2.2.11 – Washington Daily Logs

Raw and Uncut – Our Daily Notes on Touring Washington State

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Return to our ride from Cathlamet to Longview / Kelso
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2012 Washington State Daily Logs

This post consolidates the individual daily postings Marian and I did on our tour of Washington State.

We used a Kindle to jot down our thoughts, usually at the end of the day.  We posted them when we had an opportunity.  I was learning to use the Kindle interface.  My fingers bumbled, and the Kindle “helped” with spelling.  Hunkered in a tent, or exhausted in a motel room, quality writing was almost impossible.

We correlated the postings with the date / time stamps from our posts to order the events in our memories.  I used the collected material to create more readable, more interesting blogs.  You may find them more interesting than the daily blogs.

I have consolidated our postings below.  With only a few exceptions, I have performed no editing.  With this consolidation, I can reduce the number of discrete posts.

 19 June, 2012 – Portage from San Jose, California, to Portland, Oregon

(I compose this from the Kindle – and apologize in advance for strange words as the Kindle helps me on one hand, and tolerates keyboard errors on the other.

It seems that our journies always begin with David.  So, too, this one begins.  He joined the two of us in our small truck, with our bike boxes and check in boxes.  He was polite about wanting to know if we wanted him to stay.  We took pity and sent him on his way.  Our train was only a little late, and we got a chance to chat with Tom, a station volunteer.  We have trusted the safety of our bikes to them, and can only hope they do their jobs.

The night was endless, sleeping a little and trying to find a comfortable position, and stay warm.  Some passengers droned on about the most inane things – just like the cell calls you hear in the supermarket line.  I awoke in the pre-dawn and went forward to the observation car to watch the shadows slowly lose out to the probing rays of sun.  We are supposed to meet Charlie Fauntin in Portland this afternoon.  Maybe there will be an inclination to take a nap before then.

20 June, 2012 – Overnight in Portland, Oregon

The long train ride finally ended at Portland.  The last hours were stressful for those going on, as we were running over 90 minutes late.  We were happy to be free of the train, but were surprised at the seeming heat and humidity.  In the terminal we met another fellow traveler at baggage claim.  He was beginning a Portland – Santa Barbara tour.  We saw him again when he had completed assembly of his bike, also a trucker.  We had no trouble.putting our own bikes together, something which might have been more painful at 10:30 in Seattle than it was at 5:00 in Portland.

We rode out of the station with conflicting directions on how to cross the Steel Bridge to the other side and find our hotel.  Of course, we immediately got lost.  Bumping from pedestrian to jogger to biker, we finally got over and on to the motel.  We hooked up with Charlie Fautin for supper at a little Mexican place and shared gossip for little while.  In the morning, we will tweak our bikes and gear, and then board the noon train to Seattle.

We have seen forecasts that show extended rain by Friday, so we will take it day by day.  We have not mated up our photos with blogs yet.  Hopefully both will turn out to have easy solutions.

21 June, 2012 – Portage from Portland, Oregon, to Bremerton, Washington

After a sound night’s sleep, we gathered up our stuff and recrossed the bridge which had so vexed us the night before with little trouble.  The map which had seemed harder than the Enigma code the night before was simple and helpful.  After getting our tickets, we were reminded of the kindness of strangers when Kerry, a young woman on her way to Seattle torun ina half marathon found Mariana’s Kayser card which had fallen to the floor.  We were very grateful.

The train ride to Seattle was uneventful, as we had stowed our bikes, assembled, in the baggage car.  We could see them through the glass door.  In Seattle, what we saw validated the layover in Portland.  The Seattle station was under major construction and the few staff unhelpful.  What a contrast to the Portland station where the beautiful old building was served by a staff which was extremely friendly and went out of it’s way to be helpful. Nor were there any Washington road maps.  We got to the Bremmerton ferry too late to make the time we wanted, but caught a later one.  The Seattle skyline was impressive, but the Space Needle was a little out of place, and stuck off to one side -a little disappointing .  During the ferry ride, we saw a submarine making it’s way to the navy base at Bremmerton.  Two lads who were proud to be submariners, told us it was one of the three Sea Wolf boats which were supposed to replace the Los Angeles class attack boats.

We had planned on going a few miles north to a state campground, but we decided it was getting too late.  So, we took 4 miles of tomorrow’s route and are roughing it in yet another motel.  We will see what tomorrow holds, when we finally get down to brass tacks.  Tomorrow, the rubber finally meets the road.

