Glaciers Cycling Tour Stats

I can't help it, I'm a numbers person. Being a math major and spending my career in IT, my natural inclination to analyze things is enhanced by years of training. So in looking back on our Glaciers to the Sea cycling tour, I just have to break it down by the numbers.

First the basics:

  • 1,408 miles cycled
  • 30 total days
  • 27 days cycling

Our cycling tours are focused on enjoying the ride, not racking up the miles each day. We planned to do roughly 50-55 miles a day, and we came pretty close. This allows us to take a mid-morning break for either our first or second breakfast, see sights along the way and finish cycling around 3:30 in the afternoon. We enjoy having some downtime at the end of the day.

  • 52 miles/day for days cycling
  • 47 miles/day including rest days

We aren't very good at taking rest days. The only days we stayed off our bikes on this trip were those spent visiting family and friends, which we intended to serve that dual purpose. Our first rest days were 18 days into the trip when we visited Rich's brother Stewart and his wife Kathy in Eugene for 2 days. Our third was day 28 which we spent with my friend, Anne, in Olympia.

Weather-wise this trip was fantastic. We had day after day of amazingly beautiful weather. Temperatures were nippy in the mornings, but they almost always rose to warm and sometimes downright hot during the day. I loved it!

  • 18 clear sunny days
  • 5 partly cloudy days
  • 4 overcast days
  • 3 rainy days

Wind is a huge factor in cycling. A headwind can take miles off our speed. We knew that we were cycling against the prevailing winds, going west and then north up the coast. But we beat all the odds. It was a cyclist's dream.

  • 28 days with tailwinds or no wind
  • 2 days with headwinds (and we frequently hid from it while climbing the hilly Columbia River Gorge)

One of our goals was to spend less than 50% of our nights in motels. Thanks to the boost from bunking in with family and friends, we exceeded this target for our 30 nights. I'd still like to up the amount of camping we do, but I won't complain about having a few creature comforts.

  • 4 nights camping
  • 5 nights with family and friends
  • 8 nights in Warm Showers homes
  • 13 nights in motels

Our Specialized Touring bikes are trusty steeds indeed. We have had a great track record for avoiding serious breakdowns on all of our trips, and this one was no exception. The only equipment failure that would have been a show stopper happened within range of one of the few large towns we visited.

  • 5 flat tires/new inner tubes (Rich) – roadside repairs, we carry 8
  • 2 tire replacements (Rich) – roadside repairs, we carry 1 and bought another right away
  • 1 wheel/rim tear at the spoke (Rich) – slow ride and cab back to Seattle, bike shop visit required
  • 2 bolts lost from rear pannier rack (Molly) – replaced when discovered, bought extra bolts
  • 1 rear view mirror scratched (Molly) – replaced at a bike shop when convenient

While I don't have hard facts on this one, there is no doubt that lattes outnumbered ice creams on this trip. Little drive-through coffee huts abounded in even the smallest of towns, and good coffee shops were also in abundance. My caffeine needs rarely went unattended. Yet humble ice cream shops were at a premium. In fact, we didn't find a single truly Mom and Pop ice cream stand. We managed to fill in with ice cream offerings in other establishments, but there was truly a deficiency in dairy delights.

Yes, there is only one conclusion. It was a most successful and enjoyable trip. No matter how I slice and dice it, the numerical score for this cycling tour is 100%+.



The Epitome of Cycle Touring

I'll be honest. Not all days are great on a cycling tour. But every once on a while you get one of those days that is just perfect. This was one of them. And just what made it so? There are certain key ingredients. And we had them all.

Beautiful weather. There's no getting around it, sunny warm weather makes everything better. And it does wonders for the soul. Just soaking up those rays of sunshine makes me feel good. A clear blue sky is the perfect backdrop for any photo. And by definition, it's not raining. What more can I say?

A crisp clear morning

Gorgeous scenery. After three days of minimal views along the Oregon coast, we were finally treated to the coastal scenery in all it's glory. What a treat to be able to see the long views, the dramatic rock formations and the deep blue waves in all their glory. And we loved every minute of it.

