Sunday, July 24, 2016



It was a bit unceremonious as my lovely wife (and cycling domestique) left us at a gas station parking lot just a stone’s throw from the Canadian border. And we felt a brief sense of abandonment as we watched her drive swiftly to the freeway onramp heading back toward Seattle. That didn’t last long as Lee and I felt in total control of our destiny again, with nothing to do but pedal our bikes for hours and arrive at our destination before dark. 

This was part two of our west coast adventure. In 2015, Lee and I, friends since high school, along with our 3rd Musketeer, Rob, plotted to ride the entire west coast in three segments. That year the three of us rode from the Golden Gate Bridge to San Diego, some 650 miles later. It was a perfect trip – California coastline, surf, beach cities, and bronzed beach bodies to keep our attention. Our approach was light and fast – typically 100 miles per day on our lightweight road bikes, with full gear support from the very supportive Mrs. J. We even threw in one 200 mile day, starting at 4am by headlamp, riding through Malibu, Newport Beach, and eventually to Rob’s Jacuzzi and refrigerator in San Clemente.

But this was 2016, and part two begins at the Canadian border today, and ends at the central Oregon coast some 600 miles away. The demands of life and a career prevented Rob from joining us this year, so we Two Musketeers looked around the gas station for a road that would lead us, well, south! But not before exploring the Canadian border, which was literally 100 yards behind the gas station at “Peace Arch Park”. A big arch between the north and southbound lanes of I5 signifies the friendship of our two countries, and a few border markers make a great backdrop for photos. And now, it’s time to ride!

We’re north of Seattle, on the coastline of the straits and bays between Washington and Vancouver Island. We didn’t plan to “island hop”, as is common bicycle recreation here, but one island and a ferry was mandatory. So we rode along the coast and on to Whidbey Island, where we could take the ferry to Port Townsend, our destination for the day.

The details of riding include scenery, hills, and very long, flat stretches of smooth road with a nice shoulder. These flat stretches are where we can pedal hard and fast, take turns in front to create a draft, then rotate to the back to rest in the draft. We rotate “leads” every two minutes or so. This fast-paced coordination is really fun, and requires some focus to stay about 24” behind the wheel of the leader. We cover a mile in about three minutes. We like this!

The Washington coast is shallow, and we pass oyster beds, and oyster farms everywhere. There are huge piles of crushed oyster shells waiting for disposal. Not at all like the beaches of Southern California. And people just seem to live on the beach. Modest homes and an occasional double-wide – far from the exclusive coast neighborhoods of California.

We’ve mapped out the ride in general, but we don’t really know what to expect until we get there. A little help from Google Maps shows us alternate local roads, and we almost always choose the road closest to the water (except residential roads). It seems every choice we make is perfect – smooth riding and beautiful scenery. We see F-16’s landing at the military base on Whidbey Island, and arrive at the ferry by late afternoon. Arriving at our motel in Port Townsend, Mrs. J has prepared a cheese and meat spread for us, and our first tasting in our week long assignment to taste-test Italian Prosecco’s (sparkling wines).  It’s a perfect way to end our first day on the road.

Each day we spend about 7 hours in the saddle. Through Olympic National Park we see the beauty of the Olympic Peninsula, but we are distracted by the unending parade of logging trucks. Lee starts counting, and we are passed by over 50 of them on day two, on our way to Forks, WA. Another beautiful day for riding, until mile 60 when it begins to rain. It’s a warm, steady rain, so we just continue to ride, until it eventually downpours to the point we put on our lightweight windbreakers to stay warm (but not dry). It’s kind of fun riding in the rain, but we work to avoid the painted lines on the road which become very, very slick.

Mrs. J (her name is Pam, by the way) calls me around 1:00, sort of asking if the motel I booked might look like a crack house. I explained that the photos weren’t so nice, but a crack house? It was the only motel available on when I booked it. We agreed to take the loss if Pam could find a more suitable motel that met her comfort standards. The new hotel was pretty basic, but no crack-heads here.

The Prosecco ritual became something we all looked forward to. And, by the way, our favorite was Zonin Prosecco, available at Trader Joe’s. But something about drinking a sparkling wine after 100 miles in the saddle just makes it so much more refreshing.

The last 4 miles into Astoria, our entry into Oregon, was on a long, narrow bridge. Bridges are windy, and tricky riding, and this one ascends about 600 feet in the last half-mile. And Lee thinks we should go faster. I stick to his wheel, our speed increases, as does my heart rate that shows on my monitor. The last 100 yards my legs and lungs are burning, Lee is still accelerating, but knowing it’s the end of the ride and we’re just minutes away from our next bubbly makes it worth the extra effort. And it is, as our room overhangs the water in the marina, and we can see in profile just how steep that bridge is. And tonight a special toast to Rob, who should be with us, and we miss him, especially tonight.

Oregon roads are much smoother than Washington chip-seal roads. And Oregon coastal cities are more charming and “beachy” in a way we like. There is still a lot of oyster shucking going on, so I start ordering the local fare at dinner each evening. Oysters in a shot glass with vodka is a good way to go. 

A tail wind helped us for the next couple of hundred miles, which makes for really, really enjoyable riding. But nothing helped so much as a wonderful partnership of riding adventure between Lee and I. Friends since high school, and roommates in the 80’s, we have a lot of history to discuss. It’s fun to recall “back then” when we were young, optimistic, very naive, and had no idea how our lives would turn out. We both acknowledge that in a lot of ways things are better than we might have hoped for. These rides give us time to talk a lot  – about why we ride (an ongoing conversation), the major choices in our lives that led us to where we are, people in our lives that have made a difference, and plans on how we want to spend the next 20 years!  We finish each day with a lot of gratitude: for our good health, our lasting friendship, and our remarkable families. I love riding with Lee! 

