Categories
North America

Hikin and Bikin the Oregon Coast…with Coyote

[slideshow]

South Bend WA to Astoria OR 81km
Astoria OR to Cannon Beach OR 40 km
Cannon Beach OR to Nahelem Bay State Campground OR 28.25 km
Nahalem Bay State Campground OR to Cape Lookout Campground OR 62.23 km
Cape Lookout Campground OR to Lincoln City OR 57.53 km

We’re about a third of the way through Oregon and have stopped for a motel night in Lincoln City after three nights of camping in a row. Look out Laundromat! Hello king sized bed. Soon enroute for a big chilled glass of Chardonnay. Yippee!!!

The cycling is challenging to say the least. I think we did the two worst hills in Oregon today but there is one more to come close to the California border and another tunnel that runs uphill. The traffic can also be intimidating at times. At this point, I would have to say that the roads are better in Thailand for cycling because of consistently wide shoulders, availability of back roads and less traffic. However, the flip side of the tough cycling here is that all those hills lead to dramatic scenery. As anyone who has driven 101 through Oregon can tell you, the views are amazing: big Pacific breakers seen from the tops of rocky, brown cliffs and bays with tall sea stacks.

After seeing very few people in campgrounds in Washington, we’re seeing full campgrounds and meeting many other cyclists in the hiker/biker areas in the campgrounds. Most of them are friendly and many of them are very interesting – in a good way! A quick account: we met a guy named Garth who is from Pemberton and cycling to the tip of South America and back. He has an amazing health recovery story and is riding to raise awareness for Guillain-Barre Syndrome. We met a woman named Danielle who is from New York and just quit her job teaching in the Bronx. She is cycling the coast solo and although she doesn’t see why we all found that very brave — I think she’s awe-inspiring for doing it solo. We ran into our friend Beau again (we first met him outside Baskin Robbins in Aberdeen). He is also cycling for a cause, promoting a youth leadership volunteer program and stopping to talk to schools and chambers of commerce as he pedals his way to San Diego. We’ve met many others as well – two couples from Minnesota and the east coast cycling to San Diego, a great guy named Pierot who is also enroute to San Francisco on his bike and then off to trek in Nepal (it turns out he live three blocks from us in Vancouver).

And then there’s Coyote. We first ran into Coyote at the bike shop in Astoria. I couldn’t tell by the load on his bike (huge and included a ghetto blaster) if he was homeless or travelling. We chatted and he told us he was on his way to Eugene Oregon; it was hard to tell if that was home base but he it sounded like it might be.
We ran into him again later that night – he was sitting on a curb eating a sandwich as we walked into a kind of posh tourist restaurant. I felt a little stab of guilt.

I didn’t think about him again until I saw him pushing his bike with its expedition sized panniers and ghetto blaster, smoking a drum tobacco home rolled cigarette, his grey hair pulled into a ponytail, smiling and chatting to everyone along his path. He told us he weighs 135 pounds and Ian was not able to lift his bike which we estimate to weigh over 100. He is somewhat manic and talks non-stop. While everyone else was setting up their tents, he made the rounds and chatted and then proceeded to just sleep out in his sleeping bag without setting up any kind of camp. He told us many stories but two stand out: stopping for the night and pulling out his sleeping bag on church property and being woken by headlights from one of the church members and then a second time by flashing lights. The parishioner, apparently too stricken by some kind of conscience to complain to cops, called in an emergency re someone being sick and needing assistance. Luckily the paramedics were feeling more Christian and once they made sure he was ok just told him to get a good rest before he started pedaling the next morning.

The other story is how he is struggling with the load he is carrying. He has toppled over twice and has to hike the hills (in fact he calls what he is doing hikin and bikin and I think only he and I have to resort to this kind of bike portage for our very different reasons). Given how little he seems to need at camp (we’ve been in the same campground with him twice now) I realize he is carrying around his worldly possessions. He couldn’t pass up that free ghetto blaster. I gather from his stories he was a contractor kind of guy in a small town. An old hippie for sure come on hard times, also telling us stories of eating out of food banks and living out of his truck before giving up.

