Seattle – Shelton – Westport – Ocean Park – Astoria
We decided to cut across country to the coast rather than retrace steps and head north to circuit Olympic National Park. The snow capped mountains of the Olympic range have been a stunning backdrop since leaving Vancouver’s islands and we felt it time to go south. We cycled through Seattle docks and southern suburbs to catch the early ferry from Fauntleroy to Southwold – arriving just before the gate closed, the only time on the trip so far when Washington State Ferries had a prompt departure. Then followed 430km of cycling over 4 days, with stops along the way.
Our first leg – to Shelton, renowned for growing Christmas trees. Spending many hours cycling through forestry plantations, we soon understood why. A quiet route with lots of deer ambling along the roadside. Rolling, with some cheeky inclines and open valleys with headwind (great when I’m the one behind!) (Editor’s note: ….and pointless if I’m the one behind as Treanor provides no wind break!)
We got to Shelton early afternoon. A small town – sustained by trees, logging and the railways. Accommodation was not easy to come by but checked in to a motel on a retail park (rather reminiscent of C2C stopovers). Supper, much harder to find – how can over a dozen restaurants be within a 5 minute walk and none appeals (Editor note: because they comprised Taco Bell, hot dog city, a horrid Chinese, Burger King etc). Hurrah for a supermarket and ready roasted chickens!
Leg two – to Westport. Trees, trees and more trees, and warning of elks. Our first taste of misty drizzle. But it heightens the forest scents, changes the light and increases the sense of remoteness. The woodland softened as we rode through temperate rainforests with moss covered trunks and dense undergrowth, opening out to bullrushes and grasses as we crossed winding rivers.
A tough section of state highway cycling in to Aberdeen, heavy commercial traffic, and NOISE. Sign on entry: ‘Welcome to Aberdeen, Come as you Are – the home town of Kurt Cobain’.
A lovely stretch of disused railway along the coast and then some grinding out along route 105 to Westport – 30km , only straight ahead. Little along the way other than correction centres (warning sign – don’t pick up hitchers – pedal hard!) and Westport Winery – don’t pedal hard, I was suitable chastised for cycling past (it was getting on, a taster in town was calling me).
We spent 2 nights in Westport. A strong commercial fishing port for over 100 years – landing a tenth of the US seafood catch in 2016, 108m lbs of crab, salmon, hake, halibut, tuna, shrimp, sardines and others – that’s a lot of fish. Needless to say, there have been ups and downs being at the mercy of the elements. Canneries brought expansion and a flourishing fleet during WWII when the Government ordered tons of salmon and tuna for the war effort. Latterly, changing fishing techniques, technology, regulation and conservation are the influences. Tourism is also important, drawing deep sea anglers keen to catch salmon and halibut. The Grand prize for the heaviest chinook (big salmon) of the season is $10,000 – at the top of the leader board is a woman’s catch at 125lb.
We had fab places to stay – typifying why people visit – a beach hut with Pacific rollers on one side, trawlers in the marina on the other and then moved to a dudes’ hanging-out surfing lodge.
Leg three – to Ocean Park, and our first stretch on route 101 proper. Wow, a long one – somehow we hadn’t registered it was going to be 100 miles. That’s a pedElle day but without the lovely Club Peloton support. We managed – carrying luggage, navigating, being mechanics (first puncture of the trip), finding pit stops, maintaining a sense of humour – just, thanks to Donna Summer and 80’s revival pounding out of ‘Ultimate Ears’, our on-the-go speaker. Fortunately, it was an attractive route – forests, coastal sand flats, breakers on the horizon, clam beds, river inlets, marshlands, hillsides tumbling in to wide estuaries. In places reminiscent of Scottish lochs although Tsunami warning signs awakened reality. More rain initially then golden evening sunshine to bring us in. By the end we were pooped. A characterful B&B – chintz embodied – not our usual choice but flouncing drapes, florals, doilies, quilts were strangely comforting. Supper at the newly opened grill in town -so new- it had no licence or card facilities. Luckily we could scrape together enough cash for local clams – delicious.
We spent a couple of days at Ocean Park – taking in the oysters, they feature everywhere. Nearby Oysterville has sone of the oldest oyster beds on the coast. We learnt, we sampled. We found mountains of discarded shells, now being used in conservation projects, which is good news. We relaxed, read, blogged and walked on long sandy beaches.
Next stop Oregon. Getting in to Oregon was not quite so simple. It involves crossing the 5km bridge spanning the Columbia River estuary. Having had lovely gentle ride through sand dunes along the Discovery Trail to Cape Disappointment – an important defence and trading harbour, we got to the bridge. It’s impressive but very long, high, narrow with blustery cross-winds. We adhered to sound advice at an earlier café stop to ‘ask for a ride’. In order to assist us the café owner gave us two paper plates and wrote on them: ‘lift across bridge please’. We got to the bridge and gulped and decided that we should listen to the advice. We stood at the side of the road and held up our plates. After about two minutes we were picked up by a very smart SUV and deposited on the other side.
In Astoria we stayed in the first automobile garage in town, now a cosy studio. We had locally brewed beer with sea lions. And in the morning, yoga – we were the only students, on the water’s edge, seals bobbing, lutes playing and a teacher of noble stature; it felt rather regal.
Some highlights, in no particular order: –
- Komoot – our navigating app that finds the most pleasurable cycling routes. Invaluable. –
- Random conversations, everyone is SO friendly – disbelief from many that we travel so light; cautionary tales about loose bungee cables; the man from Dept of State Works re-routing us to avoid miles of broken rocks; gossiping in the laundromat; blackberry bottling tips from an old boy foraging at the side of the road; the ice cream delivery man who made our ‘ride, please’ sign and James and Christian who kindly took us over R Columbia.
- The American diner, always a legendary woman at the helm – Bethel’s, Sheila’s, Blondie’s, Three Sisters, Sara’s.
- Jen’s ability to hunt out the best lunch spots.
- Brightly coloured Espresso huts, just when you need one – perfect refuelling. The coffee gets better and better the further south we go.
- Bennett’s Fish Shack, Westport – can vouch for ‘the best’ halibut and chips in the West. Salty sea-dogs, waders, wellies and fishy tales.
- Epic breakfasts at Blue Buoy, WestPort and Charles Nelson B&B, Ocean Park. –
- A house called ‘Clamalot’.
- Enormity – the trucks, trailers, jeeps are massive, and forever pulling another one behind.
- Discovering the word ‘sessionable’ to describe certain beers…perfect. And yup we have found some very ‘sessionable’ varieties!
- Being asked for ID buying beer in the supermarket. It seems ‘time-out’ has its benefits!