Catching Up, a lot of words

I wrote this yesterday but had no internet last night, so it was still sitting here waiting for me to do something with it. I also fell behind answering emails and comments. It looks like I am only biking a few hours a day but altogether it is taking most of my day. Then when I land it’s time to set up camp, regroup a bit, check in with family etc so when there is no internet I’m terribly behind! Please know that all of you encouraging and supporting and following mean so much to me!  I am reading even when I don’t always have time to answer.


Day two was a challenging day. 


I woke up early but had to wait until I was light enough to get up and pack up. I set off along a pretty lake with nice homes lining the shore. Then my google maps directed me to a shortcut road which was some of the most beautiful scenery I have seen! There was a river, trees covered with moss, and no houses or other evidence of people, just untouched beauty. I had to stop a lot to enjoy it and take photos. 


I needed to remember this for the rest of the day because the rest wasn’t nearly as fun. On bike tours though, there are also the less interesting parts and the more challenging parts. I was so glad for all the friends who are following me, sending messages of support, encouraging comments, and letting me know in many ways that they are thinking of me. Thinking of them really helped me stay on course.


I went in to Sheldon because I figured they would have a McDonald’s and I was wanting a cup of coffee. I was not disappointed and enjoyed the coffee, the free wifi, a delightful little four year old girl, and the electric outlets though I’m not sure if they were actually charging my stuff. 


From here I planned to go on to Elma, figuring it was maybe another 25 miles. When I brought up google maps though, it said 42 miles to the park just past Elma where I wanted to spend the night. Yikes! This would mean a 62 mile day, but I didn’t want to spend the day in Shelton and I didn’t see any camping between Shelton and my destination so I figured I’d give it my best effort.


I biked through endless pine trees, pine forests, areas that looked like Christmas tree farms, areas that looked like the pine trees had been harvested, more pine forests, and on and on with no houses and minimal evidence of people or cars passing, just endless pine forests. There were challenging hills and a relentless headwind that was the most discouraging of all. It was impossible to get any speed going. Was I going to make my destination before dark, or at all? 


Along the way I saw a sign for Schafer state park, 22 miles, which was 14 miles less than the park past Elma. I wanted to go to Elma but this seemed a lot more sensible. I looked on line – known for fishing, has camping, RV parking, etc., sounded good. 


I stopped whining quite so much and concentrated on going down the road. I counted my way up the hills, 10 breaths in and out, next finger, 10 more breaths, and so on until all 10 fingers were used, take a break, catch breath, and repeat. I biked for 15 minutes and then took a break to get off the seat for a moment and get a drink of water. Bike another 15 minutes, another short break. 15 minutes at a time is far less intimidating and eventually an hour passed, and another. 


Finally, later in the afternoon, the wind started to die down and I was able to make better time. Still though, I knew it wouldn’t be sensible to push on to Elma. I was too tired and it was too late in the day, so I headed down the road to Schafer state park. Closed!!  It was open to day visitors but the sign said closed at dusk, and the camping area was gated off with a sign that said closed for the winter. What now?? It was too late in the day and there was nothing else close, and I was very tired. So, I decided to take my chances anyway and found a quiet spot behind the rest room building and put up my tent. 


So, here I am alone in the park. I have been out of Internet range for a while so hopefully no one is concerned. I’ll check in as soon as I can, probably from Elma in the morning. It feels very strange to be out here all by myself, no one around, just me and the birds and a very noisy bumblebee, and then silence as dark fell. There are some houses down the road and I occasionally hear a car, but there are no camping neighbors. This is the most alone I have felt in a very long time. I think this, and the cold are the hardest things for me at this point. It’s going to be a long time though before I am south enough to be much warmer. 


Day three 


Since I’m on a roll I may as well continue while the day is fresh in my mind. I will go through the pictures later and hopefully be able to share some soon. 


I went to sleep too early last night but what else is there to do with no internet and decreasing battery power? I woke up fairly often, still creeped out by being so alone, and by 5am I knew there was no more going back to sleep. But it was dark, cold, and getting out of the sleeping bag was not an option. So, I listened to my book until it got light, and until I was alarmed to see my iPad had less than 20% remaining power. 


But, it was light now so I started breaking down camp and packing. There was a heavy dew and everything was really wet, and it was still so cold I put on my bike shorts, and then back in the sleeping clothes – the thermal underwear, heavier pants, two shirts, rain jacket, etc. I was still cold for the first couple hours on the bike.


I set off down the road in the direction I was sure led to Elma but I had no internet, no GPS, and it was early Sunday morning. No on was out and there were very few cars passing me. I tried to wave down a few to confirm my route but they just waved back and kept on driving. So, I kept on biking. It was so beautiful though! – Green fields and forests, bits of morning fog hovering over the ground, picturesque farms, and sun coming through the trees. I was thankful for the blue sky and the sun which promised warm times to come. 


It all worked out. Eventually I heard traffic, and then came to the intersection of highway 12. There was even a convenience store with coffee and electric outlets outside!! I sat on the curb enjoying my coffee while my equipment charged, and I was delighted to see I was back in Internet range so I could tell my family that all was well. 


