Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Panama: Monkeys, Sloths, and fritas bananas.

After a complete failure of a ski trip attempt to the Cordillera Blanca, I had no choice but to go on a solo bike trip, again. I know most people out their put this in the 'fringe' category, even if you do it with someone. Yet if you do it alone, its just dangerous, and the questions are always... 'why would you do that?' Well I have no answers, but I do have a good experience and hopefully an enjoyable story.

After deliberating on locations about where I could go for two weeks with my bike that's cheap, the weather is nice, and the flights aren't too bad I settled on Panama, with a touch of Costa Rica. As always, with little planning, a map, a bike and a digital lonely planet I headed out.

When I reached Panama City Panama on the first night I saw almost nothing of the city because it was late, and I wasn't supposed to go out at night in that city. The next morning I woke up in my dorm style room full of older than teenage types who had been staying a bit to long on the Hostel train. I quietly took my large bags to the balcony, shut the door, and started assembling the Surly. 2 hours or so later, I was ready to depart the smelly, hot hostel. With the excitement of a new adventure I set off intending to find some breakfast. After some confusion I found a nice cafeteria style dive with empanada's, french fries, and an assortment of other fried meats. This would actually be the best breakfast for a long time. After my $1.50 I was off to find my way OUT of the city. I did spend some time riding around the Casco Vieja, to have a look at the ancient Spanish ruins. Not my first choice in 'beautiful old places.' but interesting non the less. The trick was no stopping too close to any of the sketchy looking street crowd that couldn't help but get their hand in your stuff. After getting lost numerous times, I finally just ended up using my compass to get out of town. As reported by the Lonely Planet, after leaving the historic district I moved into suburbia, filled with middle classers, SUV's, and departments stores. Boring! But, safe. From here I headed North along the Canal (yes, THE canal) towards the Mira Flores Locks to watch some big metal and lots of wasted fresh water. After paying my $5 entrance fee It was nice to see them in operation, get wi-fi and use a clean bathroom.

Later on I experienced the real panama. Rain, it began about 1pm, and it continued on and off... for the next week. I was ready though with all my rain gear. After crossing the canal for some photo's I joined the Pan-American Highway heading West North West. I spent endless miles through hot weather, driving rain, and clouds before night started to fall. My first problem of the trip: Finding a place to stay at night. I had planned on staying in the town of La Chorrera, which seems to be a large enough town to have some accommodations. I was navigating reasonably well to this point, at least I thought so. I started riding at about 7:00am with stops for breakfast, water, and the canal. When it finally started getting dark at about 6:30 I was wondering if I would ever make it to La Chorrera. So I started to ask around for a Hotel, but no one seemed to know where one was. Finally I got sent to the Policia to chat with them. The Captain gracefully told me that their was not a hotel within 30km of our location, and that La Chorrera was 30 km back in the direction I had came. So much for my navigation skills. The Captain also told me that I would be spending the night with them at the police station. So I spent a nice night working hard on my Spanish, and being very, very safe.

The next day I got out reasonably early and headed for something more visually stimulating... like the beach. It was during my next ride that I saw the sloth. Funniest creature I've ever seen in the wild. About the size of my cat with the same white hair, but soaking wet. (what a surprise) and it moved across the ground so very slow. It made me smile just to watch it. After a much shorter day I found a surf school with beach front camping somewhere near playa corona. I had a nice night swinging in my hammock listening to the waves crash.

The following day was a rather painful 80km filled with rain, and more rain. The Pan-Am highway is excellent riding, most of the time. It has a large shoulder, slow speed limits, and is reasonably well maintained. The downside is that when they put in a bridge, the shoulder completely disappears. So you have to go out into the lane and cross the bridge. So every time you come to a bridge (which is often in Central America) you have to stop, wait for a break in the traffic, and then sprint across. (sprint is a little inappropriate for a 80 lb. bike). Finally as night was approaching I reached the town of Aguadulce, which just happened to be having a festival! Unfortunately it was raining in sheets again, so I didn't spend much time outside. However, it was fun to watch from my balcony.

