12 – 22 Oct 2021
Portland to Hermiston, Oregon via Washington.
I woke up on our host’s living room floor where we had been staying for the last few days. Truman was going to make crepes for our brunch but I started my day with coffee and some granola. Jim and Carol arrived around 11 am and soon after we are seated around the table sharing stories and listening in while they catch up on all the latest news.
After the lovely crepes, we load up our bags and the bike into the back of the pickup truck and set off for the home of Jim and Carol in Battle Ground. They live in a lovely house where they have space to keep a big dog as well as some sheep and chickens. We have freshly laid eggs for breakfast.
Jim insists that we stay for two nights at their place. The next day Jim takes us to the Multnomah Falls. The falls are very impressive and well worth the drive. We had been told about the Falls by Tim in Salem. We had thought that we would ride along the canyon to see the various falls but it’s a hard ride. We are grateful to Jim for saving us the ride by showing us the beautiful scenery by car.
After our second night in Battle Ground on the 14th Oct, we continue our ride up north. Jim was worried about the road that we would have to ride. It’s a steep long climb up a narrow winding road where the cars tend to drive fast. Jim very kindly offered to drive us up the hill and drop us off at the top for us to safely ride down the other side.
We had a nice ride that day, but we had no place to stay that night. Towards late afternoon we were still unsure where we would stay and also were running out of water. Just outside of Vader we stopped at a house with some open space in front of the house as well as a big garage/workshop. We rung our bike bell outside the house and Hanna came out. She kindly filled our water bottle and I sheepishly asked
“we are riding through on our bike, do you know any place we could safely pitch our tent?”
Very happily, Hanna and her family said we could set up inside their workshop! It’s a big roomy place and we don’t need to set up the tent, we just unfold our groundsheet and put our mat and sleeping bags on there. It’s good to be in a place where we can be warm and dry. Thank you Kenny, Elina, Hanna and Kyle for the space you shared with us and the breakfast you had for us!
After our night in Vader we have a long 50 mile ride taking us into Olympia, WA. It’s mostly flat and we manage to make good speed. Along much of the route we have a train track on our right side. We like seeing the trains. They are fun, they are mostly freight trains, very long with over a hundred cars and they are relatively slow. Not the express trains that thunder past. One train slowly passed us and we waved and we were happy and excited when the train driver sounded his horn in reply.
We rode into Olympia, capital city of Washington State, a little before dark. During the day Gale had gone online and booked us a hotel room close to the capitol building. Entering the city, the road runs alongside the Capitol Lake. It was a beautiful sight to see the rotunda of the capitol peeking over the trees on the other side of the lake. The afternoon sun bathed the dome in a warm orange light. It was quite a sight!
It was sobering though as on the other side of the road under the trees there was tent after tent of homeless people. They had gathered around the capitol where there are better services that can give them some of the help they need, but ultimately not enough help to get them off the streets and into permanent housing. It’s sad to see and as we have ridden around the US it’s not an unusual sight to see tents setup in the bigger cities.
We check into the old and historical Governor Hotel in Olympia. The room has a bath and it feels so good to fill the bath with hot water and have a soak. My legs are tired after the 54 mile ride and the hot water is lovely and relaxing for my muscles. After the soak we go to the Japanese restaurant we found on Google Maps. It’s only a short walk away and we are soon there and waiting for our dinner. It’s a delicious and big feed for us. Just what hungry cyclists need!
16 Oct we get up early and have breakfast downstairs in the hotel. It’s a simple meal but we order some of everything they have on offer and are filled and prepared for the day ahead. We leave our bags at the hotel lobby and ride to the capitol building. It’s fun and we join the guided tour. It’s more interesting to have the tour and we are able to go into some of the closed off areas. At the State room they have a grand piano and I was allowed to play the piano. I can only play my scales but it was fun nevertheless. After the tour around the building we had a mission.
I want to buy a new pair of shoes. We have been carrying my big hiking boots with us since the start of the journey. I have found that I don’t like riding all day in the boots so I don’t really wear them very often. Only occasionally do we get the chance to do some hiking that needs the boots. So I have decided to do away with them and get some sports shoes that will be a bit lighter and easier to pack when I’m not wearing them. I still prefer to wear my sandals on the bike as my feet don’t get hot and sweaty in them. But for longer hiking or days off I do prefer to have some shoes. We ride across the city to a big sports store. Happily they have a sale on and I am able to pick up a pair of hiking shoes for $26. A good deal!
