Sunday, June 17, 2012

Bike America Day 3: Over a Mountain

Today’s Distance: 64.38
Average Speed: 11.0
Maximum speed: 32.3
Overall distance: 170

The blogs we read of guys who rode this chunk of our route last summer described the climb from Colonial Campground to Washington Pass as “brutal”. It took them 6 hours to ride the 33 miles. There wasn’t much doubt in my mind that I could make the trip but I wasn’t sure how much fun I’d have. We went to bed early to prepare.

I woke up at 4am with a splitting (almost migraine) headache and terrible stomach cramps. I took aleve, teared up from the pain, and went to the bathroom before falling asleep for another two hours. It wasn’t a good night to lose sleep but my body ended up cooperating fully for the entirety of Day 3.

My dad left the campsite at 8am and I pulled out 30 minutes later, stopping almost immediately to photograph the spectacular scenery that would only get better throughout the day. The first two miles were really steep and I was apprehensive about how I’d survive the climb. While it was tough, the first 23 miles, overall, ended up being easily manageable. It was mostly uphill, with a few short downhills and flat areas, and it was rarely so steep that I couldn’t go at least 7-8 mph. At mile 23, though, the going got tough. I began four long, very steep miles surrounded by snow and forests closely bordering the roads. I spent most of the time imagining what I’d do if a bear came out of the trees. Many made-up scenarios and hallucinations later, I made it to Rainy Pass, "Rainy Day Pass" as my dad calls it, the first pass of the day. My mom met me there and snapped a photo. I was cold and sweaty but I wanted to continue on the final stretch before my legs tensed up too much.

My dad, who I had passed at mile 5, decided to finish his very successful ride up the majority of a challenging mountain (serious kudos to him) at mile 23, at the base of the horrid 4 miles I described earlier. I finished my ride down one mile and up four more. I was pleasantly surprised when they were steep and challenging but not so bad as the ones leading to Rainy Pass. At last, I reached Washington Pass where my parents and I congregated, ate lunch, dressed in warm clothing, and took more photos.

My mom decided to descend the mountain with me. The scenery on the way down was so incredible. It began with rocky, snow-covered cliffs, and continued into the most plush, green forests I’ve ever seen in my life. Washington is called The Evergreen State for a reason. It was all breathtaking and I wish that my photos could do it justice. 

At the bottom of 18 downhill miles, we emerged into what seemed like a completely different land. The air was more dry and the plants more brushy. There were ranches and green-space all around. It was exactly the way I’ve imagined Montana to be. And the sky was big. If the sky in Montana feels even bigger than it did on our third day in Washington, then I can’t wait to see it.

After a quick little jaunt through Winthrop, a quirky old ranch town, we got to our campsite in an open green space beside a lake. With kids running around and people tailgating, it was a change of pace from the wooded sites of the past few nights but, for me, it was a welcome change. I took my first shower in five days and we enjoyed sandwiches we picked up in a mountain café. I sipped Scuttlebutt Amber Ale, brewed in Everett, WA and decided I’d like to try a beer from every state we ride through.

This was, by far, the most challenging, rewarding, and beautiful day of cycling I’ve ever done and it was only day 3 of our long journey. I can only hope that it gets better and better but this one will be hard to beat. I hope the pictures make that clear.


  1. Absolutely awesome!! I love the beer in every state idea!! :)

  2. Winthrop is where my cousin's getting married in Sept!!! these pics are so awesome!!! Carrie On :)

  3. Looks like a great day! I like your idea to sample a beer from every state too!