The rural and small town poverty here is very tangible. I sure hope Obama wins this election. Mitt Romney isn’t going to do much for all the Coyotes out there. Watched the Daily Show last night. Jon was making fun of a senator who voted down a one billion dollar package meant to help veterans get jobs. All of a sudden the Republicans have no money. Yet they spent 800 billion on a war no one agreed with.

Categories
North America

Busted at Baskin Robbins and other Washington Tales

[slideshow]

Lilliwaup to Potlatch State Park 13 km

Potlatch State Park to Montesanto 81 km

Montesano to Twin Harbours State Park 53 km

Twin Harbours State Park to South Bend WA 59.16 km

Our anticipated day off at Potlatch State Park WA (along the southern end of the Hood Canal) never materialized as Ian didn’t like hearing the traffic noise and unfortunately the only hiker/biker site open at the park was the one closest to the highway. So after a camp breakfast at the park picnic area the next morning (which was beautiful sitting by the Hood Canal with mist hovering over a glass ocean) we pushed onto Montesano the following day, enjoying some wider shoulders. We were still passed by many a logging truck — I estimated one every 15 minutes — but the drivers are good and they aren’t a problem when the shoulder is wide. We passed through some small lumber towns, Shelton, McLeary and then ended up on highway 12 for a long haul as we pushed against a headwind. We hit Montesano and decided to stay at the one motel in town, owned by the Chevron…

But it was a good day off and fun with the waitress at the Local Bee Hive restaurant where I had prime rib and Ian had chicken fettucine while we got some local knowledge on route possibilities off the highway. The menu explained the history of the restaurant — built in 1934, originally as a tent selling coffee and burgers for 25 cents. Real small town America in lumber country. Saw Mitt Romney signs. Saw lots of anti-expansion of Olympic Park signs. Lots of loggers want to keep their jobs and their way of life and I don’t blame them. It is a tough problem — but just finished reading Ronald Wright’s A Scientific Romance, a post biological disaster, global warming post apocalypse novel and yeah we have to find a way to both look after the environment and make sure people can make a living. Seems like overwhelming problems for our complex political and economic systems to solve. Sigh.

Legs rested after the gruelling last 10 km into Montesano we pushed on to Twin Harbour State Park and had the perfect ride. They happen sometimes…the waitress at the Honey Bee was absolutely right re her directions on an 11 mile stretch of back roads to Aberdeen. There was zero traffic and emerald marine grasses and funky little rural properties to look at. Gorgeous.

We arrived in Aberdeen (last couple of miles in on highway 12). Ian got ahead of me (he usually is) and when I caught up to him he was stopped in front of the Baskin Robbins. Surprise surprise. But it wasn’t open yet and I teased him. A local woman stopped by to chat — a fellow long-distance cyclist who had just cycled galloping goose (trail near Victoria) and so we had a good chat and got more local route info. Lo and behold another cyclist pulled up, kitted out with camping gear. He had come from Seattle and is enroute to Santa Cruz and then flying to Panama with his bike. His name was Bo and he is from Anchorage Alaska. We talked about how this is a training ride, especially for me and it was at that point that he noticed we were alls standing in front of the Baskin Robbins. He laughed and said its usually best to stay in condition rather than get back into it and cycled off as we made our way giggling into the store which had opened in the meantime. Chastened, I ordered a kiddie scoop of chocolate fudge in a cup.

Twin Harbours State Park turned out to be the best park so far and we were treated to our first views of big Pacific rollers on a windswept beach with fog rolling in. We set up camp and cycled to a local gas station to get wine and beer (don’t you just love that you can do that here). And then…the, I’m guessing, 25 year old male clerk asked me for ID. For the liquor he said. I looked at Ian rather unbelievingly and pulled out my drivers license. Ok, I’m thinking, I really like this place and it truly has been a perfect day. Later, as we sat around the campfire drinking our wine and beer, I speculated on why he’d asked me and guessed that with my oversize sunglasses on and a tan its hard to see wrinkles and my hair is bleached blond from the sun and I was in bike clothes and besides guys that age think all women over 30 are the same — old. Ian said maybe the guy was just kidding when he asked me.  I say Ian doesn’t get any brownie points for that comment ;-0

Today was a bit of a tougher cycle (headwinds again) but we enjoyed great weather (still) and pretty ocean and river views all the way to where I sit at Chen’s Motel in South Bend which has a lounge and margaritas for 2.99. Hmmm. Sounds like a good deal to me….Ciao.

