Thursday, June 28, 2007

Seattle: Part 2

Man Seattle is great. Yesterday I walked around the UW campus. Incredible Gothic architecture and views of Mt. Rainier that won't quit. Glad I didn't see the campus before deciding to go to UNC. I also took the bus downtown and walked around the Pike's Place Market, the Seattle Public Library, and I rode the Monorail (just for kicks). Today I got a cool tour of Fremont, the H2W (my postal code in Montreal) of Seattle, thanks for Matt Stevenson. He and his two cute little boys showed me the rocket (a 30 foot rocket attached to a building), Lenin (a statue of Lenin from Slovakia that a Seattle man bought after the fall of communism and one of the only monuments that shows Lenin with guns and fire rather than books), and the troll under the Fremont Bridge (a statue of a troll grabbing a real VW beetle). Tomorrow I'm off to the San Juan Islands and to Victoria on Saturday.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Day 7: Seattle

Original update from the road:

After 6 wonderful but difficult days of cycling, I have arrived in Seattle. Wow, I want to move here. The ocean, the mountains, and a cool city to boot. Granted it could fall into the ocean at any moment...but those are details. I have many pictures and journals entries to type up, but for the moment I"m going to go sightseeing and enjoy Seattle while I'm here rather than type away my vacation.

Just are as an overview of my trip, I rode from Portland through the Coast range to Tillamook, OR (cheese, wonderful cheese), up the coast past the Columbia river to Ocean City, WA, then headed east To Bremerton, where I caught the ferry to Seattle. I met lots of cyclist doing Seattle to San Fran...I sort of jealous, but I can always do that route another time.

Journal Entries and Picture

Day 1: Portland, OR to Gales Creek Campground
Dist: 85km

I arrived in Portland on the 18th of June. Spent a few days seeing the sites, catching up with old McGillican friends - Nick Phelps and Dave Brodkey, and drank lots of tasty Oregon beer. Portland is a fantastic city, I can see its appeal to young people. Beautiful mountains, very relaxed atmosphere, reasonable cost of living, and a general vibe of people who want to live in a community.

On June 21, the summer solstice, I headed out on my 2 month adventure. I had to make one small stop at City Bikes, a fantastic employee owned cycling shop in POrtland, to get spare parts and maps.

The ride out of Portland was the easiest of any city on my trip. Wonderful bikes lanes took me through downtown and across the suburbs to the coast range. On my way out of Portland, I was chatted up by a road cyclist, who showed me a short cut out of town that saved me a very large hill climb. The ride through the suburbs was easy, had elevation and winds on my side. Once I started on the mountain highway, cycling became more difficult. At first, I thought it was my bike...then just me being out of shape. I would push on for 15 minutes, then have to take a break. After doing this for an hour, I came across a State Forest campground, and decided to call it a day. After a 1 mile decent to the campground, I realized I had been climbing for the last two I wasn't tired, it was just slow going.

Once camp was set up, I realized I forgot a few items for the road: my guide books and cooking pot. I ate a cold dinner of smoked oysters, granola, and nutrient tablets. Emotionally, I fell very good. The last time I cycled solo was in Europe and I found that difficult. IT may be the travelling in the homeland makes it easier, or that I'm more mature and more comfortable with myself.

An observation on the forest - it terrifying. I'm sort of a sci-fi fan, and many sci-fi shows and movies (e.g. X-File) are filmed in the Pacific Northwest, namely Vancouver, and the forest feels like something should jump out and attack. But its beautiful and glad to see a new part of the country. One last note, I have some good reading with me. When cycling in Europe, I discovered that cycling solo isn't that different than cycling with someone. Its the breaks and camping that can be lonely and difficult, but a good book to look forward to each night can really help morale. I have 3 books, Phillip K. Dick (Do Android's Dream of Electric Sheep?), Tom Robbins (Even Cowgirls Get the Blues), and a book on Turkey (which I never finished reading and abandoned on Cortes Island).

