Sunday, June 28, 2009

Goose Tour Day 8: Osoyoos to Penticton

Last Day

The last day of good things are no fun to write about (or think about) because they end and then the good part is over. I always find the end of trips to be so anti-climactic, as they are often followed by a long bus ride or drive home, in this case.

All I'll say is that it was a nice ride back to Penticton and our cars, maybe one of the nicest
rides of the week in terms of low-traffic roads and weather.
42 mi/ 1,750'

For more photos of the Tour, go here.

For route information, see this Bikely site.

Here are some parting photos:

Enjoy the ride because the ride is all there is!

-Quote of the day at Copper Eagle Cafe, Greenwood, BC

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Goose Tour Day 7: Grand Forks to Osoyoos

Pope Doug

Whenever a day begins with Nalesniki (blintz), it will be a good day. And so it began at the Russian eatery in Grand Forks when Marie and I were craving something other than pancakes and toast. We saw Nalesniki on the dinner menu but made a special request and the cook was happy to make it for us (or he bitched and moaned about those damn Americans reliving their Russian-Polish pasts). Whatever.

The road out of town started to undulate and then climbed more steadily up toward Eholt Pass. I was on my own for a while until I was startled by Pete coming up behind me. The grade was not steep at this point so when he kept moving up the road, I jumped and got on his wheel. The vortex effect was even stronger than the other day and I was sucked in and soon was shifting into my big ring, moving along at 18mph. The climb had leveled off a bit and we were accelerating. I should say Pete was accelerating since I didn't feel like I was doing anything except holding on to my handlebars. The last bit steepened a bit but I hung in and then there was Marie, greeting us at the summit. One pass down, one more to go later in the day. I unweighted Pete and waved goodbye, for he was off to roar downhill.

After the descent, we came upon Greenwood, a town worthy of the name of my neighborhood in Seattle. The prominent feature of the town was its quaint storefronts and, most notably, the Copper Eagle Bakery & Cafe, a gathering point for all passing cyclists. I went in to use the restroom and saw the "Quote of the Day" on the wall that now graces the bottom of my emails: "Enjoy the ride because the ride is all there is". Yes, the ride in a larger sense, of course, but we cyclists like to think everything is about us.

After lunching at a park by the river, I set off with Doug and Steve toward the bigger climb of the day, up Anarchist Pass. Anarchist Pass? Is there a big population of Anarchists in Canada? Did they fight a battle against the Green Party there? No one seemed to have any answers. While the history that happened there has been forgotten, the ride up it won't soon be. The three of us found ourselves on a hot, steep, busy highway. Doug's GPS was reading 7% but, due to the conditions, I would round that up to 9 or 10% in real-feel grade. I let out a yelp as we passed a rocky section where the heat was reflecting off the rocks and was baking me. How hot does it have to be for rubber to melt?

After a while, we got a break from the climbing and the guys figured we had made our first summit. I wasn't so sure since my cue sheet implied some other nastiness was before us. The numbers didn't seem to make sense.Then, off in the distance, I saw what I dubbed, "The On-Ramp to Hell". It was a long, steep stretch of road that climbed straight out of the valley (we were currently descending- what a waste) and up, up, up to a point we couldn't quite see. All that and heavy traffic, too. I got into my granny gear and started spinning and Doug was next to me, doing the same. I asked him, "Is it sacrilegious for a totally secular person to begin to pray for their own benefit?" He responded that praying was good anytime and there would be no repercussions. Oh, god....

We all made the summit and it was 11 miles shorter than I was
calculating in my head, even with the bonus climbing after reaching the true summit, complete with sign and pretty flowers. I guess Anarchists are ok after all. Dottie was driving the SAG and wished us well, telling us it was time to relax. Apparently, Dottie had not been briefed on the descent into Osoyoos. My cue sheet said it would be steep and winding.

But nothing was mentioned about the strong crosswinds that would move me from the inside of the lane to the outside. I knew things were bad when I saw the tandem of Chris and Kim pulled over, instead of enjoying the cruise down. Chris said, "watch this!" as he poured
water over his rear disk brakes. They could have cooked a squirrel on that thing- what a waste of water. Then he adjusted the brake to act as a drag brake that would slow down their rate of descent and we set off together, with me passing them soon after thinking that was a very odd sensation- to pass a tandem on a descent. It was like the time I was learning to skydive and the instructor said that I would black out for a moment because my brain couldn't figure out why I'd just jumped from a perfectly good working plane.

