I spent my spring break riding a bicycle around the Olympic Peninsula. It was lots of fun, also lots of tired, and some wet. Here is my tour journal/diary. Is it still a tour if it's only 5 days long, or is it just bike camping?
Sunday March 21st, 2010
We didn't leave Evergreen until around 5:30 or 6:00 PM. Once we did get moving it was great though. Grinding up those long inclines on a 100ish pound bike makes me feel really happy. I just get into a zone where I dont notice myself pedaling, but my bod feels good, and my minds can wander. I am using a Scott AT-4 Pro handlebar. They made them for a bit in the 90s. I don't know why they stopped. They are byfar my favorite bars for touring ever. I have my cockpit set up with Deore friction thumb shifters, and some unkown brand/model brake levers next to the stem. I've got Oury grips on backwards for the comfy flat bar position, and the rest is shellacked clothtape. Unfortunately, I did not let the shellack dry long enough before taking it out in the rain, and now it's all weird. Oh well, I'm gonna redo it when I get home anyways.
The end of our day found us somewhere between Mcleary and Elma, off the 108. Tanner got a flat as we went over a bridge, and we figured the woods next to the road were as good a place to camp as any, especially the sun was about to eave us in darkness pretty soon. We only made it about 25 miles, but at least we got on the road. Hopefully tomorrow we can make it to Kalaloch or Forks.
Our campsite for the first night
Mr. Grande reading cyclocross magazine
The dashing adventurers
Monday March 22nd, 2010
Again, we did not get going until late, although 1:00 or 2:00 PM is a lot better than 5:30 or 6:00 PM. Tanner left us and returned to Olympia, where it is warm and dry, or rather where he has a place of residence that is not a tent. Chris and I continued on. The sun was shining, and we didn't get a drop of rain. We made pretty good time, until we stopped for food in Aberdeen and somehow spent 2:30ish hours sitting by the water outside a top food and drug.
We finally got the hell out of Abderdeen, and just kept going. I am rolling on 60 psi 42 mm Continental Contact tires for this tour BTW, and let me tell you: thin, high pressure tires are for suckers, at least in a touring setting. There is definitely a bit more rolling resistance with fatties, and the weight probably makes it a little bit harder to accelerate, but compared to what all my crap does to my speed, it's nothing. Where fat tires do make a difference is when riding over cracks, debris, potholes, or anything else anywhere. Big rifts in the pavement that would make me cringe with 25s, or even 32s are barely noticeable, and the giant hinge I ran over earlier; like a pea under 100 mattresses… well, more like a chunk of metal under big cushy tires, but you get the idea.
Chris and I ended setting up camp somewhere near Humptulips, around 20 or 30 miles out from Aberdeen (we have a map, but we don't know if Humptulips is behind or ahead of us. The 101 past Aberdeen gets really nice, real smooth, lots of trees, and hardly any traffic, so neither of us wanted to start riding when the sun started to go down. We kept riding, on the lookout for a good place to pitch a tent. We kept seeing gated gravel roads, and wishing we had time to explore them. Finally we decided to investigate, and rode our bikes around a baricade and up a rocky, overgrown dirt and gravel trail (again 42mm tires came in handy.) It took us through a clearcut area and then through a forest of baby trees that were only 10 or 15 feet tall. I decided it was a clearcut area that had been replanted. Chris and I topped to pee, then, startled by the sound of a car, scurried down an even more overgrown side path with our bikes. The car turned out to be on the main road, and in retrospect it would have been shocking if the was a car up here. We continued along the path, which was really just and old gravel road with trees planted in it, until it became invonvenient to take out bikes, then we ditched them, and walked until we found a stream and a man-made pond in a forest of baby trees. It was very surreal. By this time, all sunlight had left us, but the moon was bright, so we returned for the bikes, dragged them a bit further along the trail, and pitched the tent, which barely fit in a tiny clearing.
Here is our campsite
It it is from the other side
Here it is from further back
Tuesday March 23rd, 2010
I didn't sleep exceptionally well last night. It was cold as fuck, and I stayed up listening to night noises. There were dogs barking nearby, owls hooting, coyotes howling, and for some reason a rooster crowing around midnight.
In the morning Chris and I woke up freezing and explored th logging trails a bit more. It wasn't the exciting adventure I was hoping for, but it was pretty interesting.
We hit the road at what I estimated to be about 9 or 10, out best time yet! We stopped in a lot of towns, hoping to buy gas for our stove so we could have some warm food, but we found none. In the afternoon Chris and I took our lunch of refried beans, cheese, and onion on bread at the ocean. We had known we were near it for a while, but could not see a way to the beach. Finally we came upon a campground that was closed for the Winter, and just rode right in. We had the whole place to our selves. We ran through the water a bit, then climbed a giant log, which in retrospect I should have taken a picture of.