The next day I decide to skip the inland cycling and catch a bus to David, a centrally located town in the Chiriqui Lowlands, probably a good hard 2-3 days ride. When I got into town I went straight for the Purple House Hostel. Probably my favorite place that I stayed on the whole trip. It is actually all Purple, inside and out.
The staff was excellent, the visitors resources where unbelievable, and it had an excellent kitchen. The next day I decided to head for the north Coast, over the continental divide. How hard could it be? So I headed back East to Chiriqui for the harded 60km ride of the trip. It was also the best 60km of the trip. The Chiriqui province is very different than Santiago, or Panama City, or even Colon. It is a beautiful, lush, fertile, rainforest with big mountains, waterfalls, and limestone--oh and monkeys. As I started out of town I quickly hit the mountains and started the slow, grind to the top, which was somewhere in the range of 4-5000ft, from sea level. A brutal climb for any bike. This was the first time I left the Pan-American Highway, and it was wonderful. The road was well cared for because it was the tourist route to Bocas del Toro.

I stopped at one roadside store to get a drink to go with my one water bottle. I chose the only thing I could see from the window, since I was never sure what I would get. Turns out it was 'malt flavored soda.' Wow, that is probably the worst combination ever thought up. 1.5 L of that and 24 oz of water was all I would have for the next 18 hours. I got lost in one town that had a bunch of unmarked roads where I asked for directions. The old man pointed right and then up to the sky, multiple time. He followed his gesture by looking at my bike and laughing hysterically. Not really a good sign, but I was psyched still so I didn't really notice. 6 hours of climbing later and 5 hours of rain, I wasn't so psyched. Standing under a tin shelter that kept most of the poring rain out I thought, this must be about the top. I was sure this was the last hill. Well when I stopped for dinner at about 6:00pm and the darkness was coming, I still wasn't at the top yet: not after 40 miles. The good news was that I was close, just one big hill away. I stopped at a tiny shed that had been turned into 'cafe hamburger' where I met two of my favorite locales: Andre and Blanca. They only made one item at their shop, hamburgers
Sauteed pre made, frozen patties with way too much Catchup, an old tomato. It was perfect. After much difficulty in communication for an hour, they offered to let me camp in the back in the grass... After evaluating the grass it became clear that it was more like a rice paddy with 4 inches of standing water. Not too good for my bivy sack. They just kept getting more generous and I ended up sleeping in the tiny floor of the 'cafe hamburger.' The next morning Andre showed up to cook me breakfast, another hamburger. But I was very thankful for their never ending hospitality.

One of the things that I appreciate more than the sights, the places, and the wonders, is the people. Recently in Panama and Peru we have experience the most wonderful, generous, and caring people we've ever met. It always the people that have little to nothing that always give the most. The Policia, Andre and Blanca, The random Peruvian who would point us in the right direction. It didn't matter that I (we) had poor spanish, or where foreign. They always go out of their way to help us out. I'm sure its a bit of a stereo type, but it seems that those with the least seem to be the most generous; while those with the most, are the least generous. However in Peru we did get a generous ride from a wealthy accountant...

I digress, After leaving 'Cafe Hamburger' I continued on through the mountains past their massive hydroelectric plant, and many, many waterfalls. The climbing was not yet done, not for another 10 miles or so. Once we started down however, it was steep and far. As I descended the temperature kept climbing. Funny, the only time I actually needed my super light 40+ degree down bag was at the Cafe Hamburger, every other night it was just for padding.
Descending onto the North side (or West side, figure that out) the forests and climate changed a bit. It seemed that the forest became more National Geographic like, or I was just more intimately involved in it. Multiple time I wished that I had purchased a machete to strap to the bike so I could go into the jungle for a night of camping, but I didn't and there was no way to get into the jungle without a machete, or a bull dozer. I passed the 'lost and found' reserve somewhere in the night and would probably have stayed there in retrospect for a day to experience the time. The rain was also much thinner on the North and I finally dried out a few items. unfortunately, my down coat that was in the center of my panniers, which had rain covers on them, had gotten soaked. Thankfully at 38 C things dry pretty quick.

For those of you who like to tour, one trick I've picked up from somewhere (probably reading) was to use the tops of your panniers as drying racks. It works excellent, especially on a 60 kph+ decent and a hot day. The trick in Panama is getting things out when its not raining, and then getting them back IN before it starts again. Thankfully, it didn't rain until the evening, so everything got dried.