After shoe shopping we need to head back to the hotel. Our friend, Mark, is driving down from Bellevue, WA to pick us up at the hotel. Perfect timing – just as we passed the final junction to the hotel, a car honked his horn at us and it was Mark just pulling up behind us to arrive at the hotel. We parked outside the hotel, loaded up our gear that we had left at the hotel and decoupled our bike. The front portion went into the back of the car while the rear part was hung on the rear bike rack.
Mark came out to meet us and drive us to his home, for our part Gale made pizzas. Freshly made, tasty pizzas with hand made dough. With her experience of making pizzas at home she was happy to share her secrets with the family and we had a good time with them.
We only have time to stay one night with Mark, Sunny and their sons. In the morning we have waffles and eggs for breakfast. Then a quiet morning, Mark is building a boat in his garage so while he is working on that we chat and I clean the bike a bit and wipe off and re-lubricate the chains. Later in the day we ride out with Mark to watch his youngest son play football. Sunny drives the car and meets us there, after the game we have another drive.
Kindly Mark had offered to drive us across the mountain passes of the Cascades towards Ellensburg and drop us off at the Yakima Canyon. We turn into the canyon road just before dark, it’s clear to see that the scenery is stunning. Mark finds a safe place to stop the car and we unload the bike and gear, walk into the brush a short ways to be unseen and then setup camp just before it’s fully dark.
18 Oct we wake up after a good sleep. Our camp was near the river and on the opposite side of the river runs the train tracks. In the night three trains passed, each one taking a few minutes to pass, but it only barely wakes us before we fall asleep again. It’s a lovely morning, the sun is shining and I poked my head out of the tent and as I looked over the river I saw a bald headed eagle flying low over the river! It was amazing to see, it was soon out of view but the look of the bird is so distinctive it’s hard to mistake it for something else.
Riding along the Yakima Canyon is amazing. It’s a fantastic road that winds along with the river, it climbs up at times but not steeply and we can manage the climbing well. At one point we are high up above the river and we see a train passing by on the other side. We like to see the trains. I don’t know why but they are fun to see.
When we were on the coastal side the weather was much colder and cloudy. Now we have crossed the Cascades and the weather is bright, warm and sunny again. It’s really a lovely day of riding. The canyon is wide and bright and we can see far into the distance both behind and ahead of us.
Besides the lovely weather, the great road and the beautiful scenery, the feeling in my heart is joyful, excited and I’m feeling full of the spirit of adventure.
Up to now we have always been riding up the coast towards Seattle. We have friends there so it’s always felt like somewhere familiar and homely. But now we are at a new stage. We have crossed the Cascades and we are now really heading into the interior of the country. We are going to Boise, Idaho. We have no friends there, we know no one and the direction ahead of us is very much unknown. No longer are we going to see a friend. Now it is just me and wifey on our bike riding to a strange new place. It’s exciting and I feel wonderful, full of hope and positivity for the journey ahead of us.
Our destination after leaving the canyon is the town of Moxee. There is a park there and we have checked it on Google Maps and it looks like a good place stay. After we arrive we ride around and don’t see any camp host like they had in the other park we stayed in before. We decide to set up under the pavilion where we will be sure of a dry night and we can even charge our devices. The restroom is not far away either. As it is open and visible we wait until it’s almost dark before we set up the tent. The park goers have all gone and the park is empty. We see sometimes a car pulled up on the side of the road near by. We wonder are they looking at us?
Around 9 pm we get a visitor, I can see his silhouette, he is a big fellow and from the outline I can see he has a gun and taser and other equipment on him. He is a police officer.
He is friendly and asks what we are doing. It’s obvious to see our tent there and the bike, so I tell him we are riding through and only staying one night.
“Is that allowed?” I ask.
