Across Continents

Ken's Blog

South Park

November 7th, 2011

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The real South Park. Just south of West Seattle..

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Headmark south

November 7th, 2011

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"Janet Harding Miss Washington 2008" said the sign, greeting us on our arrival into Yelm. I doubted she lived there anymore. Probably off finishing her PhD or promoting world peace. But certain she’d left.

Giles and I had reached there at dusk, sixty or so miles south of West Seattle. Following the route of the annual Seattle to Portland cycle ride – the "STP". Progress had been slow at first, picking our way out of the suburbs. Picking up later as we’d hit the West Valley Highway.

The occasional glimpse en route of Mount Rainier, over fourteen thousand feet of active volcano. Our headmark south. Frequent signs informing you of the evacuation route in case of eruption.

We’d a smart motel room for the night. I’d suggested we look out for well-kept hanging baskets, a pretty reliable indicator that the place was loved. It’d be decent. But in Yelm there wasn’t any choice, or at least we didn’t find any. A few pot plants outside.

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Not the time to pay

November 6th, 2011

"This is not the time to pay" said the driver. Firmly. I nodded. Abandoned my attempt to insert a dollar note into the ticket machine and slinked away to the back of the bus. I’d headed into Seattle to meet old school friend Giles for lunch. Then a short foray around the centre of the city before heading back out to the suburbs of West Seattle.

Spotted a 54 bus pulling up at a busy city centre stop. Waited for a few moments for others ahead of me to board. Nobody did. Presuming they were all waiting for another service, jumped on. Greeted by an old lady moving slowly down the aisle with her walking frame. Mortified, quickly stepping back off.

Nobody spoke. The lady reached the step, unable to disembark without some help. Nobody moved. The driver asked if anyone would help. Nothing. Eager to redeem myself, I pushed forward once more, this time to assist, joined by another passenger. Hoping the assembled crowd would mistake me for an Australian. Probably time to return to the road.

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Mending fences

November 4th, 2011

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Be bold I’d thought. Always found I’d had a knack for eggs. Soft peaks and all that. Chocolate souffle for dessert. Quietly confident. But then things had gone a little awry. No hand whisk and efforts with a fork weren’t going well. I’d have got more air in the mixture if I’d gargled it. But that’d have been a bit off-putting for old school friend Giles, his wife Sara and their young daughter Sophie.

I’d had more success earlier mixing concrete. Literally. Helping mend a fence. Always trying to make myself useful, not to be a burden on those kind enough to let me stop. Over the last few years I’ve cooked, walked dogs, bit of baby-sitting, installed tumble driers. Pretty much happy to give anything a go. But maybe avoid souffles for a while…

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Psychic barber

November 3rd, 2011

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I think he saw me coming… In Seattle.

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Sticks and stones

November 2nd, 2011

"MC Hammer was a while ago" suggested old school friend Giles. Dry wit I’d always remembered. And a remark I’d chose to ignore. Rather fond of my comfortable, if loosely cut trousers. Baggy. True, I’d had them a while. Perhaps since the early nineties. Hard wearing. Besides, seemed a bit rich from someone who’d admitted to owning a cycling cape. Yellow one at that.

We’d met up at a large outdoor pursuits store in the centre of Seattle. A few purchases for our push south together towards the California border. I’d been a bit nervous, not least because I’d driven in. Rush hour. Dark and unfamiliar. First time driving in close on two years. In the family car. But at least it had a stick, which I much prefer to automatics. And all the time on the road, alone, unprotected, means spotting stupid isn’t exactly difficult.

A small bag would suffice for my riding companion. For he’d no aspirations to camp. Ever. Quite clear on this point, an honesty I admired. I’d stay with carrying all my own kit, if only because it’d be the easiest thing to do. Besides, I was used to it.

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Sleepless in Seattle

November 2nd, 2011

"..exciting new Central Library" was foremost amongst the Clipper magazine’s spread on offerings from Seattle. In-flight – of sorts – publication on the late evening fast ferry into the city. I was sure they’d overlooked Microsoft, Amazon. And Nirvana. Never mind Meg Ryan.

But none of this much mattered, for I was to meet up with an old school friend I’d not seen in over twenty years. Now settled in West Seattle. We’d chatted a little on the phone, his distinctive chuckle I’d remembered from childhood still errr… distinctive.

We’d ridden a lot together as teenagers, around Pembrokeshire. Plans to do so once more, but with far greater aspirations this time. South towards California. About twice the length of Wales.

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Swift passage to Seattle

October 23rd, 2011

Swift passage to Seattle from Ken Roberts on Vimeo.

Ken parts company with Canada, making a swift passage by fast catamaran from Victoria into Seattle, Washington State, USA. And there are postcards to write..

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Into Seattle

October 23rd, 2011

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It was late. Gone ten pm by the time I’d cleared US Customs at the ferry terminal in Seattle. My luggage – four panniers, one large dry bag stuffed with bottles and the handlebar bag, one tent and my trusty steed – retrieved and my bicycle laden for the short journey – a few miles – to meet up with an old school friend.

I’d taken the fast catamaran from Victoria, on Canada’s Vancouver Island, directly into Seattle, Washington State. A little shy of three hours. Turning up ridiculously early for check-in had paid dividends. In spades. Arriving prepared to lash panniers together to minimise excess baggage charges, only to find my early arrival being rewarded with some sensible discretion. My luggage treated as equivalent to the normal inclusive allowance of two larger items.

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Mountains to climb, plateau to cross

October 8th, 2011

Three weeks to Seattle. I’d miss Meg Ryan but would have the chance to meet up with an old school friend I’d not seen in, well, decades. Planned to ride together for a while, just as we’d done as teenagers back in Pembrokeshire.

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Plan was simple enough. Inland, due east, from Prince Rupert, through the imaginatively named Coast Mountains to British Columbia’s interior plateau. It sounded flat, but you could never be sure. Fertile ground for headwinds, especially as I’d an idea they’d still be mostly southerlies.

From Prince George, at the northern end of the plateau, I’d turn due south, heading for the winter resort of Whistler. Too early, I hoped, for snow. But I’d a warm bed booked in a hostel for a few days. Planned respite from camping, chance to dry kit out, and confirm the arrangements for the next stage.

A few days later and I’d be in Vancouver, back once more on the west coast. Arranged to stay with some fellow cyclists, and hoped to meet a Kazakh masseuse I’d met back in Kazakhstan, but now a Canadian citizen living in the city. I was curious.

I’d balked at trying to pick a route amongst the busy highways south over the border. Deciding instead to take a short hop on the ferry to Vancouver Island, night or two there, then a fastcat into the US and Seattle itself. Leaving me about five miles through the city.

Quietly pleased with my solution. A certain elegance, a simplistic beauty I thought. Just had to push the pedals, turn the cranks, wild camp and avoid any aggressive bears. Or moose.

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