rainy days and mondays - Seattle towards Minnesota - CycleBlaze

July 23, 2007

rainy days and mondays

Uh-Oh. When I got out of bed this morning my knees were sore. That's bad... I'm about to do a lot of climbing in the next several days, and painful knees can end a trip.

Many people think that if you're not pushing really hard on the pedals, then you're not getting any exercise. In reality, your feet should be spinning around fairly fast. If you have it in a higher gear and it's harder to pedal then not only are you not getting the exercise that you could be, you might actually be injuring your knees. At best your knees are going to be sore.... Only novices do that.

Now, where was I.... Oh, yes. My knees were sore. I took some ibuprofen, packed up, and left at 10:00.

Let this be a lesson to you: no matter how excited you are on your first day, don't push too hard.

I rode eight miles to Rockport (pop 102) where I ate three Bear Claws and some chocolate milk for breakfast. I would've gotten something healthy but they were out of powdered donuts.

While I was sitting in front of the store eating my Breakfast of Champions, a guy on a loaded bike pulled in... another tourer. He had a very nice, custom-built bike which even had his name painted on it: Schwinn or Huffy or something.

Really, it was a Waterford - just like the crystal, but less breakable and more beautiful, and it did indeed have his name painted on it: Howard Neckel.

Howard is a 60-year-old retired software designer from San Francisco. He has a great laugh and an admitted ''plumbing addiction," as he calls it. Camping is okay. Camping without a shower is not okay.

We rode together toward the next town, Marblemount. I use the word "with" loosely. He's a lot stronger rider than me in spite of the fact that he's riding with front panniers as well as rear panniers.

That's one of the nice things about traveling together on a bike.... It's a loose connection. Sometimes you travel together and sometimes you don't. If one person rides faster he doesn't have to wait - he can ride ahead and the second person can catch up later. I did a lot of catching up when we rode together.

Howard on the downhill
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We stopped in Marblemount (pop 251) and each bought an apple and a drink. While we were sitting on the bench in front of the store, a man of about 65 came out and sat on a barrel beside us. He was wearing bib overalls and had a white beard. Looking back, I guess he looked a little like Santa Claus, but it didn't strike me at the time. He lit up a pipe, then asked us the Usual Questions. Then he started talking. I love listening to guys like this. By the time we left he was displaying some bullet wounds on his right leg.

The store owner also came out to visit between customers. He was one of those large men with an even larger gut. He was wearing a blue polo-type shirt which had a few holes in it. His lower lip stuck out a little, but it didn't make him look pouty any more than Forrest Gump's best good friend.

While the four of us were talking, a guy of about 22 drove up in his car. He was wearing a big sloppy grin on his face when he got out of the car and  held up his bandaged thumb like a victor in the arena.

The Owner: "Hey, Larry."  
"I split the bone in three places and got six stiches!"
"How'd you do that?" the Owner asked.
"Choppin' firewood," was the reply.
The Owner nodded, then said "Dumbass" under his breath. 

I really think Larry was rather proud of his self-inflicted wound.

Just before we left I asked the pipe smoker if I could take a picture of him. He looked uncomfortable and said, "I don't usually let people do that." He didn't feel comfortable letting me, and I didn't feel comfortable aggravating anyone who has bullet wounds.

It rained most of the day today. I know I told you in the FAQ that it usually doesn't rain all day - it rains on and off. I do not retract my statement, but would like to amend it... it only rains when my crank is turning.

Because of the rain I decided that I'm going to buy a rainsuit. 

You say, "But I thought you already had one. I saw it in your list of gear you take."
"Oh, you mean that water-soluble, yellow piece of fabric in the shape of a rain suit?  The piece of see-through plastic which not only seemingly manages to absorb every drop of water within a ten-yard radius of the wearer, but also traps and holds body odor inside it causing a greenhouse-like effect which then allows those smells to simmer like three-week old fishheads in a plastic bag?"
"Uuuh, yeah. I guess," you say.
I respond with "I don't think it's very effective."

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Don't feel sorry for me - Howard's trip started eight days ago and because of the rain he's been stuck in Anacortes, just up the road. He finally decided to just start riding anyway. At one point, shortly before pulling up to me, he was so miserable that he decided to turn around and call it quits. A friend of his in San Francisco had encouraged him to "cut his losses," and come back home. He rode about a hundred yards back toward his starting point, then changed his mind and decided to continue. He later told me that, as he was riding, it occurred to him that if he quit now, he was locked in to being miserable:  If he went home and it continued raining he'd be pissed, and if he went home it quit raining he'd STILL be pissed.

