly cloudy 60’s

Today was a rest day so we toured Glacier NP and did some short trail walks. Wildlife sightings included a moose and a herd of mountain sheep. We had dinner tonight in a great Mexican restaurant called Serrano’s just around the corner. We invited a young German woman to join us at dinner who has been hiking the Continental Divide Trail. She made it as far as Colorado before snow stopped her. She hitched up here to try going south from Canada. I think she will run into the same problem going south. Some photos from today.

West Glacier, MT to East Glacier, MT; 57 miles, mostly cloudy, 50-60’s

Today’s route followed US Highway 2 over the Continental Divide at Marias Pass at 5216′. If you read yesterday’s blog post you might remember I called it easier than Logan Pass in Glacier NP. Easier turned out to be relative. While the net elevation gain was roughly 2000′, the actual climbing elevation gain over the 43 miles to the pass was 5500′. Let’s just say that I am tired tonight. RT 2 carried more traffic than I expected. I think much of it was local people returning from their weekend camping trips at the end of the weekend. Part way up was the town of Essex. We smartly met there at 9:30 and had a nice breakfast at the Izaak Walton Inn just off the route. I started at 7 after a first breakfast of a banana and those little powdered donuts you can buy at convenience stores. Not enough, so breakfast number two saved my bacon so to speak. I sometimes find it hard to eat enough while riding. Tonight we are staying in East Glacier and had dinner at the Glacier Park Lodge on the other side of the tracks. Earlier I had an Indian Taco at a local Indian run stand as a snack. It is a taco with Indian flat bread. Tomorrow is a needed zero mile rest day and we will visit Glacier NP. The mountain passes are now behind us as we begin the long trek across the great plains. It is all down hill from here!

Fortine, MT to West Glacier, MT; 69 miles, sunny, brief afternoon shower, 70’s high

The route today followed US Highway 93 for 30 miles or so to Whitefish, MT with one stretch of delightful side road through flattish range and farm land. 93 is a heavily traveled road but on a Saturday there was less traffic and no semi-trucks. The shoulder is narrow but adequate in most places. However, there was one stretch just before Whitefish that is hilly, curvy,  rough, and without a shoulder. I hope this was the worst stretch of road on the trip not to be repeated. Just before West Glacier the route included 2-3 miles of gravel not suited to my skinny road bike tires. I was ferried across it. Now for you naysayers who will claim I didn’t do the whole distance, my response is that it’s my ride and I can make the rules! No different than taking a ferry across a body of water in my opinion.

After dinner, we drove as far as you can into Glacier Park and did a short hike. The Going-to-the-Sun highway is closed before Logan Pass as they are still removing snow. It makes my decision to take the alternative route over the much easier Marias Pass guilt free.

We have now met some fellow bikers. A father and his seven year old son who is riding his own bike. They started from Seattle. A solo rider from Picton, ON who is self sustained and riding as far as Minneapolis. And finally a couple from Seattle who are riding to Boston.

Koocanusa Lodge to Fortine, MT;  60 miles, sunny with scattered afternoon thundershowers, 60-70’s

Today’s route followed MT State Route 37 for 40 miles along Lake Koocanusa to the town of Eureka and then on to the small town of Fortine. We are staying in Eureka. There were afternoon thundershowers in the area but they missed me while riding. Just a few claps of thunder in the distance. Today was an exercise of going up a few hundred feet and then going down, and repeat. I lost track of how many times. For fun I mapped the route to learn I climbed 4300 feet. Not a bad day’s work. I have been cautious on the descents. The shoulders of major highways in MT have rumble strips about a foot into the shoulder that leaves about two feet of clear shoulder. The shoulders tend to be “dirty” with small stones and chunks of wood from the logging trucks. While there is light traffic, riding in the driving lane is risky unless there is a clear sight line. So unfortunately, you can’t always let it rip.

Cabinet Range view point on MT 56 to Koocanusa Lodge, 61 miles, sunny 60-90’s

The route today went through just one town, Libby MT. Libby was our lunch spot at the town park. The rest of the route followed highways and back roads in fairly remote areas with no services or even many residences. Only one 500′ climb but at the end of day when it was hot. It has been in the high 80’s pushing 90 in the afternoons. (Sorry about all that rain in the ROC.) For awhile the route followed a major rail line so the occasional train provided some entertainment. Hundreds of containers from China and Korea judging by the names. Life is simple on the road.  Also we finally saw two other loaded cyclists on the route today so I am not the only one pursuing this endeavor. The last part of the route paralleled Lake Koocanusa which is a reservoir behind a dam of the the Koocanusa River. The route will follow it for another 35 miles,  Luckily, in this remote area there was a lodge just off the route at the right distance I wanted to cover. We are in Cabin #8 at the Lake Koocanusa Resort. And they have a restaurant! But there is no Internet so this will be posted tomorrow.