Just before my hands gave out from squeezing the brake levers, I was in the town of Osoyoos and headed for our hotel and, more importantly, the lake. I had been the Lantern Rouge for a good part of the day and now it was time to celebrate.
80 mi/ 5,000'

Friday, June 26, 2009

Goose Tour Day 6: Castlegar to Grand Forks

Unofficial Rest Day

Though I didn't log many miles today, at least I accomplished something, as Steve pointed out. He and I had planned to ride together today, a day of climbing for 24 or so miles up to Paulson Summit. We turned out of the parking lot, went under the highway, then up an on-ramp with an 8% grade to the Highway and the start of the climb, just like that. I guess I was get on with it and have it be over sooner or something. I dropped Steve. And I wondered to myself how we were going to ride together when he was way the hell behind me. So much for that! And there was a fair amount of traffic on the road so if we did ride together, talking (which is what makes a climb go by faster) would be nearly impossible.

Then there were the trees, lots of them; the scenery was all trees.

Mostly live evergreens but some stumps and some logged trees and some old tires by the side of the road. No one to talk to and nothing to look at. Just then, the van came by and I think Doug was driving it. I waved, he waved. I waved more, he waved more. More waving ensued, until he figured out I wasn't just being super friendly-perky on this boring climb with repetitive scenery and old tires and he pulled over. Somehow, pie emerged from the back of the van and, by the time HB and Marie rolled up, it was clear that I was way more interested in eating pie than I was in climbing for a couple more hours. At least I shared, the pie I mean.

My role for the rest of the day was as photographer which made me plenty happy. It was my chance to photo the fronts of my friends, rather than the butt shots I had been taking. As we approached Grand Forks, I got out of the van and got paceline shots of nearly half the group. That evening, several people showed their photo slideshows and I was lucky to be able to show mine on Chris' computer. HB, being the prepared guy he is, had his orchestrated to music.

For dinner, the motel proprietors shuttled us to a restaurant on the edge of town that had a big room for all of us and lots of variety on the menu. From the upstairs window, we watched deer graze while we waited for our food. On the way back, we were told about the area Doukhobors, a religious sect of Russian immigrants. They were most noted for their form of protest: disrobing in public and I wondered if my family tree intersected theirs.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Goose Tour Day 5: Nakusp to Castlegar

Wheels to the Sky

All I could think of while riding today was which truck that ornery driver from the ferry was behind the wheel of. Well, that and also I was thinking of not riding because I still felt tired. It seemed like we rolled a lot of miles out on busy highways, ending with a construction zone. But there was also a very nice stretch along Slocan Lake which climbed for 6 miles and ended at an overlook where we had lunch and then a descent that intersected a rainstorm. A lot of variety!

A glimmer of something caught my eye when I rolled into New Denver and I went to go check it out. The van said "Bicycle Doctor" on the side of it and it had bicycle parts ornamenting its hood and bicycles and wheels stuffed inside of it. I took a look around the house that the car was next to and saw more "Bicycle Hospital" vehicles. Then I looked up and, upon noticing the gorgeous mountain view, saw that bicycle wheels led straight up to the sky- check out the photo!

What saved the day from being just another grind in the saddle, aside from Slocan Lake and New Denver, was the Kettle Valley Road that we turned off onto for the last bit before arriving in Castlegar. Rolling hills, an old bloke on a bicycle, a helicopter perched in a tree (not making this up) and HB taking photos from the SAG, with Tom S also making movies from the saddle.
Sylvia, in the SAG at the outskirts of town, teased us with just a few miles to go. "you're almost there", she said confidently, until we had to climb another hill and pedal a few more miles.

When I arrived at the hotel, I was done. I checked in, grabbed my bag and made my way upstairs. I slid my card key in the slot one way, then another, then I gave in to my fatigue and crumpled outside my door, landing crooked but gracefully, I'm sure. I was confident that eventually someone would come and probably help me and I was right, as a figure soon loomed above me. Luckily, it was Jay and not some random guest staying at the hotel. He opened my door, scooped me up and wished me well. Rest up, tomorrow is a day full of climbing to the sky.

