Pacific Crest Trail & Death Valley


Fall 2009


Denis Kertz, ©2009


Day 0: Sun, Sep 06, 2009 - Naperville, IL to Seattle, WA

My friend Dave picked me up and drove me to Midway Airport for my 1:30 pm flight on Southwest Airlines to Seattle.  Everything went smoothly and the flight arrived about 40 minutes early.  Because the flight was early I was able to catch a 4:00 pm Airporter to downtown where I had already purchased a ticket for $11 rather than spend $30+ for a cab.  The downside was that the Airporter didn't go to the Marriott Waterfront where I had secured a free night using my Marriott Reward points.  Marriott had told me to get off at the Westin Hotel but the bus driver told me to wait until the last stop at the Warwick Hotel which was a little closer.  From the Warwick I just walked 4-5 blocks west and I was at the Marriott.


After I checked in I walked to the King Street Station where I had used Amtrak Express to ship my bicycle the previous Sunday.  This was a little more expensive than the $50 that Southwest would have charged but it was much more convenient than hassling with the bike on the plane.  I had ridden downtown to Chicago Union Station last Sunday as part of my Sunday exercise ride to drop off my bike.  Then Amtrak put my bike on the Chicago-Seattle train on Monday and it arrived in Seattle on Wednesday.  That gave me 48 hours to pick it up and then get charged a storage fee of $3 per day.  However, when I picked up my bike I wasn't charged any storage fee.


Since Amtrak boxes only require removing pedals and turning the handlebars sideways it was a simple matter to roll the bike out of the bike box and have it ready to roll in minutes.  After I rode the short distance back to the Marriott I walked along the waterfront to Miners Landing where I had clam chowder and chips, an appropriate meal for the locale.


Back at the ranch I started to pack the bike.  However, the front tire was low when I picked up the bike so I removed the wheel and found a very slow leak that I patched.  Then I attached the front and rear panniers which were new Arkel XM28 and XM45s so I had to learn a little bit of new packing style.  These panniers had their own builtin waterproof liners in place of the garbage disposal bags I used with my old panniers to provide a waterproof liner.  These panniers were also a bit larger than the old ones although the rear panniers didn't have an outside pocket which was not as convenient.


I completed the bulk of the packing and then decided to check my email but was dismayed to learn that the Marriott charged for in-room Internet access.  So I just wrote my daily log and called it a night.

Day 1: Mon, Sep 07, 2009 - Seattle, WA to Arlington, WA [61.3, 5:36:00, 10.9 mph, 2,463']

It was a dreary looking morning when I got up with cloudy skies and wet grounds.  I took my PC down to the lobby where I could get free Internet access.  With the dismal weather I decided to eat breakfast at the Marriott and found they had a buffet which was very good but it cost $20 by the time taxes and tip got added in so it should have been good.  I retired to my room and completed my packing.  This mostly involved deciding where the bits and pieces should go.  Then I had to figure how to use the straps I decided to use this year rather than bungee cords to hold my sleeping bag and tent on top of my rear rack.

By the time I hit the road it was a little after 9am.  I wanted to take Pike St east but I found I couldn't because it didn't go through.  So I backtracked to the Marriott and took the elevator at Lenora St back up to the street level, which was the most fun climbing I did all day.  However, I still had a short steep climb to 1st Ave and I was quickly in my lowest gear with an elevated heart rate.  Then I had to navigate the one way streets to finally end up on Pike St.  Then it seemed to take forever to get to 8th Ave because I missed every light along the way.  After that I was on my way and I picked up Howell St and then Eastlake Ave which took me across Lake Union on University Bridge, an easy bridge to cross with a separate bike path.

Just across the bridge I picked up the Burke-Gilman Trail that skirted around the University of Washington and past the football stadium.  The trail wound its way east and then north along the west side of Lake Washington on its way to its ending in Kenmore at the northern end of Lake Washington.  The trail was nice riding with its insulation from traffic.  For a dismal day there were a fair number of cyclists, joggers, and some pedestrians on the path.  There were some views of Lake Washington but most of the time the view was shielded from the lake by tall hedges that the homeowners along the lake had grown for privacy.  Along the way I noticed my cyclocomputer was erratic.  I had meant to replace the batterries in both the transmitter and receiver but had only changed the receiver.  So I hoped it was just a matter of installing a new battery.

I would have been more motivated to change the battery immediately except I now had a GPS that gave another source of ride data.  Previously I had not been interested in a GPS because they had a reputation for eating batteries but when I started researching GPS units I discovered that the Garmin 60CSx had comparatively good battery life and would work 2-3 days on a single AA battery pair.  That fact plus the fact that this trip would involve a number of minor roads, which sometimes aren't well signed, convinced me to try a GPS on this trip.

When I reached the end of the Burke-Gilman trail in Kenmore I needed to figure out how to connect with Hwy 9 to Arlington, my day's destination.  This is where the GPS really helped.  Although the Burke-Gilman trail ended the bike trail kept on so I stayed on it as long as I could to avoid mixing up with traffic.  Then I picked up the Sammamish River Trail, which I knew nothing about, and followed it for a ways because my GPS showed me it was taking me in the right direction.  Finally, I had to leave the trail when it veered southeast.  At that point I could have taken 522 to Hwy 9 except 522 was a freeway and bicycles were prohibited.  With my GPS it was a simple matter of heading further north on several different roads until I reached 228th St SE which I took west to its intersection with Hwy 9.

Hwy 9 was a major road that went all the way to Arlington.  For the most part it had a good shoulder except for one section where it deteriorated somewhat.  There were also some sections under construction that weren't a problem because no one was working on this Labor Day Monday and I was able to ride to the right of pylons stationed to keep traffic out of the construction areas.

When I started riding in the morning the sky was spitting a few rain drops that never became a significant issue.  Around 11:00 the sun actually managed to fight its way through the clouds occasionally and put in an appearance.  However, when I started riding on Hwy 9 the road was wet and water was draining down the roadway as I climbed modestly.  So I had managed to just miss a passing rain shower.

Around 12:30 I stopped for my first break at a food mart in Clearview after over 3 hours of riding.  After resuming riding it was just a matter of grinding out the remaining miles to Arlington.  The road had several long ascents and descents but no really hard climb.  Arlington was the natural stopping point because the next stage headed east on 530 to Darrington but Darrington was another 28 miles and I wasn't interested in having a killer ride on the first day.  I stopped at a coffee shop in Arlington and learned I should have checked the motel situation in the morning before I left because the nearest motels were southwest of Arlington closer to I5.

So I ended up riding about an extra 5 miles that I could have avoided but they were easy miles.  The first motel wanted over $70 for a night so I passed and found another motel that was a little more reasonable at $60 and probably about $15 cheaper than the first possibility.  After cleaning up I walked around scouting out eating possibilities and ended up at a fast food taco place that was okay.

Back at the ranch I adjusted my GPS position on the bike.  I had a handlebar mount that didn't work because the arm rest on my aero bars forced the GPS in such an upright position that it was impossible to see from a riding position.  So last night I had duct taped the receptable that GPS snaps into to the end of my aero bars.  This was much better but still a bit problematic because the end of the aero bars sloped up at about a 60 degree angle and reflections sometimes made the GPS difficult to see.  So tonight I duct taped the receptacle to my handlebar stem.  This will probably be a good viewing position but is a bit of a concern because it is about right underneath my chin where I fear dripping sweat could be a problem.  Time will tell.

Day 2: Tue, Sep 08, 2009 - Arlington, WA to Newhalem, WA [78.4, 7:18:00, 10.7 mph, 1,590']

It wasn't a great sleeping night.  Something was biting me and I spent a fair amount of time scratching.  I thought maybe a couple of mosquitoes had managed to set up residence but the top of my head had a big lump.  By evening the surface was rough and that suggested multiple bites.  I guessed maybe bed bugs or a spider.

The motel had a continental breakfast and when I stopped by at 7:00 I found the attendant sleeping on the couch in the lobby.  He woke up when I tried the locked door and he got up and set up for the breakfast but wasn't sure where everything was.  They had a waffle maker but it wasn't plugged in so my attempt at a waffle was not a pretty sight but it was food.

I left a little after 8:00 under clear skies in the low 50s.  I retraced the nearly 6 miles back to Arlington and then took 530 to Darrington, 28 miles away.  The road passed through a green valley with forested hills, some with clear cuts.  Homes were along the road and there were a few ranches.  There was a surprisingly amount of traffic and I could only guess that motorists were using this as a short cut to Hwy 20.

The road started out with a great shoulder and that lasted about 12 miles when the shoulder mostly disappeared.  Shortly there was a sign warning about cyclists on the road for the next 5 miles.  I was curious why the warning was only for the next 5 miles but after 5 miles there was another warning about cyclists for the next 5 miles.  Shortly after the second warning the good shoulder returned for the rest of the way to Darrington.

I stopped in Darrington for some food a little before noon and then I did my first grocery shopping of the trip.  Leaving Darrington Hwy 530 turned abruptly north as it followed the Sauk River.  The road cut through heavy forest and was a pleasant ride with much less traffic than in the morning.  At the intersection with Hwy 20 there was a food mart in Rockport and I stopped for another break.

It was another 9 miles to Marblemount with Hwy 20 following along the scenic Skagit River.  I thought Marblemount would be my destination but it was only 3:30 so I pushed on to Newhalem where there were a couple of campgrounds.  It was another 14 miles but still fairly flat with not much climbing.

When I reach Marblemount it was just after 5:00 and I was tempted push on but the next campground was another 11 miles with some significant climbing.  Since I had already ridden almost 80 miles I decided to call it a day and camped at the Newhalem Creek Campground.  I got an OK campsite for $12.

During the day's ride I discovered that the new location of my GPS on my stem still wasn't that great.  However, I realized I had an easy solution.  I had my cyclocomputer mounted on the side of my aero bar and I realized I could locate my GPS there and I could move the cyclocomputer to the handlebar.  So after I got set up in camp I made that switch and figured that would work well.

By 8:00 I discovered I was really tired and gave up on the thought of doing some reading since I knew I would be fighting sleep.  So I didn't bother to fight and just went to sleep.

