Week One : Washington-Idaho-Montana June 14 - 21
Click here to read Matt's newsletter from this week!
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The 4,200 mile journey begins just outside of Seattle, traverses over the snowcapped Cascade Range, ambles through picturesque valleys, and crosses white-water rivers and rolling plains. I'll meander through the semi-arid apple and wine country of central and eastern Washington. After visiting Grand Coulee Dam, The Eighth Wonder of the World, I'll ride the famous "Centennial Trail" to Washington's second largest city, Spokane and head into Idaho, famous for great potatoes and historic timber towns like Sandpoint. Then onto Montana's Garden City, Missoula.
Matt's newsletter from this week:
WEEK OF JUNE 15
Welcome to my RideAcross travelogue!
As many of you know, this summer I will be riding my bicycle 4,200 miles across America in honor and memory of my father. He passed away last April about 2 months before he was to set off on his own transcontinental journey. This summer I'll be completing his dream for him, on his bicycle, starting and finishing with his jersey (but changing clothes along the way.)
Every Sunday I'm going to try to send out one of these emails to let everyone share in my experience, learn about our great country, laugh at my mistakes, smile at my accomplishments, and hopefully think about doing something grand in your own life.
I started in Seattle on June 15th and am now in Missoula Montana - 622 miles in my first week! Check below for pictures and stories!
THIS WEEK'S FUN FACTS
Miles ridden to date: 622
Feet of vertical climbing: 22,750
Espresso / Mocha stops: 15
Stops at the driving range: 1
States: Washington, Idaho, Montana
Favorite Beer: Moose Drool
June 15th - The Tire Dip
Marysville, WA to Skykomish, WA
66 miles with 2185 of climbing
Months of anticipation, weeks of training, days of travel, hours of butterflies in my stomach all lead up to today: today is the start of my journey. I awake to the symphony of zippers from 70+ cyclists escaping their tents at the ungodly hour of 5:00 AM to start our ride to the Pacific for the ceremonial rear tire dip. We're starting our journey just north of Seattle with our rear wheels in the Pacific (okay, it's the Puget Sound, but we're close) and riding 4,200 miles to dip our front wheels in the Atlantic. Across America in 9 weeks, and it's Father's Day...wow.
We ride en masse to the boat launch and all take turns dipping our wheels, feet, and heads, pretty much everything into the Pacific. I took a sample of water that I'm going to carry with me all the way across (yes, I am really looking forward to carrying the water over the mountain passes, thanks for asking). I wanted to bring some Pacific and Atlantic water back home to Rochester and leave it with my father.
We left the boat launch and soon found ourselves winding down narrow backcountry roads, riding three or four abreast, meeting and greeting our new companions for the next 9 weeks. It seems like a great group of people, from all over the world, each with their own story and reason for embarking on this grand journey. I am going to enjoy the people aspect of this trip as much as the riding.
About 10 miles into the morning's ride, we stop at the Airfield Espresso for the first of what will be countless mochas along the trip. I link up with two guys from San Diego (Bob and Steve) who have a great touring philosophy - never pass a mocha - very dangerous in the Pacific Northwest. While we're sipping our drinks, 4 skydivers jump out directly above our heads and wind their way down to land right next to our coffee spot - almost celebrating the start of our journey.
The rest of the day's ride just flew by, gliding through small towns, up and down rolling hills and following a river all the way to Skykomish for our night stop. After arriving in town, we all head to the local tavern for a celebratory beer. I had Mack & Jack's African amber - the micro brews up here are great.
June 16th: Steven's Pass
Skykomish, WA to Wenatchee, WA
77 miles with 4,650 feet climbing
Today was my first real test - Steven's Pass. No messing around when you cross America by bicycle, within 70 miles of leaving the coast, you approach the Cascade Mountains. For all my northeast friends, they just don't make hills like this at home. It was 16 miles of climbing, spinning your pedals for most of the morning, just riding up, up and up until you reach the pass at 4,061 feet above sea level.
