Day 15: Babb, MT to Cardston, AB

The riding was lovely today, but we had a rather tough day. As we got ready to go in the morning in Babb, we realized that Rachel had lost her arm-warmers, as we had strapped the arm-warmers and knee-warmers to the trailer when we switched to “sun sleeves” (the thin, white arm and leg coverings that help with the amount of sun exposure we are getting this summer) in Glacier. 

Babb, MT, with Glacier in the background

Babb is a cute little town, with just a restaurant, general store, motel, and antiques store, along with a few houses — and it has a great view of Glacier peeking up over the horizon.

Our route would take us back toward Glacier and through the northeast side of the park, then across the US-Canadian border into Alberta’s Waterton Lakes Park, and back to the plains we encountered in Babb. This involved a fair amount of climbing large, rolling hills into the parks, and shorter, rolling hills out into the plains. 

just outside Babb, with Chief Mountain (Glacier) in the background

We were about 10 miles into our ride when Rachel got her third flat of the trip. Other than the flat caused by a large piece of glass, the other two tube punctures have been on the rim-side of the tube, which is puzzling, as we checked the rim and found nothing that would cause a puncture. So we patched the tube alongside some horses, and continued on. About 10 miles later, the tire was flat again. We patched the back-up tube alongside some cows, and before we knew it, the tube was flat again. This was frustrating, especially as we had left early to avoid the hot sun that we were now exposed to as we searched for punctures and pumped up tubes. It turned out that a) there was a small burr in the rim-tape, and b) we were being impatient with our patches, and not waiting long enough for them to set before pumping up the tubes. We didn’t figure this out until a long day of losing tire pressure, of course! 

Glacier, heading toward Waterton Lakes Park

After we (mostly) fixed the tire issues, we biked into Glacier, getting a view of the other side of the park. We crossed the Canadian border, attempted to find the punctures by placing the tubes into the bathroom sinks at the border crossing (and watched the Canadian border officers search a car), and rode through Waterton Lakes Park.

Waterton Lakes Park

Waterton Lakes and Glacier from the plains of Alberta

It’s gorgeous, though we took more pictures on the previous day’s ride on Going-to-the-Sun Road. Exiting the park was bittersweet, as we were flying down awesome descents, but we were aware that we were leaving mountains for most of the rest of our ride. We rode out onto the plains, stopped in Mountain View, AB to send off some postcards from Canada, and then stopped in Cardston, AB. 


day off in Cardston, AB!

This cute little town has about 3,000 people and about 10 churches. It is a dry town, as are most of the small towns on this side of the US-Canadian border. Nevertheless, it has a bakery that specializes in whole wheat breads and gluten-free products, and the grocery store has vegan faux-cheese products. The town also has a museum with the largest collection of horse-drawn vehicles, a museum of miniatures, and a memorial to Fay Ray, who played the woman captured by King Kong. We arrived at our decent hotel, which has a hot tub and fast wifi.

After our last few long days, with sore quads and technical difficulties, we decided to take a day off here. Rachel is officially done with her two weeks of real vacation, and got to start working on various projects on the hotel wifi. Nick did laundry and figured out the tube/tire/rim issues. It’s been nice to sit in the hot tub (along with many screaming children who are in town for Canada Day weekend), eat salads, and watch movies in a hotel room. Tomorrow morning, we continue on in the plains, where it will be flat, hot, and windy.



today’s ride: 61.1 mi

time in the saddle: 6 hrs, 6 min

total distance: 928 mi


Ione, WA to Sandpoint, ID

We finally got through the first set of Adventure Cycling Association maps! We also finally made it across Washington! We started our day in Ione, and followed the Pend Oreille river all the way to Sandpoint, Idaho. 

starting the day in Ione, WA at the Pend Oreille River

The ride was full of gorgeous views, lots of pine trees, and *blue sky*, which it feels like we haven’t seen in ages. We saw two bald eagles, several large, colorful turkeys, and more deer than we could count.

