Since the second leg of our adventure has got under way and the slow descent down south has begun, I’ll confess, the days have sort of blurred into one another. A combination of unpredictable weather and, at times, repetitive scenery, have combined with my physical exhaustion to create a haze from which I’m struggling to decipher specific events, days, scenarios. Our ride from Potlatch State Park to our next destination- Lake Sylvia State Park- was a long one of rolling hills and busy highways, and stretch after stretch of tall firs lining each side of the road (this part of the route is renowned for it’s Christmas tree farms). We cycled past the point at which we could get ferries across to Seattle, which I’m sorry to have missed, but as Independence Day looms ahead of us, we don’t have time on our side in order to ensure we make it to San Francisco on schedule to enjoy the celebrations with Matt’s brother and sister-in-law. As such, we decided to push on with our route and clock more miles under our belts to relieve some of the time pressure upon us. The hope is that this, in turn, will enable us to slow down once the scenery and weather pick up further south- and I have to say that the route for this day didn’t offer much in the way of distractions, and we were able to push on with firm determination without feeling as though we were missing out for the gathering of momentum.
Day 29 slipped by without much notice. After cycling up into the hills we reached Lake Sylvia State Park and once again were fortunate enough to roll in, in spite of the park being full to capacity, and secure one of their hiker/biker sites at a fraction of the standard camping cost. The West Coast knows how to look after its cyclists! Another ‘full’ and busy site, we were actually set slightly apart from the main hub of the campsite: good in terms of having some peace and quiet, but it can make you feel as though you’re being somehow excluded and I felt particularly sorry for Theo, who desperately wants other children to play with. However, an adjoining trail by our site offered a nice walk and a chance to explore and Theo, happy just to be somewhere new, disappeared with Matt quite happily to seek out the new terrain.
After 3 days of heavy cycling, we decided an ‘easy day’ was long over-due and opted for a half day’s ride to Raymond for day 30, opting to take the more ‘direct’ route straight south rather than heading towards the coast. At around 20miles, it promised to be an easy day and allow us such much-needed rest and respite. The route itself was much the same; rolling hills that twisted up and down the landscape, with miles of trees and not a great deal more.
As we climbed higher, however, we begun to see large stretches of wrecked forest and woodland- not merely just cut up, but torn apart, splintered and once-tall trees tumbled together in a mess of decaying wood. Signs along route told us of hurricane-force winds that had torn along the highway in 2007, reaching speeds in excess of 120mph, which had uprooted miles of forest. There were even points on the highway where signs warned us of ‘bumps’ in the road- the tarmac itself had been cracked open and forced apart, shattered in parts like glass. It was quite sad to see all that devastation- and the fact that even now, 4 years later, the clean-up and re-plantation has yet to be completed, was more disturbing still. One day of Nature can cause all that- quite frightening, really. And definitely one of those moments that makes you realize just how small and insignificant you are by comparison.
With both our legs aching, we finally rolled into Raymond just as the rain begun once more. As Matt remarked upon our arrival with some sarcasm, “Wow. This place is…’happening’.” A proverbial tumbleweed rolled across the barren streets. It was spookily quiet, the shop fronts all closed, the roads empty. After cycling around a while, we found a slightly clichéd diner- one of the only places still open!-for our lunch. It was a quaint place with various signs, posters, ornaments and nick-nacks lining the walls- and a Dolly Parton-esque waitress with that same high-pitched drawl and bleach-blonde hair, her pinny over her tight trousers and a slightly ‘dappy’ demeanor (she forgot my order and promised 3 times to bring crayons for Theo with no success!)- giggling over her mistakes in an oddly endearing manner that just added to the overall charm of the place. Even the elderly locals perched upon the coffee bar discussing the president and the local gossip made me raise a smile. Is it wrong of me to appreciate such a scene as a stereotype?! They even had a collection of sayings, proverbs and moral tales on the tables that embodied the general stereotype and perception of the area in an almost defensive manner; for argument’s sake, I simply have to share a few…
‘A Guide to the Rural Washington Mind’:
“We all started hunting and fishing when we were seven years old. Yeah, we saw that Bambi movie too… we got over it.”
“You have a sixty-thousand-dollar car. We’re real impressed. We have a quarter of a million-dollar LOG-TRUCK that will leave tire tracks on your hood.”
“Go ahead and bring your $600 fancy fly rod. Don’t cry to us if a steelhead or salmon breaks it off at the handle. We have a name for those little 13-inch trout you fish for: they are called ‘bait’.”
