We woke in the early hours of day 27 to the sound of rain hammering with intent of the tent. I emitted a groan in my half-awake state as I recalled we’d neglected to cover the bikes: we’re usually vigilant, come rain or shine, but the beautiful clear blue skies combined with our state of exhaustion led to us neglecting the practice the night before. Typical, sodding typical.
When we ventured to begin our day about an hour later, we found small gaps in the weather to allow us to collapse our (soaked) tent and bundle everything together as quickly as possible. Leaving before the park staff arrived, we couldn’t pay- but I’ve ceased to feel guilt on this part, because if they don’t staff the parks at reasonable hours (1hour a day isn’t sufficient in my eyes, now that the camping season has begun) or provide means to pay in their absence, I figure it to be their loss. As soon as we set off, with a plastic bag over my soaked saddle and subway bags (thanks Nancy!) over my gloves to shelter my hands from my soaked foam handlebars, the rain begun once more: but fortunately for us, lightly and intermittently, not quite enough to soak through my poor shoes once again. Miles slipped away from us quickly, however, in our mission to escape the weather, and before long we had reached the port of our third ferry in the past week: Keystone, to catch a ferry to Port Townsend on the mainland. Here we passed away the hour waiting for the ferry in the adjoining café, using their internet (which was good enough even to skype my parents- don’t you love modern technology??) and chatting to the owner, a really friendly guy who engaged us for over half an hour talking about the local area, the ferries and their history and more. I love it when locals know the history of where they are based: and his manner was so friendly and approachable, it was a lovely way to pass time. He even took a picture of us to put up on the café FB page- and confirmed that he’d seen the Australian/New Zealand couple the previous day, so they have indeed gained significantly on us!
Our ferry trip was the shortest so far: around 40 minutes, just giving us enough time to make our lunch and enjoy the playing/singing of a young couple of board who were entertaining the whole deck as we went. Theo insisted on running about the passenger deck, charming and surprising as many passengers as he possibly could- we decided to let him be and allow him the chance to burn off a bit of energy.
On arrival at Port Townsend, we cycled off the ferry and straight into heavy, angry-looking cloud. It drizzled to begin with, just enough for us to pull on our waterproofs once more… and then gathered momentum. The heavens opened. The rain became hard and insistent; it pounded through our clothes and bags, seeped down my waterproof trousers and soaked through my socks and into my shoes, rain in streams down our helmets and collected in over-sized droplets on the ends of our noses. “It couldn’t possibly rain any more!” Matt shouted behind at me through the downpour, as it became more dense and stung on impact. Visibility was shocking; we could see perhaps 2, 3 metres ahead and no further as we trudged along the shoulder into the haze. We couldn’t stop, though; there was nowhere to stop, and we had no choice but to push on.
Our aim for the night was a campsite but as we drew closer to the town in which it was based, I begged Matt to let us check into a motel. Even if by chance we managed to assemble our (already soaked) tent, there was no possible way we could dry ourselves, our clothes and belongings. Begrudgingly, he agreed and as we pulled into Quilcene, we found a motel and checked in. Having peeled off our layers and unloaded our belongings, with the bikes stood dripping onto old towels given to us by the rather understanding manager, we realized that the (cheap!) nappies we’d bought for Theo (combined with the fact that we hadn’t been able to stop anywhere to change him) meant he’d leaked through- the entire seat of the trailer was soaked. And it baffles me that a piece of equipment designed for small children -children who will spill drinks and crush in food, who will tread in dirt and grass and wipe their sticky hands on any available piece of fabric- has all the interior screwed down, making it near-impossible to remove to wash. Clearly those designing the Chariot didn’t have small children- or at least, had managed to somehow ‘block’ all their memories of this particular age. Frustratingly impractical.
Our motel room for the night resembled a laundry room, with clothes and equipment hung to dry over every available surface, our washing line suspended across the room and my sorry-looking shoes carefully placed on the shoe-dryer (another kind loan by our understanding hotel manager!) in an attempt to dry them out, even slightly. The rain truly can dampen the spirits as well as material objects: and our collective mood was decidedly subdued. Add to this the fact that for whatever unknown reason, sleep has eluded me these past few weeks and has been particularly bad just the past week, and you have a true cocktail for some very short tempers. I comfort myself that these ‘bad days’ are just tests that come as part and parcel of the trip; and can only ultimately make us stronger and closer! But oh, when Theo woke for the day at 4am when I had only managed to fall asleep at 2am, I was ready to sell him for mere pennies in order to get some sleep. Matt, never good with an interrupted night, was of the same mindset and we ended up snapping at each other in exhausted agitation and frustration. What a night.