Nothing exceptional happened from then on. We were appalled by some more clear cut, and stopped at a pleasant seeming hostel to refill our water bottles. We made it to Forks at around 8:30, and wandered around for a while, until we found a warm transit station to sleep in. There we met some cool dudes who told us some cool stories. We ended up doing around 85 miles today. It doesn't really feel that far, but I am very tired now. Being in the saddle all day is draining. I think 50 miles might be the perfect distance for a day of touring. That way you have the time and energy to lolligag, and explore and have adventures. 85 isn't terrible, and even 100 plus is pretty doable, but I think I like 50 more.
Wednesday March 24th, 2010
I got the worst sleep of the tour last night. I was awoken at around 4:30 AM by the first bus driver wandering in to the transit center for a snack, then again at around 7 AM by a crowd of shouting children apparently embarking on some sort of class trip. By the time I got up both the dudes we talked to the night before were gone, and the children were a bit much to handle in my state of mind, so Chris and I groggily meandered over to a diner where we enjoyed a mediocre breakfast. Afterwards we went over to Forks outfitters to buy fuel for the stove. There we observed from afar some Oly style hipsters, the first ones we had seen in days. They may have been travelling, but I like to think that Forks has a secret population of cool kids with tight pants.
It was a little before noon by the time we actually started riding, and within a few miles we ran into the second toureur of the trip: a fellow named Michael.
Michael is in the process of bicycling to California, possible to Yosemite National Park. He seemed like a cool guy, with exciting ambitions. You can check out his adventures at http://pedadidact.com
A bit further down the road I noticed tire track
s leading off the highway to a rocky gravel road next to it. I pointed it out to Chris and suggested we ride it. He was not very enthused, but suggested we race, me on rocks and gravel, and him on pavement. I gleefully accepted the challenge, knowing full we what the results were going to be.
I road peacefully along the mysterious road, which, separated from traffic by a decent wall of trees apparently followed the power lines. After about a mile I came to a paved road, which I followed back to the 101 to look for Chris. He was nowhere to be seen, but thankfully he had turned his cellphone on around the same time I thought to call him. He was relaxing in a field somewhere ahead of me.
Rather than hurry ahead to find Chris, I decided to go back to another gravel road I notice earlier that seemed to be a continuation of the last one I had ridden. I had to lift my bike over an exceptionally long gate, which almost made me pop an artery. This road was far more overgrown than the last one, with grass several feet high covering nearly all of it. I rode on and on until the road ended off in the woods somewhere at what appeared to be a fallen down shack. The trees and bushes surrounding the area looked like they were riddled with paths, which I explored for a while. It was unclear whether or not they were man made. It felt like a very magical place.
After riding back to the paved road, I once again set off down another mysterious, overgrown road. This time the grass was even thicker, and the road more pitted. The grass soon gave way to small bushes, which I plowed right through as they smacked me in the face and arms, and battered my fenders and panniers. The road just got hillier, potholier, and generally more difficult to ride, until I came to a large field surrounded by a barbed wire fence and filled with tall grass. I was faced with two options: turn back, or somehow cross the fence and press on. I chose the latter, and succeeded with great difficulty in lifting my steed over the fence without injuring it or myself in the process. I rode on until the field turned into something similar to a swamp, the continued until I saw a road. Unfortunately, the road was on the other side of another barbed wire fence. I stopped and pondered my situation, until I saw an opening in the fence. The path leading up to it was walled in on either side by large blackberry bushed, and involved a very steep, very off-road downhill section. I decided to risk it, and with the outermost part of my handlebar in one hand for stability, and a brake lever in the other, I proceeded down the hill, pushing myself as far back as I could, so as not to fall forward over my handlebar. As I neared th bottom, I released the brake, and rolled though the opening in the fence, which turned out to be not an opening, but merely a collapsed section. I realized too late that I was about to ride fully loaded over barbed wire, but I made it to the road, and back to highway 101, ad eventually I realized my tire have not been punctured after all, and I would not have to stop and perform a fix-a-flat. I'm not sure if it was luck, and I missed the barbs, or is Continental Contacts are the best tires ever, but that experience definitely makes me feel some love for them.
I finally met up with Chris just outside Sappho. My adventures had left me feeling alive and energized, and the rest of the day was a breeze. The two of us rode along, enjoying the sun, until a unexpected multi-mile descent, which landed us on Lake Crescent. The lovely scenery was only slightly lessened by the large amounts of traffic, and lack of shoulder. It was pretty amazing to be near that lake, warm in the sun, knowing that if I really wanted to I could get to the snow I saw in the mountains nearby by the end of the day.
