Our Cross Country Bike Trip
All text and images © 2001 Terri Liebowitz & Tom Schwartz
Home | Albums | Contents
So, as soon as I knew he liked me, I started dropping hints, and in May 2001, we hooked a couple of trailers onto our bikes, loaded our camping gear in one and his dog Corriander in the other and cycled out the door of my house in Cardiff (near San Diego) CA. Neither of us wanted to plan the route so we headed north along the coast for awhile, then started asking people we met along the way where they'd go if they were us. We knew we had to go the Candian Rockies at some point because Tom really wanted to, and we had to be in Seattle on July 14 to crew for Pac Tour. These are our letters home, originally posted to Tom's cycling team's message board.
No flats so far and only one crash for me, one for Corriander and none for Terri. That's right, Corriander fell out of the trailer today going down a curvy hill. I was afraid that might happen eventually and that she would take me down with her but she managed to bail out without touching my bike. She was up on her feet wagging her tail right away. When Terri came around the corner I tried to pretend that nothing had happened but Terri wanted to know why Corriander was walking instead of riding.
We plan to get to San Francisco somewhere between Tuesday and Thursday. It's so hard to predict how much ground we'll cover. Have you ever gone 3mph uphill? We know all about it. All is well, a new adventure everyday!
Only 1 minute left here on the cybercafe computer in downtown Montery.
Love to all, T, T and C
Tom and I have been riding on our own since Corriander hitched a ride home from San Francisco. Although she had adjusted to riding in the trailer she wasn't a happy camper. Apparently she's too old to sleep on cold wet grass and be dragged on long walks. No tail wagging and no kisses in 500 miles made it clear. Our friend Paul flew up to S.F. to spend the weekend with us and drive Corriander back home. Nowadays you can find her sleeping under the stairs in Tom's nice warm condo or sitting in front of Tom's roommate, Larry, begging for pizza.
We had a great time visiting friends in the bay area. Thanks for your hospitality Tom Z, Brett and Debbie, Chaz Seale and family, Bill and Andi. We loved spending time with you and hope to see you more often in the future. We've been thru beautiful country since leaving S.F, riding 50 to 70 miles a day. The wind fairy no longer loves us and we've faced some wicked headwinds. The riding is making Tom stronger day by day, but wearing me down, so more and more gear of our gear has been migrating to his trailer, "Burl" (short for Burley), making my trailer, B.O.B, the beast of burden, less burdensome.
We stopped for lunch in the tiny town of Gualala, which has got to be the friendlist city in CA. Everyone we saw came over to talk and the owner of the grocery store insisted that we take about $25 worth of powerbars and snickers gratis. Later, after a hot sweaty ride through Humboldt County, we skinny dipped in the Eel river and enjoyed the shade of tall redwoods along Avenue of the Giants. We've seen a couple of bobcats, a family of wild turkey, lots of deer, a smattering of mosquitoes, and mouthfuls of gnats. I finally learned to identify poison oak and plan to be more selective about where I stop to pee.
Last week we had a goal! We made it from from Half Moon Bay to Eureka in 5 days, lured by the promise of a river rafting trip with our friends the Seales, along the Salmon River, one of the last undammed rivers in CA. We had a private trip, just 6 of us with two guides. When we weren't navigating the rapids and clinging to the raft for dear life we were floating thru beautiful rugged canyons. Everyone ended up taking an unplanned swim except for me, thanks to my knack for diving for the center of the raft, leaving the paddling to others, when the going got rough.
We arrived at Dan and Tere DeRoo's house, high on a bluff overlooking the ocean on Trindad Bay yesterday and plan to stay until they evict us. Its hard to adjust to sleeping on a feather bed in a gorgeous house when you're used to a half inflated thermarest and a leaking tent, but we're doing our best. We fell asleep last night to the sound of sea lions barking. If we're forced to leave at some point we'll be heading north along the Oregon coast. We'll probably cut inland near Eugene or the Columbia River.
We miss you and hope you're doing well. We'd love to hear from you!
It's June 9th here in Bend Oregon. I'm not sure what day it is in San Diego. I get so confused about the time when I'm on vacation.