“You burn an American flag here, you get beat up. No questions. The liberal contingent of our state legislature enacted a measure to stop his. There is now a $2.50 fine for beating up a flag burner.”
I don’t think I even trust myself to comment. Needless to say, they raised a smile.
We enquired if the town had a Laundromat- our clothes suffering the worst of the damp days- and set upon doing our washing. I couldn’t believe my eyes when we walked in and found a Mexican family also doing their laundry- monopolizing almost the entire place with 6 washing machines and 7 tumble driers going simultaneously. I’m sure even if I were to wash every item of clothing and bedding I own, I couldn’t possibly come close to filling that many machines!! How long must they have waited- and what a way to spend an entire day! As we gathered together all our clothes and bits, we realized that actually, those we were wearing were in desperate need of washing also. Dilemma. And so, with all the class of cycle touring, we opted to sneak one at a time behind a divider at the back of the Laundromat and strip down into just our coats and waterproof trousers. I felt myself blush as I tip-toed across the place in my bare feet to deposit my clothes into the machine- my socks AND the insoles of my shoes both being in desperate need of washing!- but comforted myself with the fact that the Dutch couple with whom we stayed had been forced to go one further and do their laundry whilst stood in their swimming costumes. Now THAT is class. And as they say… desperate times, desperate measures…
When originally planning to stay in Raymond, we’d googled a local state park with campsites but were told upon our arrival in the town that there weren’t actually any campsites there at all. We had to get back on the road, and keep going. Again.
We headed west on the 101 towards South Bend towards Bruceport. An RV site/campsite was around 15miles out of Raymond, our destination for the night. After yet more hills that had me almost in tears behind Matt [I believe I actually stopped us both at one point, collapsed on the handlebars and wailed pathetically, “I can’t do it!! I just can’t!! My legs are tearing in half- they’re TEARING, I tell you!” – Matt giggled at me and for some reason it made me laugh too. What a drama queen I can become..] we finally swung into the park- and found it as empty and barren as Raymond had been. Not a single soul there; the only facilities a rather tired-looking a rundown toilet block and two rather questionable-looking taps. I felt despair. We desperately needed a day off; how could we spend it here?
I gave Matt a look. Perhaps there’s a ‘snob’ in me still; but I couldn’t stay there.
Back onto the 101 we went; more hills greeting us. In spite of the pain in my legs and the tiredness I felt, along with the lateness of the day- we were now heading towards 7pm!- the ride actually improved significantly as we hit the coast once again. The scenery returned and the clouds cleared: we were cycling into a beautiful evening, following the Pacific. Somehow, it just felt less oppressive, less repetitive, more open. We were heading to Willapa Bay and had decided to ‘spoil’ ourselves with a commercial campsite, rather than a state park, in order to make use of the facilities for our day off. As we broke away from the 101 to head to Bay Center, we passed long stretches of beautiful coastline, with piles of oyster shells lining the road and abandoned fishing boats lining the docks. It was quiet, but peacefully so.
The KOA campsite was all that we had hoped for and well worth stretching our planned 20 miles into 50; excellent facilities, friendly staff and what’s more, it’s own ‘private’ stretch of beach, accessed from a trail to the rear. Having set up camp, the beach was the next port of call: and wow, what views.
No-one else was on the beach at all; it was completely secluded. The tide was out, and the water was perfectly still and calm. In the distance, the two stretches of land striving to meet in the middle across the bay gave it an enclosed feel- and driftwood lined the oyster-shelled beach. As the sun begun to set, Theo came to run along the beach and find me fractions of broken shell for presents [“Here you are mummy”, he says while offering me a handful of sand and crumbled up shells, “It’s a present. Put it in your hand Mummy.” Hard to refuse, even when I don’t particularly want to carry around a pile of sand…] and together, we watched the sun set. It was perfect in every way- the mix of truly beautiful colours, ranging from the fiery orange of the sun to the pink and purple-tinged clouds, the blue hue of the sky and the deep turquoise of the sea. You could see for miles; the sea breeze made your skin tingle and the air was heavy with calm and quiet- just the occasional bird in the woods behind. It was tranquility and freedom like nowhere else. After the last few, slightly ‘challenging’ days, it was just what we needed to re-confirm why we’re doing this, and to restore our faith a bit. It’s for experiences like this: moments together like this.
Miles today: Potlatch State Park to Lake Sylvia State Park– 50
Lake Sylvia State Park to Willapa Bay – 50
Total Miles to date: 833
NB: we’ve now officially been on our trip for a month! Never in my dreams did I imagine we’d cover over 800 miles in that time…