Into the USA & over the Northern Cascades Highway

029. Climbing up to Washington PassLast Saturday (16th July) we left Osoyoos, spent the last of our Canadian dollars on sourdough focaccia from the amazing Lake Village Bakery (as an aside why have we found so many great bakeries in Canada compared to the UK which seems devoid of decent, independent places that don’t require a second mortgage?) and rode our final 8km on Canadian soil alongside Osoyoos Lake before reaching the Canadian / US border.  We were expecting a bit of a grilling about our intentions in the USA, evidence of our flight home, monies to support ourselves etc., but it was straightforward and that was that.  After six weeks in Canada we had left.  The final part of our adventure beckoned.

The plan whilst in the USA is simple, to cycle down the Pacific Coast, get to Los Angeles, have a holiday and fly back to London on the 5th of October.  Unfortunately, (or fortunately if one likes mountain scenery) the Cascades stood between us and the Pacific coast.  That meant climbing over two massive mountain passes to reach the coast, but first we had to cycle 80km from Osoyoos to pick up the North Cascades Highway in Omak.  After the border crossing we rode south through arid scenery (the Canadian say this area is a desert, but the Americans say it’s just arid) and lots of irrigated fruit trees.  We picked up a small peaceful road that paralleled the main highway for a lot of the ride.  This area seemed very friendly; people stopped to chat with us and one woman offered us her garden as a picnic site, but it was too early for lunch and we continued south, enjoying the tailwind.  Before long we reached Omak, and Annie & Scott’s house who were hosting us for our first night on American soil.  As well as us they were also hosting a couple who were heading across the USA with a two year old child in a trailer.  We were suitably impressed.

On Sunday we had to slog over the first of the two passes to reach the Pacific coast.  We left Omak, confirmed we were definitely in the USA by visiting a Walmart where people were “camping” in their RVs, finding a drive through ATM, seeing a Mormon church, spotting a gun club and seeing the all too common site of a morbidly obese person.  The skies were grey and threatening as were started the 1,000m climb up the Loup Loup pass.  It was a long slow slog but at a gradual gradient through woodland and the road was pretty quiet.  After all that effort we then dropped like a stone for 700m, which was great fun.  The road was open and we didn’t need to brake for any of the bends.  The weight of the touring bikes is really noticeable on the climbs and they don’t descend too quickly either, which is probably because the panniers aren’t exactly aerodynamic.  We stopped to chat to two touring cyclists going up the hill who asked how much further it was to the top.  They were excited to hear it was 600m, then less so when I emphasised 600 vertical meters.  One of them was riding a triathlon bike with Mavic Ksyrium wheels, not the most ideal wheels we thought for panniers and a trans American ride, but each to their own.  The descent ended in the Methow Valley, where there was a howling gale.  We got to Twisp before the bakery closed, but they’d run out of cinnamon twisps that everyone talks about and so we carried on into the wind, arriving a bit later than planned at our WarmShowers hosts for that evening, Susan & Julie.

Their house in the Methow valley was beautiful, the views were to die for and we felt extremely lucky to be staying at such a wonderful place.  The weather forecast for Monday was mixed and we were sorely tempted to stay another day.  Or even another two weeks as they needed someone to house sit as they were going away.  If we weren’t on a deadline for a flight back to the UK we would have stayed, but we awoke on Monday to blue skies and we carried on up the Methow valley. The first stop was the cool Mazama store for breakfast number 2 that Julie had recommended.  We weren’t disappointed.  Their breakfast bagels, plus a muesli bar, powered us up Washington Pass, another 1000+ m climb.  More stunning views, more massive mountains.  At the top was the lead PAC Tour vehicle, which I’d heard about from a friend.  We chatted for a bit, got given some food and heard how Susan Notorangelo had ridden Paris Breast Paris in 54 hours and held the woman’s record for ten years.

We were only half way through the day, but it was getting late and there was thunder rumbling so we plummeted down the other side towards the bluer skies, waving at the PAC Tour cyclists heading up the hill.  We got to the national park campsite before the rain and after a long sweaty day washed off in the lake.  We were now on the correct side of the Cascades.

Just as we were going to bed on Monday it started raining and continued for most of the night.  This was the first real test of our tarp after the cat attack and we stayed dry.  Whoop!  Monday was our final day in the Cascades.  We rode pass the massive hydroelectric dams, through two tunnels and out of the mountains.  We passed through the weird town of Concrete and pitched up at the Rasar State Park.  This was our first experience of a hiker/biker site, which was $6 each.  We got a cute pitch in the woods and being a state park the surrounding area was beautiful.  We also had showers, toilets etc. and so similar facilities to campsites that charge three times as much.

Since leaving Neil & Ali at Fort Steele two weeks and 860km ago we’ve been heading west towards the Pacific coast but today (Wednesday 20th July) would be the final western bound day and it felt quite momentous knowing that by the end of the day we’d be on the long home straight towards Los Angeles.  We weren’t expecting much from the day, but it turned out the cycling was really pleasant, especially the first part along the Skagit River to Sedro-Woolley.  In Burlington we stopped at the Train Wreck Bar for an early lunch as Scott & Annie had told us they did great breakfast and we figured they’d also do great lunches.  One massive burger and pile of chips later we decided they did pretty good lunches too.  One of Philippa’s requests for the USA was to visit a diner for breakfast; I’m not sure if lunch at the Train Wreck Bar counts and if she meant a diner or many diners.  Time will tell.  We set off from Burlington and were relieved it was flat, Dutch flat, for the next 25km as we digested all the food.  Once onto Fidalgo Island we turned south and started the trip down to Los Angeles, not that we’ve gotten very far south so far being camped in another great State Park at the northern tip of Whidbey Island.

To OmakTo WinthropTo Colonial CreekTo Rasar State ParkTo Deception Pass State Park



One thought on “Into the USA & over the Northern Cascades Highway

  1. Pingback: Our final stats – Tyred and Hungry

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