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Willie Weir : March 31st, 2011

The Crater Lake Loop–Don’t Miss It

The phrase might sound trite and overused, but standing at the edge of Crater Lake in Oregon will “take your breath away.”

For most visitors — who arrive and travel around the lake in a car or motor home — that phrase refers solely to the beauty of this national treasure. But for a much smaller and more fortunate group of travelers, the phrase will also relate to their lung capacity.

Crater Lake is along one of the Adventure Cycling Association’s newest routes, the Sierra Cascades Bicycle Route, which takes cyclists on a stunningly beautiful, roller-coaster ride from the Canadian border to Mexican border. You can tackle it all in one swoop, or break it up into a series of smaller trips.

But however you do it, when you get to Crater Lake … do the loop (also known as the Rim Drive).

Many bike travelers pass on it. They have been climbing mountain passes for weeks and the thought of a hilly, 33-mile side trip is daunting. The elevation profile looks like a silhouette of the Alps.

But resist the urge to skip it and move on. Take a day off if you need to. Find someone in the campground who will look after your gear and do the ride sans pannier or trailer. Then pedal one of the most scenic roads in America. Folks may tell you the loop is best traveled in a clockwise direction. That advice is probably coming from visitors driving large motor homes, who can more easily pull into parking lots at scenic overlooks by traveling in this direction.

But you’ll be on a bike. You don’t need a large parking lot. So buck the trend and cycle counter-clockwise around this jewel. You’ll have less traffic on your side of the road, and better light to snap photos like the one above.

Originally posted on the Adventure Cycling Association’s blog.
Willie Weir : March 22nd, 2011

The Gift of Song

It was a bright spot in a very bleak day. We were struggling through the mountains in central-eastern Turkey. The roads were rough, the grades were steep, and the wind blew so hard you could lean into it and never fall over.

We met a couple of men at a roadside chai stop. They invited us up the hill and we soon discovered that they were teachers. We were introduced to their classroom full of Kurdish students, all dressed up in their bright blue-and-white school uniforms. As their teachers translated, the students asked us scores of questions about our travels.

Then it was time for them to sing for us. They lined up and struggled through a couple of short songs. Then one of the teachers singled out one of the girls and called her to the front of the room.

She opened her mouth and a voice mature beyond her age filled the room. I still get goose bumps listening to it.

The weather and the road were still bleak … but that little girl’s voice reminded us once again that the journey is always worth the effort.

Kurdish student singing

Originally posted on the Adventure Cycling Association’s blog.