Vancouver Island Canada, to Port Angeles USAOne tip as a cyclist touring internationally: when planning to leave a country via ferry, make sure you leave enough time to clear customs. We casually rolled up to the Victoria Black Ball ferry port 15 minutes before departure, expecting we’d clear customs when we arrived in Port Angeles, Washington (like you do when you catch a plane overseas, you clear customs when you arrive, right?), but that wasn’t the case. We were questioned by US customs clearance while still in Canada (‘How long are you spending in the USA?’, ‘Do you have a valid ESTA?’, ‘Do you have a flight leaving the United States?’). Everyone had boarded the ferry and we heard the horn signalling they were ready to leave the port.
Luckily, we had super friendly US Border Patrol officers, along with a valid ESTA travel visa and pre-booked departure flight from San Francisco. They did everything super-speedy to help us board the ferry just in time. We filled out departure cards hastily and wheeled our laden bikes onto a humbler ferry than the one that travels from Tswwassen to Sydney in BC. Click on the pics below for a lovely carousel ride of our journey, and check out the map.
Wheeling our bikes onto American soil at Port Angeles was a low-key affair, yet we still felt excited. After an amazing, fresh and best of all vegan-friendly lunch at Cafe New Day, we scoped out our first ever camping site. The local sports store kitted us out with a camping stove, saucepan and local map, along with directions to Heart o’ the Hills campground, about 12 kilometres (7.8 miles) uphill. Uphill not being my forte – and feeling a little worn after my extended effort from days one and two of our cycling tour – I was already on the backpeddle. The mental games had begun! I knew it was a meagre 12 kms, but having only been a generally flat-city-road commuter for the past few years, I had always struggled big-time on the steeps. And by struggle I mean get incredibly pissed off and angry with the world in general, and anyone who says anything vaguely encouraging to me (ie Adam!). It was getting late in the day, and we still had to set up camp for the first time, so Adam made the very wise decision to head up the hill (read: blitz) with Tahlee and get started. He was out of sight in a matter of minutes.
This was day one of my war with myself, on the bike. I had no idea how to enjoy the challenge, especially as I was feeling emotionally and physically drained. The adrenaline from the first two days had well and truly worn off, and I was stuck with myself, peddling in granny gear up a quiet mountain road, pulling a heavy load. Completely in victim mode and swearing aimlessly at innocently trees whenever necessary, I alternated between pushing the pannier-laden bike on foot, and peddling in the lowest gear. I don’t know who I was angry at, but I remember feeling a definite sense of it seeming so unfair that I had to be put through cycling up such a hill after two relatively intense days…an immature frame of mind that had been ingrained in me since I could remember. I detested being pushed past my limit, because past my limit was the unknown, and that meant I wasn’t really in control. And when you aren’t in control, you don’t know how you’ll react and cope. I had no strategy or understanding of my limits and how to work with them – at this stage I just was pure reaction. Thankfully later in our trip (quite a bit later) I would make a breakthrough that was key to me getting through the mountains of Oregon and California.
In the meantime, I had no choice but to keep moving up the hill. What got me through on this particular day – my first day up a mountain, my first day cycling in America, my first day camping – was a bit of Frank Ocean on the ipod. Thank fuck for Frank Ocean changing my whole frame of mind and providing a distraction to get me up that hill. I ended up making it just after Adam. We wheeled our bikes through an empty campsite, trying to find the greenest, flattest spot.
Being so early in the camping season, we were literally the only campers in Heart o’ the Hills campsite – a beautifully lush old-growth forest site at an elevation of 1807 feet (550 metres). The camp host (who was staying in his trim little RV) introduced himself to us and promptly told us to lock our food in the big metal lockers so bears emerging from hibernation wouldn’t start ripping apart our tent in search for our tasty tasty food.
In the morning, the camp host was gone, and the rain settled in his stead. We’d prepared for light rain, but not non-stop pouring, so the only choice was to bunk down in the tent for the next twenty four hours.