We had enough of the foggy, windy coast (spectacular, but predictable) by the time we reached Reedsport OR last week so we turned right. We followed the Smith River for the first 70 miles. No cars! One store. Lots of deer. Many dead snakes on the road. Our real adventure began: campgrounds without water. After a rainy day's ride we hit civilization again, sort of, in Loraine. A very nice family that owned the only store in town invited us to camp on their property and use their shower. We enjoyed several home cooked meals in their little restaurant/convenience store/ art garllery/local hangout and met the owners of the Chauteau Lorane winery up the road.
Rob Templan, a former San Diegan, now living in Eugene met us the next morning in the rain and guided us through Eugene to Route 58 into Oakridge. We opted for a motel room in Oakridge to dry out and get warm. Oakridge would be a great place to live except that everyone seems to be drunk or retired. There isn't much employment in OR since the demise of the timber industry. But if you're looking for a lovely place to be an alcoholic, try Oakridge! The forests are majestic.
The next day we rode 70 miles on Aufderhiede Road. What a treat! Again, no cars! Beautiful forests and rivers. We went up to 4000 feet and back down to the small town of McKenzie OR where we found Paradise campground on the McKenzie river. Even more spectacular though is Belnap Hot Springs. Cabins and tent sites are available along with a world class lodge and two pools with water from the natural hot springs. Olympic size hot tubs! Terri had to wave pizza and cookies in my face to get me out. We decided to spend an extra day there to explore the 40 acres of flower gardens and sunshine.
Yesterday we enjoyed another phenomenal ride, a 24 mile climb to 5200 feet over McKenzie pass. At the summit we stood in the middle of a 30 sq mile lava bed and looked out at the snow covered 10,000 ft peaks of the Three Sisters. We couldn't quite make out the Husband and Brothers because a storm was brewing. This road is another scenic byway with very little traffic. We rode four hours through pine trees without seeing a car. Nothing in San Diego compares with this and I love riding in San Diego.
We arrived in Tumalo, a small town 6 miles from Bend Or, just in time for our friend Sue's pot luck dinner party. Sue is a retired school teacher who we met on an AYH Christmas trip in San Diego a couple of years ago. She travels year round by bike, canoe and on skis so we were lucky to catch her at home. We're really happy with the way our trip is working out inspite of the complete lack of planning.
Today we'll explore Bend and go to the World Famous Sister's Rodeo in the evening, though I'm a little worried about going to a rodeo in cycling shorts with shaved legs.
Hope you are all having a great summer. Email us when you have a chance.
We last wrote to you from Bend, Oregon. Now, a week later, we're camping in Lake Wallowa, the alps of the state, where the 5 mile long lake is surrounded by 9800' snow covered peaks.
We'll tell you how we got here. Cycling on back roads from Bend to Prineville, the oldest city in Oregon, we stopped to admire Smith Rocks, a world renowned climbing paradise. That evening we were cold as we tried to cook in the rain at the Lake Ochoco campground, so we took our stove into the restroom. Terri and I now have a long history of commandeering public bathrooms to cook, pack, bathe, dry off and escape the elements and we thoroughly enjoyed the blow dryer in this one.
The weather improved in the morning as we rode by the Painted Hills, climbing to 4500' but a cold rain pelted us as we descended. We were 60 miles into the day's ride when faced with the choice of climbing back to over 4000' in rain and snow or getting off our bikes for a cup of hot chocolate, renting a room in the Service Creek B&B and and taking a hot shower. Guess what we did? The shower was delightful. Did I mention that the "town" of Service Creek, 25 miles from the nearest anything, consists of a cafe, general store and B&B all run by one couple? The woman, a grandmother at 35.
On the 13th we rode from Service Creek to the population 120, graduating class of 8, town of Monument, "on the way to nowhere". Jerry Boyer, the third generation grocery store owner, told us it was OK to camp in the city park and to go ahead and use the bathroom in his house across the street. We ended up cooking him dinner in his kitchen and watching a video (which we rented at his store) with him in the evening. Terri loved sitting in front of our tent in the park in the center of town watching people go by and playing with the curious dogs that came to visit.
