The planned route (Click to enlarge)

Friday, June 12, 2009

NERD FILE: El Paso to Vancouver

For the last 2 months I have spent a unreasonable amount of time studying maps or glued to a speedometer being alternately fried to a crisp in the desert, huddled in snowy blizzards or sheltering in the tent from blood thirsty mosquitoes. I never seemed to learn, as Hol did early on, that knowing exactly how high we have to climb will not make the pass lower, that knowing the hourly wind shifts for each day will only make you more angry when the supposed brisk tailwind is slowing you to a crawl going downhill, and that the supposed water stops on the map only have a 50:50 chance of materialising in the heat. I still don't understand why map makers haven't yet come up with a symbol to mark a deserted trailer with a bourbon sluggin', gun totin' owner that differs from the one they use for 'town: population < 100'

Total Distance: 2753.6 miles
Days on the road: 53 [46 on the bike]
Total Time Pedaling:
192h 26m
Longest Day
: 115.2 miles, 7h 20m of pedalling
Highest Pass: Red Mountain Pass, Colorado 11,007 ft
Longest Climb: 5,100ft vertical gain from Durango to Silverton over Coal Bank and Molas Passes
Top Speed: 49.2 mph (dammit)
Worst headwind: Gusting 45mph 2nd day riding to Radium Springs, New Mexico
Coldest Night Camping: Fontenelle Creek, Wyoming -7 degrees C
National Parks: The Black Canyon of the Gunnison, The Tetons, Yellowstone, North Cascades
Best signpost: Next to a Wendy's advert saying Home of the famous 3/4lb cheese triple we found a vet in Sedro-Woolley advertising the Home of the famous $25 cat neuter

Having chosen to ride up the spine of the Rockies also meant we took in our fair share of passes. In the course of crossing the continental divide 8 times we took in the following passes:

Coal Bank Pass, Colorado: 10,630 ft
Molas Pass, Colorado: 10,879 ft
Red Mountain Pass, Colorado: 11,007 ft
Indian Creek Pass, Utah: 9,100 ft
Francis Creek Pass, Utah: 8,400 ft
Bondurant Pass (The Rim), Wyoming: 7,900 ft
Craig Pass, Wyoming: 8,262 ft
Virginia City Pass, Montana: 6,950 ft
Badger Pass, Montana: 6,760 ft
Big Hole Pass, Montana: 7,630 ft
Chief Joseph Pass, Montana: 7,264 ft
Lost Trail Pass, Montana: 7,014 ft
Tiger Pass, Washington: 3,300 ft
Sherman Pass, Washington: 5,575 ft
Wauconda Pass, Washington: 4,310 ft
Loup Loup Summit, Washington: 4,020 ft
Washington Pass, Washington: 5,477 ft
Rainy Pass, Washington: 4,855 ft

High Points: Meeting someone who claimed to ride at 65mph on the flat on their bike and pedalled so hard smoke came off his wheels, seeing the Black Canyon of the Gunnison for the first time, almost every down hill, every tail wind, 5 days off in Jackson with new friends and family.

Low Points: Agonizingly cold hands coming down in a blizzard into Silverton without warm gloves, the 4th puncture and wheel about to collapse after riding 108 miles with only another 7 to go Vernal, running out of water in the desert.

Luckiest moments: Our tyres delaminating and collapsing just as we pulled into Durango. We had just come flying down a twisting 4 mile descent dodging oil trucks and RVs and it was home to the first bike shop in miles and miles.

Scariest moment: Front tyre blowout after hitting a rock at 40mph coming down the main road from Lost Trail Pass, being chased by packs of dogs in New Mexico.

Thanks to my Dad for sending our gear over to El Paso, Charley and Kamala for getting us on our way, the hosting from Stuart and Veronica in Alburquerque, Jason and Devon for the bed and the survival kit in Durango, Breton for letting us sleep in his airstream in Montrose, KP for the free overhaul for Carlos in Vernal, Dick and Nancy for the brilliant guided tour of Jackson, Sally for our R&R base in Vancouver and many more who made it such a flippin' sweet trip.

So that is about it for now on the bike.

We are now ready to do a more leisurely return loop into the US. Having spent so much time in small town America, it's time to check out the cities courtesy of Amtrak and Greyhound. It's going to take a little bit of adjusting. Day 1 in Vancouver and looking for books to read, we strayed into 'Little Sisters' second hand bookshop. I faltered at the door at the rainbow feather boas and arty black and white male nudes, but Hol had dived straight in. The fact that I was genuinely looking for a copy of Lord of the Rings seemed apt, but I managed to just stop Hol before she engaged the assistant in hunt on my behalf.

We are told the US rail system is the preserve of over talkative freaks and weirdos and so I can only think we will fit right in. We have a couple of days in Seattle before a 23hr ride on the Coast Starlight to San Francisco on the 15th and then a 33hr ride on the California Zephyr to Denver on the 24th.

We have also got our final sea leg booked aboard the HANJIN Madrid. A little different from Lista Light as it weighs in at 69,000 tons, is 278m long and cruises at 27 knots. We'll be setting sail from Vancouver to Gwangyang in South Korea on the 19th August for an eleven day crossing.

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