STP

We had a wonderful few rest days in Redmond staying with uni friends Emma and Matt. Well, day one wasn’t exactly a rest day as they both dragged us hiking into the Cascade mountains. It was however wonderful to feel the legs working in a familiar pattern again and I felt tremendously free not having to drag a fully loaded bike with me everywhere I went. We had three full days off the bike and spent our time mostly eating and drinking everything in sight. Far too soon it was time to mount up again and follow the sunshine South.

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As part of our original plan we hadn’t intended on visiting Portland however we kept meeting so many people that promised a quirky city with copious amounts of beer and ice-cream we decided we couldn’t give it a miss.

The STP (Seattle to Portland) is an annual 200 mile bicycle ride where cyclists can choose to complete the challenge over a single or two consecutive days. The route is pretty well mapped with gpx. files easily downloaded and most importantly completely avoids the mountains. We set off with fresh legs and were soon enjoying being back on the bikes cruising around in the Washington sunshine. It was fun to be back in the tent which now feels just as homely as our London flat. Day two and we’d promised ourselves a ‘mega day’ the weather was set to turn by the weekend which gave us two days for the remaining 170 miles to Portland if we were to escape the rain. It started out well with a prompt start and Herbie might have even gotten out of bed first. We’d covered about 30miles and were trying to look for a rest point before our directions and road we were following swung a left into a military base. The road was very closed with lots of high fencing, barbed wire and security cameras. Just along was an official gate into the military base so we thought we’d try our luck and sweet talk our way in. Funnily enough it didn’t work and if that was’t annoying enough as we were leaving with our tails between our legs the colossal speed bumps we cycled over caused Herb’s back brakes to drop out… We still had grand plans for a big day and covered over 50 miles (including an extra detour 10) before we gave ourselves time to stop for lunch. It was beautifully sunny and we hadn’t really worked out where we were going to try and sleep that night, blessed with wonderful traffic free trails to cycle on we were having too much time enjoying ourselves to figure out where to sleep. The trail eventually ended in a town called Tenino where as evening was drawing in we finally decided to think about sleeping. Lots of procrastinating followed, including accidentally buying some of the most expensive fudge in the world. Laps of the town and frantic google searching for camping and it was the fire department who pointed us in the direction of a city campground. We thanked our lucky stars and headed over, only to find that it had been closed down three weeks prior. The toilets were locked and it was deserted apart from the towns homeless population. It was now pretty dark and our choices were minimal, hang out with the homeless or cycle another couple of hours. Our only reservations of camping next to homeless people is that from what we’ve seen so far they are often drug addicts and therefore unpredictable. I hate to be so prejudice, when I don’t know the full story but this is what was going through our minds. Not long after we’d finally made the decision to stay, tie our bikes to the tent and be gone as soon as sunrise we heard a commotion as one of the homeless guys realised another one had stolen his jacket and his tent. Off he went in search of a new tent remarkably returning not long after. We heard him tying to put it up in the dark for a few minutes before we decided to try and help. With the help of donating a spare head torch we met Eric and instantly felt a tiny bit safer that night. We still tied our bikes to the tent and left at sunrise.

An early start and a new day meant we were going to cross the border into Oregon, the day was fairly uneventful apart from our first Walmart experience, they sell guns and have special trollies fat people can sit in so they don’t have to walk around… We’d resigned ourselves to the fact that we weren’t going to make it to Portland before Saturday, which was pretty annoying because Saturday meant rain.

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After three days of glorious, SPF 50 invoking sunshine we awoke on Saturday morning to somebody holding a hosepipe over our tent, or that’s what it sounded like. Packing up was miserable, five hours on the same busy road was miserable, Herb getting a puncture was miserable, Loz face planting the tarmac after sliding on a rail road track was miserable, starting to get the picture? We arrived in Portland absolutely sodden, cold and hungry, we did have one thing on our side though. We had also arrived at the house of Andrea and Bruce…

A chance meeting at a supermarket in Courtenay, Vancouver Island led us to meet Glenn. We didn’t know it at the time but Glenn is somewhat of a travelling legend. Having sold up everything twice to navigate the globe and leave the rest of us feeling very inferior on the globe trotting spectrum. Glenn found our blog and emailed us to recommend going to Portland and if we did he knew some great people to hook us up with. Cue Andrea and Bruce, whom in turn met Glenn on a bus in Laos. There is a web of travelling legends starting to form here…

So, as I was saying we arrived at the house of Andrea and Bruce in somewhat of a mess. Soggy, dirty and having just trundled a lot of mud into their house. Andrea did that amazing thing where she was super calm and just took complete charge of the situation. I was given a bed, a towel and ordered to get in the shower, then we were going out to eat. It was so nice to switch off my brain and just have somebody tell me what to do.

We were originally planning to stay for two nights and spent our rest day walking around and exploring Portland. As we were having dinner on the second night Bruce threw out a lifeline and offered for us to stay one more night, he offered his car and suggested we take a drive down to see the Colombian river gorge. We tried and failed not to be too keen however we were delighted to take up his kind offer. We had such a wonderful few days with Andrea and Bruce, they looked after us, cooked for us and were fascinating to talk to. Their own trips take them cycling in South East Asia, they have some incredible home made videos of their adventures. We sat up way too late talking travel with them, spent way too long over breakfast setting the world to right and generally just loved being in their company.

We have been away for a month today and just keep being blown away by the generosity of nearly everybody we meet. I just want to throw out a humungous thank you to everybody we have met so far, we are having an absolute blast and long may it continue.

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