Bogachiel Or Bust!
It’s early. 630 I think. We are in Victoria and getting ready to make our way south to Port Angeles. We left Richmond yesterday afternoon took the ferry to Swartz Bay. Then it was only a 33km ride to get here. Some beers and anticipation about what we were undertaking made for a great afternoon on the Lochside trail. We had dinner at the Irish Times pub… not too bad. It was a bit busy, being Saturday night and all. Following that we had a few more drinks back at the hostel (which had a fridge by the way). A luxury that we will not see for the next few days. Everyone’s energy was a bit low last night, perhaps a bit too much sun. Oh well we haven’t got our rhythm yet. Time for breakfast then off to America.
We caught the 1030am to Port Angeles, a great little ferry ride. After getting through customs we cycled for a little ways and stopped at Safeway for lunch. We were told of a great trail that would have us not riding on the highway. We attempted it but soon realized that our information giver did not have his information right. Blah! Slight detour, oh well. We made our way back to the highway. The temperature outside was heating up. I felt like I was going through my water quite quickly. The highway heads west until Lake Pleasant where it begins to turn south toward Forks and further on to our destination at Bogachiel State Park. We had a descent ride ahead of us. As we continued on we were now all feeling the affects of the heat. Running low on water we pulled in to Shadow Mountain General Store opposite Lake Sutherland to replenish. Isaac seemed to be hit hardest by the heat. Candace and I went in to get some water and Isaac went to lay down under the shade of a nearby tree. I admit I was feeling exhausted myself and I guessed Candace was fairing about the same. We all rested a while.
From here the highway continues on around the south side of Lake Crescent and we found ourselves quickly being resorted to a very narrow strip of roadway with no shoulder! At times it seemed as though the cars on the road would be glad to send us off into the lake, but we pushed onward (much to the cars dismay). We had a destination to get to and we weren’t there yet. By now the heat was just unruly. At one point we began climbing a big hill that just seemed to never end. “This is some Bullshit”, I thought. I did not bother to share my opinion with the others. They knew. They were going through it too. Finally the hill levelled off. Thank goodness!
We were now hitting nice long straight a ways of fields and trees. The highway began to make its way south to Forks. Daylight was slowly fading as we approached town and we were spent. We knew we had about another 8-10km to go to get to Bogachiel State Park. We pulled over at a local grocery store. Tired, hungry, and wanting to be done with riding for the day, we opted to go inside and try to find some food for dinner. Now I can only describe my attempt of trying to figure out food for dinner that night as “Zombie Like”. I wandered up and down the isles looking aimlessly. I found myself deliberating on how much beer I could carry, as well as a small handful of other random items. In the end I don’t even know if we bought stuff for dinner. Maybe Spaghetti?
We loaded our goods up and got back on our bikes and grinded out the last couple kms. We rolled into the campsite just at dusk, pulled up to one of the hiker/biker campsites and began to set up camp (and get some food in us). Isaac wandered over to the neighbouring campsite and began chatting with the family there. He told them about our days adventure, and about the trip we were doing. They were impressed with the mission that lay ahead of us. The father even gave us an armful of firewood. Perfect. We ate dinner and sat back sipping down some much needed cold bevvies. The day was long, gruelling at some points but I thought to myself ” If that’s what cycle touring was, I’m hooked!”. We seemed to be smiles all around.
The Long and Winding Road.. to Lake Quinault
Morning. Up at a descent time. We quietly started breaking camp, each of us going through the game of “Pannier Tetris”, fitting everything in its right place. We had not gone through all our beer from the night before and Isaac collected the remainders and gave them to our neighbours who had been so gracious with the firewood. They obliged to take it off our hands. All loaded up we set out. I still felt a little sore from yesterdays ride, but I knew this would subside once we got moving.
