Monday, September 26, 2011


Here's my son, Baker, getting the newly crowned World Champion's autograph during the '09 Tour of California. (My guess is that Baker is now as tall as Cav.)

Saturday, September 24, 2011


The Titanium Cowboys got in a 73-miler down to LaConner and back, our first road ride together since the Tour de Whatcom at the end of July.

Terrific ride down Chuckanut Drive across the Skagit Flats into a headwind we knew would be a tailwind on our way back from L'town.  
In LaConner, we got down to serious bidness: foofy espresso drinks, Gatorade, Three Musketeers bars--it was all good. The ride back was the aforementioned tailwind (22 mph w/ nary a pedal turned in anger), several hellatious town sign sprints, a two-mile stretch of gravel road at the top of Colony Mountain Road (suggested by me; I don't think it was popular) and a climb up out of the Lake Samish basin.
A super kickoff to fall with all matches burnt down to the end. 
Every last one.

Friday, September 16, 2011


Any guesses where this shot was taken? Any guesses who the rider is? Any guesses what jersey he's wearing?

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Wow! Click here for a terrifically amazing story in the Seattle Times about the revamped trail at Washington Pass. Pulitzer worthy fer sure. Let me see who wrote it. It was ... oh. Well, now this is embarrassing.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Other than downing a fair amount of Peanut Butter Cup-flavored Breyers Blast ice cream, I've not been doing a whole lot lately. Skipped the Mount Baker Hill Climb, not doing the Bellingham Traverse, might do a 50- or 60-mile leg of Sunday's Chuckanut Century though, for the first time since St. Swithin's Day, the weather looks iffy. So I don't know.  
I'd been planning on picking up my running a bit--I even signed up for next January's Orcas Island 25K--but have been plagued by an annoying calf tweakage issue. I run for two minutes, all is fine and then BAM!--my right calf hurts like heck. Doesn't bother me at all when I bike, but running right now is pretty much out of the question. So, more than likely I'm gonna go eat worms.

Before I do that, however, here's a story I wrote a couple months ago for The Seattle Times. Lots of people told me they liked it so I thought I'd share it here. (On the July day it ran, the story rose to Number 1 on the most e-mailed list. Story it knocked out of the top spot? The one about the guy whose wife cut his you-know-what off and put it in the garbage disposal.)

5 roads to nowhere: the best of Washington's boonies
Outdoors writer Mike McQuaide, fresh from penning a Mountaineers guidebook to Washington cycling routes, offers his five favorite roads to the middle of nowhere — suitable for riding or driving.
At 2,622 feet, Waterville, which is northeast of Wenatchee, boasts the highest elevation of any incorporated city in Washington.
In researching an upcoming guidebook on road cycling routes in Washington, your intrepid author has been all over, sniffing out great places to ride throughout the hidden corners and back roads of this grand Evergreen State. Along the way, he's seen some spectacular sights: the sparkling waters of the Similkameen River cutting through rocky canyons up near Oroville; the bird's-eye views of the Columbia River Valley set against the Cascades from way up high on Badger Mountain; the roly-poly Dr. Seuss-esque hills surrounding charming Waitsburg and Dayton in the southeast corner of the state. And lots more.

I was looking for cycling routes — and strenuous, fairly longish ones at that — but for those who aren't given to pedaling, these make for some terrific drives as well. They're mostly on rural, low-traffic roads smack in the middle of nowhere but pass through small towns and parks that offer plenty of diversions.

Here are five Washington routes to the best kind of nowhere:

Badger Mountain-Waterville
Where: Northeast of Wenatchee.

Admittedly, this is two places. Or rather, this route to Waterville includes a climb of Badger Mountain which, for you cyclists out there, rises 2,750 feet in 8.3 miles. Youch! (Uh, and it's the route's first 8.3 miles; so much for a warm-up.)

But turn around on the way up — or pull over at one of several pullout spots and check out the view — Incroyable! Down in the valley, the mighty Columbia River lazes its way through the rich, fertile Wenatchee Valley while foothill upon foothill and rocky ridgeline upon rocky ridgeline rise ever higher to the majestic Central Cascades.

For you GPS-enabled riders, the climb is mostly 7 percent, with some stretches up to 12. (Did I already say, "Youch!"?) NOTE: This climb is unshaded and the route as a whole can be very hot. Carry two water bottles and avoid riding it in the heat of the day.

A little past the 8-mile mark, the climb levels out and bumps up and down — more up than down — through sagebrushy hills and pine forest, eventually topping out at 4,100 feet, 18 miles from the start. A 2-mile gravel-road descent follows (which might give skinny-tired cyclists pause), delivering one onto the high, dry flatlands of the Waterville Plateau.

Once on the plateau, the miragelike clump of trees and buildings to the north reveals the quaint, nowheresville burg of Waterville, the highest incorporated town in Washington. (Elevation-wise, that is.) The town of about 1,200 is at an elevation of 2,622 feet.

Get there by turning left onto paved P Road Northwest and in 2.5 miles, right onto 2 Road Northwest, which, just ahead, runs into Highway 2, Waterville's main arterial. Founded in 1885, Waterville has long been a hub for the area's wheat commerce and boasts many historic buildings.

Places to eat and stay: Blue Rooster Artisan Bakery and the Waterville Historic Hotel.

Speedy cows roam the outskirts of Oroville.
Tonasket-Oroville loops
Where: Northeast of the Methow Valley.

In Northcentral Washington, the Okanogan River town of Tonasket and the border town of Oroville, on Lake Osoyoos, can be linked together by a couple of fun riding and/or driving loops.

Loop 1: From Tonasket, a cool, funky town of about 1,000, an eastern loop heads up through the high, dry, open forest and farmland of the Okanogan highlands. It's a consistent, but not brutal, 20 miles of climbing, but the sweeping views down into the Okanogan Valley are stunners and make it all worth it. Passing ranchland and dodging tumbleweed after tumbleweed through tiny spots on the map such as Havillah, you feel like you're riding through the set of an old Western movie.

About 20 miles from Tonasket, reach the tiny, one-chairlift Sitzmark Ski Area (Whistler it's not), this loop's literal high point, and begin the fun 17-mile descent back down into the Okanogan Valley and the town of Oroville, just four miles south of the Canadian border. (There's an official border crossing there.) From Oroville, head south back to Tonasket on Highway 7 along the west bank of the Okanogan River (less traffic than on Highway 97 on the river's east bank). Or ...

Loop 2: Follow the western loop on Loomis-Oroville Road, which traces the Similkameen River through a stunning rocky gorge on the edge of the Pasayten Wilderness. This loop passes through tiny burgs such as Nighthawk and Loomis and alongside Palmer Lake, a mouth-gape-causing stunner at the foot of 5,000-foot peaks, and climbs significantly less than the first. Eventually, Loomis-Oroville Road heads east to Highway 7, whereupon you turn right and follow it south for about five miles to Tonasket.

Places to eat and stay: Try the Tonasket Pizza Company in Tonasket or Oroville's Trino's Mexican Restaurant. For lodging: Tonasket's Junction Motel.

During the annual Tour of Walla Walla cycling race, riders begin a big climb just outside Waitsburg.
Where: Southeast corner of the state.

The dry, rolling grassland hills north of Walla Walla are home not only to a couple of picture-postcard Small Town, USA-type places — Waitsburg and Dayton — but also some terrific low-traffic cycling (and driving) roads.

Head south from Waitsburg on Middle or Lower Waitsburg roads (they eventually hook up) and have a blast riding up and down the roller-coaster farm roads 'twixt Waitsburg and Walla Walla. Most of the hills aren't very big and if you wisely dose out your effort, your momentum descending one hill might just carry you up the following one. (Ideally.) Unshaded, these hills and roads offer stunning views of the agricultural wonder that is this corner of Washington.

From historic Dayton, which can lay claim to the fact that Lewis and Clark slept there (that is, in 1806, at what would become the town's eventual location), an out-and-back ride to Bluewood Ski Area scrolls through a dazzling progression of landscapes.

Climbing about 3,400 feet in 22 miles, North Touchet Road (which starts out in town as South Fourth Street) transports one from the dry wheat-field hills characteristic of the Palouse to the dense Inland Northwest pine forest of the Blue Mountains. Climb-wise, it's gradual, with nary a switchback along the way. Turn around at the entrance to Bluewood Ski Area; the return ride is fun and fast.

Link Waitsburg to Dayton (10 miles apart) by riding Highway 12 but detour from the potentially busy highway by throwing in Bowman Hill and Lower Hogeye roads, both on the south side of Highway 12.

Places to eat and stay: In Waitsburg, try the Whoopemup Hollow Café, a Cajun eatery, and Pamela Jane's Vacation Rental.

