It Goes, Boys: Around the Peninsula (Days 9-13)

We are slowly approaching the border to Oregon State. Right now, we are enjoying ourselves at Marnie and Jon’s house – our first ever WarmShowers hosts – in Cosmopolis, Washington. The days biking around the Olympic Peninsula went by fast. We saw mountains, lakes, rain forests, farmlands, Pacific Ocean, and much more.

Day 9: Fort Worden State Park to Sequim Bay State Park, 69km

We wake up early and are ready almost just as early. Since we had, a) decided to check out Sunrise Coffee (the shop which Owen, one of the three cyclists we met on our third day, back in Tonasket, had told us is owned by his parents), and b) run out of fuel the night before, there was not much time to spend around a loud camping stove, waiting for water to boil for our oatmeal. Russ comes along since he doesn’t have any food, either.

We get to the coffee shop at 8am. It turns out to be the local hub for Port Towsend’s cyclists. For a good reason: if you show up on a bike, you get free coffee. And, even better, if you are on a tour, you also get a free pastry. Our breakfast is thus served – for free! Is there any better way to start the day?

Taylor and I stay at Sunrise Coffee until about 11am, after extensively using their free wi-fi to connect with the world and chatting with locals who give us valuable route information. Russ had left an hour earlier. He was just waiting for the bike shops to open to go check them out and then head back to Seattle. As we leave, Owen’s dad takes a photo of us in front of the shop, for its Instagram page (which I have since then started following, of course).

Before we head out of town, we decide to visit the bike shops, too. There’s two of them. Bob, the owner of PT Cyclery, says to give him a call if we are in a pinch and in need of a spare part, which he could mail to any post office in the US. He also requests a postcard from San Francisco. I get the second sticker for my bike frame. We also get some fuel for our stove.

The plan for the day is to get to Sequim Bay State Park. Now, one could simply follow Hwy 20 out of town until it merges with Route 101. However, the last miles on that road are known to be extremely sketchy – heavy traffic, no visibility, absolutely no shoulder. One of the cyclists we talked to at Sunrise Coffee suggested another route for us. It adds about 11 miles, but our lives are worth the detour.

At the campground, we both get a couple of shower tokens, and I do my laundry as best as I can: hot water, soap and dirty clothes in a dry bag – you shake it all up, rinse it, and voilà! This method is not advised to be used in the long-term, but it gets rid of most of the bad smell and dirt.

Day 10: Sequim Bay State Park to Fairholme, 83.5km

We wake up to, yet again, a gorgeous morning. The bay is beautiful in the golden morning light. My clothes are all still hanging on the clothes line. They are still damp, but at least not completely soggy. I use the bathroom’s hand dryer to get their moisture content to an acceptable level for me to wear (and pack away in my bag). Then, it’s time for a bit of bike business. The front hub’s skewer needs some grease and the drivetrain welcomes my attempt to get some road grime off of it. The shifter cables need a bit of tweaking, too.

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Beautiful morning at Sequim Bay

We ride on the Olympic Discovery Trail all the way to Port Angeles. This trail is an awesome project by the local cities and associations to promote cycling and hiking in the area. It’s a paved multi-purpose pathway, which is perfect for cycle tourists like ourselves! It takes us from rather boring farmland around Sequim to Juan de Fuca Strait seashore, all the while giving us a break from traffic and cars.

In Port Angeles, the guy at the local bike shop (which also gear for climbing, kayaking, and scuba diving) suggests we go to the New House Gastropub when we mention how hungry we are. Well, having real lunch in a real restaurant is not what we have in mind when we think about ‘getting food.’ But after riding a bike every day for ten days, we feel like we should treat ourselves to a nice burger (and yam fries). After this nice lunch break, we head to Safeway and buy enough food to feed a family of five for a week. Just kidding. But we do load up on groceries to last us until Aberdeen. We don’t know what will be available in the small towns along Route 101 as we go around the Olympic Peninsula. Taylor buys 12 bagels for 5 bucks. I buy multivitamin pills. Since my usual clean diet of whole foods and copious amounts of vegetables is definitely out the window, I want to make sure I still get all the nutrients I need. I do put my body through a lot every single day, after all.

