The last week of cycling was physically tough as we hit the mountain passes with sore butts and less-than-fresh legs. It was also tooootally worth it for the simply amazing countryside we had the pleasure of traversing thanks to Glacier and Waterton Parks in Montana and Alberta, Canada.
Here are a few choice recent shots, plus one of us to prove we’re still together and happy. 😉 The last is one of my new favorites – it captures the joy that exploring via bike is all about. Enjoy!
Riding north on the east side of Glacier toward Canada.
(Definitely click to view full size!) Late bloom this far north up in Canada at Waterton Lake. (The mosquitoes practically carried me off as I took this picture…)
Riding up Going-to-the-Sun Road in the early morning in Glacier.
My too-cute smiling wife at the end of a rainbow! Riding next to Weeping Wall in Glacier on Going-to-the-Sun Road.
https://www.traipsingabout.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/4-DSC01967.jpg6821024Dakotahttps://www.traipsingabout.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Traipsing-About-logo-white-background-450x156.pngDakota2014-07-16 05:39:502014-08-04 20:13:24Mountains, Rainbows and Rivers Make All This Pedaling Worthwhile
A nice 20 mile back road section (Blue Slide Road) from Thompson Falls to Noxon. Avoid highway 200 and take this!
Ten days of cycling now lay behind us, efforts etched into the muscles in our legs along with the sights and smells from the route we’ve traversed. I am stunned to discover a patient side within myself, and also an inner facet content to spin along at 12 miles per hour watching rivers flow by while stopping to chat with people at their mailboxes. Everyone, without a hitch, is so nice, and many people are inspired by our trip and tell us of their goals to backpack long distance or bike tour. Some, not so much. As one woman put it: “You do that. I’m gonna go have a beer.” Touche, madame.
Life feels simple right now. Our goal for each day is simply to ride our bikes as far as we desire, or until one of us hits the wall. (So far, we’ve dodged the latter, so we haven’t slept next to a highway in a culvert. Yet.) Perhaps the best part is that there are no expectations from anyone and no timeline. We’ll get there when we do!
Exploring a gravel road near the Idaho-Montana border.
Strangely, I feel even more free than I did road tripping in the van. I think it’s because our day is outlined for us by the most basic of survival instincts: find sufficient food, water and shelter to support our cross-country trek. (And the last one is easy with the tent strapped to my bike.) We hang food out of an inquisitive bear’s reach, cook dinner on a propane stove and read as the sun sets. Or we indulge our fancy-pants side and get a hotel (I’m not above that!), check in on work, go out to eat, snag some groceries and prep for our next off-grid section of the ride. I view hotels as a nice side benefit of working while traveling – no guilt. We’re mixing it up beyond that and have also couch surfed once and camped in a backyard here in Whitefish via the wonderful bicycle hospitality site Warm Showers. No no, not Golden Showers, you perv.
An absolutely picturesque scene just west of Glacier.
Our route so far has exceeded expectations and been muy fabuloso. Rolling out the driveway at Chelsea’s parents’, we started in the rolling lentil and wheat hills in Idaho and SE Washington, soon supplanted by forested slopes of mountains and rivers feeding into Coeur d’Alene Lake, a jewel in Northern Idaho. We cruised that on the Trail of the Coeur d’Alene, the amazing rails-to-trails paved path spanning the width of the panhandle up north in Idaho. (Yay for railroads and mining companies paying out of the “kindness of their heart’s” to clean up a Super Fund site!) From there, we meandered and camped by rivers on quiet back roads and then up Thompson Pass, crossing into Montana after a hard day’s ride in 95 degree heat. Another five days of riding along rivers and lakes through sparkling green valleys and between mountain ranges and we were within a few miles of the Canadian border. Then a long 64-mile day to cap our first stint down into Whitefish, gateway to Glacier National Park. The last should have been 58 but *cough* someone (me) *cough* missed a turn. 420 miles of riding for our “warm-up” and a deserved rest day! (Don’t worry, I won’t do a point-by-point like this in the future…)
(Click to open for full effect.) A blazing sunset over Couer d’Alene Lake from our room at the Lakeview Lodge where we sat and drank local huckleberry wine.
