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Messages - Itinerant Harper

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So I did sections 1 through 4 of the Sierra-Cascades this summer (ending at Lake Isabella), I've ridden the Northern Tier and I've done the Pacific Coaset so I can answer any questions on those routes. The Sierra-Cascades was plenty tough and I wouldn't want to do it for my first tour. It's always hard to judge but the South to North seemed harder to me. For example the climb out of Yosemite in that direction with the extensive traffic would no fun IMO. Going downhill in that section was stressful enough.  I on average did much shorter days than I've done on other tours and even then you crossed a pass or summit nearly every day. Several thousand feet of climbing most days with some days far more then that. All that being said the scenery is pretty much unparalleled. Mountains the whole way, views into real wilderness, riding on narrow forest roads where you'd see one or two cars a day, huge descents into wide valleys, streams, rivers, creeks, seven national parks/monuments, USFS land most of the time and on and on.  I really loved it.

The Washington part of the Northern Tier is the hardest section of the NT but by the time you get there you should be ready for it. You can do five passes in four days if you so chose. This is easier East to West as you'll already be at 2000' or so. Great scenery here as well as you are in the mountains and there is Glacier at one end and North Cascades National Park at the other end. When you reach Anacortes take the time to ride in the San Juan Islands. In fact I recommend riding the islands, ferrying to Sidney BC, riding to Victoria and taking the Coho ferry to Port Angles. Take 112 from Port Angeles instead of 101 around Lake Crescent. Definitely ride around the Olympic Peninsula. If you have the time ride into the Hoh Rainforest and spend a few days there.  The Peninsula is rolling hills and is generally pleasant riding. Be prepared for rain, though it can absolutely not happen.

The Astoria Bridge will be the last thing on your route and while not a great time isn't that big of a deal. 

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Pacific Northwest / Re: Bears on Pacific Coast Ride?
« on: June 15, 2014, 12:18:06 pm »
There's bears on the Olympic Peninsula, pretty much the only part of the route you'd have the privilege of seeing them. Being well into the summer at your start date I wouldn't worry much about it. Most of the campgrounds will be pretty occupied and especially if you follow the ACA inland route you won't be going through the more wild parts of the peninsula.  Most Washington State campgrounds that have had issues with bears have bear boxes to put your food etc. into. If they have those, use them!

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Routes / Re: Pacific Coast: Vancouver or Bellingham?
« on: May 02, 2014, 11:53:55 am »
Huh, I wouldn't have thought that (well per se - Amtrak is kind of expensive) what with the B'ham airport being a pretty small regional airport.  Maybe the cheapest option of all would be to fly into SeaTac and ride up to Vancouver :)  This does IMO have a lot going for it as my preferred route follows Whidbey Island, Fidalgo Island and then Chuckanut Drive to Bellingham.  This gives one a nice taste of the inland route and the edge of the San Juans (which of course one could go to or day trip to from Fidalgo Island). Then you either ride up the Sunshine Coast and down Vancouver Island or take the ferry from Tsawwassen. Then you visit Victoria and take the Coho to Port Angeles and ride around the Peninsula.

Anyway however you do it, it'll be a great trip. When I rode the Pacific Coast I only went as far as SF and I've always regretted I didn't do the whole thing. So I definitely want to do the whole route one day and presuming I'm still in Seattle, the above route is how I'd start off.

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Routes / Re: Pacific Coast: Vancouver or Bellingham?
« on: May 01, 2014, 11:46:24 am »
I have to say that the route that Bicycling the Pacific Coast and it looks like the ACA maps use from Bellingham to Vancouver isn't that bad really. There are some bits that aren't ideal (around the airport mainly) but Bellingham to the border and in Canada the whole ride from the area around UBC into the city is classic. 

Is it really cheaper to fly into B'ham than SeaTac and take the train? As adventurepdx noted it's an easy jaunt what with the light rail from SeaTac to King Street Station and what with being able to roll on your bicycle on Amtrak you could assemble your ride during any down time. Anyway that's certainly what I'd do if I was flying in, even if it was a couple of bucks more.

