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Trail, BC (Canada) to Kennewick, WA (USA)

posted Sep 11, 2009, 9:17 AM by Paul Gareau   [ updated Sep 11, 2009, 12:29 PM ]
Hey all! I know it's been a while, but I have a new commitment to this blog and I'll be trying to post updates more frequently going forward. 

Friday, September 4th, 2009
Rest day in Trail, BC

Back in Jasper we met a solo rider named Lorraine who was spending a month riding through the BC/Alberta area. When she heard that our route would take us through her hometown, she offered to let us spend a night or two at her place when we got to the area. She was a great host and had already bought steak, salad and ice cream in anticipation of our arrival. Our rest day there ended up being very relaxing. Unfortunately I had a splitting headache for most of the day, so I just took it easy and rested. I guess it's better to not feel well on a rest day than a riding day. 

At Lorraine's, I spent a while researching routes in Washington. Our initial plan was to cross the border in western Washington, and head East through the Cascades toward the Olympic Peninsula. It turns out there are lots of scenic routes in Washington, and when I came across the Coulee Corridor, and saw that it was scenic and FLAT, my mind was made up. After about two and a half months in the mountains I was ready for a change of scenery and I was sure my legs wouldn't miss the huge climbs of the Cascades.

Chris was still having some muscle pain in his left leg, so his plan was to ride slowly down to Spokane and catch a train into Pasco. We would meet up there and continue riding East toward the Oregon Coast.

That night we treated Lorraine to a homemade taco dinner, with some Swiss rolls for dessert.

Saturday, September 5th, 2009
Trail, BC (Canada) to Marcus Island Campground, WA (US)

I got a pretty late start on this day. Chris and I had a long talk in the morning that resulted in the decision for us to continue our journey to Argentina separately. Traveling with another person always has its challenges, and when you combine those with the challenge of a 13,000 mile bike ride, it's not hard for things to get unacceptably difficult for both people. We had a great ride from Inuvik to the US border, and I wish Chris the best of luck with the rest of his trip.

After leaving Lorraine's, I had to stop at the Walmart for some groceries, then I was back on the road headed to the small border crossing station at Boundary Washington. The road after the border ended up being paved, even though two maps indicated it would not be, and it was a very quiet, peaceful ride through forest and dry pasture. The road had some rolling hills - none of which were very bad - and there were often grassy, tree-speckled hills in the distance.

That night I got to the Marcus Island Campground, which was full on account of it being Labor Day weekend. This was good news for me; since I wasn't in a real camp site, I didn't have to pay! I chatted with Loren for a while, who was spending the weekend there with his family. He was from Washington and gave me lots of advice about my route through the state. It was reassuring to hear that my choice of the Coulee Corridor was a good one, but he went on to point to almost every other part of the state, saying how they're all good too. At least I knew if I changed my mind again, I could expect good scenery pretty much anywhere.

4:23 hrs / 12.2 mph avg / 53.9 miles

Sunday, September 6th, 2009
Marcus Island Campground, WA to Sherman Pass Overlook Campground, WA

I woke up to a rainy morning and since I had what might be the largest pass of the trip ahead of me, I thought about taking a rain day and doing the climb in dryer weather. It didn't take long for the rain to clear up, after which a rainbow appeared that touched down right onto Roosevelt Lake. As I was packing up, Loren came by with some potatoes, bacon and beef. I had already eaten a big bowl of cereal and some dried bananas, but it's not often I get REAL food for breakfast and I gladly accepted.

Sherman Pass is just under 5600 feet, and the climb starts at about 1600 feet. The road climbs the 4000 feet in about 20 miles, making it the longest climb of the trip so far, with the most elevation gain. The first 1/3rd of the climb was very easy, and I considered continuing West through the Cascades again, but the last 2/3s made me realize the Coulee Corridor was the way to go. After climbing for hours, I started thinking that the climb would never end and that I'd be going uphill for the rest of the trip. There was a short hail storm during the climb, and when the second storm came a mile before the pass, I decided I'd stay at the campground there for the night. During the climb, the temperature was about 60 degrees F, and after getting to camp it was down to 40 deg F. This was enough to numb my fingers and I made a few cups of hot chocolate to warm up.

The campground did not have any water, which was surprising because multiple signs had said there would be. Even stranger is that all the signs said there would be a rest area, but none said there would be camping! Luckily, some fellow campers had some bottled water, which they gave me free of charge.

Today's Food
Granola cereal with milk
2 cups milk to drink
Dried bananas
Fruit bar
Plate of potatoes, bacon and beef
Trail mix

Fruit bar
Granola bar
2 flat bun peanut butter sandwhiches
Cheese and crackers
Trail mix

2 hot chocolates
Creamy bacon Carbonara with canned chicken
Ice tea mix
Trail mix

4.5 hrs / 6.9 mph avg / 31.9 miles

Monday, September 7th, 2009
Sherman Pass Overlook, WA to Keller Park, WA

My day started off with the final mile of climbing to the pass, then a 20 mile downhill! After passing through the small town of Republic, I turned south onto route 21 and into a pretty stiff headwind. 21 was a nice flat and smooth road that passed through an alternating landscape of valleys and canyons, some having walls 100s of feet high. 

