July 27, 2001

7/27/01 Elma, WA

65 / 5283 miles

Yesterday, as I rode north, Mount St Helens was my constant companion. Even at 35-miles away, it was impressive (as was the even taller Mount Rainer north of me). I kept trying to imagine a bicyclist, much like myself, riding this same road that morning in 1980 when the mountain sent an ash plume miles up into the heavens. Just hard to imagine.

Another gloomy morning and cooler too. I was unable to find the Klein Bicycle factory, even after getting directions at a service station. And here I thought I was biking on flat farmland, when those funny map route designers found a hill that went straight up. It wasn't even paved, just oil and gravel.

All of a sudden, I realized people must be unhappy here. No one waves, no one. And the dogs are some of the meanest I've found across the US.

The sun played behind those clouds until I arrived in Centralia. The library was in the town square, almost as a centerpiece. It was another of the Carnegie Libraries that were set up all across the US. And the librarian let me sneak onto the computer for a full two hours. Good thing too because I had a lot of email.

Surprising, the bulk of the encouragement was to keep going all the way, don' quit. And deep down I know that's what I'm going to do. I just have to adjust my lofty expectations and enjoy this. If I'm alone with no one to talk to, I just need to do something, hopefully something productive.

I think the hard part is not having someone who "knows" you, at least a little bit. I tell the same introduction story a half dozen times a day. And I barely get to know them when I'm back out on the road again. I take the pictures and write these lines, but sometimes I just want to share the experience with someone, now!

After getting something to eat, I stopped off at Willie's Sport Shop that used to be Willie's Schwin Bicycle Shop. "We just had to find our niche in order to compete with stores like WallMart." they said. The shop sells all sorts of sporting goods including stuff like team uniforms. And it's also a Schwin shop too.

My afternoon ride was pretty good with very little traffic once I got out of the city. The sun was out but I was going to pay for those two hours in the library because of the increasing headwinds.

Talked a bit with a woman who was harvesting her bee hives. And at the Curfman Farm on South Bark Road south of Porter, I found some unusual flower beds. One fan shaped arrangement had a sculptured peacock body and a head at the base. Another was a full-size matron with a bright red flower hoop skirt. I just had to stop and take a picture.

A creative flower garden
at the Curfman Farm

Kind of made it late into Elma, WA. Stopped at several places asking about the Gray's Harbor Hostel but most people had no idea what I was talking about. One guy though it was near the fairgrounds.

Almost miraculously, I found it (thanks Nancy). Quite a crowd here tonight, nine inlcuding myself. Linda gave me the option of sleeping in the 'old camper'. My RV dream come true!

Mack Van Wyk, Marshall Campbell and Fred & Fran Strong are members of a Boeing Bicycle Club and just out for a few days riding, using the hostel as a base. When Fred heard I had also hiked the AT, he told me about two other bike club members who were hiking it this year. When they asked if I'd like to go with them to dinner, I couldn't refuse . And Mack was kind enough to pay my tab. People are wonderful.

As I write this tonight, it's raining, with more rain forecasted for the whole weekend. I've been lucky because I haven't had much rain since Kansas. But weather forecasts also for more sunny skies again on Monday. Hope to be in Oak Harbor by then. Already planning for my side trip to Vancouver and Victoria.