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.
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