Day 16 – June 16 – Bigfork, MT to Clearwater camping area Junction of hwy. 83 and hwy. 200 – 98 hard earned miles

Wow.  Tough day.

Rode the ups and downs of the scenic but desolate Hwy. 83.

A couple nice lakes along the side of the route today included the lakes Swan, Alva, Inez, Seeley, and Salmon.

A picture at Swan Lake. The longest lake in Montana without a dam:

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All day, I looked for a day use area with a picnic table or place where I could effectively cook some noodles with my campstove, rather than the hassle of making my own makeshift camp, the breakfast sandwich in Bigfork and 3 bananas lasted me all day until I made it to where I would camp – a long story.

Because the day was going to be a long one, feasible places to stay were Seeley Lake, and Salmon Lake State Park if I needed it that far.  I made it to Seeley Lake and had time to spare, so I figured I’d push on the extra 8 miles to get to Salmon Lake State Park.  Upon arrival there, the outrageous price of a simple campsite put me right back on my bike and down the road another 7 miles.  This place was right at the junction of Hwy. 83 and Hwy. 200.

I arrived at this more primitive, but wildly more affordable camping area, and spoke with some people there – the news got better however as they said I could camp for free on the other side of the river! There were no fire pits or picnic tables on that side, but free camping could not be argued with.

Picture of my campsite:

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Picture of the river about 200 feet from my camping area:

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Scenic view st sunset:
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Day 15 – June 15th – Biking in Glacier National Park – Avalanche parking area to Logan Pass to West Glacier – 52 miles

I will let the pictures do most of the talking as words, no matter how exquisite, cannot portray the vastness or beauty.

When in this place, the majesty of the mountains and grandeur of the glaciers shock the visual sense of any human. Here, one obtains more wisdom than any other and the only knowledge one ever needs to know, the way of the land. I know no stress here, for nature provides all outlets for my thoughts and awe. Unmatched beauty, pristine land, and awesome wilderness. I hope this land remains for all generations to come. It needs to be preserved and protected, so all can know the value of untouched wilderness that once covered the entire globe.

Here are some photos of the day.

On the way up:

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First bear sighting!

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This one snuck up on me! I stopped for a short rest and he popped up over the side onto the road! Thankfully I didn’t startle him, I was easily within 40 feet of this guy.

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A couple miles ahead (and up), I saw these bighorn sheep. There were 4 total.

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One mile later, this guy got trapped on the road between two hikers on their way down, and me on my way up.  It ran toward me very quickly, within 30 feet, I steadied my camera as best I could and got this shot.  Also have a video of it scaling the rock face right next to the road as I stood and watched in awe.

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Snow!

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Conquered the pass :)

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Saw this on the way down!

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Overall great day here at Glacier National Park.  More photos to come after my tour.

Day 14 – June 14th – Kootenai National Forest Campground at McGregor Lake, MT to Bigfork, MT – 56 miles

After a gorgeous sunset to end the previous day, a rather interesting, restless night ensued.  The chilly night air dropped in temperature to the low 40’s.  Bears were also on my mind, as this area had an extremely high number of bears.

The night passed however, and I was on my way before the clouds thickened.

A deer carcass 2 miles from camp along the roadside was a meal for a Bald Eagle.  I interrupted the feeding spree only 20 feet from the eagle, giving me a quick glimpse of this magnificent bird.

The Bald Eagle was not the only bird eyeing up the deer:

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After hugging the side of Hwy. 2, with no shoulder, for 2 hours, the Dashboard Diner in Marion attracted me.  Some sausage, eggs, and pancakes provided some uplift on the rather dreary morning.  The waitress said I was the 3rd cyclist that stopped for the year, but what she said after that, the fact that it was all downhill to Kalispell, really sparked a new enthusiasm for me.

By the time I was 8 miles from Kalispell another pleasant surprise struck! A rails-to-trails bike trail! I bypassed Kalispell, through Sommers, and headed to my place for the night in Bigfork, another great host.

Bike trail:

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The mountains amidst the clouds on the outskirts of Kalispell:

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Bigfork, also a town in northern MN, sits at the northeast corner of the capricious Flathead lake.  (Click here for more info on this lake -> http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flathead_Lake )

Flathead lake, at over 165 square miles, is the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi.