Day 3: Wed, Sep 09, 2009 - Newhalem, WA to Mazama, WA [66.2, 8:40:00, 7.6 mph, 5,515']

I slept pretty well and didn't get up until 6:30, a little over 10 hours of sleep.  However, when I woke up I discovered I had a swollen lower right jaw and the right top of my head felt like it was covered with blisters.  This was all courtesy of whatever bit me the night before in my motel.

It had drizzled a little overnight but my tent was under a pine tree so it barely got wet.  I packed up and headed into town hoping to get milk from the grocery store but it didn't open until 10am.  However, it had an overhang with a long bench so I ate my cereal breakfast there.

I left a little after 8:00 and immediately started climbing.  This area generates hydroelectric power for the Seattle area and Newhalem is a town for the employees of Seattle City Light.  The hydroelectric power is generated by three dams – Gorge, Diablo, and Ross.  Gorge Dam was the first along the way and I stopped at a viewpoint for a better view but only walked part of the way along the overlook trail.  Climbing continued on the way to Diablo Dam.  There was a view of the dam but an even better view of Diablo Lake ahead.  This required a descent to skirt a tail of the lake and then a climb to reclaim the lost altitude on the other side of the tail.  During the climb it started drizzling again but graciously stopped just as I turned into the overlook and the clouds broke in several spots to let the sun make an appearance.

After Diablo Lake there was a distant view of Ross Lake which extends 24 miles north to the Canadian border.  Unfortunately, at the same time it started drizzling again.  From the view of Ross Lake the road started its climb to Rainy Pass and Washington Pass.  Most of this climbing was pretty steep, ascending 4,200 feet over 23 miles.  And it started drizzling again off and on.  It was drizzling pretty steadily when I reached Rainy Pass, which might be expected given its name.  There was a picnic area at the pass that I pulled into at 3:30 because I needed a rest and I hoped the drizzle might pass on.

After about a 20 minute rest the drizzling seemed to have stopped and I took off again on the 4 mile stretch to Washington Pass.  Of course it started drizzling again.  There was an initial descent from Rainy Pass and then a pretty steep climb for 2 miles.  Fortunately, the last mile eased off quite a bit so the climb to Washington Pass was  much easier overall than the climb to Rainy Pass, which accounted for most of the elevation gain.  Just as I neared the pass the sky cleared up some and admitted sunshine.  I thought I was going to see a repeat of my 1994 tour where the sky magically cleared up on the east side of the pass but there was no magic this year.

There was some drizzle as I headed down the steep pass just after 5:00.  With the wet road I continually modulated my brakes to keep the bike under control.  I barely had to pedal the 22 miles to Mazama but I didn't enjoy the descent all that much.  I was fairly wet from the on and off drizzle through the day and the 20 mph descent didn't help although it did mostly dry me off by the time I made Mazama.

I was mostly interested in food in Mazama but the grocery store was already closed when I arrived around 6:00.  There was an Inn that advertised barbeque on Wednesday evening so I headed there.  The food smelled tantalizing to a starved cyclist but the cook was somewhat overloaded.  The waitress warned there would be a 15-20 minute delay but I didn't have any option if I wanted real food.  She also didn't tell me about the additional delay due to a slow waitress.  I was pretty sure when the cook was done with my sirloin burger and the cook commented to me later while I was still waiting about how the waitresses couldn't keep up with his cooking. 

It was about 7:30 when I left, having spent well over an hour waiting to eat, and I had to scramble to get a campsite.  I backtracked up the road several miles to the Early Winters National Forest Campground ($8) and set up just as daylight was disappearing.

During the day I saw a number of cyclists.  While I was eating breakfast I saw 5 cyclists ride by in two bunches and another 4 cyclists as I climbed to Gorge Dam.  They all appeared to be with a group and were traveling light with only a trunk bag.  I wondered if Adventure Cycling was running a tour.  Later I met two cyclists at the Diablo Lake Overlook and I thought they were with the same group but they were riding by themselves.  On the long climb to Rainy Pass I met two groups of two cyclists carrying nothing.  The last two chatted with me briefly and said they had a support van and I saw a support van stop for the first two.  Finally, I met a lone touring cyclist with everything loaded on his rear.  He passed me on a break and then I followed for a while until he stopped for a break and I never saw him again.

Overall, this was a hard day with all of the climbing and the drizzling in the afternoon made it a bit miserable at times.

Day 4: Thu, Sep 10, 2009 - Mazama, WA to Pateros, WA [62.9, 6:10:00, 10.2 mph, 1,412']

I was up early, ate a cup of cereal for a quick breakfast and was on the road by 7:00.  It was an easy 15 mile ride to Winthrop on a slightly downhill road, passing kids out waiting for the school bus.  It was clear skies and the most notable characteristic was brown hills with some sagebrush and scattered evergreens in the Methow Valley.  This contrasted with the green west side of the Cascades.

In Winthrop I stopped at the same place for breakfast that I had in 1994.  I had their 3 pancakes which were the best and worst of the trip, because they were the first pancakes of the trip.  The pancakes were actually very good and very sizeable.  The only complaint I could make was the $2 per pancake average.  Actually it was $3 for the first pancake, another $1 for the second, and, inexplicably, $2 more for the third.  The biggest complaint was that service was slow and I chalked that up to having little if any breakfast competition.

After breakfast I did a little grocery shopping and was on my way around 10:00.  It was another 8 easy miles to Twisp and then another couple of miles where I veered right on to Hwy 153.  Up to that point I had previously ridden everything from Marblemount to here.

I enjoyed the scenic Methow Valley with its contrasting colors of brown hills and irrigated green fields.  Also a contrast was the bright sunshine and few clouds.  As the day wore on, it got warmer and reached about 80F.  There were two very small towns before Pateros.  The second town had a cafe with a bunch of bicycles parked outside.  I wasn't ready to stop so I continued on but I didn't recognize any of the bicycles from yesterday.  Later a group of 6 cyclists blew past me but I thought I saw 8 bicycles earlier.  Sometime later two more cyclists caught me just as I pulled into Pateros, where the Methow River joined with the Columbia River.

Initially I was planning to ride to Chelan Falls but I was already at 60 miles and Chelan Falls was another 20 miles.  I decided not to push it the day after a hard day even though my legs felt fine.  I rode the short way into town from the intersection of 153 and 197 to a food mart.  After a bite to eat I decided to find a coffee shop with Internet access.  I was told there was access at a bakery next door to the Homestead across the street so I went there.  However, I couldn't see the bakery since I came in the back way and went into the Homestead which also had a coffee shop.  Still unaware of the coffee shop next door I plugged in and actually used the coffee shop's Internet access.  I could tell because the name of the WIFI was the name I saw on the bakery when I finally left.

I caught up with my email and responded to a work issue that a colleague requested assistance on.  I did my best to respond in email on an issue that was going to require further investigation by someone else.  I wrapped up my session by 5:00 and had planned to stop at a Subway for a sandwich to take to the nearby Alta Lake State Park when I discovered the Subway sign I saw was not a Subway but a sign saying a Subway was 7 miles down the road.  I like Subway but not enough for a 14 mile roundtrip so I went back to the food mart and got a couple of burritos and egg rolls to take to the park.

The park was about a mile backtracking and then 2 miles off the road but a mile of that was a steep climb.  The campground was fairly decent but rather exorbitantly priced at $19.  Then to rub salt in a wound they charged for a shower.  The charge was only $0.50 but at $19 it should have been part of the fee.  Anyway it was nice to have a shower for the first time in 3 days.

Afterwards I did a little bike maintenance.  My brakes needed adjustment and then I worked on my cyclocomputer.  Once again my VDO C3 wireless computer had behaved haphazardly for the last 2 days.  With my GPS I didn't really need the cyclocomputer but still it was nice to have.  Fortunately, I had a spare cyclocomputer of the same model with me so I switched out the receiver/display unit to see if that might fix the problem.  Tomorrow will tell.

Day 5: Fri, Sep 11, 2009 - Pateros, WA to Monitor, WA [72.0, 6:33:00, 11.0 mph, 2,214']

I left the park around 7:00 and headed back to town.  It was about 4 miles and I descended about 400', most of that was over a little less than a mile of the turnoff from 97.  I went back to the Super Stop which also had a restaurant and had their 3 pancakes.  They weren't quite as good as yesterday but they were almost $2 cheaper.  One of the other patrons told me I had just missed a bunch of cyclists which obviously was the group I met yesterday.

I left about 8:30 on Hwy 97 which followed along the Columbia River.  The Columbia River was wide and placid for the most part since there were a couple of dams along the way for generating electricity.  I took a short turnoff just outside town, Starr Road, which lasted about 4 miles and then rejoined 97.  The views along the river were great, particularly in the morning when the road was higher and the river more winding. There were large, mostly barren, hills on both sides of the river with orchards along most of the way.  97 was a major road and pretty busy but it had a good shoulder for the most part.

When I got near Chalen after about 20 miles a signed warned that 97 was closed and 97A had to be used instead.  I was a bit tempted to ride 97 anyway but it would have been a gamble that I could get through on a bicycle and a wasted 10 miles roundtrip if the gamble failed so I passed.  Instead I had a good, fairly steep, 1 mile climb to get to Chalen which also gave me a view of Lake Chalen.  I stopped in town for a second cereal breakfast and then inquired of a local how to get to 97, which required crossing a bridge to get to the other side of the river.  That's when I learned that the problem was someone ran into the bridge with a truck and the bridge was closed, even to pedestrians,

Instead, I got to see Lake Chalen where Chalen means deep water.  Lake Chalen also extended some 55 miles with a daily boat ride that ran to the end and returned.  If I had been looking for a rest day I would have been interested in that trip.  Instead I rode along the side of Lake Chalen for a few miles before the road was able to bend around a large hill and descend back to river level.  This led to a 3 mile descent including passage through a tunnel with a bicycle warning signal.  The tunnel really wasn't an issue because it was pretty short and descending downhill made the passage quick.