I’m impressed with my body’s ability to handle hauling 100+ pounds of bike, gear, food and water. I’m REALLY impressed with Chelsea kicking butt and taking names with so much riding on a loaded bike! Initially, she was wondering how far she could go each day carrying so much weight. She’s a champ and is absolutely crushing it, with days like 56 miles and 5,500’ of elevation or our 64 miles yesterday and a couple others over 50 miles already. The Plains better watch out, here we come! I’m sure the headwinds there are cowering as I write this… As for our relationship (thanks for asking), we are doing oh-so-well. Surprisingly, perhaps, since I am an impatient jerk at times. Somehow, I’ve found my Zen space with touring and so we are having a marvelous time.
Silent back roads of eastern Washington.
Our biggest concern, other than whether our legs would fall off from overuse, was where (or if) we’d find healthy plant-based food. We’ve dodged that bullet by foraging for edible berries and scraping the soft layer of bark from tree branches and hey, we’re both feeling great other than this weird tummy bug. Juuust kidding. Actually, even in tiny towns with just a tavern and a handful of residents, this has luckily not been an issue. For those of you out there who are vegetarian or vegan and planning to do a long tour, perhaps this is something you’re wondering about? Do not fear, it’s doable! I’ll continue to update and probably write an entire post on surviving small-town America without a co-op, Café Gratitude or Whole Foods from which to forage.
This is feeling far more like a sabbatical than the prior eight months. Work, while still something I briefly check in on almost daily, seems distant. I feel mellow and obligations aren’t pulling at me, a very nice change of pace. Perhaps five hours of pedaling a bicycle requires so much energy that I simply focus on the necessary aspects of life? No boredom yet either – between podcasts, audiobooks and reading on my phone’s Kindle app, I’m consuming content voraciously, and have already read close to 1,800 pages so far, including the huge biography about John D. Rockefeller. Best time to read? At the top of long, steep climbs if I happen to arrive before Chelsea.
Soft light on a curve in the rolling hills of the Palouse.
Narg, the angry monster of my hungry alter-ego, is defanged by constantly eating. Nuts, fruit, granola bars and fig newtons all disappear down my gullet. My good friend Evan said one time, “I just realized something: you never stop eating!” That is even more true now that we’re riding our bikes with a heavy load with heart rates in the fat burning zone. I’m eating a lot, but so far it isn’t ridiculous. Unless you count eating an entire 12” pizza by myself ridiculous, of course. Hoping to graduate to a 15” pizza soon!
The Wild Coyote Saloon in Montana. Solid food and nice cold refills for our water bottles. (C photo)
I know you’re itching for a story of misery, about how this is SO hard and trying. Other than a gunshot-loud tire blowout two miles from the start and a missing screw on Chelsea’s pedal cleat, I’m happy to report that the weather has been perfect, if hot, and life is good. Don’t worry, we have miles and miles to go, so I’m sure stories will surface. My karma isn’t that good. At the moment, however, I’m sitting on our hosts’ back porch (thanks Rita and Chuck!) with a view of the glowing mountains at 10 pm while drinking ice tea. We are primed and ready for our assault on the Crush-the-Quads sojourn up the steep and long Going-to-the-Sun Road through Glacier. As Jack Kerouac poetically put it, “There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars.”
P.S. More photos below! Check ’em out.
Testing out gear just prior to our departure.
Our route for Days 1-10, just in case you’re curious.
Testing out video – this is from Lake Koocanusa headed north in Montana toward Canada. You may need to click through to YouTube to watch it.
Scenes like this are just everywhere in the NW. Such a great place to ride! This is a couple hours worth of riding west of Glacier.
As if biking isn’t hard enough…a super fun climb into the bathroom on the Trail of the CDA. Totally staged, for the record. (C photo)
Cooled off after a long day in the chilly Clark Fork River and then enjoyed a great night’s rest.
Lunch break at the top of steep (11% grade) Thompson Pass heading into Montana. See the road down to the right?
Flowers are still firing up in the high mountains!