I was now riding the North Coast road towards Bocas del Toro, and although it wasn't that difficult I kept feeling like I was out of gas and ready to call it a day. Most people would have figured it out quickly, but I'm slow so it took most of the day to realize it was the heat. It was hot all the time, and so I didn't really notice the difference, but my internal engine did. I ended up stopping at every town to poor water over myself to keep the motor cool. Finally I made it to the town of Quebrada Pastores and I was very tired. It was also pouring rain again, so I stopped for dinner at a nice, but expensive(like $5 instead of $2). I stayed the night at the hotel that was connected, and also not so nice. I anticipated another 10 miles or so to Almirante, the ferry town, but in the morning when I got up it turned out to be a mile or two... I guess Maps can't always right. Actually, every map I've used in foreign countries has been wrong at least once. The next day I took the ferry to Bocas del Toro, the famed Islands of Panama.

After arriving in town it rapidly became apparent I'd reached a tourist destination. White people where everywhere, no one stared at me, just my bike, and everyone said hello in English. Its funny how the simple cultural things make you comfortable. I found a nice, tiny, room to stay in a quit part of town (not so easy to find in Bocas). I spent a lot of time with some interesting Americans. Senor Sombrero as he called himself, and Tom Duffy, a Solar engineer, and world traveler. Senor Sombrero was just a nice guy who lived the simple life, spent 2 years riding a Walmart bike around florida, and didn't really have any goals in life. Tom Duffy, on the other had, started a solar business, has Engineered some of the largest solar systems in the world, traveled the world, built an amazing off the grid house, and then left it behind to stay in Bocas. I also took a ride along the East shoreline to get free from the town and got to experience the real island. It is very, very beautiful, and everything is for sale! It would be nicer if it was all protected from more development. I heard a lot of Howler monkeys, but I couldn't actually see any of them. I did see lots of fast and fun lizards though... big enough to be a dinner stake.
The next day I took the early boat out of Bocas. Most people would stay for weeks or at least days on an exotic tropical island like Bocas, but it just isn't for me. I tried to hang out at the beach for a while like normal people but I only made it like 30 minutes before I was back on the bike exploring. I guess I'm not into the sedentary life. When I reached Almirante I took a taxi to Changuinola to catch the bus to San Jose, Costa Rica. I made it with minutes to spare. That was the end of my cycling for the trip, sadly. As I sad uncomfortably on the bus for the 6 hours I looked out the window at the amazing rain forests of Costa Rica, and the monsterous mountains we climbed over to get to San Jose. It is definitely an amazing country, and I will likely return for another tour. After much suffering I found a nice little hostel near the airport where I spent the night and had my best meal (and most expensive $7) of the trip. The next morning I flew out to Atlanta.

As always there are good and bad parts of any adventure. This one was unique in the fact that its the first time I've spent time on my bike near the equator with lots and lots of rain. It proved to be beautiful, and not as difficult as I had imagined. The people where the highlight, and I think will always be the highlight. Like Peru, it was wonderful to experience there way of life, and see their smiles as they help you in a time of need. I'm not sure if I would return to Panama, at least not soon. If I did, the place I would go is the Mono
( Otherwise I would be returning to Costa Rica to head North. Step two in a very long Journey.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Minerals, Mines, and the Room of Doom

Recently I've developed a bit of a fetish with run, climb, run routes. I'm not sure if its a desire to hold onto the climbing past, need for diversity in my training, or as my wife would call it--a man crush on Jared Campbell(

Yesterday I accidentally ran into (literally) excellent Wasatch Run-Climb-Run route. There is only one small downside to this route: You have to run the only ATV accessible trail in the Wasatch. Since I run on the weekdays, during working hours, it wasn't very busy. I passed 4 motorcycles and they where all very nice, and very bewildered at the weird guy in sissy running shorts. The trail starts at the Mineral Fork ATV trailhead in BCC. Follow the ATV width, loose rock/Sand trail almost to the highest basin where Regulator Johnson Mine is in sight (, As your climbing up the steep, loose trail keep your eyes on Cardiac Ridge and look for the obvious narrow clean low angle slab. The trail will take you within about 1000 yards from the base. (See photo) Cut off the trail here, and head straight up for the fabulous looking slab. You will see some old tracks where some hot shot four wheeler high marked on this hill.

