Tuesday, May 31, 2016

39: Approaching the corner . . .

Riding up Whidbey Island this morning, I realized that we are about to hit the end of our journey north. After our visit with our friends in Friday Harbor, we will turn east and head for New York and Vermont. We are 1800 miles into our trip; we've been on the road nearly six weeks, and we've finally gotten to the corner of our loop. I don't know what to think about what that means for the rest of our voyage. If we continue to average about 60 miles a day, we may not make it around the circuit we had planned for ourselves before the weather gets really bad this fall. On the other hand, we could get favorable winds and really make great time as we cross the country heading east, in which case maybe we'd catch up a bit to our original estimate.
Roger ponders our future
Roger seems to dwell more on this than I do; I figure it is an excellent adventure regardless of how far we go and so it really doesn't matter. But time will tell, I guess. In the meantime, we are delighted to have reached the home of our friends, Jeff and Gail.

Island life

We had another bumpy, up-and-down day today. You might think that riding a bike along an island would be flat.  After all, you are right there at sea level, right? But these islands are NOT flat, and the roads tend to run along the center ridge, and so we once again were doing lots of climbing and falling.

We had great views now and then of Mt Baker, and finally we reached the ferry landing at Anacortes for our trip over to San Juan Island, where Jeff was waiting to escort us home.

Mt Baker from Deception Pass
Approaching the turning point on our journey - Friday Harbor

One highlight of the day was our passage over the bridge at Deception Pass. This is a beautiful, trestle bridge built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps and local farmers who were out of work due to the Great Depression. It connects Whidbey to Fidalgo Island.
A view of the bridge from below

We are starting to see more bike tourists now! Joanne from southwest Colorado is getting ready to start a cross-country trip with her friends; they are on mile 0 and headed for Maine. Take a look at that tandem - it's the real deal!

We are looking forward to exploring the island a bit with our friends, and then we'll resume our journey later this week.

The day's report:  Coupeville to Friday Harbor, 38.4 miles/1857 to date

Joanne at Mile 0

That's one bad-ass tandem!

38: Memorial Day was no picnic

First, let me salute those men and women of our armed forces who have given their lives in service to our nation. It was easy to see that this was a holiday: the streets were empty, there were flags out, preparations were underway for celebrations. If you lost a family member or other loved one, my heart goes out to you, and I appreciate the sacrifice you and your service member made. I hope the day brought you some comfort.
Lake Washington in the sunshine

It was the kind of day that would make you move to Seattle. The lake was sparkling, the sky blue - everything was scrubbed bright and fresh and the air was crisp and you could easily think "I want to live here!" - unless, of course, you remembered the past week, when it rained every day. Ah, fickle Seattle, how you flirt with us!

This was not a very long day, but it was another very UP and DOWN day. The city is very hilly, and they are not long sloping hills, but short and steep ones that prove very taxing for us. Descents are similarly short and sometimes steep, and since we are riding city streets we must be prepared to stop quickly.  Thus, we never really get a rhythm, or enjoy a nice long downhill. It tends to feel like up, up, up - then DOWN fast and again up, up, up. Over and over we do this drill. In 24 miles, we climb 1600 feet, but we never get above 400 feet in elevation. Back home in Redlands, we might climb more than that when we ride out to Yucaipa, but then we turn around and have a 15 mile downhill back home!

Our ride was broken into two parts: through Seattle to the ferry landing at Mukilteo, and then up Whidbey Island to Coupeville. I have always loved ferries. Puget Sound has dozens of ferries going all over, and our plan was to ride up Whidbey to Anacortes the following day to take another ferry to San Juan Island to visit our friends Jeff and Gail.

Roger exploring the fort
Olympic peninsula in the background behind the fort
We camped at Fort Casey State Park. This is an old fort built in the 1890s to protect Puget Sound. There are great views of the mountains on the Olympic Peninsula, and it was fun to walk around the old structures that remain on the site. The campground had some sites reserved for hikers and bikers, which was great.

