Lather (ie. Ascend Absurdly Large Mountain), Rinse (ie. Descend Absurdly Large Mountain), Repeat (ie. Repeat)

June 27, 2010

Always a fun sign to see when you're about to bike away from civilization and into a mountain range...

End of Day 37: We got to Mazama, in accordance with our divine plan.  But it was a challenge because the ice cream that we stopped in Winthrop for was so rich, so creamy, so mouth-wateringly delectable, that it almost held us there by our tastebuds.  Luckily, Winthrop – a quaint little Western town that looks and feels a bit more authentically “West” than… well… every single town in Montana that’s trying too hard to attract business by putting up fake storefronts with cowboys and rattlesnakes – is so overrun with tourists that we were practically shoved onto our bikes and down the road.

There is a store and a couple of lodge-type… thingies in Mazama.  Ie. nothing.  Ie. No beer or small townish folk. L (Although we did run into a few friendly strangers who actually knew who we were because the Internets had offered up our adventurely blog of blogs to their google-reader, and they had read of our westward bound sojourn.  Yeah for mystery fans!! We love you all!) Night began to set in, and we grew desperately desperate.  “I’ma kill you, gut your organs, and then use your warm skin as a shelter from the wind, like that one guy did on that one survival show that one time with a camel in the desert,” said Liz.  “Verily I say to you, you shall not,” said Colleen.  “Oh.  Ok,” said Liz.  After that imaginary dialogue, we queried ponderously to one another, “where to pitch our tently tent?” We spotted a clan of teenage boys camped out behind what turned out to be the old school-house building.  These annoyingly young males were training for some kind of summer ski camp. They let us pitch our tent close by, and we fell asleep that night to the sounds of prepubescent lads running in circles, pissing in the bushes, and having an extraordinarily masculine time with each other, as all good young men ought.

Day 38, Plan: Initiate Suicide Sequence.  Ie, bike 49 miles from Mazama to Colonial Creek Campgrounds.  This entails climbing from 2,000 feet altitude in Mazama to 5,400 feet over a span of 21-ish miles to one ridiculously difficult mountain pass, dropping about a thousand feet in altitude and then ascending again, immediately, to another (significantly less) difficult mountain pass at 4,800 feet.

Preemptory Irrational Processing of the Plan:  FEAR FEAR FEAR FEAR FEAR.  DEVASTATING, SOUL-SHAKING, LEG-PARALYZING, STROKE-INDUCING, HATRED-OF-ALL-THAT-IS-FLUFFY-AND-CUTE-SPAWNING FEAR.  We’d been so terrified of the Rockies for all of our lives that we forgot to get scared about the Northern Cascades until immediately after conquering our first mountain range.  We heard (about a jillion times) that the mountain passes in the cascades would be far more trying than the wussy Marias Pass in the Rockies.

Reality: Due to our FEAR, we woke up at 6:30, planning to get an early start on the road in case we had to walk all the way across the Cascades National Forest.  We went to the restaurant at the lodge-ish thingie in Mazama and had an overpriced and undersized breakfast.  Due to our FEAR, we dawdled far too long in the restaurant, and didn’t get on the road until 9:30. 

3 miles into the bikeride for the day, the ascent began.  And didn’t end for 17 miles.

climbing climbing climbing...

Our bikes are heavy when fully loaded: Colleen’s bike and gear weigh in at around 90lbs, Liz’s stuff comes to about 70lbs.  Add our body weight to that, and you’ve got quite the haul. 

Dear Gravity,

You are a big, mean, gross, untantalizing, fat, unforgiving bully.  We hate you.

 Love, Liz & Colleen

We biked up this road. and then biked high enough up to take this picture.

Walking with the bikes, we move at about 3 MPH.  Biking up steep inclines, we can move at a max speed of about 4.5 MPH.  Thus, getting to the top of the first ascent, Washington Pass, took us 4 hours.  We took a few recovery breaks, during which time we shoved our faces with energy bars, energy beans, energy water, and energy… uh… sitting-on-our-buttocks-and-breathing.  We spent a goodly amount of that 4 hours cussing at the cars and motorcycles going by, and at the steady stream of unloaded cyclists biking DOWN the mountain side in the other direction, blissful and elegant like greased pigs on a slip n’ slide.   We also spent a goodly amount of that time commenting on our own stupidity – we had already been biking for 4 days in a row, and didn’t bother taking a rest day because there was a chance of bad weather and we didn’t want to hit the mountains in rain. (Made THAT mistake on our first mountain pass… won’t do it again.)

majestic natural beauty. we like the word majestic too much.

But we did it.  And we don’t know how. Mostly on the bikes.  We walked a few times (totaling only about 2 or 3 miles) up the slopes that were far too steep for such heavy bicycles.  Close to the top of the pass, there is a switchback where the road folds back on itself to climb the hill.  Looking over the safety railing, we could actually see the vertical distance we’d climbed, and it filled our hearts with jubilation and arrogant, snotty pride.  Because we are seriously way cooler than you. You’ve probably never done anything nearly as difficult as that mountain pass.

... Liz? Are you ok?


But not really kidding. We’re pretty much better than you.


