One State Down

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Free cheese!!!!

Welcome to Tillamook, Oregon home of the Tillamook Cheese factory. I’ve been hearing reports of free cheese samples. Not being one to turn down free food, I stopped to explore. The sign hanging above the sample line reads, “Today we made 500,000 pounds of cheese. Eat all you want!” I took them on their word and stuffed my belly and my pockets…

Free food aside, two days ago I crossed the 4.1 mile long Astoria-Megler Bridge and reentered Oregon. My 400+ mile detour north was well worth my time. I thoroughly explored coastal Washington and found it to be as wild as it was beautiful. Leaving the San Juan Islands via ferry, I entered Sidney Canada, crossing my first international border via bicycle, receiving my first passport stamp, my first flag of the trip, and my first round of vaccinations – health care is SOO much cheaper in Canada. A short ride south and I was in Victoria, Canada where I caught a ferry into Port Angeles, WA. I also teamed up with two other riders.

The three of us after the 17 mile ride up Hurricane Ridge. Ironically, we payed $5 to torture ourselves. It was well worth it for the hour-long ride down!
The three of us after the 17 mile ride up Hurricane Ridge. Ironically, we payed $5 to torture ourselves. It was well worth it for the hour-long ride down!

Tyler and Nick are on a very similar trip. They began in Alaska and are riding to Central America. They are 25 and 24 years old and have very similar motivations as myself for such an undertaking. As a group we: cycled 17 miles to an elevation of 5,000+ feet at the top of Hurricane Ridge, swam in the frigid waters of a 600ft deep glacial lake, dodged vampires and werewolves through forks, passed a rain forest, soaked up the sun on a stone beach, and on our last night together shared a drink (and something else now legal in the state of Washington. When in Rome…) in the tiny town of Raymond, WA where we were invited to crash on someones couch. In the morning we all went our separate ways. Tyler pedaled east to ride the Cascade Mountain route. Nick, having a week to kill, decided to spend more time in Raymond before heading to Portland, OR to meet-up with a friend. And myself sticking to rt. 101 continuing on my journey south.

In Raymond I receive a wonderful piece of advice from Manny; a fellow traveler from Mexico who left home at 14 on an order from his mother, “Go across the street and get the backpack from your cousin. Don’t come back for one year.” (he didn’t return for four years). Manny’s advice was simple though poignant, “Don’t blink.” He could not have been more right. I left home almost one month ago and have pedaled 862 miles. Time is flying by.

My new friend Chris who is on a roadtrip around the US visiting every park he can.
My new friend Chris who is on a roadtrip around the US visiting every park he can.

Also interesting to note, is the large number of touring cyclists here on the west coast. I expected to see more than on the east coast. The actual number I have met however, is staggering. Since turning south, I have yet to ride a full day alone and every campground is filled with our kind. It’s almost too much. I am used to feeling a certain amount of loneliness when traveling solo. On this trip, I’m experiencing the opposite and find myself seeking solitude whenever possible. It’s really rather strange. If I sound like I am complaining, I am not. I’ve made countless new friends and cherish every interaction with fellow travelers. I just wanted to make note of this peculiarity.

I rode over a mile down this beach only to encounter sand too loose to ride through. I decided to turn back.
I rode over a mile down this beach only to encounter sand too loose to ride through. I decided to turn back.

Anyway, I find myself constantly declaring a place to be the most beautiful and spectacular yet. Oregon is no different. For 370 miles I follow a marked bike route along the coastline. Many people have declared this to be the best section of the Pacific Coast. While I have only experienced 50 miles of it, they are right so far. This section of coast offers expansive views from atop cliffs of welcoming sandy beaches which are even more comfortable for lounging than they look. The campgrounds here really stand out with $6 hiker-biker campsites and, more importantly, free hot showers! I am feeling very spoiled lately.

The Oregon Coastline.
The Oregon Coastline.

I apologize for the lack of updates lately. Rt. 101 around the Olympic peninsula is very remote. In Aberdeen, WA I was able to post two backdated pages. This post brings the blog to my current location: a Starbucks in Tillamook, OR overloaded on coffee and cheese. Updates will come more frequently now that I am back in civilization at least until I enter Mexico. Who knows what will happen then. Hope all is well. !Hasta Luego mi amigos!

