Saturday, June 05, 2010

An Encounter with the Law, Some Large Beasts, and A Change of Plans

When Kent asked me to update this blog in his absence, he said that he expected me to be writing "in my own voice."  This is a good thing, because that's the only voice I've got, and since it can be rather quirky I'll begin by sharing a bit of where that voice is coming from. 

Though I've been referred to more than once as "Mrs. Kentsbike" (and don't mind; the Internet is a weird place), I generally go by "Christine."  In my off-the-Internet life I'm a Licensed Lay Preacher in the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia and a Personal Shopper for Safeway.com.  I love to read, write, sing, and wander around on foot in this beautiful part of the world that I live in.  And mostly, I love the man who has become known to you all as "Mountain Turtle" and who rolled out this past Thursday morning, headed for Banff and the start of the Tour Divide.  For the last 25+ years, Kent has been my life companion, best friend, and soul mate, and is the father of our two wonderful sons, and for the next month watching, waiting, cheering him on, and praying that all goes well for him on this adventure will be the most important thing I do.  And as he keeps in touch with me, I'll pass on the news as best I can.

First, our heartfelt thanks to everyone who made it to The Bicycle Center on Thursday morning and to anyone else who was there in spirit to wish Kent well, and especially to those who rode along to keep him company on this side of the mountains.  If you're following on Twitter, there's a great picture from the top of Snoqualmie Pass.

From Snoqualmie Pass, Kent began his solo journey continuing on toward Banff, covering about 100 miles for the day and stopping somewhere between Cle Elum and Ellensburg.  It was well past dark, and raining, when he pulled over to camp in a secluded spot, with one small ranch house in the distance.  Little did he know that the folks in the ranch house were awake and had spotted his light, wondered what was going on, and called the police.  When the cops showed up, they had what Kent called "a lovely chat."  They let him know it was okay to camp there, and told him to "have a good trip."  I was glad to hear of this reasonable and hospitable attitude, as getting tossed into the pokey in Ellensburg could have seriously delayed Kent in getting to Banff on schedule!

The delay, however, would come in the course of Friday's adventures.  The day began auspiciously with the discovery of a mini-mart with a "coffee robot" and fortified by caffeine, Kent headed up toward Colockum Pass.  I thought he had been just about everywhere by bicycle there was to go in the State of Washington, but he had never been to Colockum Pass, and was really looking forward to it. 

The Colockum Wildlife Area of Eastern Washington provides year-round habitat for bighorn sheep, mule deer, coyote, and a substantial herd of Rocky Mountain Elk.  The area also supports an amazing variety of birds (including eagles and hawks), insects, and wildflowers.  A "network of primitive roads" passes through the area, and the main road through the area, Colockum Pass road, is described as "a particularly rocky ride."  A cautionary note suggests that "detailed maps are recommended for navigating as many roads are not easily passable."  Do you begin to see why my husband found this place so alluring?

Alas, the siren song of the Colockum Pass road can lead even the experienced and determined wilderness traveler astray.  Perhaps you are familiar with Robert Frost's famous poem "The Road Not Taken":

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
and looked down one as far as I could . . .


Anyone with a love of outdoor adventure, either afoot or awheel, can probably relate to that "roads diverged" experience.  But Robert Frost was the quintessential New England poet, which is why he probably never made it into the Colockum Wildlife Area of Eastern Washington.  At Colockum Wildlife Area, there are not two roads diverging.  There are about 20 roads diverging, a "network of many primitive roads" diverging all over the place, with no clear indication of which "particularly rocky" one leads over the Colockum Pass.  The road our traveler eventually opted to take led him on a long climb through some beautiful sub-alpine country, complete with sightings of the magnificent Rocky Mountain Elk, and finally dead-ended with a sign that the land ahead was Protected Elk Habitat, closed to any further travel. 

So there was nothing to do but backtrack, all the way down.  Kent reached 40mph on the descents, aided by a tailwind, but after this adventure decided to take advantage of the wind, continuing on the far less navigationally challenging I-90, basically following the Cannonball route to Spokane.  He was able to stop at another mini-mart for a cheeseburger and frappucino, and after logging about 120 miles for the day camped Friday night at sand dunes by Moses Lake under very bright stars with NO RAIN and a good forecast for the days ahead.

As of noon today Kent was about 40 miles out of Spokane.  From Spokane, he'll take the Centennial Trail and continue into Idaho, having decided to stick to the most direct routes so that he can arrive in Banff on schedule after his elk-viewing detour.  He was able to get free coffee and cookies from a group of Scouts at a rest area, and lightened his load by leaving them all that heavy spare change he was carrying around.  He says the Montana Jersey (with the grizzly on the front and the giant claws on the sleeves) from Adrenaline Promotions is getting lots of comments, mostly from people who ask if he's from Montana.  Explaining where you're from and where you're going on this sort of adventure can get complicated, so he tells them he's "headed to Eureka."

"Oh, wow, that's really far!"

Yes, it is.  And they don't know the half of it.

Go Mountain Turtle!

Christine Peterson
Issaquah, Washington




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