This is part of a series of posts written during my cycle from Vancouver, BC to Minneapolis, MN in June 2013. For the most part I followed the Adventure Cycling Association’s ‘Northern Tier’ Route, but deviated where I saw fit. It was a great experience, read on to find out more…
The sun was shining as I rolled out of motel this morning — a great day to be riding a bike in the mountains. The road quickly pointed skywards, however, as I had to tackle the first pass of the day within the first 15 miles. It was a steep climb of around 3000 feet and I was sweating through my shirt by the time I reached the top. The descent was worth the effort though, and has to count among my best experiences on a bike. The views were spectacular and I zoomed along at 40-50 miles an hour, mountains all around me.
I stopped at the bottom of Loup Loup Pass for a second breakfast, consisting of the finest gas-station chicken tenders — much needed energy to get me through the rest of the morning. After the descent, the route profile showed an easy flat stretch along a valley, before the road again began to twist upwards. I had not counted on a headwind however. I don’t know if it’s experience, or dispensing of panniers in favor of a more aerodynamic rack-less luggage system, but headwinds bother me less than they used to. Don’t get me wrong, they’re still one of the most aggravating parts of long distance cycling, but they don’t have the soul-destroying effect they used to.
It took me a couple of hours to cover the 30 or so miles to the base of Wauconda Pass — including a navigation mishap that saw me carry my bike up a steep embankment to the correct road. Shortly after these antics I passed three other cyclists (the guys I had diner with last night had mentioned there was a group ahead). As always I pulled along side to say hello, but didn’t get much of a response back — they looked like they were suffering with the headwind much worse than I was and each was loaded with four panniers.
I left them to their struggles and, after a lunch break in the tiny town of Tonasket, I was soon pedaling up another mountain pass. Wauconda Pass was not as challenging as this morning’s effort – although the climb was longer and the pass higher, the grade was not as steep and the weather cooler. It began to rain as I neared the top, but this was a welcome respite from the dry air. The eastern Cascades have a different climate to the coast — much drier and more arid — while this makes for nice weather it seems to make a cyclist perpetually thirsty, particularly when he’s pedaling up mountain passes.
From the top of Wauconda Pass I descended to the small town of Republic, picked the first diner I saw and went in for some much needed sustenance. Anybody that knows me will appreciate how rare it is for me order the ‘small’ option on a menu, particularly after a long day’s ride – but that is what I did here. Upon seeing the portions (and the girth) of the other customers, I decided on the small burger — which in itself is the biggest meal I’ve had in a while! After eating I pedaled a few more miles down the road to a campground and set up for the night – I don’t think it’s open for the season yet (odd in June) but nobody seemed to object to me pitching my tent!