The rest of the way to Wenatchee was not as nice scenery wise as the morning.  It was also quite a bit hotter with temps reaching into the 80s.  When I stopped in Entiat I removed my tights.  I kept my long sleeve nylon RailRiders shirt on because it offered sun protection.  Most of the way was either flat or slightly downhill so I made good time and rolled into the Wenatchee area around 3:00.

Wenatchee was just south of my route but I needed to find Internet access because of the work issue I was trying to help with.  That meant I had to ride through town on a 4-lane busy road that had essentially no shoulder, which was not fun.  I rode several miles without seeing anything looking like a coffee shop with WiFi so I stopped at a little coffee hut and got directions to a place called Tastebuds that offered free WiFi.  Unfortunately, I couldn't get connected but got directed to a Coffee Cabin that I had passed a couple blocks back without noticing.  It worked fine and I did the best I could with the work issue.

By the time I left it was near 6:00.  I didn't feel like challenging rush hour traffic on the 4-lane road so I rode the sidewalk back most of the way and then picked up 2/97 west.  I was looking for a Wenatchee Country Park that my guide book suggested was a good place for camping.  It also said it was a mile outside town so I got a bad feeling when I went several miles without any sign for it or the town called Monitor.  Later I discovered I misread my guide and the 1 I saw was a designation for campground #1 in the particular trail section, not 1 mile as I had interpreted it.  Eventually, I saw a sign for the park but where the sign showed an RV and a tent and the tent was crossed out.   When I got to the park I met the proprietor who said they had stopped offering tent sites last year.  He was very reasonable about it and then started thinking about alternative camping places but the problem was it was already after 7:00 which didn't leave much time for further travel on a bicycle.  He finally said he wouldn't object if I discreetly camped on the picnic side of the area away from the RVs but he cautioned me about the automatic sprinklers and gave me the sprinkler times.  I noticed a picnic site with an overhang and asked if I could pitch my tent under the overhang to avoid the sprinkler.  He offered that he wouldn't have any problem if I just threw my sleeping bag down there without a tent, which was fine with me once I learned mosquitoes weren't an issue. 

Finally, to be further discrete about all of this he suggested waiting until dark so I wandered off to a nearby burger joint to get something to eat and kill time until dark.  I had a buffalo burger that pretty much tasted like a regular burger and then I got my PC out on the outside picnic tables and wrote my notes for the day.  Then I rode back in the dark to the RV park and set up under the park overhang.

Day 6: Sat, Sep 12, 2009 - Monitor, WA to Ellensburg, WA [70.4, 8:06, 8.7 mph, 3,375']

It wasn't a great night for sleeping.  Hwy 2 ran along the side of the RV park and there was traffic all night and then there was a train that wasn't that close but still made plenty of noise.  I woke at 6:00 and packed up quickly to get out of the RV park as quickly as possible.  Packing was easy since my panniers were still on the bike and I only had to wrap up my sleeping pad and bag and pack a few things.  I was gone by 6:30.

There wasn't anything for breakfast in Monitor so I rode to the next town, Cashmere, a nice quiet town with the downtown a half mile away from the highway.  I found a bar open for breakfast so I ate there and had french toast and bacon since pancakes weren't on the menu.  Then I did a little grocery shopping before heading out on Hwy 2 again.

It was about 13 miles of gradual uphill to the turnoff where Hwy 97 headed south.  I was glad to get off Hwy 2, a major 4-lane road with noisy, high-speed traffic.  Hwy 97 was also a major road but only 2-lane and traffic was not quite as fast so it was an improvement over Hwy 2.

It was about 21 miles to Blewett Pass, which my guide book called Sauk Pass.  At 4,100 feet the pass required about 3,000 feet of climbing.  A good part of the way I climbed at 6-7 mph which wasn't too bad.  About a third of the way there was a lodge with a convenience store so I stopped at the only place on the way to the pass for my cereal breakfast.  At the start of this climb, there were still orchards and fruit stands but as the road climbed they got left behind and the road climbed through a forest.  The last few miles were pretty hard at 4-5 mph and seemed to take forever but I finally crested the pass about 1:30.

It was a fast initial descent in the 30+ mph and then a more leisure 18-20 mph for 15 miles.  It was quite warm again in the early afternoon and I stopped at a restaurant that had a soda machine outside for a welcome cold drink.  There was a campground across the road where I hoped to get some cool/cold water but I found no water supply.  I also learned that the campground would close tomorrow for the season which seemed a little odd since the weather should still be reasonable for a while.

A little further 97 split off to the left and began a fairly hard 2.5 mile climb.  From there, my guide book claimed it was a 13 mile coast into Ellensburg but when the guide book author rode this route he said they had a terrific tailwind that allowed them to ride into town at 35 mph.  Obviously that tailwind confused him because it wasn't a coast into town although it was relatively easy cycling.

I knew KOA was apparently the only camping option around Ellensburg but I headed into Ellensburg first and got a cold drink.  Then I rode back towards the Interstate to find the KOA.  I also found a Subway and ate at my first Subway of the trip.  I had to search for the KOA because it was on the other side of the Interstate.  KOA wanted $28 for a tent site which was a lousy deal.  I'm pretty sure I could have gotten a motel in Ellensburg for not a whole lot more but I doubted I would get WiFi so I stayed with KOA for that reason only.  The tent site was pretty lousy with the sites just packed together side-by-side with no privacy unless you were in the tent.

I cleaned up and headed to the Laundromat where I was able to plug in my PC and access the Internet.  I was also able to plug in my battery charger and recharge a few of my batteries, which is always a good idea with both my GPS and camera using 2 AA batteries.  My camera lasts for days on a set but the GPS goes only about 2 days on a set so it is much more demanding battery-wise.

Day 7: Sun, Sep 13, 2009 - Ellensburg, WA to Yakima, WA [42.5, 4:02:00, 10.5 mph, 964']

I packed up and headed into town for breakfast.  I went all the way through town on what I think was 8th St and found nothing so I turned around.  On the way back I could see street signs because I wasn't staring into the blinding morning sun so when I saw Main St I took it.  I was sure I would find something downtown but I didn't.  I continued through downtown and eventually gave up and stopped at a McDonald's.  That wasn't so bad since I was planning a relatively easy day and didn't need a great breakfast.

When I left I continued on Main and just a little further when I passed by I82 I found the breakfast places.  Main turned into Canyon Road that passed through the very scenic Yakima Canyon for about 25 miles.  The road followed the Yakima River that wound its way through steep, close in sun burnt hills on both sides of the river.  Because I82 was a more direct route to Yakima it took a lot of the traffic that might otherwise have passed through the canyon.  The road was fairly flat with a couple of relatively short hills.  It offered some of the best scenery of the trip so far.

After passing through the canyon I caught I82 into Yakima which wasn't on the PCT route but I had decided to make this a short day and stay in a motel.  It was about 5 miles on I82 when I took the 1st Ave exit where there were a lot of motels.  The first motel I stopped at advertised $30 rooms but had no WiFi and the proprietor didn't know what it was.  I thought the next motel at $36 would have it but didn't.  A little further I found a $40 motel with WiFi but the room was prettty ordinary.

After settling in I strolled down the street a bit.  I needed some cash so I stopped at a Wells Fargo but they charged a $3 service fee so I cancelled.  Another bank was no better.  When I just happened down another street I found a Chase Bank, which I didn't see in the telephone book, most likely because Chase had only recently acquired Washington Mutual and the telephone book still listed the bank as Washington Mutual.  Anyway, a $0 service fee sounded a lot better than $3 so I got my cash infusion.

By this time in mid afternoon it was very warm with signs showing mid 90s.  The days are projected to stay warm for at least several more days and this is about 20F warmer than I would prefer for touring.  As luck would have it there was a Subway less than a block away so I ate at a Subway for a second consecutive day.

Day 8: Mon, Sep 14, 2009 - Yakima, WA to Rimrock Lake, WA [49.2, 6:22:41, 7.7 mph, 2,885']

I ate at a diner just a couple blocks down the road from my motel.  I had their bacon/egg/pancake special and it was okay.  Leaving town was fairly easy.  I looked at google maps and saw there was a Powerhouse Road that would take me to Hwy 12 and then the Old Naches Highway.  So I road from the diner to Lincoln Ave and then to 24th Ave where I picked up Powerhouse.  There wasn't that much traffic and this was an easy route.  I did have the excitement of seeing an accident peripherally in the other direction.  It looked like an SUV must have been about to rear end another SUV so it swerved off the side of the road and banged into a curb.  That created a racket and bounced the SUV around but it looked like the SUV managed to avoid hitting the other vehicle.

When I got to Hwy 12 I could have stayed on it and that would have been the most direct route to Naches but it was a 4-lane divided highway so I stuck with the Old Naches Highway which climbed some up into the side of the hill in the Naches River Valley.  From a higher vantage point it looked like everything in the valley was either an orchard or a vineyard.  Old Naches Highway wound around quite a bit before descending back down to the town of Naches where I stopped at a food mart for a break after about 18 miles.

It was 70F in Yakima in the morning and it was somewhat warmer when I stopped with a lot of sun.  When I resumed I rode on Hwy 12 which was only a 2-lane road now.  I had been gradually climbing all morning but in a few miles Hwy 12 turned due south and began the climb to White Pass although most of the climbing was gradual.  There was also a fair headwind which helped keep temperatures at bay.

The highway followed the Tieton River which was a rushing river and the focus of a lot of raft trips.  The route was scenic with hills filled with trees unlike the Yakima Canyon which was mostly treeless.  I had to wait for a short while for road construction at one point but was fortunate that I didn't pass through a little later when they were planning some 30 minute delays.  There were a couple mini stores along the way where I was able to get a cold drink although the fair headwind was keeping the temps reasonably comfortable.

Finally I reached the Tieton Dam which was finished in 1925 and was the largest earth filled dam at the time.  The Dam formed the 6-mile long Rimrock Lake where I planned to stay and put off the climb to White Pass until tomorrow.  There was supposed to be a couple eating places and campgrounds along the lake but I didn't find any eating place until the last campground.  There was also a National Forest CG next door but it was closed for the season so I stayed at the private campground for $17.  The campground also had a small restaurant so I ate there as well.  While I was around I saw only one other restaurant customer and I was the only tenter in the campground so it was a quiet place to stay for the evening.