We passed over the Hoh River which the highway followed for a ways before we hit the coastline and continued south. This was the first time since we started the trip that I could picture riding all the way to Mexico. I thought about how it would feel riding that coastline of America and having all the other scenery keep changing except the body of water on my right, but let’s not get ahead of our selves. First we have to get to Portland.
It was a bit overcast which served us well. We were putting in a pretty big ride today, and I was ok with not having the sun zap us like bugs under a magnifying glass. The trees kept it pretty cool here too and allowed for us to push it without overheating completely.
We past Ruby Beach, but stopped at a couple of the other beautiful look out points as an excuse for water breaks. After a couple hours had passed an urge to stop for some food slowly crept in. We didn’t know what was going to be available up head. In our trip planning we had noted Kalalach Lodge as a place to stop for food. Truth be told I did not know if it would be anymore then a place to get Pringles and a snack bar. However to our delight there was a rustic seaside restaurant waiting for us upon our arrival. I was starving now. Maybe because my body knew there was food available as apposed to just snacks.
We left our bikes out against the fence overlooking the ocean and headed into the restaurant. I glanced at the menu for a moment before the waitress came by. I couldn’t wait to eat. “Fish and chips please”. Isaac seconded the notion. “Would you like the two pc or three pc?”, as if there was any question. “Three, definitely three”. “And a pint of whatever is on tap”, we smiled with our coming order. Candace went with the seafood chowder, which looked great when it came out. I could have had that as an appetizer. The rest of the food came out and we became a quiet bunch as we gorged on our “bounty of the sea”. After lunch we went back outside, snapped a few pics and continued on.
From Kalalach Lodge, Lake Quinault was roughly another 60kms or so. It was only our third day of consecutive riding but that seemed to be the point where my body shifted in to a rhythm of what we were doing. The point where the weight of the bike becomes familiar on the corners, knowing which gears work better than other, and which don’t work at all!
Over the next couple hours we rode mainly in silent. Not too much conversation. maybe it was the food, our bodies now content and able to focus on the ride. I began thinking of all the preparation we did for this trip. Planning out daily distances, where to stay, what resources were available at certain locations, and how busy our lives have become that it takes months to plan an adventure like this. I wondered why people settle for cookie cutter vacations. The planning is part of the enjoyment, and cycle touring (as new as it was to me) seemed to be the perfect speed to take it all in.
It was hot again. As we neared Amanda Park, just north of Lake Quinault we stopped at the local mercantile to pick up supplies. We wandered up and down its extremely uneven isles to try and find some inspiration for dinner. After a brief committee meeting we settled on bean/cheese quesadillas and tomato salad. We also agreed that some beer and wine would accompany such a meal quite nicely. We pulled in to the campground and Isaac and Candace began setting up the tents while I tackled dinner. Afterwards we grabbed a few cold ones and walked down to the edge of the lake to relax. 100kms today and we were feeling pretty good. Later that evening we met a couple who let us settle up to their campfire for an hour or so. They were from Portland and were just out here camping for few days. We all chatted for a while before calling it a night. After all, we had to pace our selves. We had to get up the next morning and do it all over again. Awesome!
Lake Q to Bruceport Park
We awoke to overcast skies again. I was happy with this, having ridden through some hot days it was nice to have some weather that fairs well with climbing hills, and we had a big one to start our day. Once we got back onto the highway we met a fellow cyclist that was heading north. We chatted with him for a few moments. Us declaring our route and destination and he his, then with a head nod we continued south. We were a quiet group again this morning. Perhaps a little reflective. I had a thought that morning “this is the furthest I have ever been on a self propelled trip ever”. Sure I have been on much longer trips by car or by plane but this was different. Its amazing how far you can go in just a couple of days on a bike, seeing all the sights roll passed you km at a time.
The highway weaved over the Humptulips River a couple of times as it meandered its way towards Aberdeen. For whatever reason this day was just uneventful. A lot of riding. Maybe it was the lack of superb scenery ot that we were just looking ahead to tomorrow when we would be reaching Astoria and a bed indoors! I guess that is what longer journeys are like. Can’t be all mountain tops!