I climbed this in my Merril Glove Running shoes ( Probably the best option for any such run/climb. The only other option would be the NB Minimus ( Normal running shoes are probably the WORST climbing option with their fat sole and lose fit. I don't know the actual height of the route but I'd guess 600-1000ft. I'd give it an alpine 5.6 with options on the slab to 5.9 and 5.10+ if you take the arete. There are two cruxes on the route the second being the scariest due to the integrity of the rock being questionable. The key, as with all alpine climbing, don't just pull on the biggest hold you can find, pull on the strongest one. All in all the rock quality is very good for its location, just slightly below what you'd get on the West Slabs of Mt. Olympus. And if you get scared you can traverse left into the dihedral for some dirty corner climbing.

When you reach the top, you will find yourself on the knife of Cardiac ridge. I contemplated going North on the ridge but due to time down climbed the Cardiac slabs into Cardiff Ford of Mill D South. If you did the climb to the ridge, you can do the down climb. Due to confusion with the actual location of the Room of Doom, I'm pretty sure this is NOT the Room, but just in case I'm wrong this could be a down climb through the Room of Doom, but I think this route is actual a few ridges South of the Room of Doom.

After getting off the slab head for the double track slightly up canyon (South) leading to the Baby M. Mine, which sits at the bottom of the Tunnel chute. From here catch the well traveled double track almost to the bottom of the canyon where you will see a distinct single track veer to the left (NW) as the road takes a sharp right (East). Follow the single track until you reach the power line trail. Follow the power line trail past the fancy pants houses until it almost disappears. When the power lines split, take the downhill trail that shortly becomes better. Follow this trail all the way to BCC highway. From there about a mile down the road back to the Mineral fork trail head.

Distance: 12.1 miles (gps)
Altitude: about 3700ft (7.5 USGS)
Time: 4:18
Average HR: 137
Max HR: 172
Calories: 2481
pace: 18:45

A note on safety: This route requires significant climbing and alpine route assessment skills. A major judgement error or fall could cause serious injury or death. If you are questioning if you have the skills, bring a rope and a small rack. Rock shoes are advised, although not necessary.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mt. Olympus Time Trial, Part 3

Today we went out for another round on Mt. Olympus to try and hit the season ending goal. See the previous Mt. Olympus blog for all the dirty details. Basically the route starts at Dan's supermarket on Wasatch Dr. then follow the moutain project driving directions to the new trail head. Solo the West slabs, run the ridge, cross at the saddle summit, run down the trail and back to Dan's.

Today Michigan Madness joined up for the attempt with his always eager personality, climbing shoes, and a camel back. We started out from Dan's at about noon at an easy jog toward the slabs. Michigan wanted to push it in the beginning but was able to hold himself back for the meat, when trail gets steep and the rocks get big. After quickly dispatching the trail section we slowed considerable through the boulder filled drainage as I couldn't quite remember exactly where to go on every section. Upon reaching the toe of the slabs we found a furry white friend who was desperately in need of a shower. He seemed to me to be the guardian of the slabs.

I strayed a bit West of the normal route (the Exum rap route) for a little variation and because I was going to use just my running shoes and was a bit nervous about the friction on some of the section on the normal route. The new section turned out to be just as fun and maybe slightly more user friendly, at least at the bottom. Upon topping the ridge with a small wait and we where both on the move through the complex system of knife edge ridges, gullies and North facing ledges. As I had anticipated, this was the place to make or break your time. I think I nailed to about a 90% efficient route. It still may be better to go all the way to the peak before crossing over to the true summit. Still, it was by far the quickest I've ever done this transition section putting us on the summit at in about 2:45. Michigan finally changed into his running shoes, and we where on the way down. We struck asphalt at about 3:53 and turned towards Dans. The road is always the most painful, and once we knew the season end goal was attainable, we hit it hard to make the finish.

I had in my mind the time 4:17:53, we finished at 4:18:00. Unfortunately after returning home and checking, it was actually 4:12, so we didn't actually get it. But close enough as far as I'm concerned. We easily could(and should) have made up the time in transitions. Michigan will probably make up that time in the climbing section alone next time, as the was his first time on the West Slabs. Also, if we cut the shoe to slipper change. I think the under 4 hr mark is very attainable at a similar level of fitness.

