Washington Part 3: Winthrop to Sedro Wooley

Here is the route we took over the Washington Pass on Highway 20.  We finished following the Sierra Cascades Route at Sedro Wooley near the coast of Washington.Click on the link below to see the route.  Note that the direction is wrong — we rode it from east to west.




Wonder-filled Washington: Our Route, Part 1

As I mentioned in a previous post, we are now attempting to follow the Sierra Cascades route through Washington.  Well, as Kathleen mentioned in her post, no sooner had we started on the route than we hit a roadblock:  the mountain pass we were attempting to cross, Highway 25 just east of Mt. St. Helen’s, was still blocked, so we had a 6-day detour to rejoin the highway on the northeast side of Mt. St. Helen’s.  We didn’t mind, as we met Erik, Sara, Annika and Riley, and we had an incredible ride up into the blast zone of Mt. St. Helen’s.

Visiting Mt. St. Helen’s was a moving experience for me and the family.  I was especially moved as I taught geography for 12 years, and every year I showed the movie “The Fire Below Us” to my students, which dramatizes the experiences of some of the people caught in the destruction that occurred during and after the Mt. St. Helen’s eruption of May 18, 1980.  So I knew the story quite well.  But to travel into the blast zone, and look down on the devastated area, was a moving experience.  We biked over the Toutle River, which was the sight of a massive mud, lava, water, ice, and tree flow that took out bridges and small communities.  We passed one once-beautiful A-frame house that was 3 days from completion when it was inundated in mud and buried in 6 feet of mud.  It is still there.  An incredible experience.


View route map for Washington – Sierra Cascades Detour on plotaroute.com

After Mt. St. Helen’s we headed north to highway 12, then east across White Pass, through the towns of Morton, Randle, Packwood, and Naches.  We were amazed at how the landscape went from wet forested in the west to arid and dry in the east, after we passed over the pass.  The route in general was stunning.  Wide shoulders, low traffic volume, and incredible views of the moutains.

After Naches we headed north through the Yakima River Valley, a windy road that follows the flow of the river, and a fly-fishers’ paradise.  That’s where we saw the bald eagles nesting in a high tree beside the river.

After the Yakima River Valley, we headed into Ellensburg, a nice college town with a great outdoors shop!  We were able to get the small can of fuel we needed, new bike shorts for Kathleen, and a new ultralight bucket.

End of Part 1!

Peek a Boo Mountains! Oregon and Mount Hood


The last few weeks we have spent having a joyous ride through the stunning mountains of Oregon and Washington.  Many mountain passes, snowy peaks, wonderful people, great weather (yes, really!), generally kind drivers, and great camping!  We. Love. The.  Northwest!  It seems like the mountains, the BIG mountains, are playing peekaboo with us.  We ride along in a forested area, or through fruit orchards, turn a corner and suddenly Mt. Hood sneaks into our view!!  Really fun.

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We decided on this route based on a fortuitous encounter with Carol York and Peter Fotheringham, two experienced cycle travelers living in Salmon River, Washington, but who happened to be in the bike shop in Hood River when we were there. Kathleen struck up a conversation and explained some of our challenges finding a good cycling route for our family (mainly we were/are concerned about traffic) and they suggested the Sierra Cascades Route from Adventure Cycling Association. Originally I had wanted to do this route through California, but we hesitated as it has a lot of mountain passes, climbs of over 4000 feet in elevation, and many of the passes were still snow-covered. So we chose a different route. At any rate, after talking to Carol and Peter, Carol said she’d leave the maps at the bike shop for us the next day. When I went to pick them up I found an envelope containing 2 bike maps and a highlighted state map of Washington with alternate routes and side trips! Thank you Carol! Well, the next day we headed further down the Columbia Gorge to The Dalles, and then we headed south into the mountains near Mt Hood, and ended up climbing 4000 feet on a gravel road (I swear the road looked paved in my navigation program!). Well, after doing that, then climbing even higher the next day (up to 4600 feet), Kathleen said let’s do the Sierra Cascades. So from that point onwards we decided to follow the Sierra Cascade Route. We headed back down the mountain, back to Hood River (love that town!), visited our favourite bike shops and bagel cafe, and headed back to Cascade Locks to cross the Bridge of the Gods (great name!), into Washington.  

The Bridge of the Gods from the Washington Side


And what about Washington?  Well!  You’ve read Kathleen’s posts, so you know it was amazing–I’ll explain our route in a future post!



9000 kilometres, 9 months and going strong!