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Burgers at the pub! Having real food for lunch feels good.

We finally get back into forests and mountains as we head west on the 101 – it is amazing! Even if we are back on a busy road, I much prefer this part of our day compared to when we rode the Olympic Discovery Trail in the morning. What can I say, I prefer wild mountains over civilized fields.

Before the highway starts winding along the south shore of Lake Crescent, there is a big warning sign for cyclists on the side of the road. Along the lake, there is no shoulder to bike on. So, they installed this light that flashes for an hour after a big button is being pushed. Since it is getting close to dusk, I also put on my little safety vest for the first time to be a bit more visible.

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Lake Crescent, me, my bike, and my safety vest.

However, there is only little traffic as it is evening, and we get to the campground at Fairholme, on the western side of the lake, in one piece.

Day 11: Fairholme to Minnie Peterson Campground (Hoh River Valley), 79.5km

After waking up to sunrays finding their way through beautiful rainforest canopy, the first thing geography throws at us, as we leave camp, is a hill climb. There is an incredible amount of fully-loaded logging trucks on the road. Recently cleared hillsides are unfortunately part of the vistas today.

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Filling up on water before leaving Fairholme.

Our little ‘Cycling the Olympic Peninsula’ map (marking backroads to parallel highways, including how busy they are and how big their shoulder is), indicates Cooper Ranch and then Mary Clark roads as a bypass for a section of Route 101. What follows are 10 absolutely relaxing miles in the forest on a wide, newly paved access road (to other logging roads in the area). There is no traffic. It is glorious and we ride side by side in the middle of the road for a bit.

We join again with the 101 just past Sappho, and that is where Taylor bails! She couldn’t unclip in time and fell over in slow motion. It had to happen eventually.

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The first bail had to be captured on a photograph.

In Beaver (the next community after Sappho), we stop at Lake Pleasant for lunch – but not before we meet the couple from Vernon who we had seen all the way back in the Methow Valley (they were the ones who suggested Pearrygin Lake State Park to us). The world keeps getting smaller!

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It was quite pleasant on Lake Pleasant.

We pass the city of Forks, WA, which turns out to be where the Twilight novels are based. It looks like the townspeople are milking it – many stores make references to the series and we had just missed the annual Twilight festival by a few days. So, I guess it’s supposed to be one of the rainiest places in Washington State but we travel through it under bright blue skies… Edward would have sparkled like crazy!

Since we bought so man groceries in Port Angeles, we do not have to stop anywhere except to take snack breaks. We can just ride. We get to the campsite at 4pm, which is early! The campground we find, 4 miles down the Hoh River Valley Road, is rustic, with only an outhouse – but totally free! It stands in remnants of old growth forest. Our camp site is framed by an old stree stump of epic proportions. It feels like we finally have some time to relax. I find an awesome spot by the river to enjoy the sun and read.

Day 12: Minnie Peterson Campground (Hoh River Valley) to Quinault, 97km

I sleep better every night. I tent to struggle to get any restorative, deep sleep when I am out camping. But this is the most I have ever camped in my life, so I guess my body is just coming to terms with the situation. It has realized that my Exped mat and Marmot sleeping bag will, most of the time, be the best it’s going to get.

This morning, the skies are grey. I wonder if it is going to rain?

We are on the road by 9:30am – excellent! We have quite a lot of ground to cover today. The sooner we get going, the better.

Above us, it keeps getting gloomier as we continue to follow Route 101. This is the first day that it is really grey so we have no reason to complain. It is just a bit cold during fast descents, and overall very humid.

We reach the coastal section of Olympic National Park – a small strip of protected land sitting right on the Pacific Coast of the peninsula. It is the only section of Washington State’s wild Pacific coastline that is easily accessible.