We enjoyed having a little "hydrotherapy" treatment for our legs in the cold waters, and then ate a holiday-appropriate meal of friend chicken, corn on the cob and macaroni and cheese, counted our blessings, and hit the sack.

Brrr! But great treatment for our legs
The day's report:  Seattle to Coupeville, 56 miles, 1819 to date

37: Seattle Sunday

It was a real pleasure to stay a day with friends in Seattle. First off, there was rain (again). So it was particularly nice to be indoors, standing in the dry kitchen, and watching the rain come down outside. Second, it was just so lovely to reconnect with an old friend, and have a chance to catch up.  And third, it was great to have a day off the bike!

Ben's paella - a work of art
Gaye and Ben own a winery, (http://cadencewinery.com/) so I enjoyed learning about the business end of producing wine, as well as tasting a few of their blends. And Ben is a great cook, putting together a delicious paella that we enjoyed with their rose wine. A perfect pairing!

Gaye's a good cook, too, and she prepared a peach cobbler for dessert.  And, they have a bona fide espresso machine. Does it get any better than this?
Peach cobbler for dessert!
Gaye in the kitchen
Gaye and I took a walk down to Lake Washington. The floating bridge (Interstate 90) is pretty cool. When her sister (my bff Linda) said "they live above the 90" I thought that meant "just north of" as you might read a map.  But no - she meant it literally! The highway comes off the lake and then into a tunnel, and it really is the case that Ben and Gaye's home is "above" this tunnel.

The I-90 Floating Bridge
Gaye en route
We did not see Mt. Rainier until Monday morning, when the clouds cleared enough to give us a nice view over the lake. Gaye and Ben rode with us out to the University of Washington, where we bid them farewell to head for the islands.

Gaye and Ben, ready to roll

Mt Rainier over Lake Washington

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Roadside Ruminations

Before we get too far from Oregon, a couple of thoughts that came along during our hours in Oregon.

1. All that grass, part 1:  So, there are many, many fields of grass being grown for seed in Oregon. We passed miles of pastures that had beautiful tall grasses which we wondered about, and later learned are a seed crop. I am willing to concede that a landowner certainly has a right to grow - or not grow - whatever suits his or her fancy on private land. And I cannot reasonably object to growing a crop that does not need to be irrigated. This is just grass, growing when it gets rain, and eventually being harvested for some money. Seems okay.
Tall fescue, grown for seed
But there is something just a bit perverse to me about using such lovely arable land to produce a product that can't be eaten, and will just consume water later on, when it is planted on someone's lawn. And that's all it will do. We asked if the rest of the grass after harvest is used for feed, and were told no, the field stubble is burned. So yuck. In addition to sucking up water once the product is put into use, and producing no real food value for humans or livestock, it pollutes the air.  Not that anyone is asking me, but I vote no on this particular land use.

2. All that grass, part 2: Every town we went through in Oregon had a pot dispensary. I mean EVERY town. You get where you notice the green crosses. Interesting names. Today we saw "A Greener World." Funny. But these were towns with a couple of hundred of people. And I thought, "can a town this size really support a dispensary?  Is everyone in Oregon high all the time?" It didn't seem like it. Other than the occasionally whiff as a car went by (troubling) we didn't notice it. But there certainly is a booming business underway. I wonder at the economics of it.

I thought perhaps some of the larger cities might have enacted ordinances prohibiting sales. So perhaps folks from Portland or Seattle were driving out to the country to get their pot. But no, I have seen the dispensaries everywhere. So this is a bit of a mystery to me. Maybe it is a bit like those stalls at antique markets.  There are always people who are collectors, and when they collect too much, they start to sell it. Perhaps all these pot sellers are just folks who are user/growers with excess inventory, looking to cash some of it out.

By the way, those sign twirlers that you see here and there, hawking insurance, new homes or tax services on the corners?  I saw one today that had a big old arrow touting "$7 grams." I guess it's all part of the new economy.

36: Here comes the rain again, falling on my head . . .