22 June, 2012 – Touring from Bremerton, Washington, to Shelton, Washington

Grey skies greeted us with the dawn.  Rolling out, we were faced with the possibility of going further than the planned distance.  We were feeling strong, even though we had done little serious biking for 2 weeks.  The base plan was for us to camp at a State Park, but we would have been there before noon, and it was already soggy.  It was an easy decision to press on to Shelton, and get a room.

The ride, aside from the intermittent drizzle and rain, was a good shake-down.  My odometer refused to work and my Garmin battery rain out 15 miles from our destination.  My Polar 150 waterlogged early on.  Marian’s iphone worked like a champ and is revolutionizing how I look at touring.  Several times we pushed our heavy bikes up short, very steep slopes.  We will get better, but a Surley is always going to have trouble with 15% grades.  The fenders were marvelous, keeping our feet remarkably dry.  Overall, we were pleased with our first day in the saddle.

We crossed paths with two young lads working their way from Portland to Vancouver.  We chatted for a couple of.minutes and then parted ways.  Our impression of Washington was water.  In California, water is a scarce resource.  Here, it is everywhere.  The Hood Canal was very pretty.  We toured the North shore of Lake Mason, also very pretty.  We did notice that the public access was almost a forgotten idea, with houses crowding every foot of frontage.  We saw many FOR SALE signs, and it made me think of a friend at Lockheed who will retire in about nine months, and has talked of moving to Washington.  We even saw a house we liked, but it wasn’t for sale.  (As you pedal along, there is much time to daydream.  Now to finish drying out, and decide what second supper should be.

23 June, 2012 – Touring from Shelton, Washington, to Elma, Washington

Getting up early, we wanted to beat the rumored heavy rains later in the day, with an eye toward eating in Selma and pushing on another 35 milesnto Centralia.  When I used to work at Lockheed, a favorite saying was, “As it turned out….”

The rains set in about an hour into.the ride, the temperatures seemed to drop, and ansriff wind kicked up.  Couple that with grey dreary skies, and we thought of little more than the next water break, or the next snack.  As flue ride wore on, and became, frankly, unpleasant, I began to think of ending the day at Elma and waiting for the better weather promised on Sunday.

Those thoughts ended in a pop – two actually, when Marian had a blowout.  We were halfway between Shelton and Elma.  Standing in the rain, teeth chattering, I inspected the tire and could see nothing wrong.  Afternputting in a spare tube, we set out again, only tonhave a second blowout within a minute.  A very close inspection showed a tear in the tire at the bead line, something the dollar bill trick wouldn’t fix.

So, after putting a small amount of air in her tire, we did another first – we hitched a ride into Elma.  Our new friend, Dave, was on his way to visit his mother, and, lfnall things, had a trailer.  He was kind enough to take us several milesnout of his way and deposit us at a motel.  We were very happy to get to know him, his daughter, and his two dogs. The manager of the hotel has been very helpful, but cannot make up for the lack of facilities in this very small town – no bike shops, not even a fast food place.

We tried Amazon, but there could be no delivery before Tuesday.  So, unless something comes up, Pat will be doing an extended round trip to bring a new tire back for Mariana’s bike.

UPDATED: We called almost every bike shop within 25 miles. Most tried to help, but were constrained by lack of familiarity with touring bikes. With the clock running out, and faced with all shops taking Sunday off, as well as Monday, one person stepped up. Terry, from Lavogue Bicycle and Apparal was very knowledgeable, nailing down the wheel size,and offered to meet me in a town between Aberdeen and Elma. He didn’t own a car, and had to prevail on friends to give him a lift after work, if I could pedal over and meet him. I stripped Old Moe down to bare bones, and ventured down a divided highway for 11 miles, hoping I wouldn’t be late. I was, but Terry kept the faith, and was there. In the morning, I will mount the new tires and see if we have solved the problem.

24 June, 2012 – Touring from Elma, Washington, to Centralia, Washington

The new day dawned, grey and dreary.  Because of Pat’s evening ride, we slept in until 7:30.  After breakfast, Pat put on the new tires, and they were the right size, thanks to Terry’s attnention to detail.  We set out on, perhaps the flattest ride on the PCH, happy the sun had come out.  Surely our fortunes had changed.

About 90 minutes into our ride, Marian reported a “plink”.  Listening, it seemed to come from the rear wheel, perhaps a spoke.  Repeated inspections revealed no obvious cause.  The wheel does have a wobble to it.  Perhaps loose spokes are flexing.  The joy of the ride disapeared it worry of a catastrophic failure.  And each plink, coming once or twice a revolution was a constant nagging.  With no hope of help in Elma, we pressed on to Centralia, the nearest point that ACA shows having bike shops.

