Our shorter day which we earned yesterday let us leave a bit later today, so before leaving we went to Blondie’s restaurant for lunch. Our server was the restaurant’s namesake Blondie, and she was full of stories and was very chatty with us.
Right as we left the rain started, and continued for the rest of the day. It was just a light rain to go along with the overcast sky. Most of our ride was on backroads which weren’t too interesting, until we came close to reaching Port Orchard.
We had Warm Showers hosts waiting for us, and we could see from the map it would be a bit tricky getting there, but we didn’t realize how difficult until we saw the roads for ourselves. In order to get to the road we needed, we would have to cross four lanes of the freeway, since the exit was on the inside of the road. We stood there seeing if traffic would ease up at any point, but it never seemed to so we looked at the map again and found a detour. The detour involved some large and very steep hills and a lot of riding in the wrong direction, but eventually we found our hosts Anita & Neal and their dog Molly who greeted us with a glass of wine and treated us to an evening of great conversation.
Our initial goal for today was the town of Elma. We contacted a few people on Warm Showers including someone in Elma and the rest in Bremerton. However with Elma 60km away that would give us a 100km day to Bremerton. During the morning we received confirmation from someone in Bremerton willing to host us, so we decided it may be good to push past Elma so we wouldn’t have a long day on the same day that we would be expected by a warm showers host.
Mostly uneventful, we rode without stopping except for a quick stop into a grocery store. Coming out a man started talking to us, and seemed quite disappointed we weren’t planning on staying in Lake Sylvia. Again – someone else disappointed we weren’t seeing more of their area.
Onward from Elma we followed the warm showers route which took us on a smaller backroad. The downside of this was that it seemed every farmhouse had a dog which hated cyclists. We were consistently barked at, many dogs sprinting along side us from within their fenced area. One dog was not fenced in nor tied up and chased us onto the road, causing two vehicles to stop. There were some other loose dogs who didn’t peruse us as intently as well. Then when riding two large dogs came racing out, seemingly ready to attack. Jesse was going first and they caused him to swerve off the road, sliding into a ditch. This seemed to appease the dogs so they turned to look at me. Thankfully they seemed to stop there and the owner started shouting at them. He claimed the one who was more aggressive wasn’t his, but apologized for the situation.
After brushing himself off and realigning the handlebars, Jesse was ready to continue on. We were hoping to get to Shelton but I was also happy at the idea of wild camping. Shelton was still quite a long ways away so we knew we had to get going. As we were riding we heard a voice coming out of the woods. We turned to look and saw a man emerging from the forest. He was wearing scruffy clothes with a long beard and had a lot to say. He told us he was travelling on a fixed speed bike with his dog Yoda. He left Montana four months ago and couldn’t believe we left San Diego just one month ago. He told us he rode across the US on a lawn mower a couple years ago with his dog, and to check online for the story. He fit many stories into a small period of time, before we had to keep going before sunset. He asked where we were planning on staying for the night and we told him we were planning on Shelton. He thought we were crazy for planning to go 13 more miles today and we though maybe wanted us to join him at his ‘campsite’. We also didn’t believe he was right in thinking the town was still 13 miles away. We started the final push to town, racing the sun, and found out that yes this bush man was correct and even with our maps and smart phones it was us who had the wrong calculation.
Thankfully it was mostly downhill to town and we were able to maintain a fast speed and we arrived before the sun set.
We went out for breakfast with Mark and Ryan before parting ways. A big pancake breakfast started the day before we took off in different directions.
Jesse and I hadn’t yet decided our route north from Astoria. The Adventure Cycling map had us going east and avoiding the dreaded Astoria Bridge, but the Pacific Coast book and Mark and Ryan’s route would have us going straight north and over the bridge. The rainy day also brought Jesse and I major tailwinds, and with Mark and Ryan’s encouragement to ‘experience’ the bridge, we decided to go north to maximize the wind. A scenic route isn’t too scenic in the rain.
The bridge started one block from breakfast, so immediately we started climbing. A lot of our climbing was over land rather than over the river as the road curled around, so it didn’t seem so bad. There was not a lot of traffic behind us and so far it seemed to be the right decision. There was construction being done on the bridge, an advantage we were aware of. Right near highest point we reached the construction. The person managing the traffic waved us forward and told us what the final car of oncoming traffic was and told us to get a head start. Once that car passed we started pedaling to reach the top, and with the major tailwinds at our back it wasn’t too difficult, we were able to get a very good head start on the traffic behind us. However being a 6.6km bridge, they did catch up with us and once we were out on the very exposed river, the wind affected us far more, and made it even more difficult to deal with as a car would pass and alter the wind for a second. So we decided to stop and let the chain of traffic pass before the next break in traffic. The beginning of the rain also made this decision seem to be a good one.
Finally we made it off the bridge and quickly turned off into a rest stop and stayed there a while to see if the rain would ease up. When it seemed a bit lighter, we set off, and for the first time using the rain gear we had been carrying with us.
An afternoon of riding in the rain was made enjoyable by the lack of effort thanks to the tailwinds. We ran into a couple southbound tourers taking cover in an abandoned house, so we pulled over to chat with them for a bit. With no where proper to stop in the very underpopulated area, we kept going until the town of Raymond where we decided to finish the day, even though the idea of pushing on to the next town was tempting.
