So many bike paths! Cycling Washington State from Vancouver to Portland

Portland bicycle mural

I loved Portland right away.

So many bike paths! Cycling Washington State from Vancouver to Portland

Country: USA

From Vancouver to Portland

Lesson learned: It is near impossible to travel the USA without a smartphone

Laughed about: A troll in Seattle

Most wonderful miracle: Familiar faces

Greatest challenge: Finding Erica’s house

Days on the bike: 3 full and 2 very short days

Kilometers cycled: 402

Average Kilometers per day: 100.5

Total Kilometers cycled till Portland: 23,558

Cycling Washington State from Vancouver to Portland. Missed the last entry? Here it comes! Our last weeks in Canada: Cycling to Vancouver

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Roberto and I really enjoyed Vancouver. To me it had a flair of a West European capital with some touches of Melbourne, but with more hotdogs, sushi and microbreweries. Talking about food: Joanna and Kenji fed us so well and so frequently that I gained two kilos during our stay!

Joanna, Kin, Kenji and Yoshi

It was always busy in the kitchen. Today Kenji prepared Chile Rellenos

We decided to take a short train ride with the bikes, when Roberto’s cousin Arturo wrote us. He was going to be near Seattle for a business trip and wanted to see us and to shout us a night in a hotel and a dinner.

Early in the morning we pushed the bikes through Vancouver’s train station. There was an immigration booth in the station and we were welcomed with arms wide open. Seriously, it is hard to believe the amount of friendly, polite and welcoming border officers that we have met during our travel (even though I think no border story can beat the crazy experience at the Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan border!)

Arturo Ricci

Yummi dinner, awesome views and great chat with Roberto’s cousin Arturo

We left the train in Everett and biked to Mulkiteo. It was time to get used to miles, gallons, Fahrenheit and pounds again. People were nice and helpful and we found our way easily. It has been four years since we last saw Arturo back in Germany. Now his wife Dariela, little son Bernie and he had moved to the USA, where Arturo works in a job that demands him to travel a lot through this big country as well as to other continents.

Seattle, the home of Boeing

Seattle, the home of Boeing

Arturo was back at work early morning. Why does time always fly when you’re having a good time? We hopped on the bikes and headed south. After a while we reached the Interurban North bike path, where there were plenty of warning signs, bike traffic lights and other cyclists. I felt so good taken care for! The other cyclists were all friendly and wore helmets and reflectors. It was impressive.

Arrival at Eda's

Arrival at Eda’s (Picture credit goes to her)

Just after noon we found ourselves at Eda’s home. Some of you readers who have followed our adventures from the beginning on, will remember Eda from Turkey. Back in 2011 she and her then-boyfriend Emir lived in Fethiye, where they opened a hotel. We have spent our first winter with them, working for food and accommodation. We had cut back palm trees, hand plowed the gardens, carried rocks, tamed the grumpy stallion, sanded doors and windows, fed animals and humans and waited tables.

Eda and her boyfriend Sam showed us around Seattle

Eda and her boyfriend Sam showed us around Seattle (her picture again)

Eda is both US American and Turkish, and now she was back in Seattle, where she had spent many years of her childhood. About a year ago she met Sam, a physician who specialized in natural medicine and who recently had opened his own doctor’s office.

Lenin Statue in Seattle

Lenin Statue in Seattle

Now they lived in a comfy flat in the heart of the Ballard neighborhood. A part of town that’s famous for its bars, cafés, and art, but used to be a little fishing village.

Sam and Eda

Sam and Eda

Even though Eda and I have only been in contact occasionally, it felt as if we had only parted yesterday. This is how I hope it will feel like meeting all my all friends again, too. Eda and Sam took us out for a walk along the neighborhood and to the beach and they showed us three of Seattle’s most unique points: the Fremont Troll (a huge troll sculpture under a bridge), Lenin (a five meter tall Lenin statue), and the Up-house.

Up House Seattle

Save the Up House

Latter has withstood the pressure of the building of a shopping mall. In the end the mall has been constructed around it. Tourists and locals like to attach letters and balloons to the fence, because the story is quite similar to the movie “Up!”.

Seattle Troll

The Troll

We spent most of the night and of the following day chatting. Eda cooked a very delicious dinner and even included my Turkish favorite food: Vegetarian Çiğ Köfte!

Eda cooks a delicious dinner

Eda cooks a delicious dinner

Do you remember our great time during Songkran in Nong Khai, Thailand? Two of them were Tara and Ben from Olympia. Well, turns out that by now they have moved to Seattle and of course we came over for a visit!

Ben's comfy deck

Ben’s comfy deck

Tara, Ben and Roberto

Tara, Ben and Roberto

We were so happy to meet again! Ben and Tara took us out for a walk to the Gas Works Park, where we watched the sunset and Seattle’s skyline. Later that evening we played what I guess to be the world’s most complicated board game. I love games. But nothing could have prepared me for this one.

Gas Works Seattle View

Look here! Look there!

Seattle Skyline with a sailing boat

It was a beautiful view into town

Imagine Settlers of Catan with all extensions and double the rules and cards. It was so complicated in fact, that the game’s owner, who by the way invented his own board games and who was the only one to understand the rules from the beginning on, helped us with so many tips, that he ended up on third place.

Playing the world's most complicated board game

By next morning I couldn’t remember a thing about the rules. But it certainly was fun!

Next day we biked downtown to visit Eda’s friend Will, who worked as a DJ at KEXP radio, and offered to show us around the studio. We even found a copy of Bear Mountain’s CD in the discshelf! That’s our new favorite band from Vancouver, that Kenji plays in.

Bear Mountain!

Bear Mountain!

