Have you followed this whole journey from the beginning? Follow this link to find all the episodes of our North American Cycle Tour – 2019.

Saturday 20th July: South Hill to Vail (Washington, USA): Ride in a van.

We had planned our route south down through Washington State to catch up with a few friends that we’d made last year. They’d invited us back knowing we would return to ride The Rocky Mountains and complete our TransAm.

We have already seen Sarit and Roger in Everitt and Jeremy and Jacqui on Bainbridge Island. Now we were heading over to the Olympia region to catch up with Jeff, the guy who helped us out carrying our extra luggage so that we could climb up Going To The Sun Road in Glacier National Park last year.

That was the plan at least! This morning I woke up with gout in my knee and my foot and wasn’t about to go riding anywhere. I’m pretty sure it was the massive steak and ribs I ate in Everitt a week or so ago. I rarely eat red meat because of my gout problem, so this was the result. I haven’t had gout in 2 joints at the same time for years. That must have been one really good steak Roger!!!

We couldn’t afford to stay another day or so at George’s Airbnb, so we called  Jeff and asked if he could pick us up in his van. He had already offered, but we didn’t want to inconvenience him. Thankfully, he wasn’t busy and was happy to come and get us.

Jeff would pick us up at noon, which was great as it gave us time to fix Shazz’s flat tire that we’d just noticed. It was great to see him again as he got out of his van. He’s one of the nicest blokes we know, and here he was, doing us another favor! We stowed everything in the back of his Chevy van and headed over to Yelm to Jessica’s place. Jessica is his girlfriend, and she’s just as nice.

Jeff had been busy this morning. He was smoking some pork and spare ribs out on the rear porch of Jessica’s house. He stuck a beer in our hands, and we sat chatting and catching up while the smoker did its job. So much for fixing my gout! I’ll probably have it for a month after this!

Joining us for lunch was Jim and Julie, Jeff’s sister, and we had a great afternoon eating and drinking and learning about our new friends and their families. In the evening, we drove back to Jeff’s place in Vail, not far from Yelm. Jeff lives in a pre-fab house in the back blocks, where he enjoys his peace and quiet. After showing us his home and where everything was, he returned to Jessica’s place and left us his bed for the night! We felt quite humbled by this fella and what he has done for us.

We stayed three nights at Jeff’s place. Jeff and Jessica came around the next day with a sofa bed they bought for Jeff’s place. I had a sneaking suspicion that they’d bought it just for us, as Jeff had to sleep back at his own place tonight.

Once we’d got the sofa bed in place, Jeff and Jessica drove us up to Mount Rainier National Park. We stopped to see the Recycled Spirits of Iron Sculpture Park, an impressive collection of wrought iron creations one man’s imagination brought to life. It’s a donation-only entrance fee to see scrap metal assembled into art.

An iron horse at Recycled Spirits.
A rusty old Ford at Recycled Spirits.

Mount Rainier is actually a volcano and the centerpiece of the park. It is covered in snow all year round and has lots of hiking trails and a glacier tumbling ever so slowly down one of its flanks. It’s a winding road through dense forest that takes you up there, and every now and then, we’d stop at various viewpoints. The super-busy Visitor’s Centre had a great 3D display of the mountain with all the hiking routes marked. You could see long lines of hikers heading towards the mountain, it was a great day, but we hadn’t come prepared.

Sharyn and I are at Mt Rainier NP Entrance gate.
The glacial moraine on the side of Mt Rainier.
Just like in the documentaries!
Long lines of day hikers headed out in all directions from the Visitor’s Centre.

We stopped at Ashford on the way back for dinner at the Base Camp Grill. The place was full of hikers, still kitted out in their walking gear, putting back the calories they’d burned today on the trails.

Jeff and Jessica posing proudly with their mountain.

We dropped Jessica off at her place in Yelm, picked up a few beers, and headed back to Jeff’s place for the night. He pulled out the sofa bed and slept on that, leaving us his bed again, even though we insisted he slept in his own bed. The man’s a saint!

Jeff cooked a huge fry-up for breakfast the next morning with the leftover pork from the smoker. We spent the day at his place, only wandering out to get some beers for dinner. After work, Jessica came around to eat, and we got to meet her daughter, Lexie, and her boyfriend, Trey, who are both big into fishing. All these guys have the great outdoors in their blood, and this area here in southern Washington State provides numerous opportunities for them to get out there.

Tuesday 23rd July: Vail, Washington to Portland, Oregon, USA: Jeff’s van

Attempting to make up some time, we asked Jeff to drive us down to Portland, about 120 miles, or three days on the bikes. We had decided to cycle down the center of Oregon to Eugene, then cross over to the coast. This would mean we wouldn’t have to get over the Astoria-Megler Bridge that spanned the inlet of the Columbia River at the coast. Rather than ride over a 5-mile long bridge with no shoulder, at the mercy of strong crosswinds, most cyclists wait for a pickup truck to give them a lift across.

Not unexpectedly, Jeff was only too happy to give us a lift down to Portland. We booked a Motel 6 on South East Powell Boulevard on the opposite side of the Willamette River that runs through the city. We filled up Jeff’s van with petrol and bought him lunch before he headed back home. Saying goodbye to this bloke was difficult, especially after everything he had done for us. We were now in a position to head down south to California.

Conveniently located within 100m of our Motel 6, the Hopworks Urban Brewery loves cyclists!

The next day, I rode down to a nearby bike shop to buy a new tire and tubes, and then, after plotting a route south out of the city, we hit the Hopworks Urban Brewery, a gastropub next door, for dinner and a couple of craft beers.

Now that we’re well and truly headed south, read about it in – The Hop Valley Way: Cycling from Portland to Albany.