It began in Lund, BC, at Jack’s Boatyard to be precise. We cycled the 35 km south to Powell River then the next day got a ferry to Comox on Vancouver Island. After a short ride to Courtenay we had a two-day family visit and then the cycling began in earnest.
The 70 km of that first day were a struggle, despite the tailwind but the walk-in campsites at Parksville’s Rathtrevor Beach Park were a welcome relief. We met another cyclist there, also an old fart, who had just come from a number of days of wilderness cycling along logging roads in the Port Alberni area. Turns out he’d also done quite a bit of cycling in Indonesia in some pretty dodgy areas during some pretty dodgy times. Hmmm, just when we were feeling adventurous.
The next day we limped into Nanaimo’s shopping mall land with ailing bikes. It seemed like a bad omen this early into a year-long bike trip. One of them got fixed and the other continued to limp to the Dorchester Hotel. The right part was attained in the morning and, really, there hasn’t been much in the way of bike problems since.
We continued on to Sidney via Saltspring Island where we spent a few days with friends before boarding the ferry to Anacortes, Washington. It was here that I felt the real trip began and that fist day involved riding the length of Fidalgo and Whidbey Islands, often on winding secondary roads — perfect cycling. It was also on this first day that we met a number of supportive, helpful people and not just those on bicycles. This experience has continued throughout the trip.
We took another ferry to Port Townsend Washington where we began cycling the inland route of the Olympic Peninsula. Some roads were quiet but we did encounter more than our share of logging trucks. Now, most of these drivers were very courteous and also very skilled. Whenever possible they gave us lots of room. Often the really frightening drivers are those in rented motorhomes or with giant trailers. They simply don’t have the experience nor the skill to handle these giant vehicles and pass way too close. I believe the standard practice is to wait behind a slower vehicle until it is safe to pass but some drivers seem to forget this. We’re pretty small and slow so it doesn’t take much to pass us. Having said this, most drivers are great, pulling way out to get by us and often giving a wave. Gotta love it.
Parts of Washington, though, reminded me of driving across Canada many years ago, specifically of the Northern Ontario part. Not that the scenery is the same as that of Ontario, but at bicycle speed is seemed to go on and on and wasn’t so much different from home — more hills and more trees and more hills and more trees.
Then we hit the exposed coast at Twin Harbors State Park. We had a perfect, secluded campsite with no cars in site but we were also a five-minute ride from a Shell station that sells cold beer. Bliss.
A couple more days and we braved the Astoria Bridge to enter Oregon. This bridge on a bicycle is not for the faint of heart. There is one tough climb in its four-mile length and the shoulder is narrow. Once again, though, drivers mostly gave us some room and the downhill stretch at the north end made the last part the best part.
We took a full day off in Astoria, which is a lovely old town but I’ve never seen it in the sunshine. I’ve seen pictures so there must be some blue-sky days but I continue to think of it as a gloomy place. There is a superb Indian restaurant though.
Following this were two short days, first to Cannon Beach and then Nehalem Bay State Park. It was at Nehalem Bay that we began to realize just how many people are cycling this coast, even this late in the season. The next night at Cape Lookout State Park, the hiker-biker site was almost full (although they don’t turn people away), and full of interesting people doing this for very different reasons. A great part of the experience was that some of them are even older than I am. Discussions around the campfire went on into the night and we have new Facebook friends who we will see again.
After another day off, we rode on to Lincoln City and then to a state park south of Newport. At this point I have to mention the bike shop in Newport. It’s not on the designated bike route but there is a sign saying it is near. I needed a new headlight (Mountain Equipment Coop one failed on the third use) but we spent a lot more than that and also chatted and chatted with the owners. They are people you want to not only do business with but hang around with. The guy just got back from a ride to San Francisco and recommended pubs and breweries along the way. Also, they have couches, a shower, and wifi upstairs where cyclists can hang out if they want. They told us that they get 1000 touring cyclists a year through their store and how many pass it by? Does that mean that 10,000 a year ride this route?
Today we are in Florence for another day off. It’s been hilly, sometimes downright mountainous but the wind has been from behind and I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world.