It’s not allowed he tells us, but he understands what we are doing and knows that it’s hard to find a place. it’s ok for us to stay he says. He will tell the next shift that we are here in the park. They may or may not come by later. Yay! I feel relieved. He was friendly, we were polite and thankful. And ultimately it makes sense. There is no point making us move on. Where would we go to? At nine o’ clock at night we would be able to go nowhere. We would just pack up the tent and sit on a bench all night. And that would help nobody. So we are grateful to him for his understanding.
The next morning we rise early. As we are packing up another police officer comes to see us. I guess he is just checking to make sure we are leaving, surprisingly I remember the name of the officer who came over the night before so I told him that. I’m sure in a small Moxee they know each other. All good and we are very happy with this our first encounter of this kind with the police for our camping. It’s very possible that it won’t be our last issue with camping but we are encouraged with this good outcome.
19 Oct Buoyed by our police’s encounter we aim for another city park, this time at Prosser. There are several in the town but we choose one with a pavilion and again charging facility. This one we find even has a sink for washing our dishes.
About two hours before we reach Prosser we feel the back of the bike is bouncy. We spend so long on the bike we notice it very quickly. Looking back at the tyre, Gale see’s it is soft, not flat but definitely soft. We have a puncture. Seeing as it is still holding some air we decide to try to pump it up and ride on. Let’s see how long it will last. It turns out we only need to pump it once more before we reach the park at Prosser. At the park there are a few groups of kids playing football. I call it football, the Americans call it soccer. We turn over the bike in the pavilion while the kids are playing and start work on the puncture. It’s a goatshead thorn. Actually I pull six thorns from the back tyre and another three from the front. Only one had made it through to the inner tube. Thankfully the hole is not too hard to find, I pump up the tube and pass the tube in front of my moistened lips and I can feel the air escaping. It’s not too hard to fix the tube and I do it before it’s dark and we feel we can safely and discreetly put up the tent.
We feel good, our spot is out of sight but there is a dog that sees us. The dog is behind a tall wooden fence but I guess he can see us through the fence, also maybe he hear and smell us. Whatever he senses he doesn’t like it and he is barking. And barking, almost constant barking. Oh be a good dog and settle down, we aren’t going to go into your territory, please just calm down and be quiet. He doesn’t stop but we just try to ignore him and carry on with what we are doing. We had bought some minced beef in the store earlier so we cook our own version of dirty rice with some chopped carrots and onion, rice and the beef. It’s very filling and warming and it tastes great. Thank you wifey! No wonder the dog is barking.
I’m expecting the police to come again. If someone doesn’t complain about us camping surely someone will object to us making the dog bark.
But finally no one comes. After it’s fully dark and we have got into the tent the dog quietens down and we again enjoy a peaceful and quiet night.
From Prosser we are heading to Kennewick. We have tried again to find a warmshower host and we have a host lined up for us there. Wendy is helpful and gives us some suggestions on the best way to get to her place to avoid some bad roads. It’s good and useful advice. Today the scenery is new. We are in big open country and we can see for miles in every direction. I love it. I love that feeling of riding into the distance to some place far away and off beyond the horizon.
At one point we are directed down a gravel road. I don’t enjoy it as the gravel is loose, it’s slow riding and we need to be careful and alert. The road turns and runs alongside a canal, there is a sign that says no trespassing as it it Government land. I look at the map and it looks like it’s only a short distance and there is no good alternative road to take. We decide to ride on. The road surface improves and is more easily rideable even though it is still not smooth. The going is good until we reach a gate. The gate is locked but the way is open on one side.
We just need to push the bike down a little slope and up the other side, it’s not too difficult. The big difficulty is the dogs. There are three dogs barking at us noisily. Having been around dogs for many years we feel like we can read them and can tell what they are feeling. They are not being aggressive, only protective. But having three of them makes me nervous and they may act as a pack and that can be more risky for us. We carry on however but Gale picks up a big stick just in case. It’s useful to wave at them and keep them from getting too close. We make it around the gate and walk slowly along the path, shouting at times and the dogs keep their distance while still barking at us. One of them gets bored and decides to lie down. The other two keep on and follow us some ways but eventually we are out of their territory and they leave us be. We get back on the bike and ride on, we can see the bridge not far ahead that crosses the canal and rejoins the road.
We reach Wendy’s place easily and are welcomed in her home. They have a big house that at one time was full of their kids but as they have grown and moved out only Lucy their youngest daughter is left. We settle into the room given to us. It’s downstairs and there is a bathroom just next door to us.