Welcome to Canada!
Welcome to Canada!
The start of my flag collection!
The start of my flag collection!
This deck of the ferry from Victoria, Canada to Port Angeles, WA where I met my new friends.
This deck of the ferry from Victoria, Canada to Port Angeles, WA where I met my new friends.
Me atop Hurrican Ridge in the Olympic Mountain Range.
Me atop Hurrican Ridge in the Olympic Mountain Range.
Goofyness on the way down the mountain. We were attempting to self-timer a shot of all of us jumping... this was much easier though not nearly as fun!
Goofyness on the way down the mountain. We were attempting to self-timer a shot of all of us jumping… this was much easier though not nearly as fun!
Nick sleeping at an RV park in Port Angeles. They didn't have tent sites so the woman stuck us in the back of her messy yard. And the price? $20. We got ripped off.
Nick sleeping at an RV park in Port Angeles. They didn’t have tent sites so the woman stuck us in the back of her messy yard. And the price? $20. We got ripped off.
Riding round the Olympic Peninsula.
Riding round the Olympic Peninsula.
Tyler swimming in the 600ft deep glacial lake. Can you say refreshing!!!
Tyler swimming in the 600ft deep glacial lake. Can you say refreshing!!!
Look out for vampires and werewolves!
Look out for vampires and werewolves!
This lovely couple kindly shared their campsite with us. There were no other sites open.
This lovely couple kindly shared their campsite with us. There were no other sites open.
Stones worn smooth by crashing surf warm my back as the sun warms my front. Living the life!
Stones worn smooth by crashing surf warm my back as the sun warms my front. Living the life!
Camped on the side of the road 40 miles north of Aberdeen.
Camped on the side of the road 40 miles north of Aberdeen.
Final farewell to my new friends after spending the night on the couches of a welcoming Raymond, WA native. Thanks Micheal!
Final farewell to my new friends after spending the night on the couches of a welcoming Raymond, WA native. Thanks Micheal!
A lighthouse.
A lighthouse.
Another lighthouse.
Another lighthouse.
Preparing to cross the 4.1 mile long Astoria-Megler Bridge. We made it safely across.
Preparing to cross the 4.1 mile long Astoria-Megler Bridge. We made it safely across.
Yea! Back in Oregon, I have crossed my first state of the Journey.
Yea! Back in Oregon, I have crossed my first state of the Journey.
The best sunset of the trip.
The best sunset of the trip.
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Bon Appetite!

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My time in the San Juan archipelago has finally come to an end. I pedaled 450 miles in the wrong direction to be in this tropical paradise. It was worth everyone.

Four islands are accessible by ferry: Lopaz, Orcas, Shaw, and San Juan. They are each unique and worth at least a days exploration. Rustic campgrounds and luxurious resorts suit the needs of any budget; large woodlots for stealth camping suit the budget of long distance cycle tourers. Wildlife abounds. I have seen: golden eagles, bald eagles, osprey, porpoise,  seals, deer, alpaca, fox, raccoons (who are known to rip into tents for food), and even a camel. Three pods of killer whales, orcas, also frequent these waters; though, I was not fortunate enough to see them.

Saturday was my birthday. It was one I will never forget. It began with a toast at midnight and ended with a salmon bbq watching the sun go down. I was camped in a campground – important to note because I’m typically just in the woods somewhere – on San Juan Island just north of the Orca sighting hotspot of Lime Kiln state park. Two new bike campers came rolling into the park; Claudia and Debra (please forgive me, I’m awful with names). Help with a new tent earned me a beer and a place at their table. We talked late into the night and celebrated their first tour and the arrival of my 28th birthday. The next day, we rode out of the campground together and went our separate ways.

I took the ferry back to Lopaz Island for a much-needed shower and stumbled into a surprise birthday party. There are only two showers on the island. They are free and wonderful and I took my time not realizing people were waiting. I apologized to the waiting Frenchman and his friend from across the lake in Switzerland and excused myself, “Nice talking to you.” I said. “I’m off to treat myself to a birthday pizza.” “It’s your birthday?” He asked with a thick accent. “You come to my home for dinner. We have salmon bbq.” It took almost a minute for me to comprehend his broken english. He was inviting me to dinner with his family! I was speechless. We loaded my bike in the back of his van and drove to his property.

His “home” is a rustic cabin on the southern tip of Lopaz Island. I was introduced to the rest of his family: his wife, son, and the wife of his friend from France. He loaded a wagon with wine and food and I followed down a path of high grass and thick trees to a simple grill located on a rock outcropping above Puget Sound. He then lifted the grate from the three rocks forming the grill, added charcoal, doused it with lighter fluid, and set it ablaze. “Bon appetite!” He shouted. We made a toast and were soon feasting on fresh salmon, pasta, and kale as we watched the sun set over the water. Thanks to these wonderful individuals, this is a birthday I will never forget.

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I Will Let You Have Your Stars

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To the intrepid traveler rain is an expected part of life. Sometimes, it is even a welcome part of life. When an ever changing environment overstimulates the senses, spending a rainy day inside a familiar fabric home-away-from-home can be a welcome respite to the senses. Wednesday, was one of those days. My journal entry from that morning:

“An aluminum pot of oatmeal mixed with fresh fruit, raisins, peanut butter, and hazelnut spread. A beat-up nalgene warmed by fresh drip coffee. A mesh window overlooking Puget Sound and Orcas Island from atop a cliff. And a nylon roof ringing with the pitter-patter of a light drizzle. Does life get any better?”

In the evening I visited the library where I was invited to watch an old movie with a family native to the island. Yesterday morning was cold and wet as well. I returned to the library. And this is where things took a turn for the worse. The curse of the solo traveler. Continue reading

Strangers In a Strange Land

 

DSCF3317Integral to any great journey is the kindness and generosity of strangers. This tour is no exception. From the small exchanges that simply serve to keep the loneliness at bay, to gifts such as a bag of potato chips at the end of a long day, even to random invitations of a place to stay, thus far on this expedition, the altruism of strangers has been the primary theme and a real boon to moral as the prevailing winds batter my face and whistle through my ears while I ride north, away from my final destination. Continue reading