(Editor's note: There's just 26 days left before T-Bone and I start our bicycle trip across the U.S. As you can imagine, I'm pretty busy getting things tied up at this end. So busy in fact, that I haven't time to create proper posts. So I've decided to repost some of my favorite stories. I'll start up with new posts once we begin our journey.)
I’m shuffling along a narrow ledge pushing my heavily loaded touring bike over the rocky path that’s not much wider than my bicycle. This precipitous catwalk is carved out of the living rock from the side of a steep cliff. To my left the rock wall ascends hundreds of feet to a wooded ridge. To my right, fifty feet below is the surface of Lake Crescent on the northern end of Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula.
With every bump, the bike sways and swerves, teetering on the edge of catastrophe.
I look up the trail. It appears that the way ends in a steep rock steppe. I grip the handlebars a little tighter and glance back along the way I’ve come. Since there’s no room to turn around, it means I’m going to have to try to back this unwieldy bastard down the trail to firmer ground.
If I stumble or fall, or loose my nerve, my bike, and maybe I, too, will tumble into that lake.
I didn’t sign up for this.
It’s the 8th day of our 9-day bicycle trip and it looks like it might end right here.
In a little less than a year, I’ll be leaving on an around-the-world bicycle trip. To get ready, I’ve been taking training rides of a few days’ duration. After 12 months of long weekend trips, I felt I was ready for something a bit more ambitious. So my cycling pal, Mike, and I planned a 9-day, 360-mile circumnavigation of Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula.
The author at Klaloch, Washington, on the Olympic Peninsula.
The Olympic Peninsula is known for its lush evergreen forests, bucolic landscapes and rugged coastline. And, like Seattle, it’s also known for a heavy annual rainfall so we came prepared for a soggy trip. But the day we left Seattle was sunny and warm and with our rain gear stowed away in our panniers, we boarded the ferry for the trip across Puget Sound to our jumping-off point, the town of Bremerton.
Our route was to be clockwise, starting from east to west, then north, then east and finally south to the small ferry port of Kingston. In between would be a week and a half of sun and rain, deep forests, lakes and seashores, smooth roads and rugged trails, an eclectic cast of characters and adventures you can experience only while traveling on a bicycle.
Day One: Bremerton to Potlatch State Park.
This is the first of 9 entries I'll be posting over the next week and a half. Each post is a story about that day's events.
The day started off dry and warm. After leaving the busy streets of Bremerton, we spent the next few hours cycling along the Hood Canal. The Hood Canal is a narrow body of water that extends about 50 miles from the north at the Salish Sea to a shallow tideland in the south called Lynch Cove.
The road along the southern shore of the Hood Canal is in places, narrow, but the surface is generally good and the rolling-hills landscape is ideal for making time on a heavily loaded touring bike. The views are spectacular as you cycle along the rural road, passing quaint beach cottages and small settlements. We made the fotry-odd miles to Potlatch State Park in good time, averaging a little over 10 miles an hour and arriving about 6:00 PM.
When we got there, we were met with an unpleasant surprise; a sign indicating that the park was closed! We were tired, and there wasn’t another option for miles. We had planned to wild camp a night or two so we talked about finding a spot off the road and pitching our tents. As it turned out, we were able to camp at the state park, as only a portion was out of service.
I was anxious to try out my new tent; an REI backpacking model that provides a lot of room at a weight that’s reasonable for cycling. Once I got it set up and all my gear stowed, we went about the serious business of cooking dinner. We’d forgotten to bring wine, so I backtracked a couple of miles to a small store and picked up a bottle. On the way back to camp, I passed a tiny roadside seafood stand and on a whim pulled in.
“The clams are fresh,” the Native American lady behind the counter said, “right out of the Hood Canal this mornin’!” I bought a dozen for $5 and we steamed them on my MSR stove and wolfed them down right out of the shells. I can tell you, they were the best clams I’ve ever tasted.
That night I slept fitfully. I chalked it up to excitement about the trip, but now that I look back, perhaps it was a premonition of what was to come.
To Be Continued.