The harbor in Garibaldi

The Coastal Highway

Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach

Frequent small towns. Wilderness is nice, but going through small towns adds interest to a ride. In addition to the architecture, history and local flavor, they also provide much needed services. Bakeries, coffee shops, cafés, Gatorade and restrooms are just a few of the amenities that are much appreciated in a day of cycling.

Wheeler from across the bay

A scenic picnic spot. In my opinion, the outdoors is the best place to eat. Finding a nice picnic spot on a warm morning is the best. Especially when there is a coffee shop across the street that makes a good latte. Throw in a view with water and mountains, and it can't be beat.

Our morning picnic break in Wheeler

Unexpected sights. Not everything can be planned. Sometime things happen through pure luck. A steam engine just happens to be making its way through town. A Salmon Derby is going on, and the bay is filled with trolling fishing boats, dancing with each other just as the morning fog lifts.

A steam train in Garibaldi

Salmon fishing in Tillamook Bay

Lingering along the way. This is the best part of all. There's no point to all the rest without feeling like you can stop along the way to take in all in and enjoy it. This day felt like we had all the time in the world. Many were the stops at scenic waysides. Frequent were the photo opps. Often were the pauses to enjoy. Even a walk along the beach was an acceptable excuse to hang out for a while.

Arcadia Beach State Park

Quiet country lanes. Okay, so we struck out on this one. The Coastal Highway is busy, even in the off season. We had to constantly be on our guard for traffic and especially those big trucks and RVs. And we had our first experience with a tunnel. Despite being able to push a button to activate flashing signals to indicate “Bikes in Tunnel,” it was still a harrowing experience.

Rich having just escaped from the tunnel

Ice cream. No perfect day is complete without ice cream. We found a great 50s style malt shop in Seaside and enjoyed pumpkin ice cream cones. A most excellent reward.

Rich enjoying the Flashback Malt Shoppe

A starry evening. It's not often we are still out in the evening hours. But we happened to be returning from a late dinner. Walking along the Promenade, paralleling the beach with the sound of the waves, a crescent moon hanging low in the sky and stars beginning to appear. It doesn't get much better than that.

Not all cycling days are created equal. This one was cycle touring as it was meant to be.


Reaching the Columbia River

This trip was planned with several key areas of interest, the Columbia River being one of them. Although technically we saw it above the Grand Coulee Dam, there it masqueraded as Lake Roosevelt. Today we reached what I consider the flowing river.

Our route to get here revealed a changing climate and farmland use. We left behind the wheat fields, which we have now learned is termed “dry wheat” for its lack of irrigation. In its place, we traveled through more diverse farm interests. Corn fields, green crops, even vineyards and the ever famous Washington apple orchards dominated the landscape. And the long spiny rotating irrigation structures were prevalent everywhere, fed by the waters of the Columbia River. We also coined a new term, “vegetarian roadkill,” for the fallen onions, corn cobs, zucchini, apples and other produce that had fallen on the roadside on the way to market.

We crossed the river from Pasco to Richland WA, greatly impressed with the bike lane provided. Not only did it have it's own separate and safe approach, but once on the bridge we were cordoned off from the traffic by tall barriers and were equally well protected from the edge of the bridge. I wish all bridge crossings were so comfortable.

Having gotten an early start this morning, we had plenty of time to take in the wonderful bike trail along the river. We started with a rest stop in the park near the bridge. There we gained a critical piece of information – directions to the nearest ice cream shop along the trail. It was indeed a good recommendation, and we savored huckleberry ice cream cones while overlooking the river.

Our Warm Showers host home was just 5 miles up the river – virtually all on bike trails. It was the easiest and most scenic approach to our lodgings ever!

The Columbia River will be our neighbor for the next week of cycling. Tomorrow we will round the bend of the river and then proceed down the river gorge. I have already picked up a map of all the vineyards along the way. And I'm sure there will be plenty of other nice sights as well. I think I'm going to like this trip down the Columbia River.


Cycling with the Wind


Day 3 – Tower to Ely MN, 50 miles. Our revised route in green

Northern Minnesota is largely unpopulated, except by lakes and trees. And our cycling route for the day certainly confirmed that fact.

The planned route was to head straight to Ely, requiring only 31 miles of cycling and leaving plenty of time there for other pursuits. Since Rich had a reprieve from sag wagon duties, we took the liberty of following an alternate and more circuitous route to Ely. Straying from the main highway, we enjoyed quieter roads and the unexpected benefit of brand new pavement. To a cyclist there is nothing better than a smooth unblemished surface!

