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Messages - indyfabz

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Routes / Re: How early can one start the NT going west to east
« on: January 06, 2011, 10:52:02 am »
I am pretty sure this has come up before, but I cannot find a thread on it.

One factor for the NT is the opening of Washington Pass.  This site will give you some idea of what to expect on that front:

Note that they are having a very snowy with so far.  See this thread for an idea on possible conditions in the beginning of June:

If you are doing the NT, it would be a crime to miss Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park.  I have ridden the west side three time and have descended the east side once.  It's everything they say it is:

The park has also experienced heavy snow so far this winter.  If that keeps up, I think the chances of you being able to get across before the second or third week in June will be slim.  In 2009 I tried to cross east to west on June 22nd.  The pass was not open.  It finally opened on June 24th.  I think it opened around the same time last year.  I believe the NPS site for the park has historical opening dates.

The alternative is to take U.S. 2 from West Glacier up to Marias Pass and then down to East Glacier.  It's a long slog up with not a great shoulder in places and very few services.  It's also not nearly as scenic as GTS.  From East Glacier you can continue on U.S. 2 to Cut Bank and pick up the NT there.  Alternatively, you can take MT 49 from East Glacier to U.S. 89 N to St. Mary and pick up the route there.  The latter option will allow you to ride Chief Mountain Highway and visit Waterton Village in Alberta.  Chief Mountain is a tough ride, but it’s pretty:

And the setting of the town campsite at Waterton Village is dramatic:

Routes / Re: Spokane Wa to Oak Harbor Wa Looking for advice and Route
« on: January 06, 2011, 10:07:47 am »
Thank you all for the info......

The cold does not really bother me. Was more concerned about traffic. I have been on that road (drove) a couple of times, and as we know the traffic can be crazy.

Is there a big concern of bears and those type of things up that way?

I encountered almost no traffic both times I crossed in the beginning of June.  That’s one of the advantages of going early.  The major tourist rush has not started, especially since school is still in session.  The south side of Colonial Creek Campground was virtually deserted.  There were a few logging trucks descending the west slope, but nothing to be concerned about.

As for bears, the host at Colonial Creek told us not to worry.  However, the NPS campground map indicates that there are a few bear boxes.  While I saw no bears, the Steller’s Jays were a nuisance the first year.  They tired to get into soft sided food packages left unguarded on the picnic table.  One guy had a bag of cereal leftover from that morning’s breakfast on top of his trailer bag.  A jay landed on it and began pecking a hole in it.

Routes / Re: newbie needing advice
« on: January 03, 2011, 03:06:01 pm »
The part of the Northern Tier we did in Iowa (we detoured to Devenport instead of going to Moline) was, for the most part, moderately to more severely rolling, hotter than hell and even more humid.  The portion in Indiana was mostly flat to gently rolling in places and hotter and more humid than Iowa.  The low the night we stayed at Fletcher Lake was 85 with no breeze.  The next day it hit 107 in Huntington.  Illinois was brutal as well.

The drivers in Iowa were very courteous and patient, especially when we were slugging up some steep roller.  Maybe that's an effect of RAGBRAI.  Or maybe they realize that if they going flying past in the other lane and crest the top of a hill wihout being able to see what's on the other side they might have a head on with a giant combine.   In Indiana, on the other hand, a local cashier warned us to be careful at the blind interesctions through cornfields.  She told us people often blow through stop signs on such country roads figuring no one will be there.

Routes / Re: Route 20 in Cascades, WA
« on: January 03, 2011, 02:49:09 pm »
+1 on Colonial Creek.  Scenic with running water and flush toliettes, but you will have to carry food there.

Twice I have done Bayview State Park (just east of Anacortes) to Howard Miller Steelhead park in Rockport (great camping spot and interesting dive bar in town), a short day to Colonial Creek, picking up food in Newhalem, and then over the passes the next day.  I think it's about 30 miles to Washington Pass from Colonial Creek.  The climb starts out very stiff for several miles.  Then there is actually a relatively short, gradual descent.  When that is done, it's a long slog to Rainy, 1.5 miles down, then 3.5 miles up to Washington.  According this NPS site, it's 63 miles to Winthrop from Colonial Creek:

It's a long day.  Doing the extra miles to get to Colonial Creek knocks out two short climbing sections between Newhalem and there.  Bring plenty of water as there is nothing between Colonial Creek and Mazama--except gorgeous scenery.

Sedro-Wooley to Newhalem has nothing in the way of climbing.  Maybe a few undulations in places, but nothing difficult.  The S. Skagit Highway is a delight.