Portland from Aerial Tram:

Portland from Aerial Tram:

Yours Truly at Rose Gardens:

Day 2: Gales Creek to Omstead West State Park via Tillamook
Dist: 112km

As I climb back up to the highway, I discover that I wasn't cycling slow yesterday, its just a big hill. I climb for about an hour and cross over the pass into Tillamook County, home of Tillamook Cheese. As my friend Christine says "Heaven on earth - fresh cheese and ice cream under one roof." The descent into Tillamook is fantastic, 1500 foot elevation drop over 12 miles through glorious coastal range mountains covered with thick vegetation. Once in Tillamook and I buy more food and a pot to cook dinner in. I don't actually stop at the cheese factory - its full of tourists and I'm stinky from cycling.

Cycling along the Oregon coast is amazing. Altough Highway 101 can be busy at times, the views make up for it easily...not to mention regular ice cream stands. As I head north toward Seattle, I notice that I'm cycling against the winds, and that the other side of the road has many more cyclists and the shoulder is much wider. Although the road can be rough at times, drivers are very courteous. Climbing up the cliffs along Omstead West State Park is incredible and very, very challenging...I have never seen scenery to beautiful, a high point of the entire trip.

When I arrived at the State Park, I found that there was not any hiker/biker camping and that all the available sites were taken. I found a ranger and asked him what my options were. Option 1) cycling back over the huge hill that just took me 1.5 hours to come over. Option 2) beg for someone to share their site with me. Option 3) go over to the day-use picnic area, discreetly pitch my tent and make sure that I'm on the road before the day-shift ranger make his rounds at 8am. I choose option 3. Pesto pasta for dinner, yum.

Over the pass:

Tillamook Country Dairy Farm:

Oregon Coast from Omstead West State Park:

Day 3: Omstead West to Cape Disappointment
Dist: 91km

Since I was illeagally camping, I decided not to put up my rain tent - it was sunny and it doesn't rain on the Oregon coast, right? At 6am I feel drops of rain on my face. I look up in my sleep haze to notice that its sprinkling out. As I lay there feeling nice and warm in the sleeping bag trying to decide if its worth getting up to put the rain fly up...its begins to pour. I jump out of my tent, in just my underware and quickly fix the rain tarp and jump back under my sleeping bag - a rude awakening, but I deserved it.

After breakfast around 7:30, I head north through the on going mountainous beauty of green and fog. Around 9am, the rain lets up and the sun come out - another beautiful day! The hills are steep, but again the beauty makes up for it. As I descend leaving Omstead West S.P., I approach a tunnel, with a button for cyclists to push to alert motorist that there are cycling pass through! I stop in Cannon Beach for postcards and batteries for my camera and think of "Stay out of Malibu Lebowski!" Ah, beach communities. After Cannon Beach, the mountains subside and the highway becomes built up and much less pleasant to cycle on.
I lunch at Fort Stevens State Park on the beach. Many families on vacation. In the distance, large cargo ship leaving the mouth of the Columbia.

After lunch, I head towards Astoria and the Astoria bridge which will take me to Washington State. The Astoria Bridge is the biggest bridge I've ever cycled on....or I should say been allowed to cycle on. It was a real challenge. A two foot shoulder, lots of traffic, very steep approach, and strong winds. I got vertigo on the descent from the loss of perspective because of the straight lines from the top of the bridge to the 3 mile along causeway. After crossing the Columbia River, I head west to Cape Disappointment State Park. I attempt swimming in the mouth of the Columbia at Wakiki beach, but far to cold. At my campsite (a hiker/biker site, but I'm alone) a local raccoon is annoyed that I'm not feeding him. I try to throw tent pegs at him, but he just runs off with them. After getting tired of him trying to take off with my stuff every time I turn around, I grab and 6-foot stink and swat the ground near him...he finally gives up.

Fort Stevens State Park:

Astoria, OR and Astoria Bridge:

Cape Disappointment

Day 4: Cape Disappointment to Grayland Beach, State Park
Dist: 125km

Rain overnight...big surprise. Luckily, the sun comes out and I'm able to dry out the tent...until it starts raining again - a theme for the day. In town, I buy groceries and ask grocer why so many campground and stores are closed - he says lots of rain is hurting tourism. I follow the 101 north through the Wallapa National Wildlife Refuge - beautiful tidal marshes, an ecosystem I've heard a lot about at McGill, but have never observed up close. After lunch, heavy rain for 45 minutes. I cycle hard to keep warm despite not being able to see out of my glasses, or feel my toes and fingers. Sun comes out again, and I begin to sweat, but not dry out. Just before South Bend, WA, I stop to avoid rainstorm ahead. I talk to my friend Olivia on my cell phone and meet a fellow solo cyclist (Caroline) heading south from Seattle to San Fran.