During the next 180 miles we passed through Long Creek, Ukiah and La Grande. La Grande, with a population of 15,000, was the biggest of the bunch and we spent a couple of hours wandering the halls of North Eastern Oregon State University. From La Grande we rode through rolling hills and open farmland, until the long descent to the Wallowa River.
On the way down, we saw a sign for Minan State Park and decided to take the turnoff. We rode down a loose gravel road through pine trees and emerged 2 miles later at a lovely little campground on the river. Greg, Minan's proud ranger, welcomed us to his park, and took our picture for his scrapbook.
We had missed the chance to buy food on the way in but spied a well-equipped boyscoot troop across the field and decided it would be in our best interest to make friends. They earned some big merit points (from us at least) when they invited us over for a delicious dinner of salmon and asparagus. We went back in the morning for coffee, hash browns, bacon and eggs. Who knew boyscouts could cook!
So here we are at Wallowa State Park. Four generations of deer have grown up roaming the campground begging for food. I watched a big fellow stroll over to our neighbor's unattended picnic table and grab an orange. I gave him my best unshaven snarl but he smiled and chomped on unintimidated. Next on our agenda is a tram ride up to 9500 feet for a short hike in the woods. You can expect an update in a week or so unless we're eaten by cougars first.
We're on our way to Glacier National Park, land of grizzly bear attacks and other spectacular things. At the moment we're waiting out the rain in a library in Libby, MO. It only rained twice this week, once for three days and again for four. Not really, Tom told me to say that. I don't know about you but I'm amused to find myself in northern Montana, while on a trip from San Diego to Seattle.
The day we left Lake Wallowa Oregon, the site of our last posting, we decided to get in a 100 mile day in preparation for the PAC Tour we'll soon be starting in Seattle. A tail wind and rested legs got us up to a high plateau above Chief Joseph Canyon where we stopped to enjoy the view and read a historical marker about the Nez Perce Indians. From there we began a 10 mile, 3500 ft descent to the hot, dry, canyon floor, crossing into Washington state on the way down. The temperature at the bottom rose from 94 degrees to 98 degrees in the 5 minutes it took us to drink a bottle of Gatorade so we figured we'd better hustle on up before we roasted. One hundred and eleven switchbacks, 10 miles straight up, and one state line crossing (into Idaho) later, I collapsed with a wicked headache at our campsite on the bank of the Snake River, in the aptly named Hellsgate State Park.
The next day we wanted to get out of the heat and set our sights on higher elevations so we got up early and made it to Kendrick Idaho by 10:30 just as the temperature entered the 90s. Upon hearing that the only campground was another 15 miles away, up a long step grade, Tom flagged down a pickup truck and we hitched our first and only ride of the trip. The pickup took us to Deary, Idaho where we bathed in a river and set up camp between pine trees. We made friends with an older couple who actually mistook us for college kids! We were so flattered we cooked them dinner.
Next we headed through St Marie's to Coeur D'alene, hugging the east side of the lake for 35 miles.
Tom here: I'd like to interrupt this update for a special announcement. The librarian of the Libby Library has just informed me that our 45 min. are up. The library will be open for another hour and there are two other vacant computers but its Libby Library Policy to kick patrons off after 45 min. No exceptions! Oh brother! So we'll have to continue writing later. We're just a couple of riding days away from Glacier National Park. I'm sure we'll have lots of good stories to share next time. Provided we haven't been eaten by grizzlies.
No fireworks here. We're in Canada, eh. But we're not hurting for oohs and ahhs. As I sit in the Waterton Campground (on the Canadian side of Glacier National Park) hundreds of ground hogs are chirping and frolicing. Birds and the river rushing behind me fill my world. Some highlights from the last two weeks you ask? We've got them ...
Every one of our 9 days in Montana have been gorgeous. The sky is indeed BIG and the lakes and rivers are a mesmerizing pastel turquoise and clear as can be. Visit Montana! And bring bear size pepper spray. Not for the bears, it'll just piss them off and you'll end up tasting like pepper (as one of the rangers explained). Bring it for the mosquitos and pray it works.