We biked up to Mount Saint Helens. It was a big climb over Old Man’s Pass. But it was totally worth it to hear Derek’s awe at the view. As a geography teacher, he’s passionate about volcanoes. And this one is stunning.

On the way, we realized ‘closed for winter’ roads means closed until July, because that’s how long it takes for the snow to melt up here. So we quickly revised our plans, skipping the mountain pass we planned to ride over and heading instead to Eagle Cliff, Cougar and Woodland.

A beautiful detour and it looks like we’ll be able to continue on the Sierra Cascades route a little further north.

We’ve definitely learned to greet detours with enthusiasm this year. They always lead us to awesome adventures.



Gorgeous Columbia River Gorge

When we first arrived in Portland, we stayed with Jokay and Creighton, warm shower hosts who quickly became dear friends. They gave us great advice about what to see and do in Portland.   
 We loved every suggestion from the kid-friendly Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), to cycling along the Eastside Esplanade, to the exquisite Japanese Gardens, to Powell’s City of Books! If you’re visiting Portland, you should really check out all those places.   
When it was time for us to leave this glorious city – after a lovely week with Grandma Pat and Grandpa Wayne – we decided our route would be Creighton and Jokay’s last suggestion: The Columbia River Gorge.  



 It is so beautiful and bike-friendly. This is one of our favourite routes through the US so far. 



 We are following the old highway 30 which was built at the “dawn of the automobile age” (that’s a quote from one of the many scenic plaques). And now there’s a new, wide, fast highway 84 that all the trucks and cars go on. So we have this lovely windy, scenic route to ourselves. It’s taken us past waterfalls and to lots of lookouts.

Yesterday we arrived in Cascade Locks at 10:30 and thought the town was so pretty we decided to stop and camp, even though it was early. This far into our trip we know a great spot when we see one.
Cascade Locks is a spot Derek and I recognized from Wild, about Cheryl Strayed’s hike along the Pacific Crest Trail. We thought of riding over The Bridge of the Gods to Washington – I love bridges and this one is stunning – but decided instead to hike a short section of the PCT. Someday we’d like to do an epic hike, so it was quite moving to be on this famous trail.

We met a really fun couple at the RV camp last night who reminded us why we love travelling by bike. Just when we’d finished setting up our tent, Grannie Annie and her little dog Cookie came over to say hi. The first thing Annie said was “I am so proud of you people I just had to come over and tell you.” She said she had watched us roll in and set up and couldn’t believe all the things we pulled out of our panniers. She also brought us a ceramic pickle magnet and a ceramic heart baking tester as welcome gifts. She had made them both herself. We had a great chat and after dinner when the wind picked up, we decided to take her up on her kind offer of hot chocolate in her motor home. It was so fun hanging out and getting to know Annie and her husband Dick. They even saw us off the next morning with hugs and apple pie! 

Right now we’re waiting for the tandem’s bottom bracket to get replaced here in Hood River. We’ve found a lovely library where loitering (even extended, all afternoon loitering) is welcome. Tomorrow we’re looking forward to continuing on the old highway 30.

Sending all our best,

P.S. I’ve picked up a new helmet. It’s bright green and awesome. In case anyone (like my mom, Hi Mommy!) who follows these posts regularly is wondering, I didn’t have a crash I’m not telling you about, I just dropped the old helmet quite a few times. 


Our Route: Menlo Park (SF) to Redding, California

Here is the route we took from Menlo Park, south of San Francisco, to Redding, California.  We took a zig-raggedy route through some beautiful areas of California, generally heading north because we knew we had to be in Portland on April 18 to meet my parents.  I planned the route to generally avoid what I thought might be dangerous narrow steep roads, and we were mostly successful at that.  The route from Santa Rosa to Petaluma turned out to be such a narrow, steep, dangerous road, and we had a person in a pickup pull over and offer us a lift, so we took it.  Also, Highway 12 between Napa and Fairfield was quite a busy and fast freeway, and not exactly fun, but it did have nice scenery and a giant shoulder so it was okay.  The Silverado Trail looks like a great route, but it is a really busy highway, although it does have a nice shoulder.

Highlights on this route included great camping at China Camp, Napa Bothe, and Solano County Park, some incredible quiet roads (especially Pleasants Valley and north of Oroville), lots of wineries, pretty mountains in Napa Valley, the Schulz Museum, and the Jelly Belly Factory.  We never did really see much of the Sierra Mountains.

The red points with no dots in them represent where we stayed each night and the green points with no dots represent some of the sites we saw.


Hello Portland!

We took the train to Portland from Redding and arrived here on April 14. Our bikes, which we’ve shipped through BikeFlight, are due to arrive on April 18, when Derek’s parents, Grandma Pat and Grandpa Wayne, fly into town for a long awaited week together.

