2.2.05: 24 June 2012: Elma to Centralia, Or A Disturbing Sound

Elma to Centralia, Back in the Saddle, but Bike Worries

Read about our travel from Shelton to Elma

We awoke in the Chehalis River Valley, at Elma.   The Valley skirts the heights of the Capitol State Forest, gently rising from North to South, running for about 40 airline miles.  Our route took us along the river to Centralia.  We had overcome the tire problems of the day before, but would be tested, again, when Marian’s bike developed a rear hub problem.  We looked to Centralia, to the imagined bike shop, to cure our  problems.


2205 map

We started the day 51 air miles from Bremerton, our starting point, and 21 air miles from Aberdeen, the closest point to the sea.  We would end the night at Centralia, 36.1 Surly miles from Elma.  We followed back roads, riding west of the Capitol State Forest, converging on I-5 at Centralia.  Our route was exactly as we planned:  0.0 miles – START in Elma;  0.9 miles – RIGHT ont0 3rd;  2.8 miles – LEFT ont0 Bank;  18.0 miles – RIGHT ont0 Cemetery;  18.8 miles – Right onto Elma Gate;  20.2 miles – Right ont0 Highway 12;  24.6 miles – Right ont0 Albany;  25.6 miles – LEFT onto James;  29.1 miles – RIGHT ont0 Old Highway 9;  30.4 miles – RIGHT ont0 Old Highway 99 / Harrison;  35.5 miles – LEFT onto Main;  36.1 miles – END at Centralia.

2205 elevationThrough the day, we would climb 1047 feet.  The ride up the Chehalis River was a gentle incline.  Except for the odd rise, such as the bridge over the river, we did not really notice the grade.  The ride was one of the most flat we will ever ride on the PCH.  The distance, 36 miles, and gentle climb, was what had enticed us to believe we could have ridden from Shelton to Centralia.


The new day, Sunday, dawned, grey and dreary.  Because of my evening ride, we slept in until 7:30.  After breakfast, I put on the new tires.  Thanks to Terry’s attention, they were the right size.  We departed the hotel at almost 10 AM, very late by touring standards.  The clouds parted.  We could see the sun.  Our mood brightened.  We set out, happy, believing we had turned the corner on our fortunes.  The dry day meant our cameras were back out.

We passed through Elma, revealing larger community than was visible from our end of town.  Still, there were few stores.  We crossed a bridge over the Chehalis River, and turned down South Bank Road.  In the distance, we could see the soggy hills we had ridden through, before Marian’s tire had come apart.

We rode near the Chehalis River for much of the day.  Because we were on bottom land, the road was flat.  Untroubled by hills, we rolled along, drinking in the first open country we had seen since we started the tour.  Still, we seldom saw the river.  Farms went to the river’s edge.  Trees and brush blocked our view.

We came upon a rural graveyard, the first we saw along the road.  Perhaps the name of the community was Sharon.  Perhaps it was the biblical character of the same name.  The cemetery  seemed to still be in use by those nearby.  Flowers had been recently placed by some of the graves. 

Marian often sees things which escape me.  This old piece of farm equipment is a case in point.  We wondered what the story was.  It is easy to imagine that, at some time, it might have been  the pride and joy of its owner.  It has, since, been retired to this hillside, to slumber, perhaps in the same way as its former owner.  The green foliage softens the lack of use, and eases the way into its final decay.

About 90 minutes into our ride, Marian heard a “plink”.  I rode along side her, and behind her, listening.  It came from the rear wheel, the same one which had the failed tire.  The wheel had a slight wobble.  I felt the spokes, wondering if a spoke had broken, but all were intact,.  Plucking them, some seemed a little off-key, but not overly loose.  We were well out into rural Washington State, by the side of a little traveled road, on a Sunday.  I was reluctant to undertake a tuning, something I struggled with even in my garage.  We knew there was no help in Elma, so we decided to make for Centralia, believing that there might be a bike shop.  We pressed on, hoping there would be neither permanent, unfixable damage to her bike, or a catastrophic failure leading to injury or worse.

Despite our concern for the wheel, it was impossible not to continue to play the adventurer, the tourist.  As we pedaled south, we could see the clouds building ahead.  As the morning passed, they began to move our way, reminding us that the weather was never far away, and that we were not the masters of our own fates.

Late in the morning, near Oakville, the road turned east, and bridged the Chehalis River.  Marian, artfully, took a picture of me, taking pictures.  We got a feel for the size of the river.  It was broader than we had thought, although it was certainly no Columbia River.