General Stats

Time: 4:18:00
Distance: 13.2 miles (gps)
Ave HR: 140
Max HR: 188
Cal Burned: 2612
Ave Pace:16.40
Elevation: about 4200ft (per USGS 7.5 topo)

The next goal is under 4 hours. Photo's provided are from 2010 about this same time, except for the Goat.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Uinta Mountain's 3 day Bike Tour

After much debate on what to do on the last big holiday of the year we finally settled on a local tour through the Uinta Mountains, the only major East West mountain range in the US. Since we got started Saturday night, it turns out to be an excellent 2 and a half day tour. You could leave after work on Friday night and finish the late afternoon of Sunday. Assuming you don't get buried in snow, rain, mud or hail.

We started out parking our car at the grocery store in Kamas, after asking permission to leave it over night (or two). Up mirror lake highway for 20 miles to a random campsite on the upper Provo river. If I would change anything, I would probably go for 25 miles on the first day to make day two a little easier. Due to our ability to camp almost anywhere, we didn't have a single neighbor, not like the 2 thousand other campers in the Uintas. Just us, our little fire, and the river.

After some warm oat meal and hot tea we got a good alpine start of 1100am. The first big grind starts today as you turn steeply up the hill towards Trial lake and then towards Baldy and Reids. I'm not sure what the grade is but at time it stressed our legs on the over loaded touring bikes at a speedy 3.8 mph. A nice lunch break with made yesterday hummus and chips at Lilly lake was the last stop before the Bald Mountain Pass at 10,700ft.

After dawning coats we descended the rolling terrain for about 18 miles to Whitney Road, then left up the wide dirt road for the next 7 miles to Whitney lake. After already crossing Bald Mountain Pass, and the extra mileage, this 7 miles could have been 25 miles of climbing. The road, although great for internal combustion engines, was lose and rough for a 26X1.5 road slick with 80 psi: Not to mention the 30 trucks and 15 four wheelers and 10 of those in-between truck/4 wheeler things. Normally I am a hater of the rat tail big truck, loud toy group, and there where a few that I wanted to throw rocks at, but in general 98 percent of them where very nice and would slow down enough to not envelope us in a cloud. I was impressed, I guess I shouldn't complain so much.

As we transitioned over one of the many, many ridges on our way to the lake we all of the sudden came to a noticeable different terrain. In the high Uinta's you see lots of rock, tree line, and then rock pile summits. All of the sudden the lots of rock became, a little rock. And the summits turned to real, green summits with not just pine, but also Aspen. It was a welcome change for some reason and gave me the boost needed to power through the last few hills to the campsite. When we arrived at our camp site we where both spent. In fact I couldn't even take in much food or water, which isn't usual for me. So we ended up throwing away about half of dinner. We hit the sack for 12 hours of tossing and turning.

The next day I woke up with a hangover from yesterdays ride. We where out of water and I need to trudge the 150 yards down the steep trail to the lake. When I reached the lake I looked with dismay at the millions of little algae floating in the water. After checking a few different places and hoping it was just the scum end of the lake I gave in and slurped up the water and algae for purifying. After 12 hours we where still not filling super hungry and I only did the standard oat meal with tea. Up until this point the route was pretty cut and dry. Go here here and then here. From the lake it could go a number of ways. We hoped to be able to take a 4x4 road to Moffit Pass, then catch another, closed road through 1000 peaks ranch to the Weber Canyon. But the 1000 peaks trail only showed up on 1 of 3 topo's so we didn't know how real it was. If the trail didn't exist, or was too difficult for 70 lb touring bikes, then we would have to bail back to the North end of the lake and take another 4x4 road out to chalk creek for a detour of 30 more miles, which in the back roads, high altitude mountain touring means another day in the mountains. We did however have a backup shuttle just in case this happened, or worse yet we couldn't get out any of the roads and had to go out via Evanston WY.

The road to Mofit Pass was definitely a 4 wheel drive road, and very steep. The pass is about 10,000ft but still is more of a Wasatch Pass, as apposed to your normal Uinta pass: which is good since we couldn't get our bikes though very many of the the Passes just South of our position. When we reached the pass I quickly noticed a completely overgrown road with a road closed sign off in the weeds. I was worried so I left the bike a took a walk down the road. Thankfully it was just an old connecter to the 1000 peaks ranch road, which was rough lose, and very steep... but travel-able.