As if that wasn’t sweet enough, we were also pushed along by a steady tailwind for the whole ride. We fairly flew down the road, barely feeling any resistance on our pedals, and covering 50 miles in record time. It’s not often everything lines up so perfectly, and we fully appreciated our good fortune.

Just to balance things out, we did ride through some significant rain. But the warm day and returning sunshine dried us off in a hurry once it stopped.

Throughout our whole ride we didn’t pass through a single town, with the exception of Babbitt which was a deliberate detour for a comfort stop. The remainder of our miles were all through quiet woodlands with a few houses and lakes nestled behind the trees. It was the kind of ride that encourages my mind to wander – a very liberating feeling.

Arriving in Ely the weather was sunny and hot, and the Red Cabin Frozen Custard stand across from our motel called out to me. There is nothing better than ice cream at the end of a long ride. Although I originally spurned the thought of their flavor of the day, one taste convinced me that watermelon custard was a most excellent choice.

Our speedy journey left us with a free afternoon, and we took a leisurely walk around Ely and along Miners Lake. It felt truly summer-like, which has been a rare sensation this year. Rich found a new “dorky hat” to keep the sun off his fair skin, which he promptly put into service.

Dinner this evening was out on the patio of the Rock Wood restaurant. The food was excellent, including the decadent desserts we all shared without guilt. To top it off, a bluegrass band provided live music. Sitting outside on a warm evening with friends and music was an unbeatable combination. Almost as good as cycling with the wind.


Summer into Fall in New Hampshire

Our Progress to Date

Progress to date: 49 days, 2192 miles

We are enjoying a resurgence of summer weather on this trip. But it's clear we've moved into the fall season. With clear skies, the temperatures have been dropping into the low 30s at night. By morning, a thick fog forms in the river valley obscuring everything. It gives us good reason for delaying our morning start until the fog burns off and the temperature warms up a bit. Even so, I find it chilly enough when we set out to layer up against the cold. I then spend the morning shedding my layers.

By mid-day we've been enjoying warm sunny days, bordering on hot. Cycling feels like a dream, rolling through the countryside with the nascent fall colors reflected in the river. It's interesting to feel the power of the sun. Under the full strength of the sun's rays, the air is warm as it flows around us. As soon as we pass into the shadows, the temperature drops significantly. Even small shady spots have a cooling effect. I don't ever recall feeling such dramatic changes before.

Mountains reflected in the Connecticut River

Mountains reflected in the Connecticut River

Perfect reflections
Rich enjoying the scenery

Rich enjoying the scenery

The northern reaches of New Hampshire are sparsely populated. We have cycled for hours without passing through any towns. Even those on the map seem to be fictitious. We must have blinked when we went through them. Missing the diversion of little population centers, I turned my focus to the little details instead. It became easy to find interest and beauty in the simple things around us.

Unique angle on a window!

Unique angle on a window!

A peaceful barn setting

A peaceful barn setting

Window setting for the birds and the bees

Window setting for the birds and the bees

Nothing says summer like ice cream, and we found a 50's style ice cream parlor called At the Hop in Bath, NH. It was filled with Rock 'n Roll memorabilia and more 45's on the ceiling than you can imagine. The ice cream cones were mighty tasty as we sat on the porch of America's oldest General Store next door, which dates back to the 1790s.

Ice cream stop At the Hop

Ice cream stop At the Hop

The beautiful weather also brought back our thirst for cold hard cider. And what better place to enjoy it and a picnic dinner than the pretty grounds of our lodge motel for the night? It was oh so much better than a restaurant for a change.

Here's to a beautiful warm day!

Here's to a beautiful warm day!

Tomorrow is the first day of fall on the calendar. Looking at the weather forecasts, the hot sunny weather may be slipping away. But we've had a great streak for summer's final hurrah.


Eat, Eat, Eat

There’s no doubt about it. Cycling burns a lot of calories. Especially when that’s what you do all day long, covering an average of 50 miles. For weeks on end. Throw in hills and wind, and the effort and calories required are multiplied.