Maybe it was adrenaline, the nice company, some great views, or a combination of all three, but I flew up the pass today. Now, flying up a pass is a relative term - it's not like I was Lance Armstrong - but I didn't tip over from lack of forward motion either. I dropped down into my granny triple and spun up at about 6 MPH. I was pretty proud of myself - first test and first victory of the journey. I also stopped to see Harry from Harry and the Henderson's halfway up, got a nice picture.
Unfortunately there was awful construction on the downhill, basically the road was gone for 8 miles (yes, the best 8 miles), so we had to shuttle down (I have made the executive decision that this does not count against my EFI goal), so I got a lift from a nice guy in a pickup truck who drove me through the minefield (I'll make up the 8 miles later when I get lost).
Later that day we rode through the small town of Leavenworth, which is a completely Bavarian style town in the middle of the state of Washington - gingerbread houses and all. It was a project for an MBA class at Wash U, how to revitalize a dying town - it's hopping with tourism now, so well done class.
June 17th: I Didn't Think I Could Do It
Wenatchee, WA to Electric City, WA
98.5 miles and 5150 feet of climbing
Today was possibly the most physically and mentally demanding athletic day I have ever had in my life. We left Wenatchee on our way to the Grand Coulee dam and within 5 miles entered a consistent 15 MPH headwind that stayed with us for the next 95 miles. For all the non cyclists out there, headwinds could be the most physically taxing and mentally frustrating obstacle to overcome - you can't see them, but they are forcing you to work really really hard for very very little. I mean pedaling like mad to go 8 mph. Then you add the climbing, the 95 degree humid heat, the glaring sun and you get the picture of today: it was tough.
The first 20 miles flew by though, yes we were battling headwinds, but I was drafting with Vic and Cynthia (two touring veterans) and keeping a consistent 15 mph pace. Then at about mile 20 we hit an 8 mile 7% climb that saw the scenery change from green and luscious river valley to hot, dry and desolate desert. The air was beating us with hot dust, the sun was frying our bodies and we were pushing like heck to climb towards lunch. We rolled through the desert, fighting the winds, until another 4 mile climb just before lunch. This final climb just about beat me. I was halfway up, completely overheated, still fighting Mother Nature, when I made the decision that I was going win and keep pushing. It was completely mental at this point and I was not going to stop. Eventually I made it, but I was dead tired and only halfway done with the day.
If you can believe it, the afternoon was even tougher. But as I learned today, this trip is all about pulling each other through tough times. I rode all afternoon with Julie, a Tar Heel from NC. I got my first flat about 25 miles from camp in the middle of a 3 mile climb. Julie actually rolled back DOWN the hill to sit with me while I changed my tube, she's a superstar. We spent the last 20 miles fighting the headwinds and constructing our perfect dinner. Yes, we spent 2 hours talking about food and not just any food, we created the meal of a lifetime, filet of beef, garlic horseradish mashed red potatoes, sauteed veggies, and red wine - mmmmm...
When we finally pulled into camp at 6:30 PM (after leaving at 7 AM), we stood at 98.5 miles, just a few circles around the parking lot to make the 100 mile century. BUT, I restrained myself - I have never ridden a century before and I wanted my first to be a real century, none of this riding in circles to make the magical number. The camp was right on the Coulee Reservoir though, so we jumped right in with our cycling clothes on - a great finish to a grueling day.
June 18th: The Realization
Electric City, WA to Spokane, WA
94.5 miles with 2,500 feet of climbing
Today we rode from Electric City to Spokane, WA, a pretty large city in Washington where I was looking forward to meeting up with a friend that I met while traveling in New Zealand. Yes, it's crazy, but I traveled with Jen for a few weeks 15,000 miles away and a few months later I happened to be cycling through her town: small world. We had a great dinner, watched a beautiful sunset and caught up on our lives since returning from abroad - it was great to see you again Jen.
Today was a beautiful day of cycling. It was overcast and in the mid 80's all day, rolling hills, no major climbs. It's amazing, but after yesterday, I considered this a "recovery" day. It happened about halfway through today's ride - I crested the top of a decent climb and looked out onto the green plains of Washington, the road rolled on as far as the eye could see and I realized that I was actually riding my bicycle across America. You see, this is kind of a surreal journey. I know I'm doing it, and I plan to complete it, but riding a bicycle for 9 weeks across America is somewhat unbelievable. When I summited that hill and looked out onto the long stretching plains of the west, I knew it was real, I knew it was believable.