No lie, I think we have had rain for the better part of a week now.  The other day, when we were staying with Warm Showers hosts Dave and Carol, the sun came out for a bit after dinner and I walked outside to just stand in the sunshine. It was so bright I had to close my eyes!  They hurt from the brilliance of the sunshine. I have become a mole-person. Another couple of days in this land of no-sun and I will be doing nothing but drinking hot tea and listening to Janis Ian. The Pacific northwest is made for sterner folk than I.

Thanks, Henry, for setting us straight.
Our ride today was short - just 36 miles - and that was longer than planned because we got turned around a bit at the end of the bike trail and had to back track a section. Our Good Samaritan today was Henry, who was riding along the Green River bike trail and stopped to chat while we were stopped there looking at the map and guide sheet.  He was kind enough to retrace his route and get us back on track. Thank you! We never would have found our way out to the proper street.

We had sprinkles again today. So what? It didn't really get us wet, we just miss the sunshine. I know that we will soon be riding in impossibly hot weather, wishing we could have some cool showers.  In fact, the forecast for eastern Washington next week includes high temps in the 90s! So we should be enjoying this cool weather while we have it. And we are - I actually think it's just about perfect to ride at 60 to 65%. But I am tired of getting wet every day!

We had a nice road to start on - sort of like that road through the industrial park where the Ashley Furniture factory is in Redlands. Good road, no traffic, parallel to the freeway. From there, about 15 miles on the very good Interurban Bike Trail. We loved this one.  Most of the crossings had automatic sensors, which put lights on for the cars, who had to stop for us. Bingo! We had some breakfast at CoCo Joe's Tavern, which was sort of a trip. I do not often have my omelette right in front of a beer tap. But it was the only place to get breakfast there in Algona. As one local sitting there in the bar put it, "who's going to come to Algona?" Who, indeed?  Just a couple of cross-country cyclists!
Lake Washington

The last part of our ride was along Lake Washington, and it was pretty. The yards here were beautiful, as they have been all along the Oregon and Washington leg of our journey. There are so many colorful bushes and trees - lots of purple and deep pink shrubs - plus rhododendron of every shade, peonies, roses and lilacs. Then you've got dogwood trees, perennials, annuals and even wildflowers in most gardens. It really is lovely. And all of this is set on an emerald green lawn, which doesn't even bother me because of course, they don't need to water them.
Lawns and gardens are lovely up here

We are staying for a day or two with the sister of my very dear college friend.  Gaye and Ben are winemakers, and they live in a great 1917 Craftsman cottage near Lake Washington. Roger and I walked to a lovely French restaurant for dinner, where we enjoyed a splendid view of the Seattle skyline.
I did not realize Seattle was so up-and-down until we rode here!
Roger said, "we're hardly roughing it tonight." To which I replied, "I didn't agree to rough it for six months. I agreed to have an Excellent Adventure, which is what we are doing.  So pour me a little more wine, darling!" And he did.
Yes, it is an Excellent Adventure!
The day's report: Puyallup to Seattle, 36.3 miles/1763 to date

Friday, May 27, 2016

35: A very long day in the saddle

I faithfully and optimistically put on the sunscreen each day
Roger and I put in a good long day today. If we were professional cycling racers, you might call this a transfer day. We just needed to cover some ground, and our goal was to get ourselves close enough to Seattle that we would have an easy time getting to our friends' home on Saturday.

So we decided that we would shoot for a row of hotels in Parkland, which would just give us about 40 miles to do tomorrow. It meant an 85 mile day, but only about 1400 feet of climbing, so we figured we could do it.

Well, it turns out that the climbing we did today was more like 3000 feet, and because we could not find a hotel for a reasonable rate in Parkland, we went on to Puyallup, which made it 94 miles.  And so we now have a new tour record!

Reminded me of Mr Bill - Oh NOOOO!
There was some chance we would not get rain. Of course, there was also a chance that we would. We don't even bother checking the forecast any more. One look at the clouds around here, and you know: it's coming!

