Pillow-Snatcher!

day two of the S24O

You are reading part two 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 one is located here.

It was a terrifically uncomfortable overnight on the Thermarest – but I must have slept soundly enough because when I woke my daughter had switched pillows on us, leaving me with the smallest while she bogarted the two larger ones.  Here she is naked, her face all chocolatey, making a joke about how she took my pillow:

Like a champ, Sophie elected to stay in the tent while I took a shower and foraged for breakfast.

Like a champ, Sophie elected to stay in the tent while I took a shower and foraged for breakfast.

It turns out that even while camping my priorities are the same: shower, then coffee, then, at some point, breakfast.  Not only did I proceed this way but Sophie did as well. She stayed behind while I showered and brought our morning breakfast beverages (coffee for me, chocolate milk for her – carried in her water canteen).  Then I escorted her to the showers and she happily moaned in pleasure at the feel of hot water.  It only took a few minutes back at the site to break camp (although wrestling the Cabela’s tent back into its sleeve was aggravating).

How cool is it that ALL our camping gear is packed on our bikes?

How cool is it that ALL our camping gear is packed on our bikes?

Highway trip behind me, I’d found a new trip detail to obsess on: the number of bikes that can fit on a Transit bus.  Both for Sophie’s sake, and a soccer meeting later that day, I’d decided we would bus from Westport into Aberdeen (if not to Hoquiam and a few blocks from home).  The only problem with this was A. the fear some Transit driver will balk at loading my X on the rack (this hasn’t happened so far), and B. the fear that the bus would already have a bike on it -since they can only fit two.  In the case of the former obstacle, I am a pro at getting my X on the bus rack (it involves pulling the front wheel off) and I’ve found my confidence in doing so has helped drivers feel confident as well.  In the case of the latter obstacle, I just obsessively worried.  I knew at very worst we could leave a bike in town and venture out by car later to get it (ugh).

During my morning coffee run, I interviewed a man at the park and ride (another man with prematurely decayed teeth; Westport seemed to have a few of these working class young guys who were very friendly but looked like they’d had a rough go of it) about the bus / bike protocol. Before I rode off he told me if we headed into town, to check out the “boardwalk” that ran a couple miles along the beach and north to the Westport docks.

Which is exactly what we did.  Although the highway and town were sunny, a few blocks away from the beach the cold, clammy mist descended, bringing a cool breeze to counter the humidity.  The boardwalk wasn’t as I pictured, but rather a smooth, gently sloping path through the grassy dunes.

I dont mind biking on the highway or in the city streets; but I must admit, these trails were a real treat.

I don't mind biking on the highway or in the city streets; but I must admit, these trails were a real treat.

If I was smarter Id have done a pictoral panoramic of the wild, cold seascape here.

If I was smarter I'd have done a pictorial panoramic of the wild, cold seascape here.

Sophie was charmed that the trail ended right at the observational tower at the Westport docks, and she raced right to the top where it was very cold. I was pleasantly surprised that in climbing the tower we had a pelican’s-eye view of, well, pelicans – many groups that flew close enough it seemed we could touch them.

From in town Sophie elected to try the Westport Aquarium over the Maritime Museum (which has the largest American flag flying I have ever seen, but is probably full of stodgy old fart museum stuff).  It turns out the Aquarium has new owners who hope to put more humane exhibits in the 50-year old tank system that has languished over the years.

The new owners have put a spark of life in this Aquarium, which you can sense despite a rather shabby feel to the place.

The new owners have put a spark of life in this Aquarium, which you can sense despite a rather shabby feel to the place.

A funky little dry display in one of the old concrete tanks.

A funky little "dry" display in one of the old concrete tanks.

The new owner took me back to where the seals had once been contained; I was shocked to see how small these facilities were, but glad to hear seals will not be featured on the re-opening of the Aquarium.  My daughter purchased a pack of cardboard dinosaur figurine puzzles and yet another shell – a conch – for her brother, who loves to transform shells into building materials for musical instruments.

It was getting cold and clammy in Westport; we stopped for sandwiches at the Mermaid Pub & Grill (there are lots of breast visuals, under the guise of mermaid paintings and sculptures, in Westport).  It was a nice lunch, a delicious cup of coffee, and a good finale for our day in town.  We took our last few minutes looking at the whale skeletons housed in the courtyard of the Museum.  When the bus came we had no problems putting the bikes up on the front of the bus at our Dock St. stop, although I was both asked many questions and actually filmed by some tourist as I did it.

Sophie sat in front, and watched Grayland come and go. I messed about with trying to Tweet to no avail.

Sophie sat in front, and watched Grayland come and go. I messed about with trying to Tweet to no avail.

Grayland was beautiful, and again I wish I’d had a better camera, or could have popped off the bus for a minute.  The bus was populated by all sorts of locals, including a teen mother who formula-fed her screaming baby and a kind older man who was the only person on the bus (myself included) who thought to jump up and assist her with her monstrous stroller and carseat caddy-like carrier.

It took all in all about an hour to get back into Aberdeen, where we exited the bus, rode through downtown Aberdeen’s Crackton, and back home against a rather demoralizing headwind.

At home Ralph was kind enough to bring our gear in; it took only a few minutes to have everything put away.  I was surprised that a more minimalistic camping trip was so much more fun and so much simpler than any camping trip I’d taken so far.  There were no extra comforts so there wasn’t much to do except ride, eat, and meet people and see fun things.

Technically our trip was not an S24O as we were back home at 2:45 PM the day after we left. I felt this was a great dry-run of a camping trip.  I look forward to taking both of my children soon; I need my son Nels to be peddling, as I’ve noticed on long trips he is the only one to complain – out of boredom, I think.

We Embark

venturing out

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.

I chug coffee like other people chug water. But I did make it the whole five hours on this one 12-ounce cup of regular brew.

I chug coffee like other people chug water. But I did make it the whole five hours on this one 12-ounce cup of regular brew.

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.

The Chehalis River Bridge, which as a bike with lots of cargo, and little ones, is a nemesis of sorts - that is, in fact, conquerable.

The Chehalis River Bridge, which as a bike with lots of cargo, and little ones, is a nemesis of sorts - but one that is, in fact, conquerable.

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.

Little Hot Pocket. Most of our mini-stops shed take off her helmet to get some of the breeze on her hot head.

Little Hot Pocket. Most of our mini-stops she'd take off her helmet to get some of the breeze on her hot head.

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 stopped about every five to seven miles. On the trip we discovered an archery club, gun shop, a, um, sausage place?, lily nursery, and wrecking yard.

We stopped about every five to seven miles. On the trip we discovered an archery club, gun shop, a, um, sausage place?, lily nursery, and wrecking yard.

We got to the state park at 1:45 PM, just short of a five-hour trip.

Twin Harbors State Park is a lovely campground, with pretty fancy showers and a firewood truck that visits you so you don't have to go into town looking.

Twin Harbors State Park is a lovely campground, with pretty fancy showers and a firewood truck that visits you so you don't have to go into town looking.

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:

It was beautiful and sunny for the duration of our stay.

It was beautiful and sunny for the duration of our stay.

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:

Riding a bike miles and miles is great for one thing: a very active child will usually consent to resting alongside you for a bit.

Riding a bike miles and miles is great for one thing: a very active child will usually consent to resting alongside you for a bit.

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.

Our digs, bikes, and the Dirty Sanchez or whatever it is I was drinking.

Our digs, bikes, and the Dirty Sanchez or whatever it is I was drinking.

Hot sauce and cute guys

Hot sauce and cute guys

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.