Washington State and Oregon Coast Tour
Washington and Oregon States, USA
The Route, at a glance...
Sidney, Whidbey Island, Bremerton, Astoria, Lincoln City, Florence, Brookings,
Florence, Eugene, Seattle, Bainbridge Island, Port Angeles, Victoria, Sidney
NOTE: The images on this year 2000 tour were taken pre-digital cameras. Photos appearing here were all scanned with somewhat primitive technology at the time resulting with images of poor resolution.
July 15th to August 1st, 2000 - 1,650 Kms
I planned this trip with the intention of following Adventure Cycling Association’s (ACA) route through the States of Washington and Oregon, and for the most part I did. I found their maps very detailed and informative. However, if I wanted to stray off their route, the maps were somewhat ineffective and I found that I had to resort to regular road maps. Nonetheless, the ACA maps are easy to use, fit into a map pocket easily, have excellent cue sheets and are a good resource for locations of bike shops, campgrounds etc. I had two travelling companions for this tour and we had all toured together on previous trips. Tim was riding his Bridgestone that he had installed drop-bars on for comfort and Larry had a fairly new Kona mountain bike. I was riding my Cannondale T2000, and for the first time - barring short weekend jaunts - I was pulling my (virtually) new BOB trailer. The trailer was loaded with the usual gear and I also had my two small (2 x 10 litre, usually front mounted) panniers mounted on the rear rack, one for tools and raingear and the other for foodstuffs. I liked this configuration and found that having the top of the rear rack available for incidentals was very useful. Also, not having the front rack mounted on the bike saved some weight to my set-up.
[Nevertheless, I have discovered that having the panniers on the rear rack led to the front end being quite light and "twitchy," which transfers to a slight fishtailing of the trailer. When the panniers are mounted on my front low-rider rack, the steering is stiffer, and I find that I need less effort or concentration to maintain a straight line, especially when I need to look back etc. While I have restored the weight of the front rack to my set-up, handling is improved and the bike is better balanced.]
Day 1, 45 Kms.
We took the Sidney, BC to Fidalgo Island/Anacortes Washington State Ferry and although it was the first ferry of the day it does not leave Sidney until noon, which left us with an arrival time of almost 3:00 p.m. So, not much riding planned for the day and we took the back roads on the west side of Fidalgo Island avoiding SR20 until the Deception Pass bridge. The weather was perfect, not too hot, not too cold, and we were cycling on a nice quiet road when I heard a "PING." I glanced in my mirror and saw that Tim and Larry had slowed down and stopped. The first day of the trip and Larry broke a spoke! His bike had machine built wheels and only 32 spoke wheels at that. Also, he had no front rack, so all his gear was on the rear of the bike compounding the problem. Well, Larry had no spare spokes, but fortunately for him, Tim was running 26" wheels too and had the correct length spare spokes. He installed the spoke and off we went again, not for long though! The Deception Pass bridge is quite the spectacle and very high, but short. There is no bike lane; the sidewalk is narrow and usually crowded with looky-loos. For the three of us the best option was to "take the lane" and hurry across, which worked out fine, as most of the vehicle drivers behind didn’t have too long to wait before they could pass us.
After crossing the bridge we were on Whidbey Island, which is an excellent island for bicycle touring in it's own right. We continued on until... "PING" another spoke gone! Okay, change of plan, we had to find a bike shop - before Tim ran out of spokes! What's more, it was Saturday, and the chances of finding a bike shop open the next day would be minimal. This broken spoke was on the freewheel side making a roadside repair much more difficult, so Larry loosened off the brake away from the now wobbly rim and we gingerly continued along. A young lady cyclist happened upon us, so we quizzed her about bike shops in the area and found out that there was a decent shop in Oak Harbour, which was not very far off our route. We hurried there as it was getting to be late afternoon and arrived at the store just as the owner was hanging the "Closed" sign on the door! We coaxed him into staying open and Larry pulled his wheel off and had a new spoke installed and the wheel re-trued. We thanked the bike shop guy and set off once more. A little way down the road I asked if Larry had bought any spare spokes... NO! Oh No!
We arrived at our destination of Fort Ebey State Park quite late and set up camp in the hiker/biker area next to a small lake (read...swamp) the area was secluded, but the trail down to area was quite overgrown at the beginning. Another site was occupied next to us, but there was no sign of the occupants. They arrived soon enough and we chatted and they returned to their site. Next on the agenda was food, and we fired up our stoves to set about cooking. Well, that was the first time I had heard Tim’s new stove, and what a racket it was! It is a Dragonfly stove and Tim was very proud of it’s excellent simmering features, but we were not impressed with the noise, it resembled a jet engine and no comparison to the relative silence of Larry’s Whisperlite or my Trangia. After a while, we noticed that our neighbours were pulling up stakes and moving to another site, so we ribbed Tim that his noisy stove had driven them away. He figured that they just wanted more privacy. A little later, the lady who had just moved, walked by our site and we said "Hi," she replied "Hi, oh you’ve turned off that noisy stove!" Tim was uncomfortable, and of course, for the rest of the trip he was very self-conscious whenever it was time to light up! We had some fun teasing him too!
The park itself was very unkempt, when we were there all the garbage cans were overflowing, the lights in the washrooms had all burned out and there was no toilet paper! We were not amused!
Day 2, 114 Kms.