We pulled in to a McDonald’s in Aberdeen to replenish some calories. We ordered and sat outside. It was to be off the bike for a bit. We chowed down and continued on our way, stopping briefly at a gas station for some food for the road. This became the trend when we were riding through little towns. Probably because we were always kind of hungry, and if we weren’t, we would be within half an hour. Gas station food is like a cycle tourists haven. They have everything you need. Salty. Check. Sweet. Check. taste good. Check. Calories, oh ya check.
We ventured on up another big hill and this one was a whopper. Holy. The road then continued on south to Raymond. We pulled off the highway and stretched our legs a while. I knew we were nearing the end of our ride for the day and we needed to get to our destination soon so that we could be off the bikes for a change of scenery if you will. So we continued on to South Bend where we found a grocery store to stock up. This was routinely starting to be the enjoyable part of each day. One. Because it signified we were close enough to our destination to warrant picking up food. Two. Because you could start to imagine what your going to have for dinner and your mind could practically start tasting it. We also took this opportunity to inquire about the place that we had intended to stay that night, which we were informed would still be another hour and a half of riding. “Bullshit”, I thought. Not interested. We looked on a corkboard out front of the grocery store. There was a campground at Bruceport Park that was no more than a half an hour away. We decided that we would attempt there and see how it goes. The nice thing about pulling up to campsites on bikes with tents is that its kind of hard to be turned away. Its not like your looking for much, just a place for a tent is all.
We rode with determination to get there and call it a day. To our appreciation they barely had anyone staying there. The camping was in a big open field, with sites only being discernable by fire rings here and there. They also had showers! Fantastic. We made camp and all hit the showers. How nice it was to be able to wash the day off of myself. We set a fire alight, tore into some freeze dried dinners, and had a couple nice deserved beverages. We all chatted for the next few hours while listening to the anthems of Edward Sharpe and his Magnetic Zeros!
Om Nashi Me.
(These are special people I am with, and it is nice to share this with them).
Bruceport – Astoria, Dead Bird Bridge and the Meeting of Calvin
We awoke. My spirits were up. Partially because of having had a shower the night before, and partially from having a few breakfast beers. Yum. We packed up and hit the highway southbound through Bruceport, passing by some oyster farms. The morning ride was quite scenic as we rolled along the coast past many of Washington’s farms and ranches. We rode through Nemah and the highway began to follow the South Nemah River as it slowly winded back and forth underneath us. We came down a big hill and the sign said Astoria. Left. We followed. I did not realize until later that day that this turn took us off the 101 and on to the #4. We kept following through to Naselle and at the next junction we went over to the 401 which took us to Astoria via the Megler Bridge. Now the Astoria-Megler Bridge is the gateway to Oregon from the Southern part of Washington’s coastline, but I believe that they should rename it the “Dead Bird Bridge”. This is what we referred to it as after seeing dozens of dead birds and bird parts strewn along the bridge side, I assume from hitting traffic?
As we were planning the trip I remember being a bit nervous about this crossing. I had read mixed reviews of people’s experiences crossing this by bicycle. For one thing there is pretty much zero shoulder to ride on (and what little shoulder there is, your sharing it with the dead birds!). Also the bridge is over 6.5 kms long. As for our own personal experience… they were also doing construction on the bridge. Awesome.
We started up the bridge deck while trying to avoid getting hit by vehicle traffic. Up ahead there was a construction worker preparing to stop traffic. Suddenly a van beside me collided with the vehicle in front of him. Bang! “What the fuck!”. We keep going. We approached the contruction worker and he said ” I’m going to stop traffic now. Do you want to stop and wait or do you want to keep going?”. I didn’t even stop moving. “We’ll keep going!”. He stopped the traffic, we hit the top of the bridge, and sailed down the Oregon side of the bridge. We pulled into the visitor’s center, just north of the off ramp of the bridge and out of the line of traffic. Hopping off the bikes we rested a moment. “That was intense” I said. Sentiments agreed. We went inside to get some information and the lay of the land.