Thursday, June 30, 2016



Like many of my adventures, it started out in a casual conversation – “have you heard of this mountain bike trip from Telluride to Moab where you stay overnight in huts?” Of course that sounded interesting, so with a little help from Google, I was soon staring at all the details: 250 miles, 7 days/6 night, fully-stocked huts for parties up to 8 riders. Information in hand, I went on a “recruiting” effort, and within 3 days we were a group of four. “I’m in” was all I needed to hear, from Mark, Scott, and Lee. I do a few adventures with these guys, and I know them to be great partners. And reliability is an important characteristic for an adventure partner – these guys are the best.

And so it was planned. Not a lot of questions other than “when”. So we picked some dates around Mark’s planned trip to Colorado. We’d actually leave a week early, do a little climbing in Boulder, Colorado, and a little cycling and touring in Vail. I love a good road trip, and this one required that I bring gear for three different sports: Road biking, rock climbing, and mountain biking. Plus some nice clothes for dinners out with Lee’s lovely wife, Kathy.

Lee in the "backseat" of
Marks Sprinter
We load up Mark’s Sprinter (luxury van) for the cruise across Nevada, Utah, and Colorado. Our “hut to hut” is foremost on our mind, and we realize we don’t really know that much about what we’re getting into. We don’t care, however, because it’s ALL good, and we have a great group of guys. Mark is the best climbing partner one could ask for - several trips up El Cap, Half Dome, the Bugaboos, and all over the West. Scott is his nephew, who is a great friend and a Cat II bike racer (that’s fast). Lee and I went to high school together, I introduced him to his wife, and we’ve done some amazing road bike rides together in Colorado and the coast of California. Late in the game, Rick, a friend from grad school heard about the trip and immediately signed up.

After some climbing and riding in Denver, Mark, Lee and I head for Vail, and the “Go Pro Games" - slack-lining demos, kayak racing, and bike racing. And gear! We really like gear!

The next morning we’re off to Telluride, a beautiful ski resort in southwest Colorado. It sits in a most beautiful box canyon, surrounded by very dramatic high mountains. This is the most European-like landscape in all of the US. This is unique and invigorating, as are the adventurous souls who live there. And everyone seems to own a dog.

We have maps, our bikes, and some clothes. The huts have everything else – food, sleeping bags, and for an extra $48.50 each they put some beers and cans of wine in the huts for us. We roll out of Telluride, excited and full of anticipation, and search for the trail. We start at 9,000 feet and will climb to over 11,000 today, which is our short day at 18 miles. The views of the nearby San Juan Mountains are truly spectacular. The scene is the exact picture that appears on the Coors beer label. The hut is simple, with bunks for 8 people, with shelves stocked with all the goodies you might buy by the case at Costco – canned chicken, Top Ramen, and a huge bag of peanut M and M’s. The ice chest has eggs, bacon, and cheese. Did I mention Spam? At 11,000 feet after riding, Spam is versatile and quite tasty!

Day 6, crossing from Colorado into Utah. 
Each day was a full day of riding – some dirt roads, and hopefully a lot of single track. On day 3, in search of one of the cherished single track options, we headed downhill, then found our trail off to the right. There were a few cows, and the mess they left behind on the trail. Then a few more cattle. Then a herd. It was nuts – I’ve never seen so many cattle, especially up close and personal. As we walked along a disgustingly messy trail, they moved slowly out of the way, then filled in behind us. It was so completely ridiculous, being surrounded by 500 enraged cattle that I kind of enjoyed it (I’m a little twisted). Mark suggested we head back, which was a very practical (and smart) idea. I suggested we continue on our adventure, and soon regretted it when a huge bull came running down the trail toward us. Lee jumped into the creek bed first, then Scott next, and me on top. I imagined my funeral where they would say how brave I was to have protected my friends from the goring that resulted in my sacrifice. It’s a nice sentiment, but I was simply in the wrong place and jumped last. But what’s an adventure without a story, right?

There were a few more stories, which I won’t go into detail. But we enjoyed some incredible landscape as we saw the terrain change from the high altitude mountain forests near Telluride to the high-desert technical-mountain-biking red rock of Moab. We saw a remote resort for high paid CEO’s in the middle of nowhere, and the dope smoking (legal in Colorado) retired mountain guide who toured us around some place we didn’t even know was on the map. We all took some falls, and I’ll share mine because I think I won the “gold” in this contest: a simple but technical downhill on a side slope, and I got a little too far forward, went over the bars at a very slow speed, and landed/rolled into a small ditch. Mark rode right by me and did not see that I was under a lot of brush and my bike, but he heard me moan. I don’t moan easily. So he came to rescue me as I lay there checking my extremities, and hoping that at least I had my helmet camera on. Well, the limbs, torso and head were OK, but the camera was off, so you'll just have to believe me! 

More than ever, this trip was less about the riding and more about time with some guys I really enjoy and admire, and feel lucky to spend this time with. We’re not guys who make fun of each other, or call each other names, or joke about our wives. Rather, we spent a lot of time talking about how lucky we are – to have our good health, and active lifestyles with lots of interesting things to look forward to, and beautiful spouses that make our lives more enjoyable and rewarding. We talked about what we look forward to in the future, our next adventures, and how we plan to “ramp it up” during retirement. I learn a lot from these conversations, and mostly a sense of calm that I’ve always got these great people I can rely on , and share excellent adventures, and who always expect the best of me but are quick to forgive when I don’t give it. And if a bull came running after me, I know any of these guys would jump on top to save me. I think . . . .