A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with A Single Step
Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said that “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. Only instead of taking that step, I got on my bike and pedaled. The first bike trip I planned was 150 miles long. The goal was to ride from Vantage, WA, to Rattlesnake Lake in a single day. Unfortunately, we were forced to cut this trip short due to high winds, loose sandy terrain, and a lack of experience and mental fortitude. Even though we didn’t reach our goal, this particular route has been on my mind ever since.
Fast forward three years… and I was still thinking about that trip. I decided to take another crack at it. I talked to a buddy of mine, Tim Kostersitz, about bikepacking with me. We modified the original route and added 150 miles for a total of 300+ miles. What can I say, we’re gluttons for punishment.
We planned to start in Duvall, WA and ride to Vantage and back. With only 4 days to complete the route, and double the distance, we would have to train harder than ever before to accomplish our goal. We scheduled weekly endurance training rides and core workouts, and we biked an average of 100 miles per week. We finished planning the bike route, booked campgrounds, and created a few backup plans. We even acquired fat bikes and mountain bikes that would allow us to ride on rougher terrain. As the trip approached, we slowed down our training so we wouldn’t burn out. The night before, we double and triple checked our gear, had a cider, and did our best to relax and get to bed early. Although that wasn’t easy with an excited anticipation building, less than eight hours until start time.
Day One: Excited and Ready to Ride
Our alarms went off at 4:30 am. We were a little groggy but mostly excited to start biking. It felt just like how Christmas morning always felt growing up. After a quick breakfast and some last-minute packing, we were on the trail by 6am. The first day was challenging, but amazing. We rode all the way from Duvall to Cle Elum (86 miles). We endured lots of rain, miles of uphill travel, and cold temperatures. Tim learned a hard lesson about staying dry that first day, he let himself get too cold, and then laid down on the ground feeling exhausted. Little did he know that all of his heat and remaining energy was getting zapped out of him and going right into the ground below. We decided to get a hotel in Cle Elum, 11miles short of the goal for day 1, in order to let gear dry out overnight, and help Tim warm up.
Day 2: Tired but Determined
After a few hours of sleep, and snoozing many alarms, we were back up and moving again. We started the day at 7:00AM and began pedaling from Cle Elum to Vantage. We made a quick stop at the THORP fruit stand just off of i-90 to get snacks. As soon as the smell of fresh fruit and candy hit us, we went crazy and bought way more than we needed. One of the highlight purchases for Tim was a bottle of honey, that he consumed straight from the bottle. Shortly after we left Thorp, Tim started to experience the first signs of knee pain. We stopped to asses, and we wrapped a shirt around his knee and used a strap to apply pressure. Unfortunately, this did not work. Next, we tried using medical tape, which seemed to help for a while. We rode for 30 miles like this. When we got to Ellensburg, we bought some KT tape and a knee brace from Fred Meyer. We kept a close eye on his knee the rest of the trip, the tape and brace seemed to help.
After a couple more hours, we had reached peak elevation for the day. After an exciting broken-down tunnel, we bombed down the sandy trail at around 25 miles per hour having the time of our lives. After a long and eventful day, the downhill section felt like weightless bliss. Our bikes cut through the wind resistance, and it felt like we were flying. Up until the wind tried to kill us… As we exited one of the trail cutouts, we were side swiped by wind and almost thrown off the trail. Everything beyond this point was a battle. The wind was whipping at a constant 40 MPH. There was a point where we were trying to ride downhill on asphalt, and the headwind was so strong that we physically couldn’t pedal forward. We had to walk the bikes all the way to the campsite. After an hour of walking, we stopped at the first campsite we saw. This campsite was about two miles short of where we were supposed to be going, but we just couldn’t go any further. We noticed a US parks ranger in the campground, and asked if he could give us a ride to our campsite. Andrew the park ranger was very kind, and he helped us load our bikes in the back of his truck. We drove up the road to our campsite, and then after not being able to locate our spot, we drove back and got a walk-in campsite at the first place we stopped.
Day 3: SO WINDY
The alarm started beeping around 4:30AM, there was almost no change between when we went to sleep, and when we woke up. The wind still beat against the tent, just like a loose tarp on the back of a pickup truck. Tim and I got about three hours of sleep that night. We started the day around 5AM, packed up the tent and set off. Day three was set to be the hardest day of the trip, and we were starting to get concerned about if we would be able to make the necessary mileage for the day. Not only were we riding 30 miles up a sandy hill, but we were about to ride with a 40MPH headwind, and a bad knee. We fought the wind all day, and walked about 20 miles with the bikes. Sand whipped into our eyes, and the wind felt like something from another world. All in all, we only made it 40 miles on day three, and ended up getting a hotel in Ellensburg, 30 miles or so before where we had planned to camp.
Day four: The Final Push
After a wonderfully quiet nights rest in the hotel, we awoke around 4:30AM, and we were riding by 5AM. We had roughly 109 miles to cover that day. This would be our first century ride, ever. For the most part, the wind had died down, and we had a lot of flat to downhill trails ahead of us. This was one of the longest days for us, since we started at 5AM and got back home around 11PM. The ride was amazing, we saw lots of deer, turkey, and other wildlife along the way, and enjoyed some gorgeous views leaving Ellensburg and entering the Snoqualmie Pass area. As the day crept by, the motivation started to drop. By the time night fell, the vibe turned into one that resembled our current mood. That mood was exhaustion, and the longing to just be home already. Time seemed to stand still, miles elongated, the pedals seemed to turn to lead, and finally, our speakers died leaving us in the quiet of night. Nothing was easy anymore; the final push home was not giving up without a fight. All we could do, was put our heads down, and just grind.
After many hours of grinding, we made it back to a welcome home party, consisting of parents and significant others. Euphoria and excitement filled the air, we had completed our mission, and finished what we set out to do. A journey well-traveled, and one step closer to even bigger dreams.
A Trip to Remember
The number of memories created by this trip can’t truly be summed up in a video, or shown in photos. We did our best to portray what it felt like to be there, but nothing comes close to the real deal. The experiences and feelings can only be recreated by getting out and creating your own memories just like this. I will forever remember this journey, and I’m eagerly anticipating the next one. Always remember, that a journey of a thousand miles, begins with a single step. So, get out there, and take your first step. Feel the wind blow through your hair and fall on your face, the morning glow of the sunshine against your cheeks. Experience life from different angles as often as possible. It’s a beautiful world out there.
As far as gear goes, we’ve put together a video breaking down the bike and all the gear that I carried on the trip. Check it out here.
The next trip for us is coming up very soon! This time it’ll be a team of three. Tim Kostersitz, Scott Greivell, and myself. We’re deep into training right now, and expect to start at the end of September. Stay tuned for more updates!
You can follow our adventure by subscribing to our YouTube channel, linked below:
Or my Instagram
And for anyone that hasn’t seen the film yet, here’s a link to The Dusty Trail.