Take two people who set out on a 2,400 mile cycling trip. Both are already in good physical shape and don’t carry any extra weight. They trained diligently for the physical exertion of cycling. But nothing prepared them for the amount of food it would take to sustain that level of activity.

That’s us. Rich and me on our Grand Gaspé Cycling Tour. We thought we were eating enough, but three weeks into our trip we stepped on the scale at our host home. Rich had lost 10 pounds and I’d lost 5. That’s over 5% of body weight for each of us. It was quite a wake-up call. We just weren’t keeping pace with the calories we were burning.

A few days later, we arrived at another host home to find out that they had prepared a huge mid-day meal for us. Having just eaten lunch an hour earlier, we thought we’d never be able to face it. But with one bite, our appetites returned and we thoroughly enjoyed – and did justice to – the wonderful home cooked meal. And we did the same again that evening at supper. It showed us just what we could eat when it was put on front of us. And we probably needed it.

Ice cream stops are our favorite perk

Ice cream stops are our favorite perk

It’s a rough problem to have, right? Needing to eat more and more? I’ll admit that it has its perks. We regularly stop for ice cream breaks in the afternoons, and I don’t feel at all guilty picking up a KitKat bar now and then or indulging whenever I can find a bakery. I’ve never enjoyed breakfast more than the thick stack of raspberry pancakes I demolished this morning.

I’ve had to adjust my eating habits in general. My preferred diet is heavy on fruits, vegetables and bread and low in fat. But that just doesn’t provide enough fuel. I’ve had to adjust to heartier breakfasts and make sure I have snacks. I’m not a fan of energy bars or Gatorade-type drinks. But granola bars work well for me. And I always carry my bagels and peanut butter. Even if my family made fun of me for packing that peanut butter into a backpacking tube.

Squeezing peanut butter onto a bagel

Squeezing peanut butter onto a bagel. Looks funny, but tastes good!

What amazes me is that I wake up hungry every morning. I’m used to working out before breakfast, and even on the days that I don’t, my body isn’t interested in food right away. But on this cycling trip, no matter how big the dinner the night before, I’m ready for breakfast as soon as I’m dressed. And I can eat a lot. I’m sure it is a good coping mechanism kicking in.

Rich has allowed himself huge omlets with all the trimmings and generous portions of French Fries (I still can’t go there). Gatorade is his choice of energy boost, particularly on the hot days when he needs extra fluids. We both find ourselves slathering jam on our toast – something we never do at home.

I’m not convinced we’re winning the war on calories. We haven’t seen another scale since that first one. And judging by the way our clothes fit with nary a bulge, I’m sure we’ve both lost more weight.

What really concerns me, however, is what happens when we finish the trip. No longer will we need the humongous amounts of energy when we scale back to cycling, running or skiing for just an hour or two a day. Will we be able to readjust to our former eating habits? I have no doubt that we will put the pounds back on and return to our normal weight. But hopefully we will be able to stop there. We will just have to remember we can no longer just eat, eat, eat.

A Day in the Life of Cyclists

Our Progress to Date

Progress to Date: 16 days, 750 miles

We've been at this Grand Gaspé Cycling Tour for just over two weeks now. We've developed a certain rhythm to our days, established some routines, set a few ground rules, and acquired a taste for specific treats along the way. So what is it like to cycle an average of 60 miles a day?

Up with the sun! Well, not quite, but we are early risers. We like to get on the road early for several reasons. Rich can't tolerate the heat, so he prefers to get in as many cool miles as possible. And the early morning light is beautiful, showing off the scenery at its best. We are happy when we can start cycling by 7am.

Rich at our campsite

To get rolling sometimes requires breaking camp – packing up the sleeping bags and tent when we've been camping. Oddly enough, we seem to be able to assemble ourselves more quickly on those mornings than when we are trying to retrieve our goods strewn around a motel room.

Breakfast! We like to get 20 miles under our belt before stopping for breakfast. By that time we've worked up a good hunger and are ready for a hearty meal. While I crave sitting in a coffee shop with a latte, Rich requires a full bacon and eggs type breakfast. Given the calories we blow through, I see his logic. And I will admit to being able to polish off a huge pile of blueberry pancakes and eggs. The trickiest part of that plan is trying to find that humble breakfast cafe. Time and again we set our sights on a likely town, only to find it devoid of breakfast places. Some days it turns into lunch before we find food – we're pretty crabby and hungry by then. I try to keep bagels and peanutbutter in my bag just for such cases.