Categories
North America

Autumnal Glory in Washington State

[slideshow]

Sidney to Anacortes 2.02 km
Anacortes to Fort Casey 58.04 km
Fort Casey to Quilcene 39.81 km
Quilcene to Lilliwaup 54.81 km

If there is any pattern to the first few days in Washington State it is that we have met some really nice people and discovered that the inland route is relatively hilly but very beautiful, taking us through dark green ferny forests with occasional hilltop views of the ocean, lush farm country, quaint Oceanside villages and a river filled with spawning salmon.

We took the ferry from Sidney to Anacortes and stayed in a motel the first night (Ship Harbour Inn – a bit expensive but well maintained and friendly and accommodating owner and very close to ferry). The first ride in Washington was along a series of rolling (very) side roads with great views of the ocean. We met a bunch of cyclists from a Skagit County bike club and they were full of enthusiasm for our trip and gave us lots of information about the route we were on (essentially cycling from Anacortes to Port Townsend over Fidalgo and Whidbey Island). I was a bit knackered by the time we got to our campsite at Fort Casey (which is right beside the terminal for ferry to Port Townsend) as we’d battled headwind for part of the day and the terrain was consistently hilly all day. However, we really liked the scenery around Penn Cove and Coupeville (an old town that has maintained a number of historic buildings and an old pier.) This is a great area for Vancouver cyclists who want a long weekend or 4 days of cycling and touring. There are lots of unique and lovely places to stay if you don’t want to camp (Coupeville, Captain Whidbey Inn, Port Townsend).

The hiker biker section of the Fort Casey campground was beside the recycling bins…we must have looked a little dismayed as a guy came by and invited us to join him and his wife at their campsite. We ended up with a lovely view of the water and a pleasant evening sipping rose and sharing stories around their campfire, where we were introduced to smors.

Unfortunately the wind that we’d battled all day kept up all night and I was freezing in the tent. I don’t like the confines of a sleeping bag so had slipped my sleeping sheet over my air mattress and was using the sleeping bag as a blanket. I will be buying long pants and a sweatshirt for night wear in the next big town. But the new air mattress was excellent…old fart huge.

We took the ferry from Whidbey Island to Port Townsend. This is another historic town we could easily have spent a day or two in. We met a very friendly bike shop (P.T. Cyclery) owner who regaled us with tales of other cyclists he’s met through the shop that are on long journeys, including a 23 year old French Canadian woman who had been cycling North America for a number of years surviving on barter and picking fruit.

Turns out we needed the extra tire we bought at the bike shop and spent a frustrating hour fiddling with my bike (again sigh) at the side of a very hilly road (highway 20 west). Pretty country but narrow shoulders. The best part of the day was at the end cycling 101 to Quilchene. The grade was gentle, and the shoulders wide as we cycled through farm country. I bonked at one point though (just tired and hungry) and let Ian get ahead while I stopped for a bite and to put a sweater on. I looked across the road to find I had an audience of three very beautiful horses who spent the five minutes I stood resting staring at me with such unwavering intensity they made me laugh. Must have been my bike and helmet? And back on the bike, blood sugar and sense of humour intact.

Our budget said campground but I needed a motel and Ian was happy enough to agree. I slept like the dead although Ian says the dead don’t snore so like that…

Our third day cycling was also tough because of hills. We followed 101 into the Olympic National Park. The day started with a 6 km climb although relatively gentle grade and then descended into what eventually seemed like a never-ending series of hills with short but steep climbs, all along the Hood canal. So we motelled again…

Over beers in our room, we reminded ourselves that we are on a training ride but we are also meant to be having fun. So if we spend a little more on motels than what we planned and if we take a little longer than what we had hoped we can and will adjust for that and perhaps the other challenge I fear is coming…my raspy throat maybe developing into a cold.

