Washington Isn't a "Flat" State
As we were approaching the end of our cross-country tour we met a young man at a campsite in NY State who was just beginning his bicycle trip in the opposite direction. By that time we were quite used to the rigors of the road and we were slightly amused when he discovered we had come from WA State. He observed, "Washington is one of those 'flat' states!" Let me just say here and now that one of the most common conversations bicyclists have with people on the road is when well-meaning folks tell you that the road ahead "isn't all that hilly!" HA! Sure, when you're in a car there's really no such thing as a hill, or steep grade or even mountain passes. The internal combustion engine pretty much neutralizes the need to worry about those pesky changes in altitude. BUT, when you're on a tandem bicycle carrying about 100 lbs of gear, there is no such a thing as a flat anything (except the occasional flat tire!).
In this post I wanted to talk briefly about the first leg of our journey in terms of the actual physical challenges one faces on a bicycle tour that starts in Washington State. The bottom line is you need to be in pretty good physical condition because taking the North Cascade Highway across the state, you bicycle over four mountain passes. We knew this so, we began training in earnest several months before we started the tour. We were lucky in 1998 as the NW was experiencing one of the warmest and driest winters in many years. We were able to get out most evenings after work and do a 35 mile loop. We put a 70 lb piece of concrete in our BOB trailer and hauled it as many times as we could. By our start date on May 11, we were in pretty good shape.
Of course, there's nothing like the real thing, so I thought you might enjoy seeing pictures of the mountain passes we went over: