I have not mentioned how hard this touring cycling is to do when you are doing it. “Wow, I’d love to do that”, and increasingly here in the USA,”How do you afford to do that?” are two of the main remarks or questions that we come across. But here is the problem, it is very hard work and is harder work than work unless you are engaged in some horrible manual labour. I wince when what we are doing gets called “vacation”. We have done, and forgive me for rounding it up a bit 1997 miles. 4,650 miles so far since the end of January and that is indeed a long way. Given the option of time behind bars or cycle touring, I am sure that most would choose this, but after the first three days would be looking at a plea bargain and time at Her Majesties pleasure, as we say in the UK. In both options you are eating with a spoon, but that is where the similarity ends.
I know I have pointed this out before, but if you have stumbled across our little blog looking for advice on riding the Pacific coast, do not do it the way we have. Ride it North to South for so many good reasons, but most depressingly the possibility of 80 mph winds in your face. There, you have been told and much misery avoided.
The part of Washington that we have ridden through is flatish, with little to concern the road hardened touring cyclist. Time to recover a little and to dwell on what is the most northerly humming bird. I expected the bright coloured feeders that hang from many porches to have disappeared by now. I looked it up on the web as I would love to have these in Scotland and was amazed at the result. Alaska has them, and I for one am surprised that here in Washington, they even overwinter near the coast. What on earth do they feed on?
We ate third breakfast in Toledo and then headed out along Jackson Way with some of the best weather of our whole trip. The barns that dot the grass fields here are of Northern European style. One in particular featured an advert,tonic for weak women. Dr Pierce was doing good work.
Centralia at the end of the day, with a population of 14,000 was just big enough to get disoriented and lost in. Quite clearly it had a campsite, but where it was became less and less clear. We pulled into a cafe and went on line. Twelve miles further on, which was not great fun, and it was a strange place when we got there. I opened the door into the office and stumbled into the family living room. “Don’t let the dog out!” None of them looked in great shape.l had no idea that quarries worked 24/7 or just how much reversing those big yellow earth movers do. Beep, beep all night and shunting of gears, so not totally restful as it is right next to the tent site.
The next days weather was even better and at Rochester we had the usual second breakfast and entertained locals. We passed into the Chehalis Indian Reservation and had the opportunity straight away to gamble and buy fireworks. Just north, on South Bank Road we cycled through reservation housing. Litter, abandoned cars and big dogs, most of them sleeping. But of course one of them wanted to taste the tangy flesh of cyclist and gave Esther a sprint to stay ahead of its snapping jaws.
Of course the weather had been too good too soon. It started to rain and we pedaled hard for some cattle sheds looking for shelter. It came down even harder, and then harder still. Cows are curious and have little to entertain them. Bovine curiosity is what Tim Moore calls it, and I think they look forward to your arrival, they love cyclists and the bright colours we wear.
At the outskirts of Elma we catch site of the Cascades for the first time. Bugger, that is a lot of snow on those mountains. We have had it easy for a week or so and we are going up and over those on the way East. It is not going to stay easy. Enjoy it whilst it lasts.
We camped at Belfair State park. “Sorry the hiker biker sites are so out of the way”. Summer had finally kicked off and the place was jumping in a way that we had not seen since New Zealand. We were more than happy to be stuck out of the way and somewhere quiet. $6 each for hiker biker pitches on State parks is a great deal and I should not moan when we pitch in among tree roots and dirt. Right next to your grubby pitch will be a flat grass field reserved for dog exercising just to press the point.
Fifteen miles to the ferry. Avoiding the horror of Highway3 gave the route the opportunity to find the three highest grades of our whole journey North. I walked down one of them for fear of being unable to stop at the intersection. Bremerton is a naval base not a picturesque fishing village, and is where we caught the ferry to Seattle.
The sun was out and not a breath of wind. The skyline of Seattle, familiar to all fans of Frasier came into view. We liked the place the last time we were here, and it now has a bike culture second only to Portland which means that every coffee shop has at least one bike hanging on the wall however inappropriate.
We have had so much help here. The lovely people at Big Agnes have sent us a new inner tent as our zips were getting a bit unreliable so Drew at customer services is our best friend for life. Here in the city our Dave Yates bikes have been in the care of Chris Cameron of Rosebud Custom Bicycle Builds and now look and even smell as new.
But most importantly, we have had a good few days free of stress and any racoon problems in the tender care of Phyllis and Dennis. They have done as good a job on the rebuild with us as Chris from Rosebud Custom Bicycle Builds did with the bikes. We have more than 4,500 miles to do and will be back up in the mountains very quickly as we head across to the East coast.