Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Day 36

After pushing off late from the hotel, I was directed to Point Hudson Cafe for breakfast and thank you John for recommending it. John was the owner/manager of the Palace Hotel. Lovely location and the breakfast was lovely too. Here’s a photo of the cafe.

20110722-210624.jpg
That’s it in the distance.

It’s odd cycling around here. It’s beautiful, but the small hills are murder. I’ve pushed my bike more in the last hundred miles than I ever did in the thousand through Alaska and the Yukon. Short sharp shocks of vertiginous torture. And no one cheering me up the ascents. Hah! Those Tour de France Johnnies have it easy, I tell you. I may buy myself a yellow or green jersey, just to lift my spirits. And a ‘sports’ massage, perhaps!

I lunched at Port Gamble on chicken salad and fruit. The fact that the fruit was on the same dish came as a bit of a surprise. I should be used, by now, I suppose, to having odd combinations of sweet and savoury piled on the same plate, but really, chicken and strawberries? Or cheese and melon. Is there some culinary joke I’m missing here? I managed to separate the two, but why should I have to. Just bring them to me on separate plates. Separated by several minutes. Separately.
And this Monty Python moment made me laugh even more…

20110722-215604.jpg
A whole stack of conversation cards. No questions on the Meaning of Life as far as I could see.

After an uneventful ferry trip to Edmonds on the mainland, I booked into the Best Western hotel right next to the ferry terminal. Might as well stay here ‘cos I’m going back the same way tomorrow. Dash the expense, it’s convenient.

It’s a small town, and the Main Street is full of pretty little eateries and knick-knack shops. Obviously a holiday town. They also have a small cinema which I suspect mostly acts as an art house, but not at the moment. No, it too has succumbed to the might of Harry Potter. Like most of the cinemas on the planet, I suspect. This author, too must admit to succumbing to the might of Harry Potter! Look, I’m traveling alone and I like a bit of popcornyness as much as the next chap! A single male traveller of a certain age must get used to the inevitable questioning looks he attracts when doing certain things normally associated with people in even numbers. This goes double if he wants to go to the cinema. Even more so if he wants to see a Harry Potter movie. So one must slip on the thick-skinned suit and get ready with the ‘cycling through the Americas’ explanation should anyone actually ask. They won’t. They’ll just look at you when you’re not looking. When they think you’re not looking. And at best they think he’s just a lonely man, at worst, well you know what the worst is. There’s no real way to non-verbally reassure parents that you’re just there for the movie and have absolutely no interest in their kids beyond a normal, extra-paternal protection. Unless of course the little beggars don’t stop screaming and kicking the back of the seat! Then it’s open season. The Glorious Twelve year olds will be shot on sight! Fetch me my Purdeys!

I liked the film, by the way. Well done Chris, the titles looked great.

Pip pip
Love
Pete

Here I am in Port Townsend and the more time I spend here the more I love it. It’s got a small town, seaside feel to it, but with a hip arts/culture vibe going on. I think the Victorian brick buildings give it a sense of solidity and history that just isn’t present in most American towns. Talking to the locals, it does get quiet during the winter, but shops don’t close down and the arts scene stays vibrant throughout. They have an excellent artisinal bakery, two bike shops and an art-house cinema (oddly showing the Rob Brydon/Steve Coogan travelogue comedy, The Trip, as a film – not sure how that’s going to translate). What more could you need?

I didn’t do much – wouldn’t be a rest day if I did – just pottered around and drank coffee. Actually that’s a thing. They really don’t do pubs. Either here or in Canada. They do bars, but they’re generally pretty rough and either for blokes to get drunk in or for the ‘kids’ to pull. With all this amazing countryside you’d think a few country pubs would be a gold mine, but it’s just not in their psyche to drive out for a drink and a ploughmans. More fool them.

Here are some photos of the hotel.

20110721-080801.jpg

<a

20110721-080731.jpg href=”https://petecoombes.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/20110721-080826.jpg”&gt;20110721-080826.jpg

Recommended.

Pip pip
Love
Pete

Day 34

A reasonably long day of about 75 miles (back in the USA means ‘miles’, folks) which bought me through some stunning Washington scenery, some nastily busy roads and one odd cyclist.

