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I did it! I finally made it out of Seattle, and escaped the grip of having a cosy house and warm bed to stay in. After the unplanned extra days off, I was punished by one of the worst weather fronts of my entire trip. It rained hard, and it rained long. All day I pedalled through a heavy, thick downpour. To begin with I was a little perturbed, but within minutes I was so wet that I literally couldn't get any more so without becoming a liquid myself, so I just got used to it. And once you're past that stage it's all good. I began to enjoy cycling alongside Lake Union, watching the rain bounce off the surface and gradually add to the water level until it climbed dangerously close to the road.
My other major gripe, that of having to negotiate a route out of the city, was solved in one fell swoop. Stopping at the Montlake Bike shop I asked about the fabled Seattle to Portland ride organised by the Cascade Bicycle club, and if anyone knew how I might follow the route. 'Why it's easy,' I was told, 'they spray paint the directions on the road at each turn!" And they had done just that, so for 204 miles from Montlake I followed arrows on the pavement showing directions out of the Seattle-Tacoma area, through the Washington countryside and into Oregon.
The ride was pretty decent - I can't say it was spectacular or special in any way, because it wasn't. But the roads were fair, the grades were good and the traffic volume was low. All this combined to help me ride farther and faster than I'd hoped. After so long off the bike I was worried about regaining my cycling fitness, and were I tacking the headwinds of South Dakota or the steep grades of Montana that might have been an issue. But on the STP (Seattle to Portland) that was not an issue. Despite the weather problems of day one, I made 75 miles by 6.30pm, and only stopped because I saw a relatively dry patch of grass beside a Baptist church just outside of Yelm, WA. Turns out it wasn't so dry, and I spent the night listening to the rain tirelessly work it way through the fly and onto the inner canopy.
Lewis and Clark Bridge
The next day the sun eventually made a welcome re-appearance, and all my issues with damp and soggy belongings was cured by a productive lunchtime drying session. By 6pm I'd ridden 85 miles, and crossed the Lewis and Clark Bridge into the state of Oregon. I felt fresh, and was contemplating pushing on to make a century. Luckily my lesser known sensible side took over, and told me to call it a day - it was only 50 miles to Portland, and there was no point running myself into the ground for no reason. So I took my own advice, and began the search for a place to camp in the town of Rainier, OR. I didn't have to look for long. Calling into the Rainier Community Church of God I met Pastor Steve, who couldn't offer me somewhere to put my tent but was happy to give me a real bed in his house for the night. I didn't take much convincing, and after a hot shower, some food and a relaxing evening with Steve and his family I got an astoundingly good night's sleep - more than making up for the previous evening. I said goodbye to Steve and pedalled onward to Portland. With the flat roads and lack of headwind it seemed like no time at all before I was crossing under the St. John's Bridge over the Columbia Rive, and marveling at Mount Hood towering over the city. I'd arrived, and in good time to grab lunch, a nap and some beer in the park.
Next up it's the coast - the Pacific Highway! Regularly cited as one of the most beautiful rides in the world, I'm suitably excited about it. A couple of hundred miles down the Oregon coast will lead me into California, which will be my last state in the US. Strange to think, but excited in a progressive way- New Zealand is gradually creeping onto my radar....