🚴🏻♂️🚴🏻♀️ San Juan – California Border (1300km)
We arrived by boat at what may be the quaintest entry point into the United States – Friday Harbour. A harbour large enough for just one ferry and a small shed, within which the two border guards resided, on the island of San Juan, the largest of the 170 San Juan Islands. Testing the assumption that all small islanders are friendly, even border guards, Lucy ran straight over the border keen to pedal to the campsite before dark. Unfortunately, border guards are still border guards, the smiling face turned to a frown and I was pulled back to the arbitrary line to show my passport.
Once that was over we cycled across the island as the sun was setting to our campsite, a beautiful spot overlooking the ocean with a special site dedicated to those who arrive by human power alone! There we met up with Barbara, a cyclist we had previously met from the Lake District who had cycled many times through Lucy’s Dad’s tiny village of Allenheads, and Angela, a German American cyclist.
After a long breakfast of scrambled eggs, beans and fried sourdough bread we set off to complete our circuit of the Island, visiting American Camp and a dried up lagoon, eating blackberries and enjoying the names of the roads. Some of our favourites were: Hoot and Howl Lane, Less Travelled Road, Otter’s Lair Lane, Candy Mountain Way and Yellow Brick Road.
We arrived back in Friday Harbour, getting luxurious ice creams before boarding another ferry to another of the islands. You get a one way ticket and, with a bicycle, are free to island hop, taking the ferry as many times as you like!
Our next destination was Orcas Island. We cycled across the island to the campsite situated in a State Park, stopping for a refreshing dip in Cascade Lake before setting up camp. We decided to take it easy the next day but then accidentally did a triathlon, hiking 10 miles up and back down Mount Constitution, cycling 15 miles back to the ferry, crossing a body of water to Lopez Island and then cycling another 5 miles to the campsite. The hiker biker site here was the best spot on the island, right on the beach.
The final ferry ride to Anacortes was the next day, followed by a cycle to Deception Pass and a walk over a high, windy bridge to the state park. There we bumped into Angela, arranging to meet for a swim in the morning and then cycle on together.
We set off together the next day for Old Fort Townsend State Park, stopping for vegetables at a farm stand and receiving amazing comprehensive directions for how to avoid the main road for the whole day (and a free homemade caramel)! We arrived in the evening and after a shared meal of pasta and vegetables drank beers and did yoga under a shelter in the rain.
The three of us had a long breakfast (Jan had bought 1.8 kilos of yoghurt) and then parted ways as Angela was headed home. We set off for Potlach State Park, a long 65 mile day that was brightened by a lunchtime burger. We arrived to an interesting hiker biker site that had wooden beams laid out in large squares filled with rocks and a sprinkling of wood chips, resembling a large litter box. Our tent was too big to fit, so we used the beams to cook on and set up our home entertainment system.
The next night we had a treat waiting for us – salvation from the rain in the house of Marnie and John, our Warm Showers hosts. We arrived to a huge, comfy bed, a ginormous shower and a delicious meal – pasta bake, ginger and chilli corn, green beans, and homemade apple pie with ice cream. The couple are phenomenal WS hosts, having had well over 300 cyclists stay with them (once having 6 at one time!). We stayed two nights and by some magical intervention, Marnie, a nurse, was able to help Jan navigate the American health system and get the medication needed to treat his latest bout of Lymes Disease.
We left the next day incredibly well rested, with freshly laundered clothes and homemade cake in our panniers! Our first stop was Clarks to try what John had rightfully told us was the best milkshake in the world! Our stop for the evening was Bruceport, an all American RV park with a grumpy resident chihuahua called Albert.
The next day was our last in Washington as we cycled through the rest of the state to cross a 3 mile long bridge with very little shoulder or barricade that went on forever over a huge expanse of water as the wind blasted us from all directions. We missed out Cape Disappointment in our haste to avoid the rain which was, of course, a disappointment, but we did find Jayden’s German Store and met a questionable character, the infamous Bugsy: “do you know why they call me Bugsy? Coz I bug people”. This man was a sea lion chaser – “I don’t kill them, I just chase ‘em back in the sea” – who had wanted to fight crocodiles but couldn’t find any so fought a 30ft shark instead. We cycled away as quickly as we could.
