My Massive Stack, Stranded in the Rain & the Generosity of Strangers

posted in: TRAVEL | 2

We were cycling in Washington – one of the wettest states in the USA – on Memorial Day weekend. WashINgton, we began to call it as we cycled through the drizzle beside RV’s, campervans and logging trucks rushing to finish their loads before the long weekend celebrations began.

The next leg of our family cycling tour was from Sequim Bay State Park to Dosewallips  State Park, Brinnon, down Highway 101. Our ride started out on an overcast Friday morning after spending the night by a smokey fire at Falls View Campground, a rustic but beautiful campsite five miles from Quilcene. Unfortunately it had no running water, so staying more than one night wasn’t an option. Up until now, the road had been reasonable, but Highway 101 was about to reveal its resistance to cyclists.

I’ll be honest, it wasn’t my favourite stretch of road, about a 38 mile (61 km) ride, on a non-existent shoulder on a windy stretch that either hugged rock walls, or dove into ditches. All day I listened for the roar of a logging truck coming from behind so I could choose to pull to the tiny strip of land or hold back from going around a blind corner. I don’t want to put anyone off cycling, or going down Highway 101, but this day, by far, was the worst day of the entire trip. 

My Massive Stack

But, don’t fear, like all adventures, there’s a moment of redemption where all the effort, tears and pain become worth it. Before I get there though, I have to tell you about my massive stack. I was lagging seriously behind Adam and Tahlee, and after a while, they were out of view. We’d talked about pulling off at the next campground to refill our water bottles, but when I zoomed passed the campground it was closed, and they were nowhere to be seen. I started worrying – maybe I had heard wrong, maybe they had gone into the campsite to get water anyway…I didn’t know, but I was getting worried that we had been separated. I kept riding, the stream of traffic steadily building as the morning went on. Then, up ahead, I spotted an antique store cafe, on the opposite side of the road. Traffic streamed by, at about 60 mph (100km per hour). The shoulder was small yet reasonable, but as I looked furtively across the two lanes of traffic at the cafe and its carpark for the bright red of Tahlee’s Weehoo trailer, my front wheel bit the muddy gravel on the side of the road and started to wobble.

I tried to turn my bike back onto the bitumen, but it was too late. The handlebars lurched backwards, the front wheel now pointed the opposite way. I launched forward over the front of the bike, right knee landing hard and square on the bitumen under the bike frame. My right palm and elbow jammed into the ground, jarring my wrist. I was about one meter onto the road, well in the way of oncoming traffic that would struggle to spot me in time to stop on the wet.

I struggled to pull my leg out from under the frame, confused about what my handlebars were doing, continually glancing back. I saw a giant white RV coming my way. Panniers still stubbornly gripping like magnets to the road, I heaved the bike off the ground and stood by the side of the road as the next wave of traffic flowed by, trying to calm down and steady my breath. Noone from the café had seen me fall, or if they had, they weren’t coming out. I couldn’t help but cry. I looked down at my hands – fine, sore but fine. My knee was another story – leggings ripped, bloody and full of gravel. I didn’t have any water to rinse it out, and I knew I  had no choice but to keep on peddling, until I finally caught up to Adam and Tahlee again.

It took another fourty-five minutes for me to find them. By then, I was a wreck, furious that I had been left so far behind, and that they had no idea where I was or even that I was hurt. I was the Australian chic out the front of the supermarket in Brinnon, crying at her husband for leaving her behind. We made a new pact that from that day on we would never ride out of eyesight, and that if we did, we would wait for the other to catch up.

By the time we made it to Dosewallips, I’d recovered emotionally, but my wrist and knee were super sore. We rolled up to the check-in station at the park entrance, the two park rangers smiling and marvelling at Tahlee and her Weehoo contraption. The entire campsite was fully booked, and there were no hiker-biker sites, but thankfully the park rangers gave us a beautiful spot at a place usually reserved as open space. We had an open, grassy area, right by the riverside and surrounded by centuries old birch trees. We were grateful for the two ladie’s generosity, they could have easily turned us away on the busiest weekend of the year.

Stranded In The Rain

After a beautiful day exploring the riverside, spotting deer, walking to Brinnon to scrape up food supplies (baked beans and Dr. McDougall’s Vegan Pad Thai Noodle Soup), and cooking dinner over a campfire, we settled in to the tent for our second night in Dosewallips. Tahlee had made friends with other campgoing girls, and we’d had a nice day off from riding. I’d even taken my 100 Days of Headstand #4.

In the morning, we woke to pouring rain. We stayed in our sleeping bags, nice and cosy in the tent, listening to campers pack up their RV’s and clear out, heading back to their warm dry homes. Everyone had warned us not to ride at all today, as everyone would be on the road, making an already sketchy route highly dangerous. We put the porridge on to cook in the vestibule and procrastinated until we couldn’t stay cooped up any longer. The rain eased off to a consistent drizzle.  The neighbouring campers invited us to stand near their blazing fire while they packed up, and they offered us the remainder of their wood to burn. Eventually, they left, and the rain picked up.

There was nothing to it, we were just going to be wet for the next 24 hours.

The Generosity of Strangers

Then, the park ranger pulled up. I expected she would gently remind us that our two night stay had finished and that we’d need to move on. Instead, she said “I know this might sound very strange, but I feel so sorry for you guys camping out in the rain all day. Would you like to come back to my house and stay there instead?”

“My husband is ten minutes away, and he could come pick you up and load all your gear in our car. We have a log house about 5 miles from here.” She continued.

Would we like to stay with a couple of generous strangers for the evening? Would we like a warm shower, a roof over our heads, a comfortable, warm and dry bed? Would we like to wash our filthy and damp clothes, dry out our tent, and feel welcome to use whatever food they had in the pantry and fridge? YES WE WOULD!

And so this is how we came to know the generous and kind-hearted family of Tom, Casey and their son Jeremiah, while staying in their beautiful and warm log cabin. I’d heard of friendly people offering their houses to cycle tourers in need while reading Family on Bikes, but I never expected the complete and open welcome into a family’s home quite the way Tom and Casey did.

We got warm and dry and got to know Tom until Casey finished her shift at the park. I finally cleaned the gravel out of my (now infected) knee wounds. We popped the tent open in the living room to dry in front of the combustion heater. We watched the rain through the beautiful double-storey windows, and marvelled at the hummingbirds. We talked patriotism, food, and all things Australia and USA until it was time to rest in a real bed.

To this day we’re grateful for that one lovely night we spent in such good company, at a time where we were a little down and well, wet. It was a little taste of Washingtonite hospitality and living as well as a lovely sojourn from the new challenges of cycling and camping.



2 Responses

  1. It was our pleasure to have you in our home. If you’re ever in the area again, please stop in.

    • Christine Niessen

      Thank you Casey and Tom for looking after our family. We so appreciate your kindness.

      Amazing story Laurie and so glad that you could have this wonderful experience after such a challenging ride. xxxx

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