I crossed into the Colville Indian Reservation at just about lunch time, and had lunch and a short nap at a picnic area at the side of the road. The reservation had more quiet riding through some scenic woods and pasture, and I saw my fourth bear of the trip in the early afternoon. It was only a few hundred feet in front of me, and was crossing the road. I kept riding, occasionally yelling the standard "Helloooo bear!". Usually once a bear sees or hears someone, they'll get out of the way. 

Today felt like a longer day than it should have and I figured this was due to the headwind. I passed multiple free campgrounds before I got to the town of Keller, and I was glad I held out because the park at Keller was the nicest of them all - nice lawn, running water, picnic tables, and a big Oak tree to hang my hammock from. What more could a cyclist ask for?

5 hrs / 13 mph avg / 66.2 miles

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009
Keller Park, WA to Coulee City Campground, WA

This was an unexpectedly great day. One of my favorite parts of touring is not knowing what to expect, and being blown away by spectacular scenery. I was heading west the first part of the day to get from Route 21 in the reservation to Route 155 north of the Grand Coulee Dam. Two people had told me the connecting road would be flat, but it ended up having a relatively steep 10 mile climb. I passed through a large area of burnt forest during the climb, and I had seen signs asking for information about the arson that has been happening on the reservation. The downhill was amazing, and at one point I rounded a corner and found myself saying Ho-ly crap at the view that appeared before me. 

Shortly after getting onto 155 (aka The Coulee Corridor), I got to the Grand Coulee Dam. The dam is the largest concrete structure (in the US?) and is the largest electric energy producer.

The Coulee Coridor did not disappoint today. After the dam I rode past Banks Lake, which is surrounded by steep cliffs and has great views of Steamboat Rock. I did some grocery shopping in Grand Coulee, and sent some of the shared gear that Chris had been carrying back home.

When I was in Grand Coulee, I got some corn muffin mix, that I experimented with that night. I made the mix a little thicker than they recommended, and tried to pan-cook the bread. The results were OK, although I wasn't able to keep from burning one side of the bread. Longer cooking time and less heat is probably the answer.

This was another long feeling day. The road was still flat, but a wind from the South made it harder work than it would have been otherwise.

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009
Coulee City Campground, WA to Farm South of Moses Lake, WA

I had been getting late starts the last few days, and today I was on the road by 9:30. Shortly after starting, I got to Dry Falls, which were once the largest waterfall in the world. What remains are huge cliffs - miles long - that form a canyon with many small ponds at the bottom. When I got my first glimpse of it, I felt like I was looking at the Grand Canyon.

The riding was very scenic past Park, Blue and Lenore lakes, and became less spectacular south of the town of Park. I considered camping at Moses Lake, but the only campground the information center knew about was too expensive, and they said there was free camping at the dunes just south of town. I rode to the dunes and found that they're a "playground" for ORVs, or Outdoor Recreation Vehicles. Powerlines ran just above the dunes, and overall I wasn't impressed. Since I knew I'd have a long day on Thursday, I decided to keep riding South beyond the dunes. 

The sun was setting as I rode through the farmland south of Moses lake, and it was the best sunset of the trip by far. I ended up camping behind a stack of hay bails on the side of the road, and managed to snap some great pictures of the sunset before the show was over. Just after the sun had set, I could hear Coyotes howling in the distance, and shortly after, a dog-like animal passed by where I was sleeping. Since I was only under my tarp, I grabbed my bear spray just to be safe, but that was my last animal encounter of the night.

5:38 hrs / 11.4 avg / 64.5 miles

Thursday, September 10th, 2009
Farm South of Moses Lake, WA to Kennewick, WA

Today I was on the road by 9AM and stopped early on at a gas station where I got some orange juice, a cinnamon roll and a nice map of Washington and Oregon. The Coulee Corridor Scenic Route ended near the town of Othello. Overall I was very happy with my choice to ride it. The Northern part of the route had the best scenery by far - the southern half only having farmland and no interesting geological features. 

After the town of Mesa, Route 17 ends at Route 395 - a big divided highway that is no place for bikes. Using my new map, I found a nice alternate route on quiet farm roads West of 395. Riding through the farmland was pretty interesting, and I realized that the round green spots I've always seen from planes are the result of the large irrigation systems that roll on wheels and pivot around a single point in the center.

I got into Pasco and no one could recommend any campgrounds in the area. A guy in a gas station told me that his friend is staying under a bridge, but he likes to keep it to himself. I didn't feel like intruding, so I rode farther down into Kennewick looking for other options. Kennewick was supposed to have a new Visitor Center but it was getting late and I couldn't find it. Finally I saw a Days Inn and decided to splurge and get a room. This was my first hotel room of the trip after three months, and I was surprised how little interest I had in TV. I did watch some Conan, and stayed up until about 3AM planning my next two weeks of travel. Even though the hotel cost much more than I'm used to, I really needed to get on the Internet, and since I hadn't had a shower since Trail, that was long overdue.

6:10 hrs / 12/8 avg / 79.3 miles

The future...

I'll take five days of riding to get to Portland Oregon, using the Lewis and Clarke route and the Columbia River Gorge. Once I get to Portland, I'm planning to rent a car and see all the parts of Washington I couldn't get to by bike. This should take me 6 days at about 200 miles per day, and this should be a good amount of time off the bike.

I'm considering riding through Central America now, instead of flying from Mexico City/Toluca to Ecuador. Stay tuned for more info on that...

Adios for now!