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Day 135–140, 23-28 Nov 2008: Metal Cowboys, cycling in Portland, giving thanks with an old friend and to the beach…

November 29, 2008 by , 5,200 views  
Filed under North America, Oregon, Trip reports, USA, Washington

Before we headed over to Portland, we had to visit an old friend we had never met! I had known MC & Dave since years by email & via the 7summits.com forum, but we had never met in person. It was great to finally meet them and we stayed longer than planned as they took us on a nice sightseeing trip through the Columbia River Canyon, with its gorgeous waterfalls and hosted us for the night in their great house. It was hard to say goodbye the next day, but we had another interesting date to get to that evening…

After arriving late at night in Portland, we ended up in the house of a well-known cyclist: Joe Kurmaskie, aka ‘The Metal Cowboy’. It was much fun to talk about his and our tours and meet and having dinner with his wonderful family in person, after having read about them in their books. It is great that even a well-known person like Joe gives back by offering ‘Warm Shower’ to biketravellers.

After adjusting our bikes we managed to catch his escaped cat the next morning, and we headed off to see Portland. It is known to be pretty and one of the most bike-friendly cities in the US and our hopes were high. We got quite disappointed; even though there were many people cycling and there were some nice streets with alternative shops and interesting architecture, it was still another noisy big city, mainly because of endless streams of large cars.

I realized that we had gotten spoilt in Amsterdam and the Netherlands: everything is focused around cycling: almost all roads have separate bike lanes, with their own traffic lights and distance markers. Nobody wears helmets because it is safe to cycle and because bicycles have the right of way in many situations. Here in Portland it was already nearly impossible to get into the city from the North as there are no clear signs and the big I5 highway has no easy way for bikes to cross the river.

25th November: Portland – McMinnville 63km: meeting an old friend!

After staying one more night with Couchsurfer Adam (one of the few Portlanders without a car?), we pushed our bikes up the steep hills and continued along the Pacific Highway 99. The rain came down nonstop and we had to adjust our brakes, in order to safely stop for the many traffic lights on the wet hills.

Once out of the city we stopped at a SafeWay to get some lunch and got into a bizarre conversation with some teenage kids. It deserves its own post which I will try to write up soon…

Back on the rainy road, I was passed by a car who pulled over to the shoulder. Thinking it was somebody who wanted to encourage us in some way, I stopped and waited for the driver to step out into the rain. It took about half a second before I recognized the smiling face that appeared on the asphalt: Ben! Our cycling buddy from the Dalton Highway! It had been 4 months since we had said goodbye in Fairbanks after riding down one of the hardest roads in the world together with Ben and his friends. Even though it was pouring rain, he thought he recognized Ivana’s Santos Bike and when he passed me as well, he was sure it was us!

It is a small planet after all, especially as we had no idea that his family lived so close. He was on his way to a place called McMinnville, to spend Thanksgiving there. He jotted down the name and number and promised to email their street address.

We had already arranged to spend the night in the house of Gary Schultz, an active traveller, who showed us pictures from all his great trips, but the next day we went to see Ben’s family: Carol & Mike. They are amazingly warm people and immediately invited us to stay the next days, so we could celebrate thanksgiving with them. It was nice to catch up with Ben as well, so we gladly accepted the invitation. We spend all day preparing the huge meal and had a great time together. Though we had so different backgrounds and beliefs, we were all thankful for life and for the opportunity to meet warm people like them.

28 November: McMinnville – Otis, 82 km, back to the coast

It was a fast ride to the coast, we zoomed across misty fields and empty hazelnut trees and had only one small pass to conquer before we could follow the Salmon River down to the coast. We had some trouble finding the place of our Couchsurfing host Alan, but when we got to his place it was worth the extra meters of uphill.

Alan lives close to the coast and he took us across the estuary for a walk on the beach, just in time before the night fell. While Ivana made some more of her famous pies, we finished the night watching some movies, getting ready for yet another famous part of our journey: The Oregon Coast!

Day 124 –133, 12 –21 Nov 2008: Washington State: Couchsurfing with friendly people from Seattle to …Vancouver?!?

November 22, 2008 by , 1,766 views  
Filed under North America, Trip reports, USA, Washington

We suddenly received an email.

Hello Harry,
Read your profile. Would love to meet if possible.
How much longer are you in the Seattle area?
Samir

We called him and found out that Samir, his wife Madalyn & daughter Danielle were living in Bellevue, 25km east of Seattle. We had actually planned to leave Seattle on the west side, but as many times before, we let chance determine our route. So on a dark & rainy afternoon we said goodbye to Andy and off we went, across the Lake Washington Bridge and ended up atop of a very steep hill, where we were welcomed by Samir and his family. He actually had 2 other guests, 2 puppeteers that would be performing in the area the next morning. It was nice to be together, Maddie cooked up a great meal and we enjoyed the fact that the Internet made it possible to meet new friends like these.