Here’s a picture of some stunning Washington scenery.

20110720-093702.jpg

And a view from the bridge. Don’t look down!

20110720-093813.jpg

It wasn’t all hills, but this is the first time since Day 3 that I’ve had to push my bike. Some 14% gradients with a headwind. Not much fun. But then it gives way to coastal farmland and it’s all flat and easy. Still with this fecking headwind, though! This has been against me now since the Cassiar Highway. Do you remember the Cassiar? Such a long time ago! Anyway, it turns out that there is an unusual dip south in the jet stream and this is dragging low systems further south which in turn is bringing the cold, wet and, for me, the annoying southerly winds. Looks like it’ll be against me at least until San Francisco. TAXI!!

Just as an aside does anyone else think this looks suspicious?

20110720-095243.jpg
That’s a lot of cows around either a meteor impact or an open-cast mine. Hmm? What are the cows mining? Or are they attracted to strange emanations coming from the impact. No one was saying nothing! Conspiracy or just a hole in the ground? You be the judge..

And the odd cyclist. Well not so much odd as a bit unfriendly. We cycled together for a bit, but there was little conversation from him and he was quite slow – both mentally and his cycling speed! Turns out he was from Vancouver and was doing a circular trip through Seattle. Did he ask anything about me? No. Not a sausage. I made my excuses and left.

I’m in Port Townsend now, which I think the Americans would call ‘quaint’. I like it so much I’ve decided tomorrow will be a rest day here. I’m staying in the Palace hotel, which was, amongst other things, an old Victorian brothel. By far the most interesting and nicest hotel I’ve stayed in on this trip. I’ll get photos for tomorrow’s blog

Love
Pete

Day 33

Damien and Jill, being the keen cyclists they are, decided to accompany me part of the way today and probably to make sure I left!

20110718-210445.jpg
Again thanks chaps, it’s so much easier not having to read a map and cycle at the same time.

Almost as soon as we’d parted company (a) I got myself lost and (b) the sun came out. I was only lost for about five minutes, but considering that I’d joked about it about a minute before I felt a bit of a berk. And since crossing into the States, it’s been glorious sunshine with more forecast for tomorrow. Hip, hip, hip hooray! Finally I can work on that sexy forearm/lower leg combo tan. Grrr!

I’m in a place called Ferndale tonight, which looks like the sort of small-town-USA kind of place Doc Hollywood got held in. Quite cute, but it’s been past by with the building of the I15 highway just outside of town. I didn’t see the drunk, aging, quarterback, but he’s there somewhere.

I’m ashamed to say it, but after at least ten years of McAbstinence, I had to buy a Big Mac today. There, I’ve confessed. I feel better for having shared that with you. Still feel a bit grubby, though. It’s bananas and salads from now on and I may get my chi centered when I get to California. “Chakras!” And to you, sir!

Now to plan the next leg of the journey. It’s pretty much all been done for me by the chaps at the American Cycling Association and their maps. They’ve got a route from Vancouver to San Diego through some beautiful scenery all mapped out, so it seems a little silly to re-invent the wheel. All I’ve got to do is figure out how far to ride each day, where to sleep and how to avoid MacDonalds, which is not easy.

Love
Pete

Day 32

I approve of Vancouver. Well done. Carry on. I spent this morning cycling around Stanley Park surrounded by fellow cyclists, runners, bladers, dog-walkers, mums, dads, kids, in fact, all of Vancouver seemed to be out enjoying the not-rain weather and I rather like the manicured wilderness at the heart of Stanley Park.
Here’s a photo and bear in mind that this is as close to the centre of Vancouver as Hyde Park is to London.

20110718-203303.jpg

It may be just because it’s Sunday, but there are loads of cyclists in this town. Lots of cycle lanes and cycle-only routes make it a pretty safe town to cycle around unlike Los Anchorage which was bordering on the deadly.

