11th October Vancouver – Bellingham (49 miles)
Sad really to be crossing the border out of Canada. Difficult also to convert distances back to miles as it just seems like you are not getting the same return in units for your pedaling exertion. The border crossing was trouble free yet a few of the questions from the USA border control were puzzling. For example when they try to ascertain whether you have sufficient funds to survive in USA, a response that you have a credit card is deemed acceptable. Just how it is that being in debt is proof enough that one will not burden the US social security system or get stranded here seems a bit odd. No matter, on-on. Canada has been a great ride full of wonderful country side, challenging distance and the people have been helpful and pleasant. Now it is on the ‘the lower 48’.
12th October Bellingham – Couperville (50 miles)
Camped just south of Bellingham (alone as no one else seems silly enough to be camping at this time of year up here) and took the Chukunut Drive back-road down along the coast. A lovely bit of road winding through the forest lining the coast past the oyster bars then farms further south. Decided to head across the bridge south of Bellingham through the (adjoined) island of Whidbey. The road cuts across the majestic Deception Pass via a magnificent single span bridge and then on to the fishing villages that dot the coast. Have treated myself to a stay in a luxurious little guest house just outside Couperville (see photos) made entirely of local logs that creak under every step. Mussels are deserving of some recognition. The oysters, however, are tiny and nothing to write home about.
13th October Coupeville – Quicene (30 miles)
There was a short ferry ride back to the mainland and from there the road turns down the eastern coast of the Olympic Peninsula which it hugs on the way towards the state capital, Olympia. Coupeville is a lovely picture-postcard fishing village (refer picture post card shot of adventure cyclist on Couperville Pier). Today I was lucky enough to come across the best example of road-side kitsch so far. 10 miles south of Port Townsend where Route 20 meets Hwy 101 heading south I encountered the “largest wooden hamburger in the world!” The staff claim the original burger was even bigger than the current one, which is saying something because this burger is pretty big. As a bonus there are all manner of wooden items with faces carved into them hanging from the cafe. Mr One-Eyed Hairy Guy is skillfully rendered while Mr Baseball and Mr Baseball Bat are wonderfully matched. Just how Mr Turd got a look-in is difficult to determine and I didn’t ask.
14th October Quicene – Olympia (75 miles)
Olympia is a seriously cool city. Being the very cool adventuring cyclist that I am I can easily recognise cool when I see it and this city has it by the bucket load. This city takes its coffee, beer, food, grunge, grrl, (and adventure sports/cycling) seriously. While some would contest where the origin of Grunge really was (‘The Scientists’ from Perth in Australia amongst them), there is an almost nostalgic grunge appeal to this place, as it has been a good while since Smells Like Teen Spirit was new. Nothing new under the sun and certainly nothing new in Western popular music since trance and rap some now argue with increasing credibility. With the ‘occupy the city square’ movement in full swing at the moment the left-wing fringe (including a good smattering of the lunatic and just plain stoned fringe) are out in full force. It was Winston Churchill who said, “the greatest argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with a voter” and a case can be made for this position after just a few interactions with the great unwashed hoypoloy across the road in the park. All are in good spirits, however, and some are just straight out stoned out of their tiny minds, which helps. A protest clash with the right-wing loons from the local chapter of the Tea Party would be good sport though but I fear that they are lying low at the moment. Am sampling the many micro-brews of increasing variety in NW USA and there is a congenial vibe in the pubs and restaurants I’ve been in so far. 4th Avenue is all pubs, cafes, theatres, adventure gear places and book shops. Will stick around for a day or so and soak it up perhaps in some of the best coffee houses of the trip to date. Am now south of Seattle where I first landed in USA before flying to Deadhorse, which seems significant for some reason. From here we are in serious bicycle country and the next destination is Portland (the bike capital of USA).