We inquired into the next days travel, comparing going south to Seaside and then inland on the #26 or to take the #30 following the Columbia River inland and then south down into Portland in 2 days time. We were given the breakdown by a well informed lady working there. A choice for the morning. We then left the visitor centre and made our way up and down the main streets of Astoria, killing time until check in at our destination The Norblad Hotel. Isaac mentioned that we should go and find an American Legion and check it out, as we often frequented them back home. We were in agreement that we could go for a drink and get out of the sun for a bit. We pulled in front of one on Exchange Street, headed in and grabbed a beer. Inside we met some fantastic characters, got to hear some old war stories, admired the wall full of firearms, and even met a women who’s claim to fame is that she played the school bus driver in Schwarzenegger’s “Kindergarten Cop”. Leaving there in great spirits, we made our way to the Hotel and checked in. Us 2 guys in the Men’s dorm, and Candace flying solo in the Women’s. We all tucked our bikes in to some sort of locked closet, went upstairs and showered, and then met in the lobby to head out and explore the town.
First on the list, get some food, maybe a few beers. Luckily Fort George Public House and Brewery did us a favour by being located directly across the street. We went on in a grabbed a table. I was intrigued by their sampler beer rack. 12 beer samples. I’m in. It looked so good that both Isaac and Candace both ordered one as well. So there we were, kicking it Astoria with 36 beers on our table. We had to wait to order food for lack of space on the table. Truth is it did not take us long to get through them. Delicious. It was a fantastic day. We zipped back over to the hotel to grab a few things before heading out for the evening. When we were up in the dorm there was a another guy in there. Younger. He was on the phone, with his girlfriend it sounded, and was arguing about how he was away on a cycling trip… instead of being with her I suppose? Isaac and I grabbed our stuff and left him be to sort all that out. Our evening felt like we were actually away on a vacation. We stopped in one place for a pint and some oyster shots, then walked the boardwalk, and found a nice place for dinner. The Astoria Brewing Company. Dinner done.
we swayed our way back to the hotel and went in to play a few games of Uno before bed. Upon our arrival, we met the same guy still in the Men’s Dorm. We introduced our selves. His name was Calvin. He was from San Diego. He had just graduated college and was taking a bit of time off. He told us of his trip thus far. He had flown to Vancouver and was slowly making his was down the coast back home to San Diego. Cool. He had ridden much of the same route as us. We invited him to join us to play cards. He was reluctant at first, but our Segers charm must have convinced him. We went over and met Candace in the vacant Women’s dorm, introduced her to Calvin and played cards and bull shitted for a few hours.
Isaac asked Calvin how far he was planning on going in the next 2 days. “Portland”, he replied. We told him of our information gathering session back at the visitor centre and the 2 possible routes we were still considering and offered if he wanted to join us. As the night went on he warmed up to the idea of joining us for the next 2 days, after all, we were all heading to the same place. We all agreed on the inland Route #30 as we were told it “wasn’t as hilly” Which we would find out in the day to come that this statement is not necessarily true. Night end.
Astoria to (Surprise) avec Calvin
Another overcast morning when we left the hotel. Our plan was to follow Route #30 along the Columbia River inland and south to Rainier. Then find some food and a place to camp out somewhere between there and the next town St. Helen’s.
So after a quick breakfast we set out with our new addition to the group. This was a change, as we had been so used to riding in a group of three. Now with Calvin joining us we rode in pairs. The little differences eh. The morning went by fairly quickly and with it the clouds. The sun was beaming down on us and it was getting hot… again. As we made our way into Clatskanie it was getting close to midday, and we thought it was probably a good time to take a bit of a break, have a break, and get out of the sun for a bit. Isaac wasn’t looking too good when we pulled into a Chevron station. Inside Isaac said he needed to eat something immediately. Now this is not the first time I have encountered this with Isaac. When he hits the wall, it happens quick and he needs to get his sugars and calories ASAP. He bought some fried chicken and chocolate milk. He looked zoned out. I decided to give him a bit of space to chill out for a bit.