Glacier Park is only 1/2 as big as we first thought. I'll explain. On July 1st we decided to take a day off the bike and enjoy the west side of the park before tackling the famous Highway to the Sun over the continental divide. So we hiked for 3 hours, had lunch, found we still had energy and rode 6 miles to another trailhead for another 2 hour hike. Avalance lake and its 5 waterfalls are truly breathtaking. We were back on our bikes at 7:15pm with plenty of time to ride 6 miles back to the camp store before it closed. Of course, we assumed that we were riding in the right direction.
Yup, we pedaled along in awe of the snowy galciers taking pictures for almost 8 miles before our happy reverie ended abruptly with the realization we were going the wrong way. First, there was the tail wind.
"Terri, isn't it lucky that we had a tailwind on the way out and we've got one again now?"
"Sure is, and how odd that we rode uphill to get here and we're going uphill again. What a special place this is!"
"Wow, there were gorgeous 10,000' peaks in front of us on the way out, and here's a whole other range of equally beautiful peaks in front of us now."
When we finally came to our senses we had 40 minutes to ride 13 miles into a headwind, which we managed to do in our desperation not to miss a meal.
After all that we got back to our campsite at 10:15pm (that's when the sun sets here) and I noticed the sign in the restrooms: "Clean Restrooms". So I was up until almost 2:00 am cleaning those stinky toilets. You'd think someone else would have gotten to them before 10:15, eh?
One more word about Glacier. Go there, ride your bike up Highway to the Sun and experience the most amazing 30 miles of your life.
Oh, and now we can add one more animal to our list of sitings. While writing this update (on paper first) a big old bear strolled by, only 15 yards away. I slowly tiptoed off with our lunch and got a quick picture. Most amazing and a little terrifying.
We hope you are well. Email us and let us know what you're up to. We'll be in Spokane July 8th for the national bike races, then Seattle on July 14th to start the Pac Tour and then in Virginia on Aug 9th.
On July 7th, Terri and I took our tiny titanium allen wrenchers (a gift from Dan Deroo) and did some bike disassembling so that we could fit them into boxes for our 7 hour train ride from East Glacier, MO to Spokane, WA. I know you're wondering how did Tom, the worst bike mechanic west of anywhere disassemble the bikes. Well, if you were sitting outdoors on the 7th, maybe on your porch barbequing around 6:00 pm, you probably heard my screams. It wasn't pretty, but I did manage to fit most of the bicycles into the boxes. Howver, in all the commotion I forgot to have the train statin attendant print out our tickets. So the train arrived and Terri and I walked over to board.
"Terri, give the conductor the tickets."
"I don't have the tickets."
Shit! We raced back to the counter, got the tickets, chased the train for close to
a mile, jumped on the caboose, just like in the movies, and wiped the soot from
our faces. OK, just fantasizing for a moment, but we did manage to board.
Spokane was really hot. We were there for the Masters National Bike Races. The best cyclists, 30 years old and up, from all over the country provided the excitement. Eleven of my San Diego B&L teammates were there attempting to bring home gold medals. None did, but there was plenty of gutsy racing. Tom Gates crashed not once but twice in the first criterium race and suffered a broken collar bone. Ouch. The road race started at 1:00 on July 10th. It was 100 degrees but felt like 130. Earlier I had been disappointed that registration was closed and I couldn't enter the road race. But not anymore. It was too hot and I was happy not to participate. All of my teammates were awesome and represented San Diego and our sponsers with courage and talent. Mark Huffman finished the road race in 6th place. That's 6th in the nation, competing against several former pros and Olympians. Way to go Mark! John Rubic and Doug Pomeranz turned in great results in the criterium.
We left Spokane in a rented car. Oh, how nice it was! My friend Sandeep, a former employee of of North County Soccer Park, put us up in Seattle for a couple of days. Thanks Sandeep.