After hurrying over the death bridge across the Columbia River, separating Washington from Oregon, we arrived at our hosts house. Steve, welcoming dozens of cyclists each year, had made it his mission to transform his house into the ultimate touring refuge. As a cycling enthusiast, he was in the process of converting his whole basement into a fully equipped bike hostel, including Sauna and Whirlpool. We were a few months early but nevertheless could already feel the spirit, as we hung out with his flatmate, friends and fellow cyclists, swapping stories and cooking a delicious dinner. At some point that evening we mentioned that we had thought about visiting Portland (a few hours inland) and before we could flesh out the thought, we were offered a lift in the morning and a bed for the night in the city – incredible.
Portland was a great change from our routine and we enjoyed the quirks of Oregon’s vibrant city. Exploring Downtown during the day, eating diabetes inducing donuts, getting lost in the biggest book store (appropriately named City of Books), being kicked out of bars (Lucy had no ID) and finishing the day with a beer by the river with our new friends, left us with the warm feeling that we just had a little vacation.
We returned to Astoria, hit the famous Fort George Brewery with Steve and the next morning eventually got back on the road again heading for Nehalem State Park, a campsite on a beautiful beach. We were really on the coastal route through the US now, with so many beautiful views of the ocean throughout the day. At Seaside, we saw a fellow cyclist who, rather than carrying a tent, was ferrying around a small chihuahua wearing a pink baseball cap with ear holes and pink winged diamanté sunglasses.
The next day we pedalled hard to reach our lunchtime destination – the Tillamook Creamery! With unlimited cheese samples and ice creams larger than our heads ,we were very happy.
The vehicles on the coast are like nowhere else: camper-buses that look like a band’s tour bus, monster-trucks with wheels larger than a regular car, and some cars that are so old and battered that they really shouldn’t be on the road; one car that passed us was missing its passenger side door! The fumes coming out the back of some are worse than we experienced in Myanmar, which is saying something since Myanmar is one of the only countries in the world that still uses leaded petrol. We have also learned a new term: coal rolling, whereby people intentionally alter their cars to produce more air pollution in a counter-environmentalism move.
We continued along the Three Capes Scenic Route, wild camping for the night. We woke, took down camp and continued, passing Cape Meares and ending our day at the Pelican Brewery at Cape Kiwanda, drinking local beers with our feet in the sand.
We had a camping debacle, deciding against staying at the 30 dollars a night campsite next to the brewery, despite the fact that it had many domesticated rabbits running about, and cycling back 5 miles to a site we had already passed. It was worth it as we watched the sunset on a beach whilst we did some yoga and an older couple did Tai Chi! The next morning the woman camping next to us gave me the lightest gift she could find — a glass bead zip pull — which was rather serendipitous since the zip on my jacket had broken just the night before!
Our next day was glorious as we got off the main highway and travelled along a disused road through huge old growth forest. That evening we wild camped at our favourite spot of the trip so far – Rocky Creek Wayside. We arrived to grey whales swimming in and around the bay, driving to the bottom and showing us their tails. We watched until it began to get dark, cooked, and then ate our dinner watching them some more. They were there again the next morning, feeding as we ate our porridge.
A climb started the next section of our route, up and over Cape Foulweather, which was actually quite nice. Jan had broken a spoke a couple of days ago so we pushed on to Newport where there was a bike shop that not only fixed his wheel but had a washing machine and a shower!! Leaving town clean, with a working wheel and fresh clothes was a delight, and we continued on to stay at Beachside State park, announcing to strangers how clean we were.
We had many stops the next day, learning all about the coast at the Cape Perpetua visitor centre, spotting sun-bathing seals at Strawberry Hill, and having lunch with carnivorous California pitcher plants at the Darlingtonia Botanical Wayside. We finished the day with a dip in the lake at Jesse M Honeyman Memorial State Park.
It was rainy the next day as we set off through the Oregon Dunes National Recreational Area towards Sunset Bay State Park, but the sun came out for us to enjoy at lunchtime. We took a rest day at Sunset Bay, cycling without panniers to the tip of Cape Arago, to the sound of sea lions roaring and howling in song.
The following day brought unbelievable headwinds that pretty much blew us all 60 miles to Humbug Mountain. After that, our final day in Oregon brought us some of the most spectacular views of the coast yet as we cycled on to finish just before the California border with a COLD splash in the ocean at Harris Beach!
To be continued…