Much of the ride along the river took us past modest houses, but many others were for sale, being managed by Sotheby’s. Some of the ride was along a road with a terrible shoulder – I (Rachel) ran over a huge broken bottle and got a 2-inch piece of glass stuck in my front tire! 

We started early, took two snack breaks and a lunch break, and then caught up with Ardi and Vince in Newport, ID at the grocery store. We decided to ride the remaining 25-ish miles to Sandpoint together. I (Rachel) had been in a fairly crappy mood all day, feeling rather lethargic. Riding with others is a good way to deal with this – it prevents me from fully indulging in whining or going too slowly.

Riding with Vince and Ardi

We are all sharing a campsite together on the south side of the lake by Sandpoint, mostly to save money. Tomorrow’s 60-ish mile ride should be interesting after today’s long day in the saddle…


Today’s distance: 86.5 mi
Time in the saddle: 7 hrs and 32 min
Total distance: 535 miles

Colville, WA to Ione, WA

We took a short day today instead of a rest day, which we haven’t really taken this week. We got on the road a bit late as we slept in a little at the Bacon Bike Hostel. The ride was fairly uneventful today – just a bit more climbing than we had expected given the flat-looking elevation profile from ACA. We ran into Vince and Arty again, who decided to push on a bit further than we were that day. We passed the very old-looking town of Tiger, which welcomed us to the Pend Oreille region with this sign:

We came into the town of Ione, a small, mostly run-down town with great views of the Pend Oreille river and mountains, where we we ready to rest. We went about 0.5 miles outside of town and stayed at the Ceder RV park, where we had the whole camping area to ourselves, nice showers, wifi, and a nice cooking area, all for $10. We caught up on planning the next few stops of our ride and on a few posts from this blog, and went to bed.


38.4 mi
450 mi total
Time in the saddle: 3 hrs 42 min

Grand Forks, BC to Colville, WA

We rode along the Kettle River most of the day, with more hills than we expected. It rained on and off most of the day, and we biked on a road with relatively heavy traffic. The weather (mostly) cleared up by the afternoon, a welcomed change.

We finally reached Colville, where we bought the best friend for cyclists: an air horn! This is for use against the many dogs that chase us. We got to try it out on our way out of town toward our stop for the night, when three large dogs started to run out of a house, barking at us. Nick blew one short blast, and the dogs were stopped in their tracks. It’s amazing. They are apparently useful to scare away bears as well!

We continued onward until we reached the Bacon Bike Hostel, a house for cyclists set up by the Bacon’s (just to clarify that it is not a hostel filled with bacon). The Bacon’s are an incredibly generous couple – they spend most of their time teaching and practicing medicine in impoverished nations, and they offer up this hostel for cyclists for free! It also has some amazing views right out of the house:

We found two cyclists we had met before there, Vince (Wales) and Arty (Canada), who were taking the day off there. We had our own room and access to a kitchen, which we used to whip up a delicious meal of chipotle seitan, pasta, avocado, and kale.


Today’s ride: 65 miles

Time in the saddle: 6 hours 

(tech issues — these are approximate)

Beth Lake, WA to Grand Forks, BC

When we woke up in Beth Lake, it was still raining. Heavily. We set the alarm for 6AM, and lay in the tent, hoping the rain would stop before we got up. We gave it nearly 2 hours before the need for the restroom surpassed the desire to stay in the tent, and finally got up. We ran around the campsite, packing up quickly and downing an energy bar for breakfast. The ride was beautiful despite the 50 degree, rainy weather – we rode mainly through dense pine forests, up and down rolling hills. Wanting to wait for shelter from the rain for lunch, we pushed ourselves to keep going with empty bellies — and as we rode into Curlew, we saw a restaurant in the middle of nowhere: Tugboats. There, we found a crowd of gregarious ranchers and loggers, a cook/manager?/owner? from the UK, and a menu that included, along with the “super cougar burger,” a veggie burger! Almost anything we eat on this trip tastes delicious, but that veggie burger, curly fries, and coffee were some of the best we’d had in a while. 

We continued onward toward Canada along the muddy Kettle River, a river that flows northward, and eventually reached the border crossing. The Canadian guard appeared to be grilling us about our intentions in Canada, but it turned out he just wanted to recommend a place to stay. We followed his suggestion, eager for a night in a hotel after two nights of rainy camping, and followed the road to the end of the town of Grand Forks to Johnny’s. This was a great choice for bike touring — the friendly owners pointed out that we could park our bikes under the carports, and they offered to dry our wet clothes in their own dryer. We cooked up a veggie soup in the back yard, and then headed to Clyde’s Pub. Grand Forks appears to be a Russian immigrant enclave from some time, as there are several Russian restaurants in the small city. Clyde’s menu included borscht. We were starving despite our own veggie soup, so while Nick watched the NBA finals, we dined on nachos and borscht.

40 miles
3 hours and 47 minutes in the saddle

Winthrop, WA to Beth Lake, WA (2 posts)

June 18th: Winthrop, WA to Tonasket, WA: the land of awesome geographical names

We started our day in Winthrop in our comfortable bed at George and Patty’s place. Reflecting on our conversations with them the previous night, we can’t get over how much we liked them — they take a vacation to bike around France and/or Spain every five years, they take university courses online just for fun, they make their own awesome wine, and they are incredibly generous to traveling cyclists. We hope we are like them when we are another 30 years older! When we finally got on the road, we headed towards Twisp, crossing a beautiful landscape that at times, reminded us of the Jemez Mountains in New Mexico, and at times, reminded us of Provence. After about 10 miles, we reached Twisp, where we bought a “cinnamon twisp” from the Cinnamon Twisp bakery recommended by George and Patty (well worth it!) and mailed home about 3 pounds of stuff that we realized we over-packed. We were stopped by many locals who love to bike and were excited to hear about our trip, and also ran into our fellow Wisconsinites that are biking the same route, Joe and Patty. We were also urged to stop by the Blue Star coffee shop on the way out of town, where we had some of the best espresso we’d ever had. This was a huge help for what awaited us…
We started to ascend Loup Loup Pass, which was a mostly gradual, but consistent, 15 mile climb. We rode over multiple sections that were being tarred as we rode, which was a bit sticky, but nice that it slowed down the traffic along route 20. Along the way, we saw a hawk that stayed remarkably still, and caught up with Joe and Patty again at the top. While they hadn’t stopped at the post office and coffee shop, they are carrying a lot more stuff, so our timing worked out to synch up.
By the time we started riding down Loup Loup, the weather had taken a turn – it would be about 52 degrees and raining for the next several days. Yet the scenery revealed what we knew about the area: it should be desert-like right now. Apparently it is usually about 90 degrees and sunny this time of year. We can’t decide which we’d prefer. As we rode through the high desert scrub, we entered the Coleville Reservation, which appears to have many of the same issues of economic depression that we saw when we lived in New Mexico. 
We were chased by many dogs, including — from one house — a pit bull and a german shepard, which were frightening and have convinced us to order an air-horn that attaches to our bikes. 
It continued to rain and rain and rain, and we rode through fields filled with apple and cherry orchards.
We almost stopped for the day at Riverside, but we pushed onward, as George had told us that there was free camping in Tonasket, run by Jack Black’s stepmother. While we didn’t meet her, we did indeed have free camping behind the visitor’s center in Tonasket, and we were rewarded for our long day of cycling with $1.25 vegan tacos from the food cart in Tonasket. There were no showers, but there were a toilet and sink we could use in the visitor’s center, and free wifi too!

72.8 mi
7 hrs 27 min in the saddle
266 miles total


June 19th: Tonasket, WA to Beth Lake WA: It’s cold, it’s raining, and we kind of hate this right now.

We woke up a bit later today so that we could shop at the coop in Tonasket. As usually happens in these sort of shops, we managed to convince ourselves that it would be ages before we would find these kinds of veggies and favored foods (seitan jerky, natural energy bars, bulk tamari almonds, bulk dehydrated vegan black beans), so we loaded up with way too much food.

Then we set out on George’s Secret Canadian Passage, which, unlike the American Cycling Association’s route over the 5,575-ft Sherman Pass, guaranteed us less climbing for the trade-off of 40 extra miles. George and Patty had warned us that the climb to Havilla would be tough. It was definitely tough, especially since it rained the entire time. We continued to climb, passing a woman who warned us of the wildlife we might see: moose, cougars, black bears, rattlesnakes, and bull head snakes. She offered us a ride over the pass – we thanked her but decided to push on independently. We also ran into Patty, who cheered us on and offered us a break in their other house near Havilla. We were so wet, and wanted to get the climb over with, so we thanked her and declined the offer. When we finally reached Havilla, we were wet, cold, and hungry, so we stopped in the awning of the local church to dry off and make our sandwiches. The door was unlocked, so we entered, and while we were surrounded by anti-gay literature, the pastor came along to investigate the two trespassers and said we were welcome to escape the cold and rain.

I must admit that we cursed George a few times on this climb. We kept reminding ourselves that it was likely snowing on Mt. Sherman, and that we were probably better off — but at 50 degrees, pouring rain, and a steep climb, we were not exactly happy. After one of the descents, we reached Chesaw, a tiny town, where we stopped in the Chesaw Mercantile, a “ma and pa” shop where Ma and Pa greeted us cheerfully and told us to get out of the cold rain. They offered us white-chocolate-covered strawberries that a local had made and given them too many, made us some tea, and let us sit with them for a while to warm up. The pair were probably in their late 60’s or 70’s, and they told us stories about local bears attacking their alpacas and about their decision to move to Washington from Alaska. We tried to make a purchase, but instead they insisted on giving us candy bars.

We climbed some more hills in the cold rain, to finally hit some rolling hills in the *middle of nowhere*, surrounded by forests that we imagined were filled with bears. Therefore, we sang and talked loudly to warn the animals away. The landscape was seriously gorgeous. We have few pictures, as my camera battery died, and it rained all day. We eventually reached our stopping place for the night, Beth Lake campground, a spot run by the US Dept of Agriculture. It would make a short day, but with all that climbing in the cold rain, we were fine with stopping at that point. While the area was beautiful, the run-down nature of the campground and the wet, rainy weather made us a bit less-than-ecstatic. The campground had only a pit toilet, no potable water, and there was a lot of trash in the campsites. There were no rangers or camp hosts to be found. 

Without the bear boxes found at most National Parks in bear country, we had to figure out how to make our first bear hang. Apparently we were supposed to place it further from the trunk, since bears can climb. Next time we will do better. This was one of those nights in which we were bound to hate the trip. We tried to cook up the kale we had bought at the coop in Tonasket, but it was filled with bugs, there was no potable water, and it was still raining. We both admitted that we hated the trip for that evening. We knew these feelings would come and go. We decided to throw together the fastest meal at our disposal (dehydrated refried bean mix thrown into a pot of pasta, kind of like a vegan hamburger helper), and get into the tent to watch the episode of Man Men that we had downloaded on the iPad before the trip.

today’s distance: 39.6 miles
today’s time in the saddle: 5 hours and 45 minutes (so slow up those hills!)
total distance: 306 miles

Rockport, WA to Winthrop, WA

June 16: Rockport, WA to Diablo Lake, WA: blue rivers and lush greenery
We started out our day early, biking towards Northern Cascades Park. We stopped in Marblemount to call/leave messages for our dads on Father’s Day, and then continued along the Skagit River toward the mountains looming in the distance. We took a pretty short day since we did a long day yesterday and were planning on a lot of climbing the next day. Northern Cascades Park is beautiful – filled with waterfalls, wildflowers, and amazing views of the mountains. We only climbed about 1000 feet, stopping in Colonial Creek Campground, as pushing further along Route 20 would mean another 60 miles or so before a campsite or other lodging would be available. 