While I ate dinner with the hosts, in their house with a marvelous view of the lake, the wife mentioned she was driving to West Glacier Park and biking up the west side to Logan Pass, she offered that I come along to bike and take pictures.

This offer was too hard to pass up!

Tomorrow I’ll be spending a day in Glacier National Park.

Day 13 – June 13 – Libby, MT to National Forest campground at McGregor Lake – 55 miles

Picture perfect ending to an otherwise average day on the road.  It seems as though climbing dominated today and the pestering headwind that blasted my face for a considerable portion of the day didn’t help the ride or my mental state for that matter. In addition to those two annoying cycling circumstances, a light rain fell for two abbreviated segments.  Though slightly refreshing as it was very light, the fear of not knowing how much or the rate of rainfall is enough to keep a cyclist even more uncomfortably close to the edge of their bike seat.

Another notable but not nice part of the day stretched for a few miles along the route today – road construction.  Rocky roads and absent shoulders were crossed alongside logging trucks, semis, and RV’s.

The tavern and eatery 10 miles from the pristine waters of McGregor lake provided good grub and nourished me till my destination.

The campground offered much open space and quiet as there were only two other parties, including the camp hosts, in the entire campground.

My east-facing campsite on the lake truly was the best site in the campground:

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The day ended with a view that would never get boring:

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Day 12 – June 12 – Bonners Ferry, ID to Libby, MT – 53 miles

Scenic can describe the day very well.

Bob and his wife prepared a wonderful breakfast for me to start the day (I still cannot express how grateful I am to hosts for the night stays and food they provide).

A good start to a day of touring in the west involves a climb.  Bonners Ferry offered a good climb going out of town on Highway 2 and thankfully provided a good view to reward me for the work.

Overlook of Bonners Ferry:
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The highlight of the morning couldn’t have been much more spectacular than crossing the bridge 464ft over the Moyie River.

River:
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Bridge:
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Beyond there, I took a quick photo stop on the bridge over a tributary to the Kootenai River:
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In Troy, as I cycled through town, a nice one I might add, looking for a little cafe or place to eat, a bicycle with panniers caught my eye at a little place on main street.

Inside I met Max from California.  He was headed west toward Bonners Ferry on Hwy. 2 that I just traveled.  After talking over lunch and giving pointers on the route, he left and I finished my Hubba Bubba sandwich.  So good.

The lunch Menu at the Main Street Perk:

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As with almost every town out here it seems, another climb ensued to get out of town.  Only 18 miles remained for the day, but my eyes took in every foot of it.
Kootenai Falls impressed so much that yours truly had found a new profile picture:
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The falls, along with the steep mountain slopes covered with a thick blanket of trees over their rocky surface created an ambiance of the classical Rocky Mountain landscape that people picture, and this stretched all of the way to Libby:

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In Libby, I found a nice RV park that welcomed tents.  $12 got me a site with a picnic table, access to bathrooms, wifi, and yes, a shower!

I’ve now gotten caught up with all my blogs.  Hope I don’t fall behind again!

Excited for another day tomorrow.

Day 11 – June 11 – Sandpoint, ID to Bonners Ferry, ID – 37 miles

Leaving Sandpoint was hard this morning.  The hosts were generous, the lake was picturesque, and the city was relatively tranquil.  I just may live here someday.

Highway 95 north offered decent shoulder for my bike most of the way to Bonners Ferry.

Lake McArthur Wildlife Management Area:

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Because it was a rather short day, I arrived in this interesting town relatively early, but good thing.  Entering town, the chain began sticking to the spokes, preventing smooth flow when shifting or coasting.  After getting some chips at the grocery store, I meandered to the county fairgrounds on my semi-functional ride.

I cooked up chili from a can on my campstove amidst a crowd of onlookers and ate my lunch.  This popular park had many other people out for a picnic, and a few kids playing basketball, but, naturally the guy with a cycling jersey and a bike loaded down with 4 panniers and a sleeping bag will get the most looks.

