Any Road Tour: Day 59 – Wheel dip at last

So I hovered the complementary breakfast. Frosted Flakes, banana, OJ, coffee, toast. Burp.

And so I left Kelso (he wouldn’t tell me who Superman is either) and headed for Oregon using a route suggested by the bike shop dude yesterday. The Longview Bridge flies over the port which seems to ship nothing but enormous logs.

On US 30 in Oregon I climbed for about 500 feet. To put this in normal people terms, DANG!

The road was a high speed two lane truck fest. Riding on it stressed me out but I was on a mission from God: get to the bloody Pacific Ocean!

I rode and rode, up and down, timing my sprints across narrow bridges so as not to become a dead bicycle tourist.

I stopped at a gas station for Diet Coke and a candy bar. The bathrooms were PortaPotties that should have been emptied in May. I chose discomfort over disgust and rode on.

After another ten miles I stopped in Svensen. The town was having its free Senior’s lunch. I chose the market instead. It was owned and run by a Muslim family. I guess we’re not in Montana anymore.

The owner without hesitation let me use the bathroom. I wish I had been hungrier to repay his kindness. I bought some Gatorade and a big cookie.

Friend of the blog Ryan recommended Mo’s. Seafood and Chowder restaurant earlier in the day. All I could think about in the cool headwinds was hot clam chowder.

And so the first thing I did when I got to Astoria was to get chowder at Mo’s. In a bread bowl. A perfect meal after 54 miles of hills and cool headwinds.

All the way to Astoria I was passed within a few feet by huge trucks, campers, and mobile homes. My nerves were a little frayed. I left Mo’s and headed under the Astoria Bridge to Cape Disappointment in Washington. It’s waaay high and waaay wife with not a whole lot of room for bikes.

Rather than go to the hostel, I decided that I’d ride to the ocean and dip my wheel in, the tradition ending if a transcontinental bike ride. I followed my maps. One bridge had a metal grate bridge deck. My nerves were shot so I walked it.

It took me a good 45 minutes to find the biggest body of water on the planet. My frustration was off the charts. Where is the fucking thing!!!

I finally found Fort Stevens State Park. After two more miles I came to a parking lot. The ocean was right over the dunes. So I pushed The Mule over a 15 foot sand dune. It kept sinking in. I kept lifting it out. PUSH!!!

Getting to the top took everything I had. Now I had to go down the beach side of the dude. The Mule kept sinking in which, I suppose, is preferable to having an 80 pound loaded touring bike go screaming down a hill without me.

I pushed the bike across the flat beach and asked a dad to take my picture.

I talked with him and his wife. They were there with their two naked towheaded toddlers. Pale white, tow headed, naked toddlers on a beach for some reason just crack me up.

Mom suggested that I walk my bike two miles down the beach to the site of a shipwreck. The dunes are much lower there.

Off I went. I tried riding but The Mule objected do I walked. Even a ten-foot dune is a bitch to push a touring bike over.

On the other side a mountain biker named Steve led me out of the park. I decide to take the main highway, US 101, back to Astoria.

It went fine until I got to the bridge. It was narrow with strong crosswinds that yanked the front of The Mile all over the place. I made it without incident until a tractor trailer went by me with a foot to spare.

DON’T LOOK AT IT!

I didn’t and managed not to get sicker under its rear wheels.

That pretty much sealed the deal on Cape Disappointment.

My hostel is more of a pensione. I have a private room with a shared bath and a shared shower. It’s expensive but I just crossed the damned country on a bike. I’m staying here two nights. I had to carry The Mule up a flight and a half of stairs. Tomorrow The Mule gets a rest too.

I’m really not usually this messy. Honest.

I sit in the Fort George brewery drinking beer, eating pizza, and watching the white caps on the Columbia River. (Thanks again to Ryan for the suggestion.)

I know my days on the road are coming to an end. As my son used to say when he was a toddler, I want to sleep in my own bed.

Miles: 82

Trip miles: 4,170

A final note: Happy birthday, Klarence. Thanks for screwing the lid back on my jar.

Any Road Tour: Day 58 – Getting there

Last night at the Motel 6 I watched the All Star game. The best part was when the crowd cheered for Wilson Ramos during the player introductions.

I slept in and had another diner breakfast. I am burning out on diner food. I am really looking forward to cereal with bananas when I get home.

The road now leads south and I followed my maps faithfully. There were a couple of small hills but, even with a headwind, hills are no longer annoying me. Lower gears. Stand up and pedal. Over the top. NBD.

The scenery was a mix of small farms, exurban homes with some livestock in the yard, and a few wooded stretches.

I rode about 35 miles west of Mt. St. Helens. I declined the opportunity to climb 35 miles to see some exhibits. It was once big. Not so much anymore. The end.

Maybe I’m getting numb to the scenery but man made stuff is getting more of my attention. This dude graced the water tower in Toledo.