Thankfully the weather perked up for us the following morning and we begun Memorial Day in cold sunshine. Admittedly cycling was the last thing my mind and body felt like doing; in tiredness I could barely move the pedals around, and as our opening stretch was a 4 mile continuous climb, I moved painfully slow. However as the weather improved so did my mood; and I couldn’t help but be cheered up by the beauty of the Hood Canal, which we were following. The water was beautiful, green and clear- an area popular for shrimp, oysters and clams, and as we actually cycled past Lilliwaup, the annual ‘Shrimpfest’ was taking place- a big celebration in this area apparently! Much as I would have wanted to take a look, we decided it probably wasn’t worth the risk- Matt is allergic to shrimp. Could have had some interesting effects.
When we stopped at a grocery store to pick up a few bits for lunch, we had our photo taken by a captivated tourist- it seems the idea of taking a toddler on a cycle tour really is a novelty to a lot of people! I still giggle when I remember us stood by the water in Vancouver, and a bunch of tourists came along and exclaimed at the sight of Theo in his little trailer. They examined the suspension, the material, the wheels, they peered through the windows and almost jumped back in surprise when they saw there was an actual child inside. But it’s good to know we’re broadening the minds of people as we go!
Finally we reached the peak of our 4 mile climb at Walker Point, and enjoyed a 5mile descent as a reward. After this, it was rolling hills all day- a true test for my tired legs- and the rain drizzled intermittently. After enjoying a stretch of glorious sunshine we decided to set up a picnic lunch, and even ventured to get out the tent in an attempt to air and dry it a little…only to have it rain on us as soon as Matt had set it up. Mother Nature is mocking us.
Generally however, the ride was quite enjoyable and certain not outside our limits. We’ve definitely felt our fitness and endurance levels continuing to improve, even after the slowing down process as we reached the end of Leg 1 and Vancouver! As far as differences between the roads and conditions for cyclists go, Matt and I are in a slight disagreement. Matt hasn’t noticed any difference and feels the drivers here are as courteous as they were in Canada; however I actually have to disagree to some extent. I wrote about the indentations on the concrete that serve as a warning to drivers when their vehicle drifts out of its lane on the highway when we were in Canada (a great idea for motorists- a nightmare for us as it ate into the shoulder and caused problems!) Well, on the smaller roads here, they have the same: only in the middle of the road, as opposed to the shoulder. As such I’ve found some (certainly not all- I’m not tarring all with a prejudiced generalization by any means!!) drivers are less willing to pull across when overtaking us on the road. If we have a sizable shoulder, this is no matter at all; but at points when there’s no shoulder available, some of the overtakes are quite close. I’ve felt my temper rise and my heart stop on more than one occasion when cars are coming in the opposite direction and yet those coming up behind us adamantly refuse to slow down and, not wanting to give themselves a bumpy ride on the indented mid-section, simply won’t pull out at all. Perhaps I lack the proper experience to steel myself against it, if it isn’t worrying Matt- but it does make my heart race with adrenaline and fear when I feel the cars whoosh past within inches of me and cause my bike to wobble as they shoot by.
Time and experience are probably the only cures for that one!
We spent the night at Potlatch State Park- another hiker/biker site- and it was absolutely buzzing with Memorial Weekend campers. It was fab to be somewhere with a bit of atmosphere and lots of people around. Theo was in his element, following around all the children (“My friends!” as he calls every child he comes across now- aww!) and chatting to fellow campers, playing with their dogs and running off exploring. Our campsite was another rocky affair (!) but given that we were able to roll up without a reservation on one of the busiest weekends of the year, and pay a more than reasonable price, we couldn’t complain. Although I’m struggling to get hold of enough quarters for showers- and after having to shower with Theo, with the money running out half way through and then getting stuck in the meter, it must be said, I’m not a fan. Showers are one of the few ‘luxuries’ I have left on this trip; having to pay for them, having them cut out, go cold and having my time restricted is just, well, not good. But it seems this is a recurrent ‘theme’ of American State Park campsites! Still, you get what you pay for, as they say.
Miles today- Cranberry Lake to Guilcene – 52 miles
Quilcene to Potlatch State Park – 42.6 miles
Total miles to date- 713 miles