We have been blessed with an exceptionally warm welcome from our Warm Showers hosts, Creighton and Jokay, who made us all feel right at home and have been an absolute joy to get to know. 



 During our visit we’ve shared lots of great meals and wonderful conversation, had the opportunity to meet two of their four adult children and their partners and even meet some of the neighbours who make up their vibrant street community. 

Yesterday we even got to go for a lovely sunny bike ride together using a collection of their loaner bikes and a borrowed 24 inch bike from their neighbours for Jasper. Anna Sierra had a blast on their daughter’s cruiser! 

Creighton and Jokay have travelled widely, both before their kids were born and with their kids, so we’ve loved hearing about their travels and their warm and wise perspectives on life. 

 As soon as Creighton and Jokay heard we were interested in sustainable transportation, they suggested our first adventure in Portland should be the 4T trail.   

It’s a multi-modal trail that includes a 4 mile hike through an urban forest, a ride on an aerial tram, a trolley and a train. We loved it!    

Jokay kindly dropped us off at the zoo and we followed our 4T trail signs through a gorgeous green forest up to Council Crest where the trees were in bloom and you could see snow capped Mount Hood in the distance.

The trail led us to a community art project mosaic where we stopped for a quick break.

  Lining up for a free ride downhill. (You pay if you’re taking the aerial tram up to the hospital grounds).

We weren’t the only transportation tourists snapping pictures of the amazing views of Portland, including the new transit/bike/pedestrian bridge! We’re looking forward to riding it with Grandma and Grandpa.

  Lots of folks park and ride.  
 View from the train. There is a “Fareless Square” downtown where you can ride the trolley and train for free if your trip starts and ends within the Fareless zone. It’s ingenious ideas like this that make public transit the very best choice that I just love to see during our travels.  
There’s room for bikes, but our fully loaded fleet (especially the tandem) would be a stretch.

 Before we started the 4T trail, Jokay took us to her local library and borrowed a ‘Cultural Pass’for free admission to the downtown Chinese Gardens.    
  Did we mention Jasper likes to read?  
 Anna Sierra wandered through the gardens on a treasure hunt for plants, architectural features and other charming details. What a great day!

Back in Ottawa, it’s almost time for Bike to Work Month. Having helped coordinate this awesome program for the last two years, I must admit I feel a little homesick for the energy and excitement of the month, for folks starting workplace teams and motivating their colleagues to experience how much fun biking to work can be. I’ll take it as a good sign that I miss my job!

 But it’s wonderful to be in Portland, 8 months in to our awesome cycling adventure and I can’t wait to discover all the delights that this famous cycling city has to offer a multigenerational family on two wheels. 

With best wishes,


Our Route: Santa Monica (LA) to Menlo Park (SF)

Here is the route we biked starting in West LA and biking to Menlo Park, south of San Francisco.  We started the route on March 11 and ended it on March 28, with 3 rest days.  This was a beautiful route, with some challenges.  Lots of great scenery through the Big Sur region, but also heavy traffic and narrow roads around Malibu and Big Sur.  Many fantastic towns and cities were visited, and overall we had a great time.  The wind, generally from the north, was difficult at times but not unmanageable.  There were a lot of hills around Big Sur, but relatively flat through other parts (with some exceptions).


Bike travel PR

Whenever we stop at a grocery store – which we do every day at least once and which we often do twice a day – one of us stays outside with the bikes while the other three get their shop on.
The kids are fantastic grocery shoppers. They choose healthy food, they stay on budget and they keep their eyes open for milk-free, peanut-free chocolate. They really only need me and Derek for our credit cards.

Three bikes (including one family tandem) fully loaded with panniers is a bit of a traveling circus. So the person on bike watching duty often becomes a spokesperson for bike travel.
We have met so many interesting people outside grocery stores. Sometimes they’ve travelled by bike before and have stories to share or route suggestions. 
My favourites are the people, like that guy outside REI, who tell us where to find the best cinnamon buns (in Davenport, in case you’re riding the coast) or the folks, like that guy finishing up his trail run, who told us which campsite had a prettier view (Moreau Bay) and much fewer hills. That kind of advice is so helpful and it always leads to great connections.
I have a soft spot for the parents and grandparents who’d like to try riding with their kids or grandkids and want to hear more about the logistics. That always makes for a fun conversation. Especially when they have a chance to talk with Anna or Jasper who are, of course, cycling rock stars, but who look like normal kids.
When we’re busy packing our food up or are tired and not in the mood for a chat, we ask our family ambassador, Jasper, to fill in curious onlookers with details they are wondering about like our route (currently San Diego to Redding), the kids’ ages (9 and 12), and whether we are homeschooling (sort of since Anna is diligently working through her math textbook, but mostly we’re all just learning about whatever comes up as we ride along – Google’s Self-Driving Cars, Harry Potter Trivia, California’s abundant birds and wildflowers).