View of distance from county park:

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An entertaining squirrel :)

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Lunch was good, but the condition of my chain and spokes was still uncertain.  So, like a champ, I rotated my tires (which I was going to do anyway) and inspected the issue.  Turns out, all the road I took with road construction and new tar on the road added to the build up and residue on the chain and spokes.  After cleaning them off with paper towels and water from the sink in the bathroom, my issues were fixed.

I also received word from Bob, who I had contacted earlier, in Bonners Ferry that I could stay at his place for the night.

I rode over there, dropped off my heavy gear, and walked into the old part of Bonners Ferry seeking a good place to eat.

The Panhandle Restaurant did not disappoint.  A Philly Cheesesteak with fries, topped off with a homemade apple pie and ice cream satisfied all of my hunger.

Panhandle Restaurant:

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I walked back to the house after purchasing 2 bananas, a can of chili, and a single package of Ramen noodles.

The post office was rather grand too:

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The sunset over the Kootenai River in Bonners Ferry:
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Another day is in the books.

Tomorrow should be a beautiful ride

Day 10 – June 10 – Spokane, WA to Sandpoint, ID – 71 miles

Julianne and Bjorn were great hosts for the night.  They provided me with food, a shower, and a nice bedroom for the night.  Being cyclists that tour themselves, they knew firsthand what it’s like. I am grateful for the stay.

Leaving Spokane, I picked up an extra inner tube in town, knowing I would likely need it.

The decision for the trip to go west to east paid dividends once again as a light SW wind helped propel me on the route NE of Spokane.

On the way, Newman Lake, a small community (they almost spelled my name right), held The Sweet Tooth Bakery. I was a sucker for the name and stopped in to check it out.

The Sweet Tooth:

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A new state!
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The landscape included scenic portions of trees, the start of the Rockies, and a grand entrance to an amazing city, Sandpoint, ID.

Lake Pend Oreille offered magnificent views.  I crossed a bridge, previously the longest wooden bridge in the world, to enter town.

Lake Pend Oreille:
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Sticky Fingers bike shop sold me 2 more inner tubes after I had another flat on the road today, bringing the total to 4 flats.

Chris and Kathy were my hosts for tonight.  I could not have been treated better.

I ended the the day gazing out at the lake and preparing for another day tomorrow.

Day 9 – June 9 – Grand Coulee, WA to Spokane, WA – 87 miles

Awaking earlier than I wish I had to from the nice, comfortable, queen-size bed, I prepared myself for what I knew would be a long day.

The departure of Grand Coulee started with a nice 400ft + climb (not what I was hoping for).  At the top, a building tailwind blew at my back (a west wind!).  This, I knew, would be of great benefit today.  The winds aided my travel across the flat land of eastern Washington.  In Wilbur (the town I would have stopped at if I rode like a maniac yesterday) I stopped to refill my water supply at a gas station, and was asked by a man filling up with gas where I was headed to.  Upon my reply of Minnesota, he asked if I was raising money for something.  I didn’t even finish explaining to him the orphans that I am trying to help before he handed me $20 for them.

There are so many good people out here.

The rest of the day entailed crop fields, some cookies and lemonade at a rest area about 10 miles out of Davenport, a short stop at a beautiful park in Davenport, a nice cherry shake at Dean’s drive-in in Reardan, and arrival at my wonderful hosts for the night in the 2nd largest city of the tour so far, Spokane.

Bjorn and Julianne were wonderful people who also have a passion for touring.  It is always good to talk to others who understand what bicycle touring entails.  They were great hosts and I am grateful for the stay.

Day 8 – Marina Park, Bridgeport, WA to Grand Coulee, WA – 44 miles

Desolation and wasteland.  That’s all there is between these two locales of civilization.  This morning I stocked up on water, knowing there would be very little between here and my next destination.  A stop at the Spanish grocery store in town yielded two bananas, one of which I consumed, and I was off.

Heading out of Bridgeport, with long sleeves on today as the sun has created a painful situation for my arms and face, the desolate landscape began…

38 miles and a couple thoughts of quitting later, I found myself cruising down into the grand city of Grand Coulee.  I knew from looking at my maps along the way that Hometown Pizza was right along the Bridgeport highway that I was taking into town – I stopped there and was glad that it wasn’t a hallucination after staring forward into the unrelenting sunlight all day.