Rich cycling uphill in Nova Scotia

Push, Pedal and Pull! That's pretty much it for the day. We follow our planned route, with our intended destination in mind. The pace depends on the hills, the time of day, miles traveled, food consumption and the hills. Oh, and did I mention the hills? Rich is strongest first thing in the morning, right after eating, and when the end is in sight. I am a bit slower on start-up, working out the kinks after stops, but once up to speed I tend to be more steady all day long. When I comes to those hills, there is no contest. I roar up them and Rich whizzes down.

Stop! We're both allowed reasons to stop. Photo opps are probably the most frequent. Seeing the world at 12mph means noticing things that we'd miss from a car. Scenery, interesting sights, a promising side road are all valid excuses to pause and spend some time along the way. So is ice cream. That's one of the requirements each afternoon.

Good reasons to stop along the way

Ah, we're done! We like to reach our destination by mid afternoon. Rich usually has already researched motels and campgrounds, so we have a starting point. But all does not always go as planned. Last night we hoped for a motel room. But the nearest was another 18k down the road. We camped instead.

Molly campground blogging

Once settled in, our first priority is a shower. Then, like it or not, doing laundry. We're on the wear-one, wash-one system for our biking clothes which means constantly washing things out. But it means less to carry. Chores done, we hope for a good internet connection. Believe it or not, even campgrounds often have wifi! It's our lifeline to family and the outside world, and we crave time for email, blogging, and admittedly Facebook. It's also our source for maps, travel info and detailed planning for the following day.

Night life! Not really. We're usually eager to have dinner on the early side, and try to pick lodging near restaurants or food shops. At the end of the day, we prefer walking to cycling. I enjoy trying out the local cuisine – in this case, lots of seafood. And a tall glass of cold hard cider tastes really, really good.

Finalizing the next day's plans, writing blog posts and doing some reading round out our evening before we conk out. After all, morning will come quickly, and we get to do it all over again.


Cycling en Route

Having pushed through Ontario, our reward was having short driving days for the remainder of our trip to the East coast and time to do a few bike rides. After all, it's not enough that we are heading out to start a 2,000 mile bike trip. We still want to cycle through some of the scenic areas along the way.

Our first stop was the Lake Champlain Islands. A string of islands at the top of the long narrow lake, they are joined by causeways and crisscrossed by bike routes. We pitched our tiny tent in the Grand Isle State Park Campground and set off to explore the island by bike. It was a hot, sunny afternoon but most of the cycling roads clung to the lakeshore, and just looking out at the deep blue water was refreshing.

The affluence of the area was unmistakable, with quaint homes immaculately landscaped and picturesque little villages full of artsy shops and restaurants. Yet in the interior, i was surprised to see that there were also working farms, busily making hay as we passed. I can never resist a Farmers' Market, and we stopped at one with everything from ethnic foods to iced cider to homespun wool. Oh yes, and a few vegetables and local blueberries as well.

Molly cycling on Grand Isle

Molly cycling on Grand Isle

Rich sampling food at the farmers' market

Rich sampling food at the farmers' market

Today brought us to Dartmouth College, Rich's alma matter. Naturally, our first stop had to be the boathouse, where young crew members were going out for their morning training. As a former oarsman, it was tough for Rich to drag himself away from the rowing to begin our bike ride.

Our route took us up the Connecticut River on the Vermont side, hugging the river's edge and cycling through pretty little towns. We had another picture perfect day, and naturally couldn't resist stopping for ice cream at the far point of our ride. Those were the biggest “small” cones we'd ever seen! But we didn't complain. We returned via the New Hampshire side of the river, encountering some major climbs and descents on that route. Good training for our upcoming trip, I kept reminding myself. I especially enjoyed going through Lyme NH, which Rich and I visited when we were just dating, oh so many years ago.

Students rowing at Dartmouth

Students rowing at Dartmouth

Rich cycling along the Connecticut River

Rich cycling along the Connecticut River

Yummy ice cream at Whippi Dip!

Yummy ice cream at Whippi Dip!

