The Velo-Dog was a pocket revolver originally created in France by Charles-Francois Galand in the late 19th century as a defence for cyclists against dog attacks. The name is a portmanteau of “velocipede” and “dog”. We had done about 4,000 miles of dog free cycling before we got to Washington State. Here however, not a day goes by without dogs of varying athletic ability and savagery giving us trouble. So far the high decibel whistles that we are carrying have been enough to stop them. I wonder about the Velo-Dog, as the whistles do me more harm than the dogs. They run off and I am left with a ringing in my ears. The Velo- Dog may even be legal here.
We had said farewells to our wonderful Seattle hosts, Phyllis and Dennis and were driven by Dennis back out to near our route. We were starting at Edison, near the Padilla Bay, for no better reason than the pie shop there. We wanted easy cycling, with a tail wind to get us back into the swing of things and we wanted a quality pie. Remarkably, that is just what we got.
We made a few left and right turns among large fertile fields and then ran along the Skagit River valley to camp at the unfortunately named village of Concrete. The river was that impossible shade of green and blue that you get with melt water from glacial peaks. Perfect in every way, it became our favourite river of the trip.
The next day, we followed it again, through Rockport and Marblemount. Time after time we passed over the Skagit on elaborate bridges high above the water. Every time the view to the North and East opened up we got a very good view of our next challenge. We had seen the snow caped Cascade mountains from the other side of Puget Sound before the ferry to Seattle. Now, we were getting closer to them and a week or more of easy riding came to an end.
We made a couple of thousand feet of climb and camped at Diablo. It was the 2nd of July and already the previous night we had been disturbed by the explosions of fireworks. I need my 10 hours of sleep. Sorry America, but I was so pleased to see the ‘NO FIREWORKS’ notice at the camp entrance.
This is stunning landscape and the campground, in among the tress was perfect. Overnight it rained. It continued to rain just enough to make getting out of sleeping bags a supreme test of will and determination. We had thousands of feet of climbing to do through some of the most stunning scenery North America has to offer and we were going to see none of it. Worse still, it was warm and we were going to be wearing water proofs. We would sweat like a pig and smell far worse.
We shook the tent in an effort to dry it and I invented a new word: Spanielate – ‘the action of shaking something vigorously to dispel water’.
The low cloud had its own charm though. Diablo Lake was magical and well worth the early start and trials. The clouds held a promise though. There were gaps in them. This is important, as one of my mothers sayings had been, “if there is enough blue sky to make a pair of trousers for a sailor, it will be fine”. She would often counter it with “Well, it was too fine too soon”. She had also had a saying about “don’t put anything sharper than your elbow in your ear”.
We climbed up, with the VDO meter on my bars going up to 6% grades. This was hard climbing but my mum was right, it started to brighten and the clouds rolled back. What a climb. Out came the camera time and again as we climbed with the smell of Lupines in the air. Waterfalls tumbled next to the road bringing blasts of cold air from the snow fields higher up.
As we got to 4,400 ft snow bordered the road and by Rainy Pass it lay deep in sheltered gullies. We were passed by a small group of cyclists. WHOOP, WHOOP, WHOOP and “YOU ROCK!”. For three people they made a lot of noise and it was so appreciated when we told them “We are going to Boston”. There was a bit of a vogue for long and very much live albums in the late 70’s. Groups like Yes, Genesis and ELP, I had them all. You could tell by the noise of the crowd which tracks were recorded in the USA. As the grade went up it all helps.
Over Rainy Pass in glorious sunshine and then a drop before we climbed again to Washington Pass at 4,855. Amazing. On with coats and down we went for 17 miles of glorious descent. We had been told that it was dryer on the other side but the reality defies belief. We had started the day in temperate maritime and now were in high desert after 49 miles. I have never seen such a change. Early Winter campground was as dry and dusty as California and it even smelled dry.
Next morning we had a flat ride through fields of tall grass and farmers working hard to turn it into big square bailed hay. I have no idea why there was flat land in amongst the mountains, but we were most grateful of an easy ride into Winthrop. Steve Mitchell of the Rocking Horse Bakery serves up a splendid second breakfast and is a Pedal Head of the first magnitude. We liked Winthrop a great deal, with its bike culture and good feel, but we had work to do.
The climb to Loup -Loup starts with a leg ripping 10% or more that gets your attention focused. It had become overcast but as we climbed the sun came out and up went my meter, 85*f and then 92*f. The smells of heat and pine and your heart beating in your ears and sweat running into eyes. We ran low on water, and for the first time in over a month took water from a stream and filtered it. I hate the Catadyn filter and the weight, but I also love it and its Swiss perfection. Never bike without one, it will always weigh less than water and may save your life.
We camped at Okanogan in amongst the pens for Goats and Poultry at the showground. Far enough out of town we were spared the full barrage of firework celebration for the 4th. I came out of the bathroom in the morning and almost walked into a heavily tattooed young man in full horizontal stripe prison wear. They look after the campground and I could quite see the caravan club back home liking the idea.
We were in full desert heat riding again and every few miles had dog problems as we pedaled through depressed neighbourhoods. At a very small town called Riverside we walked into a huge Western Outfitters and got talking. “We had a quiet 4th of July, didn’t even have the Sheriff called”. He was the first person I have spoken to who was wearing spurs, something we will see a lot of in the months ahead I think along with more mad dogs.
We rode into Tonasket, not expecting much but glad to be out of the blazing sun. We found a health food cafe, sat in the cool and got online. The town ahead, Wauconda looked to be of the same size and may be a good place to stay. I looked it up, “Ghost town sells for $360,000 on Ebay” was the surprising result. Tonasket it is then, we have some hard and very hot riding ahead and need pampering a bit.