Years ago, some miner was bored in the winter up in Murray, ID and decided to dig a hole in the floor of his bedroom to mine for gold. He actually found some! (Or some variation of that.) Now, they just have delicious food.
Crossing a half-mile trestle on the Trail of the Couer d’Alene. Camera malfunction killed the next day’s shots, including the best ones with big moose and baby on the trail. 🙁
Old-school sign at a lentil sorting facility.
The undesired but gonna-happen side of bike touring. Two miles in, my front tube exploded like a shotgun blast! (C photo)
Riding between tall silos on the border of Idaho and Montana. (C photo)
Lovely contrast on a field in Washington.
Chelsea cruising down a highway in eastern Washington.
https://www.traipsingabout.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/13-DSC01779.jpg10651600Dakotahttps://www.traipsingabout.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Traipsing-About-logo-white-background-450x156.pngDakota2014-07-09 07:50:072018-07-26 18:15:54Wait, Whose Idea Was It To Bike Tour? (Or, Musings on Ten Days Pedaling.)
It’s easy to do something that turns you into the Cheshire Cat of Glee. Everyone has that activity that lights up their soul and makes them smile ear-to-ear. Recently, mountain biking the best trails in the west does that for me, rolling up to a trailhead in the van and careening off into the distance eyes aglow. During the last eight months, I’ve had some of the most content moments of my life ripping along twisty trails or halfway through a ride eating lunch with a splendid vista.
And now, gears are shifting. We are parking the van at Chelsea’s parents’ near Moscow, Idaho and depart in two days on the next phase of our adventure: biking 4,500 miles cross-country to Maine! We’re embarking with just our touring bikes, a tent and other camping gear for an unsupported trek that will take us along the Canadian border. We’ll pedal north through eastern Washington, then turn east to cross Idaho, Montana, the Great Plains and Great Lakes, then meander all the way to Bar Harbor, Maine (Acadia National Park).
Waiiiit a second Dakota, you’re thinking. Why the HECK are you trading the fun of mountain biking for cruising slowly along on a loaded touring bike all the way across the country this summer? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! You’re the guy in a van, don’t change things up on us. Not fair!
Pretending I know how to ride in Fruita, Colorado. GO here.
Frankly, life being so good is exactly why I’m down for a new course. As I’ve alluded to in past writing, anything great will eventually grow stale without introducing new challenge to the mix. Whether that’s a shift in careers, a fresh hobby or a challenge like this one (totally Chelsea’s idea, by the way), leaning into the unknown creates that adrenaline-fueled excitement. Everything and everyone has New Relationship Energy when you’re just getting started.
What to expect of the ride? Neither of us has toured longer than five days straight! Thousands of miles is a LONG way to ride a bicycle, and my mind, body, soul and relationship will be tested along the way. Even at 50 miles a day, 4,500 miles is three months straight pedaling up mountains, across plains and through forests hauling all our gear. And the bad stuff! What if we get hit by a drunk oil truck driver in North Dakota? What if bears eat our food, then our bikes and tents with us inside? What if this is the hottest, craziest tornado summer of the last 100 years?! A bike helmet doesn’t save you when a giant Walmart truck drops from the sky.
Cruising the bike-only path (20 miles!) in Grand Teton National Park. Best backdrop for a ride I’ve seen on this trip.
Ohhhh, the bad stuff, that indistinct terror of the unknown. Often, we fear anything new, jumping to the worst case in our mind first instead of the best case. Think of anytime you’ve told family and friends about a big undertaking. A few will celebrate the new journey – “wow, that’s amazing!” And the majority will dig through every anecdote and news story that they’ve ever encountered to offer words of warning. “My cousin Rick tried that and barely survived,” or “My buddy’s uncle’s co-worker just sits in a corner staring blankly after a trip like yours.”
I can’t imagine what early settler’s heard from their safety-minded friends. I’m exaggerating…but you know what I’m saying. Everyone in your life cares about keeping you safe and away from harm and often the first response is one of concern and cautionary tales, however far-fetched. Rather than “have fun!” it’s “be safe.” Perhaps it stems from bygone days when our ancestors could only pass down wisdom via stories, and so warnings like that literally could save lives. “Thag, you steer clear of those TrampleYourAssasauruses in the summer, your uncle SlagHeap was mashed by one.”
