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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Helens-Rainier-Seattle-Vashon Tour 2012: Reflections

A hazy Mt. St. Helens
Hello friends! It's the end of the year, so time to do some housecleaning and also to reflect on 2012. I realized that I never wrote a wrap-up to this tour, so enjoy! 

The Helens-Rainier-Seattle-Vashon Tour was most definitely my most up and down tour of 2012, literally and figuratively. This tour had the most mountains, the most passes (three, plus a climb up to Paradise in Rainier). The elevation went from sea level at Vashon to Paradise at 5,500 feet (1,675 m) above sea level. It had the best scenery which varied between the Cascades and Puget Sound islands. Stevens Canyon Road was definitely my riding highlight of the year; I've never been to Europe but I can imagine riding through the Alps would be somewhat similar to this.

While overall the tour was good, I did reach some low points emotionally and physically. The mountain riding was for the most part harder than I expected, even after being warmed up with climbing by the Hood-Adams-Helens tour in July. I tackled Oldman Pass on that tour and found it challenging but not impossible. Yet the second time around Oldman really kicked my ass. I thought the second time you do something it gets easier, but no. I constantly found myself behind Todd on all the climbs. This wasn't good for my ego.

And Seattle. I really do like Seattle, but I get a weird vibe sometimes. And some folks like to go out of their way to let me know they have a low opinion of Portland. While this doesn't happen every time I visit, it has happened enough, starting the very first time I visited the Emerald City in October of 2001, just six months after I moved to Portland. My hosts told me that Portland was "dirty" and they could just never imagine living there. I don't know why some Seattle-ites have such a low opinion of Portland, as the two Cascadian cities are more similar than they are different. Maybe that's why? Or maybe because Portland has received all the attention in the aughts when the spotlight was on Seattle in the nineties?* I don't know.
Mt. Rainier from Stevens Canyon Road

On this trip it wasn't the put down, but one of my friends pointed out the issues he had with certain people/groups the last time he was down in Portland. This thrust me in the role of defender/explainer/apologist/what-have-you. I'm not trying to invalidate his bad experiences, but I haven't heard him say many positive things about Portland in the past, in fact he bluntly told me "Portland sucks" once.

And I don't think I've had a worse closing to a bike tour: food poisoning. Getting back home was an excruciating ordeal, and once I got home I was laid up in bed for a day and a half with a 101F fever.

Okay, enough dwelling on the bad. On the good side, this tour furthered my goal of exploring new areas, areas around the Northwest I hadn't been to before. There's still more though: while I feel I've seen a good deal of Washington and Oregon east of the Cascades, there's a heck of a lot of east-of-Cascades stuff that I need to explore. And southern Oregon, too. I've only been to one Gulf Island, and none of the San Juans. Heck, I've only scraped the tip of mainland BC and a bit of Vancouver Island. Looks like I got my work cut out for me.
Green River Gorge.

*It won't matter anymore, as the teens will totally be Spokane's decade, right?


  1. Sorry about your food poisoning.

    It's unfortunate that happened, in the first place. Though, I'm sure you're thankful that it happened at the end of the tour.

    1. True, as food poisoning in the middle would have meant either laying in a tent for two days while it's 100F outside, or scuttling the trip. Though I wish it didn't happen at all.

  2. My money is on Tacoma. Be that as it may, geocentrism is the benchmark of the untravelled. Once you get around enough, you find out that EVERY place sucks, and thus the reason for the existence of Heaven, which place for cyclists, I hear, is Portland. So there ya go.

    I'm glad we had a chance to work this out.

    yer frnd in logistics and geography, tj

    btw: we have a friend in seattle who just started a booger.

    1. I'm the opposite. I get around enough and find every place is awesome. Well, not really, but I do find a lot of good aspects in various places. Even LA. Even...Winnipeg.


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