Moose Turd Pie

Riding into Spokane, I’m thinking of one of Spokane’s best (well, two, actually). U. Utah Phillips, “The Golden Voice of the Great Southwest” (1935-2008) spent time here and used to tell stories of Spokane, including the free speech movement of 1909-10 here.

Phillips also had a special relationship with trains, lamenting their disappearance from the landscape with the song, “Daddy, What’s a Train?” He also sang cowboy songs. My friend Cripps had a U. Utah Phillips songbook and I recall sitting around the kitchen table late one night, Cripps playing his autoharp as we sang together “The Goodnight-Loving Trail“. I’m not sure why writing this blog keeps bringing me back to friends who have died, but Cripps has been gone since about 1980.

I really brought up The Golden Voice for his story of working as a Gandy Dancer on the railroad, and how they decided who had to cook each night:

RubyThe other Spokane friend has 4 legs. Cathy, who raises and trains horses (and trains kids and dogs) in Wisconsin, keeps talking about going back to Spokane. Here is her horse, Scarlet Spokana, AKA Ruby.


But enough about Spokane to come, what about the ride that I just finished?

I haven’t ridden a century in 25 years (BC, for the parents among you). Today came with an early climb of >7 miles. The accompanying picture is about ⅔ of the way up. Sorry, Tim, no smile again. Luckily it was about 7:30 AM for that picture, or I’d have looked much worse. The thermometer on my bike read 90 at mile 90. I can’t vouch for the accuracy.7a19d431-8eeb-45de-adeb-646f6088bbc7.jpeg

Like my 12 year old self (see the post “My Origin Story” – I’m too lazy to add the link today), I had some great ideas on the road, none of which I remember. I wrote a hilarious post that no one will read.

This ride had a couple of big climbs and descents, and mile after mile of high plains desolation, beautiful in its own way. Sometimes the road seemed to go on forever. We ended with a long descent to Grand Coulee Dam. To get to Spokane we have to climb back out.

FA8F4E33-6F01-4917-843B-49E406D28D38I won’t show you odometer shots every day; that would be boring – but today calls for it.

Somehow, I see yesterday’s red caboose photo didn’t make the final edit. I’m sitting outside today, away from all other devices, and it seems to be working better. Even the PS apologizing for the technical problems failed to make it to the version (I assume) you see. It was in my last editor’s view but gone when I looked at the post this morning.

So I’ll try to attach that photo again, with another plug for the world’s greatest day care center. You can read all about it in “The Goodbye Window” by Harriet Brown.

Tomorrow, into Idaho for the solstice.

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.