I took a lot of pictures today. Rain or no, this is a fantastically beautiful area.

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It started raining again after we left Marblemount. In Newhalem we stopped for supper. Since there was no cafe I picked out a meal (a foot-long sandwich) from the General Store and ate it outside. Since we'd be camping tonight, I also bought a sandwich for supper, plus snacks and trail mix for the road.

While we were in Newhalem another biker pulled in and got something to eat.

Brett Ferguson is 49-year-old guy who worked for FedEx for around thirty years. He hated his job... being on call 24/7, having to commute from Seattle to San Francisco every weekend, and being told where and when to move, so....    he just quit. Then he bought a house in British Columbia, Canada, and has been riding and skiing since.

He looked happy.

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After a quick bite to eat and a friendly chat he took off toward Anacortes, the direction we had just come from.

Howard left before I did because he wanted to set up camp. Like many bikers, he carries a small stove and is able to cook his own supper. He even occasionally cooks steak. Nice steaks. I'd cook, but I'm way too lazy. It would involve work cooking and work carrying the stove, work carrying the other cooking gear, and work cleaning up. No thanks, man. Just too lazy.

There are two tunnels between Newhalen and our campsite. At each end there's a small sign that has a picture of a bicycle with the words, "Push button before entering tunnel." There's a larger sign for other vehicles: "Bikes in tunnel when flashing. Speed 30 mph." I'm hoping the speed limit is more than just a recommendation.

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I pushed the button and saw the yellow lights start to flash. Then I wondered how long they would flash.... two minutes? five minutes? A mocking thirty seconds? I began pedaling as hard as I could, but I was still going uphill so I couldn't go very fast. As soon as I entered the tunnel everything got really dark. Surprisingly so. There is no shoulder, and the tunnel was narrow.

Of all the sounds in the world, there was one sound I really didn't want to hear while pedaling through the tunnel.... The sound of tires on the pavement. Fortunately, I didn't.

...at least until I was halfway through.

My senses were already on High Alert, especially my hearing. When I heard the truck behind me, I hoped it wasn't an eighteen-wheeler. Sounds are REALLY magnified in an enclosed space like that. I would've guessed there was a four-engine jet plane behind me.... It was so LOUD.  And getting louder with each second. Good Lord, how fast was he going??? I squinted my eyes and clutched my handlebars in a death grip, every muscle in my body tense as I braced myself for the blast of wind as the semi passed.

When he finally did, he smiled and waved. The driver was on a motorcycle, barely larger than a Vespa.

I rode to Colonial Creek Campground, the last campground before beginning the steepest part of the climb to the summit. We decided to stop there because it will give us less to do tomorrow. This campground is right on Diablo Lake.

And the rain continued.

When I arrived, Howard had already set up his tent in the rain, and since it was still raining I set mine up in the rain as well. As he was fixing supper he offered me one of the small plastic bottles of wine he was carrying. (The guy has everything) After the rain stopped we stood around our campsite and chatted for a while. He also brewed some hot tea for me, which was wonderful and took the chill out of the air.

The guy in the campsite across the road came over a few times. He had a huge RV that even had a washer and dryer. Howard and I were laughing at ourselves because we piously make fun of people who drive those gas-guzzling road hogs... yet there we were, both of us sighing and longingly gazing at the behemoth we've mocked so many times.

If he had offered us the use of a hot shower, Howard and I would've clubbed each other to death to be the first one in.

Jeff, the RV guy, said he was from Fresno, California, but I asked him where he's REALLY from. With his liberal use of the words "Yah," and "ya know," he sounded like Margie from the movie Fargo. He's from Wisconsin, and I knew he was Midwestern before he answered.

We talked for several hours, finally climbing into our tents late. I ate the sandwich I had bought in Newhalen, then blogged a while, but soon thereafter I got too sleepy to do any more.

Miles 41.73
Max speed - unknown - see below
Average speed 9.8 mph
Time on bike 4:16:15
Cumulative 74.93

Max speed: There's an interesting phenomenon with wireless cyclometers. It's nice not having to deal with the wires since they can accidentally get cut or pulled apart. Sometimes, however, there are errant radio waves (or something) that also trigger it. While I was copying the different numbers onto my PDA I saw that my maximum speed was 77 mph. Then I noticed my current speed was 77 mph, right there in the tent. It was then that I realized that my PDA was probably the culprit, but who knows.

Today's ride: 42 miles (68 km)
Total: 75 miles (121 km)

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