I saw that Centralia was within a reasonable distance so I skirted Elma and continued down highway 12. Thanks to the gods of roads or bikers or whatever it was, the road was pretty much flat and the headwinds were mild enough to have no effect. The ride was very pretty following a river and taking me through green forests, fields, and farms. 


It was almost a 50 mile day though, and after the fourth hour I started to fade. 15 minutes and a break turned into 10 minutes the last hour, and sometimes less than that. I finally limped into the Harrison Tent and RV park to find the office closed. The sign said pay and put the envelope in the slot, tent sites $15, summer only. It was good there was no one in the office to tell me it wasn’t summer because I didn’t have it in me to move on. 


I set up camp, had an interesting conversation with the lady nearby, and then visited the “washroom”. There is a building with laundry facilities, showers, bathrooms, and an open area with electric outlets!! Yeah!! My solar charger had done quite well on this sunny day but to have outlets and not worry about battery power, what a wonderful thing. I am learning quickly about the priorities of life in the road – water, power, internet, and a place to sleep that is tolerably warm. Food? For some reason I have very little appetite but I am trying to eat some because I know I need to. 


My heart went out to the lady nearby. She is living in this funky old camper trailer. The roof leaks, the electric doesn’t work so she has an extension cord from somewhere that gives her a couple outlets. The toilet leaked and threatened to go through the floor so they took it out and got a potty chair. She lives with her grandson who is in some sort of special training program that is supposed to make him employable soon. Hopefully it works out because he will lose his food stamps when he turns 21, which I gathered is not too far off. She thought this situation would be only short term but the section 8 low income housing program has been shut down and now she has nowhere else to go or hope of changing her circumstances. She only has her $730/month social security to live on. It seems like a damn shame that people have to live like that in our prosperous country!!  I wish I could take her to Panama where she would be fine on that income. 


Anyway, I am comfy in my tent. It is raining outside but the tarp over the tent seems to be doing the job. My devices are powered up and I have internet. I don’t know what I will do tomorrow. Rain is predicted in the morning and I am quite tired. I could stay here another day, rest, and enjoy the building with walls and electric outlets. I would like to make it to Longview on the Oregon border but it’s 52 miles and probably not realistic. There is a camp area midway though with good reviews, so that’s a possibility if the rain doesn’t last long. 


Well I have run on quite enough for one evening. I will get to the photos when I can, but it’s getting late tonight. I’ll be back soon though. Thank you all again so much for following me, and for all your support and encouragement! It keeps me going through those tough moments and I really appreciate it. 




About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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20 Responses to Catching Up, a lot of words

  1. Carole says:

    You sure lead an interesting life! It must have been strange being alone in your tent with just the night sounds. You are doing great finding your way around. At least you didn’t have any mishaps other than the park closed. It is good you have your tent so you can stop just about anywhere if you have to. Take care, can’t wait for your next post.


  2. Wow, look at the adventures you are having already! The good news is that you’re going south and it will soon be warmer. And I can imagine the beautiful scenery – you’re going through one of the prettiest parts of the U.S., IMO. Thanks for the update, amiga!


  3. raj484 says:

    Way to go Kris!! You are amazing and I love following your trip. Hang in there and keep on keeping on!!
    Suzi Jensen


  4. OH Kris!!! I. Am. Sending you all sorts of encouraging thoughts! It’s so great to read all your lovely descriptions of what your seeing on your way. It’s so great that your so prepared with all the warm gear while your traveling through those cold areas! I hate being cold so I’m glad your keeping warm. It’s just endlessly fun to witness this amazing journey. Thanks for taking us along! Love ya!


    • Thank you so much Amiga πŸ™‚ thank goodness I was able to test out everything before I left or it wouldn’t have gone well. This is my third sleeping bag, and I saw what happened in the rain without a tarp. I am looking forward to warmer weather farther south though, and the scenery that is to come.


  5. Annelise says:

    I’m in absolute AWE of you!!!! You are my hero and inspiration!!! Stay safe, keep writing, know that I’m thinking of you, and pedal on, Silverwheels!!! πŸ’›πŸ’œβ€οΈπŸ’šπŸ’™


  6. Joyce says:

    Over and over, you show up as a powerful, resourceful and incredibly determined woman! It must be so rewarding to you. Please know that you may call on me for support in any way that I can give it. I will give Joel a call.


    • Thank you, and I really appreciate you keeping in touch with Joel. He has been really busy but I think he has a lot of free time now so he will like that. As for determined, if there had been a way out of the woods I would have taken it. Good thing there wasn’t though because the next day was way better and I’m still here to pedal on.


  7. oldsalt1942 says:

    The best part of most adventures is talking about them after the fact rather than the actual act of doing of them.


  8. Linda says:

    Thinking of you on your journey Kris. Thank you for keeping us posted along the way. Take good care and know you are in all of our hearts!


  9. indacampo says:

    Nothing wrong with staying in and keeping dry. Tomorrow is another day! Onward and that, I mean down the map…and the country. πŸ™‚


    • I have a destination about 25 miles away and the weather is supposed to clear up around noon, so I will probably head out this afternoon. Meanwhile though, yes, staying dry inside and watching it rain off and on.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. ME BE in Panama says:

    Thanks for taking me on the road with you Kris. You’re right it’s insane that the great land of the American Dream is a living nightmare for so many! Be safe mi amiga.


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