Categories
North America

Last Canadian Port of Call – Sidney B.C.

[slideshow]
Day 4 Parksville to Nanaimo 24.61 km

Day 5 Nanaimo to Chemainus 46.32 km

Day 6 Chemainus to Sidney 35.76 km

After a successful and happy camping experience, I cycled to the top of the campground enroute to Chemainus and my front deralier derailed (it kind of blew apart). Ian was able to set me up so that I could ride on the middle sprocket but that meant doing some hills without my granny gears and that and island traffic on the main highway made day 4 a challenge.

In Nanaimo we found a bike store (Arrowsmith Bikes) who sold us a derailer as well as a bottom bracket for Ian’s bike which he noticed was misbehaving around the same time as we arrived in Nanaimo. Their repair department was booked solid but they very kindly let Ian borrow tools and turn their patio into his own mini repair shop. Ian fixed his bike and then began to work on mine late afternoon and learned (very close to bike shop closing time) that we had the wrong derailer. Arrowsmith didn’t have the one we needed in stock. Ian cycled to another dealer close by and no luck. We were told about another shop downtown that we could try the next day and we were prepared to order the part and have it couriered from Victoria if necessary. A kind man, a customer of Arrowsmith Bikes, chatted with us and then volunteered to drive us downtown with our bikes in the back of his pickup (by this time my gearing system was in pieces). We spent a relatively luxurious night at the Dorchester, built in 1891 and bought by Best Western sometime in the last decade; despite the chain management the hotel still retains the charm of an older hotel and we both slept well. Next morning Ian found the right part at a bike co-op on Lois Lane downtown Nanaimo and we managed to get out of town in the afternoon.

Day 5 we cycled from Nanaimo to a campground close to Chemainus. Day 6 we cycled to the Crofton ferry and then onto Salt Spring Island where we cycled the length (Vesuvius where Crofton ferry lands) to Fulford Harbour (where ferry to Schwartz Bay/Victoria ferry departs). The Ganges hill on Salt Spring is as big as I remember…I had to walk part of it. After four days of cycling I was very happy to land in Sidney and take the bus into Victoria for the day to go shopping for bike bits and camping gear. I now have a skookum air mattress and a ton of handlebar tape to help me deal with sore hands I’ve been struggling with.

Friends of ours have a house in Sidney and we are staying with them, in the lap of queen-sized bed luxury, drinking the Garry Oaks wine we picked up at the vineyard on Salt Spring. We’re here until Sunday when we take the ferry to Anacortes WA and begin the trek south through the States.

I’m a bit nervous, hence the insomnia (I am writing this at 6:30 am), as I was surprised at how tired my legs and myself were after four days of cycling in a row and not a huge amount of mileage. However, the bikes are heavily loaded and we are just in the initial stages of getting ourselves into some semblance of cycling condition and I have to have faith that our pace will pick up.

My Kobo finally bit the dirt in a permanent crash the other night when I had just snuggled into my sleeping bag. I said very bad words. I’ve had to buy a new one as the warranty expired a year ago and the ipad is really not a replacement. I have lots of thoughts about Kobo crapping out…I will make sure I share them with as many of the Kobo management team as possible and will look into Open Media and what legislation exists to protect customers from a situation where they have a sizable investment in books but are constrained by digital rights management (DRM) locks on their content put in place by Kobo (and Kindle). It seems to me that if Kobo can’t get their act together to produce a reliable product, they should have to relinquish control over my purchased content when their device craps out. If corporations won’t govern themselves, we lobby for legislation to regulate them. I think forcing Kobo to give me my books without the content lock when their device craps out might force them to make a reliable device…

There are good days and bad days on the bike, and good and bad days off the bike. The trick is to accept the good and the bad, adapt where necessary and carry on. Derailer derailing, not so good. Sore muscles…par for the course Salt Spring Island…as lovely as ever. Good friends and fabulous weather…more thumbs up.

Categories
North America

Goodbye Stuart and Hello Camping

Day 2 Powell River to Courtenay 18 km.

Day 3 rest day in Courtenay.

Day 4 Courtenay to Parksville 73 km.

