Sunday, August 16, 2009

Elma, WA to Centralia, WA

3 hours 15 min on the bike

Well the good news is today was marginally better than yesterday. The bar was, of course, quite low, but ya never know. We woke up and had a nice breakfast at the hotel, packed up, checked out, waved goodbye to the lady at the front desk who wished us happy riding. We parked our bikes against the outside of the hotel to double check our tires before we got on the road and the hell outta Elma. The first tire was fine but Arik wanted to give it a few pumps just to be safe. While pumping, the air suddenly started whooshing out of the tire. It stopped when I grabbed the valve but started right up again when I let go. Elma wasn't done hexing us after all.

We rolled the bikes back inside and after getting the reluctant permission of the formerly upbeat front desk lady, we set the bikes up in the lobby to change the tube. It took forever to find the tools but Arik switched out the tube pretty expertly after that. We checked out the old tube and discovered a nice, unpatchable rip right by the valve. It was already 12:30 and I toyed with the idea of just giving up on today, checking in for another night, and being a couch potato at the hotel. Arik's reason prevailed and we rolled into town to check out the gun shop.

Once again, Elma's singular nuttiness was on display. A crowd of 25 people inexplicably loitered on the sidewalk smoking cigarettes while a crew of 15 bikers revved their engines in the middle of the road and the Elma fire station let loose the loudest siren we've ever heard. I could only shake my head and laugh at the total absurdity of this little town while Arik checked with the gun guys. They claimed the baton we wanted is illegal, but we're pretty sure they only refused to sell it b/c there was a cop in the shop. We settled for some pepper spray and hightailed it out of town. The pepper spray was the newest addition to our growing arsenal: Arik had the makeshift pepper spray in the glue bottle velcroed to his bike shorts, and his knife and the new pepper spray in his pocket.

Today was supposed to be sunny and in the 70s but it was cloudy and cool all day long and pretty uncomfortable to ride. We deliberately chose a different route out of Elma b/c a look at our scheduled route on google maps revealed roads eerily similar to those that had left us frazzled. Instead, we took a 2 lane highway for about 25 miles. Even though there was traffic, we had a nice shoulder almost the whole way, and nary a dog. We saw some more emus and a biker (of the Harley variety) zoomed past blaring Kelly Clarkson. We stopped for a break in Rochester and decided to check out the Highway Diner there. A kind, older woman gave us menus soon after we plopped down on the 50s-style chairs. We had a really tasty veggie burger with fries and tater tots. She advised us to get off the highway- she'd lost a friend 2 weeks ago. We'd seen an unsettling number of memorials along the way and so didn't need much convincing. Still, the street she wanted us to turn on would put us right back on our route, and we weren't sure we'd ridden far enough to bring the dog danger down. Sure enough, the dog scares started pretty quickly. The worst was a golden retriever that came running at us, unrestrained by a fence. Arik and I were ready this time- he pulled out his homemade pepper spray and I rode calmly in front of him. For some reason the dog stopped short of the street but it was still good practice. Neither of us was as jumpy or freaked out as we were yesterday, but it was still unpleasant to have to scan back and forth from driveway to driveway for some streaking barking mass of fur.

Though we'd intended to make it to the state park tonight, the tire issue this morning meant time wasn't on our side. Instead, we stopped for the night in Centralia, WA and are staying at a Motel 6. We've got a bed, internet, a fully stocked grocery store across the street, and just about every big box American business within a mile of where we're staying, so we're pretty spoiled. We checked out the map and it seems like the crappiness of small towns and average scenery and crazy dogs will continue for the next 2 days, but after that......glorious glorious coastline from Astoria, OR all the way to San Diego. It's times like these I wish life had a fast forward button, but I guess it'll just make us appreciate the good stuff even more.

Be well,

Arik and Mia