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Routes / Re: Pacific Coast: Vancouver or Bellingham?
« on: April 29, 2014, 12:01:33 pm »
Oh also I've ridden into and out of Canada several times (and driven many, many times) and have never had issues with the border. Bring your passport and it's no big deal. Maybe they'll search a bag but most of the time I've just been asked a couple of questions and waved through. Less hassle at the ferry border crossings than the big crossing at Blaine, but still no big deal.

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Routes / Re: Pacific Coast: Vancouver or Bellingham?
« on: April 29, 2014, 11:57:49 am »
I agree with most of the opinions here w/r/t the Vancouver start, which I for one recommend - Vancouver is a great city. But there is another option for getting to the coast that hasn't been mentioned. Instead of going south from Vancouver go north and ride the Sunshine Coast. This route out of Vancouver is quite nice and once you quickly get through the 'burbs it is excellent wooded and waterfront riding with the occasional ferry ride. Then you take the ferry at Powell River over to Vancouver Island and ride down the east side with plenty of opportunities to go to the Gulf Islands. Then you either ferry into the states via Anacortes (visiting the San Juan's of course) or head into Victoria and take the Coho to Port Angeles.

This route FWIW is the route in Bicycling the Pacific Coast by Kirkendall and Spring. They also lay out the route around the Olympic Peninsula which keeps you actually on the Pacific Coast. The Adventure Cycling route inexplicably (well perhaps to not overlap with Washington Parks - get that if you want to go around the peninsula with ACA maps) uses what K&S deem the "inland route" which while a great ride I've done several times, it's not really the "Pacific Coast". Plus the Olympic Peninsula is must visit.

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I don't know about your time constraints or what have you but from Anacortes to North Bend but if you aren't super time compressed I'd take the Mountain Loop Highway and camp in the National Forest there. There are many campgrounds in that area you so you could adjust the miles to your needs. This is a really scenic route, though it does have many miles of gravel road. Not a problem on my touring bicycle with 38mm tires but YMMV.  I basically did a trip from Kirkland WA to Red Bridge Campground on the Mountain Loop Highway to Bayview State Park which by your itinerary you could certainly do. As the Mountain Loop campground was day 1 on my tour I of course got off late so one could certainly make it well beyond Kirkland with an earlier start. It also would be very easy to connect to the Snoqualmie Valley Trail from the Mountain Loop and this would take you right up to Snoqualmie/North Bend/Rattlesnake Lake where the Iron Horse Trail begins.  Anyway if this seems interesting I could dig up more details on the route.

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Pacific Northwest / Re: Anacortes - Concrete ?
« on: March 31, 2014, 11:41:28 am »
So having grown up in Anacortes and toured extensively around there I can say that the ACA routes and virtually every other one I've seen is not the best route in the area.  What you really want to do is take the Tommy Thompson trail from downtown which crosses Fidalgo Bay on a decommissioned train trestle.  Then you want to hang a left on March's Point road and go around March's Point. This road is along the water the entire way and on the land side is two oil refinery's which are of course horrific but fascinating in that decline of industrial empire sort of way.  March's Point Road then swings back in and intersects with Hwy 20 right at the Twin Bridges over the Swinomish Slough.  By taking this route you only have to ride on 20 for the Bridge Crossing as pretty much right off the bridge you take a right and go under the bridge and then you are back on the ACA route.

The ACA route from the bridges to Sedro Wooley is great and is definitely recommended. You get a bit along the mudflats at the beginning and then across farmland and around the Skagit River.  Sedro Wooley as far as little towns go has it's charms and you should certainly stock up on anything you need at that point as the services begin to dwindle.