We found our way into the local bar, the Pitchwood, and were greeted with a loud “Hello!” At first we were taken aback, not sure in the sincerely of the greeting, but we quickly realized everyone was very friendly and soon found ourselves sitting with one of the staff discussing our route for the next day. He was a bit disappointed we wouldn’t be able to see more of the area. They had great food and an interesting menu as well. I ordered a veggie burger with a variety of interesting toppings, but when it arrived it looked a little too ‘authentic’ so I looked at it a bit longer. Rather quickly the server ran over and asked if in fact I had ordered a veggie patty, and then profusely apologized and ran away with my plate. The other staff/owners (everyone just seemed to hang out here) seemed very concerned that there was a problem, quietly talking amongst themselves. The server made me a really tasty mixed drink to apologize, and quickly my meal came back again with the new patty. Overall we had a great experience in Raymond, the friendliest town we’d been in so far.
We knew our day would be fairly short as we planned to meet Mark and Ryan in Astoria. Still we were awake early and started packing up right away. We spent some time talking with a couple from Alaska who were on a two week loop around Portland. It was their first bike tour so they were still seeing how it would go.
We rode through town but didn’t get very far since Jesse saw a sign for donuts. We went into the cafe for breakfast – and it was a very worthwhile stop. While we were there a family from Seattle sat next to us and we chatted with them for a while. They offered to help us out however we may need when we go to Seattle, so after exchanging contact information we set of for a later start. We started today’s ride with a couple hills which weren’t too bad, and certainly easier at the start of a day then at the end.
Our next stop was Cannon Beach at another bakery with good reviews Jesse found. There we talked with a man who is really into cycling, though hasn’t gotten too into touring, and who had started the bike sharing White Bike program in Anchorage. Still having not made much progress, we continued towards Astoria with amazing tail winds to push us along.
The park ranger at Nahalem gave us many places to check out for food and some breweries while in Astoria. When we were riding around town to see if we could find Mark and Ryan, we saw the boat in the parking lot that is supposed to be the place to go to. We stopped there for more food, and while in line we spoke with a regular who goes there once per week and confirmed we were indeed at the best spot.
Not long after we met up with Mark and Ryan, then booked a room at the hostel just down the street. After getting settled and catching up on stories, we went to the nearby brewery for more chatting. There we met two girls who were astounded with our trip and had seen us and our bikes at the boat earlier. We chatted with them for a while, and continued sharing stories before returning to the hostel for the night.
To the shout of someone calling “Park Ranger!” we arose this morning. Opening the tent, the ranger was standing there not looking too impressed. She told us we had to move our tent immediately since we were in the group camping section instead of the hiker/biker area. Saying we’re in a $76 site and she keeps finding people in this area and her boss is going to get mad. After talking to us, she proceeded to the Ukrainian couple, telling them the same thing. It seemed as though she made them upset, since after a lot of argumentative discussion she eventually backpedaled a bit to say they could finish their breakfast, and “I know your in a strange country, with strange people… I’m not mad at you, I don’t hate you” and other similar comments. If this keeps happening, then there must be something wrong with their system, not us!
After chatting a bit farther with the Ukrainians, we started the day. We rode 20km into the town of Tillamook for breakfast. We were told to stop at the Tillamook cheese factory which was just on the other side of town, so we made that our next stop. We wandered the factory, had some free cheese samples and bought some ice cream.
With headwinds, we weren’t moving too quickly and we weren’t yet sure where we would stay for the night. We planned to stay in Astoria tomorrow night, so we didn’t have to make today’s ride too far. We stopped again in Rockaway at a tiny seafood place which had picnic tables out front. We attempted to find a spot for the night, but with it being a Saturday night motels were more expensive, and there was only one camping area with hiker/biker sites and that seemed a bit too close. We settled on the close campground so we could be assured a spot at the hiker biker site, then made our way. We knew there was a large hill coming up but I was really hoping it would be after the campground.
As we started climbing a hill I mentally prepared myself for the large hill I saw on the elevation map, but quickly we reached the top and so I knew it wasn’t the large hill I was waiting for. We arrived at the campground leaving the hill to attack tomorrow morning.
The next state park with hiker/biker sites was 100km away so we set that for our goal today. It was a really foggy day so many of the scenic views along the way we didn’t get to enjoy.
Along the way we stopped in Lincoln City for lunch and to get some things for dinner. Along the road, after emergency vehicles went speeding past, traffic seemed to come to a stop. There was over a mile of backed up traffic, but we rode ahead to get to the front of the line. A few people made comments about the bikes – wanting to borrow them, how much better they were in this situation… Arriving at the front, we could see the whole road was blocked from the accident. We didn’t have to wait too long before they started letting a few cars from our direction go. We had to ride through the broken glass of the accident, but got through quickly. However, not too far down the road Jesse discovered he had a flat tire, so we stopped at a picnic area in the town so he could fix the problem. We made our next stop Pacific City, a small town right on the coast that seemed to be primarily a vacation spot. We bought some salt water taffy in the shop there, checked the price of the hotel, and then continued on to Cape Lookout.
Cape Lookout was up and over a large hill, and end the end of a long day the hill seemed extra challenging. However the lack of traffic made it easier. When we arrived we talked to another couple from the Ukraine who were going south, but because they took the 101 to the campground they had to go over the hill as well, and knew that hill was again waiting for them for tomorrow. It seemed as though they wanted to love bike touring, but with all the gear they were carrying with them and the short length of their trip, that may not happen.