Radio Tour with none other than DJ Chili

Radio Tour with none other than DJ Chili

The weather was great and – well you know us. As usual we stayed longer than planned. But eventually we did get going. Or at least we tried. After only 10 kilometers I was unsure of the route and Roberto asked a nice police officer on a bike for directions. The officer was extremely helpful, he sent his colleague to check the car for bike maps, and eventually grabbed his bike to find some proper maps for us. After some 20 minutes we were prepared with several bike maps of the state and the city, plus a very exact explication.

Seattle at night

Seattle at night

Of course we followed the explained route and this way stayed to 95% on bike paths for the first 50 kilometers. That was when we met Mike, who headed south on his road bike. He offered us to follow him, so he could show us the nicest route with less traffic. A private guided bike tour with a nice local? Sure thing! The only downside was that Mike’s average speed was some 23 km/h and that it was a rather exhausting ride for me. But Mike hadn’t promised too much, we biked up, down, left right, through the outskirts and suburbs of Seattle.

Great support by local cyclist Mike

Great support by local cyclist Mike

When Mike reached his home, we continued by ourselves. The city traffic seemed forever. Some of the towns just south of Tacoma seemed a little rough to us, so we decided not to consult our map and take pictures with the camera, but to just keep on going. Nevertheless, people here were friendly too.

Pike Place Market in Seattle

Pike Place Market in Seattle

After 96 Kilometers we finally left the city traffic and entered a forest. It was getting dark and we hurried up even more to make it in time to our warmshower host Erica’s house. We reached the house some 20 minutes late, because it was some kilometers further than marked in the warmshowers map. Erica had given us the access code and when we biked through the heavy gate, we found ourselves in another hidden village!

Typical Washington Countryside house

Typical Washington Countryside house

The only address we had, was the name of the estates, but not a clue of the street name or house number. So we began to ask the neighbors, but nobody wanted to help us. “We don’t know her!” was the standard answer. Well, then again, if these people prefer to live behind a huge gate, they clearly wouldn’t want to give strangers with foreign accents, who wander through the estate in the dark, the house number of their neighbors.

At the beach with Eda (her picture)

At the beach with Eda (her picture)

About an hour late we met somebody who helped us, biked down to the house and found all lights off and nobody answering the door. We tried for some twenty minutes, before we gave up. What should we do now? It was 9 pm and pitch black outside. The road was far too narrow and windy to bike through safely at night. But we couldn’t stay here either. We were really cold now and quite tired.

Actual records in a radio station

So there are actual real records inside a radio station! And many of them have sticky notes with the opinion of the first person to listen to them. Quite interesting and at times funny to read!

On our way back to the estate’s entrance we finally met a nice neighbor, who called Erica for us. She was home after all, and was surprised that we hadn’t let her know about our trouble. Well, we had tried, but she never gave us her phone number and none of the neighbors had Wi-Fi without a password. Erica thought that it was quite odd to travel the USA without a smartphone or data.

Taco Truck in Seattle

Roberto’s first quite genuine Taco truck! There were Salsas and the owners actually came from Mexico. “Nearly home!”

Eventually we were allowed to pitch the tent and use the bathroom before Erica locked the door.

It was another early and cold start for all of us. From here on we decided to follow the arrows on the road. There was an annual bike race from Seattle to Portland (the StP) and the markers were simply sprayed onto the asphalt. Most of them were still visible and we enjoyed the ride through fields, alongside farms and barns and through villages. The sun was strong and the icy morning turned into a warm and sunny day.

Following the StP arrows

Easy biking from here on – if you follow the StP arrows!

We found ourselves homeless again by nightfall, so we pitched the tent as hidden as possible in the bushes of a small town’s BMX park.

On the next day we crossed the bridge from Washington to Oregon and followed an easy highway into Portland. 353 kilometers in 3 days. As crazy as it sounds, but the StP racers biked the entire stretch in one day.

Vader, Washington, USA

Biking through Vader. No Star Wars statues to be seen.

Roberto and I were very impressed by the amount of cyclists in Portland. Most bikes seemed to be fitted with reflectors, lights, and a bell. The cyclists biked quickly but safely and slowed down when necessary. Every single one of them brought a helmet and some even wore a reflective vest.

Portland bicycle mural

I loved Portland right away.

Some of the bike paths were open to both directions for cyclists, skateboarders and pedestrians, but even though some were in a hurry, everybody treated the others with respect. That’s what impressed me most.

Of course there were many bike friendly roads and it was an easy ride from northwest to southeast of town, where Tyler and Carolyn lived. They created “Two Wheel Travel“, a really cool bicycle travel website with heaps of good tips. We had met these two online some years ago and stayed in contact a lot. They have bike toured a lot in Eastern Europe and the Middle East and when we start chatting it feels all natural, like we had already met in person.

At Tyler's and Carolyn's

At Tyler’s and Carolyn’s

Carolyn cooks so incredibly delicious that we found our bellies about to burst day after day. It was just too god to stop.

There was much to see and do in Portland. We ate our way through the city’s food stands, biked over as many bridges as we could, hunted for bargains at the REI garage sale, selected ten kilos of not absolutely necessary items to ship to Tijuana (we’re getting too heavy), and fixed the bikes completely.

Roberto and his significant other

Roberto and his significant other

One day we put our bikes into the trolley and rode to Aloha, where we met Selina, her mom Jeanny and Jeanny’s husband Brian. They were Roberto’s family friends and we had a great time with lots of wine and laughter.

Give Peace a Chance

City Center of Portland

Back in Portland we got ready for the next step: biking to the Oregon Coast and then all the way down to Tijuana, Mexico. Pacific here we come!

Enjoyed this one? Here’s the next: Cycling the Oregon Coast: Whales, Winds and Dunes



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