Let me start with a disclaimer. In the hurry of getting ready to leave, setting up the blog and riding all day we totally forgot to call out Alex’s parents as the most helpful and supportive people of the past week. Without them we wouldn’t have been able to finish off our remaining business and catch our breath before embarking on this journey. Therefore a big thank you to Meredith and Scott!
Alright, back to business: Day number four started out with quite a disappointment. After a beautiful, sunny third day we were greeted with clouds and grey skies. Worst of all, by the time we were done taking down our tent and packing up our stuff a slight drizzle started that soon turned into the worst weather we had encountered so far. Torrential downpour, headwind and temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit made for rather unpleasant riding. By the time we hit Toledo we were fully soaked and made an emergency stop at the local grocery store. A nice store clerk let us put our bikes in their covered storage area while we warmed ourselves up inside and waited for the rain to die down. Unfortunately it didn’t get any better for another hour and a half.
Once we got going again the rain regained its abominable strength but at least we rode alongside the scenic Cowlitz River where we encountered many-a-cow. Passing so many animals along this trip made us appreciate cows quite a lot. When you ride past horses they don’t give a crap, when you ride past alpacas they only mind their own business, when you ride past dogs they come after you baring their teeth and out for blood. But when you ride past cows, they get really attentive and come up to the fence to say hello, it simply is nice to get that kind of reaction out of an animal.
But all the cows of the world couldn’t have made our miserable fourth day any better, so by the time we got to Castle Rock (whose name reminded me of one my all-time favorite movies, Stand By Me with River Phoenix) we were ready to call it quits. Soaked again and teeth-chatteringly cold we had to make a point call: should we camp in a soggy field, or betray our ideals and settle for a motel? Given that the next camping spot was either 8 miles back or more than 20 miles ahead, the motel option won by default. And now in the aftermath I have to say I’m really glad we did. A warm shower, a bed, (somewhat spotty) Wi-Fi and the chance to dry all our dripping wet gear brought a smile to our weatherworn faces. I even got a chance to talk to my Dad in Germany on the phone (Danke, dass du Sonntag morgens schon vor 7 wach bist).
We woke up by 7 on the morning of day 5 and staying in the motel overnight paid off again. We didn’t need to pack up all our gear and load it onto the bike since we’d already taken care off most of it the night before. Because of that we got an especially early start to a day that turned out to be quite the opposite of the previous one. Riding out of Castle Rock in the mist that had built up overnight was refreshing and quickly lifted our spirits. We headed west to avoid the hassle of going through Longview and instead went through Coal Creek (which according to our map has a population of 32). That part alone made our day as it had a continuous downhill slope of 4 miles. Just rolling down the hill when you’re packed up with so much extra weight on your bike is incredibly fun.
And then we finally had it before us, the majestic Columbia River, the border line between Washington and Oregon. What a spectacle! We continued west along the river with Cathlamet as our goal. The hills rolled on but by this point Alex and I were fit enough to handle even the worst of ascents. By the time we hit Cathlamet we hopped over onto Puget Island where we had to take a ferry to cross over to Westport, Oregon.
Once there we kept going west. We didn’t know it yet but the hardest part of the day was upon us. A straight climb of more than 650 feet of elevation made the sweat run in streams from our bodies, Aching but happy we crested the “summit” and rolled on down to Gnat Creek campground. To top it all off we treated ourselves to fancy Annie’s Mac and Cheese for dinner. Yum!