We ended up setting camp somewhere past Lake Sutherland, in some strange bit of land off the road. It was the first time we had set up in full daylight. Once we had settled in, we prepared to cook our first hot meal of the tour (aside from the restaurant in Forks that morning,) and inadvertently released all of our gaseous fuel into the surrounding plants and atmosphere. We were pretty upset, all that time we had spent not polluting, up in smoke. Besides, what if we died from inhaling too much of it? We covered out faces with bandannas, and settled for another dinner of cold refried beans, cheese, and onions on bread. We were asleep before the sun went down.
Thursday March 25th, 2010
Chris and I managed to wake up close to noon, despite our early bedtime, and rode the 10-15 miles in heavy rain to Port Angeles, where we spent multiple hours languishing on a bench eating various food items from an Albertson's. There I realized I had absolutely no energy, and that we probably should have taken a rest day somewhere pretty, and sunny. Perhaps at the ocean. I contacted Cleb, who lives in Port Angeles to see if we could make use of his home and hot tub. Unfortunately he was in Sequim, and would be spending the night in Port Townsend. We headed downtown, where the presence of such a concept, and the warm atmosphere of a coffee shop comforted us. Port Angeles is a strange place, in that it is by all appearances, a city. Except that no one is in the city, and everything is closed by 6 PM, which is when we found ourselves put out
on the street. Neither of us wanted to bicycle any more that day, but we had differing opinions of which solution would be best for us. I either wanted to head up to Port Townsend for a party at Corvus' house, a 50ish mile ride, or get as far into Hood Canal as we could before we could no longer stand to be on a bike. Chris though we should just go until we found a suitable place to camp, and go to sleep. We rock, paper, scissorsed over it, and Chris won, however about ten miles out of Port Angeles he suggested that we just ride all the way back to Olympia that night. I was all for it, and we rode faster than we had ridden on the whole rest of the trip, despite being completely devoid of energy a mere hour before. Unfortunately, I have lost my rear light on my adventures the previous day, and Chris, acting as the voice of reason insisted we stop a little outside Sequim, so as to not die, or something similar. We were both pretty haggard at this point, so we just dragged our bikes down a wooded hill, through bushed, and over fallen branches until we found a space large enough for the tent. We set up, got in or sleeping bags, and passed out almost immediately.
Friday March 26th, 2010
We woke up sometime in the pre-noon, and were greeting by a state trooper while we were packing up. He advised us to leave as soon as possible, because our camping may have been illegal depending on if it was public land or not. Not that we needed him to tell us, but we got moving right quick, and rode a short ways to Blyn, where we enjoyed a breakfast of more or our bean/cheese/onion/bread concoction outside a store. As we were eating, a pack chatty of retirees, clad primarily in lycra, and riding an odd assortment of pedal powered vehicles, including three tricycles, two full suspension mountain bikes, a titanium road bike, and a sub 20-pound, steel Lemond happened upon us. They were all very interested in what Chris and I were doing. Some of them either had plans to tour, or had toured recently themselves. They were darling creatures, and we discussed many things, including the weight of Long Haul Truckers, tour routes, and the compatibility often involved with mixing Ultegra shifters with Dura-Ace Derailleurs, which one woman's husband had had a bike shop do to her bike. Apparently the bike was not shifting very well, so Chris and I took a look at it and concluded that the problem was a combination of a terribly dry chain, and improper indexing of the shifters. We gave her some Boeshield, and some advice, before we all had to be on out way. I find it very discouraging that the only bike shop available to some people is either incompetent, dishonest, or both. Chris and I discussed opening up or own shop in that area, but decided that we would rather not live there. We finally left Blyn at around 3 in the afternoon, and just kept riding. The constant, tiny hills on the hood canal wore us out, but we persevered into the night. A few miles before Shelton a feeling of immense happiness came over me. My whole body felt fantastic, as is I could just keep riding all night, and I rode on faster and faster, giggling, and cackling madly. I shot up hills at what felt like the fastest speed I had ever gone uphill in my life. Chris did not appear to feel the same. We made it back to Olympia at around 10:30 PM. Chris went home to sleep. I went and found Tanner, and together we ventured downtown for some Vegetarian hotdogs. Then went home, hit the bed, and immediately passed out. Tour completed!
I call the trip a whopping success. I feel completely rejuvenated, and healthful. I am filled with life. My big, heavy bicycle feels like a light, tight geometried racing machine, without all the bags. I intend to do this sort of thing more often.