90 miles, 4,700' gain

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Goose Tour Day 4: Nakusp Rest Day

Rest Day

At 1 a.m. this morning, my roommate Marie and I found ourselves unable to sleep. We thought we might be too hot so we opened a window or too hungry so we got out some snacks. I proposed an idea that we streak around the building, envisioning two naked girls running wild through the parking lot, with all the guys sound asleep and oblivious. I don't know which was funnier, thinking about it or doing it because we didn't do it. Sorry to disappoint!

After breakfast at a little bakery cafe that Chris parked himself in front of and that did indeed have the very best muffins, it was time to get to the task of cleaning our bikes. But this was nothing like when I clean mine at home, in my dining room, with Bike Lust and a rag and lube. No, Kent had set up a veritable bike spa with four stations that would clean every area of the bike and leave it looking shiny and new and ready for more abuse.

Now it was our turn to treat ourselves and a bunch of us (Tom S, Kent, Bill, Marie, Marilyn and I) set out for the Nakusp Hotsprings. They were of the tame variety and more like a swimming pool than a hot-spring but it didn't require a hike on our sore legs and there were chairs out in the sun. The chairs were not too comfortable to nap on, but I gave it a good try anyway. It was at least nice to go somewhere that didn't require us to turn pedals, as we went in Tom's van.

After returning to town, I made the discovery that the bakery sold pie by the slice. I convinced them to sell me the whole pie since it was late in the day and I promised to return the pie dish. It was at first intended to be for dessert that night (to share) but I was too full and instead purchased containers to put it into so I could be assured of keeping up my pie intake for the next few days.

The evening brought rain and I went down to the lake to read and took shelter in the Japanese Garden. The town of Nakusp has some beautiful features for being such a small community. There is a lakefront walkway with gardens all along the way, including a Japanese Garden. There is a sandy beach with a volleyball court and also a skate park to give those young rascals something to do with themselves. After walking around town a few times, it was as though I had already become a local; I saw familiar faces who waved and smiled at me. What a great place to spend a rest day.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Goose Tour Day 3: Revelstoke to Nakusp

A Dog's Life

I started out the day with my second and last SAG shift for the Tour, so it was off to the grocery store with Laura. At the store, we met Martin & Nadine, bicycle tourists from Germany, who had been touring the world since 2003. That's no bike tour, that's a lifestyle! They were very well loaded down with not just panniers but with dry bags and other odd-shaped gear, covering all possible areas of their bikes. They had a lot of gear but they were carrying it all, unlike us goslings who had 2 vehicles for all that stuff. It made me feel like I was part of a consumption tour, with a van full of gear, food and water (and more about to be purchased). [Since returning home, I have read about Nadine & Martin in the Adventure Cycling magazine. They are not just bicycling- they are also paddling their way around the world.]

After taking a while to do the shopping, due to some serious deliberations regarding soda (both the consumption of and the variety), we each set off to the route, noting that the group had made quite a lot of progress, despite there being a good climb to start out with. At the summit, Kent, Marie, Bill and Sylvia were waiting and, after a quick wardrobe change due to a hole in the sky and my never-ending optimism, I set off downhill with Bill and Marie, reaching the Galena Bay ferry in no time. We were greeted by sunshine and lots of food. Tom M was the brave one who decided to try the "treat" I brought from home. He had some on bread, exclaimed that it was good and understood when I told him we'd just keep that to ourselves, the others can go on thinking it's Vegemite.

Once on the ferry, with lots of trucks and some cars, we became the captive audience of one very ornery truck driver. He went on and on about the miserable road conditions that lay ahead for us (tight, winding roads with no shoulders) and that he wouldn't want to hit us. He had a mixture of anger and concern, which we all interpreted as fear. Once we disembarked the ferry and climbed the steep grade on the other side, we found the shoulders to be nice and we realized there wouldn't be much traffic until the next ferry arrived. Steve caught up with me and we rode and talked, soon to be joined by Marilyn and Peggy and the four of us rode together toward Nakusp, the town we would stay in for two nights, enjoying a rest day.