June 19th: Golf Anyone?
Spokane, WA to Sandpoint, ID
92 miles and 2335 feet of climbing
It's funny how our perceptions change in such a short timeframe. Last week, 92 miles would have been my longest single day ever. But today was cool and there were no major climbs - it was a rest day.
We crossed from Washington into Idaho today, the first of our 12 state crossings. I had a fun time climbing on the state sign - check out the picture to the right. At lunch today, I bought a whiffle ball and bat - now that I have a little energy when I get into camp at the end of the day, I'm looking forward to playing some whiffleball with the crew. I could go on for hours about my passion for whiffleball, but I digress. Today I also stopped at a driving range and played a little golf - yes I played in my spandex, Lycra and cycling cleats - Judge Smails would have been mortified (smile if you got that reference, you're in the minority)
June 20th: Lost an Hour
Sandpoint, ID to Thomson Falls, MT
91 miles 2685 feet climbing
This whole time zone thing is going to get old very quickly. We lost an hour today - I was just riding along, enjoying the day, when all of a sudden I was an hour behind. This wouldn't be a problem for most people, but due to my riding style, it became slightly problematic - allow me to elaborate.
There are different types of riders on this trip. There is one group that leaves before breakfast (around 6:00 AM) and hammers to the next camp, they usually arrive early in the afternoon and have tons of time to relax - I have yet to meet these people.
Then there is my riding nucleus: we leave on the later side of 7:30 and stop for pretty much everything. We stop for mochas, for pictures, for golf, for most towns, for a lot of bars, for pretty much any reason we can find to get off the bikes and see America. When we ride, we go along at a pretty good pace, average of 16 mph or so, but it takes us all day to get to the next camp. We enjoy the journey and are in no rush to get to the destination. BUT, we still want dinner, which is served at 5:30 - hence my problem with losing an hour.
Anyway, today's ride was great. We rolled through tons of small towns and passed into our third state - Montana.
June 21st: My first Century!!
Thomson Falls, MT to Missoula, MT
103 miles with 3250 feet of climbing
Today was the day; I rode over 100 miles in a single day for the first time in my life. This is sort of a rite of passage for all cyclists, and today I conquered it in style. Before I go into detail, a little background for you all: I do not really consider myself a cyclist yet. I just started riding again last year after my father passed away (I used to ride a 10 speed in my early teens). This week I will have put on more miles than I rode all year and in week 3, I will have ridden more miles than I have in my entire life, so to complete 100 miles in a day was a big accomplishment for me. I think my Dad would have been really proud.
Cyclists love to name things, so I'll call this the Quad H Century: Hills, Headwinds, Hypothermia and Hail. Yes, Mother Nature was not very kind to me on my first century; I was pelted with rain and hail most of the morning and fought headwinds all afternoon. The temperate hovered around 40 most of the morning and climbed into the high 50's in late afternoon - very cold riding. But I did it. I rode with Steve from San Diego all day, and finally while entering the town of Missoula Montana, I reached 100.00 on my cyclometer, see the picture to the right!
Well it's over, what a first week, 622 miles, thousands of feet of climbing, a great group of people and 8 more weeks ahead. I am a very fortunate guy.
So if you got this far, it means I actually did okay with my first attempt at a travelogue! But I always like to do better, so please reply to this email and send me suggestions, comments, what you liked and didn't. Thanks for reading and here's to tailwinds!
Gentleman, start your engines
So is this caffeine stuff addictive?
It's all downhill to Boston, right?
Harry standing guard
It's 100+ degrees, we've ridden 95 miles, I'm halfway up a 3 miles climb, I get a flat...and I smiling. Am I insane?
I like this shot
Just about when I realize I'm really doing it
Who-da-ho? (thanks L&T)
Tiger, here I come
Hey, maybe I'll hold my bike above my head a lot this summer, good idea?
Introducing Curious Jorge, my buddy for the summer, celebrating my first century ever!
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