Day 9: Tue, Sep 15, 2009 - Rimrock Lake, WA to Iron Creek CG (Randle), WA [58.7, 5:47:26, 10.1 mph, 1,934']

There were no breakfast options other than what I carried with me so I ate my usual cereal breakfast and took off around 8:00.  The road immediately started its final climb to White Pass, nine miles away.  It was a steep climb and a couple miles of the road was cut into the side of a rock wall.  The wall was so steep that rock fences were installed up to 6 feet high to protect the road from falling rocks.  The left side of the road was a continuous guardrail because you didn't want anyone to go over the steep edge.

After 7 miles there was a scenic overlook with a great view looking back at the lake in the distance along with a water fall nearby.  After this overlook the road pretty well leveled off for the next 2 miles and only a short final climb remained at the end to achieve White Pass at 4,500 feet.  Before the pass there was a campground at scenic Dog Lake that appeared to be very popular and the lake itself was bordered by trees and a rock hill.

The descent was swift with some nice views.  Then without warning I turned a corner and was hit with the majestic Mt Ranier thrusting into the sky.  There were several other viewpoints along the descent but this one was the best because it was at the highest elevation.  The road continued its descent all the way to the town of Packwood, a small town with several motels that obviously catered to the national park clientele.

I stopped in Packwood for a break and did some grocery shopping since I was about to head out into an area with essentially no services after I reached Randle, 15 miles away.  It was an easy ride to Randle which was an even smaller town than Packwood.  There was a ranger station there so I stopped to inquire about my route.  I was told all National Forest campgrounds in the area were closed for the season but I was surprised to be told that I could still use them.

From Randle it was 10 miles to the next campground and the only one for quite a ways.  I would have liked to have put in more miles for the day but the Iron Creek CG location pretty well decided my destination.  I turned off of Hwy 12 and took Forest Road 25 which had no shoulder but didn't need one since there was almost no traffic.  There was an initial steep climb of about a mile and it was cool to be on a road with such little traffic – literally.  The tree and foliage was so dense with tree limbs hanging over the roadway that much of the sun was blocked from getting through and that was a good thing.  In the sun it was very warm in the early afternoon and in the shade it was nice and comfortable.

When I stopped at the Iron Creek CG it was blocked by an iron gate that was just high enough that my bike fit under it.  This was a large campground with 98 sites so the biggest problem was picking one when you had the pick of the litter.  There were 4 loops and I picked the last loop.  I discovered that there was still water in the campground and the only thing missing was the pit toilets which were locked.  A campsite normally cost $18 so I figured I would gladly give up the pit toilet to save $18.

Since I got in before 4:00 I had plenty of time after eating.  I spent the time reviewing tomorrow's route.  The big issue was there was a turnoff to the Windy Ridge Viewpoint to give a really good view of Mt St Helens but the cost was considerable climbing and a 32 mile roundtrip.  There was also a Bear Meadow Viewpoint that was only a 10 mile roundtrip but it still required 1,000 feet of climbing on top of the climb to Elk Pass that required about 3,000 feet of climbing from the campground.  After re-reading this route section in my guide book I notice the guide pointed out a couple of other Mt St Helens views along the regular route.  Then there was also the matter of some gravel road later in the route.  When I looked at my map I noticed that Forest Road 30 was all paved south to the Columbia River and looked like it might be a better route than the one in the guide book.  This route required riding along the Columbia River on Hwy 14 to Hood River and the guide book had a note that Hwy 14 was not recommended for cycling, which is why I assume the guide didn't use the FR30 route to the Columbia River.  However, I cycled that Hwy 14 stretch as part of my Lewis & Clark route and didn't have a problem with it.  So my inclination was to avoid the gravel road on my way to Hood River where I planned a rest day.

Later, as I was getting settled in my tent a ranger pulled up and asked me what part of [campground] closed didn't I understand.  When I explained to him that the ranger at the Randle station said it was okay for me to camp here even though it was closed he was mollified.  And he felt better when I told him I was just passing through.  They were still in the process of shutting down the campground, which was why the water was still on, and he didn't want anyone hanging around to interfere with their cleanup activities.

Day 10: Wed, Sep 16, 2009 - Iron Creek CG (Randle), WA to Home Valley, WA [81.1, 9:37:24, 8.4 mph, 5,124']

I packed up, ate breakfast, and was on the road before 8:00.  Immediately I started some serious climbing, steeper than anything before and I was climbing slower than 4 mph and even dropped below 3 mph a couple of times.  The good news was it was a little cloudy and the sun didn't shine through so it was comfortably cool.  Yesterday I noticed several ugly clearcuts on my ride out of Randle and today a clearcut actually turned out to be useful.  As I rode around a bend where there had been clearcutting I got a clear view of Mt Ranier on my right.  I'm pretty sure that without the clearcut the view would have been hidden.

I climbed steeply for a couple of hours and passed by the turnoff to Windy Ridge for the best Mt St Helens view.  Interestingly, when I reached Elk Pass at 3,960 feet I didn't even see a sign for the pass.  Shortly I started a steep descent for 6 miles that I could let go pretty well since the road was well paved although I had to do some braking since it was also curvy.  Then I reached the Clearwater viewpoint where Mt St Helens was almost totally visible except for some cloud cover at the peak.  Fortunately, for a few minutes the cloud cover almost completely disappeared for a good view and then it came back and stayed the rest of the day.  There was also a large, scenic valley immediately to the northwest with new tree growth.  When the eruption occurred in 1980 this entire valley was laid to waste and that would have been something to see.  But now after almost 30 years the valley was looking good.

The descent continued the rest of the way to the Swift Reservoir and the junction with FR 90 but it was a modest descent with easy pedaling.  At that point I had covered 37 miles and a sign gave 38 miles to Carson which was near Hwy 14 and on the way to Hood River, my eventual destination.  Since it was only 1:00, that gave me some hope that I could still make Hood River with a long day.

I rode a few miles on FR 50, passing a small, closed store at a closed campground and then I turned right on Curly Creek Rd and started another steep climb that was even steeper than the morning's climb.  This one lasted about 4 miles and I could barely maintain 3 mph and dropped below that for a while.  It was a really hard climb and left Hood River in doubt.  Near the top the McClellan viewpoint provided another really fine view of Mt St Helens, still shrouded in cloud cover at the top.

Another mile of not quite so difficult climbing brought me to the intersection of FR 30 and 26 miles to Carson.  Since I was at almost 3,000 feet and needed to get down to the Columbia River I was pretty sure I would be doing a lot of descending.  But first I had to climb fairly steeply for about another mile and then the descent began.  Unfortunately, the road was a little bumpy and more curvy than the earlier descent so I had to be a little careful.  In fact, a couple of times small bumps dislodged my GPS from its “holder” and I would have lost the GPS except I had a rubber band around the holder and GPS since I knew the holder really was inadequate.

After about 5 miles of fairly steep descent the rest of the way was modest descending with mostly easy pedaling.  The only question was whether I would have enough time to make Hood River.  When I rolled into Carson at about 5:30 I was told it was still 25 miles to Hood River although I didn't really believe that.  Still, I knew I would be pushing daylight plus it was clouding up and looking like it could rain.  So I started looked for alternative lodging possibilities.  I saw some cottages that looked like they might be reasonable but the asking priced was $80 so I asked about camping.  I was told there was camping on Hwy 14 just a mile down the road.  So I rode a little further to Home Valley and saw the sign for the campground.  There was also a small grocery store where the guy told me it was 16 miles to Hood River.

I was sure I could make Hood River but I figured I would be arriving as darkness was settling in and I didn't like the idea of riding across the Columbia River bridge under those circumstances nor having to hunt for a motel in an unfamiliar locale.  Plus it still looked like it could rain.  So I exercised better judgment and went for the Home Valley County Park CG where I got a site for $15.  It was pretty decent since I was on a corner “lot” right next to the Columbia River.  On the other hand, the campground was right next to Hwy 14 and a railroad track so it promised to be a fairly noisy night.

Day 11: Thu, Sep 17, 2009 - Home Valley, WA to Hood River, OR [16.5, 1:31:43, 10.8 mph, 611']

I slept reasonably well given all the noise.  I actually had to sleep through 2 trains because there was a railroad on each side of the Columbia River.  In the morning I rode back to the small grocery store for my cereal breakfast and was on the road before 8:00. 

I quickly realized why my guide book didn't recommend riding on Hwy 14.  The railroad was squeezed in between the highway and the river and with precious little real estate available the shoulder lost the battle.  In places the shoulder was okay but even then there was usually a guard rail between the shoulder and the railroad tracks so the nominal shoulder was effectively less wide than normal since you couldn't ride at the shoulder edge.  Then there were sections where there was no shoulder and you had to ride inside the white line.  Fortunately, there wasn't that much traffic most of the way until close to Hood River.  In addition to the little or non-existent shoulder there were 5 tunnels.   However, the tunnels were no big deal.  The longest was about the length of a football field.  Each tunnel had a flashing light for a cyclist to activate to warn motorists that a bicycle was passing through the tunnel.  Even better, it was almost always possible to check for traffic and wait to proceed after all visible traffic was gone.

It was a good thing to have decided not to try to make Hood River last night.  First, with the cloudy conditions visibility was less and that wouldn't have been a good thing with the lack of shoulder.  Second, I would have been rushing to make Hood River before darkness and wouldn't have been able to observe any of the scenery.  Today was a planned rest day in Hood River so there was no hurry to get to town.  So there was time to watch the two fisherman catching fish using a net from a small boat and to watch the windsurfers near Hood River.  Hood River is known for its predictable winds and is considered the windsurfing capital.  There were several windsurfers out around 8:30, zipping along the river with the fairly strong wind.