I hadn't been expecting much from Nakusp, the little town on Arrow Lake that seemed difficult to pronounce at first, but from the hotel parking lot, it looked like a cute place. I changed into my swimsuit to go for a dip. Ayyy!!! It was cold, but I managed to get in and swim a bit, before my feet went numb. At the very least, I figured that I was reducing the swelling in my legs by submerging them in cold water.

Nearly the whole gang dined together at a pizza & schnitzel place which was owned by a very pleasant German man. While our group seemed to have been able to get along on the bike, this was not so much the case when it came to food. There was some competition about which table was getting served first and it was best to guard your plate, lest someone make off with a slice without you knowing. After what happened the first day with Bill, I didn't dare go to the restroom. Dessert was even more cutthroat; when we inquired about the menu, we were told there were only a total of three desserts left so our table ordered them all and high-fives went around the table.
After dinner, we made peace and went for a walk along the waterfront, meeting the town character and historian along the way, who told us the history of the town and BC Hydro. He had a Chesapeake Bay dog, named Chesie, whom we all took turns petting and, more importantly to him, scritching. Once he'd made his rounds with us, he set off to the hedges that had grown so they were perfect Chesie-height.

65 miles, 3,900'

Monday, June 22, 2009

Goose Tour Day 2: Armstrong to Revelstoke

Can't We All Just Get Along

Since riding with Kent was a positive experience yesterday, I started out with him from Armstrong on the ride to Revelstoke. It was a wool day, for sure, with wet roads and the threat of more to come. And, since I had a fender with flap and he didn't, I spent a fair amount of time in front. I felt good and we hauled into our lunch spot in no time at all, wondering what to do with ourselves since it was so early that not even the SAG had arrived and we had just barely burned off breakfast. We headed for a cafe to warm up with coffee but they had no espresso so I had to settle for pie. Pie! Blueberry pie served so decoratively with little puffs of cream and drizzlings of syrup on the plate. Heaven!

At lunch (of course I still had an appetite, don't be silly),
I ate and then donned my safety
triangle (truck target?) for the long haul on the highway. I set off with Kent but dropped off his wheel when I encountered the narrow, broken-up shoulder of TransCanada Hwy 1. It was bad and the only way around it was to get into the car lane and move back in time before getting creamed by a truck. I let the current SAG driver know that I was not interested in the next 30-mile stretch of this and that they should look for me signalling madly by the side of the road. We had a few miles on a side road to clear our thoughts and toughen up again for the long stretch of highway. A bunch of people passed me, but when I got to the turn to the hwy, Steve and six others were waiting for me so we could ride together.

We formed a nice group: Jay, Tom M, Steve, Pete, Shan, Doug I was kind of thinking that they'd blow me out the back in a few miles, but they were going at quite a civilized pace. Maybe I shouldn't have mentioned their names to protect their reputations and egos but I was starting to get the idea that yes, everyone can get along on Goose Tour and that it was not about riding against each other but with each other for just this one week. Whatever the reason, I was thrilled and felt even better when we picked up Kent who had stopped to wait for me (outside an espresso stand, no less). The road was much improved on that stretch and the only issues we had to deal with were the bridges that narrowed the road and that wide load sneaking up behind us. I think I just closed my eyes at that point; I couldn't bear to imagine what would happen if he didn't have width clearance while passing us.

With 15 or so miles to go to Revelstoke, there was a surge in pace and Kent, Doug and I formed our own group. We finally got off the highway to the backroads into town. There was a little excitement while riding over a wood-planked bridge, as one of the planks was rotted out and we came to a sudden halt, managing not to crash into one another. The fast group was ahead of us but were confused by the cue sheet directions and Kent was happy to trick them into climbing another hill. The SAG of Bill and Marie rounded them up and we all headed to the motel for beers and salty treats.

While scouting for a place to eat, I found a bakery that had Callebaut chocolate brownies and the owner, after learning that I was on a bike tour, said, "I hope you have a good seat". She must know something... Then I lucked into a gourmet bistro off the main street that served wonderful food and I dined there with the 6 other foodies (Mark, Shan, Chris, Kim, Doug, Steve) of the group. We extended our dining experience to include the dessert sampler once we realized it was pouring outside and only one of us had raingear and he wasn't willing to share.
80 miles/ 3,750'

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Goose Tour Day 1: Penticton to Armstrong

Love the One You're With

We woke to cloudy skies, unusual for the Canadian Okanogan and knew that some showers were in the forecast. At breakfast, my food seemed to take a long time, until I realized that Doug's sheepish grin was due to Bill's generosity in giving him my plate. Doug is too nice of a guy to have eaten it, luckily, since I was starting to slip into a hypoglycemic coma.