This was in someone’s front lawn. Looked more like King Kong than Sasquatch.

Here’s the turn off to volcanic doom.

I followed the Cowlitz River as it slowly descends to the Columbia. I saw a few freight trains go by. The noise from I-5 killed the country vibe a bit.

I saw two separate northbound bicycle tourists today. Neither encounter occurred where we could chat. I also learned that last weekend was the annual STP ride, a 200+ mile trek from Seattle to Portland.

I rode into Longview in search of a bike shop to pump up my tires. A local bike rider saw me and escorted me to a Proper Cycle Works. He also offered me a camping spot in his yard because people did the same for him on his bike tour to and from San Francisco. His name is Alex and he’s a nice guy but I had motel-on-the-brain today.

The bike shop guy told me my tires were running at 60 psi. Low but not too bad. He pumped them up to 80. Then he gave me directions to the motels in Kelso across the Cowlitz from town. He also told me that the Adventure Cycling route to Oregon is not on a safe road. He advised me to cross the Columbia River on the bridge just outside Longview and ride US 30 to the coast. There’s only one big hill, he said. We’ll see.

At the end of the day, I found out that #bikedc friends Megan and Nate are on the coast driving a hippy van and doing drugs. Okay, I made the drugs up. Anyway there is an outside chance that our paths will intersect in the next day or two.

Miles: 60.5

Tour Miles: 4,088

Any Road Tour: Day 57 – Good form after 4,000 miles

A little breakfast. A little chain maintenance. Good bye Shelton.

The first 28 miles featured rolling hills, cool temperatures, a headwind, and chip seal roads. This is logging country. Large swaths of the woods have been cut down. Others are recovering from being cut. I saw one tract that was cut in 1984 and the trees are still nowhere near the size of the forest around them.

I stopped for a mid morning snack which I shared with the store’s dog. I’m not sure she was crazy about the nacho cheese Duritos I gave here.

The store owner and a customer were chatting about wild life in the area. Cougars, bears, wolves, and coyotes. Suddenly I am less than enthusiastic about camping.

I stopped in Elma for lunch. When I walked outside, I found that the wind was now at my back and the roads were level.

Looming over the town were two cooling towers from a nuclear power plant. The plant was never completed. It’s now an office park for several businesses including cannibis production.

The next 34 miles were easy. Along the way, I passed the 4,000 mile point of the tour.

As I waited at a traffic light entering Centralia, a woman lean out her car window and said that I had good form. Sadly I didn’t have a witty comeback.

I suppose it’s easy to look good with a tailwind pushing you on level ground.

I am told that I am getting close to Mt. Saint Helens.

Eek.

Miles: 62

Tour miles: 4,027.5

Any Road Tour: Day 56 – Bypassing Seattle

Today was supposed to be a short day to Bremerton to catch the ferry to Seattle. I decided that in order to do all the things I wanted and needed to go in Portland I’d have to take a day out of the schedule. So Seattle got the heave ho.

The day began with a gentle ride off route to a cafe for breakfast. I ordered pancakes and eggs, expecting a modest meal. I got frisbee-sized pancakes. For the record, I could not eat it all.

I am learning that the Olympic Peninsula has some Olympic-sized hills for bike tourists. Fortunately the hills provided nice views of blue waters. Crossing over the Hood Canal Bridge was a good example.

Still no orcas to report, just a seal now and then.

This area has heavy traffic which is a bit of a shock after having the road nearly to myself for close to two thousand miles. I was grateful for the tailwind that made the riding easy if somewhat unpleasant.

Occasionally I was on a road that allowed my mind to drift and to imagine what it was like at the top of a peak covered in snow in July.

It was getting hot out so I took an hour break at a McDonalds in Silverdale. I chugged cold drinks and enjoyed the AC.

Next came Bremerton. There may be lovely neighborhoods in this town but I didn’t see them. I took a pass on getting a motel after 40+ miles and rode on. Riding by an aircraft carrier that was being demolished was pretty cool. These ships are LONG!

The road out of Bremerton was a four lane freak show. Cars were blowing by me and I was cowering in the far right of the debris strewn shoulder.

I took the quieter old route to Belfair, hoping to stay at the motel in town. Up and down for 13 miles to learn that there were no vacancies. My choices were (a) ride to a nearby campground and put up my tent in 90 degree heat, (b) turn around and ride back to Bremerton for a crappy chain motel, or (c) continue southward another 25 miles to Shelton which has three motels.

I chose (c) because moderation is not in my DNA.

After a few miles I decided to call a motel and make sure I could get a room. The Shelton Inn had a first  floor room so I told them I’d be there in two hours.

I rode another half mike and turned off the main road onto East Trails Road. It had the steepest hill I’ve seen on the tour, even including Pennsylvania and the last 100 feet to Tim Jones’s house.