The calzone I ordered filled me up, and my phone and camera finished charging at the outlet on the table next to me just as I was done eating, but the next town, Wilbur, seemed too far away to get to yet today (20 miles which isn’t much but after a scorching 5 1/2 hours in the sun on a bike with a few hills it seems like eternity).  The waitress notified me of a couple of places to stay in town.  Not liking the idea of paying for a motel, as I haven’t on the trip so far, I succumbed and called all 3 places.  The Trail West motel is where I ended up, and by 4:30 p.m. I was in my room and relaxed.

This stay at the motel in Grand Coulee ended up being extremely beneficial and worthwhile.  The hardware store had an inner-tube that I purchased to replenish my dwindling supply.  The local Safeway helped me replenish my on-bike food supply and get a few microwave meals for the night.  And, most importantly, the Grand Coulee creamery provided an excellent cookies and cream waffle cone that I enjoyed.  Rebecca, the hostess, was fascinated at the trip I was taking.  We had good conversation.  She also mentioned the famous light show here at the dam in Grand Coulee.

Every night at the dam, a laser light show that depicts the history behind the dam and the Columbia river, is shown on the water as it goes over the dam.  A link to the website for the times of showing can be found at the website here: http://www.grandcouleedam.com/aboutlls.html 

So, the stay here in Grand Coulee has been quite grand after all.  The motel is very comfortable.  Knowing that tomorrow will likely be a long day, this was likely a good move.

Day 7 – June 7th – The Bike Barn to Marina Park in Bridgeport, WA – 71 miles

After the brutal day in the mountains, a brutal day in the sun burned me.  Despite the fact that the elevation was relatively flat today, the unceasing burden of the sun, with no cloud cover in the skies, all in this high desert area with no shade and few trees made the day very tough.

I stopped in Winthrop at the library for a quick wifi stop and phone charge.  On the east side of town, I had to stop at the appeal of the shops on main street.

Place where I had my muffins in Winthrop:

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I purchased two fresh muffins and had a nice ice cream waffle cone.

After Winthrop, the next stop was at the Black Bird cafe in Twisp.  From there, the Methow River led me through the small establishment of Carlton, all the way to lake Pateros.  This oasis was welcomed warmly.  I discovered the Rest Awhile stop as I entered Pateros.  A wonderful little bakery/knick knack shop.

Rest Awhile:

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The $4 Subway lunch in Brewster gave me enough energy to cycle on next to the Columbia River, all the way to Bridgeport.

Had my 2nd flat about 5 miles from bridgeport.  A thorn had punctured the tube.  So I switched it out and was back on my way.  Only 1 tube left…

Arrived at the park and was happy to see shower facilities available.  I pitched my tent, utilized the shower, started a campfire, and cooked my Ramen noodles.  That was enough for the day.

View of the river from Marina Park:

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Day 6 – June 6th – Conquering the Cascades – Colonial Creek campground to The Bike Barn bike shelter east of Mazama – 57 miles

Other than the vicious chipmunk that ate it’s way into my bag of bread while I was setting up my tent yesterday evening, and the abnormally rocky, hard surface where I set up the tent, the stay at Colonial Creek campground was successful.

While packing up my belongings this morning, preparing for what I knew would be a tough day, I spotted another bicycle touring enthusiast passing by on the campground trail.  Seeing me as well, he stopped.  The man’s name was Earnest.  After talking to him for a few minutes, I learned that he has toured Africa, South America, Central America, Australia, now the U.S. and he is waiting for his passport to head to Canada.  Just talking to this guy was amazing.  It is always nice to see others who live out this passion of touring.

I left the camping area at about 7:20
a.m., and began with a steep climb.  Followed by another, and another…

By the time 3:00 p.m. rolled around, I was not nearly half as far as I wanted to be at the end of the day, I was out of water (that I had in bottles and my camelbak), plus I ate the last of my Ramen noodles around 4:30.

