Tag Archives: bike tour

Rain, Rain and More Rain

I peek outside and take note of the frequency of raindrops hitting the puddle in the muddy parking lot outside our motel. “I think it’s raining again today” I announce and grab another cup of coffee.  After waiting a bit I open the blinds again and see the same pattern of raindrops in the puddle, no different than before.  “I think it’s letting up, should be fine after breakfast.”   Chelsea isn’t buying it. It worked the first few times, but not anymore. She knows just as well as I do that we will be spending the next 7 hours riding through the rain.

The first twenty minutes in the morning are always uncomfortable as we wait for our bodies to warm up and counteract the cool drizzly day.  The degree to which we get soaked will be based on the intensity of the rain and the speed and direction of the wind which is summarized as follows:

Stage 1, heavy mist and light rain-

Under calm conditions and a light drizzle we’ll stay reasonably dry except for our hands, feet and face. I wear waterproof mittens when it rains (all but 3 days of our ride have been wearing these thus far) and they do a decent job of keeping the water out, but inevitably moisture works its way in somehow.  I don’t mind it as my hands stay warm. Our faces have beads of condensed moisture rolling off them.  The lenses of our riding glasses have small droplets on them that don’t affect our vision much.

Stage 2, cars change their windshield wipers from intermittent mode to constant-

As the intensity of the rain picks up, the arms and the legs of our rain gear begin to take on water.  The water weighs the fabric down and pulls it tight to the spandex beneath, removing any dead air that had been keeping the appendage in question warm.

Water begins to run down my cheeks and follow my jawbones to my chin where a steady dribble pitches forward onto the cross bar of the bike.

The voids between the aggregate in the surface of the asphalt are now full of water and runoff begins.  This causes a neat little rooster tail of water to launch off the front tire about 5’ in front of me when going 10 miles per hour.  Higher speeds yield higher rooster tails. The dry bag on my rear rack blocks any spray to my backside while a mangled license plate from Washington serves as Chelsea’s rear fender. It’s pretty rad.

Stage 3, it’s officially raining-

The shoulder of the road frequently has puddles that we try to avoid as much as possible.  We clip out often when crossing dodgy sections. Our speed on the flats drops to 7 or 8 miles per hour.

The flow rate of water off my chin increases to a steady stream and a new rivulet begins to pour off my nose.  If I look up towards the sky I am provided the unique feeling of having raindrops injected into each nostril.

Despite our over-booties, the road spray inevitably starts to work its way into our shoes and the dreaded Slurpee-foot beings.  Slurpee-foot is just what it sounds like- Imagine filling each shoe with your favorite Slurpee flavor and then putting your foot in it.

The beginning of the storm

Things start to get exciting when a headwind picks up during Stage 3 rain. This causes rain to work down the back of my neck and between shoulder blades before hitting the back of my cycling bib. After enough water droplets reach the bib, they seem to conspire together and select one brave soul to make a break for the butt crack. This is not pleasant.

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Cannon Beach and the Mist

We approached Cannon Beach after a steep downhill grade and a long uphill climb.  It was sprinkling.  We’ve found it is very rare for water not to be draining from the sky in the Pacific Northwest.

Cannon Beach is absolutely my favorite little beach town we’ve visited.  It’s quaint cottage culture is irresistible.  With a focus on handcrafted artisan work, the community is unique and beautiful.  We got lucky and arrived in the midst of an art festival.  Ben and I splurged a little and got a cottage with a fireplace that smelled like a cozy sauna due to it being wrapped in cedar.  You appreciate everything all the more when you are on an adventure like this.  The warmth from a fire, a hot shower, a bed, and a cup of tea are all 10 times better than they’ve ever seemed before.

We set out to explore the town and walked out to the seashore.  Unreal.  Both Ben and I were speechless as we looked out at the sea grass and giant rock outcroppings jutting out of the ocean.   Cannon Beach holds the most picturesque coastline we’ve seen.  It has a magical feel to it.  After a rather hysterical photo shoot on the beach, Ben and I attended a local art gallery open house which gave us access to free food and drinks and some really beautiful art. 

Following a local’s advice, Ben and I headed to the Irish Table for dinner, a rustic and cozy restaurant that was turning people away when we entered.  Somehow they took our reservation for one hour later and sent us to the bar next door.  The bar was set in a hardware store!  It was such a fun atmosphere.  Ben and I sipped on our glasses of wine next to the wrench section.