After a good night's sleep we woke up quite early and after a quick breakfast we set off by passing through Coupeville on our way to the ferry for Port Townsend, on the Olympic Peninsula. Opposite the ferry dock we saw the much nicer Fort Casey State Park which would have been an improvement on our previous night's lodgings. The ferry runs quite frequently and we didn't have long to wait. It's a short trip across the inlet to the town and we were soon cycling again. The ACA maps do a wonderful job of keeping off the main highways as much as possible, and this was very evident by some of the quiet roads we travelled. Our only problem seemed to be loose dogs all over the place, who's main goal in life seemed to be chasing cyclists! We joined Highway 104 just before the Hood Canal floating bridge. This bridge is long and has a narrow shoulder for cyclists, but it is still quite nerve-racking when the big trucks go by. There is also steel grating at both ends of the bridge which, I would imagine, could be a problem in wet weather for cyclists. Luckily the weather was dry when we crossed and we then turned onto Highway 3 for a short while before our cue sheet led us off onto quieter roads once more.
We were travelling on the outskirts of the US Naval Reservation when I heard another familiar "PING" sound; yes, another spoke broke on Larry's rear wheel! After yet another fix we arrived in Silverdale, where fortunately we found a bike shop that was open on a Sunday. They were too busy to do immediate repairs and rebuild the wheel with better spokes - which is what was required - and we didn't want to hang around for a day or two to wait for a wheel repair. So we looked around the store - which was very well stocked - and found a brand new 36 spoke wheel complete with a good hub and spokes hanging there. It was a reasonable price, so Larry opted to replace his wheel and the shop changed over the tube and tire for free. He kept the hub off his old wheel as it was the only good component; the rim was a "cheapie" and not worth carting around for the rest of the trip. We really hoped that the purchase was the end to Larry's wheel problems... wait and see, read on!
Off we went once more and after a few miles arrived in the larger city of Bremerton. This is where the ACA maps shone, in getting us through the towns and cities without getting lost and with minimum traffic to contend with. The only bad road we encountered in Bremerton was a short, really steep hill on one of the back streets that we had been led through. It was quite a struggle too, good job it was a only short one!
Before too long we and arrived at our destination of Belfair State Park. The hiker/biker area was empty save for one cyclist couple, who were not very talkative, they were French and we didn't speak the lingo! It had been a hot ride, with only one ice-cream stop, so it felt good to soak my head under some cold water at the campground. We put up our tents and had a shower and decided against cooking, so we had a nice stroll to a nearby restaurant and filled our faces! Oh, and a couple of cold beers too!
Day 3, 122 (Planned) Kms. (Turned into 165 Kms)
We took a fancy to pancakes in the morning, so we set off into Belfair to find the only place open early was a McD's. Well they had pancakes, sort of! Furthermore, it was the slowest "fast" food place we'd been to for a while, I think that they were grinding their own flour for the hotcakes! It sufficed though!
On through the back roads of Washington State, and more loose dogs to contend with. But the road conditions were moderate and we kept up a pretty good pace, almost too good for Larry, he didn't even eat at our lunch stop. He laid down on the grass and had forty winks instead! I'd found that on previous trips, Larry took a few days to adapt to the daily pace, but he never complained... much!
I had my one and only flat just after leaving our lunch stop, A slow leak in the front tire. It was a small pinch flat from a tiny slit in my Mr. Tuffy liner. The slit in the liner was from a previous nail puncture and I guess that it just nipped away at the tube until it leaked. I removed the liner and resolved not to use liners that had been damaged!
Elma was our next town to negotiate and we followed the cue sheet until we met up with some construction and the road we wanted was behind a chain link fence! It wasn't too hard to detour to Highway 8 though and we rejoined the route on the other side of town.
We arrived in Oakville fairly tired and the weather had been fairly warm again. I had written notes on campgrounds in various towns on our route and my notes stated that we were to camp at Riverside Park. Hmm... there wasn't even a river never mind a park! A small playground park and that was it. So we rode the town from end to end a couple of times and decided to make some enquiries at a small grocery store. Turns out that the only camping anywhere close by was a few miles down the road, and a few more into the bush on some forestry roads. I rechecked my notes and the map and found out that I had made a faux pas! Riverside Park was in Centralia, another 25 miles down the road! We took off to check out the forestry campground. I should have known better and not taken the word of a non-cycling grocery clerk; a few miles to them is always further than they say. After a few miles and still on the main road I was berating myself for not buying water and groceries before our little side trip, as we were getting further and further away from town. Eventually we came to a turn off and climbed up a mammoth hill to find ourselves in the middle of nowhere. Tim volunteered to take the downhill on the other side and see what he could find. Well he was gone quite a while, and whilst Larry and I waited, a white van with some logos on the doors happened by. The van stopped and we chatted with the occupants who were both in uniform, prison officer uniform; I could only guess what they were looking for! We asked if they had seen Tim and they replied that they hadn't. So we took off down the long steep hill to find him. We eventually met up with him coming back the other way and after only noticing a few "guerilla campsites," we talked of the bullet holes in the road signs, and prison officers, and our lack of food, and "To hell with it!" Back to town... up the long steep hill and down the other side!
Back in Oakville we asked a cop if there were any camping opportunities in town, hoping that he might suggest somewhere just to pitch our tents, but no such luck. The only place he suggested was an RV park just past Rochester, another 8 miles down the road! Anyhow, we took that option and arrived at the park absolutely bushed. The camping fee was exorbitant, but "beggars can't be choosers." The grass was plush though and we made full use of the laundry and showers. After a quick run back into Rochester, for food, a six pack and a pie for dessert, we had the use of the campground owners' BBQ and they even let us pick some fresh vegetables from their garden. Life was good again!
And that's how a 122 Km day turned into a 165 Km day! We'd sleep well on that night.