Oh yeah - it's on, baby!
The first part of our ride was on a very scenic back road that went up and down and up and down WAY more than we had expected it would. Plus, there was a short segment that climbed 80 feet in less than one-tenth of a mile - which meant it was VERY steep, up to 17% at one point, and it truly tested us. Roger managed to keep the bike upright by weaving across the road back and forth, and we got up and over it. All along this route, folks had Christmas trees planted in their yards.  They might only have a small plot (40 or 50 trees), but everyone seemed to be growing them. Perhaps this is the area where folks from Seattle come out to select and cut their own tree. It wouldn't seem to make sense economically otherwise to have so many small producers. We stopped for some breakfast, and not too long after that I snapped a photo of the fields and the clouds.

And not five minutes after that, we had to stop to pull on our rain jackets, because doggone it, the road veered right into the storm. That's when we saw these great little llamas, which appeared to have been sheared for the summer already.
Newly sheared llamas

It didn't rain for long - just long enough to get us good and wet right down to our socks. That sort of how these showers go.

After the rain, we rode along again for a time, and then the skies opened up and the rain poured on us again. By this time, what does it matter?  Once you are wet, you're wet.  The second shower passed and we missed a turn, so we stopped in at Subway to reconnoiter and use the restroom.  Did you know their chicken noodle soup is really good?

As we prepared to leave, Roger started to take his rain jacket off, but then decided since it was soaking wet, he'd wear it until it dried. So a couple miles down the road, we stopped to put them back under the bungees and headed off again. I kid you not, less than a quarter of a mile down the road the drops started to fall again!  I shook my fists at the sky and screamed, "no more rain!" - and it stopped!  Whether due to my meteorological interventions or a happy coincidence of time and space, we had just a few more sprinkles and then - done.

Tenino-Yelm Bike Trail
A good 13 miles of our route was on a nice rails to trails segment from Tenino to Yelm. Pretty, and so nice to get off the road.

And then there's this little slice of small-town life:  we stopped in at a cafe to see if we could get a coffee.  No, they only sell coffee in the morning, but try Tim's Drugstore.  Really?  The drug store?  But it's not just a drug store. Sure enough, they have the coffee bar at the back. And jewelry, and giftware, and some very nice kitchen gadgets, plus a candy counter full of hand-made bon-bons!  Maybe there is even a druggist in there somewhere.  Who knows?

Goodies at the drug store

By the way, we had an espresso milkshake, which is what it sounds like:  espresso with ice cream and some milk, blended. OMG. This is what the Starbucks Frappaccino WISHES it were! So very good, and it really gave us a kick for the last 28 miles. We saw signs for these milkshakes all up and down the highway, and decided we should make them a part of our afternoon routine!

And so we end our fifth week on the road, having traveled 1726 miles in about 149 hours on the bike. That's about 11.5 miles an hour overall. I feel like we are getting stronger, but we still get very tired by the end of each day.  And so - goodnight!

The day's report:  Castle Rock to Puyallup, 94 miles/1726 to date

Thursday, May 26, 2016

34: Up and over we go!

This was a day full of contrasts. We said goodbye to our Warm Showers hosts Dave and Carol (who made pancakes with fresh fruit and yogurt for breakfast!) and rode out (Dave accompanying us for a bit on the way to his work day commute.)

For the first half of our day, we took back roads from the Tualatin Valley and then up and over the ridge separating us from the Columbia River.  This was another cloudy day; though we had a few sprinkles at lunch we did not have rain. But it was constantly threatening. The skies were dark and grey, and in the deep woods of the climb it was eerie - threatening almost.

Dark, damp, cold - who wants to live in these woods?
Is your next Christmas tree out here?
Not that anything is actually going to come out and get you, but there was something forbidding about this place. I am sure it must be beautiful when the sunlight dapples through the leaves.  But when does that happen? There is so much rain and cloud cover here! Now and again, we'd come to a break in the woods, like where these Christmas trees were growing. Perhaps we rode past your next tree?

This was a steep road going up, and a crazy steep road going down! We lost about 1400 feet in less than three miles. I am glad we did not climb up that side. (Mark Friis, Roger says you need to put this on your bucket list:  Rocky Point Road up from Hwy 30 near Scappoose. The descent back to Forest Grove would be spectacular!)

Can you see the 18-wheeler just to the left of the trusses?  This bridge was HUGE!
Starting up the bridge
Following this absolutely silent, the road-is-all-ours climb and descent, we had about 30 miles on a regional highway. Noisy, lots of traffic, loud. Definitely not fun - just making the wheels turn so we could get through it. And then it was time to leave Oregon for Washington - which took place 55.5 miles into our day on the middle of this bridge over the Columbia River. OMG. This was not for the faint of heart.
Narrow bike lane

As we approached the bridge, I had that feeling you get when you are going up the first climb of a roller coaster.  Clack-clack-clack-clack . . .  what was I thinking? That's the way it seemed. How are we going to get over that?

First thing, there was not much of a lane for us. And, it was littered with debris from the logging trucks that use the bridge. Yuck.  Roger managed to hold a line and we just went over the crap best we could. A good stiff wind was blowing, which made things interesting. AND the ascent was about 7 to 8% for most of the way up! Did I mention that the bridge wiggled when the trucks lumbered past? Plus there was a metal facing that vibrated and shook each time one went by.  Yikes. I was so relieved to get off this bridge.

Then it was just a few more miles to "someplace to stay" - that's really all you could say about it. Castle Rock itself is sort of a cute little town, but the motels are on the Interstate, so that's where we are now. Nothing too special about that! But we are now into our third state, and looking forward to seeing friends in Seattle and Friday Harbor in a few days.

The day's report:  Forest Grove to Castle Rock, 71.5 miles/1632 to date

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

33: Just another day on the bike - finally!

What was most remarkable about this day was that it did not rain! There were clouds all over, and sometimes they were pretty dark, but we did not have any rain and there was even a bit of sunshine in the evening after dinner.  I confess I went outside to see the sunshine and my eyes hurt - it was so bright after days of gloom!

Holly from Redlands
We left Katherine and Stuart with big hugs (after they got a taste of the stoker's role on the back of the tandem.) We had a relatively easy ride into Forest Grove, where we are staying at Warm Showers hosts Dave and Carol. They are super nice, and have fed us supper and Carol made strawberry shortcake for dessert!  OMG. The Oregon strawberries are in season and they are delicious - small, sweet and juicy. The real thing. Yum.

Love the mixers on the ceiling!
On our way in, we had our second breakfast at the Wild Wood Cafe in McMinnville.  It was absolutely fabulous. The bacon and eggs were just better than anywhere - I don't know what the deal was - and the French toast is the best I have ever eaten. They use thick bread which they make, then after soaking it in the egg, they roll it in granola and then grill it!  It was just amazing.  Not often I go crazy for French toast but this stuff was special.

And, in the small world department, our server asked, "are you from Redlands?" when she saw our jackets.  Her family ran Melzer's Fine Books in Redlands and she lived there for a while before moving up this way. So say hello to Holly!

We finally learned what the trees were that we saw being planted all over.  Oregon grows hazelnuts (aka filberts).  Who knew? They also have large pastures full of grasses that I had heretofore only seen growing on the side of the road. Turns out they are growing them for seed. So if you have a lawn with fescue grass, chances are the seed was growing up here somewhere.

Lots of filbert trees in the area
Every little town we passed through has a coffee shack like this.  I guess folks here do not want to have to get out of their cars in the rain to grab a latte!

The day's report:  Willamina to Forest Grove, 46 miles/1561 to date

Not sure how this solar array would pencil out, given the weather!

32: Old friends, new places

Being able to visit with Stuart and Katherine was such a treat. No one makes me laugh like Stuart Noble-Goodman!

