Tag Archive for bike touring

Guest Post: There and back again — a former Iditarod sled dog racer takes the long way home

It wasn’t that long ago that my oldest brother was chasing his childhood dreams through the frozen tundra.

Growing up in the San Fernando Valley, Eric Rogers dreamed of one day moving to Alaska and driving his own dog team through the wilderness.

Then made it come true, leaving behind a successful career as a particle physicist to compete four times in the famed Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

But that was before Eric discovered bicycling. And his dreams shifted from sled dogs to RAAM.

After moving down to the lower 48 a few years ago, he started bikepacking along local trails and backroads, before moving on to short bike touring trips.

This past fall, he set out on an epic solo bike tour from the Pacific Northwest back to his western Colorado home.

And took the scenic route.

Here’s his story, followed by photos from his tour.

………

Why would anyone want to ride their bicycle 2,500 miles?  The answer is I didn’t.  

What I did do was get up in the morning, ride for 50 to 60 miles, stop to set up camp, have dinner and relax before going to bed.  The next morning I repeated the process.  Add some rest days, lather, rinse, and repeat until you get back home and then look at your odometer and by golly I guess maybe I did do it after all.  

So why this route?  I like the Oregon Coast, North Cascades, Glacier, and Yellowstone National Parks, have family in Portland and Idaho Falls and have always wanted to explore the Olympic Peninsula.  Connect the dots and there you have it.  

From Grand Junction you can take the train to Sacramento and change trains to Portland.  Large comfortable seats, friendly staff, no TSA, and for $20 / train you can get roll on / roll off service for your bike.  The staff are not cyclists and don’t know drive side from non-drive side so they ask you to take the bike to the baggage car where they put it in a rack, and pick it up there at the end of the ride (or to change trains) but it is a simple process.  Much easier than boxing your bike to fly or take the bus.  The fires in Northern California did complicate things some, but it all worked out.

So why do it by bicycle?  Besides the fact that I enjoy riding, on a bicycle you are an interesting, and non-threating, person.  People come up to say “hi” and ask what you are doing.  You can meet some of the best folks this way.  

Ready to ride, with kitty litter panniers

In the Olympic National Forest I put a 3 inch nail through the rear tire.  I didn’t think much about it at the time, but riding up Rainy Pass in North Cascades National Park several days later, the bike just didn’t feel right.  I could see ripples in the shoulder pavement and convinced myself that was what I was feeling.  I finally stopped to check the bike, and the rear tire was worn completely through an area the size of a quarter and riding on the Rhino Liner and the nearest bike shop was over 30 miles away.

Luckily Rainy Pass is where the Pacific Crest Trail crosses WA Hwy 20 and a gentleman was doing trail magic there.  Another gentleman going west who had stopped there took me 37 miles east to Winthrop to get a new tire and then 37 miles back to Rainy Pass so I didn’t miss riding through any of the scenery.  Those are the kind of folks I met on the whole trip.

Then how many time have you been driving and seen some incredible sight, but there is nowhere to stop and enjoy it?  On a bicycle you can move to the side, put your foot down and stay as long as you would like.

And there are the hiker / biker campsites.  Oregon State Parks are $8 / person, Washington State Parks are $10 / campsite, Glacier and Yellowstone are $5 (and an Old Fart Pass makes that $2.50!) with no turn away policies.  What a deal!

It was an incredible trip, but if I did it again I’d like to go 2 weeks earlier.  I was leaving Bozeman and intending to ride Hwy 191 through Big Sky to West Yellowstone when I checked the Weather Forecast just for grins – Big Sky (the night’s destination) was supposed to hit 6 degrees for a low. OOPS! Changed plans and took MT 84 to HWY 287. Good Choice. I fought headwinds to the point I really wanted relief. I found a three sided shelter with its back to the wind in the only campground enroute and spent the whole next day waiting out a snowstorm :-).  Luckily the second morning dawned clear and a little warmer and the trip continued.

Then riding home from Idaho Falls at about 7,000 feet elevation in late October got more than a little cold sometimes.  I was riding south 20 miles north of Vernal Utah looking for a place to camp on public land when I spotted a roadside rest area on a ridge in the National Forest overlooking private land in the valley below.  Pretty much exposed to traffic, but having an outhouse is a plus.  I set up camp and called my wife to check in.  Sunset comes early in late October and as the sun went down the temperature dropped dramatically.  The breeze picked up and I sat beside my tent shivering while trying to eat.  Dang!  Right beside me sat a windproof brick outhouse, still a little warm from the setting sun.  Culture be danged, into the outhouse, out of the wind, and ignore any odors!  Luckily it had recently been cleaned and wasn’t near as bad as it could have been – it was supposed to be an adventure, right?  The next morning it was still cold and windy and breakfast was in my unique shelter too.