Actually, we’re not.  Just eat it.

note the altitude difference between Road: Level A (w/bike) and Road: Level B (to be conquered)

A steep 3 mile downhill was our reward after Washington pass.  And It was 3 miles of moutainly mountains, florally flora, faunaly fauna and waterfally waterfalls.  There’s a good reason they call it the “Cascades.”  Water careens off of just about anything that can be careened off of, and it’s quite lovely. It’s going to take a lot to top the exhilarating rush of flying down that mountain side (at 30 mph) into the heart of the mountain range, watching the raw, natural forests open up on both sides and far into the distance.  Sitting on that bike seat, your muscles shut down and your mind quits.  There’s nothing to think about – the massive snow-capped rocks ripping upwards into the gently blue skies fill your eyes.  The aroma of green things, heavy with vivacity, fresh with glacial waters, wet with life, filters into your lungs.  You hear the road whizzing by, you hear the wind, and you hear, finally, the calmness of the Nothing in your head-cavity.  And you wish it could last forever.  But it can’t.

Anywho, what’s the last thing you want to do after you’ve just climbed 3,000 feet?   


Not really.  We were beat when we hit the next ascent.  And fearful.  Our bodies were already exhausted, and the prospect of climbing another mountain didn’t sound great.

Two miles into the climb, Liz joked, “What if that next sign up ahead was the second pass and we were just… done for the day.”  Well, glory be, because that next sign WAS Rainy Pass. 

yup. Rainy Pass.

It was not nearly as high or as long of an ascent as Washington Pass, and it felt remarkably anti-climactic.  But we weren’t about to complain. Especially because (1) there had been a group of cyclists doing a big ride through the cascades that day, and their support truck was parked at Rainy Pass.   The cyclists in that group hadn’t eaten all their food, and the girls at the truck stocked us up with fruit, snacks, and Gatorade because they didn’t know what they were going to do with all the leftovers.  Which was awesome for us. 


(2) Liz proved that she is a good person.  It’s true! Earlier in the day, she had removed one shocked little birdly bird from the middle of the road so it wouldn’t get hit (again?).  And now, she attempted to help a confused and retarded grousely grouse that was completely hand-tame and FAR too comfortable walking around among parked cars by carrying it away from the road and shooing it into the bushes.  And (3) Rainy Pass was followed by 17-miles of utterly breath-taking downhill.  Yes, SEVENTEEN MILES of that same, pure Awe that had followed Washington pass.

Birdie #2. And red pick-up truck of almighty sustance. And helpful girl's bum.

Dear Gravity,

We take it back.  You’re the bestest.  We love you.

Love, Liz & Colleen

I, for one, will see Highway 20 again.  I simply will.  It is astoundingly beautiful and I’m not going to try to describe it anymore.  Bike it yourself.  Honestly.  Please.  You will be a better person if you ever bike highway 20 through the cascades.  It’s extremely hard at the passes.  And it would be FAR more difficult to travel Eastward (roughly 50 miles of ongoing but usually gradual ascent, followed by about 20 miles of crazy downhill) than Westward (the opposite.  DUH).

But: It. Is. Worth. It.

We camped at Colonial Creek Campgrounds, which is located on Lake Diablo, which is also freaking great.  And we were quite the camperly campers.  Let the following pictures attest to our amazing skillz at wildernezz survival.

LIZ: A romanian cleaning lady or a disgruntled camper?

A bear could "never" get our food from this lovely "contraption"



Day 39, Plan: REST. Enjoy the campgrounds.  Do nothing for 24 hours and let our bodies recover.

Reality: KEEP ON BIKIN’!  We’ve got Bellingham on our brains.  We gotz to taste that ocean.  We gotz to visit that family.  We gotz to SHUN YOU NON-BELIEVERS!






la la la la la. me happy inside.


9 Responses to “Lather (ie. Ascend Absurdly Large Mountain), Rinse (ie. Descend Absurdly Large Mountain), Repeat (ie. Repeat)”

  1. Cat Sieh said

    LADIES! Weird story: I live in Bellingham, but I was staying with a friend’s cousin while doing some biking in Winthop yesterday, when said cousin mentioned that your “mystery fans” were friends of hers, and had told her about your adventures. I know, right?

    Well, just so happens that I owe back a hell of a lot of bike tour karma, and I would love to help you with anything and everything you might need once you get to Bellingham. You’re welcome to stay, eat, drink coffee, etc. to your hearts’ content.

    Check out the blog I attached about a tour I did with three ladies in South America last year.



  2. Kristen said

    YEAH! You made it to Colonial Creek! So nice to read that you really appreciated the beauty along the way (and the climb) We agree that every biker MUST ride Washington Pass at least once in their lifetime. The views are world-class.

    We are sorry to hear no one in Mazama took you in. Very surprising as people in the Methow Valley are extremely friendly!

    Keep on truckin’. The rest of the way to Bellingham will be easy after the mountain passes.

    Best of luck- Your Mystery Fans

  3. valerie said

    Yeah. That is awesomely bad ass. I can barely bike up a tiny incline 😉

  4. Christine said

    You guys are the bomb! Good job making it through those mountains. I can’t believe your still riding strong! You go girls! Mom

  5. T. Burger said

    “Our bikes are heavy when fully loaded: …”

    Colleen’s bike and gear weigh in at around 90lbs. + About 200 lbs of Colleen makes for almost 300lbs!!!

    Liz’s stuff comes to about 70lbs. + About 150lbs of Liz (mostly titties) makes for about 200lbs!!!

  6. Emily said

    Your towels are ready. Do I need to buy extra soap and a pressure washer?

  7. Bradley said

    very entertaining. for being said whore, i will check back regularly. WOW!

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