For those new to Couchsurfing, Hospitality Club & Warm Showers, they are networks of people opening their house and/or local knowledge up to other travellers, supplying them with free lodging (a ‘couch’, though it can be a spare room, a sofa or just a spot on the floor or in the garden). Currently there are more than a million members inviting strangers into their homes, following the mission of Couchsurfing:

“CouchSurfing seeks to internationally network people and places, create educational exchanges, raise collective consciousness, spread tolerance, and facilitate cultural understanding.”

Read more about CouchSurfing, WarmShowers.org & Hospitality Club in this post here.

Samir invited us to come to his Cabin at Snoqualmie pass with him, which was perfect: fresh air, mountains, a warm cabin and a nice hike to Snow Lake nearby. It was a perfect place to relax before hitting the road again. We stayed one more night in Bellevue, did a slideshow presentation for his friends, got my iPod replaced and off we went :)

17 November 2008: Seattle – Tacoma, 79km

It is basically all city, all the way to Tacoma, but still there are some nice biketrails you can follow; first the lake Washington trail, then the curvy Green River trail, leading to the Interurban Trail.

I even managed to get a speeding ticket from a cop on a bike, see the image to the left! (Just kidding, officer Kyle Bear was nice and interested in our trip, see his picture here on 1000 Americans)

Ivana & I managed to lose eachother for the first time since starting the trip. I was waiting at the bottom of a long downhill, and she had left the main road somewhere halfway down, thinking it continued straight. After 20 minutes I made my way back up the steep slope and fortunately found her.

At least she had the address of the destination for tonight, so likely she would have ended up at Gerrit’s place somehow, but it is very discomforting to suddenly be apart when you send 24/7 together! Gerrit (see his picture on 100 Americans here) had prepared a wonderful meal for us, likely the tastiest we had eaten on our trip!

18 November 2008: Tacoma – Olympia, 73km

We left Tacoma on another drizzly day, but it cleared up soon and we enjoyed the ride throughSteilacoom and the forests of the Fort Lewis military zone. Unfortunately due to the zone there is no real other way out of there than to ride part of the I5, the largest highway in Washington, but that was actually better than it appeared. It is not only legal to cycle parts of it, but as the shoulders are almost 2m wide (6-7ft), it was quite safe. Still we were happy to be out of the noise and on the downhill towards Olympia.

Olympia looked like a nice town, but we had to rush to make it to Dan & Nancy’s place before dark, so we continued South right away. Dan & Nancy are inspirational in many ways, they cycle across the USA in stages (3 parts down, one to go!), spend their winters in Costa Rica and play in the sessions in the Irish pub! See more about their plans in 1000 Americans here.

We ended up staying another night with them and their cats as we felt right at home, listening to their stories and plans and of course to see them play in the pub. Ivana made more apple pies, she still finds apples everywhere, season is not over yet, and many apple trees have lost their leaves, but not their fruit and most of it is going to waste as nobody is picking them!

20/21 November 2008: Olympia – Vancouver, WA, via Castle Rock, 100 + 84km!

It was a dark and somber day. It never really cleared up and it was either raining or threatening to rain and the wind was not very helpful to get us up the steep (‘rolling’) hills… We missed our exit and again ended up at the I5, which was not so bad at all as in the dark, it is probably safe to ride the 7ft shoulder on the highway than the non-existent shoulder on a narrow and winding country road to Castle Rock.

We were welcomed by Cindy & Larry, an elderly couple who have raised 15 kids! They have 28 grandkids and 3 great grandkids. All but one of their children, in all colours and sizes, are either step or adopted.

They live in a great place with lots of farm animals around and we had the honour to be their first Couchsurfers.

We took a ‘scenic route’, which 99% of the times translates as ‘very steep hills’ and this was no exception… But the weather was nice, it was fresh and sunny and the hills green, so life was good.

Cycling relaxes your mind and you start enjoying the ‘little’ things again like smells, sounds and colours…

We were still moving South with Fall and though this meant the days were getting shorter and shorter, the colours next to the mighty Columbia River were beautiful.

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Besides the Glaciated spike of Mt Hood, we also noticed the remain sof Mount St Helens, and impressive mountain, that had erupted (exploded) in 1980.

From WikiPedia:

Mount St. Helens is most famous for its catastrophic eruption on May 18, 1980, at 8:32am PDT[1] which was the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in the history of the United States. Fifty-seven people were killed; 250 homes, 47 bridges, 15 miles (24 km) of railways, and 185 miles (298 km) of highway were destroyed. The eruption caused a massive debris avalanche, reducing the elevation of the mountain’s summit from 9,677 feet (2,950 m) to 8,365 feet (2,550 m) and replacing it with a 1 mile (1.6 km) wide horseshoe-shaped crater.[2] The debris avalanche was up to 0.7 cubic miles (2.9 km3) in volume. The Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument was created to preserve the volcano and allow for its aftermath to be scientifically studied.

