Stevens Pass – over the Cascades

An even earlier start today. Up at 5:15 to pack up soaking wet tents. Breakfast at the same restaurant where we had dinner last night.

We left town and immediately headed towards Stevens Pass. At 5 miles I said to myself, “mountain? That ain’t no mountain!“ At 10 miles I said to myself,

“now that’s a mountain!”At 15 miles I passed an overheated car drawing water from a waterfall to cool it down.That made me feel better. I realized that I’m stronger than a PT Cruiser.

At the summit I was happy to start heading down, even though it was going to be chilly.

Like yesterday, most of the most picturesque spots were in places where there was no way I would get off my bike or even reach for a camera. Most of those pictures will have to stay in my head.

There were a few opportunities to pull off for some sightseeing. I walked over Deception Falls on a vertigo-inducing steel mesh bridge.

  1. I stopped at an interpretive center where there was an old red caboose on display. I took a picture in honor of the world’s greatest Daycare center.

At the end of the descent there was a rest area offering free coffee, ostensibly to keep drivers from falling asleep. Falling asleep wasn’t the issue, but the caffeine was just the fuel I needed to make it to the lunch stop.

After lunch we rode through Leavenworth (not the penitentiary, but a German tourist town.) There was an accordion player in the town square. I stopped to listen to a waltz and a polka. A few miles out of town I got another rest break when I got a flat tire.

After fixing the flat I followed one of our mechanics (who also gets to ride) up Deadman Hill, said to be a favorite of local cyclists. Each evening we get a detailed briefing of the next day’s ride. Our guide neglected to mention that it is actually two hills. He grinned slyly when I pointed that out at the end of the day.

After ~70 miles yesterday and ~80 miles today, we up the ante to >100 miles tomorrow.


Day one is in the books!

Our day started at 5:45. Stuff in the trucks by 6:15, breakfast at 6:30, then on the road. We rode to a park and boat landing in beautiful Mukilteo to dip our rear tires in the Pacific, per tradition. Per my own brand-new tradition, I scooped up a vial of Pacific Ocean and sealed it with candle wax. I plan to break the seal and pour it into the Atlantic in 9 weeks.

Fifteen miles later we were back where we started, proving this is the scenic, not the fast, route. Greg told us last night the route used to be >5000 miles; they’ve shortened it.

We rode gorgeous back roads in perfect weather until our lunch stop, which came at 10 for me and I was hungry!

At 10:30 we rolled through the town of Startup. While I thought this was where all of the Silicon Valley start-ups originated, it turned out to be where we start up the mountains to Stevens Pass.

We rode US Highway 2. For you young whippersnappers, before the advent of the Interstate, this was the main northern east-west route across the US. I-94 replaced it. US-2 is a two lane road and the shoulders disappear at every bridge. Cars whiz by at 60 mph, with the guard rail right at the white line in places.

I paced myself for the first half of the day, to be sure I didn’t head out too fast in my excitement. That stretch of 2 gave me little choice. I made anaerobic sprints across the bridges. A short tunnel (with no shoulder) came with no traffic behind me, so that went well.


We are now in the town of Skykomish. We’re told the entire town is a Superfund site. This is where the Burlington Northern trains stop to take on extra locomotives to get them over the pass. Apparently they dumped and/or leaked excess diesel fuel into the ground here for many years and if you dug a hole it would fill with diesel. Greg says every building in town (except the high school where we’re staying) was moved, the top 30 feet of soil removed and replaced, and the buildings put back. A pumping system was installed under the school to clean it out. The field where my tent is pitched is supposed to be new fill.

Today’s mileage & finishing time.

Tomorrow morning we go up and over Stevens Pass. Short and steep, then a long downhill.

Addendum: I went for a walk, found “The Whistling Post”, and had a beer. I met these folks and promised they would appear here if they let me take their picture. They, in turn, will follow this blog. They tell me we’ll climb 3100 feet in our first 19 miles tomorrow.

The consensus from the people I met was that we were nuts to ride the stretch we did today.

Monday morning:

Roll up!

We hit the road today!

Enough talk! Let’s ride!

But if you need another fix of the Beatles (in phenomenal cover versions), visit:

OK, I gotta add to an earlier post about 1968. We were discussing the Mexico City Olympics and the fact that John Carlos and Tommie Smith were kicked off the US Olympic team and sent home after winning gold and bronze. As Paul Harvey used to say, “here’s the rest of the story”, thanks to Dave Zirin in the Progressive.

The silver medalist was Australian Peter Norman. He wore a button reading “Olympic Project for Human Rights” on the podium that day, standing in solidarity with the two black athletes with whom he shared that podium.

He was ostracized in Australia and left off the next Olympic team. When San Jose State University erected a statue to Carlos and Smith, they left the silver medal spot empty. Carlos said he would have nothing to do with the statue if it did not honor Norman. Norman then told him that the spot was left empty at his (Norman’s) request so visitors “can climb the statue and stand where I stood and feel what it felt for me to be a part of history.”

When he died in 2006, Smith and Carlos were pallbearers at his funeral. And that’s the rest of the story. Sorry, no time to add links. Time to check out of the hotel and meet the Cycle America gang.

Here is our route for week one.

We’re in Everett, Washington.The mountains are in sight. Sunday morning we will dip our tires in the Pacific. (I will also seal up a vial of Pacific Ocean water to take across the country. When we ceremoniously dip our tires in the Atlantic, I will add the Pacific water to the Atlantic.) I am wearing a shirt given to me by Curtis to honor his memory. For those who haven’t read that post, he was my riding partner for my last supported tour.

My bike arrived safely. (It came out in the Cycle America trailer.) I took it for a short ride this afternoon. It goes, it stops, it shifts. The motor seems a little weak.


Hit the road, Jack!

Tomorrow is the day! I’m in Seattle, enjoying the fabulous view from an airport hotel, no need to unpack and repack everything. If I forgot it, I probably don’t really need it.

We meet in the hotel lobby at 10:30 and head to Everett.

I left Madison in a thunderstorm. We headed due east before turning south to Chicago, in order to miss most of it.

After a walk around the neighborhood near the Seattle airport, I ran into some other riders in the hotel lobby. As one of them mentioned, we from the US appear to be in the minority. I met one person from Melbourne, Australia, one from Dublin, Ireland, one from Niagara Falls, Ontario, and one from Minnesota. The Australian and Canadian rode across Canada together two years ago and are now opting for this shorter ride. For all of you who have asked, they tell me there will be 24 of us on the ride. I’ll know for sure when we all meet up Saturday.

And for the soccer fans out there, while waiting for my room to be ready, I watched Spain and Portugal play to a 3-3 tie in a World Cup match. Cristiano Ronaldo scored all of Portugal’s goals, the last on a beautiful free kick:

And, finally, how you know you aren’t in Kansas anymore: