The Spokesman-Review reporter Nick Deshais embarks on a 416-mile U.S Bike Route 10 ride across Washington State to the town of Newport.
"I start this trip with one intent: to travel by bike on Route 10 across the state. The route, though long dreamed of, was made official just last year. Every town and county along its hilly, winding way signed off on the route, many of them with the notion that bike travelers – and their wallets – were more than welcome."
NEWHALEM, Washington – Around every turn, the sentinel mountains of the North Cascades grow bigger and taunt me.
As we climbed toward Rainy Pass, and then up to Washington Pass, Emma Koenig led the pack. The 21-year-old college student from Portland, Oregon, is riding her bike to Maine with three friends, and I was lucky enough to leapfrog up the mountain with them and their buoyant spirits.
The scorched lands around the road leading to Loup Loup Pass are a grim reminder that not even a year ago the Methow Valley was under siege by Mother Nature. Wildfires jumped rivers and highways – the same ones I crossed today. Houses and power lines fell to the flames, and the largest fire in state history threatened town after town, including Twisp. As I peddled up to Loup Loup, the forest that I can only imagine was verdant a year ago now consists of blackened, dead trees. At one point I simply stopped pedaling, in awe of the destruction.
REPUBLIC, Wash. – The Highlander Cafe and Store in Wauconda is the sole way-stop between Tonasket and Republic on U.S. Bicycle Route 10. And it’s closed.
COLVILLE – After I crested one of the highest strips of pavement in Washington, I descended into history. My speed reached 25 mph, 30, 35 mph, and I went back in time. First along the ancient footpath that transformed into a wagon train route and then today’s highway that I’m biking on. But I also went from the relatively recent destruction of a forest fire, to the recovery work of the Civilian Conservation Corps, to the days of the frontier when trees were first felled by industry.
IONE, Washington – When my day begins, I load my bike with eight liters of water in four different vessels. That’s almost 18 pounds. More than one cyclist I’ve met along the way has pointed out that I may be carrying too much water, that maybe one of my three-liter water sacks is enough, that maybe a water filter would be wiser.
NEWPORT – Wind-driven waves on an ancient glacial lake beat against the rocky shore, slowly carving out what we call the Manresa Grotto. I was about 30 miles into my day’s ride, and the cool shade of the cave grotto was on my mind for the rest of the ride, as the sun beat harder and a wind urged my bike to slow despite my wishes.