They took us into Portland on Tuesday so we could kick around a bit, and we had fun being tourists in the city.  Although, having been on back roads in small towns for a couple of weeks, I have to admit I felt a bit accosted by the noise, concrete and bustle of the crowds. And it really wasn't even crowded!

Ridiculously good
Carved arches at Deschutes
A burger and a beer were the first order of the day. Deschutes was a fine choice. I am partial to IPAs, and they make a fine one.

We had to hit a bike shop, of course - that's mandatory in every city - and then we headed over to Voodoo Donuts. Well, I was impressed with the hype, and the decor - but the donuts? Not so much. While they are fantastical, they just were too sweet for me. I mean, I do not eat Captain Crunch cereal any more. Why would I want it on a donut? But folks do seem to love them, with a line often out the door.

More to my liking was the book palace - Powell's. I was interested to learn that it is actually a used book store of sorts. While many of the books are new, there are others on the shelves that clearly are not. One clerk told me there are anywhere from 500,000 to 1,000,000 titles in the store at any time.

Voodoo Donuts
And then, for a very special treat, we met Stuart and Katherine for dinner with Kieran and Aidan! We have a very warm spot in our hearts for these two. Their first jobs were picking oranges for us in the orchard. It is hard to believe that they are grown up now!
T shirt in Powell's

At the Crystal Hotel, Zeus Cafe - one of the Mcmenamin's renovations

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

31: Good Morning, Corvallis!

. . ."Here's a look at today's weather from station K-R-E-A . . .

Gonna be another wet one, folks! But you don't need me to tell you that.  Just look out the window - you see that stuff falling from the sky?  It's rain, folks! Probably going to rain all day, off and on.  Great day to catch up on some reading, or maybe work on that sewing project you've been meaning to get to. Whatever your pleasure, light the fire, make a pot of tea, and cozy up inside where it's nice and dry . . ."

Or not.

Roger and I really don't have the option to stay indoors.  I mean, it's OREGON. It's SPRING.  It's RAINING. What did we expect?  We didn't have a long day planned.  Just a short 45 or 50 miles to our friends near Portland. So we headed out about 10:00 am, and though there were a few sprinkles as we headed north, it wasn't too bad.  Actually a great temperature for riding - just about 60 degrees so we were not chilly nor hot.

A modest lunch at the Dairy Queen, then a few more miles up the road to visit a winery.  That was nice!
4th or was it 5th shower of the day?
We did not want to arrive before our friends did at the rendezvous spot, so we were killing some time with a coffee when the first sincere shower arrived.  No matter.  We had an awning (though leaky) to sit under and it was pleasant enough watching it rain from under the eaves.

When the rain stopped, it was time to head out.

Although we had a brief respite in the sun (and I actually felt the warmth on my body for a time!) the clouds were looking fierce again. As soon as we turned to the west, I thought, "uh, oh. We are not going to get lucky this time!"
Clouds waiting for us
Sure enough, from about mile 34 to mile 37, we were slammed.  The storm was not that long in duration, but that's enough time to get thoroughly drenched.
Selfie after storm

So now we are finishing the last few miles out to Stuart and Katherine's, and we are sloshing in our shoes. Soggy. That's really the only way to put it. Everything here is green and lush - really beautiful - and the clouds are beautiful, too.  But I am about to have my fill of them!

Our lodging tonight is out at the home of Katherine's father. For many years, he had a compound with lots of endangered species living out in the hills to the west of Portland. The animals are all gone now - moved to another sanctuary or a zoo - but the beautiful pastures, woodlands and an incredible house remain.
This was the giraffe's home, once upon a time

Katherine has warmed up the sauna for us (BLISS!) and after a shower and a chance to warm up our bones, we had a great time catching up with Stuart and Katherine over a delicious dinner.

So fun to see our friends from Redlands in a new setting.  It's one of the reasons why we started out on this adventure. So thanks to both Stuart and Katherine for a great time.

And after all that rain, we did have a beautiful sunset!

The day's report: Corvallis to Willamina, 47.6 miles/1515 to date