Winthrop and the Methow Valley were made for bikes, both road and mountain.
Forest Road 51
Where: North of Winthrop.

Renowned for its Old West vibe and for being a mountain-biking destination spot, the Methow Valley is also a great place to pedal the skinny-tire rig. While Highway 20 offers the option of tackling a couple epic climbs — Washington Pass (5,477 feet) in one direction; Loup Loup Pass (4,020 feet) in another — it's the paved Forest Service roads that offer that peaceful, out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere feel.

Chief among these is FR 51, which follows the gurgling Chewuch River north, deep into Okanogan National Forest and its lovely dry conifers. (It's basically an extension of West Chewuch Road, which starts just outside Winthrop.) Traffic is low, the road a little rough in spots, but the river scenery is terrific. Several trailheads and campgrounds along the way allow for pulling over, taking a stroll and soaking it all in.

Turn around at the Andrews Creek Bridge and trailhead, where pavement ends. It's about 23 miles north of Winthrop. The road climbs gradually — about 100 feet per mile — almost the entire way. That's generally not enough to cause one to suffer on the way out, but plenty enough to make one feel invincibly fast on the return ride.

For a change of pace on the return, cross over the Chewuch River Bridge and head back into Winthrop via East Chewuch Road.

Places to eat and stay: Choices in the Winthrop-Mazama area are many. Among them are the Arrowleaf Bistro and the Mazama Country Inn. 
Mossy trees near Tum Tum Mountain.
Chelatchie-Tum Tum Mountain
Where: Northeast Clark County.

There's nowhere and then there's deep in the heart of nowhere. Chelatchie and Tum Tum Mountain qualify for the latter, making their low-traffic roads perfect for meandering exploration. (Not only that, but Chelatchie and Tum Tum are fun to say.)

Chelatchie (say "chu-LATCH-ee"), east of Amboy, north of Yacolt, south of Mount St. Helens, is a census-designated spot on the edge of Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

It's surrounded by terrific rural roadways that pass prairie fields and farmland — as well as through the above-mentioned towns — and the conical mini-mountain, Tum Tum, which looks sorta like a giant Hershey's Kiss. (Legend has it a Native American chief is buried at the summit.)

Forest Road 54 leads (and climbs) past Tum Tum deep into Gifford Pinchot and is a springboard for popular trails in the Siouxon Roadless Area. Though paved, FR 54 can be rough in places (info: Near tiny Yacolt is the site of the Yacolt Burn, the state's deadliest wildfire, which burned a quarter-million acres and claimed the lives of 38 people in 1902.

To get here, take Exit 21 from Interstate 5 in Woodland. Head east toward Amboy and just let the roads and your inclination guide you.

Places to eat and stay: Chelatchie Prairie General Store has food and there's a Best Western in Battle Ground, the closest big(ish) town. 
Tum Tum Mountain.

Monday, September 05, 2011


Summer came late to the Northwest this year but when it finally got here, it put it's feet up, made itself comfortable and decided to stay awhile. Another incredible day weather-wise so we headed up Fragrance Lake Road, Lost Lake Trail and to the logged area above the old Dictionary Trail where the views on days like this are out of this world. Beyond the Titanium Cowboys (above) are Bellingham Bay, Lummi and Orcas islands, Western Whatcom County and Canada.

Area Man (me) is proud to announce that for the first time ever, he was able to ride the psycho-steep and usually muddy-slippery-as-hell Lost Lake climb clean on my single-speed. (Please hold your applause 'til the end of the post.) The almost-no-rain-in-the-past-six-weeks was a big help. Still, a first-ever after turning 50 is nice. ('Course, Titanium Cancellara has always been able to ride it clean ...)
Along with the water- and island-side views, with a few pedal strokes to the east, you've got terrific views of Mount Baker, local hills and faves such as Lookout Mountain, Lake Samish, Galbraith, Blanchard, Lost and Mud lakes, Raptor Ridge, etc. and all that. Pretty much everywhere we've mountain biked and run over the past 10-plus years.
Here's John on a stump. Unfortunately, I ran out of film before his dismount. Which was a three-quarter triple half-gainer with a 900 Fakie McTwist Cork thing. Pretty amazing, really.

Whilst we were up there, the Titanium Cowboys posed for this year's holiday card. (Not really; sorta looks like it though.) Return ride was an usually dry and way-fast Lost Lake Trail to Arroyo Park and the outdoor fireplace table at Boulevard Park's Woods Coffee. Terrific super happy fun.