In other news, Denise from Woman Tours ( a Rochester company) is scouting the route for a future trip. She was in the group with Sally when Sally rode cross country in 2006. She knew were we riding and caught up with us today for a short chat.

Sandpoint ID to Cabinet Range view point on MT 56, 61 miles, sunny 70-90’s

The route today followed ID State Route 200 into Montana. Some truck traffic and narrow shoulders but most drivers are courteous and pass with a wide berth. The route is following river valleys so no major climbs, just a few hills of a 100 -200 feet at a time. I had a wonderful stop at a local bakery for a cherry turnover. We have now gained back an hour as MT is in the Mountain Time Zone. Ten miles east of the  the state line, the route turned north on MT State Route 56 along the crystal clear Bull River. It just looks like a classic MT trout stream. This is a very nice ride, light traffic, a few hills, and views of high mountains in the distance. The end of the ride was dictated by the mileage goal as there are no services of any kind along Route 56. We are staying 18 miles away from the finish of today’s ride near Noxon, MT, in a motel that is part of a convenience store operation. The only food available was in a local bar, Toby’s Tavern. What a cool place, 50+ years of memorabilia from floor to ceiling. This is the value of having a support vehicle. Thanks Sally. Note the photo of the old cars lining the edge of a quarry along RT 200. You never know what may pop up next.

Newport WA to Sandpoint ID, 35 miles, sunny and 70’s

Today’s ride was a “rest day” as we needed to recharge the batteries and take care of some chores like laundry and an oil change for the truck. Sandpoint is on Lake Pend Oreille, a large lake (reservoir). It is somewhat of a resort town and the largest town we have been in since the start, and the largest town we will see for awhile. In addition to the chores we relaxed at the town beach and then drove up to the Mt Schweitzer ski area for a view of the lake and valley. The ride itself was hilly in places with a finish on a bike trail that has seen better days.

Tacoma Creek Rd to Newport WA, 72 miles, mostly sunny 50-70s

The day started with a nice 1000′ descent and then the rest of the day’s riding was welcome flat with some rolling hills on a quiet side road along the Pend Oreille River. Occasionally there are wildlife sightings, mostly mule deer. Today it was a turkey hen with her brood of at least ten chicks, not that I stopped to count. Cyclists among you know that occasionally there are close encounters with insects as you ride along. Today I had a bee fly into my open shirt. As I was madly flaying around to squash it before it could sting me, a logging truck passed me of course. Just another day in the saddle. The route briefly crossed over into Idaho and then back into WA as we are staying in a nice B&B in Newport WA. Newport is right on the border. Tomorrow we leave WA behind for good, one state down. For the week we have come 435 miles, right on schedule. The photo is our lunch spot.

Sherman Pass to Tacoma Creek Rd (Ione); 62 miles, mostly sunny, 40-70s

Best way to start a day is a 20 mile descent from Sherman Pass. The pass sported a little fresh snow along the sides of the road at 8 AM. We had a little bit of a late start as we had breakfast at a guest ranch a few miles from Republic where we stayed last night to let it warm up a bit at the pass. The large main lodge was constructed out of logs from the property by the owners. Very much a cowboy motif in every way including all of the staff dressed in cowboy gear, hat included. The route crossed the Columbia River ( Roosevelt Lake) at Kettle Falls, then on to Colville for lunch in a lush green town park with large trees. The balance of the ride continued on side roads and WA Rt 20, climbing in stages 1500 feet through ranches and then forest. We are staying tonight in Ione with a nice view of the Pend Oreille River. We are only 20 miles from the Canadian border.

Talkire Lake Road to Sherman Pass (Republic), 52.4 miles, mostly cloudy, scattered showers, 40-60s

So not so many miles today but for good reason. It was a two pass day. Wauconde Pass (4310 ft) was first up, 22 miles up but with some flat sections, an elevation gain of ~2000 feet. Then a descent to Republic, where we are spending the night. We arrived just in time to catch their annual Prospectors’ Day celebration. Music, arts and crafts, food trucks, a gun fight reenactment on Main St, a beard contest, a parade, and so much more. After lunch Sally enjoyed the festival while I tackled the second pass. This climb was challenging, 3000 ft in elevation gain over 16 miles to Sherman Pass at 5575 feet. If I remember right, this will be the highest point of the entire trip, so glad to have it behind me.  It will be last pass of any consequence for the next few days. Lot’s of pasta for dinner tonight. The photos are from the road today and one of the parade.