I was drained.  But I didn’t let it affect me mentally.  In all of the research, planning, and talking with other long-tour cyclists, the biggest thing they all stressed was staying mentally clear.  So I did what I needed to do.  I knew that water wasn’t an issue, for there were mountain streams and creeks from glacial melt almost every mile.  So, I grabbed my campstove, boiled a pot of water from Porcupine creek, drank some and filled my water bottles.  After resting till about 5:00, I noticed some other cyclists on their way up too.  They were from Minnesota as well!  I took a quick look at the elevation map they had and noticed that much of the climbing was done until I reached Rainy Pass, which was only a few miles ahead.  Then I would only have an 800ft climb to get to Washington Pass, at an elevation of over 5400ft.

This unexpected greeting from the fellow cyclists really gave me more motivation.  I pedaled on.

My sunburned arms and face emanated a distinct discomfort that I have learned to accept from days of cycling in the sun.  Stiffness in the lower back and hands started to become more pronounced.  I buckled down and found more energy than I thought I could muster.

Rainy Pass, elevation 4855ft, was conquered at about 6:15 p.m.  Now all I had was 800ft of climbing and about 5 miles before it was time to reap the downhill of all the climbing I worked for all day.

Rainy Pass:

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The work and agony of the climb is what I payed to see sunset in Washington Pass as I coasted for 10 miles at speeds up to 34mph.

Washington Pass:

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Riding the decline into the Mazama river valley easy of the mountains, I recalled there were a few free places to stay, one of them being the Bike Barn.

Here, cyclists can stay next to the big trademark barn.  There is an outdoor shower (with warm water!), drinking water, an outhouse, and lights to aid in setting up your tent.  All of which I utilized and was grateful for.

The bike barn:

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One other cyclist was here, none other than Earnest who I had met in the morning!  He shared some chilli and we talked some more for a while.  Funny how things work!

I fell asleep within 20 minutes after pitching the tent and throwing everything inside.

This may have been the hardest day of the tour.

Day 5 – June 5th – Sedro-Woolley to Colonial Creek camping area – 66 miles

The toughest day of riding so far in my life started out with a nice, home-cooked meal when I awoke.  After saying goodbye, the most difficult, but by far the most scenic ride thus far in my life, started.

Out of Sedro-Woolley, I cycled onto North Cascades Highway/Hwy 20 and stayed on that same road all day.  I went east through Hamilton, Concrete, Rockport, Marblemount, and my newest town to reach the pinnacle of my favorite town list – Newhalem.

The scenery today was proportional to the difficulty of the ride. The last 30 miles of the day was all climbing, but the challenge was well worth it.

In Hamilton, I bought a delicious ice cream coffee with whipped cream from this nice little shack:

After Concrete, the air opened up with the beauty of rivers flowing through the Valleys of mountains on either side of the North Cascades highway.
In Marblemount, the gateway to the American Alps, I stopped at the cafe in town that served up a great steak burger.

After lunch, I decided that groceries would be a good idea because there were no more services for 74 miles!

There is however, one more town after Marblemount, that is Newhalem.  This quaint, quiet town, nestled at the base of mountains to the north and south, not only afforded me with spectacular views, but with a cold water fountain at the city hall, and a few cheap packs of Ramen noodles for getting over the mountains.  It even had a very nice city park.  Newhalem may be a future residence for me.

Ended the day at Colonial Creek campground.
My view from my site:

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Day 4 – June 4th – 1st real day of cycling – Seattle, WA to Sedro-Woolley, WA – 75 miles

It was an early start to a wonderful day today.  Awoke early to send my friend off on his flight to the east coast, I left the house around 5:40 a.m.

After some turmoil making sure my tires were pumped up sufficiently and double-checking my route out of downtown, I was on my way.

25 miles down the line, I stopped in my new favorite town, Snohomish, WA. I ate at the Twin Eagles Cafe after asking one of the local residents on the street where the best place was.  He was right.  The servings were large enough so my stomach couldn’t even hold it all.The rest would become snack later in the day. Found a comical sign here too:

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On my way north on the scenic Centennial trail, I called some distant relatives of mine who live in Stanwood.  They met me in Arlington for lunch at the Blue Bird cafe.

I met numerous nice people on the Centennial trail.  All of them wished me safe travels and a few even had me write down this blog for them.

