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October 15th 2008
Published: October 16th 2008
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Sharon:

So much has happened since the last time we updated our blog; I already feel like this morning was three weeks ago! Thinking that our now-usual routine of searching out an internet cafe would play out (search for internet cafe with increasing feelings of urgency, finally find one, check our emails like junkies craving a hit, forget everything else that we planned to do once we finally found a much coveted internet connection), I made up a list in my travel journal of things I want to talk about and I'm going to stick to it.

1) Uncle Todd is nice.
2) We made it to the US of A!
3) To Seattle and beyond
4) Phil, our equivalent of a fairy godmother
5) Holidaying with Mike's parents
6) More incredibly nice people!
7) Flat tires
8) PORTLAND
9) Yet another extremely generous person!
10) Things I miss from home!

1) At the time of our last blog, we were sitting in a library at the University of Victoria, in the midst of yet another massive rain storm. Later that day, the rain turned to 60-80km/hr winds, and we didn't see much of the sun (or Victoria at all). Hearing this, when my Uncle Todd came home on Sunday evening he insisted on showing us the sights with a night on the town (and it wasn't raining!). Not only did we get a tour of the places to be in Victoria, we got the insider cop perspective 😊

2) It seems like so long ago now, I'm almost forgetting all of the details of crossing over to the states! We took a ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles, having absolutely no trouble crossing the border. We met another cyclist on the ferry - he'd already cycled from Boston across Canada, putting our 1500 km to shame... We had to make a devastating decision on the ferry... resetting our odometre so that we could switch over to miles.... Back to zero!

After picking up a free map of Washington and hitting the road, our first impressions of the US were, to put it best, very Sarah Palin-ish. I don't know what exactly gave it that feel. It could have been the porn store in the old trailor that also sold firewood. It could have been all of the old 80s pick up trucks spewing fumes all over the road. It could have been that it's hunting season. Whatever it was, it disappeared relatively quickly with the appearance of Obama/Biden signs and a cleaned up landscape. We spent our first night in the US camped in a ditch up an old logging road.

3) From the old logging road we pushed on toward Bainbridge Island, where our ferry across the Puget Sound to Seattle departed. The day started off with absolutely massive hills and we saw a lot of other cyclists going the other way (fun when you're the one cruising downhill and you can just chuckle and say "so long suckers!" as they pant up the hill, not so funny when you are the suckers.) We crossed the hood canal bridge over to Bainbridge Island, which was very long and bit scary, and decided that we could definitely make it to Seattle before dark. Then Mike got a flat tire. No problem we thought, we'll patch it up and be on our way, still making it to Seattle by nightfall. Then the plastic tire lever snapped. Then we pinched the tube and had to start all over again. Never mind about Seattle tonight we said, we'll get up early and take the ferry at sunrise. We found the most beautiful place to pitch our tent, just off the road in some old trees, complete with a soft moss mattress for us to sleep on (much appreciated now that our air mattresses are total crap and lose all of their air by midnight). The morning was gorgeous - we got up early to watch the sun come up through the trees, it was very misty and a deer was grazing near our tent, giving it a very magical fairyland feel. We set our hopes on the 8:35 ferry after packing up all our gear. We went about 200 metres, then Mike got a flat tire. Not to worry we said, we'll take the 9:40 ferry. Then Mike got a flat tire. And you see where this is going.... We got to Seattle in time for lunch.

Seattle was AMAZING - we took a wonderful bike ride following a bike loop right from the ferry terminal, all across the city. We went down streets, past the Space Needle, through parks, through the Pier 91 ship and rail yard, through residential areas, and to the Chittendam locks (where we spent hours watching the boats and salmon go by). We ended up right by our hostel and checked in for the evening - and had a shower!! We didn't sleep well at the hostel at all - Mike because people were snoring (oh the irony) and me because Mike was complaining that people were snoring. We set out on day 2 to complete the bike loop and take the ferry to Bremerton (back west). The bike loop was beautiful, through residential areas and along the coast - some incredibly steep hills, but those are fun as long as they're not so long you can't see the top. We met some interesting people along the way, starting with a lady in her garden who we stopped to ask directions from - quickly discovering that we should have turned at the top of the massive hill, not sailed down the other side...

From the bike loop we went to a bike shop to look for extra gear shift cable and two replacement spokes. Somehow the man ended up on the phone, about to order Mike a whole new wheel, so we quickly decided that we needed to get out of there before he tried to sell us a whole new bike. He did, however, provide us with some great encouragement - "Your wheel is doomed" and "I would never set out on a bike trip like this on that bike." Funny, as we've already gone almost 2000 km!

We went to the Pike Place Market for lunch - very cool, vibrant part of the city with lots of interesting people to talk to, from wholesome looking families that love cycling to Carlos, the (slightly shady) man on a bike that wants to ride to Vancouver. We enjoyed our lunch (two cheese buns and a $2 donut the size of your head) in a park near the ocean that had the most diverse crowd of people I've seen in a long time. We finally caught the ferry, reluctantly, in the mid-afternoon.