Two older couples sat across from us.  Midway through our time there one of the old men spoke up, “This is what’s wrong with America today! “ nodding our way.  Ben and I were both searching for the following nights lodging on our phones, while not talking to each other.  We looked up and laughed, explaining our situation.   We must’ve looked like that couple that can’t stand each other.  Ben was quick to explain he was sick of me, with that impish grin of his.

The next day…

Turn on a showerhead with a light flow of cold water and point it directly in your face for five hours; do that and you will know exactly how today felt.  With strong winds from the south today Ben and I were pelted with a light rain that constantly poured down our faces.  I kept joking that I had a water beard as it streamed off my chin. 

Here goes!  More to come on today’s riding once we’ve had a rest.

Central Washington Doldrums

The charm and beauty of Port Townsend quickly eroded the further we rode from it.  Cute towns were replaced with cold, industrial settlements with blowing trash, mean dogs and rude cars.  Beer cans littered the highway, often being the ‘High Gravity’ or ‘Steel Reserve’ variety – these boys aren’t drinking for flavor out here.

Folks up here seem to really enjoy drinking cheap beer, cutting down trees and rooting around for sasquatch (or ‘squatches’ as they’re fondly called up here).  All these things are fine to partake in once in a while but making these the focal point of life might get old pretty quick.

Town after town seemed almost identical and unappealing, leaving us with the feeling that central Washington will not be on our list of places to come back and see.

One good thing about the area is that it allowed us to see a ton of wildlife. Otters, possums, raccoons, deer, beaver, salamanders, frogs, and even snakes are frequent sightings… in the road. Granted, they have tire tracks on them, but it sill offers a close glimpse at some pretty creatures. Occasionally, we don’t know what species it is due to it being in ‘less than ideal condition’ which gives us a chance to play our game, ‘Guess That Critter!’

It rains every day, but the rain is quite different from the rain back in Colorado. It’s more of a light mist with little bursts of heavier rain that last for a few minutes before giving up and returning to the mist or quitting altogether.   At times the sun will come out briefly which we always celebrate by pulling our bikes off the road and stand facing the sun, soaking it in.

We’ve been having our sun celebrations much more now that we crossed into Oregon.  Everything seemed to improve the minute we got on the ferry leaving Washington to cross the Columbia River for the Oregon border.  The rain had been the hardest we’d experienced though it quickly abated and the sun came out.  The quality of the roads improved vastly with virtually no bad bumps or potholes and minimal road debris. More importantly, there is a huge bike lane much of the time, which is a blessing when logging trucks don’t give us extra room.

Though the last few days in Washington were difficult at times, they taught us a lot about our abilities as well. We completed our longest ride, hitting 62 miles and also have learned how to conquer difficult hills both mentally and physically.

Initially we were intimidated by some of the large hills though after several successful summits we realized that the hills aren’t necessarily difficult, they simply require more time to execute.  We’ve applied the same thinking to the rest of the ride- there aren’t hard parts, simply parts that will take more time to complete than others.  

On very steep pitches we’ll switchback in our lane when traffic permits which makes the climb much easier.  Also, we’ve learned to take frequent breaks on the climbing portions to give our backsides a break as they seem to be the limiting factor on the ride.  Standing up on the bikes while climbing in order to rest the butt is difficult due to the added weight, which makes things unwieldy.

We are also keenly aware that every uphill stretch we do will enable us to have a downhill run on the other side. Our favorite combination is a steep ascent followed by a long, gradual descent, which gives us a nice break while still making progress.

Silverdale and Farmer Blows

Ben and I started off to a brisk, but blue-sky morning.  Our breath steamed in front of us as we peddled our way out of Port Townsend.  Knowing today was to be the hardest thus far, with more climbs and distance than ever before we set out determined to conquer it.  Clad in our warm gear and our ZEAL’s we were smiling and well-rested after our time in Port Townsend.

The sailboats rocked and the town was quiet as we slipped on out.  Immediately we hit some rather large hills, but the grade wasn’t too bad and we managed them easily.

My advice to anyone trying to do a similar trip with as little experience as we have is to just go slow, always be able to hold a conversation with your riding partner, don’t push yourself because there is a long way to go.  I pushed myself too hard on the first few days and paid for it.  Now I’m feeling great and ready for it!