Just before the bridge to Hood River there was an Information Booth that opened just when I got there.  Then I learned that bicycles were not allowed on the bridge and that I would have to hitch a ride.  The woman at the booth said it was easy to get a ride – just wave a dollar bill and someone would stop and pick you up in no time.  That wasn't quite true.  I waited at least 20 minutes to get a ride.  Of course, not every vehicle had room to take my loaded bike so I tried to solicit rides from pickups.  A couple of vans stopped and offered a ride but I would have had to remove my panniers to fit so I waited for a better vehicle.  Despite the vehicle constraint a number of pickups passed by without stopping.  However, the good thing was that the guy who stopped had a van and was pulling a trailer.  And the best thing was the trailer was one used for transporting lawn service gear and the rear gate folded down to create a ramp.  This was a really good thing.  My 90 pound bike is a real pain to lift into a pickup bed with tail gate down but with this trailer I was able to simply roll my bike onto the trailer.  I gave the driver $2 to pay for toll although he was willing to give me a ride for nothing but the money was well worth it to me.

Riding across the bridge it was obvious why bicycles were not allowed.  The bridge was extremely narrow with an iron grate floor.  It would have been impossible to ride a bicycle across without holding everyone up behind unless the other lane was totally open for passing.  There just was no way that 2 vehicles and a bicycle could exist side-by-side on that bridge so I wouldn't have wanted to ride across the bridge even if allowed.

Once across the bridge the driver dropped me off on Oak St which was the main downtown street so that was perfect.  I did some store browsing and then used my PC in a coffee shop to research motels.  It is really nice to be able to use google maps to find motels and see where the motels are located.  In this case they were located mostly along Oak St, a couple hotels right downtown and then the motels further out.  I rode out to where 3 motels were closely located.  The first one, an ordinary looking motel, wanted $55 for a room.  I quickly learned that the others were in the $80-90 range so I picked the $55 room.

This room had WiFi but I found I couldn't get connected.  Eventually the proprietress contacted a help desk for this service and I learned that my Linux system was not compatible with this particular TP-Link system.  Then I remembered I ran into a similar situation in a motel in Iowa last fall and the help desk said I had to configure my PC with a static IP rather than a dynamic IP using DHCP.  The help desk gave me the pertinent DNS and IP addresses.  At first I couldn't get that to work but finally I got connected only to find that the signal was too weak to work.  However, that seemed strange since my WiFi finder on the PC seemed to indicate that the signal was strong enough so I'm not sure this connection was correctly established.

Eventually I gave up and walked the 10-15 minutes to downtown.  Last night my Thermarest had developed a bubble in it that suggested it was just a matter of time before it failed.  This was not too surprising since I've had this Thermarest for many years and it's surprising it lasted this long.  I found another Thermarest of the same size that was lighter and packed smaller that listed for $75 but was only $54 because it was an older model so I was probably fortunate to get that.  When I got back to the motel I went off and did a load of laundry.  Then I walked back downtown again with my PC.  I hadn't eaten since breakfast so I had a mongo wet burrito at a burrito place that was a mouthful.  Then I walked a couple of blocks to a coffee place where I was able to connect to their WiFi and check email and what not and then retired to my motel for the night.

Day 12: Fri, Sep 18, 2009 - Hood River, OR to Clear Lake CG, OR [55.4, 7:38:16, 7.2 mph, 4,846']

There was a Eggceptional Cafe right across the street from my motel so I ate there – bacon, eggs, and pancakes and the pancakes were very good.  After packing up I rode down the street and did some grocery shopping.  That's just what I needed – more weight.  My day's route started at 13th street outside my motel and immediately climbed steeply.  My guide book warned that it might be necessary to push the bike but that was a strange comment.  This part wasn't as steep as Curly Creek Rd and it was steep only for a couple blocks so it was not a problem.

13th Street changed into 12th Street and then Tucker Rd or 281.  I rode that all the way to Parkdale to avoid the main highway.  Other than one descent it was mostly climbing as I needed to get from virtually sea level to 4,600 feet on my way towards Mt Hood.  There were several good views of Mt Hood along the way and more orchards and some alpacas at a farm.  After close to 20 miles I rode into the small town of Parkdale that had a nice grocery store and I had my second breakfast around 11:00.

From Parkdale it was a short ride back to the main highway, 35, and onward towards Mt Hood.  I still had over 2,500 feet of climbing.  It was a mixture of hard climbing and some not so hard climbing.  The 16 miles to the pass at 4,670 feet took quite a while at 4-6 mph.  After the pass it was mostly a 7 mile descent to the intersection with Hwy 26, which I rode up from Portland last year.  I had thought the intersection would essentially be the end of the ride but I misjudged how close Government Camp was, where I camped nearby last year.  Eventually I realized it was a few miles in the wrong direction so I gave up on Government Camp and headed south on Hwy 26.  Traffic was a bear on Hwy 26 – very heavy and noisy.  I wasn't sure if this was typical traffic or Friday evening “get out of town” traffic.

Shortly there was a food mart where I was able to get a refreshing drink.  From there it was a few miles to Frog Lake CG which apparently was closed since I saw no sign for it.  By this time it was after 5:00 and I was getting worried about closed campgrounds and camping availability on a Friday evening.  Clear Lake CG was the next possibility just a few miles further but I had to turn off on FR 2660.  I immediately started descending which was worrisome because I didn't want to have to descend for almost a mile just to find a closed campground.  But a closed campground was what I found, except it wasn't really closed.  I found all the signs were covered but there were other folks in the campground.  The only problem was that the water was turned off – the lever on the water pump was removed.  Otherwise, it was a nice spot on a small lake.  I got a premium site that would have cost $18 normally.  As it turned out I had just enough time to set up, eat, clean up, and write my notes before darkness settled in.

Day 13: Sat, Sep 19, 2009 - Clear Lake CG, OR to Detroit, OR [65.7, 7:04:28, 9.4 mph, 3,154']

I ate breakfast and then used my water purifier to fill my water bottles.  I was down to my last bottle and wasn't sure where I would find good water next so I used the purifier.  I left before 8:00 under overcast skies.  The weather prediction a few days ago was for some Saturday showers.

I rode uphill back to the main highway, almost 2 miles.  It was another couple miles to my turnoff on FR 42, also known as Skyline Road.  Shortly there was a campground board that gave the status of area campgrounds.  The only ones open were a cluster of 3 at the far end of Timothy Lake, about 8 miles from Hwy 26 so I would have had to travel a ways last night to find a truly open campground if I had not taken the turnoff to Clear Lake CG.

Just before Timothy Lake there was a sign for the Pacific Crest Trail.  So I rode my bike a short ways on the trail and then walked back to the road so I could say I have hiked and biked the PCT, just as I did for the Appalachian Trail a couple years ago in New Hampshire.  I wonder how many can say they have hiked and biked both of these trails.

There was some kind of event taking place at Clackamas Lake with vehicles parked on both sides of the road.  Before long I had a 3-4 mile steep climb.  During this time it was misting finely.  So fine that it was only noticeable when descending at some speed, but not enough to warrant rain gear.  The climb peaked and then started a long descent to the intersection with FR 46.  For the last 5 miles or  so FR 42 narrowed to a single lane but I only saw one vehicle in that stretch.

When I reached FR 46 I turned left towards Detroit, 31 miles away, after having ridden the same distance to this point.  FR 46 was a regular road with some traffic.  There was some initial modest climbing and then it leveled off.  Then there was a steep 3-4 mile climb at 3 mph.  I don't ever remember climbing so much at 3 mph on all my other trips as I have already on this trip.  After the steep climb the climbing became more modest to Breitenbush Saddle.  This was followed by an initial steep descent and then about 15 miles of modest descending with some flat sections.

I rode into Detroit around 3:00 pm.  Detroit is a small resort community built around Detroit Lake formed by a dam.  This was the first opportunity of the day to stop for any kind of drink or food and I was starved.  However, there was a 50s drive-in event that had the downtown street shut off as it was lined with 50s vehicles and a band playing 50s tunes.  This event was just shutting down as I arrived so I only saw a little part of it.

After casing the small downtown I ate fish and chips at a restaurant and felt much better.  Then I rode about 3 miles out of town to a campground that was open and got a reasonable site next to the Santiam River for $12.

Day 14: Sun, Sep 20, 2009 - Detroit, OR to Sisters, OR [58.9, 6:52:49, 0.0 mph, 3,457']

I packed up and headed out for breakfast.  I had a choice of heading back into Detroit where I knew I could get breakfast at a cost of 6 miles roundtrip or take my chances and hope the small town up the road had something.  I chose the latter and was quickly dismayed to see a sign warning that there was no gasoline for 52 miles.  I figured that didn't bode well for my gamble.  But I lucked out.  Idanha, pop 230, had a small store and an attached restaurant/grill.  The only problem was the grill wasn't open until 8:30 on Sunday morning and I had arrived at about 7:40 but I chose to wait.  Since I was sitting outside the waitress chose to invite me in about 8:20.  She said the pancakes were really huge so I ordered the 2 pancakes and bacon and eggs.  In fact, the pancakes were average size.  Still it was a decent breakfast and I was glad this worked out.

The other good thing about waiting for breakfast was it gave the sky a chance to clear up.  It was overcast with a few blue patches when I got up but it was all blue skies when I left after breakfast.  My goal for the day was Sisters which was a little less than 60 miles.  The first 30 miles was a gradual climb of 3,000 feet to Sentiam Pass at 4,817 feet.  Because it was a gradual climb it wasn't the killer climbs I had done the past couple of days and I rode at a good pace between 6-8 mph for the most part.

The other good part was the weather was about perfect with a cloudless sky and comfortably cool temps with my long sleeve shirt and tights.  The road followed the North Sentiam River on my right with a steep hill on my left.  The only bad thing was the traffic.  I had expected modest traffic on what I thought was kind of a secondary road but there was a lot of traffic and it was noisy.  Fortunately, there was a good shoulder for the most part.  At Marion Forks there was supposed to be a restaurant and there was but it was closed.  That would have been about the right location for a second breakfast.  Instead I continued riding and didn't stop for my granola breakfast until about 12:15, finally pulling over along the side the road at a suitable spot.

