Day One: Shoreline to Quilcene
Mike and I reached the top of the hill at about the same time. We’d been talking between wheezes and gasps about how much fun the descent was going to be. “Man, I’m ready for some downhill,” Mike said.
“Me, too,” I replied and looked at my speedometer. It read 3.5 miles an hour. We pedaled another ten feet then crested and started the descent. The shoulder here was narrow, trees overhung the road and we could see a big swooping left hand curve down about a hundred yards.
This is gonna be fun.
I rolled my shoulders, got down on the drops, shifted into high gear and began picking up speed. I could see Mike doing the same thing. We were going about 18 miles an hour by the time we reached the first big corner. As I leaned into the turn I noticed something very wrong. Instead of following the curve, Mike appeared to be going straight! In another few seconds, he’d be sailing off the road and into the ditch. I could see him tense up. What the hell?
Mike is one of those guys who takes intense pride in his possessions. His home is a showplace, he is always impeccably dressed and his vintage Trek 520 touring bike is always in tip-top condition. On the other hand, I’m something of an Oscar to Mike’s Felix. I’m always tinkering with my bike to get it just right. Changing this and adjusting that. My ministrations often lead to break downs so when Mike and I take a trip, it’s usually me with the mechanical issues. Not so on a recent three-day trip around Washington State's Hood Canal.
We’d left my place in Shoreline late in the afternoon, rode to the ferry in Edmonds where, while waiting for the boat, met a fellow biker, Scott. We got to talking and discovered that Scott had just finished a cross-country bike trip from Boston to Seattle. A new graduate from Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, he and a friend had decided to take the summer off and get some serious bike touring in. They’d finished the trip in a little more than two months. Ahh youth.
Mike and I admitted a little sheepishly that we were planning the same trip in reverse; Seattle to Boston, but that we were scheduling three months for the trip.
Over beers on the boat, we picked Scott’s brain for tips on cross-country biking. “How much did you spend on accommodations?” I asked.
Scott grinned. “We spent five dollars on a crappy hotel one night during a rain storm.”
“Five bucks?!” said Mike, “what did you do the rest of the time?”
“Mostly we wild camped or slept on people’s lawns. Most of the time folks invited us in to stay in their homes… cooked us dinner and everything.”
“Okay,” I said, “what’s the secret?”
“It’s a little Machiavellian, I guess,” Scott said, “but there’s a definite tactic to getting people to let you camp on their property. First, you engage them in conversation. It’s best if they’re already out in the yard. You just roll up and say hi. Get them talking. Don’t worry, once they hear you’re riding your bicycle across the country, you’ll have plenty to talk about. After you’ve established a rapport, work the conversation around to something like, ‘so do you know of anyplace around here where we could camp for tonight?’” Ninety nine times out of a hundred they’ll offer you their yard. Usually around dinner time, they’ll come out and invite you in. Once you’re in the house, you’ve got it made, shower, laundry, a couple of hot meals…” Scott grinned, “You feel kind of guilty but people seemed to enjoy having us as guests. Breaks up the monotony, I guess getting to be a part of your grand adventure.”
Off the ferry and onto the Peninsula, Scott rode along with us for a couple of miles and we talked the whole way. After about five miles, he signaled for us to pull over. “We passed my turn-off a couple of miles back, but I was so engaged in our conversation, I didn’t want to stop. But I gotta be at my friends house for dinner, so I gotta turn around.”
We bid our new bike friend farewell and headed up the road. We pedaled through Port Gamble, crossed the Hood Canal floating bridge and headed up Highway 104. At about 15 miles, Mike pulled over. “My crank is loose,” he said. He got out his tools and tightened it up. “This damn thing keeps working loose. I tighten it and it stays good for a couple of miles and then it’s off again.”
“Well, that’s not good,” I said. This wasn’t like Mike at all to start a trip with a faulty bicycle.
At Center Road, we left the highway and turned south along the west bank of Hood Canal. Mike’s crank arm came loose a couple more times so it was nearly dark when we rolled into the tiny hamlet of Quilcene.
There’s a general store at the junction of Center Road and Highway 101 and I got there a few minutes before Mike. Remembering Scott’s advice, I moseyed into the store, up to the counter and introduced myself to the lady behind the counter. She looked to be in her early 40’s, attractive and friendly. “My pal and I are on a bicycle trip,” I said as I paid for the bottle of wine, “we were wondering if there is anyplace nearby where we can camp for the night.”
“Oh, sure,” she replied, “there’s a public campground about a quarter of a mile up the road. Just ride around the corner, look for the senior center and take the next right. You can’t miss it!”
It was a nice enough park, I guess. There was a restroom and running water nearby, but it was a Friday night and there were a lot party people in campers, so it wasn’t as quiet as one might wish. Still, any port in a storm… We made a late dinner by flashlight and hit the hay. It was past ten O’clock by the time my head hit the pillow. We’d covered more than 30 miles that afternoon and evening. I was a little worried about Mike’s bike. I drifted off to sleep pondering possible solutions to the mystery of the ever-loosening crank.
To be continued. Tomorrow: Quilcene to Potlatch State Park.