We started riding down and instantly realized that Tectro Cantilever brakes do not have the stopping power to deal with a 79 lb bike and 160 lb rider on steep descents. Lucky for me the last week I had spent riding a friends old mountain bike that had Linear pull brakes which I of course complained about the whole time. My hands also hurt for days after each ride since I've been spoiled with hydraulic disk brakes for the last 5 or more years. I also developed a 4 finger brake technique for roadie levers (silly I know) so I could use all 4 of my phalanges to help arrest my rate of descent. My wife on the other hand went into full drop bar position to get the most leverage on the brake. Either way, most steep descent ended in out of control stops in the weeds or hill side to keep us from disaster.

We where descending very rapidly and went had an excellent diverse tree selection with entire groups of Aspens, Pines, and Grass. Between this and the fact that we saw no-one, this was one of the more enjoyable sections of trail... Even though the most difficult technically. After what seemed forever we finally reach 1 lane dirt road that felt like assphault to us. Then on to the main road, a creosote covered dirt road that runs the length of Weber Canyon until reaching the pavement at the confluence with Smith and Morehouse. From here the road was slightly descending and we got into a pace line (yes it was as funny looking as it sounds) for a good 8-10 miles of 20 mph riding before turning off towards Kamas just outside of Oakley. A short 6 miles brought us back to the car.

Speaking of mountain bikes, I took a good crash a week before the ride and injured one of my ribs which had yet to heal. When I got on the bike in the beginning it was clear that it was going to hurt, most of the time. However something about being on the bike I actually helped reduce the pain, and increase range of motion. I would assume it was a catalyst to the healing process. The only thing I can think of was that because I was in the same position for a good 6-10 hours a day gave it time to heal, that and the rib cage was expanded for most of the trip. On day three it still hurt to get on the bike, but I could get my water bottle without wincing in pain, I could yawn (don't laugh, yawns are important!), I could even almost do a proper snot rocket.

All in all, an excellent tour. I wouldn't change much except maybe run a tire in about a 2.3 semi slick to make the rocks less painful and the traction a bit better. I would also try and do 25 miles the first day to ease the pain of day 2. Stats are below.

Total Mileage: 87
Day 1: 20 miles
Day 2: 37 miles
Day 3: 30 miles
Estimated elevation: 7,000ft
Average Altitude 9,500ft
Highest elevation: 10,759ft
Number of Major Passes: 2
Off road Miles: about 35
Technical Off road: about 15

Best Time of year: Late summer, too much rain will make the climb over Mofit Pass very, very hard.

Monday, August 22, 2011

West Coast Tour: Vancouver BC to Seattle

With six days off in a row, I was forced to have some type of adventure. After checking with the usual partners who where grinding the wheel, I had to chose a solo event. Since I have a new not so shiny touring bike I decided on a ride from Vancouver to Seattle. The trip starts when I arrive at the Vancouver airport at about 3:00pm, spend my 2 hours setting up my bike and heading South.

As usual, I didn't really plan much... or not at all. So I stopped by the visitor center to get a map and ask questions that no one could answer about where to ride your bike. Thankfully the Vancouver city bike map has recommended bike routes.
Heading south out of town I took the east route to Stevenson Wharf where I had an excellent Slab of Salmon. Then after enjoying the sunset over the lake I road east to a curious Louisiana Voodoo community at the corner Dike and Number 4 road.
worth the visit, as long as its not dark anyway. Then onward to my grassy industrial camping site, which had the best blackberries I've ever had. Early the next morning I was up and packet to catch the George Massey Tunnel shuttle at 7:00am, then on to the rail trail near highway 91. In retrospect I would probably try to camp on this trail next time. Following the trail south through watershed park I took my one and only wrong turn (if such a thing is possible on a tour) but got to see some of the famous BC extreme mountain bike trails. Few of which I would have tried even on my 7 inch travel bike.