After 31 miles I reached the intersection with 20/126 and took 20 towards Sentiam Pass and Sisters with continued heavy traffic.  The last 5 miles or so of the climb to the pass were pretty steep as I dropped down to 4 mph with a couple of short relatively flat spots.  As I approached the final climb to the pass I saw a bunch of dead pine trees and I assumed these were killed by the pine beetle disease.  A little later I could tell that some of the trees were burned.  When I got on the other side I found a fire kiosk that explained that all of this was due to a fire in 2003 that burned 90,000 acres.

As I neared the top of the pass I had a near unfortunate event.  Most RVs have been good about giving plenty of space when passing me but this bozo in a huge RV pulling a car managed to ride a little across the white line while I was hemmed in by a guard rail on a narrow shoulder.  I would have liked to have traded places with him and have him ride the bike and me zooming right next to him and see how he liked that.  I don't think he could have been much more than a foot from hitting me.  The irritating thing was there was no excuse for this.  The RV was in a passing lane that was phasing out so he had more than a normal lane of space.

After the pass there was an initial 6 mile steep descent but I couldn't take full advantage of it.  Normally, when doing 30+ mph I want to use the vehicle lane to give myself more margin but the traffic was too heavy to do that much of the way and I had to ride more conservatively on the shoulder.

There was a nice view of Mt Washington on the descent and then a pretty good view of Suttle Lake, a long emerald blue-green lake that stretched out below.  Interesting thing is I would have seen less and perhaps none of the lake if it hadn't been for the fire.  Without the fire damage the pine trees would have blocked most/all of the view.

The last 10 miles or so to Sisters were relatively flat.  And speaking of flat, about 7 miles from Sisters I got that sinking feeling when I could tell my rear tire was going soft.  I pedaled on for a while to see how long it would last.  Finally, I stopped and pumped up the tire and hoped it would hold into town which it did.

In Sisters, pop 1760, I rode through town checking it out as best I could, and found the city park on the other end.  Then I rode back a couple blocks into town to a pizza place and had my first pizza of the trip which was pretty good.  When I was done eating, my rear tire was completely flat so I pumped it up to get me back to the city park.  In the park I set up camp for $12 and then removed my rear tire.  It was easy to find the puncture and I found a short piece of wire still stuck in the tire, so I was confident that I had the fix well in hand.

This turned out to be a nice day for riding with great weather and some good scenery.  The one disappointment was I never saw Mt Jefferson.  There was supposed to be a view of it yesterday but yesterday was hopeless with the low hanging clouds.  I think today it was blocked by the high hill on my left most of the day.  The other disappointment was that the city park offered a senior discount on every hook-up in the park except for a tent site.  I decided to sleep on whether I should sue the city for that oversight – tenters need discounts too...

Day 15: Mon, Sep 21, 2009 - Sisters, OR to Bend, OR [30.7, 2:58:45, 10.3 mph, 1,123']

It was a cold night and the first night I had to zip up my sleeping bag.  I got up around 6:30 and hurried to get packed and into a warm breakfast place.  I didn't bother putting on my bicycle gloves since I only had to ride a short distance but my hands got pretty cold in that time.  I stopped at the Ski Inn that the pizza place had recommended.  I had seen it riding through town and wasn't too impressed since I figured it was a motel catering to skiers.  I was wrong.  It was a small cafe unattached to any motel and turned out to be a good choice since it was the local hangout.  There was lively conversation amongst the locals and the food was good.  I had pancakes and bacon and eggs.  I would have given the whole event a high rating but the pancakes were a little burnt (but large) and that tempered my rating a bit.  The waitress at the cafe said she noted a 25F reading in the morning which seemed colder than I had thought but maybe that's why I thought it was cold.

I left town about 8:30 intending to ride only to Bend, some 21 miles away.  Bend would be the last significant town for 4-5 days before I reach Ashland near the California border so I wanted to take advantage of its amenities.  It was still a little cold when I left but not bad and an hour later it was good riding weather.  There was a lot of traffic on 20 and that didn't surprise me today since Bend is a major city in central Oregon.

The immediate impression on leaving Sisters was that the area was arid and there were sprinkler systems working.  I think this was probably the western edge of the Oregon high desert.  I passed through this high desert last year and enjoyed the scenery very much and I enjoyed today's scenery too.  There were several good views of the Three Sisters and a little further out of town I was able to look back and see Mt. Jefferson.

After about 15 miles I came to Tumalo Junction and picked up OB Riley road the rest of the way to Bend.  The road went past the Tumalo State Park, which would probably have been a nice place to camp if I was looking for a campground, and then started a short, steep climb of a little less than a half mile with some minor climbing the rest of the way into town.  Interestingly, the road had much less traffic than the main highway but had a better shoulder.

In town it was pretty easy to find my way downtown by following the traffic signs.  I stopped at a coffee shop with WiFi to get caught up on things, particularly since I hadn't had Internet access since Hood River.  After checking email I researched motel locations and found most of them on 3rd Street which turned out to be Business 97.  Then I looked up bicycle shops.  I needed new gloves because my right glove was disintegrating and causing soreness.  I also have a cyclocomputer mount on the side of my aero bars and I was looking for a replacement because it had seen better days.  This mount was not easy to find.  I had looked unsuccessfully in all of the bike shops in Hood River and was hoping to find one here.  While searching for bike shops I discovered Bend had an REI so I went there first and got new gloves.  Then I rode to 3rd Street to scout out some of the motel possibilities.  I also stopped at another bike shop and they suggested trying another bike shop.  That bike shop didn't have what I wanted but they knew what I was talking about and directed me to another bike shop that they were sure would have it.  As luck would have it this second bike shop was also next to a used book store so I picked out another book for $0.50 since I would soon need another book.  Then the third bike shop had the gizmo I wanted.

With my bike needs taken care of I rode back to 3rd Street and stopped at Motel West.  I was pretty sure it was relatively inexpensive since it was behind a building on 3rd Street and not an optimal location.  There I got a $38 room that had WiFi.  Right across the street was a Baha Fresh Mexican place where I got a large burrito.  After eating I cleaned my bicycle chain which needed it and then I installed my new aero bar cyclocomputer mount except I used it for holding my GPS.  Interestingly, so far my GPS had proven more useful in cities whereas I thought it would be most useful out in the country when following forest roads and such that might be poorly marked.

Finally, I responded to some more work emails regarding a server move that is scheduled for Wednesday, when I will most likely be out of touch since I won't be near any major towns or major roads where I would have cellular coverage.  In addition, I have a 2-way pager that so far has proven useless since I have missed all my colleague's pages except one.  Earlier at the coffee shop I had spent 20 minutes or so discussing this impending move with my boss which has real potential for being a mess.

Day 16: Tue, Sep 22, 2009 - Bend, OR to Crescent Lake, OR [82.7, 8:36:14, 9.6 mph, 3,901']

I got up in the morning and went grocery shopping at a nearby store.  I would be out for 3-4 days in areas with only a couple small towns so it was more important than normal to have enough food.  When I was done shopping I almost didn't have enough room for the food.  Here is where my new panniers helped out with their extra capacity.

Yesterday I investigated places to eat breakfast and found there was an Original Pancake House and it was on the way to Mt Bachelor so it seemed a slam dunk choice.  I headed under 97 on Franklin, turn left on Wall St, and took Colorado to the restaurant in an area that was populated with businesses where I wouldn't have expected to find a restaurant.  I ordered the sour dough pancakes and the waitress asked me if I wanted all 8 and I said yes.  The pancakes were good but not filling.  I estimated that 4 pancakes were about the equivalent of a large pancake so I effectively got 2 large pancakes for $7.25.  That wasn't enough food and it was too expensive.  Fortunately, I had bought a muffin at the grocery store and I consumed it to augment my limited breakfast.

I didn't get on the road until about 9:15.  The restaurant was close to the Cascade Lakes Road so it was easy to pick up.  The first 22 miles were climbing to Mt Bachelor, a climb of about 2,600 feet with a couple of steep sections at 4 mph but overall not too bad a climb.  There were some good views along the way of mountains shrouded in haze to the east.  This route was obviously a popular bicycle route for the locals.  Several cyclists passed me descending and one passed me on the way up.  I stopped about 2/3 of the way up at a sno-park for my second breakfast.  It had a warming hut that wasn't open but had a little porch that offered shade and a concrete cinder block to sit on.  Just about perfect except there were some bees buzzing around who thought they owned the place.

The scenery got better as I went over the Mt Bachelor summit at about 6,300 feet.  This road was an Oregon Scenic Byway and it pretty well lived up to its name.  There were several nice lakes along the way - Sparks, Devils, and Elk.  It was projected to be a near record setting temperature day in Bend and it was getting warm at this altitude.  The biggest problem was my water got warm and I wanted a cold drink but wasn't sure there was anything along the way, according to my guide.  However, I saw a sign for an Elk Lake Resort & Marina.  It wasn’t clear whether it was on the right or left side of the road and I chose the right side based on the Elk Lake sign but that was the wrong choice.  If I had been smarter I would have simply looked at my GPS which showed there was a lake on the left side.  Unfortunately, the resort was closed on Mondays and Tuesdays so I couldn't get a cold drink but it had an outside drinking faucet that provided perfectly fine cold water.

Refreshed I took off again.  After several miles of steep descent from the Mt Bachelor Summit, the road mostly leveled off with a little up and down but a gradual overall descent.  After Elk Lake there weren't any more good lake views and even Elk Lake wasn't viewable from the road.  My goal was to camp at Davis Lake.  As I neared the lake I saw a huge pile of rocks along the road, taller than the pine trees.  At first I thought some bulldozer had created this pile but it was much too large.  That's when I realized this was a pile of lava because I remembered my guide mentioning lava beds.  Closer to Davis Lake was evidence of another forest fire that looked pretty recent.  I turned off to the campground at the southern end of the lake in the midst of burned trees and then had second thoughts as I would have had to travel a mile or so on a soft graveled road and wasn't sure what I would find.

So I decided to push on to the next campground near Crescent Lake which meant I would be pushing daylight since it was already around 5:30 and I had 14-15 miles to go.  There was some more modest climbing and some modest descending as I raced the setting sun.  In the southwest I could see a strange cloud threatening to shut out the sun that I learned later was smoke from a forest fire.  As I rode north on Hwy 58 towards Crescent Lake I found an RV Park but they didn't have tent sites.  I bought a cold drink and pushed on.

