“Washington is a Waste of Time”
The two days that best described our time in Washington were the first day in, and the last day out. Advice given to us by a former Highway 101 bike rider suggested, rather, explicitly said, that the Washington section of the tour was a “waste of time.” Then the last day passing into Oregon found us pitted against nature in such a way as to completely demoralize and destroy me for the rest of the trip. Ok yes, too much doom and gloom but it was by far our longest mileage day, coupled with the most adverse conditions we faced. Creating our most dangerous day on…A Bridge To Hell & Back.
I have to say about the ferries in and around WA, they’re more than just a mode of transportation. They’re always on time, comfortable, scenic, and really a lot of fun. Heck, if you wanted to impress a lady it wouldn’t be the worst date idea I’ve thought up. You can walk around the boat for panoramic views of your surroundings which are beautiful everywhere. I’ve heard tale of people seeing orcas from them. When the weather is right, mountains and clouds and sunsets can all be seen. They are a feather in the cap of the Pacific Northwest.
Finally, on our third day we got to Washington and we could be done with them.
It would be days before we covered as much ground by bike as we had by ferry. We were the two last, lost souls to get off the ferry that dropped us off in Port Angeles from Victoria. It felt like the real trip was about to start now. Excited to have a goal along the road, I purchased that book to identify mushrooms I had wanted so badly. I rode into gear stores looking for bike lights. I got yelled at for riding on the sidewalk. It was all just so thrilling!
Just outside of town my chain fell off. For no reason at all. I wondered if we were making the right route choice, as there were two available to us. We could loop west on Highway 101 around Olympic National Park, largely an inland route with a taste of coast but a focus on rainforests and a city brimming with ‘historical significance’. Or, we could east on the same road through areas that seemed more populated, more options for Warm Showers, and more things to see & do. We opted for the woods. We wanted to see Forks*! Five miles down the road we knew we’d made the right choice, as I decided to pull into the first winery we saw. We had a tasting and were offered cheese and crackers from a regular patron we ended up next to. Fantastic choices we were making.
Then the next twenty-four hours would pretty much round out all the reasons bikers start before November. Take campsites for example. None were open. We made Lake Crescent just before sunset. It is a large lake that Highway 101 runs along the south side of. The road here is 11 miles of no-shoulder, hundreds of feet downhill to the lake and hundreds back up on the other side. You can push a button at the big yellow sign that activates a big blinking sign, letting drivers know a biker is somewhere up ahead. We opted not to push our luck riding into the night on a low-visibility road so instead we sought out shelter. Neither of us were particularly comfortable making the decision on a place for stealth camping, so we turned north along the lake to see if there were residences we could ask to camp on. Nobody seemed home, and the driveways to each home seemed to drop down switchback after switchback, much more work than we wanted to do at the end of the day. We laughed as we realized we probably could have made the stretch if we hadn’t been as indecisive. Or safe. That’s what you get for making safe decisions people. You get stranded. So we nervously went down to the lake in a designated park area and made a quick dinner. I thought it would be smart to hang the food up (that’s what they say you’re supposed to do) from bears and hide our bikes away from our campsite. That way anyone that came down for a quick peek wouldn’t see us. Trust me, my logic at the time made much more sense than it does long after the fact now.
We set up camp on the complete other side of the clearing, behind trees that masked us from the parking lot. You could maybe see us from one of the lakeside homes but we waited till dusk to setup to minimize that possibility. Then we laid down and chatted about home and how we spent our respective holidays. Maggi fell asleep while I layed in a sleepless daze, my ears perked like a dog, aware of every creek of every branch. I didn’t want to get caught again. I made the mistake of Googling fine’s for camping where you weren’t supposed to. Maybe because I was so worried about it, I was about to doze off when I heard the soft, distant grinding sound of rubber on gravel I know so well from living on a dirt road.
I stopped breathing. The light breeze stirred the tent flaps ever so softly that I couldn’t separate man-made sounds from nature. I caught the sound of a car door shutting softly. Bolting upright stealthily I opened the tent side and perched on my knees with my head out of the tent to hear more clearly. At this point I wasn’t even worried about the spiders I’d seen trying to enter when we first got into the tent. This was all taking too long, there were no lights and it didn’t appear anyone was coming over. So maybe they weren’t patrolling the site. What if they had just stopped by, and seen our bikes? I now remembered all of our stuff was covered in reflective tape for road visibility, including a bag now hanging from a tree. Dammit Ian! I grabbed my brand new SureFire flashlight (not sponsored by SureFire but hey guys, if you want to…I do love my SureFire lights!), slipped into my shoes and snuck out in the darkness towards the parking lot. I was creeping from picnic table to table, delicately sidestepping piles of rocks and dirt in pure silence. Dim lights appeared and I ducked down instinctively. Moments like this make me feel like maybe I could be an ‘Archer’-esque secret agent. No one would expect it. They also make me feel like I should stand up in my long underwear and run at them with the light on, just to freak them out and see what happens. Quickly I made it over to the bathrooms and hid in the doorway. I peered around the edge to watch what, if anything was happening. I watched as the vehicle left, crawling back up the hill and away into the forest. Did they steal our stuff? Were they just out for a quickie by the lake? I ran out as they drove away, booking it for where our gear was stored. If it could be deduced quickly that it was gone, then maybe I could catch them and get a license plate. Thankfully none of that had to be done. They had probably just been out to make sweet, sweet love under the stars. I had been worried for no reason, and as I zipped the last inches of the tent flap shut, it began to rain.
For the rest of the trip.
Wait, what about the Bridge to Hell or whatever that nonsense was? Did you make it to Forks? Did you get wet in the rain? Well, turns out this story cannot be told in one short post. My intent to lead you through our adventure with one post about each state was a flawed thought from the start. So watch for “Bike Tour – Part 4”. With bated breath.
*Forks, WA. The legendary home of vampires, werewolves, and the women that fall in love with them.