Across the street there was a little country market. Me, Calvin, and Candace rode our bikes over and found a little piece of shade to tuck under and have a bite to eat. I poked into the market for a bit, looking at all the little trinkets (it was nice to be out of the sun for a bit). We finished eating and Isaac had not yet come out to join us from the Chevron. This was not a good sign, especially since Isaac had been hit with sun stroke type symptoms back in Washington on our second day. We went back over to the gas station and he was still sitting inside. Same pale look in the face. I went in to talk with him. He said he did not know if he was going to be able to ride any further. We considered our options. We knew it was about another 20+ kms to Rainier, and further yet to St. Helen’s where we were originally intending on staying the night. I coaxed Isaac into riding on. “Let’s try to make it to Rainier! If you still don’t feel good we’ll stop there”. Truth is we didn’t have much choice. There seemed to be fuck all for us in Clatskanie. Isaac reluctantly agreed.
What we did not know is that upon leaving this town we were about to hit probably one of the biggest hills of our trip, combine that with the heat of the afternoon, and one member of our group being in pretty rough shape, we were heading for some trouble. We all dropped down into our lowest gear and went into our own individual “Zen Mode” of whatever it takes to get up the hill. With little more than a couple inches for a shoulder, this was starting to feel like we had chosen the wrong route. Semi trucks, and logging vehicles raced passed us at unsettling closeness. At one point Calvin, who was up front of the group, stopped and attempted to get off his bike because he was feeling so uncomfortable. I pulled up to him. “Dude you gotta get back on your bike. There is nowhere to stop and walk!”. He was nervous, I could see but this was starting to look like something really bad was going to happen. He got back on and continued. I encouraged him the rest of the way ” We’ll be o.k, just keep going!”.
We got to the top of the hill and were treated to a flat tire on Calvin’s bike. We took this opportunity to hop off ours for a break. I think that at this point our nerves were shot a bit. The mood in the group was low. It had been a rough ride today. Tire fixed. Onward we went. We came down a big hill into Rainier, with Longview Washington to our left on the other side of the Columbia.
We all cycled up to what looked to be the only grocery store in town. “I thought Rainier would have been a little bigger?” I said looking at Isaac and thinking of our potential camping options. We were all somewhat in a daze. Running on empty. We went into the store and began trying to decide and pick out supplies for the evening, not yet know where we were going to go or how much further we could ride. Halfway through picking up food we all started talking about perhaps pushing for St. Helen’s and that this would just end up being extra weight to carry. But we couldn’t decide, and were not really sure where we could stay anyways. None of us were able to actually formulate a plan and thus we put everything away and went back outside to our bikes. “We need to decide what we are going to do” I said, as we sat there. A sad looking lot we were. We began studying a map that one of us pulled out to determine where (if any) was the closest viable place to spend the night. A lady approached us as we were intensely passing the map around. She seemed interested in the four of us with our gear laden bicycles looking like some kind of travelling circus. “Hi”, she said with a nice smile on her face. “Are you guys trying to find something?” noting the map in hand.
Now here is what I love about travelling. Just when your luck is down these sort of situations happen and turn things around.
We explained our situation to her and her response was simply “Well why don’t I give you my address in St. Helen’s and you can all just stay at my place?”. We were stunned. “Really?”. “Ya, no problem, and don’t bother buying any food. I will get my daughters to make some dinner for you guys. You like spaghetti?”. “My name is Linda by the way”. I have to say that situations like this always rekindle the notion that the world is full of amazing people. She gave us her address. “See you in an hour or so!”, and with that she headed into the grocery store.