I had felt cheated about having to drive the first 20 miles of the Tour, until I saw what I was missing: narrow shoulder on a busy highway, a steep climb and a construction zone with no shoulder. I scored!

When I traded off SAG duty to Steve, I caught up with Kent and rode with him for the rest of the day. And it was a good thing, too, because his GPS, Henry, was able to decifer the route that I don't think I would have followed correctly based on the cue sheet. In fact, we watched as Peggy, Tom M and Jay went what looked to be the wrong way.

After lunch, I was antsy to leave and so I departed with the tandem of Dottie & Orin. We had a big hill before us, but I figured they would catch up on the downhill. The problem with that theory was that the climbs were many and steep and long and so I was riding on my own for quite a while. Then Tom S and Pete caught up to me and must have been taking it easy because I was able to hang on for more than a moment. After a little bit, I realized I was headed for exhaustion if I didn't slow down so they said they would slow down, too. But my "slow" and their "slow" are distant cousins so I waved to them as they disappeared around the next bend.
With 15 miles to go before Armstrong, the terrain mellowed out and I felt like I could relax and enjoy myself. I stopped for cookies and met up with Dottie & Orin and we rode together for the rest of the way. Once we had turned off to a meandering country road and were passing dairy farms, I thought it appropriate to ring my cow bell that I had stashed in my pocket at lunch. The cows responded better that the tandem, surprisingly, as the cows each perked their ears at the faintly familiar noise from somewhere back in their family heritage. The tandem, however, smirked, then kept on riding.

It's always at dinner that the real personalities are revealed. Perhaps we all new of Pete's prowess to command the calories of multiple plates at once, but we had no idea that Bill's true Goose name was "HoneyBuns", HB for short.
A honey-brewed beer tasted really good after a 90-mile, 5500' gain ride. And I had cherry pie for dessert, though Chris' apple pie looked much more tasty. But, you know what they say about the one you're with!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Eastern WA Tour

After I get back from a tour and recover from the riding and unpack my bags and clean my bike, my mind focuses on the little gems of events and images that happened during my trip.

The Eastern WA Tour with Cascade was no dif
ferent and already my mind has begun condensing those long, lonely miles on the road with repetitive scenery and the vast quantities of chipseal and the ever-present headwind and the all-encompassing heat into small fragments of memory. And what is replacing the rest of my memory are the moments of great joy, hilarity and fun. When I think back on the trip, I am left with pleasant memories of how I spent the first of many summer vacations.

Dreaming of dogs the first night of tour and then seeing a dog playfully running alongside riders on the second day

Really appreciating a cold beer at the end of a hot, sweaty, long, tough ride

Finding out that Denise was lactose intolerant and loved Coconut Bliss and then buying her the last remaining pint of it at the natural food store

Making Denise promise not to nominate me for the Golden Helmet Award

Seeing mule deer saunter across the road in front of me while climbing Wauconda Pass

Encountering loose gravel on the Loup Loup descent and just following Allison even though I was terrified at times

Pat ate a whole chicken right in front of our eyes in Republic!

Finding the "Does this Saddle Make my Ass Look Fat?" sign at the coffee shop and, of course, buying it

Scoring the last seat at the table so I didn't have to sit with the Elitist Fast Guys. Thanks for taking the heat, Allison!

Ralph lifting a banana from my jersey pocket while on the descent out of Republic

A refreshing swim in Lake Roosevelt

After donning an ice sock around my neck on the Manilla climb, how I accelerated up to the Nussbaums and Curly Sue and burst into song with my version of "I'm in Heaven"

(near) Perfecting the on-the-bike photo taking

And, in case you're wondering, here's the song:

I'm in heaven
I'm in heaven
And it seems as though that I can hardly feel
Oh the happiness that befalls me is unreal
When we're out together riding, wheel to wheel

For more photos, go here.