So after leaving Vancouver, Canada a month ago, we arrived in Vancouver, Washington! Or, as Ivana’s mum said, when we told her we were in Vancouver: ‘Again?’.

We got confused by some of the very busy streets but made it to the home of Photography Professional Tom Hubbard & his wife Sandy (see them and their great websites here on 1000 Americans), who took us out for a great meal.

We almost made it out of Washington State, but it felt like we were about to enter yet another country: Oregon!

Kowalski, Status report!

Days go fast on a bike. Before you know it, you are one week ahead, which means that the memory of our cycle computers is overwriting itself. So one day is missing here (from Olympia to Castle Rock), which was about 100km and an estimated 750m up and down..

Our Santos bikes behaved perfectly as always, no problems whatsoever, my back was a little painful at times, but not too bad. Total distance covered so far 5700km, including 51,000 meters (167,000ft) of climbing!

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Day 106–123, 25 Oct–12 Nov 2008: Hikes, Halloween & Hope in Seattle

November 13, 2008 by , 677 views  
Filed under North America, Trip reports, USA, Washington

First of all: did you know that if you click on the images in the posts, that a larger version will appear on top of the page, all automagically? try it, it is quite cool (pictures need some time to load as they are now 1000pixels wide!).

We had planned to stay maybe a week in Seattle, but it turned out we would stay for 2.5 weeks… Seattle is mostly known for Grunge, Microsoft, Boeing & coffee and it generally considered a nice place to live. I hade been working for a small company in Bothell, close to Seattle, about 8 years ago and had been in the area a few times. The great thing is that the city is huge, but spread out over several peninsulas and islands and that the mountains and nature are never far away…

It was great to see Andy again, after meeting in Uganda and Amsterdam before. He was very busy filming a documentary, connected to the upcoming elections, but still he took us out to see some live music and we went for a great hike up Mt Pilchuk. Not a difficult climb -though it was quite icy & slippery near the top-, but very rewarding, with nice views over the  Cascade mountains. It is wonderful to live so close to the nature and especially snow-capped mountains, something I miss in Amsterdam.

On our way out we stopped for a beer in a typical loggers bar. Neither the beer, nor the people and especially the decoration wasn’t very tasteful :)

Time flies when you’re having pain..

The days went passed quickly. We had a lot of rain, but also some nicer days. We walked around the neighbourhoods and went for some short rides. Only once we went out for a real ride; even though there are some biketrails, you really have to look for them and most are not so scenic, mostly just designated parts of the road.

We had been travelling in fall colours since the Yukon, 3000km north, and Seattle was no different. The shots that make up this image were shot in just one street, close to Andy’s place.

My back was starting to hurt again and as my diclophenac pills were finished and I could not get more without a prescription, I switched to an Ibuprofen-rich diet… Read more

Day 98-105: 17-24 Oct 2008: ferries & friendly people, from Vancouver, CA, to Seattle, USA via Victoria

October 25, 2008 by , 834 views  
Filed under British Columbia, Canada, North America, Trip reports, USA, Washington

17 October 2008: Vancouver to Victoria, 75 km

The weather gods did not want us to leave Vancouver, maybe they thought I should rest more. Wind and rain pounded on us when we made our way to the ferries in the Southwestern point of the mainland of Canada. we had taken the monorail East first as the direct route would have led us through the George Massey Tunnel, off limits for cyclists. The shuttle for cyclist had stopped for the season and we did not think that any bus could take our heavy bikes on their frontloading rack. we could not lift them up there anyways :)

After about 30km through mainly flat and wet land we ended up at the ferry, just in time for a 14.00 departure. It takes about 90 minutes to cross the Strait of Georgia to Vancouver Island, the largest island on the West side of North America.

The Lochside Trail, turning into the Galloping Goose trail later on, starts right outside the ferry terminal and is a great way to see a bit of the island. It is an old rail track, sometimes unpaved, sometimes crossing roads and even wooden trestles but always very scenic for all its 35km. We saw deer along the car-free trail, many flocks of geese and fields full of pumpkins. we enjoyed it so much that we ended up entering in Victoria in the dark…

We stayed 2 nights with our great Warm Showers list hosts, Mark & Cathy. They took us to a nice little Farmer’s market, one of the last of the season. It is nice to see that more young people are supporting the local farmers and eating healthy produce, even though it costs more than the preprocessed and mass-produced ‘food’ from the larger supermarket chains. I feel that our generation (at least a part of it) realizes that we should value fuel for our own system more than that for our cars… Read more