Last night was the hightlight of our stay in Seattle. We attended a lecture by Goran Kropp
at the Town Hall building. Goran is the crazy swede who road his bike, carrying 250 lbs of
gear, from Sweden to Mt Everest (that's 7000 miles in case you were wondering), then climbed
Everest completely self supported, no sherpas or yaks, without bottled oxygen, descended
and rode home. I said "lecture" but actually it was a comedy routine. The guys is
charismatic, energetic and a great speaker. A giant goofball. Check out his book, "The
Later this morning, July 14th, we'll meet the Pac Tour and get organized for our cross country trek which starts tommorrow. The days will be long. We'll be averaging over 130 miles each day so you may not hear from us for a little while. We'll arrive in Virginia on August 9th.
We've completed round two of Tom and Terri's excellent adventure. We "crewed" for the Pac Tour Northern Bicycle Trip that took us from Seattle to Virginia covering 3400 miles in 26 days, averaging 130 miles a day. We alternated between riding one day and working the next. Terri was on food crew, shopping and cooking for 30, and Tom drove the big truck, somehow managing to stay awake and avoid collisions for most of his time behind the wheel.
Most riders agreed that the scenery didn't vary much, consisting mostly of the rear-end of the rider in front of them. We however were able to enjoy the sights more, thanks to our recover/working days. The Badlands of South Dakota are remarkable: miles of huge sand castles like the ones you made on the beach as a kid. The Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming have a vast, rugged, western beauty and are a bitch to ride over. The hundreds of flat, windy miles of corn and soybean fields in the Midwest are hypnotic, but made us appreciate hills and trees like never before.
All thirty of us have made it to Virginia with the same symptoms:
The Pac Tour was an experience we'll never forget (although there are a few moments we'll probably try to forget - like making it through the last 40 miles of a 140 day on nothing but willpower). It was intense, difficult, fun, challenging and satisfying. The best aspect was the camradrie we developed with the amazing people on the trip.
Today, we're back on our bikes leaving Seattle, headed for the Canadian Rockies, although we don't know how the heck we're going to get there. Neither of us like planning the route more than a day or two in advance, though it seems to work out fine anyhow. Any suggestions? Anything we just can't miss on the way from Vancouver Island to Banff and Jasper?
Now that our time is our own again we'll try to find a computer and post an update every 10 days or so. We're looking forward to hearing from you too. Email us!
Eleven days ago we left Seattle and pedaled ourselves aboard the Mulkiteo Ferry to begin a tour of the San Juan Islands. Four days and four ferry rides later, we've visted Whidbey Island, the 2nd longest island in the 48 contiguous states (do you know the 1st?), Fidalgo Island, connected to Whidbey by the spectacular Deception Pass bridge, Lopez Islan, with its quiet roads and short, shaggy, curly horned, "blue meanies" that let birds perch on their backs, Orcas Island, featuring Mt Constitution: 5 miles at 10% - 12% for your cycling pleasure, San Juan Island and finally Vancouver Island, BC.
We spent a day in Victoria visiting Terri's childhood friends Justin Liversedge, his mom Kay, wife Martha, sister Lindy and her husband Joe who showed us great hospitality on very short notice. We were delighted to be able to crash Kay's 80th birthday party and family reunion. Thank you! We loved seeing you.
Our last ferry ride, across Puget Sound, landed us south of Vancouver city, with plans to head toward the Canadian Rockies. We camped in Hope B.C., a small town with a couple of good coffee shops, chainsaw bears, a brand new hockey rink and curling arena, snuggled up at the base of the Cascade Mountains. The next 40 miles to Manning Provencial Park were all uphill. For the third time this trip we were beyond "Hope". That's right, this was the third town named Hope on our trip.
We spent two days camping in the rain but it felt like three. The hightlight was meeting Ana and her parents Jenny and Kit, and sharing trail stories and lasagna with them in their nice warm camper. Skinny, 17 year old Ana had just completed a 3 month, solo, ultra-light hike of the Pacific Crest trail and showed us how to build a tiny camp stove from coke cans. She convinced us we could do without our tent, sleeping pads, and most of our gear, so we packed it all up and mailed it home. We're down to a toothbrush and long underwear now. Oh, and the razor, "pretty legs" Tom refused to part with.
