Day 124 –133, 12 –21 Nov 2008: Washington State: Couchsurfing with friendly people from Seattle to …Vancouver?!?
We suddenly received an email.
Read your profile. Would love to meet if possible.
How much longer are you in the Seattle area?
We called him and found out that Samir, his wife Madalyn & daughter Danielle were living in Bellevue, 25km east of Seattle. We had actually planned to leave Seattle on the west side, but as many times before, we let chance determine our route. So on a dark & rainy afternoon we said goodbye to Andy and off we went, across the Lake Washington Bridge and ended up atop of a very steep hill, where we were welcomed by Samir and his family. He actually had 2 other guests, 2 puppeteers that would be performing in the area the next morning. It was nice to be together, Maddie cooked up a great meal and we enjoyed the fact that the Internet made it possible to meet new friends like these.
For those new to Couchsurfing, Hospitality Club & Warm Showers, they are networks of people opening their house and/or local knowledge up to other travellers, supplying them with free lodging (a ‘couch’, though it can be a spare room, a sofa or just a spot on the floor or in the garden). Currently there are more than a million members inviting strangers into their homes, following the mission of Couchsurfing:
“CouchSurfing seeks to internationally network people and places, create educational exchanges, raise collective consciousness, spread tolerance, and facilitate cultural understanding.”
Samir invited us to come to his Cabin at Snoqualmie pass with him, which was perfect: fresh air, mountains, a warm cabin and a nice hike to Snow Lake nearby. It was a perfect place to relax before hitting the road again. We stayed one more night in Bellevue, did a slideshow presentation for his friends, got my iPod replaced and off we went
17 November 2008: Seattle – Tacoma, 79km
It is basically all city, all the way to Tacoma, but still there are some nice biketrails you can follow; first the lake Washington trail, then the curvy Green River trail, leading to the Interurban Trail.
I even managed to get a speeding ticket from a cop on a bike, see the image to the left! (Just kidding, officer Kyle Bear was nice and interested in our trip, see his picture here on 1000 Americans)
Ivana & I managed to lose eachother for the first time since starting the trip. I was waiting at the bottom of a long downhill, and she had left the main road somewhere halfway down, thinking it continued straight. After 20 minutes I made my way back up the steep slope and fortunately found her.
At least she had the address of the destination for tonight, so likely she would have ended up at Gerrit’s place somehow, but it is very discomforting to suddenly be apart when you send 24/7 together! Gerrit (see his picture on 100 Americans here) had prepared a wonderful meal for us, likely the tastiest we had eaten on our trip!
18 November 2008: Tacoma – Olympia, 73km
We left Tacoma on another drizzly day, but it cleared up soon and we enjoyed the ride throughSteilacoom and the forests of the Fort Lewis military zone. Unfortunately due to the zone there is no real other way out of there than to ride part of the I5, the largest highway in Washington, but that was actually better than it appeared. It is not only legal to cycle parts of it, but as the shoulders are almost 2m wide (6-7ft), it was quite safe. Still we were happy to be out of the noise and on the downhill towards Olympia.
Olympia looked like a nice town, but we had to rush to make it to Dan & Nancy’s place before dark, so we continued South right away. Dan & Nancy are inspirational in many ways, they cycle across the USA in stages (3 parts down, one to go!), spend their winters in Costa Rica and play in the sessions in the Irish pub! See more about their plans in 1000 Americans here.
We ended up staying another night with them and their cats as we felt right at home, listening to their stories and plans and of course to see them play in the pub. Ivana made more apple pies, she still finds apples everywhere, season is not over yet, and many apple trees have lost their leaves, but not their fruit and most of it is going to waste as nobody is picking them!
20/21 November 2008: Olympia – Vancouver, WA, via Castle Rock, 100 + 84km!
It was a dark and somber day. It never really cleared up and it was either raining or threatening to rain and the wind was not very helpful to get us up the steep (‘rolling’) hills… We missed our exit and again ended up at the I5, which was not so bad at all as in the dark, it is probably safe to ride the 7ft shoulder on the highway than the non-existent shoulder on a narrow and winding country road to Castle Rock.
We were welcomed by Cindy & Larry, an elderly couple who have raised 15 kids! They have 28 grandkids and 3 great grandkids. All but one of their children, in all colours and sizes, are either step or adopted.
They live in a great place with lots of farm animals around and we had the honour to be their first Couchsurfers.
We took a ‘scenic route’, which 99% of the times translates as ‘very steep hills’ and this was no exception… But the weather was nice, it was fresh and sunny and the hills green, so life was good.
Cycling relaxes your mind and you start enjoying the ‘little’ things again like smells, sounds and colours…
We were still moving South with Fall and though this meant the days were getting shorter and shorter, the colours next to the mighty Columbia River were beautiful.
Besides the Glaciated spike of Mt Hood, we also noticed the remain sof Mount St Helens, and impressive mountain, that had erupted (exploded) in 1980.
Mount St. Helens is most famous for its catastrophic eruption on May 18, 1980, at 8:32am PDT which was the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in the history of the United States. Fifty-seven people were killed; 250 homes, 47 bridges, 15 miles (24 km) of railways, and 185 miles (298 km) of highway were destroyed. The eruption caused a massive debris avalanche, reducing the elevation of the mountain’s summit from 9,677 feet (2,950 m) to 8,365 feet (2,550 m) and replacing it with a 1 mile (1.6 km) wide horseshoe-shaped crater. The debris avalanche was up to 0.7 cubic miles (2.9 km3) in volume. The Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument was created to preserve the volcano and allow for its aftermath to be scientifically studied.
So after leaving Vancouver, Canada a month ago, we arrived in Vancouver, Washington! Or, as Ivana’s mum said, when we told her we were in Vancouver: ‘Again?’.
We got confused by some of the very busy streets but made it to the home of Photography Professional Tom Hubbard & his wife Sandy (see them and their great websites here on 1000 Americans), who took us out for a great meal.
We almost made it out of Washington State, but it felt like we were about to enter yet another country: Oregon!
Kowalski, Status report!
Days go fast on a bike. Before you know it, you are one week ahead, which means that the memory of our cycle computers is overwriting itself. So one day is missing here (from Olympia to Castle Rock), which was about 100km and an estimated 750m up and down..
Our Santos bikes behaved perfectly as always, no problems whatsoever, my back was a little painful at times, but not too bad. Total distance covered so far 5700km, including 51,000 meters (167,000ft) of climbing!
Gerrit Nyland has Dutch ancestors, though he does not speak the language. His wife is a doctor and Gerrit is now a full-time home-dad, creating wonderful meals (!) and taking care of the household and kids.