Sunday, June 17, 2012

Bike America Day 2: Into the Wild

Day’s Distance: 55.62
Average Speed: 11.3
Maximum speed"28.3
Overall distance: 105

I woke up Friday morning, relieved to not have been eaten by a bear in the night, and took my typical long time packing my bags and taking down the tent. It would be a decently long day with several significant climbs, the longest being ten miles up the base of a mountain at the end of the day.

After eating a cold bagel with cream cheese, something that would never taste even a quarter as good at home, and packing the car, my mom and I set out. The sun was shining and we spent the first eighteen miles playing leap frog. I would ride ahead, stop to take pictures, she’d catch up and pass me, and I’d set out to pass her and ride ahead all over again. The scenery was unbelievable and I felt the need to capture it all.

 We met up with my dad in RockportWA, population 102, and talked with a Vietnam vet who rode his bike from SpokaneWA to DetroitMI for a March of Dimes fundraiser in 1974. We left the town that is a gas station and rode 12.5 mostly deserted miles to our parked car where we stopped for lunch in a gravel parking lot beside a grass-fed beef farm called American Alpine. Lunch was a peanut butter and banana sandwich and an apple. In the lot, we met a fisheries biologist who told us about a trio of brothers that he and his wife met in Alaska last fall. These boys, who had just graduated from Princeton were just setting out on a bike journey from AnchorageAK to Argentina. The man had been following their blog and reported that they just finished their journey last month. Holy cow that is a long bike ride! And I thought America was huge!

From Marblemount, the last source of provisions on our route for the next 74 miles, my dad and I rode about 30 miles into our campsite. The first twenty or so were flat and quick. I stopped to pee and met a couple whose daughter and her boyfriend, on summer break from college, were wrapping up their bike journey from the Mexican border, through the mountains, to Canada. The parents were on their way to meet the couple at a campsite for the night. Turns out this biking thing is pretty freaking popular!

We were well aware that the final ten miles of the day would be uphill so we were anxiously awaiting the start. The looming question was whether my dad would be able to/want to ride all ten miles up the mountain and then whether he would be able to safely ride the 33 miles uphill the next day. When the climb began, we were pleasantly surprised at how steady the grade was. Forty-three miles of that would be no problem. But it quickly got steeper and we slowly chugged along as we inched our way up. We went through a long dark tunnel, cut out of the rock, and were both scared of cars not seeing us, or the blinking light on my bike, in the cool, wet, pitch-blackness of it. We spent the whole day riding along the Skagit River which was full of the the most blue-green water I've ever seen outside of Jamaica. 

With only two miles left to climb, my dad decided to call it quits. My mom would be back by with the car and he know that was the safe thing to do on this, the second day of the ride. He said that our friend Jack, who’d advised “don’t let anyone, including yourself, do anything stupid” had gotten in his head. It was a shame because about 350 feet after I left him, the hill crested and the final 2 miles into camp were downhill. By the time I thought to ride back and tell him to come along, I’d gone too far down to turn around. The silver lining, my dad noted, was that he can brag to Jack about his safe decision-making.

In camp, we all lounged and talked about the challenging day ahead. Dinner was warm chili and a salad. We were early in our tents to rest up for Day 3.