Side note: Ben also recently taught me a very important skill while biking in the cold- the farmer blow.  Ladies…. yes, I know its gross.  I never would have thought I would be shooting snot rockets roadside, ever.  But it is a critical skill on the bike!  I am not talented enough to pull out Kleenex every few miles without stopping to wipe my nose, although I would love to!  I did misfire once.  A huge splat landed straight onto my forearm…fail.

All along the way, the sides of the roads were covered in dense forest and a tall canopy of cedar trees.  With all the rain, the air fills with the scent of cedar and smoke from nearby fireplaces, it’s heavenly. 

As Ben and I went through 10 miles rather quickly, we were feeling really pumped.  Then about 20 miles in the rain started, heavier than any rain we’d experienced thus far.  I could feel the water pouring off my nose and chin.  It started to get miserable.  Hill after hill all I was thinking about was our next stop in Poulsbo, the town both my dad and Ben’s mom had suggested.    The cute Scandinavian town was a few miles off route and as we hit more climbs heading into it, both Ben and I started to grumble.

We finally made it and stopped at a pub in the middle of quaint Poulsbo, which I’d imagine would be breathtaking in the summer.  After five cups of tea each and a hearty meal, we were back on the road and made it easily to Silverdale after one very long ascent and descent.

Our New Favorite City: Vancouver

I’ve never heard a single bad thing said about the city of Vancouver, and today I learned why – this place is simply incredible.

The streets are unusually clean, there’s very little honking, people are polite almost to a fault at times. The scenery is like nothing I’ve ever seen before blending mountains and ski runs with a bustling modern city surrounded by pristine waterfront with low-flying float planes overhead.  The ocean, mountains and city are all worth seeing exclusively, but the three of them work together to make for a truly unforgettable experience. This is my new favorite city.Not long after settling into our little hostel we left to meet up with my old friend, Gareth who is the most well-traveled person I know. He grew up in New Zealand and has since lived in the UK, Australia, Mexico and now Canada.  He’s a civil engineer as well and has generally worked 7 or 8 months per year while taking the rest off to travel which has enabled him to visit over 70 countries.  He and I met while working at a silver mine in the Sierra Madre mountains of Chihuahua, Mexico several years back.

Not long after we met up with Gareth, his girlfriend, Kiran, showed up as well.  They are likely the most international, interracial, and interesting couple I know.  She now lives in Vancouver but was raised in the UK though her parents originated in India.  She had a great wit and taught us the a very amusing colloquialism of differentiating between Indians from India and Indians as in Native Americans when speaking about them.  She’d use the term, “Indian dot” while poking her thumb to her forehead to denote those from India, while using the term, “India feather” while putting three fingers behind her head to denote Native Americans.

When Gareth first moved to Canada he did so by way of the Pacific Coast. He bought an RV in Southern California with an Aussie mate of his and drove it up to Canada. They had tourist visas for 90 days and completed the trip in 89.  – Ben

Our first full day in Vancouver we took the advice of Ben’s Kiwi friend, Gareth, and hopped on our bikes to bike around infamous Stanley Park.  Once we got down to the water, a pedestrian/bike path wrapped around the peninsula, providing breathtaking views of the sea and the mountains rising up from it.  We were immediately scolded for being on the pedestrian path, rather than on the bike path, which was one lane over.  We shifted our direction on the one-way path and took in the sights.  Sailboats sat at their docks slowly rocking, while seaplanes buzzed overhead.  A low fog hugged the base of the mountains and sat just above the ocean.  The ride was perfect and gave us a panoramic view of the city, which is now one of my favorite cities in the world.  If you haven’t been, it’s a must.  Tall trees and greenery flood the city and every thing is pristine.On the ride I kept exclaiming, “Look at that tree!  Ohh!  Look at that”, which I have since learned from Gareth is typical American fashion.  He noted that Americans commonly state, “wow, look at that tree!” while he laughs and asks if that is the first tree they’ve ever seen.

As we came to the end of our ride, we slowed to look at a map.  I clipped out my left foot and then leaned right to look at the map.  “Whoa, whoa…”  Crash.  My pride was hurt more than anything.  I came up laughing.  Well, got that out of the way.  I have been told that you will fall at least once when you learn to clip in.  Done. – Chelsea