Two days later, down the east side of the Cascades, we were out of the dripping forest basking in the sun in Osoyos. Canada claims Osoyo is its only desert but we don't buy it. We've enjoyed ice cream, berry pie, brownies and peach milk shakes during the last few days and Terri remembers having a delicious German Chocolate cake the last time she was in Canada. This afternoon we pitched our tent beside a creek and walked up the road to hit golf balls at a funky, patched together, mostly deserted (ah, here we go again) driving range. We left in hurry after Tom nailed a black bear in the nose.
Bye for now from beautiful British Columbia.
The West Kootenay area is British Columbia at its best! Christina Lake, B.C.'s warmest tree lined lake (this is a country of superlatives) is the first West Kootenay gem we found. The 10 mile lake is so inviting that we decided to stay awhile. We spent a day water skiing on the clean, quiet lake with Edmonites Peter, Liz, Aaron and Johnny then filled up with a delicious barbeque in their campsite. Thanks guys!
Leaving the town of Castlegear, we found a small country road. The car traffic was replaced by dog traffic, most of them tail waggers. The next 40 miles were our most adventurous. In our pursuit of quiet backroads we found oursevles a doozy. No cars, additionally, no pavement, just big rocks and thick sand . I crashed once. Terri went down 3 times. We ran out of food and water. Tom was pretty grumpy (though Terri was inexplicably happy) with the thought of pushing our loaded bikes another 25 miles to arrive in Slocan sometime around midnight. We were eventually able to combine a little riding with the walking and emerged from the forest just before nightfall. The 10 hours of wilderness, serenity, and proximity to the Slocan river, "the 2nd cleanest river in Canada", made it worthwhile. (Apparently, opinions vary on that, but I, Terri, thought it was one of the best days of the trip!).
The next two days in the West Kootenays, enroute to Kaslo and Creston, were the most beautiful. The rivers are slush puppy green (that's a raspberry and lemon-lime mix) and so clear that Terri swears she can see salmon spawning and trout frolicing from 100 feet away. After an 85 mile ride we celebrated our arrival in the Canadian Rockiers with a soak in Radium Hot Springs - tourist laden, but wonderful.
Banff was our next destination. Riding in the rain at 40 degrees left us chilled to the bone but the warm welcome we received from Nancy and Wim Pauw, two PAC Tour alumni, warmed us right up. Nancy and Wim were the perfect hosts, spoiling us with a private suite in their log cabin, plus two days of delicious meals, bike rides, hikes and best of all, fun conversation and friendship. Thanks Nancy and Wim!
The snow that fell last night highlights the spectacular mountain peaks that surround Banff, a little jewel of a ski town. We're looking forward to riding along the Icefield Parkway to Jasper during the final few days of our trip.
We've decided to conclude our summer vacation in Jasper Alberta after a 10 day ride thru the Canadian Rockies. The weather has been chilly: 20 degrees in the mornings. Cold enough to freeze the saliva off a moose's lips. We rode through big fat flakes of falling snow, over Sumwapta Pass to the Columbia Ice Fields where we hiked on the Athabasca Glacier despite the signs detailing the myriad ways one might meet one's maker after falling into a snow covered crevasse. Click on photo at right for details.
Seasonal and predatory (grizzly bear) campground closures plus a touch of cold weather wimpiness provoked us to seek shelter for several nights in youth hostels along the way. In their previous lives, the hostels were Japanese interment camps. This was our first hosteling experience and we were inspired by the world travelers we met and their adventures.
In the photo on the left, Tom models the latest & greatest in inclement weather cycling apparel.
Sadly, we aren't good enough writers to convey the beauty of the jagged, glacier capped 10'000 ft peaks and crystal clear turquoise rivers and lakes that have surrounded us during the last 180 miles. But this place, the Icefield Pky, from Banff to Jasper, easily makes our top 10 list of most gorgeous places we've ever been, and secures the number one spot of best places to watch elk rutt. Yes, we're camping in Jasper, in the middle of a herd of mating elk. We lay awake last night, listening to the bulls shriek and whistle.