After leaving watershed park I headed south to Mud bay then East to White Rock for the boarder crossing into the US. It turned out to be uneventful, although completely unmarked for the rookie cyclist. After that I headed South to Blaine where I picked up the bellingham map with recommended cycling routes, perfect. See sometime lack of planning can be an excellent plan! I then took the very direct Portal Way drive down to Tenant lake Park for night number two. It was at this not so exciting bird refuge like park that I spent the night next to a large, ruminant stomach animal. I would keep waking up to snorting and loud breathing and of course the associated chewing.
I was too tired, and even less brave to do much but move around so that the large creature at least new I was there and didn't step on me. Thankfully in the morning when I woke up for good, it was gone.

After secretly leaving my campsite behind I road to the Bellingham Pier for a breakfast of oatmeal and peanut butter bagels. I made a stop at the shop in town to get some much needed anti-chaff stuff.... oh so worth it. Then I continued on via the amazing Chuckanut drive:
must see if your in the area. After that through the rain shadow filled with lavender to a little town of Edison where the Farm to Market Bakery is. Another place that you need to stop, have something wonderful from their menu, and bring cash because thats all they take.
After Edison the road is Mid West like until you hit highway 20 where you get to experience Washington traffic for the first time. Not so fun, but worth he sacrifice. There is a very large shoulder and plenty of room. Once you hit the bay, its actually pretty interesting too. After crossing Fidalgo Island head South to Deception Pass State park. I spent the night here, and it was well worth it. They have 5 campsites just for bikes, and they are away from everyone else so you don't hear the generators or screaming children. They also have token run showers... pure bliss after 3 days of sweaty touring. The beach and the forest are amazing too. If I was going to take an off day, this is where I'd want to spend it.

The next day was a marathon, that I didn't really plan on, it just happened again due to lack of planning. Whidbey Island is a beautiful place and well worth the ride. A good friend of mine just happened to grow up on the island and mapped out a route for me to ride, perfect.
After passing through oak harbor make a hard left to Coupeville then south to Fort Casey, back east to the N Bluff road along the coast, and through the forest. Basically follow the Holmes Harbor shore road to the Earth Sanctuary. From here I was on a time crunch (at least I thought) and so I took 525 head down and grind style to catch the ferry... which I missed by like 30 seconds. Finally at about 6:30 I was back on the mainland in Mukilteo thinking I just had a little while to get to a friends who I was staying at. Unfortunately it was still 35 miles to go. The greater Seattle area has excellent cycling maps with preferred routes in PDF form on the internet. The only problem is they are a little big for the iphone to process so you get to spend lots of time waiting for it to open. I'm sure the ipad would be excellent.

My good friend Todd who has a wife and 2 girls under the age of 5 was leaving the next day for Utah but was nice enough to stay up and wait for me to arrive at his house at 1100pm. I had an excellent time, although had a 1 close call with a mini van mom. She of course never even knew it. One thing I learned is that the bike paths and routes are very well planned out, although sometimes its difficult to find the quickest route, as the most direct may not be the fastest. I caught the BG trail at the North end of Lake Washington thinking I was almost there when within a mile the trail was closed for construction. They generously had planned out a detour, but it clearly wasn't a biker where set the route, more like a construction worker, or a sports car driver because it was ridiculous! Continuous grades up to 15% that take you to the highest point in seattle, just to bypass a short section of trail.
unseasoned cyclist would have been left crying on the roadside in the fetal position. When I got to the top of the ridge the detour promptly headed backdown to the shoreline. I elected to bail since the place I was staying was up on the ridge. I found my own way from there, with only one hill left. So when traveling in Seattle, don't take the detour, find your own way. There was one more such detour around the university bridge, luckily this time I checked the map and chose the better route. The next day I just hung out with old friends, spend some time cycling in downtown seattle, and promptly missed my flight out.

Sunday morning I was much more motivated to get out so I planned out my ride to the light rail, then the light rail to the airport... Unfortunately they didn't update there light rail times online, just in reality so when I showed up, the door where locked and they didn't run for another hour. After much stressing and suffering I just bit the bullet and took the $40 taxi to the airport. It turned out to be the better choice as I still was a little tight on time after the bike packing and checkin. For the first time ever, my bike actually arrived in SLC with me. I even just went straight to the lost baggage counter without checking, since thats where I always end up.

All in all it was an excellent tour. Next time I would probably do an Island tour like most of the other tourers. Starting in Victoria BC, doing the San Juan Islands, Whidbey, and back North. Or I would just do the Island's all the way South to the Olympic Peninsula.
Next section: Seattle to Portland