Friday, 24 May 2013

WASHINGTON WATERS


Moving North from Oregon, I crossed the Columbia river at Astoria and entered Washington, the "Evergreen" State. There is mainly one reason why this state is so green (guess?), rain, of course! Granted, the scenery is pretty, but cycling and camping in the wet for days on end can get one's spirits down. From Astoria (Oregon) the steel/concrete bridge over the Columbia River estuary is about 7 km long, luckily the wind wasn't too strong when I crossed. Soon after the bridge I passed through yet another narrow tunnel, no problem as I just have to hit a button upon entry and then a flashing light warns traffic about a bike in the tunnel (same as on some of the narrow bridges further South). When I was at Neil's "Warmshower" house in Seaside, three weary characters turned up there on the night before my departure. These 3 had been jogging the entire Oregon state coast, pushing their gear along on a bike and baby-stroller! I had passed them a few days earlier on the road, and that night they had caught up and camped alongside in the state park (without tents). Well done guys! At the end of a long day of cycling in the soaking cold rain, I arrived in Aberdeen in that miserable weather. With no camp sites or state parks close by, I camped on the covered loading platform behind a shopping mall (I did inform the store manager of my intentions). There was a bunch of homeless people living on one of the other more accessible loading platforms (I think my spot was too high for them to climb up). They saw me stopping by, but due to the rain I had no visitors that night. However, the following morning a delegation came by to invite me out for a beer under the bridge (obviously it didn't occur to them that I might be moving on - which I did). I arrived in Olympia on the following rainy afternoon, there was no campsite, and while looking around the security at the marina chased me away without even letting me use the toilets (I think they saw through my plan!). I camped up in the wet forest under the highway where it seemed that homeless people had stayed before. The following morning 3 grumpy men from the "city" turned up and complained about having taken 6 days to clear the mess, and now "I've moved in there!" I assured them not to worry, and I was out of there in no time. Moving along further North that day, I was on and off the Interstate Highway 5 (some counties allow you on the highway, and at other points road workers put up signs prohibiting bicycles due to no shoulder, etc.). After mixing it with the rush hour traffic through some tricky intersections (where I was not allowed to be cycling anyway), I left the I 5 and found myself in downtown Tacoma (the 2nd largest harbour on the US West coast (after Long Beach, LA). That's where local resident Gene found me and invited me up the hill to camp on his lawn (when his wife Elizabeth arrived home she seemed surprised, but to her credit she also welcomed me). As part of their hospitality I was introduced to their friends and cycling friends (who are numerous, they are both keen cyclists and Gene has toured by bike down to South America in the past). Here bike shops seem to be more than just that, and we joined a party at the community bike shop called 2nd Cycle (you purchase "I Bike Tacoma" water bottle, and drink as much beer from the kegg as you like - but only from that bottle). The next day I went there and replaced Old Saartjie's front fork with a nice red "brand-new-second-hand" fork (for a small donation). They also gave me a nice "I Bike Tacoma" flashing tail light. I had some business to sort out, such as the Canadian Visa application, so Gene and Elizabeth suggested I stay another day or 2 till after the weekend and take the bus to Seattle (which I did). Unfortunately the Canadian Consulate there has closed the visa processing department, but I did get to look around the city, including Pike Street market and the waterfront (on Puget Sound). I'd heard about the Seattle Space Needle before, as well as Mount Rainier (but I doubt if that mountain exists as I have seen nothing but clouds in that direction). My Canadian Visa Application has now been submitted on-line (thanks to the use of Elizabeth's computer), and I even sorted out my problematic bank card, eventually. I've since been promoted from camping in the garden, to living-it-up in the upstairs room of the house. There is a strong and pleasant biking community here in Tacoma, and people have been really friendly towards me.
Hopefully my Canadian Visa comes through soon, otherwise I may grow roots in this place. However, I'll have to stay awhile yet as there are plans afoot for me to do a presentation of my cycle trip, at the Broken Spoke bike shop/bar next wednesday, 29 May, here in Tacoma. Daily distances cycled since my last report have been:- Ilwaco 60 km; Aberdeen 129 km; Olympia 94 km; and Tacoma 68 km. The total distance cycled so far since entering the USA from Mexico is 4 269 km (2 668 miles), and the total distance which I've cycled so far on this trip is 108 895 km (68 059 miles).

1 comment:

Martin Kane said...

You meet a lot of good people it seems. You seem like a very good person, maybe that has much to do with it. I like your blogs a lot and i look forward to rest. I'll be doing my first tour this August. I'll be going form Northern Ireland to Spain and back again. It will take me to Scotland, through England and France.