Day Six: Bicycling from Klaloch to Forks
This is the 6th installment of a 9-part series on our 360-mile, 9-day bicycle touring trip around Washington State's Olympic Peninsula.
Another sunny day! We were up early and out of camp by 7:00 AM. We hated to leave this bucolic spot by the sea, but we had miles to go this day and were excited to see what lay over the next hill. That’s the yin and yang of bicycle touring.
This day was a repeat of the day before; good smooth roads, light traffic and sunshine. We kept an eye out for a store to replenish our supplies and get a little something extra for lunch, but as we were in the National Park, we came up empty all day. As a result our lunch was meager. We pulled off at a wide spot, carved up the last of our baguette and cheese and made do.
Mike had been working on a cold since the first day of rain back at Montesano and now it was in full swing. He was coughing and sneezing and didn’t look all that good, still, he didn’t let it get him down. He kept up the pace even on the steepest hills, and there was never a complaint. I’ve known Mike for about 40 years now and I’m used to his cheerful, never-say-die attitude. Still, the way this cold had a hold of him, I was amazed at his stamina and good mood. The guy is extraordinary.
Later in the afternoon, we were ascending a steep, winding hill. There’s a trick to climbing: never look for the top of the hill. It always seems farther and steeper than it really is and that can be very disheartening. Being bummed takes its toll on your psyche and your ability to keep up a steady pace. I’ve found that it’s better to look down at the ground immediately in front of your handlebars, focus intently on keeping a smooth, regular cadence, keep the bike going in a straight line and ‘let the hill come to you’.
It’s a lot to keep track of and when I’m climbing like that, I tend to block out my surroundings and enter a peaceful, Zen-like state of mind. Which is where my head was when I was startled out of my reverie by 2 ear-splitting blasts on an air horn. I swerved toward the ditch then jerked the handlebars toward the road. After a few wobbly moments, I was back in control and about to give the driver of the offending vehicle a dirty look, when a big, brown motor home lumbered by and I saw John’s smiling face waving from the driver’s seat.
I know he was just being friendly, and of course I waved back, but his good intentions nearly caused what could have been a painful accident.
By 2:30 we had reached the campground a few miles south of Forks. Mike wouldn’t admit it, but I could tell he was really feeling the effects of the cold. His cough had become worse and his voice was raspy. Normally, he can do 50 miles without breaking a sweat, but his feverish state had taken a toll and he looked tired. “Why don’t you set up camp, and I’ll ride into Forks to get stuff for dinner tonight and breakfast in the morning,” I said as we loitered near the park’s entrance. “It’s only a couple of miles.”
“Naw,” Mike said, “we’ll both go.”
“Tell you what,” I said, “you buy and I’ll fly.”
Mike considered the offer for a minute, smiled, and pulled a $20 bill from his wallet. “Get me some cold medicine, too.” I dumped my gear and set off for Forks.
After 6 days of herding a heavy bike down the road you get used to all that weight and sluggish handling. You’re accustomed to the steering and braking lag and the over compensation needed to get the monster to respond. So a funny thing happens when you drop all that camping gear and have to deal with only the mass of the bike; you feel light as a feather and fast as the wind.
My ride to Forks sans panniers was a pure delight. I sped up the hills with barely an effort, zipped around corners with a rakish tilt, and slid into the Forks supermarket parking lot with a stylish squeal of rubber. I stocked up on fresh fruit and vegetables and of course the usual bottle of red.
Back at camp, Mike had the tents set up and things in order. This was the first night in several that we had fresh vegetables for dinner. We cooked up some noodles and sautéed a shallot and some mushrooms.
The campground was near the highway and though I slept soundly, Mike, who’s tent was more in line with traffic noise, reported the next day that the sound of cars and trucks had kept him awake most of the night.
To be continued...