Well, I have news. These days, life is safe! We in developed countries live in a world so ridiculously luxurious that people run 100 miles for fun and can fly (safely) around the planet on a whim for an insanely low price relative to bygone days. A hailstorm or flat tire in the middle of nowhere is a test, yet certainly not the end of our existence.
Cruising the excellent car-free trail in Dixie Canyon near Bryce Canyon National Park.
None of this is to say that I’m tough. I’m totally leery of the negative things that could happen; they crop up in my mind on an hourly basis. Testing our new tent on the back deck at C’s parent’s house in the country, the sound of a bear roaring nearby at midnight transfixed us in our sleeping bags for a couple minutes as we pictured the headline: “Dumb city slicker couple mauled in tent ten feet from house.” Mild terror until C’s dad starting laughing and turned off the iPad nature app featuring grizzly growls. Ohhh he’s quite the joker, her dad. Now I have to wash my sleeping bag!
Really though, we shall see how this goes. Dude, I’ve been driving around the country in my luxury German vehicle with a fridge and hot water boiler. I have wireless internet everywhere I go, and my favorite Synergy kombucha is almost always available. Our biggest roadblock, finding healthy plant-based food, is entirely a personal choice. Hmmm, can I actually do this?! Trading my comfy Sprinter van and mattress for a tent and sleeping pad? My stereo system for headphones? Accelerator for a pair of pedals and a bike seat? This sounds like a serious pain in the butt (literally, I’m sure).
And that’s why I’m game. I can always return to the van, or our house, to be coddled by the comforts of modern society. I can hop on a plane to Hawaii for a week in the sun, or drive to the beach for a weekend out of the city. But first, I’m spinning off into the Rocky Mountains to find some tent-eating bears. There will be trials of logistics and weather, plus the hangry (hungry+angry) moments when I don’t eat enough and Chelsea has to fend me off with a bike pump. (She calls that alter-ego NARG. Picture an ugly, surly monster with no logic or empathy.) Headwinds will batter the core of my convictions in the Great Plains and afternoon rain will perhaps dampen my spirits. It’s going to be hard…and so bodaciously rad! (The 80s live on.)
Totally unrelated to bike touring… Just a pretty shot from Grand Teton!
I know this: I’m going to emerge a stronger person with a new sense of what our bodies and minds can accomplish when we say “DO THIS” and set off on a big adventure. The best case is more confidence in the reality that testing our limits results in growth in directions we never expect. (Certainly in my quads.) And I suspect seeing new territory at bike-touring speed, and meeting kind, amazing people along the way, will light me up and crack my face into a big grin just like when I’m mountain biking.
Right now, it feels riskier to not keep mixing fresh horizons and new adventures into our lives, and this is simply the newest escapade. Living a life of no regrets is my guiding star, and so I grab my bike and point the front tire east. To Maine, I say! As a wise world traveler we met in Yellowstone told us, ““Be good, and if you can’t be good, be careful, and if you can’t do that, be really good!”
Getting our respective skips on outside the Adventure Cycling Association in Missoula (they have maps and bike touring gear and hey, we were in the area). Yes, Chelsea will always be more graceful and less nerdy than I could ever hope to be. And she has cool colored cycling socks.
Friends and blog readers (one and the same): Drop us a line with your favorite places across the northern U.S.! If you have family or buddies anywhere along our route, please put us in touch. Meeting people during our travels is absolutely our favorite part of being vagabonds. I’ll be updating the trip map along the way, so follow along to see if we accidentally wander into the Arctic Circle (not part of the plan).
Dakota & Chelsea
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We’ll see lots of wheat waving under sunsets on our trip!
https://www.traipsingabout.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/DSC008651.jpg6821024Dakotahttps://www.traipsingabout.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Traipsing-About-logo-white-background-450x156.pngDakota2014-06-23 06:45:162014-07-12 09:40:43Away We Spin Into the Unknown