Molly in Lyme NH

Molly in Lyme NH

It's a good thing we didn't do a longer ride, or get larger ice cream cones. We barely had our bikes back on the car when the afternoon's threatening rain materialized in a heavy downpour. Whew, timing is everything! We can only hope to continue that luck on our Grand Gaspé Tour.


Clinging to the Mississippi River

Day 2 - La Crosse to Prairie du Chien 60 miles

Day 3 – La Crosse to Prairie du Chien 60 miles

Today we hugged the Mississippi River all day long. In contrast to the previous two days when the Great River Road frequently swung away from the river, this portion faithfully remained in sight of the river. The bluffs backed away from the river, allowing room for farmland, homes and vacation rentals opposite the river. Towns were small, infrequent and sported few businesses (you guessed it – a dearth of restaurants!). That left the river and it’s surroundings as the main attraction. On a beautiful sunny day, that was ample for us.

With the heat and the recurrence of strong gusty headwinds, we were happy to take frequent breaks to enjoy the view. A fish hatchery made for a peaceful respite, with its majestic Silver Maple trees. We took a short detour into Blackhawk Park, where the Mississippi backwaters resembled a lake. We appreciated the humor of a farm that wished it was in Norway, proudly dubbed Uf-da Acres. And of course, we stopped for ice cream mid-afternoon at a river-side kiosk with a very friendly owner.

Moly relaxing at the fish hatchery
Blackhawk Park
Uf-da Acres
A train thundering past

The other constant I should mention has been the presence of trains. The track lies between the road and the river, and the interval between trains is short. While I wouldn’t want freight trains thundering through my back yard, we have rather enjoyed them as a novelty.

I also have to admit that there is one aspect of this route that I have not enjoyed – the traffic. The Great River Road follows highway 35 through Wisconsin, and there is no doubt that it is well travelled. The traffic is not constant, and for the most part the shoulders are wide and smooth. But when semis come rushing past, my heart races and I grip my handlebars tightly, not wanting to be sucked into their slipstream. It’s a natural hazard of road cycling, but one I could do without.

It’s enough to close with this photo, which epitomizes today’s ride. It says it better than I can in words.

Rich cycling along the Mississippi

Cycle Touring

I admit I tend to be a bit hard core. Put a goal out in front of me and I develop tunnel vision.  It becomes a mission.  I push to the max to reach that target or higher.

Preparing for our Trans-Superior Cycling Tour has been a bit like that. I’d never done long distance cycling before, but as soon as the snow melted I was out there training day after day, increasing my distances in rapid succession. Just like in marathon training, I like to press on. Mile after mile, no stops.

So when my husband, Rich, and I set out for a bike ride this weekend, I found my style challenged. Why does he keep stopping, I kept asking myself? Time for a photograph. Time for water. Time to take in a nice view. Time to slow down and look around while we cycle. Harumph – let’s get going!

We had selected a new route that would take us over roads we’d never traveled before. It’s always nice to see new territory, and we had a gorgeous sunny day on which to do so. We cycled inland from Two Harbors and around to Beaver Bay surrounded by beautiful farms and forest. Road surfaces were good, and the lack of cars made any lack of shoulder a non-issue. Not even the eight miles of unexpected dirt road in the middle could spoil the route. If only we could just keeping going. But I was informed in no uncertain terms that on our upcoming cycling trip, Rich had every intention of sightseeing and stopping along the way. Just get used to it.

Upon our arrival in Beaver Bay, Rich headed straight for The Big Dipper. Ice cream in the middle of the morning? Didn’t seem too outrageous to me – weren’t we cycling 50 miles on a hot day? The smoothies on the menu instantly appealed to us, and they were the best tasting ever! Hmmm, I began to feel my attitude shifting slightly. Perhaps this stopping thing had some merit? The remaining miles took us down the North Shore, largely on the Gitchi-Gami State Trail which kept us blissfully separate from the car traffic. Lake Superior was at its best, brilliant blue and sparkling in the sunshine. It was a glorious sight and eased my resistance to this new leisurely pace. Silver Cliffs provided a terrific view, and yes, we stopped, got off our bikes and took pictures. I even took the time to read the information boards. And enjoyed it.

I think I get it. The Tour in Trans-Superior Cycling Tour. I hope the scenery is good.