” Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning ” – Winston Churchill. Which of course is brilliant, absolutely perfect and on a serious subject other than a bike ride, even a very long one. We are a bit closer to the end than that and have been trying not to get carried away with the ‘ miles to go figure ‘ rolling down towards zero. The last book of the guide is on the bar bag with 14 of them, in the depths of the panniers or posted off. But it could still end with failure.
If I had one or two words of advice to give you before you threw your leg over the top tube and set off on your first long tour, it would be – look after your teeth and your chain. Floss like every day you are going out on a first date with the girl of your dreams. If you can hear your chain, it needs some TLC with rag and lube, do it now! I have just saved you a whole load of grief, possible pain and a skip load of cash.
Overcast, cool even in the way the Pacific North West should be. This morning, the flags were hanging limp from the poles and we were even considering putting on coats. It could not be more perfect. In under a mile we were in a McDonald’s for second breakfast oatmeal and a hot chocolate.
HWY 30 begins for us along the dock area and warehouses of what is left of Astoria’s fishing industry. Turning inland it became lumpy enough to clock up 1,500ft of climbing in the first 25 miles. That should not have come as any surprise, but did even though we were retracing roads that we had already biked in year one. It was time to cross the path of Lewis and Clark for the final few times. A final steep climb and we drop down to Westport and the ferry across Puget Sound to the State of Washington and 10% Sales Tax.
Back home in Scotland we have spent a king’s ransom re-introducing the Osprey. Here, they are as numerous as Pigeons in Trafalgar Square. They call from high with frankly unpleasant screeches and stare down at us from untidy nests. The ferry hops across to Puget Island and then a bridge takes us across to the mainland. It all feels like Scotland and home, heck it even smells like home. It is stunning, absolutely beautiful.
We ride along coastal roads with the Columbia River on our right. Rounding a bend we get our first view of Mt. St. Helens, it’s slopes steep and still holding onto last years snow. It looks like it is venting steam which is all rather impressive and rather thrilling. It should be just a 50 mile or so day, but the only legitimate camping option is an RV sight. We take a look. Driving through on our bikes there is not a obvious place to pitch. There are dumped trucks, trash and an air of desperation. A big hill and an extra 20 miles or camp here? 600ft is a big hill when you start from sea level, but then there are two nasty little hills beyond that catch us out.
A run in with a big truck and a driver that wants to run us off the road. It is the sort of monster truck that you can fall to your death from if you miss the step. It has lots of chrome and a driver with single digit IQ. His window is open to show off his arm tattoos and we have a spirited chat. The RV sight at Castle Rock is cheap cheerful and pleased to see us. Dew on the tent in the morning for the first time since either of us can remember and possibly since the East coast.
The morning ride is through Old Growth forests of pine. There are of course state parks that would have been perfect to camp in if we could have found just a bit more energy. Just as we are getting thoughts of an easy day of cycling a 17% monster hill turns up and a final busy road into Tacoma increases the possibility of getting swiped off the road by an RV even at this late stage.
We have a rendezvous with a dear old friend who lives near Tacoma and has come out to pick us and the bikes up, and drive us to his beachside home. Two days, three nights of bliss and kicking back. The arrival of Whales makes the time here perfect and we are starting to unwind. There are trips to coffee shops and reading magazines.
The homes here at Salmon Beach began as shacks for fishermen and have spent more than a hundred years rising through the social ranks. They are now very desirable, but still at the bottom of over 200 steps.
There are two ways to Seattle for us. The first requires us to climb hills and catch a ferry which, when it births in Seattle, has the WOW! view of the Frasier skyline as you get closer. The second option is almost flat and the ferry looks like you are arriving at a parking lot. We take the easy option. As we get closer to Seattle the number of Toyota Prius climbs, the smokers drops and those with milk and gluten intolerance rockets.
We pick up one of the city bike paths that takes us around the coast and into downtown Seattle, via a hair cut in a 100-year-old barber’s chair. Into the city heartland through China Town and then it is just a case of avoiding car doors and madness. There is time off the bikes with our friends Dennis and Phyllis, and the delights of Seattle to be enjoyed. If there is one major downside to longterm biking, it is – you are going to get bored with your clothes, really, really bored. Now, at the ‘ Mother Ship ‘ of the outdoor shop – REI there is the option to buy new stuff and the excuse that we need to get winter stuff for the tail end of summer in Scotland.
Yes indeed, our plans at the moment are to fly into London, get on a train and head to the Midlands of England. Bikes will be put together there if the airline has not lost them. Then we pedal North towards Scotland and home. We turn right and go home if we are not enjoying things. If we feel good and the weather is fine it is time to head to Scotland’s West coast and the remote islands. We have never had the time to tour the unpopulated parts of the country that we live in, so that would be just fantastic. So, the USA is at an end now after over 4,500 miles. We have to say a very big THANK YOU to all the kind people who have looked after us, fed us, given us a roof – you are all now honarary gold members of Team Sportswool. Over 31,000 miles into our ride and the two of us are still in love – just so you know. 24/7 and all that time together under quite a bit of stress, which is, I think, our greatest achievement.