Routes / Re: Spokane Wa to Oak Harbor Wa Looking for advice and Route
« on: January 03, 2011, 02:16:40 pm »
They are getting a lot of snow in the Cascades this winter.  It was a very snowy year the first time I did the Northern Tier west to east.  We crossed Rainy and Washington Passes at the beginning of June.  The rain we encountered on the way up turned into snow as we got higher (nothing stuck to the ground), and there was snow plowed six feet high along the side of the road.  This was taken near Washington Pass:

Crossed again the following year at the same time.  Less snow, but there were some light snow showers.  As noted, you will have to decide whether the possibility of encountering such weather is for you or not and adjust your dates accordingly.  Personally, I am glad I went when I did.  Made for an epic ride, and the tourist traffic was nonexistent.  Note that Winthrop, Okanagan and Tonasket will likely be warm and dry in early June.  We had snow again in Republic and on Sherman Pass.  Colville, Ione and Sandpoint were also chilly and damp.  I agree that I would not like to be in some of those places in August due to the heat.

As noted, prepare for a long stretch without anything.  If I remember correctly, the climb from Mazama to Washington Pass is about 15 miles.  Then you go down for about 3.5 miles and then up 1.5 miles to Rainy Pass.  From there, it's another 30 miles (if not more) to Newhalem, where there at least was a store.  If it’s no longer there, you will have continue on to Marblemount.  Most of that 35 miles is descending.  It’s a beautiful day.

While not as long or isolated, the climb up the east side to Loup Loup Pass has sustained sections of at least 8%.  Sherman Pass is a good climb, but not killer.  The east side of Wauconda Pass heading west from Republic is not bad.  Earlier on, there is a very steep, twisty section of road heading west from Ione.  It looks like a vertical wall on the map’s profile.  Fortunately, it’s probably only a mile or so.  Unless things have changed for the better, resist any temptation to take U.S. 2 out of Sandpoint.  Little to no shoulder in places because of rock cuts and traffic, including logging trucks.  Follow the route proper.

I found the route to have good services, including adequate camping in most places.  If the same family still owns the Winthrop KOA, they are very nice people and give cyclists a deal.  There is also a new cyclist-only camping area that opened last year between Winthrop and Mazama.  It’s called the barn or something like that.  Howard Miller Steelhead Park in Rockport has Adirondack shelters.

General Discussion / Re: Across America: Beginning August
« on: January 03, 2011, 10:44:10 am »
What I would really like to do is to go down the pacific coast line, and I will probably have to start from Minnesota,

Check out AC's Northern Tier route.  You can connect with their Pacific Coast route in Seattle.

General Discussion / Re: DIY Tips
« on: December 22, 2010, 09:28:41 am »
Letting cold water from the tap warm naturally and putting your pots in the sun before cooking can help save fuel.

If you store items inside your cooking pots, line the pots with something like a bandana to prevent surface damage.  Learned this the hard way.

The wind will usually dry wet/damp clothes quickly if they are attached outside the panniers (secure them tightly) or put in a front pannier with an outside mesh pocket.

Oh...Don't tug on Superman's cape. :)

Gear Talk / Re: Uncomfortable seats
« on: December 17, 2010, 02:34:33 pm »
For extended bicycle touring I go for big, soft tires and a big, soft seat. I wouldn't ride on anything but a Terry Liberator Y Gel Saddle. Over the years I have suffered plenty of pain in my hands, arms and feet but I don't even think about my rear end. Also, everyone I have met riding on a Terry Liberator Gel saddle has also been blissfully happy with it. This might be unfashionable as hell but it's what works for me.

We have never met, but I love mine, too.  And...REI carries it, so if you don't like it you can return it.

Gear Talk / Re: How accessible is propane on the TA Trail/good stove?
« on: December 17, 2010, 02:31:06 pm »
I use an MSR Dragonfly because I like to cook elaborate meals.  It has great flame control, a windscreen and is it's very stable.  It's also fully field maintainable.  Paired with a 22 oz. fuel bottle I can make morning coffee and cook two-pot meals for probably about 10 days and still have extra fuel for starting campfires.  The biggest "con" about the stove is that it's loud at full blast.  But because it is so powerful, it's rarely on full for all that long unless you are trying to boil very cold water.

Re: buying fuel, assuming you are burning "white gas" (MSR now calls it SuperFuel.  Coleman Fuel and Camp Fuel are other brands), over the years the quart size cans have become more available, but you might not be able to find them some places.  If that happens, you may be forced to buy a half gallon of Coleman Fuel.  That happened to me once.  I left the extra with the manager of a campground and asked her to give it to other cyclists who passed through.  One time I had an outfitter open a can of Coleman Fuel and charge me to fill my bottle.