Always thinking of solutions to everyday situations, Jasper realized his PR job would be easier if he had business cards to hand out because people love hearing we have a blog. Luckily we’ve also ridden through a lot of the pages of the California Road Atlas so we have some scrap paper.

So tonight Derek, Anna Sierra and Jasper are making business cards using old maps, cardboard from pasta boxes and that handy roll of Scotch tape every touring cyclist keeps in their front pannier!

I really do think the PR role is an important one, so even if we’re tired or have had a similar conversation many times already and Jasper’s not there, I always try to greet each curious person with a big smile. 
It’s brave of them to start a conversation with new friends. And I think that kind of bravery should be celebrated. 
Who knows, maybe they’ll take their kids biking…maybe they’ll give folks cycling a little more room on the road after getting to know us a little…or maybe, like those young women outside the Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield, they’ll try going for their very own bike trip when they hear how affordable and fun it can be.
When I was a kid I had never heard of travelling between cities by bike until my dad suggested the whole family ride from our home in Scarborough to visit my brand new cousin in Burlington. It was a two day bike trip for all five of us, completed in jean shorts with backpacks. It was just far enough and fabulous enough to give me a taste for touring.
Hope you’re having a great day!


It’s The Great Bike Ride, Charlie Brown

It is about one o’clock in the afternoon and after a delightfully abundant picnic and a quick bathroom break in a nearby campground, we push our bikes out of the shade and set off down a gravel bike path, content – for the moment – to enjoy the blessed peace of off road travel…

Gravel crunches under wheel as the team of famous WW1
Flying Aces guide their downed Sopwith Camels around loose stones and rocks. 

  Vrrrr… the drone of enemy aircraft cuts through the air. Is it? Could it be?
The first famous WW1 Flying Ace shakes his fist in frustration as he recognizes the red markings of… The Red Baron.
Shots ring out but the Flying Aces march onward unperturbed. They must reach the road and friendly territory ahead if they plan on surviving the night. The road is getting tougher and here and there the ground is littered with shotgun shells.
In utter disbelief the WW1 Flying Aces see before their careworn eyes a fence. There is no turning back now. The Flying Aces are done for. 

With a last desperate fist shake in the direction of their lifelong foe, the famous WW1 Flying Aces bowed their heads and- “Snoopy-er I mean Anna- give us a hand, we’re taking the bikes down the hill.”
  What was that? A plan? The Flying Aces lift their heads and turn toward their hopeful companion.
Yes it is a plan. A desperate one at that. But desperate times call for desperate measures and the famous Flying Aces now have a small glint of hope. 

The first Flying Ace cautiously pushes his Sopwith Camel to the edge of the road. The faint snaking line of another dirt road is apparent far far below them. 

They grimly climb into the cockpit of their respective planes and with one last hesitant push are hurtling down a slippery slope. 
“Anna! Quit daydreaming. It’s only a few meters to the road but we need your help to push the bikes down.”

The Flying Aces are about to make contact! The first grips the edge of his seat, nods to his stoker and squeezes his eyes tightly shut.

 CRASH! CRASH! CRUNCH! Slowly opening his eyes as the dust settled and an eerie silence ensues, the world famous Flying Ace realizes with giddy relief that his 163rd downed Sopwith Camel is slightly scratched with one wing dented but apart from that not much worse off then before. 

  He reaches a hand out to his super stoker and together they stand up and take in their bearings. Only to see two muddy Sopwith Camels hurtling at full speed towards them. 

With a screech, the two Aces scramble to get themselves out of the way before-CRASH! CRUNCH! Kaput. Once everybody has emerged (unscathed) and the Camels have been checked for roll ability, the Flying Aces set off down the new pebble pocked path, leaving the gunshots far behind them. 

The going is slow with loose rocks and slippery gravel but somehow the famous WW1 Flying Aces manage to push the planes back up onto the main road with naught but a few battle scars. 

  Finally, after one more daring descent, friendly territory is in sight. The brave Flying Aces return. Thirsty and sweaty but content-for the moment- to enjoy the blessed peace of enduring the washing of mounds of dishes (too many downed Camels.) 

The End.

By Anna Sierra, inspired by Charles M. Shulz.