Okay so as for the real question at hand I have ridden the South Skagit Highway, the Cascade Trail and the North Cascades Highway. S. Skagit has it's charms for sure - the lack of traffic and the tree lined corridor is definitely the kind of riding I like. However I've taken the Cascade Trail far more often.  It is a gravel trail, but quite hard packed most of the time (closer in to Sedro Wooley a bit less so) and the chip seal you'll find on the SSH isn't much better. It follows the Skagit River for a fair piece closer to Sedro Wooley and you see far, far more of the river than on the SSH.  It then cross farmland and gets into the trees and it is a treelined corridor the rest of the way to Concrete.  I tended to occasionally hop on the the N. Cascades Hwy to break it up a bit, but once into the wooded sections I stick with it. 

The other reason I prefer to be on the north side is that the last grocery store you going to find is just West of Concrete and you have to backtrack to it if you take the SSH. Additionally one of my favorite campgrounds - and definitely the best you'll find before you get into the National Park - is also south of Concrete: Rasar State Park. This 'ground is on the river and has a new-ish and very nice hiker/biker site that is nicely separated from the main ground.

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Routes / Re: Sierra Cascades or Pacific Coast?
« on: January 16, 2014, 11:37:59 am »
If you are going south to north I'd take the Sierra-Cascades. But it's a tougher route which might be a factor for one's first tour.

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General Discussion / Re: Olympic Discovery Trail
« on: January 15, 2014, 11:46:50 am »
You pretty much are stuck with hwy 20 for the bulk of riding around Discovery Bay.  From Port Townsend you can take the "Larry Scott Trail" which intersects with 20 and then heads west. You can take it a bit further west and then use Discovery Road, but really if you are heading south it's easiest just to ride on 20.  At that point it has a nice shoulder which does fade away as you get further south.  But in my experience as it's downhill most of the way to the intersection with 101 it's fine. Going North is harder but I've done it a few times and it's survivable. 

Once you are on 101 there is a big shoulder all the way to Blyn where you can get onto the ODT.  There are also frontage roads that you can go on and off if you want a break from the traffic.  Old Gardiner Road comes and goes as you make your way up the hill to Gardiner.  I can't vouch for it having the same gentle grade of 101 - you are climbing for a mile or two up from the bay - as I've pretty much just stayed with 101 as it's not that bad and you'll be on the trail soon enough.

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General Discussion / Re: Olympic Discovery Trail
« on: January 13, 2014, 11:35:08 am »
I've ridden the Olympic Discovery trail many times and it is absolutely worth doing. They seem to extend it a bit every time I end up out there but as of last summer it was paved from Blyn to Port Angeles with a few sections that take you on the road.  The ODT is a rail trail but many of the trestles weren't maintained/rebuilt and the trail can plunge down into river valleys and climb out. No problem really fully loaded but just an FYI that it isn't your 2% grade trail the whole time. There are unpaved "adventure" routes past Port Angeles which I haven't done but I have ran into other cyclotourists who have.  When I rode out to Cape Flattery in 2012 I used the Adventure Cycling Route (Washington Parks) from Port Angeles to the hwy 112/113 intersection and then 112 to the Cape.  The PA to 112/113 is right on the coast, not too trafficked and much better than 101 along Lake Crescent. The dirt ODT runs on the other side of Lake Crescent from what I understand so it is a bit South of taking 112.

Anyway hope that helps. I basically recommend the ODT from Blyn to PA and hwy 112 out to the Cape.