As I pass through South Bend, I turn west again and meet head winds. I'm no longer on the 101 - its nice to get away from the traffic but the road is rougher. I pass a group of 12 cycle tourists - looks like a high school summer camp group. The pace is slow about 15 kph because of the winds, my morale drops. About 10 miles before Grayland Beach, I pass through a Indian Reservation - Casino and firework trailers. I also have my first negative cyclist-motorist interaction. The driver of a larger lifted pickup truck tries to throw some sort of firecracker at me. He misses, drives off the road and almost flips his truck in the ditch, but recovers and peels out to escape. Cyclists 1, Truckholes 0.

At this point, I should mention that there is a noticeable difference in the type of vehicle and how the driver responds to cyclists on the road. For example, Prius drivers pull over into the other lane as if passing a car, where large SUV give almost no space. Luckily, tractor trailer trucks are generally some of the nicest drivers on the road...with the exception of logging trucks.

At Grayland Beach State Park, hiker/biker camping is listed on available sites, but the sites aren't on map. After asking many people in the park, I take a primitive site and go enjoy the beach. I want to call Carla...but no cell phone reception (I discover in the morning that there is reception on the beach....d'oh).

Cycling along tidal marshes:

Day 5: Grayland Beach to Schaffer State Park

Dist: 78km

I spend the early morning hours on the sandy beach looking at what the tide brought in and contemplating my next move. I decide to head to directly to Seattle, even though I'll arrive a day early. I head west toward Aberdeen. In Aberdeen, I meet up with another big group of high school kids on a summer camp trip from Seattle to S.F. 8 teens, two college aged counselors (co-ed), 50 miles a day for 25 days. Pretty awesome in my opinion. After Aberdeen, very busy highway and it gets very hot going inland. I find a local road the parallels the limited access highway. Following directions to State Park from big cyclist group, I find a run -down off the beaten path park.

Aberdeen Lumber Yards:

Day 6: Seattle
Dist: 107km to Ferry, 128 to Cousin Terri's

Ravens wake my up at 5:30. Unable to sleep, I get an early start. Its a bright sunny day, going to be very hot and it appears that the winds are not in my favour even though I'm cycling east. Light traffic on the back highways except the logging trucks. Most of the land is owned by logging companies. As I head east, I see what looks like a mountain, but convince myself its an illusion from the clouds because no mountain could be that give when I'm 200 km away. Later on I realize that in fact this is Mt. Rainier. I have lunch in Shelton, rough looking logging town.

The highway travels inland, and it get very hot. I stop for a mango smoothie in Allyn. As I get closer to Bremerton, the location of my ferry to Seattle, the traffic increases, pollution get worst, and drivers are less courteous. I end cycling on limited access highway for several miles before some tough hill climbs around a Naval base to the ferry terminal. The ferry was free (going east) and I enjoyed the views of Seattle and the mountains. In Seattle, Terri's husband Jeff meets me and takes me on the scenic route to their house, adding 19km, but avoiding any significant hills.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


I'm still in Portland. I needed an extra day to really prepare for the trip - buy supplies I forgot about: kickstand for my bike, fuel for my stove. The extra day also gave me time to properly check my gear and pack. Funny thing about last minute checks on gear; you don't expect it to fail. While its true that its much better for things to fail before a trip rather than during, its extremely frustrating to have to delay your trip another day or shell out more money for gear that supposed to work - in this case my expensive multi-fuel primus stove...this is the same stove I took to Patagonia and did not burn diesel (the only fuel we could find other than gasoline)as advertised. It did burn diesel, but only for 2 minutes before having to be primed again for 3 minutes. For all the cost and hype about multi-fuel stoves, so far I'm very unimpressed and almost wish I just had a coleman butane burner.okay, enough of the rant.

