Washington Bike Angels
Have you heard of ‘Trail Angels?’ The folks who show up on long distance hiking trails like the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail with treats for weary hikers like lemonade or granola bars? Sometimes Trail Angels are former Through Hikers who know first hand just how heavenly that lemonade tastes after long days of trail mix and cowboy coffee. Other times Trail Angels are just incredibly kind souls who enjoy lending hikers a helping hand.
Lately we’ve had the good fortune of meeting extraordinarily kind souls here in Washington. We’ve decided they must be Bike Angels.
First there was Marya and her wonderful kids, Maite and Kalen, who stopped to chat with us – and swap favourite fantasy book titles with Anna and Jasper – outside the library in Cashmere where we were eating sandwiches. As soon as they heard about our trip, Marya said we should drop by her place for showers. Her experience backpacking around Guatemala helped her know just how welcome those showers would be after several shower less days of camping in gorgeous spots with limited facilities as we biked up and over Blewett Pass.
Usually Derek and I take a moment to have a quick family meeting before accepting invitations like this, but it was clear we all wanted to accept the generous offer, so a few moments later we were warm, clean and sitting in Marya’s kitchen having tea and helping her prep a giant batch of her famous rhubarb crumble with Maite.
Jasper and Kalen dug into the Lego together while Anna worked on fixing Marya’s flat bike tire (she had ridden over a prickly weed called a goat head). It was a delightful afternoon, a real joyful highlight.
Cashmere gets our vote for friendliest town in Washington. Marya invited us to spend the night – an offer we were delighted to accept. And let us know later that evening that various neighbours were cuing up to have us over if we wanted to stay longer!
After a cozy evening, a few good books and a slow morning we were ready to hit the road. But on the way out of town we stopped at the fantastic bakery Marya recommended for a hearty loaf of freshly baked bread and met another fun couple who invited us to stay with them! Jasper was ready to say yes because they won him over by asking how his thighs could have even fit through the door after biking so far. Jasper is very proud of his muscles.
Outside the bakery our big Bike Friday met its little sister and we had a nice chat with Allyson, an experienced bike traveller who inspired us with her stories.
A few days later, riding towards Twisp, we were on our last patch. The tandem had been getting an unusually high number of flats and we were hoping to find a hardware store or a bike shop to replenish our supplies.
Just before turning into a hardware store, Derek got chatting with a local cyclist going in our direction. When he heard we needed patches, he gave us his patch kit and said the bike shop in his hometown of Winthop (8 miles away) would have everything we needed. While Jasper and I went looking in the hardware store for a spare 20 inch tube, Derek and our new friend Kurt chatted in the parking lot about our trip. By the time I came out to ask Derek which of the tubes he wanted (neither was quite the right width, but we were out of spares), Derek let me know that Kurt had invited us to stay with him and his wife that evening and they were just waiting to see what I thought. With a nod from Anna, I said we’d love to. Kurt told us his grandson in Seattle was Anna’s age and rode all over the place on a tandem with his parents.
It took us most of the afternoon to get to Kurt and Susan’s place. We had a fantastic stop at the Smokejumper Base – that’s going to be its own post – and were waylaid by several lunch breaks and another flat. But we finally arrived at their beautiful home, tucked away in the woods, and had a lovely evening of fine food, friendship and stories.
Susan’s beans and tortillas were so delicious Jasper had three! As we talked about our plans for riding towards the Washington Pass the next day and over it the following day, Kurt was concerned about the weather on the second day. Being from Southern Ontario, we’re still getting used to mountains and the different climates altitude makes, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s trust the locals. Since he was planning to go skiing with a friend at the pass the next day, Kurt offered to take all our bags for us in his car so we would be able to do the pass in one day and not be trying to climb to 5000 feet in snow.
We were thrilled! So the next day – after a delicious breakfast – we loaded up Kurt’s car, said goodbye to our wonderful hosts and started our climb. On the way to the pass there was a strong headwind, but Anna Sierra and I – otherwise known as The Draft Team – took turns leading for two kilometres each and before we knew it we were in Mazama, eating our first lunch at the very well stocked grocery store/bakery.
The pass itself was amazing. With light bags – and almost no traffic – Anna Sierra could scamper on ahead like the Mountain Goat she is. When she got too far ahead she’d ride back towards me and we’d continue on together.
Once I was waiting for Derek and Jasper to see how they were doing and if they needed water or cookies. As they rode towards me I could hear Jasper chatting away happily on the back of the tandem while upfront Derek rode along with a giant grin as he gazed at snowy mountains in all directions.
Just when we were running out of steam, we reached the top! We were proud and happy and as Anna put it “feeling adrenalized.” The best part was just as we rounded the corner, Kurt and his friend Peter were getting back from their epic ski which included a mountain goat sighting. After comparing notes on our adventures and rummaging through our bags for warm layers, we repacked the trunk and raced off to Rainy Pass where Kurt was going to give us our bags. It was mostly downhill, but that final 400 foot climb would have been a challenge with bags after all the climbing we’d done.
The mood was super festive as we reloaded our bikes. Just 16 kilometres from 10,000, we knew we’d hit that number as we were flying downhill. It was tough to say goodbye to Kurt – a new dear friend – but we’ve already been invited back to Winthrop in the winter to enjoy the famous cross country skiing, so that made the departure easier. Peter got a kick out of watching us repack what looked like a yard sale back on our bikes.
Here we are celebrating 10,000 kilometres! Amazing. I’m so proud of our little family and so grateful to all the fun, kind, interesting new friends who have helped us out along the way. We never would have made it this far without you!
I have one more story about our latest Bike Angels, Jude and his family from Anacortes. But I’ll tell you all about them soon. Right now we’re on San Juan Island and it’s almost time to catch the ferry to Lopez Island!