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Scotttb has it pretty right on - I've stayed at/eaten/etc most of those places he cites and can second them.  Apart from that a few things:
- All the National campgrounds are great and you can't go wrong with them.
- Allow yourself some time at the coast. 101 skirts the Quinault Indian Reservation so really isn't on the coast all that long. Stay at South Beach or Kalaloch and spend some time at the beach. Great lodge at Kalaloch and a little store so I've always stayed there. The coast is pretty wild this far up and while always windy and can be cold is fantastic.
- Plenty to do at Lake Quinault with a number of national parks there plus several commercial. Several lodges, restaurants, stores and so on.
- Take the side trip to the Hoh and spend at least one day there. Plenty of fantastic hikes, hot springs and rain forest info and such there.
- I took a side trip up to Neah Bay and hiked out to Cape Flattery (the most NW point in the state). This was well worth doing and the road - which is a there and back situation - is incredibly scenic.  You can get to this by turning left (NW) onto 112 where the route splits off of 113 (heading east on 112) if going CW. Neah Bay and the Cape are on the Makah Indian Reservation and there is apparently camping up there which I hadn't known so I camped just outside the Res at Snow Creek Fishing resort which is a fisherman's place but has a nice wooded camping area off from the main boat ramp. http://www.snowcreekwa.com
- Port Angeles has several brewpubs if that's your thing (it is mine!) Peaks is great and there is another tiny one just a few blocks from there: Barhop  There is also a great Co-op where you can get bulk foods along with all the other amenities.
- Definitely stick with the Olympia Discovery Trail. From Port Angeles it heads right to Sequim Bay State Park which has h/b sites and is a cute little park on the bay.
-Port Townsend of course has the Port Townsend Brewery and the Pourhouse, both south of downtown by the marina for the beer drinking. In downtown proper among the bookstores and knicknack shops are several cycling shops if the need arises, Waterfront Pizza which has HUGE slices,  Elevated Ice Cream which makes their own and Better Living Through Coffee - my favorite coffee shop on the peninsula.

There is of course tons more. If you are going to Anacortes and beyond I have a much better route than the Adventure Cycling Route plus plenty of info on Whidbey, Fidalgo, Anacortes, Skagit Valley and so on.  Anyway this is a beautiful area that I really love so you'll have a great time. Enjoy the ride!

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I rode Washington Parks map 1 last year and living in the area plenty of bits of it in the year since. There is plenty of chip seal on the route but there has not been any sort of complete chip sealing of 101 - I think I encountered more chipseal on the side roads and smaller highways on the route.  There are definitely some places where you are riding on it for many miles but often there will be places where the shoulder was left unsealed and you can ride in relative ease there.  All that being said, this is some fantastic riding and I wouldn't let chip seal deter me.

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Routes / Re: Suggestions needed for favorite 7-day trip in US
« on: May 24, 2013, 12:40:26 pm »
The San Juan Islands in WA State up to the Gulf Islands in British Columbia is an excellent place to tour. Could do tons in a week, though of course it's one of those places you could spend a lot more time. Lots of good camping, incredible sights, quaint little towns, nice trails on Vancouver Island, ferry boat travel and so on.

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Gear Talk / Re: Novara Safari..opinions of ownership
« on: May 23, 2013, 12:46:34 pm »
I had a Safari for years (proof here: Safari Gallery) and while in the main I think it's a pretty great bicycle I had some issues with it. Of course mine was so old that some of these issues might have been resolved. There were basically three primary problems I had with it. One it's hard to get a real good fit on it. Mine was probably a size too small, but I think I would have been to stretched out when in the "hooks" with the next size up.  Like others I also had to use a stem riser to get the bars higher and could have gone with them being even higher.  The next issue for me was that I really came to dislike the twist shifters.  I looked around for other options and I think I could have gotten thumb shifters working, so that is an option. For the record I came to dislike grip shifters while on a tour in the San Juan and Gulf Islands where it rained for 9 days in a row. I found my hands constantly slipped on the grip shifters in this scenario which on the super steep hills in these islands is a serious downside.  I also came to not like that the brakes are on the most upright position on the trekking bars.  I found this somewhat unstable when you'd be braking at speed under load. It'd be better if they were on the "hooks" which perhaps you could do. Finally I came to not really like the aluminum frame. It does indeed have that brittleness that so many have noted and I certainly prefer steel.

So anyway I think if one was going to check one out definitely try going at least a size up from what REI will put you on. I probably could have worked around all the issue with the h'bars but the fit was in the end a deal breaker for me. I'm just not entirely sure that most people can dial in a perfect fit on that frames limited sizes.

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