We found a cheap but nice motel in Courtenay (River Heights Motel). It is owned by a Korean family working hard to tart it up; they did some cheap renovations, painting wallboard pale yellow and adding art, personalizing it. It was also very clean… all for 62.00 a night. We also found an independently owned café which had great breakfasts. (Oh So Yummy Café – yeah that’s really the name.) The locally owned independent businesses are a much better experience than the chains… eating some perfectly executed eggs benny with chipotle hollandaise we talked about how we will look for locally and independently owned business and try to support where possible on this trip.

Courtenay is a pretty town with a nice park along the river and a main street that still functions with small shops.  We spent a rest day there, visiting with Ian’s brother Stuart who is moving to Nelson from Victoria and who was also enroute. We celebrated moving forward. It has been a tough year for all of us for a variety of reasons.

We managed to get from Courtenay to Parksville in one day yesterday thanks in part to a northwest wind and a level road for the first 30 km. The road follows the ocean until just a bit past Fanny Bay then it goes inland (this is highway 19A, the old island highway) and starts to get a little hillier.  I was lagging by the 50 km mark but we stopped a few times and I stretched my back and legs at a park and this kept me going with less pain.

We are in a campground (provincial park RathTrevor) just south of Parksville. Beautiful spot by the ocean. When we arrived late yesterday afternoon we still had enough energy left to mix up our packaged spaghetti sauce and cook dinner. There is only one other camper in our tent area – a cyclist who has just come down from Port Alberni where he looped around some old logging roads and experienced some real wilderness. He has also toured in Indonesia. But it was his tour of Pakistan and western China that made me start feeling that our journey to San Francisco is really a bit wimpy!

I can’t say I slept tremendously well last night. Ian and I are still working out the kinks in our gear and I am sure I will eventually get over my bear paranoia…I will also be getting a larger mattress. We test drove a couple in a sports store in Courtenay. However, the three-man tent with two vestibules is a luxury and Ian is not finding it too heavy to carry so this is good. And I did sleep about 6 hours so I’m sure so should be fine for another 70 km day.

On my early morning stroll around the park I heard woodpeckers, saw a rabbit, a chipmonk and watched a doe and fawn eating the leaves around our campsite. As we are making coffee I am watching the fawn and a raven who looks to be about 1/8 of the size of the fawn – no kidding – greeting each other nose to nose. A little bit of Eden.

Categories
North America

And we’re off. Day One. 33 km from Lund B.C. to Powell River, B.C.

[slideshow]
We hauled the boat out at Jack’s Boat Yard in Lund B.C. August 30. Roy and Cindy, Jack’s kids, were fantastic and made what can be a stressful experience a pleasant one. We chatted about politics and the lack of general knowledge about local native culture in B.C. and how Apple is taking over the world and a bunch of other stuff as Roy and Cindy manoeuvred the boat into the travel lift (the boat weighs 10 tonnes…this is a big job) and then pulled the lift up a hill to the yard with a front loader (which Roy kindly gave me a ride on while Cindy drove the travel lift).

We spent the next morning winterizing the boat (anti freeze and putting tarp up etc.) and then lowered the bikes off the boat and got going around 3.

First day was 33 km. It was hilly to start — about a 5 km climb out of Lund, but then graduated to rolling hills. We were tired when we got to Powell River, a combination of spending the morning climbing on and off the boat doing the winterizing tasks and then getting used to hills with a fully loaded bike.

But all was well when we arrived in our little motel room a few kms past Powell River. I panicked a little and booked on line using Booking.com as I was under the impression there was a music festival here this weekend. Not sure about that but cycled by lots of perfectly good motels that probably would have been a better deal. Good first day lesson on the road…don’t book in a hurry or panic. I can’t recommend the motel although I would have possibly been fine with it if I hadn’t trapped myself here with a no cancel reservation through booking.com. It turned out I saved no money booking through them and there was lots of room here. Oh well. Will avoid booking.com in future as it is misleading. I often do use online hotel bookings though…but to get deals…that’s the point!

Anyway, a good start as the weather today was perfect and the scenery beautiful and my bed very welcome.