We check out Ruby Beach and are not disappointed. Our first encounter with the open ocean on this trip could not be better. It is as ‘Pacific Northwest’ as it can get: gloomy skies, big trees, humid air smelling of salt and ocean waves, sea stacks, giant drift logs, tidal pools… It has it all. The other beaches in this section of the park are simply numbered from 1 to 4 so we pass by them without stopping. We will still have a whole lot of beaches to explore in Oregon State.

We stop at the gas station in Queets for lunch. We meet a very friendly middle-aged woman from La Push. She is a member of the Quileute tribe. She congratulates us on exploring the area on our bikes – she has given up her drivers’ license 8 years ago in an effort to do something good for the evironment. She tells me: „Mother Earth is sacred, so all who walk on Mother Earth are sacred, too. Therefore, there is no room for raciscm;“ an important thing to remember.

We make it to Quinault, on the shores of the lake carrying the same name, and settle down in the campground next to the awesome lodge. The place reminds me a little of Chateau Lake Louise – a smaller, cozier, rainforest version of it. After some initial stove troubles, we eat what we decide to be our last Rice A Roni – it turns out to be full of MSG and we are no big fans of that. Then, we head to the lodge to spend the best $7 of our lives; for that much, campers can use the lodge facilities, such as showers, sauna, games room, internet and power outlets. The hot shower feels fabulous after our long ride. Who knew luxury could be this cheap? Well, it all depends on perspective, I guess…

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The Quinault Lodge.

Day 13: Quinault to Cosmopolis, 75.5km

I have trouble sleeping all night because of the torrential downpour harrassing our tent. It is loud! I hope that it will stop, but eventually I realize that this rain will be an unfortunate reality for the day. Taylor and I get fully ready and dressed, pack and close our bags in the tent – it’s a little complicated, space-wise, but at least it’s dry. We get ourselves and our gear under the picnic shelter to have breakfast.

Under the shelter, a nice, retired Chinese couple from Vancouver has stored their folding bikes, bike trailer, and tent. They are on a tour to Astoria, Oregon. Their daughter, a UBC graduate, is earning her Masters degree in Geneva! Thus we chat about Switzerland at length. They know Lausanne pretty well and have experienced first-hand how slow Swiss bureaucracy can be. It feels surprisingly good to have someone to talk to about home (well, one of the few places I get to call home).

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How we feel about the rain.

It is really tough to get going in the rain. We take our time. Fortunately, it is only lightly raining by the time Taylor and I start rolling. However, this changes as we ride; we experience every kind of rain. But, hey, we lucked out with the weather until now, so we have no right to complain! Really, what difference would that make, anyway? It’s not going to change the weather – just make you feel far more miserable. Plus, we have a warm and dry place to sleep for the night – we will stay with WarmShowers hosts for the first time. It’s something to look forward to!

We stump at the general store in Humptulips (I wonder who settled on that name) to grab a bite to eat, semi-sheltered from the rain. Our Chinese friends, who we passed on the road, catch up with us. They buy us hot chocolate. It warms up my insides and lifts my spirits on this gloomy day.

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Hot chocolate and shelter with our new friends!

The rain and lack of scenery makes us go fast, and by 4pm we arrive at Marnie and John’s (our first WarmShowers hosts) home in Cosmopolis, just past Aberdeen. Marnie is a nurse practictioner and works at public family planning clinics – her goal is for less young girls to get pregnant, which I find really good. She is also a citizen scientist and catalogues seabirds. Their generosity and hospitality is something to behold. They make us dinner – enchiladas, pico de gallo, homemade apple sauce, with chocolate chip cake and homemade vanilla ice cream for desert –, let us dry our very wet geat, let us do laundry and take very hot showers. We hose down our bikes and clean up our Ortlieb bags (which are, in the end, really tough and waterproof).

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John, Marnie, little Zoe and her awesome backpack.

They have set expectations extremely high for our next WarmShowers hosts, which I have been trying to hunt down. There are some down in Seaside and Cannon Beach, in Oregon.

I will definitely keep Marnie and John, and their granddaughter, Zoe, forever in my heart!

Oh, and little side note: we broke the 1,000km mark!

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