July 26, 2001

7/26/01 L&C State Park

59.5 / 5218 miles

When I got up at my usual early time, I discovered hordes of fishermen were already staking out their claim of the river bank. Last night, a woman tenting nearby with her family caught an eleven pound salmon. He looked huge to me. One man out for a few days fishing walked over to ask about my trip. As we talked, he just kept looking at the bike and saying over and over "That's incredible" with an air of disbelief.

As I've come to expect here in the Northwest, it was pretty cloudy. The route was a major highway to Longview, a big shipping port on the Washington side of the Columbia. Even with an early start, truck traffic was pretty heavy.

I was thinking a bit about my TransAm finish yesterday. Because I've set a pretty lofty goal with my first bike tour, it just didn't have the impact it should have had. Part of me wishes that I'd only planned to do the TransAm and then continue if I was having fun. Maybe down the coast or up to Alaska. I don't think I'll let myself be committed to a specific plan again. Famous last words!

Besides myself, I'm also doing this for Nancy's memory and ask her daily to give me a little support. I'm going to try and forget my finish date. I'll get there when I get there. Probably earlier if I change my route through the Rockies. We'll just see.

Coal Creek Road reminded me of the roads in the Appalachians, twisty turning with sudden ups and downs. And the dogs too! But I pretty much had the road all to myself.

Very strange round barn along the way

By the time I reached Castle Rock, the sun had come out. Was having trouble with a slow leak in my rear tire, so decided to put in a new tube. As I was changing it, who should drive by but Sharon whom I met yesterday on the ferry. "Monty didn't think you'd make it this far by lunch." she smiled.

After getting something to eat, I decided to take a five mile detour to see the Mount St Helen's Visitor Center. I had a short day planned and the ten extra miles wouldn't delay me that much.

The Center is the largest of several in and around Mount St Helen. There was a film and some pretty detailed displays on the eruption which took place on May 18, 1980, killing 57 people. Outside I got a chance to visit with people from Alabama, Colorado and Michigan. Now that I'm off the TransAm, people seem even more amazed that I've biked all the way from Virginia.

Once I got past all the tourist traffic to Mount St Helen, I pretty much had the road all to myself. Some times it was through residential neighborhoods, other times thick forests, and even some corn fields as I paralleled the Cowlitz River.

When I saw the sign above "Betty's Place" for ice cream, I decided a vanilla milkshake would taste pretty good right then. Inside were Don and Ron. Don is a pilot who lives here but winters in Hawaii. "Most airports are outside the city, and with no transportation, I decided to buy a folding bike." he informed me. Besides the usual local stuff, Don told me that Klein Bikes are made near here. By the way the milkshake was wonderful.

One last stop before the campground was the St Francis Xavier Church. It was built on the site of the oldest Catholic Mission in the state of Washington. Father Blanchet came to the Northwest and built the Cowliz Mission in 1838. One item I found was a tree carved with symbols to illustrate the history of the world from a Catholic perspective. It had forty lines on it to represent forty centuries, showing relative events like the crucifixion. This was used to educate the indians. This learning tree was copied by many converted tribesmen throughout the Northwest.

St Francis Xavier Church

Camped out at the Lewis & Clark State Park. Forrest, the camp host, says I'm the first cyclist they've had here this summer. When I asked about hiker/biker rates, they were unsure. But just then the ranger was making his rounds. "Sure" he said. The hiker/biker rate was $6 instead of the usual $13, but it isn't written anywhere. Guess it pays to ask.

And I like the placement of the hiker/biker site, right in the middle of everyone else. I'm closest to the showers and bathrooms, have my own water spigot, and everyone stops by to chat when they see the bike. Looks like I'm a minor celebrity.

After asking about my adventure, Jerry & Marylou Northrup invited me over to talk around the campfire. Jerry is an electrician but retires in two months, which he is very happy about. Marylou is a few years younger but almost has her twenty years in as a teacher in Lewiston, ID. She was telling me about after all these years camping with their kids very summer, the first time they camped alone without them, she cried. All the kids are married or in college. We had a good visit till late.