The weather is amazing, the mountains are beautiful, and Portlanders are so friendly its almost painful....but thats just because I've been living in the city too long.

UPDATE: I've made a change in plans. Instead of cycling east from Portland in order to see the Columbia River, Mt. St. Helens, and Mt. Rainier, I'm going to head west to Tillamook, OR and cycle up the cost for several days, before cutting back west toward Puget Sound, just south of the Olympic Penn. After much consideration, I decided that since I'm going to be cycling some of the most remote highway in North America past glacier capped mountains in July, I don't have to cycle solo through similar terrain. Instead, I'll go enjoy myself on the beach with my hammock and a good book.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Wow, this place is as good as everyone says, as long as you don't mind the overall hippy vibe. It really feels like the entire place is a giant Plateau-Montreal. I arrived last night after a very turbulent flight (I get, well,....everything sick, car, bus, train, plane....and we won't talk about the sea, what can I say, I was never meant to be an astronaut).

I got dropped off at Nick P.'s house by Dave at 9am, assembled my bike waiting for Nick to awake on his day off. After a filling vegetarian breakfast (I haven't eaten meat since landing in this city due to a lack of opportunity), Nick P. gave me a grand tour of Portland via bicycle. It is the most biek friendly city in Amaerica, freindly drivers, lots of signs and bike paths even across the river. We road over to the new aerial tram that connects the OHSU campuses. An awesome view of the city aw well as Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helen's both in perfect view on this lovely sunny day. Afterwards we road up to the rose gardens, which are in peak bloom. A fantastic site and incredible aroma! Then some more riding through the neighborhoods, a quick stop at a bike shop for spare parts for the long road, and beer, beer, and more tasty Oregon beer. Yes, Portland is that good, good beer, good people, hell, even rush hour traffic isn't that bad.

My plan is to head out on Thursday, most likely along the Cascades on my way to Seattle followed by Victoria, BC for Canada Day.

Cheers from the road (almost)!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Plan

In December, 2006, I finished my master's degree. A few months later I decided to start my PhD in the fall at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill. For sanity reasons (some may argue insanity), I've decide to embark on another cycling adventure before committing myself to a life on academic servitude - starting in Portland, OR and ending in Whitehorse, Yukon.

Cycle touring is a wonderful way to discover a new place because one can cover large distances while not being removed from the environment as is the case with modern forms of transportation like cars and airplanes. I was introduced to cycle touring by my good friend Nick Cowan while we were members of the McGill Outdoors Club back in 2004. We, including Nick's brother Andrew, cycled across the Patagonian Steppe to celebrate our graduations from McGill. In 2005, Nick and I cycled in Western Europe because it seemed like the thing to do.

When I have a chance, I will post updates and pictures. I will also check my e-mail - benjamin [dot] heumann [at] mail [dot] mcgill [dot] ca if you want to say hey.

Theoretical Itinerary:

June 18th to 20th- Portland, OR
- two days of sightseeing and beer drinking
- cycling via Mt. St. Helens and Mt Rainier to Seattle

June 28th - Seattle, WA
-cycling and ferry around Puget Sounds

July 1st to 12th - Canada Day in Victoria, BC
- fireworks at the inner harbor
- hiking and cycling on Vancouver Island, visiting Erica
- visiting Steve and Nina on Cortes Island

July 13th to 15th - Vancouver, BC
- Visit Bri and the Vancouver Folk Music Festival.
- Meet up with Nick Cowan and Stacey Frisk, cycling the Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island

July 20th - Port Hardy, BC
- Meet up with Nick Phelps, ferry to Prince Rupert

July 21st - Prince Rupert
- Cycling with Nick P. on the Yellowhead, Cassiar, and Alaska Highways to Whitehorse, Yukon

August 3rd - Whitehorse, Yukon
- Camping near Haines Junction
- Hiking the Chilkoot Trail with Carla Jensen
- Seeking out mystery man Chad Davey

August 13th - Fly out from Whitehorse
- back to Michigan, drive down to Chapel Hill, NC

August 15th - Chapel Hill, NC

UPDATE: Speelign mistake corrected, difficulties using random computers