It feels great to have a bed and a warm shower after our past few nights of wild camping with only a wet cloth to keep us clean. Our dinner is the remains of a big pot of food Wendy had made earlier. I eat a lot of it, it’s tasty and I like it. After dinner we get fed more good things as Lucy kindly fills our bowls with ice cream. I decide I’m glad Lucy served the ice cream. An adult serving of ice cream is much smaller than a teenagers’ serving. Cyclists need teenager sized servings of ice cream!
21 Oct. We stayed only one night with our first Warmshowers host. We are keen to push on as there is forecast to be a few days of wet weather on the way. We have an interesting day, there is a long climb up before a long descent. Our hosts gave us some good information so we could avoid a section of the proposed climb that would be on unsaved gravel. Yesterday’s experience has put me off gravel riding for a while. The climb up Clodfelter Road is long but not so steep, so we settle into a rhythm and just ride slowly. We stopped at one point for a little snack and a lady in pink jogged up behind. Apparently she had been following us for some time and was keen to chat with us. Angie is a very fit lady who enjoys running. She is very experienced and runs a lot. She is keen to try bicycle touring once her husband retires. But she won’t ride the way we do. We are carrying a lot of gear with us as we have all our camping and cooking gear with us. Credit card touring, is a much more lightweight way to travel riding from hotel to hotel and eating out along the way. You can ride a lot lighter but of course it costs a lot more money.
We chat with Angie for a little while, exchange contacts and then we all carry on up the hill. For quite a while I can hear the sound of her footsteps as she runs along, we are only barely going faster than her up the hill. Finally she falls behind once the incline softens a bit and we increase our speed. We wave goodbye and speed away.
The road continues up to the Horse Heaven Hills. It’s a lovely open space and we have our lunch there looking back over where we have ridden and in the distance we can see the Tri-City area and Kennewick.
We are near the top of the hill and we are excited for the downhill on the other side. It’s a long, long road downhill, over fourteen miles long of smooth, wide and quiet road. Before we go down we stop to take a picture of the road sign – Nightingale Road.
It’s a nice descent, not super steep but we easily ride at around 25 mph. We notice a couple of onions on the side of the road. And then a few more. Normally I’m reluctant to stop when we are heading downhill. I like to just enjoy the easy coasting that we have worked hard to earn. But seeing more onions we stop and pick up a couple. They have fallen off a truck that has passed by and we are passing freshly harvested onion fields.
An urge takes me and I decide to try them for taste. Wifey found a nice small one and I peel and bite into it. It’s not too bad! Not too strong a taste and it’s juicy. But the raw onion taste does build and I only take a couple more bites before we carry on down the road towards Plymouth.
We have a planned camping spot at the Hat Rock Campground just outside of Plymouth. There is rain forecast to arrive in the night so we set up the tent close under some trees and hang a tarp up over the tent to give us some rain protection.
The rain starts at around 3 am and it’s non stop right through to the morning. We wake up and it’s still raining although it’s eased off a little.
Still in our tent we decide to check the Warmshowers app for a place to stay where we can be warm and dry. Somewhere not too far away hopefully. I’m not looking forward to a long wet day of riding.
Our prayers are answered, just ten miles away lives Bruce, a host in Hermiston who calls us after we text him. A close family friend had passed away the day before. He had had a heart attack and died leaving his wife who is pregnant with their first child. It is so sad that this young man was taken away so suddenly and I can only imagine the pain it must cause for his wife and the rest of the family. So friends and family would be at the house, it would be a full house, but Bruce said if we want to come we are welcome to. He even offered to come pick us up, seeing as it was raining, but we declined. With all that is going on I’m sure he doesn’t need to be going out to pick up a couple of damp cyclists!
We arrived at Bruce and Janet’s home and as promised it was full of people. Yes, it was sad and there were some tears. But there was love there, it was a house full of love, a place of comfort and refuge. For us of course it was warm and dry but also for the family where they had the love and support in a time when it was very much needed.
We would stay a few days in Hermiston. A place of refuge for those that need it.
Thank you Bruce and Janet for opening your home and hearts to us.