Then there was Wyoming.  I was going to resupply in Sage WY, but Sage only exists on the map ☺.  There was a train siding there, but nothing else was left.  Not a problem, I always have a day’s food with me.  I wild camped in Fossil Butte National Monument and intended to resupply (now only lunch left) in Kemmerer, but it was 3 miles out of the way and downhill – not a problem I would go right through Carter WY – except Carter was another town that was not there.  The railroad doesn’t stop anymore and there are only 3 house and a couple abandoned buildings left.  OK I’ll resupply in Urie just after I cross I-80.  Urie had a restaurant, but no store.  Luckily Mountain View had a Family Dollar, but I was getting a little concerned.  I learned that in Wyoming, just because the town is on the map doesn’t mean it exists! ☺

There is much more to tell, but space is limited.  Great people, fabulous scenery, doing things I never thought I would do, and burning enough calories to eat anything I wanted.  Life just doesn’t get much better than that!

Eric O Rogers

Oregon Coast
Oregon Coast
Oregon Coast
Oregon Coast
Rain Forest
Rain Forest
Rain Forest
North Cascades
Coming into Winthrop WA
Eastern WA
Western Montana
Whitefish MT
Whitefish MT
Hiker Biker Site Glacier NP
Swan River Valley MT
Coming into Helena MT
Coming into Helena MT
Before snow – after Bozeman
Before snow – after Bozeman
Madison River – Yellowstone
Madison River – Yellowstone.
Yellowstone
Yellowstone
Lewis River Yellowstone
Grand Teton NP
Grand Teton NP
Grand Teton NP
Western WY
Western WY
Western WY – the town that was not there
Western WY
Flaming Gorge
Local Politicians (Turkeys)
Almost Home
Classy Colorado Motel – the Best Western it is not
Classy Colorado Motel – the Best Western it is not
The Last Camp outside Rangely CO

Update: Seven high school students injured in Arkansas while biking to Santa Monica

Last night I linked to a horrifying story from Arkansas.

Multiple press reports indicate that a motorist plowed into a group of 13 bike riders from behind, injuring seven — three seriously enough to require helicopter evacuation to nearby hospitals.

News reports indicate they were on an organized tour riding from Charleston SC to Santa Monica. Now one of my regular contributors has dug a little deeper to get the full story.

That group of thirteen cyclists that was hit from behind are high school kids on an epic summer vacation! The tour company, Overland Summers, provides all sorts of adventures, including cross-country bike trips.

Several kids are still in the hospital, and one is in ICU, as of 7am this morning. According to Evan at the head office, parents of most of the injured are with them, having arrived by chartered plane late last night. The uninjured ones haven’t yet decided whether they’ll continue to Santa Monica. There’s another group of Overlanders two days behind, and they’ll probably make the determination whether to join with this second group once it arrives.

If the kids in this party are brave enough to push on, I totally want to meet them.

Unfortunately, the company’s website is down as I write this.

There’s no word yet on how this tragedy occurred. Distracted or drunk driving would be an obvious guess; however, we’ll have to wait for more details before we know for sure. So let’s hold off on organizing an online lynching party. It’s always possible, though unlikely, that a medical crisis or some other factor may have caused this collision.

But one thing is certain. With 13 riders on the roadway, the driver can’t make a legitimate claim he didn’t see them. If he — or she — didn’t, he certainly should have.

Meanwhile, I can’t imagine parents allowing their kids to continue on following something like this. But if they do, I hope the company lets us know.

Like my source, I want to meet them when they get to Santa Monica.

And give them a round of applause they’ll hear back in Charleston.

Let alone Arkansas.

Update: Overland Summers has issued an official statement in response to the collision, and promises to provide updates as things progress.

Newport, Arkansas – On July 2, 2013 seven individuals on an Overland bicycle touring program were injured when a car traveling on Route 17 struck the group. Police and paramedics responded to the scene. Three of the individuals were airlifted from the scene, including one individual who is in critical condition. The remaining four individuals were transported by ambulance and were being treated at local hospitals. Of these four individuals, two have been released. At this time, we at Overland would like to express our deepest concern for those injured and our gratitude to the emergency response teams.

Update 2: More detailed information from the Boston Herald.

The victims were participants in a Williamstown MA summer camp, when they travelled down to Charleston to begin the ride. The riders were hit from behind around 4:35 pm on a straight section of State Highway 17 offering clear visibility just two miles north of McCrory, Arkansas

Charges are possible against the 21-year old driver. 

Update 3: Sadly, the Overland Summer website reports that the critically injured rider, 18-year old Merritt Levitan of Milton, Massachusetts, has died of her injuries. Thanks to Andy R for the heads-up, and deepest sympathy for the victim’s family and loved ones. 

And there won’t be any welcoming party in Santa Monica for the surviving riders; perhaps understandingly, the company has cancelled the remainder of the tour

%d bloggers like this: