Tom took Igor into the shop in the morning. We had 2 or 3 calls by early afternoon confirming that we did have a leaking head gasket, that they also found a problem with the air conditioner and something else I don’t remember. We were looking at a big repair and a big price tag. But I was relieved that we got it looked at it before something catastrophic happened. It was actually quite a relief to find out what was wrong and that it was going to be taken care of.
I hiked with Fosco in the morning. Then there was a lot of lazing about in the air con, watching Le Tour, reading books and much needed napping after the stress and heat of the last few days.
Tom and I rode from the house in the evening when the clouds rolled in.
There was out the door (nearly) access to Green Mountain. The ride was still warm, I was still tired from my recent bonk and the altitude is no joke. It’s about 7000 ft at the highest point on the trail. Gaspy to say the least.
I can’t say enough about the views and relaxing vibe at the place we stayed. We had the most amazing sunset to go with our dinner.
BRT 13, July 19 – Resting in Golden
More bike riding. More resting in the air con. More Tour watching. Rode our bikes to a restaurant about 1.5 miles away. Unfortunately the ride home is almost entirely uphill. Not so easy after 2 glasses of wine.
Tom and Igot up early and did a short, pretty easy loop to get ourlegs moving before it got too hot. I was shattered. We spent the rest of the day, hanging out in the shade of the van next to the river. With Igor’s overheating issue, we couldn’t really consider driving until things started to cool down.
So we left Glendo at close to sunset. I have to say, we’ve seen a lot of spectaculart sunsets and sunrises on this trip. The big skies and thunderclouds remind me a lot of Alberta.
I spent a lot of the drive trying to find an Airbnb that would work for the dates that we needed it and was dog friendly. I think I found the last one.
We made it to Golden late that night and Igor didn’t blow up. A nice police officer came to talk to us at 12:50 AM to let us know we were not in a campsite but that we were welcome to get our sleep there as long as we vacated promptly in the morning.
Day 11 – Golden delivers
Tom and I drove into town and parked at a wonderful, shady park close to a trail and Clear Creek access. We walked about. The information center in Golden is great, super helpful staff and lots of free maps. We had a great breakfast at Windy Saddle Cafe. They have GF options. Wandered about some more, visited a couple of bike shops, Big Ring was my favorite. Then we went for a walk along the creek to watch the tubing action. Golden has developed great creek access and has but in rapid features to allow people to walk with their floaties up the trail as far as they like and hop in for a ride. It was great fun to watch but I couldn’t help myself and had to get in. I swam it with my safety swimmer floaty trailing behind.
IT WAS SOOOOO MUCH FUN. The creek is a bit shallow, so I got a few scrapes and a couple more bruises but well worth it. What a relief on a hot day.
We stopped at Linden Engineering on our way to the Airbnb to see where it was and when to bring the van in. This place is exactly what we needed. It’s obvious from the parking lot that these folks know how to work on unusual and complicated vehicles. There were many Sprinters in the lot and at least 2 unimogs that I spotted!
Then off to the Airbnb I had found to unload our stuff and get settled for the next 4 days. Our host Jim is a super nice guy and the property he has is amazing. 270 deg view including mountains and the Denver skyline. He only had a 2 bedroom suite option for us, so it wasn’t as inexpensive as we had hoped to find and the house is a work in progress with some active construction going on during the day. That was made up for in spades by what a perfect host he is, the relaxed dog friendly vibe, great yard, mountain biking trail within 1/2 mile, great access to light rail into Denver and AIR CONDITIONING!! We were finally able to sleep well for the first time in days.
Tom and I got up early and rolled into Glendo state park grabbing one of the last available campsites with any shade. We got organized to ride and were on our bikes at 9 AM anticipating a 1.5 to 2 hour ride.
Glendo is a fantastic state park with over 42 miles of biking/hiking trail and a huge reservior. The campsites are dominated by power boaters this time of year but a ranger explained to us that by mid August they don’t come anymore as water access is lost. He said that the bikers come back in droves in mid Sept. Tip – If you’re going there to ride, Two Moons Campground is your best option.
Tom and I were expecting what we see in a lot of state parks in OR where they cater heavily to the average user, you know, paved trails with maybe a a few single track trails that get little use. Not here.
There is a ton of legit mountain biking. Rocky, climby, switchie and challenging.
So we headed out on our ride, the first trail being pretty rocky but flat, so challenging but doable. Rated blue. Then some super fun flowy trail on a plateau. Green. Follwed by a tough descent where I had trouble walking down part of it. Red. More blue trail, some rocky bits I couldn’t clear, hard work but doable. At this point we’re a little over an hour in and I’m feeling challenged but pretty good. I’m also feeling pretty confident that I can ride the blue trails pretty well in this park. So we cross the river and start up a blue trail that I could ride it it was smooth, but it is technical and I’m coming off frequently and walking. I’m not concerned, we’ll ge to the bit at the top, ride the plateau where it’s flat and I should be fine. Only, it never flattens out and never gets smoother. THIS DID NOT FEEL LIKE A BLUE TRAIL. Meanwhile it’s getting properly hot and I’m starting to feel bonky inspite of taking in fuel.
If you don’t understand what a bonk is, here’s a brief description. Bonking is what happens when your blood glucose gets low enough that your central nervous system is no longer getting enough fuel to work properly. This is also know as hitting the wall. I’ve bonked many a time and I can usually see it coming. So you back off a bit, take in some fuel, let your body digest and things get better again. Only, I couldn’t back off because the trail was never easy. This was all complicted by it getting very hot and my stomach had stopped emptying. So all the water and fuel was Ihad taken in was not making it into my system. It was sitting in my now very big bloated stomach.
The technical aspects of the trail required all of the concentration I could muster. So once my central nervous system wasn’t getting the glucose it needed, I started to really really struggle with the smallest rock or bump or switchie and I started coming off my bike a lot. When you come off your bike suddenly to stop because you’ve messed up an obstacle or turn or… the bike often bumps into you.
For me that means a lot of bruises that look worse than they are. The big thigh bruises are from the one significant fall I had, it was slow but on a steep bit and both thighs hit my handlebar.
There may not be crying in baseball but there is crying in mountain biking. Unlike Tom Hanks in the clip, my Tom was fantastic. Staying close, giving me lots of support and when we finally got off the technical trails and I could very slowly roll back to the the campsite on road, he raced ahead and got our camp shower set up for me so I could cool down quickly. Total moving time on the bike was 2:41 for about 11 miles. Ugh.
So the remainder of the day was spent hanging out at the campsite, recovering and looking into a way to manage being vanless (and therefore homeless) with a dog in Golden CO for several days, in 90+ degree heat starting Tuesday.
Tom did as much or more of the same ride we did in the AM at twilight. He’s on his way to getting back into shape.
Last night we slept on a high point on the Big Horn Pass in northern WY. I had trouble sleeping and was awake at about 3 AM. I got up and wandered about in the bright moonlight and perfect silence. It’s amazing how bright it is out in the wilderness in the middle of the night with a nearly full moon. After a bit, I went back to bed and read until I noticed red light hitting my hands. I got up to one of the most amazing sunsets I have ever experienced.
The birds were singing and the elk in the meadow were making lots of strange sounds.
So, things are looking worse in Igor’s engine compartment. His head gaskets are leaky and creating pressure in the coolant system. This is causing us to leak coolant like crazy out of the top cap and that in turn is aggravating the heat in the engine… Tom explained the basics of how this works to me and in my head Igor is suffering from pulmonary edema secondary to congestive heart failure brought on by a leaky valve.
Anyway, Igor is sick and he needs attention so we’re bailing on Devil’s Tower for now and heading straight to Denver, driving in only the coolest parts of the day and taking frequent stopping breaks to add more fluid to the coolant system. This has us stopping in places that we would otherwise over look. For example Sheridan WY. An interesting little town of cheap motels close to the interstate but with a busy historic downtown area. Made even busier by the fact that we rolled in while they were setting up for the Parade. The very nice gent at the True Value Hardware downtown explained that it’s Rodeo weekend. It reminded me of a town in Portugal where we accidently drove in along the main strip just in front of the running of the bulls. How do we get stuck in these things?
We drove for a bit and then pulled off at a little lake to sit out the hot part of the day. Thanks to Igor we had shelter, food, shade and plenty of water. Time to take a nap to make up for my fabulous night and sunrise.
We resumed driving again close to sunset and the van was doing OK. We’re cautiously optimistic that we should be able to make it to Golden CO without incident. Now if only we can sort out our housing and dog care issues…
Glendo state park tomorrow for some riding and rest time.
BRT Day 7 – Boardview MT to Medicine Wheel National Monument, Bighorn Range, Northern WY
Every road trip needs it’s challenges. This was our first big challenge day. Igor, (yes our Sprinter has a name), has been running a bit warm and seems to be spitting coolant out from the radiator cap. Igor is not a spring chicken and we purchased him, 3rd owner from a fella who didn’t seem to take great care of him. The first owner was a contract plumber or similar that used Igor for a work vehicle and it seems like maybe he didn’t take great care of him either. We’ve always thought of Igor as our Sprinter rescue. He was a diamond in the rough but like all rescues, he came with issues and they can still show up here and there.
We decided to try to find someone to take a look at Igor while we were in Billings. I say try to find because many mechanics won’t work on Sprinters. Thanks to the wonders of technology, I found a very friendly and helpful shop in Billings that could get us in and promised we could be out of there by noon. The shop is called Christian Brothers. They are reasonably priced, super helpful and seem quite honest and up front. I would not hesitate to recommend this shop to a friend.
Now a side bar. Here’s a bit of a confession. I have to admit that when I found a place called Christian Brothers, I really was hoping that Christian was the family name but based on the many heavily handed religious billboards I was seeing, I didn’t really believe that would be the case. It wasn’t. There were bibles on the lobby tables, Chrstian rock on the radio and the place is even designed to look churchy. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Christians, or Jews, or Muslims, or Hindus, or Sikhs, or Daoists, or Cree, or Pastafarian, or… ANYONE. I personally consider myself a Buddhist leaning atheist and I feel a bit like this on the whole religion thing. By the way, if any of my friends of many faiths would like to sit down and have a real discussion about belief systems, I’m game. Just let me know.
Off my soap box and back to the story. Tom and I, (thanks to the wonderful help of Christian Brothers) find out that we had a head gasket that is “going”. So we spend the next 2 hours calling mechanic friends for advice (thank you European Car Clinic in Salrm OR) and looking for Sprinter mechanics that can do the work we need. Linden Auto Repair and Engineering in Golden Co could get us in next week so we’ll be in that area on Tuesday and will be stuck there for several days, without our van and with a dog. Ugh. Not a great scenario in this heat. But yay!! For getting Igor fixed by someone who knows what they are doing. This shop is well known for Sprinter repair.
Meanwhile, our fabulous friends George and Terri live in Boulder, so hey, unplanned visit with great friends on the horizon.
We are continuing our planned route to Devil’s Tower. In the 95 plus heat with lots of stops to let Igor cool down. We’re in Wyoming now as I write this. I’ve been in Wyoming twice. The first time was in late November and it was -35 deg (doesn’t matter C or F at this point) and our water tank froze solid. This time it’s incredibly hot, 97 deg F. There are no trees and we’re heading up a 10% grade soon to get to Medicine Wheel National Monument.
Later that day…
We enjoyed beautiful views and sunset on the top of a mountain pass after hiking up to the Medicine Wheel in the Big horn range in WY. This is a very spiritual place. I did 3 laps around the wheel with my mala, om mani padme hum. I thought about Marcy, my recently departed friend, and the time we went to a sweat lodge together with our Medical Acupuncture Group and I had a good cry. There were Elk in the meadow and coyotes yipping. The wild flowers are blooming and it was gloriously cool.
BRT Day 5, July 11 – Mullen ID to Ride the Hiawatha, Bitter Root Range MT
Tom and I drove to Taft MT which was a town, once upon a time but is no longer. It is an access point to the Hiawatha Rail Trail. Unlike the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes, this trail is dirt and is known for it’s tunnels and trestles. We camped close to the east portal and rode the trail in the morning.
The first tunnel is 1.4 miles long and 45 degrees F with dripping water and mini stalagtites. It is quite an experience to ride this tunnel. I highly recommend it.
The overall ride was easy for effort and well worth the 10 dollar ticket fee. Many people of questionable biking skills come to ride this trail. They take the generally downhill option and pay for a shuttle back to the car at the end of the trail. What I love about this is that it gets people out on bikes that wouldn’t otherwise do so. What’s a bit questionable is how much fun a non-cyclist, on a poorly fit rental bike is going to have on 14 miles of trail, even if it’s a gentle grade down hill.
We then spent the night in the perfect campground. A primitive site, next to a creek with a lovely meadow, lots of shade and resident deer. I’m fairly certain it is the best campsite ever. Really.
5 days. 5 rides. My bum finally feels normal in the saddle and I’ve finally arrived on vacation.
BRT Day 6 – Into Missoula to Boardview MT.
Today is catch-up day for email, blogging, groceries…
Nothing big to report here except that we did cross the continental divide. Ended up in Helena MT at a lovely brew pub, Blackfoot River. I highly recommend their Tartanic Scottish Ale. Helena is a lovely little town with pedestrian friendly shopping areas, a feel of history and a fantastic public library.
We saw our first antelope today driving east of Helena. The rock formations and undulating hills are beautiful.
After that, things start to get a little flat. But fortunately we were heading south soon and then crossing some scenic byways in northern Wyoming. We found a great place to pull off next to a waterfowl area about 15 miles north of Billings MT.
• Volcanic craters
• 4 volcanic mountain views
• Amazing wildflowers
• Wonderful back roads through farming towns
• Steptoe butte
• Fantastic rail trail at sunset/moonrise
• Wildlife seen on bikes: elk, marmots, deer, porcupine, all sorts of waterfowl, bats, millions of song birds, MOOSE
• Wildlife heard on bikes: coyote, owls
Day 1, July 7, 2017 – Hood River to Mt. St Helens
The house is packed up. We slept in the van. That’s about 90 square feet of living space not counting the bed which is over the bike garage.
It’s not easy packing for 2 plus months, 2 bikes each and, in my case 2 more sports, running and swimming including open water gear.
We left the house with 2 vehicles and are down to one having finalized the sale of the Fit. Once that was all taken care of, we promptly left town.
We arrived at the Ape Canyon area with enough time to do an evening ride up to The Plains of Abraham.
There’s bound to be a bit of confusion here. If you’re Canadian you learned about the battle of The Plains of Abraham in school and you know that the Plains of Abraham are in Quebec City. Well, turns out that there is a Plains of Abraham west, on Mt. St Helens. It’s a trail high on the mountain, near the crater. Something of a moonscape with wild flowers. It has inspired a theme for the trip, Plains of Abraham West to Plains of Abraham East. We had a fantastic 2 hour ride with owls hooting, coyotes yapping and a full moon rising.
We made dinner with steaks on the grill care of Balanced Earth Farm then drove to a sleeping spot with our sights on riding Windy Ridge in the morning.
Day 2, July 8, 2017– Windy Ridge to The Middle of Nowhere WA
We woke up to a beautiful view of Mt St Helens.
After my morning coffee and a bit of breakfast we drove down to the sno-park at the base of Windy Ridge Rd. The ride up to Windy Ridge is 15 plus miles, mostly up hill, some of that pretty steep.
It’s exposed but the views can’t be beat. From forest, into the blast zone, past Spirit Lake and up to the crater at Windy Ridge view point. We were lucky enough to hit the last road closed to cars weekend of the season. I don’t know if I’d feel safe riding that road with cars whose drivers are distracted by the views.
On our ride we saw elk, deer and really fat marmots.
When we got back to the parking lot, we had opprtunity to watch many Saturday drivers come up, disappointed that the road was closed to cars and motorbikes, they would turn into the lot and enjoy a break. Including this rolling, mostly vintage, car show.
We chatted with lots of people, trying to embrace one of the main concepts of Blue Highways, engaging with people who are from different backgrounds than ourselves. After lunch and some conversation, we headed in the direction of Yakima. The road over White Pass is really something to see. It was clear with amazing views of Ranier. But HOT!!! So we napped at a primative campsite alongside a creek through the hottest part of the day.
We started our drive again at dusk through the more boring parts of Central Washington eventually settling down to sleep at a rest stop not far from Washtucna, WA.
Day 3, July 9 – Washtucna WA to Harrison ID
We woke up to another scorching day. I tried going for a run along a rail trail in Washtuca, but it was already too hot. First road trip lesson, don’t believe Google maps. Google showed what looks to be miles of developed rail trail. It was maybe 1 km long and in the middle of town.
Next stop, Steptoe Butte State Park via small roads through farming towns in the Palouse countryside. The people we saw along the way, working in gardens or just sitting on the porch were all friendly and waved at us. Tom and I realized that to them we’re city folk. What a strange thought.
Steptoe Butte is worth the trip. It looks big from below but you can’t really get a sense of how high it is until you drive to the top. There is a crazy road that goes round and round the butte, in tighter and tighter circles. The butte summit is 3612 feet high, 1000 feet higher than the surrounding countryside.
Like the day before at Windy Ridge, we ran into a most unlikely group of Asian tourists. Out in the middle of nowhere WA.
Our goal for the day was to check out more rail trail but based on our morning experience in Washtuca, we weren’t holding out much hope. We headed to Plummer ID, the Western end of the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes. In this case, we were pleasantly surprised. There is a beautifully developed trail head in Plummer and 72 miles of paved rail trail that traverses most of the Idaho panhandle and ends in Mullen. Both of us being quite fair skinned and sensitive to the Sun, we opted to nap in the shade, eventually driving to Harrison ID for ice cream, where I got pooped on by a mourning dove all in the name of killing time until we did a sunset/moonrise ride on the trail from Harrison to Plummer and back over a bridge nearly a mile long.
I had to wear 2 pairs of shorts as my bum was sore from riding 2 days in a row. (Yes, I’m definitely out of endurance cycling shape and my road bike saddle is really firm). My neck and back ached, my feet and thumbs were trying to go numb. But in spite of all that it was a magical evening. Photos of
Day 4, July 10 – Harrison to Mullen.
I rode the first 27 miles from Harrison to Cataldo. Bum starting to improve. Perfectly flat trail through wetlands with pink, white and
yellow water lilies.
My trip was a bit delayed by a cow moose and her calf on the trail!
Tom finished the trail, riding from Cataldo to Mullen, about 29 miles. I can’t say enough about this trail. It’s a wonderful, relatively flat 70 plus miles. GO RIDE THIS RAIL TRAIL. You won’t regret it.
From Mullen we continued east to Taft MT where we found a lovely campsite by a creek, close to the trail of the Hiawatha. More rail trail for day 5! This time on mountain bikes.
The last couple of months have been some of the most difficult in my entire life. Between leaving my job of 11 years, packing up our house, dealing with immigration/citizenship issues, stressed pets and doing my best to minimize feelings of abandonment in my clients (many of whom I call friends) that I have treated for years.
Now it’s time to recharge. Tom and I are off on an extended vanventure! There’s no schedule and only a very loose plan to eventually end up in the Maritime provinces of Canada.
The house is rented to a wonderful couple, Sam and Collin, with their fur kids Kona and Jasper. Sam was my intern for nearly 4 months, is a recent PT graduate who is also moving into my old office, continuing care of many of my patients, taking over my Strong Chicks class and pretty much moving into my Hood River life. I’m happy for it. Check out her bio at timfoleypt.com.
I’m so very thankful for all of the dear friends that came to one of the many see-ya-later parties and especially those that helped pack, haul stuff and fed us! You know who you are.
The van is loaded. My car is sold. My heart is grieving for the life I am leaving behind but also for a very dear friend from PT school who passed away the night before leaving town. I don’t know when the last time was that I’ve cried so hard. I’ll miss you Marcy.
Let the vanventure begin.
This is a quick note to let everybody know that Gorge Bike Fitter will be going on vacation from July 1 to October 1, 2017. My family and I will be going on an extended vanventure. When we do resume operations in October, we will likely be in a new location. Future Gorge Bike Fitter offerings will include Canadian and US locations on the West Coast.
Love to you and special hugs to all of you that have supported Gorge Bike Fitter over the years. We plan to come back, restored and stronger than before.
Integrating anatomy, geometry, physiology and function.