Concrete to Gold Bar

Singing In The Rain – 6th & 7th May

Friday 6th May – Concrete to Arlington (Stage 6)

Today was the day we committed to crossing the Cascades Mountains by a more southerly route, as the SR20 remains closed. While there was a degree of disappointment for the road left behind, it was offset by the excitement of finding out what lay ahead on our chosen path.

We had breakfast in the Lone Star with the locals & were on our way by about 10.45am – we picked up the SR20 for the first 9 miles as we tracked the course of the Skagit river & it’s neighbour, the railroad, up the valley to Rockport. Along the way there were a couple of short, sharp climbs to test the legs, but they were quickly over & done with.

We took a right onto the SR530, which followed the Sauk river valley – this road would be taking us all the way to this evening’s motel in Arlington. We continued to make good progress as the road gently climbed through pine forest which protected us from the cross-wind from our left which was bringing big rain clouds our way. Sections of the road were arrow-straight which created the illusion that it may stretch out into infinity!

Every now & again our views changed when the road crossed the Sauk river, but the big snow-peaked mountains with names like Horse Head Mountain that surrounded us were largely hidden. The motel owner in Concrete had said this was a beautiful area, so it was a shame we didn’t get to see it in all its glory. Having said that, what we did see was still spectacular but in a more foreboding type way. Rain was on the way!

As we neared the town of Darrington, the peace & tranquillity was occasionally interrupted by large logging lorries, as they carried upwards of 20 huge tree trunks to Hampton Lumber Mills, where they would be processed. Darrington also provided us with brief respite from the rain which had now started in earnest, as we decided to stop in Moe’s for lunch. A tasty toasted turkey & pesto panini & coffee revived the spirits at what was about the halfway point of today’s ride.

The SR530 took a 90 degree right turn as we left Darrington with rain continuing to fall – “why mention the change of direction” I hear you ask. Because we’d just picked up a 10mph tailwind which, for the next 30 miles, would be blowing us all the way into Arlington!! We may have been cold & wet, but we had big smiles on our faces!

Our learning from a 2nd day of riding in the rain is that we need to invest in some waterproof gloves (I have 2 pairs at home, but I didn’t pack them as I hadn’t considered them essential for summer riding – a schoolboy mistake as it still feels like late winter / early spring at the moment!). The scenery this afternoon was very similar to this morning & as we were cold & wet I didn’t stop very often to take photos. We were now following the North Fork Stillaguamish river in what was a wide valley – there was an alternative off-road track available to us, but as it was on soft gravel we decided to give it a miss this time.

The rain eventually stopped after about an hour of this afternoon’s 2 hour leg. We gradually started drying out, although we were still a bit chilly! We chatted about how a cold, wet afternoon on a cycling adventure was way more fun than a warm afternoon in the office – it was good to remind ourselves how very fortunate we are to be on this trip. We entered Arlington & picked up a cyclist friendly route across town to our base for this evening, the Arlington Motor Inn.

It would be a stretch to call the motel anything but basic, but it was functional & we had room each to store our bikes. It was a typical Freeway Motel, just off the Interstate (I-5 in this instance), with a Denny’s (that sorted out our dinner & breakfast eating requirements!) & 2 gas stations for company. It was similar in many ways to The Tulip Inn where we stayed for 3 nights at the start of the week.

Stage Stats – 61 miles, 2,221 feet of climbing. Flat terrain all day. Weather was overcast with long spells of rain.

I’ve included a map below which shows where we’ve travelled in our first week of riding (Stages 1 to 6 in other words).

320 Miles cycled & 14,183 feet climbed in Week One

Saturday 7th May – Arlington to Gold Bar (Stage 7)

A short day of riding was planned for today, as rain was forecast almost all day. We met at 9am for breakfast at Denny’s & were on the road by 10am, under blue skies with large clouds in almost every direction. We passed the ‘international’ airport as we crossed Arlington on quiet & wide sub-urban roads.

After 5 miles we joined the Centennial Trail, a shared route for walkers, joggers, cyclists, horses & roller-skaters. It stretches 30 miles along the old Burlington – Northern Railroad. The early miles were fun as we enjoyed the quiet off-road riding, although we could see the heavy clouds closing in on us. The cycle path cut through woodland, as it followed the natural contours, slowly gaining height as we headed south-east.

Less than 30 minutes into today’s ride, the cold, heavy rain started. Other than a 10 minute spell when it snowed, it rained for the remainder of our ride! It was difficult to justify stopping to take many photos, although I tried to take some as we were riding along or vary occasionally stopping to capture anything that stood out to me (like the snow).

Sometimes it’s difficult to remember after the event quite how cold you were at the time – luckily I took some video describing how cold it was & some of the challenges I faced shooting the footage! At this point in the ride we had another 20 miles to go, so I also knew we were going to get colder yet!

It was a shame about the weather, as both Snohomish & Monroe looked like really pleasant & interesting towns that would have been fun to explore on a different day. We were so cold, we even discounted the idea of stopping for coffee as we were worried we wouldn’t be able to get started again if we sat down in the warm…..

I also remember being unable to change from the middle ring to the big ring with my left hand because I’d lost all feeling in my fingers & wrist – I had to push the lever in with my right hand to change gear! As we were passing through Monroe, we saw the railroad crossing lights ahead of us start to flash – a long freight train was coming through, however my hands were now so cold I couldn’t get my phone out of my back pocket in the 5 minutes it took for the train to pass!!!

After passing through Monroe, there was a long drag that took us up to Sultan & deposited us on the SR2. The final 5 miles were never dangerous, but they weren’t much fun, as the shoulder was narrow & virtually non-existent on bridge crossings. Please don’t read this & think I’m moaning about the day, as I’m not. I’ve tried to genuinely capture how I felt & what happened, when it happened.

Which leads me nicely on to our check-in experience at the Stevens Pass Inn Motel in Gold Bar – I couldn’t get my wallet out my back pocket, I couldn’t sign my name or use the card reader machine & it took 15 minutes for us to check-in, all the while we shivered uncontrollably in reception!!! Who would have thought that a 3 hour 20 minute cycle ride could so completely break a person.

I wouldn’t swap a moment of today’s ride for a day in work – I wanted to embark on an adventure that would stay with me for a long time & that is exactly what I’m getting. As soon as we checked-into our shared room, we cranked the heating up to 90 degrees fahrenheit & started to try to dry out our kit, as we needed some of it for Sunday’s ride.

We recovered enough over the next 3 hours to venture downstairs to the Prospectors Steak & Spirits Inn for a dinner of Special Rib & baked potato washed down with a couple of Autonomous IPA’s from the local 20 Corners brewery. There was a karaoke going on & I’m sure Garth from Wayne’s World was the DJ – party on dude!!!

We need better weather on Sunday otherwise we’ll be in a very tricky spot – fingers crossed I have a happy tail to tell!!

Stage Stats – 46 miles, 1,175 feet of climbing. Flat terrain all day. Weather was rain, snow & more rain.

2 thoughts on “Concrete to Gold Bar

  • Really enjoying reading your cycling diaries Gav. The names of some of the towns and rivers are interesting and your description of the terrain gives me a great idea of where you’re riding through. Pleased to hear you’re considering a glove purchase…. And maybe a hot water bottle will come in handy! Keep trucking

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