I was put up by a couple of other cyclists tonight who belong to Warmshowers. For those who don’t know, then Warmshowers is, despite the dodgy name, a web-based collective of fellow cyclists around the world who put up other touring cyclists for free. Well, maybe a bottle of wine to smooth the way, but no cash is exchanged. In theory I should be able to travel the length of America using Warmshowers, but with uncertain travel plans and times it’s a little hard to ask someone to put you up for free and then possibly turn up a couple of days late or maybe not at all.
Anyway, Damien and Jill were charming and considerate hosts, but the weird thing was that they’d only just come back to Vancouver after having lived in London. What a coincidence. But the coincidences got weirder when it turned out Jill had lived and worked in Poole for about six weeks a couple of years ago. What a small, beautiful world we share! Thanks guys.

Oh, and their next door neighbour was Bob from Leeds. I don’t think we had any coincidences, but it’s nice to know were doing a roaring trade in ex-pats.

Thanks for all the comments. It can get lonely out on the road so please keep them coming.

Love
Pete

Day 31

I’m beginning to sense a motif here on Vancouver Island. Rain. And not a leitmotif either. No, this one just keeps droning on and on and on. So I’ve had enough. I’m off this sorry, soggy little island and over to the bright lights of Vancouver City.

Before I left I had to go to Coombs. Sadly no one seemed to notice my surname and therefore I was denied the usual fanfare and keys to the city that usually accompanies these coincidences. But the most important thing was to witness the Goats on the Roof. Some killjoy had told me that health and safety had removed them and now it was just a plain old Roof. But no! They were there and I have the proof…

20110717-153536.jpg

There! Goats on Roof! In the rain.

After another 40km of busy, rain-soaked highway, I found the Nanaimo to Vancouver (Horseshoe Bay) ferry. And a brief hour and a half later I was on the mainland and struggling with the bike rack mounted on the front of the bus. To be fair, the bus driver was far more helpful than a London bus driver would have been, but I was still made to feel like a cretin for a few minutes. An improvement on my personal best. After the ride into town it was a quick, but wet cycle to the nearest hotel (I know, I know. I’ll make it up later when I don my hair shirt) and a gloriously hot shower. Now I hesitate to mention this, but it turns out that I stayed right in the heart of the Gay Village. It was fabulous! Not that I took much notice, as I was comfortably holed up in my warm and dry room watching the thunderous rain sweep down Davie Street.

I’ll leave you with a photo of Horseshoe Bay in the rain…

20110717-162604.jpg

Love

Pete

Day 30

That old blues standard, A Foggy Day in London Town, needs to be re-written as A Soggy Day on Vancouver Island.

It’s been a short ride today, barely 65km, to a town called Qualicum. Normally I would have pushed on another 50km, which would have brought me to the town of Nanaimo, but there is a rumour that there is a folk festival nearby tomorrow and, you know me, any chance to wear a chain-knit sweater and folda-roll with the best of them and I’m there. However the weather is obviously not a folk fan and has been conspiring against it. And the forecast isn’t good for tomorrow, so although I would dearly love to hang around in a drenched mud-pit, finger in ear, swigging local gut-rot, I think I may have to decline. These things are all well and good if you have somewhere to clean up and fresh clothes to change into, but since I have neither of these things, then I think this will be the definitive rain-cheque (is it ‘cheque’ or ‘check’?).

Perhaps it’s a bit soon to be reviewing Vancouver Island, especially since my experience of it has been very much limited to cycling the main highway, but it does appear to be predominantly a tourist island. There is logging, but it must be just for the locals. I mean they’re not short of the odd tree or two on the mainland. And the fishing has a similar story. And if they are dependent on the tourist dollar then this poor summer must be hitting them hard. I have seen lots of ‘For Sale’ signs the entire length of the island. Not just for houses, but for plots of land, cars, a farm was up for sale and even a horse was going cheap (it needs a special bit and lots of training, I thank you). Now it’s obviously not just due to this one poor season, no, it’s the economy, stupid. Which makes you wonder how a heavily tourist-dependent island like this is going to survive without the tourists coming over and spending their tourist dollars. Or maybe it booms in an economic downturn, bolstered by the domestic tourist. The ‘For Sale’ signs say otherwise.

That hasn’t really given you enough information to form a decision on whether to come here for your next holiday, has it? Vancouver Island is lush, verdant and, I hear, sunny on occasion. There are just enough wild animals roaming about to make it interesting without being terrifying and the locals combine the characteristics of an American and a Frenchman… they’re happy to please, but if you don’t like it, ‘bouff!’ From what I’ve seen it’s pretty cute. Come with a car and some out-door toys and you’ll have a blast.

I’ll be heading off to Vancouver on Sunday 17th, so if anyone has some must-see places to visit (thanks Jim, yours is at the top of the list!) then please let me know.

Love
Pete
And here’s a photo of the rain steaming off the road…

20110715-211116.jpg

Day 29

Disaster!
I got my first flat tyre. Wouldn’t you know it, you travel thousands of miles through bear-infested wilderness where every discordant creak, groan and ping worries you into a nervous wreck that you might be pushing your bike for the next 59 miles before you finally get picked up by Bubba and the ‘crew’ looking to get ‘Biblical’ on someone’s ass! Instead, it was a tiny sliver of wire that managed to wrong-foot Billy the Bike (this is a name in progress!). A speedy patch and he was as right as ninepence. I think he liked the attention. This happened at pretty much the first large town I came to on Vancouver Island, Campbell River. If you’re ever in these parts, don’t enter Campbell River from the north; it’s a dump. From the south is a different story as you pass the sea on the right and well manicured lawns on the left. When they get a summer here, it’ll be lovely.

That was pretty much the tale of the day. The rest was cycling and rain. The weather is so bad here that it’s making the news! As a consequence I’m going way over budget on the accommodation front. I don’t mind the camping, but after 110km in the cold, cold rain the last thing you want to do is put up a soggy tent. No, a Best Western with hot showers and soft beds is what the cycling doctor prescribes. I shall make up the cost by only camping in the US. Promise. Hopefully Oregon and California is where all the sun is hiding. I suspect Washington will be as moist as British Columbia.

In general the bike and all the kit is performing well (I’ve probably jinxed it now), but I figure if you don’t even have to think about it then it must be doing it’s job pretty well. I’ve had to tighten up the chain (by rotating the eccentric bottom bracket – for all you technical fans out there), and the odd squirt of lube on the chain, but that’s about it. The blue brake pads seem to be hardly wearing down at all. Which, now I think about it is probably because I hardly ever touch the brakes. Not like you do when you’re commuting.

More tomorrow after another wet day in the saddle!

Love

Pete

Day 28

Nothing happened.

Ok not much happened, but I did figure out how to attach my camera to my handlebars. Expect low res videos of tarmac and sky soon.

I ended up in a place called Sayward. I would have pushed on after lunch, but it started absolutely hammering it down and I thought why hurry. And why get wet. So here I am. Just waiting for tomorrow to push on south and get some miles under the tyres.

In beard-related news, I’ve shaved it off. It was just getting on my nerves and to be honest there is quite a lot of hot water in Canada suitable for shaving. When I get to the wilds of South America then maybe there’ll be a case for beardage, but whilst there’s hot water I shall remain beardless.

I fear the interesting otherness of the remote northern states has now vanished and I’m on the threshold of the bland shopping mall that is north America. So expect less bear tales, folks. Your vicarious visceral thrills will have to be replaced by an amusing side-ways look at American life (cue Seinfeld plucked bass sting).

Love

Pete

This is Port Hardy before the rain

20110713-224904.jpg

And this is Port McNeil after the rain

20110713-224956.jpg

Day 27

Well, after a quick adjustment of the saddle, my knee seems to be better already. I did a 100km today and it feels pretty good. So, thanks Gav for the advice. I adjusted the saddle back about 10mm in the end. I’ll keep you all posted, but it seems like the odyssey can continue.

It also seems like bears can swim, ‘cos they’re on the island! I rode past one today by the side of the road with only a small gully between me and certain DEATH! Well he looked up when I rode past. Ok he looked up after I’d ridden past and honked him. Yes, even the island bears are not safe from – The Bear Honker. Fear me!

I met a nice couple from Cirencester, of all places, blatting around in a lovely vintage AC Bristol. They were on a classic car rally and I must admit for a bit I was jealous. Then I realized I was on a bicycle and they were in a beautiful sports car and I came to my senses… Next time I’m taking a car!

Parp Parp!

Love
Pete