Today was a simply brilliant day. We started by waking up at about 4 because of the jet lag – but then to be fair we had been in bed by 8 so that meant about 8 hours solid sleep. We faffed around to try to sort IT things, including DropBox which we think we may have got to work but the jury remains out. Kit was sorted and generally we did all the things we needed to do to get on our way.
Then down to breakfast at the Best Western, which was a sort of 4 out of 10 breakfast. The lavish breakfasts of more expensive hotels was not there but it was adequate. After we sorted the bikes, got strapped up and were on the road just before 8.
Finding the border to the USA was not that hard. We followed the large signs which said “USA this way”, and arrived there in about half an hour. There is something about customs and borders which always makes me nervious. It is the inequality of power in the situation. The USA can refuse entry to anyone without giving a good reason, and the absence of any good reason for refusal in our case did not mean that I was confident. It was – of course – OK. We were finger printed and, I assume, our prints were compared to a database of known objectionables. It seems an insult to our creative sense that neither of us were on the database but here that was convenient. We were, of course, coming to their country in order to spend money on local products and services, and hence to support US jobs. That reasoning seemed to hold sway and we were invited to enter.
Sumas was , as far as we could see on a brief acquaintance, a small town of little note – although most things were still shut to be fair, However we were now off the main road and the interminable traffic lights we had experienced yesterday. There was still a fair amount of cloud shrouding the hills but was just beginning to burn off. We were raring to go! So our first semi-serious hill was not too bad. We climbed in the shared of very varied forest up Reese Hill then a long gentle cruise down to Kendall. The landscape had an alpine feel to it. Meadows and farmsteads with the mountains surrounding the cultivated parts, but the vast majority of the land was uncultivated woods.
We stopped after 16 miles at the junction of the 547 and 542 at ‘Hungry Sam’s’ and sat on the bench outside and had coffee. The hills were now clear and sun had come out. We chatted to 2 local chaps, but only after a woman had refused to pay to put oil in her car because of its price, and predicted that the US economy would come to a grinding halt if petrol reached $4 a gallon. It had just hit this level, and hence was now about one third of the price in Europe! So it all depends on your perspective. We then had a fun conversation about our trip and the fact that ‘Kate’ (Duchess of Cornwall) had just gone into labour for the birth of her first child, and the fact that the international press were outside the hospital. David feingned indifference to the whole business but it was cleared good for business for the UK.
We asked about the local area and were told that there was not too much snow in the winter but 230 cloudy days a year so we were lucky to see the sun. You could walk safely through the hills without any danger from animals but might be unlucky enough to be shot by another human! We had spotted a sign saying ‘no shooting’ just before that. “There’s reason for that’ he said enigmatically!
Highway 542 joined Highway 9. A luscious valley surrounded by green mountains. Quite a strong headwind most of the way but pretty flat so we made good progress with David fronting up the wind. Second stop at Acme – a qunitessential little town of clap board houses, a picturesque general store and brash diner. 32 miles in and we stopped for an early lunch – very good ham and beef sandwiches – sitting on the porch of the store. Sustained we set off again. The road became slightly more undulating, bendy and narrower. Traffic was not bad but from time to time huge logging lorries went past. Most of them gave us a good berth but a couple came much too close to comfort. I suppose the drivers know what they are doing but you did feel like a fly against them. There was a shoulder on whihc we could cycle at the side of the road which was a plus, but its condition was not great sometimes and it also meant that the “road” was a car and truck only space. This was not a place tocycle 2-abrest!
A nice downhill took us to the metropolis of Sedro-Woolley after about another 16 miles. What is it about the period of 16 miles but – at this stage in our quest for fitness -it just seemed about the right distance between stops. First David tackled the issue of getting some petrol for the camping stove – or gas as it is called here. He was met considerable scepticism that anyone could want that small an amount of petrol and the objection that they had never sold it for use in a camping stove. There was a great reluctance to believe this foreigner who clearly did not know what he was talking about, and much looking at the gas bottle to see if it was really designed for thst type of fuel. Eventually David used the tame excuse “We are from Europe, it is diferent there!” which seemed to do the trick. Permission was given and we could purchase $1 worth of petrol (gas). But it had to be paid for in advance and you had to drive your car to the pump to “bag” it before paying. This caused further confusion because, of course, we had not yet bagged a pump. Eventually we circumnavigated this seemingly intractable problem, and got our fuel.
We fiddled around abit looking for the supermarket but everyone was friendly – 2 loaded bikes seem to be a magnet to people asking us how we are and where we are going. All encouraging and wishing us luck, albeit the occasional thought crossed their mind that we were utterly insane. However Americans are quite happy to accept that foreigners are different – even if we pretend to speak the same language – and so they would wish us luck with the unspoken feeling that they were really glad that it was these 2 mad English people who were doing this rather than them. I have to say the feeling was mutual but also unexpressed on our side.
We stopped in the tourist office to try and confirm a campsite was not particularly helpful but having decided that we could not be sure the RV park in Concrete took tents, we went the alternative route out of town to the north of the Skagit River along the Cascade Rail Trail. It was suynny and flat and mostly shady but over 50 miles in our legs we were getting tired. The trail surface was quite hard going to after about 8 miles we cut onto the road but found a very quiet back road running parallel to the main R20. A coulple of miles after Hamilton we saw the sign to Raser State Park and rolled in after clocking up 68 miles. Not bad for our first day! We are now in the ‘walk in’ section of the under tall fir trees. Sun dappling in and feeling better after tea and a hot shower. A really great first day to whet our appeitie for what is to come.