We all climbed aboard our bicycles, lit with a new fire burning inside us. We set off with determination. We were elated and quickly made our way out of Rainier and along the highway to St. Helen’s.
The sun was now low enough that it was beginning to hide behind the trees and the days heat was subsiding. This helped. We were making pretty good time, quit excited about our destination that lay ahead of us. Then Calvin got another flat. We stopped. “Fucking hell man” He said. He then quickly and quietly popped his panniers off and began changing his tire like a member of a Nascar pit crew, determined not to slow our momentum. Flat changed.
We pulled into St. Helen’s, not knowing what really to expect. A quick dinner and a safe place to set up our tents perhaps? However when we got there we realize we were in for a much bigger surprise. As we pulled up to the house, Linda came outside with her 2 daughters and offered us space in the garage to lock up our bikes safely for the night. After tucking them inside we made our way up the front steps. She (Linda) then offered us all clean towels and a shower we could each use. I must admit I was almost in disbelief at the generosity that was given to us. It was like the warmth of arriving at an old friends house after a long journey. We all cleaned up and made our way to the living room. Linda’s daughters were busy getting dinner together and we hopped in to help out. Our host explained how her husband was a cycling junkie (In fact he was away on a cycling trip now) and she would never hear the end of it if she hadn’t taken us in. Apparently her husband had brought home other cyclists like ourselves fairly regularly. We told her how grateful we were, and that it was so cool that there are people out there like them. We all sat down and had dinner.Spaghetti, salad, and Garlic Bread. If you had told me this is how we would be spending our evening a hand full of hours ago I would not have believed it. After dinner we cleaned up and continued chatting until late into the evening. Once Linda was ready to call it a night she offered Candace the spare bedroom upstairs and us guys were offered the living room floor. She said it would be easier than having us fuss with setting up our tents in the dark. We all good with that and called it a night. A very good night.
St. Helen’s to Portland as the Last day on the Road
I wake to Isaac fumbling around in the kitchen, getting his water bottles ready for the day. We slowly all get up and make a quick breakfast. It is a short 50kms or so to Portland’s Union Train Station where we are meeting my wife and a few friends that are coming down for the weekend before we all head back home. I am excited to get to our destination and to see my wife. But the feeling of getting there is also bittersweet because part of me wants to still keep going further… but that is another trip. I think I always have that mixed emotion on trips that I do. Happy to have completed what I set out to do, but sad in a way, like it is over too soon.
We began dragging our gear outside and loaded up our bikes one last time. We said goodbye to Linda and her daughters, and thanked them all again for their hospitality and off we went.
It was an easy ride through the morning. The sun was shining and the route between us and Portland was fairly flat. As we got closer to the city, the more it became unpleasant American highway riding. Busy and loud. We found a place to pull off the highway and take a break. It was sort of a park? More like a greenbelt really. We decided to pull out our remaining beers (as we had not had them last night on account that Linda’s family doesn’t drink) and enjoyed our final time together before meeting up with the others. Calvin was going to ride with us to the train station and then would continue on to is Aunt’s house out in the suburbs somewhere. We sat there a while swilling our warm beers proudly, not wanting to rush to the finish line.
Throughout our trip we had begun talking about when we would get back together again for the next leg of the trip. Portland to San Francisco. We decided that we might attempt it in two years time. Something new to put on the horizon, no matter how far off it may be. We finished up our bevvies and continued on through the industrial outskirts of Portland. We made one last stop to pull the map out and make sure Calvin knew where to go from the train station, snapped a few photos and made our way into downtown and arrived at the train station about 20 minutes before my wife and friends train pulled in. We said our goodbyes to Calvin and he was off to continue his trip that would not be over until he reaches San Diego.
In the end I think we logged just under 700kms. Proud.
Trips like this can and do take a fair amount of time to plan, but good god they are worth the effort.
I look forward to our next leg of the journey, whenever it may be!