Looking north, down the river, we could not help marveling at the amount of water flowing freely.  We were from California.  The freely flowing fresh water was in sharp contrast to the pitiful streams running through our creeks and “rivers”, with almost all the available water captured behind dams.  And the lush green landscape, to which we became accustomed to, could not have been more different from the dried out, fire tender of the California hill sides. 

Looking south , up river, we could see hills that separated the Chehalis watershed from the Columbia watershed.  We expected, in a few days, to come to the premiere river of the North West.  We had no clue of the actual path we would take to get to it.

Crossing over, we skirted Oakville, passing through a local Indian Reservation.  Turning onto Cemetery Road, we looked for a place to stop for lunch.  We found a peaceful place opposite the second rural graveyard of the day.  We pulled out what was in the larder, bagels, bananas and Luna bars.

We were respectful of our surroundings.  We wondered about the people, and their stories.  Near the fence line, we saw a family plot.  There were graves for four children, and their parents.  The children all died just before World War Two.  The youngest child was two, and the oldest was eight  The deaths occurred over the space of just a few years.  The mother also died in that time period.  The father lived another 40 years, passing in the 1960’s.  We will never know the details.

Remounting, we left a mystery unsolved.  Reaching Rochester, we paused at a convenience store, one of the few establishments in that small hamlet.  The store clerk was not helpful, saying they had no restroom.  She was curt, returning to her chores.  Perhaps she was reacting to a local bike rally passing through.  We watched a steady stream of riders come up the road we were heading down.

Shrugging off the negative vibes, we chatted with a young mother.  She had a five-year old child in tow, and was looking for the Rochester Chicken Race.  She asked if we were residents.  We told her we were, but not of Rochester.  She did a double take, and then laughed.  She hoped she was in the right place.  A sign down the street declared the starting time was 2 PM.  She went in to ask the clerk, who, again, was of little help.  We wonder if she ever found what she was looking for, or if the child was the victim of another adult bait-and-switch.

We started the run to Centralia.  The rains, however gentle, had found us, and we were back in our rain jackets.  We passed a formidable institution, off to the right.  It had the look and feel of, either, a military installation, or a corrections facility.  Researching later, we discovered that it was Maple Lane School.  The facility had closed the year before.  In earlier incarnations, it had been a girls Reformatory, among other things.  It seemed somber and foreboding in this otherwise tranquil scene.

Further along, in need of a restroom, we passed a bar.  Their sign announced that restrooms were for patrons only.  We decided to pass, due, in part, to the flock of choppers lined up outside.  A short time later, we came to a much more friendly convenience store.  We chatted for a short time with the clerk, finding that she had endured a “grab and run” theft, where some young person had pilfered something, and run away.  We offered our sympathies, and hoped she would not let this traumatize her.

As we drew close, we met a cyclist pulling an empty child’s trailer.  We chased him down and asked if he knew of any shops.  More to the point, Marian chased him down.  I had discovered my rear tire had gone flat!  He directed us to a shop downtown.  Marian pressed on, hoping to catch them before they closed – a gallant if futile gesture. We did not know it, but the shop was only a sporting goods store, and had no bike repair capability.  The other ACA choice was out of business.

Finding each other again, we ate second lunch, and then backtracked to the other side of I-5.  We settled into a Motel 6 for the evening.  They offered an AARP discount, but had no breakfast bar.  Nor was the wifi free.  So we used the wifi from a nearby McDonald’s, as suggested by the motel clerk.

Had we known there was no bike shop in Centralia, we would not have waited until the morning to make decisions.  We had already identified real bike shops in Longview and Vancouver.  We also knew the Amtrak schedule for Centralia.  We did not want to end our adventure.  We had been on the road for only three days.  We wanted to repair Marian’s bike and resume our trip.


Our day ended far differently than we had expected.  We started out, relieved that we had fixed the tire problem.  We fell into a wheel problem.  Vexed with uncertain knowledge of Centralia bike shops, we could only hope Marian’s bike could be put right.  Still, the tranquil setting we rode through helped us to live with the moment, and ignore what we could not change.  Still, had we had no problem the day before, we might well have ridden all the way to Centralia.

Read about our unexpected trip from Centralia to Vancouver

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Filed under Cycle Touring, Travel

Let us know what you thought, we'd love to know. Thanks - Pat and Marian

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