As we drew close, we encountered a cyclist pulling an empty child’s trailor.  We chased him down and asked if he knew of any shops.  He directed us to one downtown.  At that point, Pat discovered he had a flat!  So Marian pressed on, hoping to catch them before they closed – a gallant if futile gesture, as they were closed all day Sunday.  In calling around, the other ACA bike choice is out of business.

We will make some calls in the morning.  Maybe Willie’s can find and fix the problem, or Pat can figure something out.

As Scarlet O’Hara said, “Tomorrow is another day.”

25 June, 2012 – Portage from Centralia, Washington, to Vancouver, Washington

The morning began, grey as usual.  We counted the minutes to 09:00.  Crossing our fingers, we called Willie’s, to find they aren’t really a bike shop, and of no use in looking at Mariana’s bike.  So to was True Value, which was no surprise.  We began calling other towns, and settled on a shop in Longview.  At the AMTRAK station we discovered that Longview has no baggage service.  Nor does Olympia.  That meant we had no way to get our panniers off the train.  We finally settled on a big move to Vancouver Washington – which is across the river from Portland.

Even though the AMTRAK agent in Centralia had given us answers we didn’t like, he was very nice.  We hopped a train down, and met some very nice AMTRAK people in Vancouver (happy birthday Linda!!!!!!) who poured over maps helping us find a way to Vancouver Cyclery (a big difference from Seattle).  We met John and the rest of the guys.  We had called ahead, and they green-lighted us.  Within a few minutes, John found two loose spokes and a hub bearings that were starting to go.  He replaced and repacked the hub, trued the wheel and retensioned the spokes.  He threw in derailleur adjustments, brakes tweaks, and general lubing.  He would only take $39, including lube.  John had worked for over 90 minutes – just amazing.  We cannot thank them enough.

However, with each solution comes another challenge.  We are now far off our route, and will spend some time, tomorrow, to figure out how to get to the sea, preferably by bike.  Just remember what Scarlet O’Hara said.

 26  June, 2012 – Rest Day in Vancouver, Washington

We awoke to, you guessed it, more light rain.  After walking for a bit, we had a bite of breakfast, and wandered over to the public library.  They have many computers.  Not being taxpayers of the city or county, they gave Marian guest privileges and allowed her one hour on their system.

We used most of that time researching our next move.  One option was to take the train back up Centralia – more $$$$.  Or, we could pack it in and return to San Jose and try this another time.  Or, we could take a special bus to Tillamook.  Or we could take Highway 30 down the south bank of the Columbia.  Or we could avoid the perils of Highway 30 by taking 26.  Or we could take back roads on the north side of the Columbia until we were back on the ACA route.

We decided on the last option.  With good fortune we can make it to Kelso Washington by Wednesday night.  And Cathlamet Thursday night.  And Astoria Friday night.  That would put us a day behind the plan.  Hopefully, the weather will cooperate and we can use the camping gear we have been lugging along – it amounts to half our weight.

In the afternoon, we walked a bit more in downtown Vancouver, often thinking of a friend who might retire here.  Then, in a break in the showers, we biked on the I5 bridge over the Columbia to Hayden Island, to the Safeway there.  We were amazed that the island seems to have been turned into an enormous Outlet Mall.  After we got back, we had pizza at Vinnies.  It was great, especially knowing we can eat about anything we want.

Tomorrow, we will find out how good we are at winging it for a 50 mile ride, with no clue as to food, water, amount of climbing, or number of cars.  As Scarlet O’Hara said, “I will never be hungary again!”

27 June, 2012 – Touring from Vancouver, Washington, to Kelso, Washington

Our second morning in Vancouver started out grey, but dry.  Gathering our stuff together, we headed back out toward north Vancouver.  This time we had good maps, and took full advantage of the routes identified by the local bike community.  We stopped at Vancouver Cyclery (directly on our route) to pick up a spare tire for Pat.  But they didn’t open until 10:00, so we went our way.  We were greeted by the sun – a welcome change to the prior week’s weather.