Another 1.5 miles brought me to Crescent Lake with a motel, a store, and a restaurant.  There was also an RV Park at this location and it apparently had tent sites although I couldn't find the hosts to confirm tent site availability.  So I went back to the store which had some typical hot food of the burrito/taco variety and bought enough along with a cold drink to take care of my evening meal.  While I was there a local asked me about my trip and told how he and a buddy took off after high school on their on a trip some 30 years ago.  They rode from Wisconsin to Portland and further south.  Like many such travelers he looked for an opportunity to repeat such an adventure some day.

Back at the RV Park the hosts still hadn't showed up so I picked a site and set up.  I went to take a shower and learned the shower machine took special tokens rather than quarters.  This area was populated with seasonal mushroom pickers and one of the pickers told me about the special tokens and offered to get one for me for $5.  I think the token actually cost $3 but he knew where to get it so I gave him the $5 and got my shower.

After the shower I walked back to the store for another cold drink.  I also discovered that I had cell coverage here.  After I left Bend I remembered another work issue with our new database server but I couldn't communicate it because I lost cell coverage, as I expected, when I left Bend.  Now I had weak coverage so I left a voice mail for my boss, who wasn't answering his cell phone at almost 2 hours later than my current time of almost 9:00.  Then I retired to my tent and wrote my notes.

Day 17: Wed, Sep 23, 2009 - Crescent Lake, OR to Diamond Lake, OR [49.7, 6:49:05, 7.3 mph, 2,791']

It was fairly chilly in the morning but not as cold as it was in Sisters.  When I was packing up I chatted a bit with one of the campers.  He said that virtually everybody in the campground was either a mushroom picker or a mushroom buyer.  This mushroom hunting was big business but it had a limited timeframe before the mushroom pickers would have to move on to some place else.  After I packed up I found the hosts at home and paid $25 for my site, which apparently was the same cost as if I had an RV.  There was no breakfast place so I made breakfast of 2 sausage & egg biscuits and a bear claw at the store.  This was more filling and satisfying than the breakfast yesterday morning at the Original Pancake House that cost twice as much.

When I left around 8:30 it was still chilly but it warmed up over the next hour.  I wasn't looking forward to today's route because most of it was on unpaved roads.  Had it all been paved it wouldn't have been a big deal including the climb to Windigo Pass at 5,850 feet.  I rode along the west end of Crescent Lake on pavement but didn't get to see the lake until near the southern end.   After I rounded the southern end with more views of the lake the pavement ended.  The gravel road would have been okay except it had washboarding, small ridges cutting across the road that made the road very bumpy on a bicycle.  It was a continual battle to try to find the least bumpy part of the road and even when the road was slightly downhill it was necessary to brake to slow the speed of the bike.  This was depressing because I realized that if the unpaved road was all like this it was going to be an awfully long day.

Fortunately, after about 15 miles, FR 60 turned abruptly right towards Windigo Pass and the road characteristics changed.  The road became almost entirely sandy and the sand was fairly well compacted.  That made it possible to move at a faster speed without the jarring of the washboarding previously.  There were still places where the bike tires would dig in to the sand too much so it was still necessary to continually look for the most compacted locations on the road, usually where vehicular tires had previously traveled.

As it was, the 10-mile climb to the pass was not that steep and that helped offset the loss of traction due to the sandy road.  About a third of the way I stopped in a shady place for my second breakfast.  When I resumed the road started getting worse as I neared the pass.  However, it was probably worse for vehicles than a bicycle since the road narrowed and the passage of vehicle tires created some ruts.  That wasn't all that bad for a bicycle since it wasn't that difficult to navigate around the ruts although it did take care and energy.

At the top of the pass there was no sign announcing the pass other than a Windigo Pass Trailhead sign.  However, the road abruptly changed color from the white sand to reddish sand with some gravel.  The road was still sandy but that didn't matter as much on the descent, although the descent had to be kept under control or risk a spill if the front tire dug into the sand at some point.  Of course, part of the reward for climbing a pass is the follow on descent but that pleasure was mostly lost with the sandy road.

After about 6 miles of descending, I had the option to continue on the unpaved road to 138 or turn off towards Lemulo Lake on a paved road but about 3 miles longer.  It didn't take me long to decide that I had had enough of unpaved roads and I turned right towards Lemulo Lake.  At the same time I could see and smell the smoke from a forest fire.  But it was easy to fall in love with the paved road.

When I reached 138, I turned south towards Diamond Lake, 7 miles away, and immediately began climbing at about 5 mph.  So the 7 miles took at least an hour on a road with little shoulder but not much traffic.  Diamond Lake had a resort and was the first opportunity for food or drink since leaving Crescent Lake.  I stopped at the resort restaurant around 4:00 and had fish and chips, which were good but expensive as expected at a resort area.  Then I rode down the road to the Diamond Lake campground which I could see long before I reached the turnoff. 

The campground was large with A-F loops and it was long as it was strung along the lake front.  I was fortunate to find a site at the lake edge and I quickly snapped it up in this campground that had a lot of RVs.  I was a ways from the entrance so I set up camp and rode my bike back to the entrance to pay my reasonable $12 fee.  There was, surprisingly, a shower facility so I took my clothes along on my bike to shower.  Showers were $1 for 5 minutes on a donation basis so that was a real deal.

Back at camp I dug into my food supply for a second dinner and I watched boats on the lake and the sun set behind a mountain on the opposite side that was almost obscured by the smoke.  With the unpaved road behind me and no more unpaved sections planned along the rest of the way my concern was how much the smoke would affect the Crater Lake views tomorrow.

Day 18: Thu, Sep 24, 2009 - Diamond Lake, OR to Prospect, OR [68.3, 6:10:47, 11.0 mph, 2,749']

When I got up in the morning I couldn't see across the lake because of the smoke.  That didn't sound good for the day.  I rode ¾ of a mile back to the camp entrance and then a mile back to the resort restaurant.  When I walked into the resort I saw someone using a laptop in the lounge and that suggested WiFi.  Yesterday, I had seen someone with a laptop in the restaurant seating area so I asked the waitress if there was WiFi and she said “Of course not” as if that didn't fit in with the locale.  So this morning I asked the front desk and was told there was WiFi.  So I grabbed my laptop and checked email while eating breakfast, a disappointingly small and expensive stack of 3 pancakes.  Our new work database server was supposedly up and running on a new server with a few questions that I made suggestions about.

It was around 9:00 by the time I left for Crater Lake.  It wasn't that far to the north entrance to the park and I got the bad news before I got there.  I saw several cars stop at the guard station and then turnaround.  I was sure they were told the view was not good unless you liked smoke.  I confirmed that with the guard and bought a Senior Pass for $10.

It was 9 miles to the Rim Drive with a fair amount of climbing although not as bad as I thought it would be.  I stopped along the way for a needed second breakfast after my skimpy first breakfast.  When I reached the Rim Drive intersection there was a viewing area.  From there I could barely see Wizard Island and the water in front of it.  Still it was a better view than I thought I might get since I thought I might see nothing.  There were several scenic turnouts on the descent to the south entrance with pretty much the same result – a hazy view of Wizard Island and not much else.  Riding this part of the Rim Drive was also interesting.  There were several sections where the edge of the road simply fell off steeply and a careless moment could end up in a last bike ride.  So I carefully rode in the middle of my lane to be sure I would get to ride another day.  On the descent I met 3 cyclists riding unloaded and then I met a  couple of touring cyclists.  I talked with the guy while his wife rode on and he said yesterday was a perfect viewing day which I was really glad to hear.  He suggested that tomorrow was supposed to be pretty good so I started thinking about whether I would want to lay over a day in the hopes of a good viewing day.

I stopped at the gift center and was hit with sticker shock at the prices of sandwiches - $8 for a pretty basic ham sandwich.  I had a small cup of chili and a soda to tide me over.  From there I descended steeply with some switchback curves to the Information Center.  The ranger there seemed only mildly optimistic that tomorrow would be much better since it really depended on whether the wind would blow hard enough and in the right direction to move the smoke out of the area.  That made it an easy decision for me to move on and forget about Crater Lake.

I descended to 62 and then turned west.  After just a short, modest climb the road descended fairly steeply to its intersection with 230 for 18 miles.  This was a great descent in the 25-30 mph range on a good road where I never had to worry about the bike getting out of control.  At the 230 junction I turned south towards Prospect, another 11 miles.  This section was a more gradual descent but easy pedaling kept my speed at about 18 mph.  All of this was through thick forests of tall pine trees.

In Prospect I stopped at the cafe for a bite of chicken tenders just before 5:00.  It wasn't a great dinner but it was enough to tide me over till camp time.  To follow up on work issues I was interested in WiFi access.  There was a hotel/motel next door but it was a historic one according to its sign and the cheapest room was $90.  There was an RV Park up the street that I figured probably had WiFi if they allowed tenting.  The small restaurant/store was pretty busy so I opened my laptop to test for WiFi and found it existed but I couldn't connect.  So I went back to the main road and found another RV Park just south.  They didn't take tenters either but the proprietor allowed me to use their WiFi to check email where I made some more work suggestions related to the new server.

The proprietor said there was a NF campground just up the road a half mile although I didn't recall one that close to town.  So I rode up the road a couple of miles and didn't see anything.  With darkness looming, I pulled off into the national forest on an off-track route and found an okay spot to set up for the night.