Skagit River


We got an amazing campsite next to a rushing creek that fed into Diablo Lake, and we were just two sites down from our fellow cycling tourers from Wisconsin. They are carrying a lot more stuff than we are – including a cooler filled with beer – and they offered us a beer before we headed down to the *freezing* cold lake for a bath (it is flowing down from glaciers, after all).

No showers at the campsite? No problem! Freezing cold bath in Diablo Lake!

At the end of our bath in Diablo Lake, we saw a harlequin duck and four tiny ducklings swimming around, catching their dinner. Though the weather was perfect up until that point, we were caught in a thunderstorm while we ate our dinner of lentils and pasta (no veggies in any of the towns today!). This presented a conundrum, as we are in bear country, so it is unwise to take food into the tent. We decided to eat in the rain, and then hide under the eaves of the bathroom building until the rain lightened up. We made it back to the campsite, threw our stuff into the bear box, and went to sleep at 8PM.


Diablo Lake campsite

Cycling Stats:
today’s ride: 39 miles
today’s time in the saddle: 3 hours, 48 minutes
total distance: 108 miles

June 17: Diablo Lake, WA to Winthrop, WA: from the northwest rainforest to the desert, and an amazing free place to stay
What a long day today! We woke up at 5AM to get an early start on our 5,000 foot climb up to Washington Pass, and of course, it was raining – just light rain, but rain nonetheless. We ate our breakfast of overnight-no-cook oatmeal (instant oats, chia seeds, raisins, sugar, walnuts, powdered soy milk and water in a sealable container mixed the night before = cold oatmeal in the morning) and headed out into the mist. We started out with an amazing view out over Diablo Lake, followed by 34 miles of strenuous climbing to Rainy Pass and Washington Pass.

Diablo Lake at dawn

The climb went from raining and cold to hot and sunny and back again, as we were passing between microclimates and weather changes. We ran into a guy who is touring from Edmonton, Canada to San Francisco, and another guy who is touring from the Canadian border to the Mexican border, all along the Cascades and Rockies.

The climb was incredibly deceptive – there was something about the view that made it constantly appear as though we were going downhill, while we were actually climbing. Some of it felt very steep, but most of it just felt really strenuous and slow. It was bizarre.

Rainy Pass

snow at Washington Pass

Washington Pass

 We were rewarded with amazing views and lots of snow when we reached the top, and then headed down out of the lush Cascades into the desert. We had no idea that this part of Washington would be so similar to our old home of New Mexico.

Washington desert

Unfortunately, that ride down the Cascades was so steep that our hands ached from braking the whole way down — but at least we didn’t have to pedal! We went through the town of Mazama, where a great little shop had tons of bulk foods and local veggies, and then to Winthrop. Winthrop is a funny little town, clearly built for tourists, as it is meant to look like an old Western town – but also has a thriving local community. We almost went straight through it to spend the night in Twisp, but I got a flat tire. Just as we started to pedal onward, we heard “PSSST!” That was when we met George, who is building a lovely rental place right on Route 20. He has done plenty of bike touring, and he offered us a night in this mostly-finished apartment. It’s definitely not done yet, but it is far preferable to camping. The place is well on its way to being a very desirable place to stay – it’s right on the river, it has a deck, fireplace, and very nice kitchen – and they are having us stay for free. We had heard about these kinds of gestures to cycle-touring folks before, but hadn’t experienced it before. He and his wife let us take showers in their awesome bathroom in their home down the road, offered us a glass of wine, and showed us an alternative route we can take through Canada rather than heading over Sherman Pass. Now, we are writing this blog post from a comfortable bed while listening to the river below. After the incredibly long day we had up Washington Pass, this was the most exciting thing that could have happened to us. We hope we can extend this kindness to cyclists when we are back home.

not in a tent tonight!


Cycling Stats:
today’s distance: 65.4 miles
today’s time in the saddle: 7 hours and 41 minutes (that was about 5 miles per hour up to Washington Pass!)
total distance: 193 miles