A few thanks to hand out to friends, old and new, who have helped me on my way to the final leg of this journey. It took me almost two weeks off the road to get some things taken care of in Hanoi, reset in Seattle, and head out from there. Thank you to my hosts in both cities and everyone else I was fortunate to get to see! Also, apparently when you arrive in Seattle from a bike trip abroad, it is almost a certainty that someone will suggest a bike-brewery tour. So thank you to everyone who suggested it, whether or not you were the first to do so. I admit to being slightly predictable.
Thank you most of all to Sophie Howard, my travel companion for these last three months. For all the good, bad, and everything in between, what an incredible experience this has been. To have the opportunity to share it with someone just made it that much better. I couldn’t have asked for a more patient, brave, and trustworthy travel companion.
Also thank you to my mom, who sent my precious water purifier. It has allowed me to camp every night since leaving Seattle. Actually, to American restaurants in general, who provide me with limitless unbranded filtered ice water free of charge. A big thank you to American recreational infrastructure like parks and National Forests. I have been very much enjoying them in the scorching hot (eh… mid-80’s) sunny temperatures. I actually pulled off the road to nap yesterday because it was “a little warm and I had a big lunch.”
No thanks to my Hanoi tailor, but I won’t go into that. Communication is hard.
Thanks to the dozen or so other adventure enthusiasts I’ve met in Washington, each one demonstrating a more culturally understandable reaction to my presence in the Cascades than probably any single person we met in Southeast Asia.
From here on, I have started to have trouble describing road conditions. I want to “add my contribution” to the touring community, as I tried to do in Patagonia and Southeast Asia. Update future tourers about the current rideability of certain roads. But I can’t, here. because you can literally see all the roads on Google Streetview if you want. My sort of grandiose voice that I’ve developed over the last few months is inappropriate for describing this trip. I’ll try hard not to overstate things.
I went north out of Seattle, which is not the way to Eugene. My first choice was which road through the Cascades I wanted to see. I went with the northernmost one, the one with the most climbing, and in the furthest direction from my house. The North Cascades Highway, so dangerous, unpredictable, and undisturbed that grizzly bears are often seen selling bracelets and mini-totem poles at kiosks by the side of the road.
Nah. It’s paved. Big shoulder. No cars allowed on it until April. No services past the National Park entrance until Winthrop. Getting TO the North Cascades is mostly on wide, flat, paved rails-to-trails paths. Not much traffic on the roads anyways, even on a sunny Saturday. You will come across a few bike tourers, but you will also see people on their way to work.
Before you get to the National Park, maybe 10-15km before Newhalem, there’s a stand that sells homemade ice cream. They have umbrellas, tended grass, and pretty mountains around. People might ask you if you’re going “up the pass” but it’s not said in any particular concern for your sanity, they usually just want you encourage you in a culturally appropriate way, wish you good luck, and to let you know that it might be kind of warm tomorrow.
I took way too much food and water with me. Truth is, I don’t really need food packed away because there are so many services available. But here we are, six days out of Seattle and, excluding a handful of meal stops, I haven’t needed to restock on food yet.
I’ve been camping in a mixture of state parks, national forest campsites, and RV Parks. I recommend RV parks, because they’re relatively cheap for America and have showers and *gasp* wi-fi.
It’s so nice to be home in a friendly environment. I can read the signs, elevation is displayed often, and I generally just don’t really need a map or GPS to navigate. Streets are reliably named and marked, especially in and around Seattle. And anyway, if I were to lose my way I could just ask any person and pretty much expect a reliable answer! I’ve never been up this north in Washington, but the small towns around here are relatively familiar to those that I grew up near in Oregon. So I get an interesting mix of familiarity and novelty with every day, which is nice. Shame that I’ve had to spend the first few days of this leg with some sort of readjusting-to-clean-air chest cough, but I’m working through it.