You are reading part one of two of the S24O camping trip my seven year old daughter and I took from Hoquiam, WA to Westport, WA. I’d attempted to tweet along the ride with pics, but out on the coast this ended up not being possible. Part two is located here.
Believe it or not, the night before setting off on a 25+ mile bike camping trip with my daughter, I was not obsessively worrying about highway shoulders or bad weather or traffic. No, what I (obsessively) worried about was some overenthusiastic motorist driving past me on some uphill or hectic stretch (as I huffed and puffed) and screaming at me to “Get off the road!” (or, as might be more the point, get my seven year old off the road). After all, there are actual hazards in using a bicycle out in the world, and then there are the things we in particular dislike. I have only been yelled at a couple times but it is unpleasant, intimidating, and yes, infuriating (Good sir, would you like to pull over and we could rationally discuss bicycle rights?).
The trip through Hoquiam and Aberdeen was very pleasant; we were able to ride next to one another much of the time and talk. We also saw lots of cats and neighbors out and about, which is a lot of fun for us.
As it turned out, all motorists except one seemed extremely courteous. The “one” zoomed past us at full speed without giving us an extra inch, right up the John’s River Bridge – one of two rather assy uphill narrow bridges with no shoulder (and I do mean nothing). The bridges were the only unpleasant spell in the twenty five mile ride. Sophie was a champ, plugging along at an admittedly slow pace (my seven year old daughter may be the only cyclist I will ever feel I have to slow my pace for) but having no problems – even hauling as much gear as she was.
Sophie carried all our clothes, our toiletries, all our food, and the first aid kit and pocket knife (these latter two items she was minorly obsessed with; always finding an excuse to suggest their usage). For record’s sake, I carried our Thermarest pads, sleeping bags, pillows, water, a couple tools and extra tires, and my own coat and hoodie. The only thing I didn’t carry was our tent, a large, heavy Cabela’s lovely homestead. It is very heavy, and I hadn’t had the time to research the best lightweight tent for these kind of trips (I’m open to suggestions on this). My load probably didn’t weigh much more than hers, but as much of it was bulky the Xtracycle’s panniers (if you can call them that) were the best choice, while Sophie’s bags could more easily hold small items.
One nice thing about this trip, it seemed to earn a lot of compliments bordering on astonishment from locals. In Bay City we asked a store proprietor how many more miles to Westport. She said, “Oh, it’s just around the corner.” I said, “Well, we’re on bikes, so I’m wondering the mileage.” Her eyes went up and she said, “Oh, bikes!” – as if this was an entirely different mileage calculation altogether. Which I guess it kind of is.
We got to the state park at 1:45 PM, just short of a five-hour trip.
The first order of business: to find some coffee. I hit one of the many nautical-themed espresso stands in the area and I spot a drink: The “Dirty Dive”. Sounds filthy, but boy was it delicious. As the barista pours a half cup of raw sugar into my cup, he says, “It looks like you guys are doing some heavy-duty biking.” I tell him where we came from and what we’re doing and he’s impressed. In fact I’m going to find that on the next day – many people amazed one could bike from Hoquiam with camping gear and a child. Our modest feat doesn’t seem to deserve that much wonderment, but it’s nice to hear the praise and surprise (the other thing we hear a lot of: “Be careful!” Yeah, thanks. I know they mean well, but I also notice the people who actually ride bikes regularly don’t feel the need to install the Bogeyman in us each time we set out somewhere).
Coffee in hand (or rather, on bike) we cruise through the park, check in, and find our site. Sophie hounded me to find the beach with her. At the trailhead she was off like a shot, and within minutes her clothes were in a pile and she was in the ocean:
We walked about in the surf. Sophie found her brother an intact sand dollar – the only one we were to see the whole time. After a bit I finally coaxed her into heading back to the site. I had been working so hard on the trip I hadn’t anticipated how much I’d like to have a sit-down, and how much nicer it would have been to throw the tent up (as well as feeling awesome at setting up camp in record time). As it was we made do with a rest on our Thermarest pads and sleeping bags:
At this point, we were anticipating the arrival of Ralph and Nels, who were bringing us our tent, a flashlight (the one thing I’d forgotten to pack), and s’mores accoutrement; also expected were our friends J. and M. But for some reason, I really wanted to head into town (about four more miles away). It was pretty cool to be able to pull a few things out of the bike and have a camp set up all ready – even cooler when a couple who’d packed everything one could think of came to my site to find an air pump for their air mattress (I might feel kind of awesome now, but later in the night I’d wish I had their bulky air mattress or something similar).
Sophie was amenable to town except for one clause: she wanted to ride on my bike. I tried to convince her otherwise, but the truth is I’m pretty used to pulling about 50 extra pounds. We absolutely flew into town on a sun-dappled, gravelled-shoulder road, passing many funny houses and odd worn-down establishments of questionable origin. I put the flashing tailight on for this trip because it was a bit of a windy, shadowy road and evening hovered in the near distance.
Westport proper wasn’t really hopping on a Wednesday night. We investigated long enough to discover the pizza restaurant I wanted to try was closed due to fire, and to answer many questions about my bike from a wandering semi-toothless young man who took interest (the man, on a bike himself with a dilapitated old trailer, did an abrupt U-turn and cackled behind me for a bit before finally coming alongside – in the middle of the road – and saying, “Looking goooooood. What am I looking at, here?” At first I thought he meant my cleavage, but we ended up talking more about the Xtracycle). Just before we turned back to the campsite I find another nautical coffee shop – with yet another “Dirty Something-Or-Other” that ended up being exactly the same beverage (that is, an Americano spiked with more sugar than one might think possible, cream, and topped with whipped cream and raw sugar sprinkles). We headed back to town and arrived just in time to catch the firewood truck, then the arrival of Ralph, Nels, and our tent. We set up the tent, then travelled into town to Sergio’s Restaurant for some Mexican food.
Back at the camp site, our friends came out and took pictures, then we shared some s’mores. Sophie’s dress was pretty damp from the sea-going so I hung it up and she slept naked. The little creature didn’t even have to brush her teeth before bed. We hit the sack around nine and talked long into the night, before falling asleep at precisely the same time.
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