PNW Bikepacking--Part 3
Day 7, Lake Quinault to Hoquiam
Yesterday was the emotional low of the trip for sure. I thought I had exhausted all of the tears until I woke up before sunrise to get an early start and realized my tires were very underflated. It says a lot that I had ridden for five days without needing air. But oh guys, I was dreading using my hand pump. It takes a lot of muscle I barely have to pump with a regular pump let alone a hand pump. Its basically only for emergencies. And now I was facing that dreaded emergency.
I was super discouraged at the set back. So I decided to start packing instead. Periodically I would feel the tire in hopes that the problem would have magically resolved. I was consistently disappointed and would continue packing. Tears started. Once the bike was all ready to go I sat for a bit and then decided I just had to face it because this avoidance tactic wasn't working. I spent almost an hour trying to pump up that *swear word* tire. The minute I felt like it was working, the pump would slip and let air out. 😡😭😡😭😡. It was SO infuriating!!!!
It grew late enough that the local mercantile and mechanic shops opened. I tried both to see if either had a foot pump or a compressor with the right valve. Negative. My front tire was passable. But my back tire was pretty low too. I was worried if I tried to pump the back tire, I would let all of the air out. So I decided to just head out and deal with it. And yes I was still in tears.
Luckily as I was leaving the mechanic, I saw a glorious scene: A bus! A bus! I had no idea where the bus stop was but man did I make some serious eye contact with the driver. He stopped and let me on. He said he could take me back to the 101. Okay, at least I wouldn't have to go back up those dreaded hills after the tire debacle of 2016.
I made it about ten minutes down the 101 before I admitted to myself that the back tire was not going to cut it. There was some serious dragging. I was mad but accepted that I needed to just get her pumped even if it took me another hour. No point in avoiding the inevitable. I pulled over and wedged the tire between my shoe and used my head and entire body to crunch out those pumps. I realized that there was a way to lock the pump on (something I had tragically missed before! Ugh!)
Thankfully, the rough hard times decided to give me a reprieve (hormones leveling out?). I was way faster than expected and arrived in Hoquiam without further incident around 1pm. That's WAYYY sooner than I expected! My Air BnB host was super nice and let me check in an hour early. I also had a friend come and visit me from Seattle. It was fun to talk about life and travels and eat some excellent pub food.
Day 8, Hoquiam to Bruceport
Before leaving town I stopped at the local bike shop and topped off my air (thus avoiding future meltdowns with the hand pump) and lubed my chain. I bought some donettes and milk for breakfast, aka manna from heaven, and headed on the road. It's a good thing emotions ebbed because today's mileage involved the most hills I had the whole trip. It was a LOT of walking. I think that would have broken me yesterday. But today I felt very zen about it. Note to readers and to self that if one is touring, one needs a bike with low gears. Have I mentioned this before? Well I'll say it again. My bike did not have enough low gears to haul that weight up those hills. I'm definitely blaming the bike of course and not my own lack of muscle haha.
I stopped at a gas station in Raymond to fill up my water and rewarded myself with my leftover donettes for lunch--after those hills I deserved to earn back every calorie I spent! I was sitting there on the sidewalk of this pretty ghetto Chevron station, catching up on an article my friend sent me that ranked American Girl dolls according to betchiness. I was laughing uncontrollably to myself when all of a sudden I heard a car drive up, music loudly blaring, bass thumping, I knew those lyrics. It was HAMILTON!!!!!!!!
This adorable kid hops out of his car and fills up his gas. I shout out to him, "You listening to Hamilton?!" He looks surprised then breaks into a smile and is like "Yes! You know Hamilton?!" We gushed in our fandom for a few minutes, sharing our favorite songs. In case you don't know how much I love this play I haven't seen but somehow have memorized, I will tell you this made my whole day. I was happy to continue the rest of my mileage to Bruceport Campground/RV park, pedaling to "Guns and Ships" and "Cabinet Battle #1."
This campground was much prettier than expected and I met some other cyclists who were touring from Canada to San Franscisco. It was so nice to meet other bikers! Dave, Kim, and Mary were so nice and I guess limited human contact made me extra chatty. I walked away wondering how I just word vomited all over them. We talked about tomorrows mileage. I was debating taking the longer 101 or the shorter 4 anad 401 that I heard had more hills. Kim had a magical book that mapped out the elevation changes on certain routes and I opted to take the longer route on the 101 that seemed to have minimal hills and was more scenic since it followed the coast line. At this point, I am all about the path of least resistance my friends.
Okay, so one question I get asked a lot is if I was ever afraid or nervous about being alone. Up until today I really have not felt afraid at all. Like no creeper vibes. I've felt safe and people have been so nice. It wasn't until yesterday when I talked with a fellow Air BnB guest that I started feeling nervous. This woman shared how she could never do what I'm doing. She has always been with someone and is so scared of people and being alone. She wouldn't even walk her dogs alone in Hoquiam. She was just so full of fear! Granted, Hoquiam and Aberdeen were kind of depressing towns that looked a bit run down but I never felt scared until talking to her! I think I just absorbed the anxiety she was leaking out everywhere. I had a bad dream that night and woke up thinking I heard gravel crunching under shoes at my camp. Then I realized it was my tent rain fly flapping in the breeze. I rolled my eyes at myself and determined to no longer let myself be influenced by this random stranger's fears.
Day 9, Bruceport to ASTORIA!
Today's mileage was the longest planned mileage of the trip. It's 50 miles to Astoria from Bruceport. I woke up early, passed along my free fuel to my Canadian biking friends and made my way to Astoria. It was actually quite cold. I am glad I took this route. Initially I was nervous because the shoulders weren't that great but then they widened up and the roads weren't very busy. I rode through a wildlife reserve and the views were quite pastoral. I thought I was going to find more beaches near the water but it was actually a lot of mud flats.
When I finally saw the Astoria bridge in the distance, I was SO excited! But my initial excitement waned as I started up the bridge. Man is that bridge looooooonnnng! 4.1 miles I would later find out from Google. And it goes uphill! And it was under construction! But it was a pretty great color of teal so I found a grain of forgiveness for the archictect.
I cycled my way to the hospital to say hi to my friend Angela and then left her to be a productive adult while I took my bike to the bike shop so I could ship it home.
And that was it. After exactly one week of solo touring, over 270 miles covering the entire state of Washington, I don't even want to know how many pounds of gear and water, glorious camping, not so glorious sunburns, bug bites galore, and the making of an excellent mid-thigh tan line, tears and triumphs, I pedaled that last 50 miles and FINISHED something I never thought I would actually follow through with. Even at my halfway point, there was a large part of me that expected to not finish (#phoneafriend). It's pretty surreal. But seriously, it's proof that if you are willing to get out of your comfort zone, you'll find the impossible is not so impossible and you are more capable than you know.