4) So. We got off the ferry in Bremerton to a massive downpour (the dark grey clouds looming on the horizon only held off until we left Seattle). We had directions to a grocery store in Bremerton, as we didn't have any food left. After putting on all of our rain gear, we headed off to find it, not really paying a lot of attention to where we needed to go after that. It didn't exist. What did exist though, were a series of massive hills that we had to push both up and down, as Superman couldn't have ridden up them, and our brakes were to slippery to ride down them. No way we were turning around after that! Eventually, we got directions from a lady on how to get out of Bremerton, figuring we'd pass a food store on the way. No such luck. We ended up on a massive freeway with virtually no shoulder (and the shoulder it did have was covered in blackberry bushes) at rush hour. It was still pouring with rain. Then we see a sign - Highway 3 (the highway we're on) closed ahead (we learned later it was because there was a fatality investigation involving a car accident and a pipe bomb). So we cycle on, not really sure where we're headed. The freeway is sandwiched between the ocean and some cliffs - no place to pitch the tent, and it's getting dark. Our map indicates that next campsite is at least 2 hours away, not that we know how to get there anyway, what with the highway closed. Then we see a little town ahead and a sign that says Groceries!! We're so excited, we cycle towards it, only to find it abandoned. As are all the little stores in the vicinity. The only store that may have been open boasted a fluorescent sign reading "Toys Topless," whatever that means. So now we're in what appears to be a skeezy ghost town, in the pouring rain, it's getting dark, the highway is closed, no place to pitch the tent, we don't know where to go, no way we could hitchhike on such a busy freeway, and we have no food. So we go stand under a little overhang of an abandoned antique store and wait. Not sure what for, we just stand there in silence staring out at the rain, which isn't showing any signs up stopping. We were quite hopeless, now that we think back on it.... AND THEN ALONG COMES PHIL! He pulled up in his truck and just offered to take us to the next campsite, out of the blus. We couldn't believe it! And not only did he help us out when we had no idea what to do, but he was also an incredibly interesting man! He was 65, and had cycled across the US in 1996, was the past-president of his bicycling club, and had all sorts of stories to tell us. He dropped us off at the Belfair State Park, near where he lived, then asked what we were going to do for dinner. So he went home while we set up the tent, then came back and took us into town, where we had pizza and swapped stories. We're still not sure how we got so lucky. What a day!

5) From Belfair we cycled through to Tumwater (camped in the ditch and woke up with the tent covered in frost) to the closed Lewis and Clark state park (we camped there anyway, in a beautiful old growth forest) to Kelso where we met up with Mike's parents, who were travelling around Oregon for their annual fall trip.

We had a great time camping with them for two nights - they drove us to a campsite near Mount St. Helens, a very neat side trip that we probably wouldn't have seen without them. They cooked us hot meals, fed us fresh vegetables from the garden back home, and played numerous games of cards with us. We drove up to the to the lookout to Mount St. Helens with them - what a site! The landscape was surreal, particularly as we were above the clouds.

We did a lot more "sightseeing" with Mike's parents that we usually do - and we still maintain that you experience more by bike. It was a nice holiday from our trip, though we were excited to be back in the saddle (though sad to see Mike's parents go)!

6) Mike's parents dropped us off back near where they found us and we cycled on towards Portland. They had originally picked us up just 2 miles from the Oregon border. We got directions for a route that stayed off the interstate (though we have cycled on the interstate and it's no big deal - I'd much rather cycle on the I5 than drive on it!). Then we got lost. Then we got a flat tire. As we were fixing this one, another extremely generous person pulled up to see if we had everything we needed. We were fine with the flat tire, but asked for directions. Tim sat down with us for quite a while, and even drove down the road a bit to see where we needed to turn, coming back with a very detailed map he had bought for us. Tim was extremely helpful - we can't believe how many people are willing to help out! He even gave us his phone number in case we got lost! Thanks Tim!