All of this good food is spoiling me.  But little did I know, more food was to come.  During lunch, they handed me the business card of their son who lives in Sedro-Woolley, right along my way.

5 hours later I found myself there with a nice bed, a warm shower, and hot food.  I cannot thank them enough for their hospitality.

I did get my first flat of the trip today, only a few blocks from the house where I stayed.  I took care of that and ended the evening eating Cascade cherries and looking at the mountains in the bug-free Washington air.

End of Train Ride and Arrival in Seattle – Day 3

The Cascades greeted me outside of the train window as I awoke this morning.  After taking a stretch break in Wenatchee, WA, I simply sat and gazed at the landscape I will soon be trekking over myself.

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Hunger for breakfast struck around 6:30 a.m., but knowing the inflated price of breakfast on the train, I decided to try to wait it out.
It only lasted temporarily and at about 7:00 a.m. I succumbed to my stomach and headed to the dining car.

I was seated next to Kim, a very nice lady on her way home to Everett, WA.  We had a wonderful conversation as we enjoyed the delicious Amtrak breakfast.  As our conversation came to a close and the plates were emptied, I proceeded to pay for my food but was beat to it by her as she insisted it was her contribution to my cause.  I thanked her kindly.

Those are the amazing people I want to highlight on this trip.

I arrived at King Street Station in downtown Seattle about 15 minutes ahead of schedule.  Within 45 minutes of arrival, my bike was ready and I was on my way to my friend Nati’s place. 8 miles from the station, I was greeted by the co-worker and friend I had seen only 2 weeks before back in MN.  His family greeted me warmly.  A nice shower, the first in two and a half days, not only helped me clean up, but revived me and started getting the blood flowing after the 37 hour train ride.  After some Pizza Hut, a quick nap ensued.

Ethiopian food is amazing, at least the stuff I had.  Doro is a spicy, tasty dish that I enjoyed that had chicken, a cooked egg, and some cottage cheese to balance the spice.  It really was great.

The evening consisted of a few hours spent at Matthews Park and Green Lake Park.  The flawless weather continued into the evening as the sunshine beamed through the 78-degree sea air.  Here is a picture at Green Lake:

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I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Seattle today.  This city is scenic, surrounded and filled with nature, and it even has many bicycle friendly roads!  I wouldn’t mind living here someday, but tomorrow I will be on my way out.

Seattle will be hard to beat!

Train Ride – Day 2

Today has consisted of gazing out into the wide open expanses of North Dakota and the big sky country of Montana.  Rain fell on the later half of the day, as the scenery outside began to transition from a flat plain to a hilly start of the mountains.

It really is hard to fathom how much open space there is, especially in the vast state of Montana (ask my brother Nathan or my sister Alicia about that reference).  Riding a train or passing through by car is a good way to appreciate the expanse  but I suspect riding through on my bike will help me truly appreciate the environment that I pass through.

Passed through Glacier National Park in the late evening.

Here is an image from Cut Bank, MT.  This town truly had a reason for it’s name.

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Train ride day 1

Preliminary ride – Amtrak Empire Builder train
Day 1

June 1st is here!  Can’t believe it’s already time for my tour.
I arrived at the Minneapolis/St. Paul Amtrak station with the gracious company of my uncle Dan Maranell and my mother.  I acquired the bike box for my bike, packed it, taped it up with a little help, and checked it in with my other checked baggage.

Still having plenty of time, my mother suggested the local Arby’s for dinner.  The roast beef sandwich and curly fries satisfied my stomach’s appetite, but the appetite of my imagination for the trip about to commence only became more poignant.

We arrived back to the station together for a few pictures to satisfy my mother.  After the photographs, it was just myself and everyone else heading westbound at the station.

While waiting in the reception area, I noticed two individuals who were quite good at juggling.  Peter and John Wagner could juggle anything.  Discs, bean bags, bowling pins – you name it.  I asked if I could get a video clip of them and they agreed.

Just from the short time I’ve been at the station, I sense that the people I met in this trip will help me stay together mentally.  I may not be the must sociable person all the time-I do like my space-but we are social beings and other people can help us not only get through things, but enjoy and cherish it as well.

The train arrived a little late to the station, but I boarded and was off around midnight.

The journey has begun!