Routes / Re: Different routes across Washington state
« on: December 17, 2010, 02:12:30 pm »
When you get to Rockport I would not recommend the Rockport Cascade Rd, the ACA route.

+1  And when in Rockport, stay at Howard Miller Steelhead Park.  They have Adirondak shelters.  Nice if it's been raining.

Routes / Re: A Monkey Wrench...
« on: December 17, 2010, 02:05:29 pm »
When would be the earliest I could depart Boston that would guarantee warm enough weather to stealth camp across the Northern Tier?

Not sure I understand the relationship between temperature and stealth camping as opposed to camping in established camprgounds and camping areas (e.g., city parks).

In any event, if you ar leaving Boston in early April and following the NT proper, you could very well encounter cold nights in the Adirondaks.  For example, the average nightly low in April for Lake George is around freezing.  Further west, Dunkirk, NY is 37.

General Discussion / Re: Eating ... not IF, but HOW
« on: December 17, 2010, 01:47:19 pm »
The broader your cooking knowledge, the more likely you will be able to keep your promise and give yourself the calories and proper nutrition your body will almost certainly be craving.  There are a wide variety of books on camp/backpack cooking out there.

Buying just what you need for dinner each night is fine in theory (and doing to at a grovery store rather than the campground store will likely be less expensive), but I like to carry around a 1/2 lb. of pasta with me just in case the store I planned to shop at is closed for the day, went out of business or burned to the ground the week before (actually happened).  That and the olive oil and spices I always carry will do in a pinch.

General Discussion / Re: Fundraising bike ride
« on: December 17, 2010, 01:27:57 pm »
Don't know how you are planning on financing your trip, but you need to ber vey careful if you plan to use some of the funds to pay for your expenses.  If Joe Smith gives you $100 thinking that it is going solely to the non-profit but really you use some or all of it to fund the cost of the trip, Joe could, in theory, be in trouble with the IRS if he claims that $100 as a charitable contribution.  He might also just be pissed.  Full disclosure is important.

If I am not mistaken, there was an older forum thread on this topic.

General Discussion / Re: photography and cycling
« on: December 13, 2010, 11:02:30 am »
Here's just an idle passing thought.  I've recently concluded that, for me, photography and cycling don't mix that well and I'm not sure exactly why that is.  I'm pretty serious about photography as a means of expression having worked semi-professionally at it for many years and logically you'd think being out on a bike would give a lot of photo opps.  However, I'm also pretty serious about getting where I want to go on the bike and focused on the ride as well as the passing scenery, but it seems I can't do two things at once - namely focus on riding my bike and focus on looking for interesting  photos at the same time.  Stopping for pictures every five minutes gets frustrating.  My last big ride on the West Coast produced some very unmemorable images apart from those I did while taking a day off from the bike.

Wow. Eeerily similar experience.  When I crossed the country I was shooting semi-pro.  I was also more mission oriented when riding.  I toted two cameras, including a medium format with power winder and three lenses.  Shot some 80 rolls of film between 120 and 35mm.  I was disappointed with most of it.  Some of that was due to the fact that I did mostly "street work" and not scenery.  But I always felt torn between riding and stopping to shoot.  Much of the work seems to reflect a person who was riding his bike and stopped really quickly to take a photo.  Consequently, the best shots were usually ones taken during days off or after the day's riding was done, when I could concentrate solely on shooting without thinking about the riding that still needed to be done.  The following winter I took one camera and one lens on my 7 week trip in southern Spain.  I tried to be less serious about both riding and shooting and got better results.  Now that photography is no longer a pursuit of mine and I constantly remind myself that I have all day to get where I am going, I find that I get better images on tour, even with a digital point and shoot.

Considering riding the NT in 2011.  What are recommended starting dates so as to minimize freezing/snow weather?

Which direction?

See my post above regarding my experience going west to east twice from Seattle starting the last week in May.  And note that there has been heavy mountain snow so far this season, although that doesn't necessarily translate into cold and snow later on.

While I found the conditions epic (see link below, which was taken in '99 near Washington Pass) and enjoyed the lack of vacation vehicle traffic, if I were to do it next year I would probably leave later for one reason:  Going to the Sun Road in Glacier Nat'l Park has been opening somewhat later than normal recently.  You don't want to miss that.  There is a major road rehab project that will continue next year.  Whichever way you go, and whatever time you start, make sure to check the parks official site for road closure and delay information.

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