Cycling, Birds, Eclipse, and More! – Aug/Sep 2017

Atop Tumalo Mountain on eclipse day

It probably would surprise nobody that we could turn a four-day cycling trip into a month-long grand driving tour of the western US. 🙂 That’s exactly what we did, driving to and from a Bicycle Adventures cycling “Bend Breakaway” tour, and seeing lots of things along the way.

To skip the narrative and just look at photos, click here.

We had booked the short cycling trip months ago, an excuse to get up to Oregon, see our friends Tom & Diane Mosher, and cycle somewhere new. In the back of our minds we knew that a total solar eclipse was going to happen, but forgot when. As it turned out, it was the second day of our cycling tour! But more on that below.

I (Liza) had told Robert that my big goals for the trip were simply to “see new stuff” and “not stress about anything”. Mission accomplished! We drove through northern Arizona past Horseshoe Bend into Utah, stopping at Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Cedar Breaks National Monument and Zion National Park (Kolob Canyons entrance).

From there on into Nevada and Great Basin National Park, where we did some hiking and visited the Lehman Caves. For our time in GBNP we stayed in (sort of) nearby Ely, home to the cool Nevada Northern Railway Museum.

We continued north through Nevada and the wonderful basin-and-range topography, stopping at Lemoille Canyon in the Ruby Mountains. A very long day of driving north through Oregon (and through Malheur National Wildlife Refuge) got us up to the Columbia Gorge at the town of Hood River. We crossed the Columbia into Washington to visit Columbia Crest Winery; on the Oregon side we visited McNary Dam and the Mt. Hood Winery, as well as getting up to the Timberline Lodge (of “The Shining” fame).

Lemoille Canyon, Ruby Mountains, NV

From Hood River we had to head south to Bend for our bicycle tour, which worried us a bit because of all of the totally dire predictions of horrible traffic as people flooded into Madras and other areas along the eclipse path of totality. Turned out to be a rather easy drive, since the influx of people was dispersed over several days.

The not so great part was the smoky air from numerous wildfires; the poor air quality forced a few changes to the cycling itinerary. So no cycling over McKenzie Pass, but we did cycle the Cascade Lakes Loop as well as to Sunriver and Sisters. Day 2 of the cycling was eclipse day, so we hiked 2 miles up a trail to the top of Tumalo Mountain. Not so many people there and a friendly atmosphere; we were greeted at the top by a gal offering samples of her handmade cheeses with some fruit.

The eclipse itself was not quite what we expected. We were outside the path of totality, at maybe 97-98%, and that little sliver – safely viewed with our eclipse glasses – meant that it only darkened up a little bit, it was still much brighter out than, say, a full moon. Still, it was a treat to watch.

Robert waiting for the eclipse, Tumalo Mountain

Less of a treat for most people was the traffic exiting the area; luckily we were hanging around, cycling, or driving the opposite direction from the exodus. The smoke was definitely bad though, especially in Sisters. But we all survived it, including Tom and Diane, and getting to sample local beers and spirits took some of the sting out of breathing all that smoke.

From Bend we headed south to Lake of the Woods, staying with John and Karen Poole, who spend part of the year down our way in Arizona. John kindly took us out on the lake on both his catamaran and canoeing, and also had Robert try out his bike-pedal-boat! We had a nice bike ride around the area our last morning, too. Then it was on to Eureka / Arcata, via Redwoods National Park, to visit with Tom and Sue Leskiw, who used to live near us in Arizona, too.

Duckhorn Winery, Napa

If that weren’t enough, we continued on to Santa Rosa (via Bodega Bay – thoughts of Hitchcock’s “The Birds” in our heads). The stop there was basically so we could visit some wineries in Napa and/or Sonoma. We (well, Liza) picked two in Napa that we were somewhat familiar with, Duckhorn and Mt. Veeder. Both places, and presumably most wineries there, charge pretty high tasting fees – $35-$40/person. Duckhorn at least was a nice experience, with seating, tasting notes, our own server, etc. Mt. Veeder’s tasting was not so good – the wines were good, to be sure, but the cheapskates couldn’t even put out any crackers or water to help you between wines. Needless to say we didn’t buy anything from them, the entire attitude seemed so poor.

We hadn’t been to Napa for well over 25 years, and overall it is doubtful we’ll return. Kind of regretted not picking something in Sonoma. But it seems to me that the wines, while good, are priced on reputation, and they know that most of the tourists aren’t going to actually buy more than a bottle or two (if even that), so they charge ridiculous tasting fees. But if you’re going to do that, at least put out some crackers! Just sayin’.

Onward. From Santa Rosa we headed to San Juan Bautista, which was just a convenient and very nice place to stay so that we could visit Pinnacles National Park, and spend a day on a Monterey Bay pelagic trip with Debbie Shearwater. (If you saw the movie “The Big Year”, Anjelica Huston played the Shearwater character, renamed Annie Auklet. Anjelica nailed it.) We also visited a couple of wineries in San Benito Valley, Calera and DeRose; both good experiences.

At this point we’d been on the road almost a month, so we made it down to Los Angeles, first visiting with Robert’s mother Claire, then also Liza’s family, including an early 80th birthday celebration for her mother Alpha.

Again, for photos, click here for the photo galleries. Buddy Bison was along for the trip, too!