Friday, June 27, 2014

Into the Wild... Our first rides in Washington

Once off the boat, we were finally back in America! Hooray for cell phone service and Google maps! By going to Victoria, we had deviated off the Adventure Cycling Pacific Coast route, so we needed to head east to meet back up with the official route. The adventure cycling route came through Port Townsend, so we headed that way and decided to stop at Sequim (pronounced squim with a single syllable) Bay State Park for the night. The route we took to get there was the Olympic Discovery Trail and it was absolutely beautiful. The best part was that being on a trail we were completely separated from cars even though there were a few bits of unpaved gravel. The trail route is definitely longer and hillier than the highway route, but it’s worth it to be separated from the cars.

Our route from Victoria.  After landing in Port Angeles we biked about 25 miles for a total 79 miles biked so far.

The beautiful Olympic Discovery Trail.

I could pedal with this beautiful scenery all day!

Thankfully the sun doesn’t set until around 10 pm up north during the summer because we had quite a bit of pedaling to do after landing at Port Angeles! Still, the scenery was beautiful.

The Olympic Discovery Trail passed over its fair share of creeks. The views were always great but the bumpy wooden planks are rough on the hands.

We found a nice park bench to stop and enjoy a quick dinner.  Gotta love the freedom of wide open empty trails!

Taking a break, enjoying the scenery and having a bite to eat. 

Balancing the fully loaded bikes while we break for dinner.

Ready to go again after enjoying dinner!

The Olympic Discovery Trail led us directly to Sequim Bay State Park, so we didn't even have to get on a road to get to our campsite. Washington has special “Hiker-Biker” sites where you can pitch a tent for the night for only $12. They are pretty bare-bones with only a picnic table and a fire pit, but we weren't expecting luxury anyway. The park was directly on the bay so we could enjoy some great waterfront views.

Hanging out at Sequim Bay State Park enjoying the waterfront views. 

We cooked a simple meal that night, just ramen and a little canned chicken thrown in. But it was warm and filling and that’s what mattered. Ethan’s dad designed the insulation to go around the pot and I must say it works wonderfully! It’s excellent for keeping the boiling water hot while waiting for the ramen to cook.

Our simple dinner, ramen and canned chicken.

The next morning we slept in and took a while packing up camp, so it was after noon by the time we were ready to hit the road again. We also spent time checking out the route and looking for campgrounds. We decided that Kitsap State Park was a good distance away so we checked the maps and set out on the road.

Our route to Kitsap State Park.  38 miles for a total 117 miles biked so far.

Breaking down camp and reloading the bikes took a while but we’re getting better at it.

Ready to hit the road!

We decided to try out the solar panels for the first time by attaching them to the back of my panniers. They work best when they are directly aligned with the sunlight so keeping them flat isn’t optimal but they still seem to work. We connected the solar panels to the 10 amp hour battery to try and charge it up a bit.

Testing out the solar panels for the first time.

At the end of the day, we hadn’t noticed much of a difference in the charge off the battery, but 10 amp hours is really big (5 iPhone batteries) so it’s possible that the solar panels were working they just didn’t make much of a difference. Our route was also quite shaded so it definitely wasn’t ideal conditions for solar panels. As we get further south, the sunlight will be more direct overhead and there will be less shade so we should be able to get more of a charge out of the solar panels.

Our first stop leaving Sequim was at a food mart to stock up on food for the night. After seeing the car-campers and RVs enjoying s’mores, I was really craving s’mores, so I convinced Ethan to get graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate. Outside of the store, we met four more bicycle tourist! This motley crew of two boys and two girls were on their way to Sequim to visit some friends. They definitely embodied the free-spirited ideal of the 60s and seemed to be having a great time. Unlike us, they didn’t have fancy panniers. One guy just had two wire milk crates strapped to either side of his bike and one girl just had 5 gallon paint jugs attached to their bike. They were a reminder that we probably don’t need all our fancy camping gear in order to bike tour. I must say though, I have appreciated all the “glamping” (glamour camping) gear that Ethan and I have!

Our route to Kitsap kept us off the highways and mainly on side streets. The side streets are great in that they are scenic and there is little traffic, but they are often zig-zaggy and quite hilly. The zig-zags really add to the mileage and the hills really zap your energy. We had to walk our bikes up a few of the hills because some of the grades were quite steep!  This route was our first day really deviating and going inland from the coast meaning that we went up into the mountains a bit.  We could definitely feel the climbs and our pace was quite slow as a result!  Normally we can keep a solid 13-15 mph pace but I think we averaged somewhere around 8 or 9 mph on our way to Kitsap.

Enjoying the open roads on our way to Kitsap. 

We passed an old school house from 1912!

The views were great for taking a snack break.

Not quite the Pacific yet, but the bays are quite beautiful.

In the last few miles of our route to Kitsap we had to cross a bridge. It was a “floating bridge” so unlike must bridges where the highest point is in the middle, the middle was the lowest point. So it was all downhill for the first half and uphill for the second half. It wasn't as difficult of a climb as the Alex Fraiser bridge, but bridges are always a struggle!

Struggling to pedal up the bridge.

Thankfully reaching the bridge signaled being close to the campsite, so we should pedal away knowing the end was in sight. We got another hiker-biker sight at Kitsap state park and unpacked for the night.

Our campsite at Kitsap State Park. We definitely brought too much stuff!

In Kitsap we met another tourer who’s doing the same route as us! Like us, he just graduated from university and wanted to go on an adventure before starting his job as a lawyer. He’s from Scotland and only plans to do the route to San Francisco. Not surprisingly, he’s using the same Adventure Cycling route and map set that we’re using. He definitely planned better though because he packed a lot lighter. We have full front panniers and rear panniers, and somehow he’s managing with only rear panniers. Being from Scotland, he had never had s’mores before! He had overheard the kids at the site next to us talking about them so I was glad that Ethan and I had the supplies to introduce him to the best of American camping traditions. He found them incredibly sweet but definitely enjoyed them.

Anyway, that’s it for Kitsap! We've been taking it slow and definitely haven’t been reaching our goal mileage but we have the attitude that it’s more important to have fun than to complete the entire route. We’re still in Washington so I’m not sure when we’ll have service again but expect more updates whenever we have internet access again!

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