By the time you read this (hopefully), April and I will have hopped on our bikes, departing Mt. Vernon, WA and heading eastward up the Skagit River Valley towards the Cascades. We'll be following the Northern Tier bike route for the next week or so, until we dip southward at Colville, WA to head to Spokane. April and I were talking about the ride last night, and despite being away from Portland for nearly two weeks on the road, today really feels like the beginning of the tour.
Now why is that? I can think up a couple reasons. Despite the difficulties so far (knee, handlebars, wheel) the trip has been relatively easy. We've gone through known territory. Towns were always close by, and if all else fails there was plenty of bus service or Amtrak. And taking five days off in Vancouver? It felt like a vacation.
But I think the two biggest reasons why today feels like Day 1 when it is really Day 14 is because now we head east. The whole route from Portland to Vancouver was north, which doesn't feel like you are going cross-country. And now we encounter the real deal: mountains. Yes, Western Washington was moderately hilly, but I doubt we climbed any higher than 600 feet. In just a couple days we'll encounter our first mountain passes, one after the other, Rainy and Washington, both near a mile high. Washington Route 20 will cross three more major passes, each a day or so apart: Loup Loup, Wauconda, and Sherman, before we head south to Spokane. It's kinda like crossing Oregon on the Trans-Am route. You really feel like a "True" touring cyclist after grinding up a mountain pass for hours.
I'll try to keep this thing as updated as possible in the coming days, but I probably won't have an update until we cross the Cascades. Wish us luck.
And this is what awaits us when we reach Glacier National Park in Montana:
|Going-to-the-sun Road. From the National Park Service.|
Hope they get it cleared by the end of the month!