Working with notes taken from GYPSIES.COM, we followed our sometimes tourturous route.  Without the tried and true route of ACA, we hearkened back the early days of mountain hiking when we had relied on turn by turn, maybe a map, on no gps.  Hoping I had copied it down correctly, we made our turns, and pedaled our distances.  We did not have a copy of the elevation changes, so we hoped they wouldn’t be too steep.  And our route was very reasonable, until we encountered a road by the quaint name of GREEN MOUNTAIN ROAD.  It was, simply, a bear.  Until I download the Garmin, I won’t known the grades – but I think I was seeing some of them in excess of 18%.  Tlhle physists out there can work out just how hard that is, with a bike and panniers exceeding 100 pounds.  We spent a loooooooooong time on that road.  Pushing a fully loaded Surly is, physically, very challenging – almost too hard.  We couldn’t wait too be done with it.  And we finally finished the road, and the ride.

Along the way, we ran into a young man doing his first tour – from Astoria to Maryland!  We compared notes, and then went our separate ways – the way of the road.  In another place, we ran into a young family.  It turned out the man’s father, on his way to Marine bootcamp so many years ago, in San Diego, had biked east-to-west in about two months.   All in all, we met more nice people.

Tomorrow, we will push on to Cathlamet, and maybe further.  We hope to finally start camping.  (We would have camped tonight, but the extended time on the north face of the Eiger put us in town too late in the day.)

28 June, 2012 – Touring from Kelso, Washington, to Cathlamet, Washington

After an all too short night, we ventured out of Kelso, looking to rejoin the ACA routes.  We found Washington HW 4 and followed along the north bank of the mighty Columbia.  It was surprisingly easy to find the track, as was crossing Longview.  And it was the first time I have been commanded to ride on a sidewalk – as we did through Longview.  When we got to the end of the sidewalk, it turned out we had cut across the ACA PCH route from Castlerock to Cathlamet.  Working our way down Washington 4 was helped by a, usually more than adequate shoulder.  We were honked at once or twice by clueless drivers, and buzzed once or twice.  But, all in all, it worked out well.  Maybe it was because of the highly visible.Washington State Police presence.  At one time we saw four patrol cars in the space of a mile.

We decided to end the day’s ride at the Cathlamet ferry, once again in a hotel because of the likelyhood of rain tonight.  At the start of the day, we held open the possibility of riiding further.  But the options on the other side of the river, short of Astoria, are thin.  When we got into Cathlamet, we were honest in admitting we were still tired from the ride yesterday (which I looked up stats on and confirmed it was a 7 on the PAT SCALE – so it was hard).  Not only am I learning about my capabilities, I am learning about what influences my moods, and the overcast is having a negative imact on me.  To be honest, I am not sure if I would be happy in a land where it is overcast so much.  Maybe it is because I grew up in Casper Wyoming, where there are over 300 days a year where there is partial or complete sun.

Three things stand out from our ride today.  First, we saw the aftermath of an amazing auto accident in Longview.  It is hard to believe that no one was seriously hurt.  We think a car was pulling front first out of their driveway and a car crossed over from the other lane and struck them at a high rate of speed.  The car pulling out was spun clear around and tossed up on the lawn.  The entire driver’s side of the van was shredded, and a front wheel was ripped away and thrown up on another lawn.  Glass and pieces of cars were everywhere.  Again, it seemed no one was too seriously hurt, but the G forces on the car pulling must have been terrific.  I had a number of miles to ponder that.

The second image, much less dramatic, was County Line Park, where RVs were packed in hub to hub.  The only empty spaces were two empty tent sites.  Sooner or later, we are going to do our bit in filling some of those.  And to think that I have toyed with the idea of an RV.  Where would I ever find space to park it?

The third impression is of the mighty Columbia.  We had been biking beside it for some time, with it gradually widening.  It was not until the BCC VERMONT came slowly down the river that I was able to understand the scale.  I recognize that she wasn’t an ocean going ship (maybe half the length of the container ships we have passed on the Tibouron ferry in San Francisco Bay.  But the river dwarfed the ship.  It was amazing.  All that water running to the sea is jarring to this Californian – but the fish have to live too.

29 June, 2012 – Retouring from Cathlamet, Washington, to Kelso, Washington

It rained much of the night.  The forecast for the coast showed rain through mid week, with a promise of sun by mid week.  (This is exactly the same forecast we saw last week.).  With the 4th coming up, the chances of a room without reservations are small.  Hiker / biker camp sites will go unused.  We would have been in better shape if we had started two weeks sooner, or two weeks later.

So, we biked back to Kelso and are waiting for our son, David, to retrieve us.  As Marian pointed out, we can check one state off the list.  And we learned more about touring for the future.

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Read about our 2012 Adventures
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Let us know what you thought, we'd love to know. Thanks - Pat and Marian

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