~ Day 10 – The unbearable lightness of a ferry boat ride ~

06/09/2010 — 80.2 miles

Final entry. This one will be short. I am currently on a free commuter ferry from Bremerton, naval port town, to Seattle, megalopolis of the Puget Sound. America, the socialist transporter. America, the rhetorical question.

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is badass. This is a rusted out swash bucket of a ship, but it gets the job done. BC ferries could take a lesson.

I am adrift on this big ship and I cannot get over the levity of it all. I am done, played out, free from dry land. After grinding myself to dust or paste — depending on how well-hydrated I was at the time — on the 600 miles of blacktop that I’ve left behind, it is a true wonder to be on this buoyant big ship and to feel the rocking of the gentle swells beneath the hull. Here I am. I hear Seattle’s a right-old-town.

Melodie is going to pick me up from the bus depot. I adore the thought of touching her face.

I defy to think that this has been a life changing experience. I more think it might, maybe, make for a good story one day. The kind that maybe no one will ever appreciate. That’s fine. But I don’t think I will ever do this again. We’re about to dock, its back to dry land and the promise of a summers night ‘neath city lights. Over and out.

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Ecstatic. Soaking in the ether. Seattle in the Distance.

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~ Day 9 – Washington the Low country ~

06/08/2010 – 56.2 miles

After 8 straight days of 50+ miles travel and reaching the 500 mile plateau, my legs are becoming casualty to the lure of distance. I have become obsessed. Face this: the land is unforgiving. You try camping out, in the cold and wet, at the same camp for more than one consecutive sunset. You won’t like it. There is, instead, great comfort in grinding yourself to a paste on the road rather than sit there and shiver.

I awoke several times last night in horrid pain because I could not move my right leg but 2 inches for a more comfortable position. I very reasonably feared that I would not be able to rise this morning. But I suppose I constantly outperform my expectations (not really, but some humor here). After realizing where I was, the middle of nowhere, I read a bit before scratching my way out of bed. Weather looked fine, if slightly overcast.

Completely packed up before breakfasting on a yogurt, 2 bananas, dried fruit, and a bit of selectively picked at trail mix. Hit the road by 11:00, which was just fine by me. Setting out was a thing of beauty, as I coasted for literally the first 5 miles. Amazing. Rolled into Naselle, where purchased orange juice, hot/cold pads (for later) and some ice (for right then and there). Iced down for about 30 minutes by a pay phone and tried to call Melodie. Gone to Squamish with Tango for the day. Really wish I got her last night.

Eventually pressed on, through about 40 miles of Weyerhauser-owned “managed forest.” The reality is clear-cut hillside for just about as far as the eye can see. Its insane what they’ve done to their forests. Bugs were also awful today, was constantly pelted by dive-bombing kamikazes with clearly no will to live. Shame. Busted a spoke on my front wheel, which took me a few moments to realize exactly what had happened. Not sure exactly what to do now, but I believe I can carry on. I also biked past a road-killed deer that was being picked at by two buzzards. Picture this: riding through a clear-cut devastated landscape, constantly pelted by vile insects, limping due to a busted spoke, and having to slowly pass in real-time a rotting deer corpse and two giant buzzards having their take. Life is currently imitating the art of my demise. Southwest Washington is hideous so far. I am a long ways from the Oregon coast.

Settled on a campsite that I only intended to water at, but as the skies were darkening this was a good decision to stop. Moreover, next stop is Aberdeen, a place of which I’ve only heard unkind things. Ok, one thing total, and it was unkind. Still, point taken. Tomorrow, if I push, I can make it to Bremerton in order to hop on the ferry to downtown Seattle, the finish line. What a thought. This is my goal.

Set up tent, bedded down, began dinner (repeat of last night – chile and avocado, carrots, yogurt). Then it started to rain. Hallelujah, it’s the Northwest. What’s it been, 2 days? Had a good chat with dad on the phone, applied hot/cold pads with much success, reading, writing, killing strange little hopping bugs that seem to be falling from the sky. Still not crazy, I swear. Time for bed.

~ Day 8 – Astoria, the mighty Columbia, a bridge to nowhere ~

06/07/2010 – 59.8 miles

What peace there is in the bed of a decent establishment and the wonderful scents of perfumed sheets. Arose about 10:00, peacefully, and slowly set about morning tasks. Made coffee, showered, returned to prepared coffee, checked the weather, slowly repacked everything, leisurely. This was a good place I holed up in.

Out by noon, stopped for the first meal of the day at the first place I encountered. Had a hot turkey club w/ mashed potatoes and gravy. Mmmm. Trucked on along the coast, met two nice girls from Idaho on their way to Colorado (in a round about way). They were lovely. They asked about having a beer in Astoria, but said I didn’t have the wherewithal, and wished them well. Continued on through mountainous terrain and beautiful weather. My right leg, however, is in a very bad way. The knee is grinding and the lower shin is constantly aching. Consequently, I’ve been favoring my left knee and stopping often. It strikes me that Bill was so correct in warning that after 6-7 days of consecutive exertion, the body starts to break down. Yet I’m stubborn and can’t take a day off. Money is short and I’m finding it impossible to justify a day without travel. Its also addictive. Instead I’ve been going at about 75 percent. Went down to the beach today, all the way, for perhaps the first time since the Lost Coast. I believe that speaks to my will to keep moving.

Astoria has been on my mind for quite some time, for several reasons, not least of which because it’s the last stop out of Oregon. But it also has a mystique – the beautiful name, the incredible setting, and of course The Goonies. So I’d been excited to get here for some time. And today was the day. On the way I rolled over a truck weigh station, to discover that my cumulative load is 250 lbs. Not sure what than means.. 185 + 25(bike) + 40(load)? Something like that.

Astoria is olden, salty, sparkling, quaint. A jewel on the mouth of the mighty Columbia. One of the largest original Finnish settlements, it turns out. Cruised around town, through lovely neighborhoods, admittedly looking for Goonie clues. Not much doing. Eventually crossed the mammoth bridge that spans 4 miles across the Columbia River to bridge Oregon and Washington. The feat is stunning, especially when considering what it bridges – Astoria to absolutely nothing on the Washington side for miles and miles in any direction. What a capital project, what a rich nation. The cost-benefit would never be justified in Canada. Empires build bridges, I s’pose.

Once in Washington, rode some beautiful river shore stretch along the Columbia to eventually find a suitable side-of-the-road camp set up. Here it is, in the middle of nowhere, with no cell reception and a moaning forest. I am all alone, and feel OK. Veggie chile and avocado, coke, yogurt, and an orange for dinner. I feel very, very much alive.