Upper Beaver Creek Road (Twisp) to Talkire Lake Road (Tonasket), 65 miles, partly cloudy, threatening storms, 40-60’s

Another day, another pass to cross. This one is called Loup Loup Pass at 4020 feet. The climb gained 2000 feet in about 7.5 miles, so a  steady up. After the climb it was essentially all downhill the rest of the day. After the descent the route followed the Okanogan River valley. There were large thunderheads on all sides but we managed to thread the needle so no rain. The valley landscape is open range land with orchards. We enjoyed fresh picked cherries for lunch. One of the “perks” of this experience is the fact that you burn plenty of calories. On a typical day like today I probably burned 3000+. That means that you need to replenish those calories. We try to eat in local restaurants. Tonight in Tonasket it was Shannons. The Friday night special is prime rib with garlic mashed potatoes, broccoli with cheese, salad, and garlic bread.  Clean plate for me.

Easy Pass CG to Upper Beaver Creek Rd (Twisp, WA); 59 miles; 40’s up high, 60’s in the valley, cloudy and then sunny, mostly tailwinds.

The day started with a 6 mile climb to Rainy Pass at 4855 feet in North Cascades NP. The Pacific Crest Trail crosses here. We thought about you Jim R. I arrived in snow flurries, how cool is that. Then a short down and another 4 mile climb to Washington Pass at 5477 feet. My climbing speed is slow these days. Then the descent – fairly steep and cold at the beginning, then more gradual and warmer at lower elevations. In fact the last 30 miles of the ride were basically downhill. Lunch at the Mazama General Store around the corner from where we stayed last night. The ride ended just east of Twisp 5 miles up the next pass that will be tackled first thing tomorrow. We are thinking pizza for dinner tonight. One other thing, the skies are hazy up high from fires in Canada. Some photos from the road.

Concrete WA to Rainy Pass (almost); 70 miles, mostly cloudy, 50-60s, brief showers, mostly tailwind

The first half of the day continued east along the Skagit River valley on Rt 20 and one long side road, with a very gentle continuous climb. A pleasant ride through tall evergreen forest. The traffic was light and the shoulders were reasonably wide. I have one of those bright flashing tail lights to make me visible. I met the SAG driver for lunch at the North Cascades NP visitor center. Lunch equals PB&J, an apple, some chips, and many cookies. The second half of the day involved several steeper climbs of 400-500 feet but then an unfortunate drop to lose the elevation gained as the road dipped into stream drainages. The goal was to reach Rainy Pass with a stretch goal the next next pass, Washington Pass. The climb was moderate with step sections. Time and energy ended the quest about five miles short of the goal. We always start the next day from the exact location from which we left off the day before. We are just below the snow line, and there is plenty of snow in the higher elevations. That means there are many waterfalls with plenty of water. When riding by one close the road you get a blast of cold air like opening a refrigerator door. Tonight and last night WIFI service was only available outdoors. Tonight I am writing from a picnic table, last night is was a basketball court.

Scenes from the road. Seattle Power and Light has a series of dams for hydro electric power that creates large reservoirs.

Anacortes to Concrete WA, 55 miles, fair with a tailwind.

And so it begins. On the first day of riding we started at the ferry terminal in Anacortes WA on Puget Sound. We will be following Adventure Cycling’s Northern Tier route. The riding started later than will be the usual case at 10 AM as we drove to the start from Kirkland. Thanks to Kurt, Jill, Liam, and Henry for hosting us last night. The route today was varied with lots of directions to navigate, traversing neighborhoods, bike paths, quiet country roads, and busy highways. The route will follow WA 20 for most of the way across WA. This first day will be the most congested and urban area for quite a while as we head east. Unfortunately, I had to deal with a flat tire at the end of the ride. Hopefully, that will get it over with for many miles to come. Of course one reward for a day of cycling is food; buffalo meat stroganoff  and “forest berry” pie.

In case you may be wondering how did we get here, I drove our truck out over six days and Sally flew in yesterday. She needed to support the Nellis Tavern Rhubarb fest.

Hello, I am Bob, President of Journeys of Solutions. In 2009 I biked from Yorktown VA to San Francisco with vehicle support from my wife Sally in what I called Bike Journeys of Solutions. Why? Well because I had always wanted to ride across the country, and it was an opportunity to raise some funds for Journeys of Solutions. We had such a great experience that I have been thinking about doing it one more time ever since. After ten years we decided this is the year, Bike Journeys of Solutions 2.0.

The route will go west to east, starting in Anacortes WA back to Rochester, and then hopefully on to finish in Bar Harbor, ME. The route goes through the states of Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ontario (Canada), New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and finally Maine.

I will be maintaining this blog to document the trip. Once again I encourage readers to consider supporting Journeys of Solutions with a donation. If you are new to Journeys of Solutions, check out our web site at www.journeysofsolutions.org.

If all goes according to plan, the ride will start on Tuesday 6/4. Check this space for the first day’s post.