Tag Archives: pacific west 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.

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.

Port Townsend

The next day we hopped back on the ferry to Anacortes and headed on our way to Coupeville to catch yet another ferry to Port Townsend, which we assumed was just another dot on the map.

We crossed through Deception Pass, which included the tallest bridge I’ve ever stood on.  The view was breathtaking.  The bridge rose 200ft above the deep turquoise, swirling water, which was also 200ft deep.  It was something to see!  Islands sat off in the distance and you could see the snow camped mountain ranges beyond.

Later that day we came upon a bunch of apple trees overhanging into the road.  We decided to raid one for snacks we could take on the road.  Ben got off his bike and jumped up to shake a branch and drop some apples.  The problem was he was standing right beneath the branch…Thud, thud!!  A few came screaming down onto Ben’s helmet.  I stifled a laugh, as Ben (thank goodness) still had his helmet on and was fine.

After rounding the last hill, along more quaint farmlands we reached the ferry to Port Townsend.  We met some fellow Coloradoans on the ride and were happily surprised to find out that Port Townsend is one of the most beautiful and entertaining small towns in Washington.  It was originally meant to be the West Coast’s New York, but instead they chose SF.  All the buildings are from the late 1800s, brick and preserved wonderfully.  It was a great place to take a day off.

We spent the next day stuffing ourselves with clams and mussels, walking by the seas and relaxing.