Back to Uncle Sam’s country

After 4 days of rest at our friend Mathilde in Kelowna (Canada), we quickly reach the border between Canada and the US. We are a bit stressed because we need to get a new travel authorization. Legally we are not entitled to a new authorization so everything hangs on the sympathy of the customs officer. Nothing could be less certain. After 45 minutes undergoing interrogation, good news: a new stamp is affixed to our passport and a new 3 months to travel the US is granted.

We enter the United States through the state of Washington, not to be confused with the capital, Washington DC on the East coast more than 3500 km away. What a shock. Within about a hundred kilometers we swapped the gloomy weather for a desert-like dry climate. Replace the smell of fir trees for the smell of apple trees and bears for snakes, … We did not expect these changes. Indeed, this valley wedged between Cascade Mountain in the West and the Rockies in the East benefits from its own climate. This is apple picking season and it is busy around us. Workers work tirelessly in the fields, while crammed trucks make trips back and forth on dusty little roads. We continue our journey south, ravished by these omnipresent cider smells. And the further we go, the more the state of Washington gifted us. The welcome we receive is exceptional. We are offered vegetables on the side of the road, a lift on a cold day, and even a lodge with a jacuzzi for a rainy night.

September 27th, 2019. We have to accelerate the pace because despite our efforts, winter catches up to us. A snowstorm hits Montana and is coming right to us. The TV news announces in loop: “A powerful blizzard swept the northern Rockies over the weekend: this is the first winter offensive of the season, but also the worst snowstorm for a month of September … since 1934!”. Simply put, no time to fool around. Using different maps, we spotted a small road that cuts across the mountain to reach Ellensburg, avoiding the highway. Which would be a longer and more dangerous route. Sue and Brent spontaneously invited us to stay at their place the previous night. Over and over again the state of Washington’s generosity surprised us. We leave their cozy nest, convinced that a beautiful day awaits us. The first part of this small road is nice, beautiful sun and no traffic. As we attack the climb in the late morning, our progress gets slower. One pedal stroke after another, the road becomes steep and turns into a gravel road. Too steep to ride, we have to push our bikes. The path stretches and the summit seems to move further away from us. A 4x4 jeep passing stops to help us. The driver says that we will never reach Ellensburg today. It would take him and its 4x4 another 1h 30 min drive to reach the pass. It would take us many long hours of “pushing”. We have a moment of hesitation. We do not really want to be caught by the storm, so we decide to turn back. What a strange feeling to retrace our steps and riding into a headwind. We would be losing an entire day trying to out-run the storm, sweating like pigs…for nothing. Yet, relatively, it is not such a bad thing. The day was not any harder than another and losing a day is nothing on such a long trip, and yet … it’s hard to accept. We sheepishly go back to Sue and Brent’s home, who once again gave us a royal welcome and even cheered us up in no time thanks to their contagious good mood.

We’re a day ahead of the snow when finally leaving the valley to continue along the Columbia river. This separates the state of Washington from the state of Oregon. We are now going towards the Pacific coast. We take a few days break in Portland as “house sitters”. We are in charge of a dog (Simcoe) and a cat (Finn) in exchange for accommodation. For the span of a weekend, we have the feeling of having a home. Especially because Portland is a great city where it feels good to live. The city is bike friendly, green, hipster and offbeat. We really enjoy the atmosphere and walking Simcoe allows us to discover the neighborhood from top to bottom. It was a beautiful discovery.

We reach the Pacific coast on October 8th. The air of the ocean revives us and we cycle at full speed pushed by a back wind. We swing between coast and inland. From beaches and a vertiginous cliff overlooking the sea, to forests of giant Sequoias.

We entered another new state: California. We did it! We (finally) found the good weather and the heat. Every day, we cycle under a beautiful sun and reload our stock of vitamin D. Every night, we pitch our tent under beautiful starry skies.

It feels so good. We are slowing down our speed, moving slowly to our next stopover city: San Francisco.

 


Anecdote

 

  • Since we have been cycling along the coast, we have seen; whales, sea lions, dolphins, elephant seals, snakes, zebras (we didn’t understand that part …), grasshopper rains and ONEtarantula.
  • As a tradition on the west coast and especially in California, cannabis is everywhere. Including at our foster grandma, 78, who hosts us in the middle of harvest and preparations of all kinds; cannabis maple syrup, Mac’n’Cheese’n’cannabis, cannabis anti-inflammatory cream …
  • As we were getting tired of American white bread, Grandma Karen has passed on the recipe of her homemade multigrain bread. We can now bake our own whenever we find an oven!