Day 19: Fri, Sep 25, 2009 - Prospect, OR to Ashland, OR [84.8, 8:54:55, 9.5 mph, 4,955']

I packed up as quickly as I could and rode back to the same cafe in town, only about a mile away.  I had bacon, eggs, and pancakes and it was very good.  The 2 pancakes alone were better than the 3 pancakes at Diamond Lake.  I also got to read the area paper and the front page news was the smoke that was settled in the Rogue Valley.  Turns out there were two separate fires that were started by lightning on September 12 and 13 and both burned slowly before taking off recently.  For a while the smoke was drifting north and had reached all the way to Vancouver Island and then the wind shifted the other day.  I'm pretty sure I know right around when it shifted because I didn't notice any smoke while climbing to Windigo Pass.  It wasn't until around mid-afternoon when I had completed my descent from the pass that I noticed both the smell and sight of smoke.  That evening I could see smoke in the Diamond Lake area and the next morning I couldn't even see across the lake because the smoke was so thick.  Anyway, the paper said the prediction was that the smoke would hang around until Sunday when the wind was expected to change.  So it was pretty clear that I made the right decision to not hang around Crater Lake.

I left town by picking up Butte Falls Road which would take me to Butte Falls some 25 miles away.  This was a good road with virtually no traffic and the scenery was pretty decent despite the smoke.  However, it did have a significant climb that I didn't notice on my elevation profile.  That was probably due to the fact that my elevation profile included the Crater Lake route so the profile ranged from 2,000 to 8,000 feet.  That made the vertical range more compressed than normal.

Butte Falls Road ended at FR 30 and I turned right, opposite the direction of my route, to head into Butte Falls a mile away.  I was determined to have real milk with my granola rather than powdered milk and I got more than I bargained for.  The smallest milk size the store had was half a gallon, way more than I needed.  I was only able to use a little more than half and had to waste the rest.

FR 30 took me past Willow Lake CG and a few miles later turned south and became FR 37.  By this time it was quite warm and I was sweating quite a bit.  The best part of the road was where the pine trees next to the road were really tall and they provided a little shade on the road which made a big difference in temperature and comfort.

There was a pretty steep 3-4 mile climb in this stretch and then FR 37 stopped at the intersection with 140.  However a very short distance on 140 led to a left and a continuation for FR 37 except FR 37 was somewhat different than before.  Now it was rougher due to chip seal but better because it was mostly shaded by trees.  I gladly traded the little rougher pavement in exchange for the shade.  I also was looking to exchange my fairly warm water in my water bottles for something cooler and I hoped that one of the campgrounds along the way would have drinking water but I passed 3 campgrounds that all had no drinking water, and also only charged $5 for a camp site.

FR 37 dead ended at Dead Indian Road and I turned on that to take me the remaining 22 miles to Ashland.  Then I finally found a campground with drinking water and I traded in my lukewarm water for cool drinking water.  This stretch was through a valley of ranch land with yellow grassland.  Then the road climbed fairly steeply for 3-4 miles to leave the valley and begin the descent to Ashland on the other side.  The descent was fairly steep, losing 3,000 feet over 13 miles.  My guide book warned about checking the bike brakes but, although the road was steep in a few sections, it was mainly very curvy and braking was needed to work through various tight curves.  But it was a great descent and scenic but it was disappointing that the smoke, which was much greater on this side of the descent, obscured the distant scenery.

I rolled into Ashland around 5:00 and started wandering around to gauge the city of 20,000 and find a motel.  I had to ride a pretty fair distance once I got into Ashland to get to the main downtown area.  After riding all the way through downtown I made my way back to the Ashland Motel that looked like it might be the cheapest.  Perhaps it was but it nicked my pocketbook for $85.

I really needed a shower after the warm day and then I headed out for something to eat.  As luck would have it there was a Subway next door but as luck would have it I wasn't too happy with it.  Subway has been advertising $5 foot long subs for some time but some of these places only include a few sandwiches under the $5 price.  I understand excluding a few sandwiches from the $5 but I consider it deceptive advertising when most sandwiches don't fall under this pricing.  So I skipped Subway and went to a teriyaki grill next door where I ordered a chicken dinner for almost $10.  Then I sat around and nothing seemed to be happening for what I figured should have been an easy order to fill.  It turns out the order got lost somehow so the place refunded me my money to make up for the error.  I was actually pretty happy with that outcome and figured I would gladly wait as long as I did to get a $10 meal for nothing.

After food I went back to my motel to connect to their WiFi.  First, I discovered their WiFi was password protected and had to get the password.  Then I discovered their WiFi was one my Linux PC wouldn't connect to automatically.  I had that same problem at the Prospect cafe in the morning.  I just tried my laptop there and found an open WiFi but couldn't connect to it.  This was getting to be more and more of a hassle.  I tried to engage the motel folks with contacting their WiFi support team because I knew exactly what I needed the support team to provide for me to connect up manually.  Not surprisingly, the motel folks were totally clueless about WiFi technology and it was virtually impossible for me to talk to them intelligently since they thought they knew what the problem was.  Eventually, I was allowed the use of the motel's PC to address some work email which I hadn't been able to do for a couple of days because I didn't have cell coverage.  So that turned out fairly well but it meant I would have to move to another motel tomorrow to where I could get WiFi access.

Day 20: Sat, Sep 26, 2009 - Ashland, OR - rest day

My plan was to head to the nearby coffee shop to use the Internet and research where to stay for the day but I discovered the coffee shop was only open during the week.  So I bit the bullet and started walking downtown, about a mile away.  I didn't have to go quite that far since I found a coffee shop at a Stratford Inn where I was able to do my research and handle some more work issues.  I found the Timbers Motel that was close to my current motel and the same price with a WiFi that worked with my PC.

Ashland is a city of about 22,000 and is the home of Southern Oregon University and the internationally renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  After settling in my new motel I walked downtown to check out the town and to see the Shakespeare Festival area.  It was another hot, smoky day with the nearby hills to the east barely visible.  This heat wave was expected to last another day and then cool off.

In the evening I relented on my Subway boycott and ate there because I discovered they had a hot wings $5 footlong special.  I spent the rest of the evening with administrative and trip planning issues.

Day 21: Sun, Sep 27, 2009 - Ashland, OR to Weed, CA [74.7, 7:45:40, 9.6 mph, 3,956']

I was slow getting started for some reason.  I packed up and rode down Ashland St which was the same street I came in on and stopped at a restaurant just before the Interstate for breakfast.  I had their Montana special which was bacon, eggs, and 2 pancakes.  I noted the menu only had an option for 1 or 2 pancakes and I saw why when mine came.  They were almost as big as the 10” plate so there wouldn't be many folks who would want three although these pancakes were a bit on the thin side.  As I left the restaurant I got hailed by a guy who asked about my trip.  When I mentioned riding through Death Valley he said he had done that a couple times in January when temps were in the 70s.

I rode next door to the grocery store to do some shopping and then finally got going just before 9:30.  I rode Hwy 66 for a few miles and then took Old Siskiyou Road, also known as Old Hwy 99.  In a few miles the road started climbing steeply to the Siskiyou Pass.  It was a nice road with almost no traffic and good shade from trees as the road wound its way along side of a hill.  It was just too bad that the smoke was still around to hide the scenery. 

After about 14 miles the road passed a lodge/restaurant by I5 and I stopped for a second breakfast.  I asked in the lodge whether they could sell milk and they said yes in a takeout cup.  I wasn't sure one cup was enough so I ordered two cups which was just right, one cup for my granola and one cup for drinking.  What wasn't right was the price - $6.  For that price I could normally buy a gallon of milk and get change back.

When I left I picked up Old Hwy 99 on the right side of I5 for a bit and then it passed under I5 and continued the climb to Siskiyou Pass on the left side, ending up much higher than the Interstate.  After the pass, the road deteriorated somewhat on the descent and then it ended and I was forced on I5.  I descended a couple miles on I5, entered California, and exited at Hilt for a cold drink.  Resuming on I5 it was a continued descent for a few more miles until I took the Hornbrook Road exit.

I rode a few miles and rode through Hornbrook and picked up Copco Road a few miles east and then Ager Road south to Montague.  That led to the start of a gradual 1,000 foot climb toward Montague.  All along there was some nice scenery that was really messed up by the still lingering smoke.  My guide noted that near Montague the view of Mt Shasta would dominate the scenery but I wouldn't have been able to pick out Mt Shasta if it hadn't had some snow on the top.

It was another very warm day, the last warm day before projected cooler weather moved in and cold drink stop opportunities were the order of the day.  I stopped in Montague for a cold drink and then again in Grenada just another 6 miles down the road.  My goal at the start of the day was Mt Shasta because that was the first campground along the way and I held Weed as a fall back.  However, I miscalculated the distance and realized I would be doing well to make Weed.

From Grenada it was a straight shot to Gazelle on a flat 9 miles and I made good time.  I debated whether to stop for another cold drink in Grenada but I didn't see anything in Grenada so the decision was easy.  The rest of the way to Weed was a little less flat.  Both these sections were through a wide valley that was prime hay and cattle country.  Views of Mt Shasta finally started to get clear as I got closer and closer.

A few miles before Weed the road crossed over I5 where I planned to pick up a side road.  However, there was construction going on and the I5 southbound entrance was closed as well as the side road.  Motorists were directed to follow the detour route which sent them north on I5, apparently to the next exit where they could turn around.  There wasn't any way I was going to do that on a bike so I rode up the southbound exit ramp onto I5.  Then the 2 southbound lanes were closed and the northbound lane was divided into a northbound and a southbound lane by concrete dividers.  Since I wasn't feeling suicidal, there was no way I was riding into a squeezed one lane bounded by concreate dividers amidst high speed traffic and considerable truck traffic.  Fortunately, a cyclist has more options and I weaved around the construction, which was dormant on a Sunday.  The reason for the construction was the rebuilding a bridge for the southbound lanes.  The bridge concrete was already poured and the truck that was used to barricade the bridge was no match for a cyclist.  This was actually a case where being on the Interstate was probably a good thing.  My guide mentioned that the other road had some ups and downs whereas I5 was just gradual and I'm sure saved me some climbing.

When I took the exit to Weed, there was a Motel 6 sign advertising $44 rooms so I had an immediate gauge that the motel situation was going to be much better than Ashland.  I stopped at the first motel in town and got a room for $35, $50 cheaper than Ashland.  The motel was also next door to a Pizza Factory so the meal choice was also easy.  After eating I was able to find a WiFi signal I could use even though the motel itself didn't have WiFi.



Copyright Denis Kertz, 2009. All rights reserved.