I pedaled for a minute before pulling into the mouth of a driveway. Holy crap! I caught my breath and tried to start again. It took me three tries to get sufficient momentum to get both feet on the pedals.

Once I got going I didn’t stop. I was weaving all over the road and my legs were burning but I wasn’t going to walk.

I was more concerned with time. If this hill were typical of the rest of the route to Shelton, I’d be lucky to get there in three hours.

I looked at the map and saw that I was riding next to a lake. Oh great, some level ground, right? Nope. The lake was down there and I was up here, riding up and down.

And now I had a headwind.

Bitch. Moan.

I endured and made it to Shelton in a little over two hours. It took me 30 minutes to find the motel because of a road closure. The Google tried to send me onto a path in the woods. I rode down a steep hill on a bike path only to find it continued through a gate as single track.

Not gonna happen. The hill I had come down was about 100 yards long but it was so steep I had no hope of riding up it from a dead stop.

Push!

The Google started going bonkers so I shut it off and found some detour signs to follow.

Most of the town including the hotel are the bottom of a bluff. One road, the closed one on my route, goes down the bluff to the east and another to the west. I went west and found the road was all torn up for repaving.

I took the lane and rode down the bumpy, curvy mess of a hill. As I passed a driveway I heard someone screaming “Get of the road, you fucking asshole!!!”

Welcome to Shelton.

I think I delayed his highness from getting on the highway with his shit box of a used pickup truck.

I had gone out of my way to avoid this construction zone. Perhaps he didn’t appreciate my efforts. So for the first time in over 3,900 miles, I extended the numb middle finger on my right hand high in the sky.

I thought I did pretty well going down the hill. I kept up with the car in front of me. Slipping past the line of cars at the red light at the bottom of the hill, I glided into downtown Shelton.

Then I heard Prince Charles, Duke of Shelton, come roaring by. For the record, it appears f-bombs from pick up truck drivers do not exhibit a Doppler effect.

I engaged him with mighty verbal gusto and more unidigital sign language. He roared away yelling out his window, rushing home to do some meth with his wife and watch some Fox News.

I was slightly embarrassed that this lusty exchange of profanity had occurred within ear and eye shot of the desk clerk at my hotel.

I made my apologies explaining how I held back for 3,900 miles. She gave me a coupon for a discount at the diner next door.

After washing up I walked to a Mexican restaurant up the street. My veggie enchiladas were muy bueno.

I went for a postprandial stroll in downtown Shelton. After 8 pm this place could be a good rsetting for a Walking Dead episode.

One shop keeper apparently agreed with me.

Miles today: 88.5

Tour miles: 3,965.5

Any Road Tour: Day 55 – The deception and the sting

Tim and Michele fed me mass quantities of food and treated me to an Idris Elba movie (Molly’s Game) last night.

This morning I loaded up on carbs and rolled base my friends farewell. I really didn’t want to leave but they’d never get rid of me if I didn’t cut the cord today.

If you think I look like I lost weight, you are wrong. The compression sleeve on my leg is do tight that I grew four inches.

The ride out of Camano Island was much easier than the ride in. I ignored The Google and took the main road all the way. There were no impossibly steep hills.

I reversed course from yesterday riding north to Fidalgo Island and turning south, away from Anacortes.

It was a hilly and trafficy road. My body was not having fun. Then I came to Deception Pass and I remembered why I like this bike touring stuff so much.

The bridge connects Fidalgo and Whidbey Islands. The views from the bridge deck were amazing. Fortunately, for me the winds were calm.

After the pass I followed my maps which took me away from the main road. This is not a very good deal for the weary. The back roads are hilly and offer nice views. The main highway has more gradual slopes without the pretty visuals.

Whidbey Island is home to a naval air station. The Mule challenged some jets to a race. They wouldn’t play with him.

After riding around the base and down to the beach and up from the beach, we finally came to Coupeville where I stopped for late lunch (2 pm).

A few miles after that we reached the ferry terminal. I had only a short wait before my trip.

The trip took about 30 minutes. Passengers looked for interesting sea life but only saw a couple of seals. (I really wanted to see an Or a.)

A few minutes after leaving the ferry terminal in Port Townsend, a black wasp tried to fly into my mouth. I spit it out with a raspberry. Before he left, he stung me on the lower lip.

Ow!!!!!

After about 30 minutes it calmed down. I felt like I had had a shot of novacaine. An hour later my lower front teeth ached.

I rode to Fort Hadlock and checked into a motel. I plan to treat my sore, swollen lip with cold alcohol.

When I checked into the motel I told the clerk that my last name was like Pickett in Pickett’s charge. She said she didn’t know what that was because she had been in a polygamist cult.

Hokay.

I miscalculated my planned mileage for today. It was supposed to be 72 miles but ended up being 81.

Tour Miles: 3,877