This is the 7th episode of a 9-part series on our 9-day, 360-mile bicycle trip around Washington State's Olympic Peninsula.
We got a late start out of camp. I was a little tired as we started up the road toward Forks, but by the time we reached town in a couple of miles, I was feeling fit and ready to do the 30 miles to the Fairholme Campground at the western end of Lake Crescent.
I felt like I was starting to get in shape. The rhythm of the road was agreeing with me; lots of good food, good sleep, fresh air and exercise had me feeling stronger each day, though some mornings I had more energy than others. I attribute that to my diet and how much sleep I’d been getting. It seemed that some foods had a more beneficial effect on my energy levels than others.
I found that fresh fruit and vegetables worked better and were more palatable than canned or packaged fare. I am a chocoholic, but during this trip my taste for candy subsided a lot. Something to keep in mind when I’m on my around the world odyssey.
The sun shone bright all day long, the road climbed more than it descended and that made for hot and thirsty work. So when we spotted the Alaskan Ale sign in the window of a small café, we stopped for lunch and a beer.
The Cafe where we got the good news about the bicycle short cut.
We’d heard rumors of a bike trail around the northern side of Lake Crescent, but had never spoken with anyone who had actually ridden it. Mike’s map showed a dotted line with the symbol for a bicycle along the rumored route so we thought there was a good chance the trail actually existed. The main road, Highway 101, skirts the southern shore but the road is narrow, windy and unsafe for bikes. So the fabled northern, bikes-only route held particular appeal and we were anxious to give it a go. While sitting at the counter, sipping our beers, Mike and I discussed the possibilities. A local came in, sat down, and overhearing our conversation, he chimed in, “Yeah, that trail goes all the way around the northern shore. It’s really cool.”
He was a young guy in his twenties. “My dad has ridden it a bunch of times,” he waved his hand dismissively, “nothin’ to it.”
“Hey, that’s great news,” Mike said.
“Yeah,” the young local said, “ just stay on the North Shore Road. It hooks up with the trail in a couple of miles. Come right out of the campground and head east.”
We thanked him and armed with the new intel, jumped on our bikes and took off.
My bike is an old steel-frame Trek 520 touring model that I rescued from a second had store a few years ago and have been replacing parts as warranted. This trip was the inaugural voyage for a new set of sturdy 36-spoke touring wheels, Schwalbe touring tires, wide touring handlebars, a new front rack and new Ortlieb rear panniers. I’d replaced the front chain rings, rear cogs and chain about 3,000 miles before, so they were fairly old, but I’d kept an eye on them and kept them well maintained.
I’d been tweaking the adjustment of my front derailleur since it seemed to be the source of the chain jamming problem and I thought I had it right, but along the way, while climbing a steep grade, it jammed again, forcing me off the road and into repair mode.
After prying the chain loose, I double-checked the derailleur travel and stop adjustments and they seemed just fine. I’d cleaned and lubed the chain and gears the evening before so all that looked good. To say the least, I was puzzled as to why that doggone chain kept wanting to skip off the small chain ring. I just couldn’t pin it down.
With the mystery unsolved, I got back on the road and tested out the repair. It seemed to be working just fine on the flat at least.
This section of 101 crosses the Solduc river 5 or 6 times between Forks and Lake Crescent. A few of the bridges are old and narrow and when crossing, I would cross my fingers and hope that no cars would pass. At about the third bridge, I glanced in my mirror and saw a large brown shape coming slowly up behind me then, two blasts on an air horn. As the big RV crept by I could see John and his daughter in the front seat, smiling broadly and waving as they passed.
At the cafe during lunch, Marge, the waitress, told us about a manhunt that had been launched for a Mexican man. "His people and the border patrol is lookin' for him," she said. "You might want to keep an eye out." Evidently, during a traffic stop, the man had jumped out of the car and made a run for it. "Word down the line is he leaped into the Solduc," Marge informed us. She shook her head sadly, "If that's the case..."
We saw several cop cars and highway department personell along the way. At one clearing, about a dozen cars were parked and a whole community of Mexicans could be seen beating the brush and calling the man's name. It was a sad sight.
We reached Lake Crescent about 2:30 in the afternoon and set up camp. There was no ranger in attendance and no payment envelopes in the usual place, so we camped for free that night.
During the rain days, my handlebar tape had stretched and come loose. I spent the time after dinner rewrapping the handlebars and thinking about how nice tomorrow was going to be riding on the bicycle-only trail.
Boy, was I in for a rude awakening.
To be continued...