With Mike's tire patched, we cycled on, following the route Tim set out for us. We were getting so very close to Portland, when - you guessed it - Mike got another flat tire. This one was different. Usually they go "psssssssssssssss" ... this one went "BANG!!!!!" It turned out that the emergency tire we had put on Mike's bike (at some point in the last week - the old tire had a massive hole in it) had disintegrated to expose a large section of wire, which had ripped an 1.5 inch gash in the tube. Both the tube and the tire were finished, and we didn't have an extra tire with us. Up went the thumb and along came Suzanne, a very nice lady that drove us into Portland. We were very grateful for her to give us a ride, but I just can't resist mentioning some of her more amusing characteristics. First of all, she had the southern states drawl, and even said "hunny" before most of her sentences, fitting her quite nicely into some stereotypes. She said she was from Arizona, but also said she had a shop near where we picked her up. But she didn't know where Portland was! She told us stories of how she had driven to Oregon this time from Arizona and ended up at the ocean, even though she didn't know where. She doesn't really know how to work her GPS she says, so she just lets God do the navigating. And she usually gets there eventually, apparently. She made a lot of u-turns - a little dangerous at time, but what can you do? Adding to our amusement, she had the tiniest dog I'd ever seen (the kind that fits in your wallet, never mind your purse). It was named Ginger. It was wearing a pumpkin outfit. According to Suzanne, little Ginger-schminger also had a Frankenstein outfit and a witch outfit, but the pumpkin was her favourite for October. After telling us this, she dropped us off at our hostel, with a warning not to let those "Obama lovers" get to us as "not all of us in America are crazy lefties, some of us are grown-ups." Despite her quirky, somewhat redneck personality, we're very grateful that Suzanne picked us up - pushing the bike all the way into Portland would have been a bit time consuming!

7) We get a lot. We lost count, but it's at least 20-25, no exaggeration. I have not had one yet (touch wood), Mike is the sole culprit.

8) We're in OREGON!!! CRAZY!!!! Despite out less than graceful entrance, flying down freeways in a diesel pick up truck, we made it into Portland, which seems to us to be a crazy cool city, with a crazy high number of cyclists. We checked into our hostel and booted it to an internet cafe to watch the Canadian election coverage on the internet. The internet cafe was just a little bit in love with Barack Obama. There were approximately 50 paintings of him on the walls. I think that means they like him... The place was very interesting - all vegetarian/vegan food, with quite diverse clientele. We've now officially actually seen a prostitute setting up appointments (on the computer next to us, and the appointments were within half an hour of each other) and a cross dresser (a 60-70 year old man). A lot in one day for two small town kids! The election was less than uplifting, but oh well... We've got the American election to look forward to.

Our second day in Portland we spend traipsing around looking for new tires for Mike's bike - 3 bike stores and numerous phone calls later - we found some! And they're not pieces of junk either! We got just a little bit distracted by the world's largest new and used bookstore - spending at least two hours and buying 5 books.... 😊

9) And, to bring this right up to date... I'm currently sitting in the house of a total stranger who is letting us stay in his house for two nights, use his laptop, and eat his food (vegan and delicious!!!). We found him on warmshowers.org, a website where cyclists offer to host other cyclists on long tours. We emailed Matt and he left us a key under the doormat. Mike is absolutely flabbergasted by the level of trust he put in complete strangers - it really is amazing. Matt is an incredibly interesting guy, a mechanical engineer that works on energy efficient building design and has traveled extensively. We can't believe how generous people are - I never would have thought that, rather than studying in law school, I'd be sleeping in someone's house in Portland, Oregon. This is a crazy adventure!!!

10) I miss:

i) My mum and dad and my friends from home (and snap and pop).
ii) Chairs with backs to lean against. (no, sitting backwards on a picnic table doesn't cut it.)
iii) The ability to scratch my head whenever I feel like it. (Cycling down a hill with your helmet on, trying to scratch your head isn't easy!)
iv) Flavoured drinks - juice/pop/anything!
v) Recycling (we try our best, but it's hard to find tin can recycling in the middle of nowhere....)
vi) Salt (we just don't get enough of it from beans!)
vii) The days when our air mattresses gave us the best sleeps of our lives (we don't bother with them anymore, and just sleep on the ground)

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17th October 2008

Wow!
...glad to hear all is well. Happy Belated Thanksgiving! Slurge and buy yourselves some good sleeping pads, your bodies will thank you for it.
17th October 2008

Your trip sounds amazing
Your trip sounds absolutely amazing. I am blown away at how far you two have made it so far! Also, your stories about the generosity of ramdom people is quite uplifting. I guess you are giving people what they don't get very often, a chance to be nice! I love Portland as well, I've heard it is the Greenest city in the states. Too bad about the Canadian election, I am using your stories about Americians to give me hope for November 14th. For your next leg of the trip, do the crossing of the Oragon - California border early. The weather in the mountains can be brutial. I had snow in May when I did it this year. But the leg will be worth it when you get to the Redwood's. One of the most beauiful places on Earth. I can't imagine how amazing it will be to bike through it. I can't wait to read more. Dan
18th October 2008

About flat tires...
Sharon, perhaps you could comment about this the next time you make a post. Essentially, why is it that Mike is always the one getting a flat tire? Do you just not report it when you get one? Or is the Mike-flat-tires to Sharon-flat-tires ratio actually 20:1?
1st November 2008

Computer class
Hi Sharon, I am taking a computer class and just noticed your update to your blog. I am always excited to hear about your trip. It is pouring rain here in Vancouver for Halloween. My teacher rides his bike from Kits to here at Brittannia School every day. He thinks you should have a good bike with tires to do that trip. Hope all is well. Love A. Pam

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