We knew it would be a relatively short 50-mile day, and had no reason to hurry to the tiny town of Elma, WA—so we slept in a bit. Breakfasted in the room on fig newtons, a fruit smoothie, and muscle milk (if you imagine dairy-free milk-flavored cough syrup, you won’t be far off the mark).
We rolled out of the Belfair Inn at around 10:30, into a cool gray day that soon turned warm. The worst climb was the first climb, five miles in: it was the steepest we’ve encountered, and it caught us unawares, unable to downshift in time, and even with fresh-ish legs we just barely cranked up it. We were rewarded with a long, hilly, peaceful lakeside road, a long stretch with little traffic and almost no giant pickups, which inevitably gun it as they pass a tad too close.
The riding was uneventful, along forested two-lane rural roads lined with prodigious groves of invasive scotch broom exploding with yellow blossoms, and the miles passed quietly. We entertained ourselves by cataloguing the roadside detritus–today, the usual beer cans, a Quaker Oats container, a water bottle full of cigarette butts, miscellaneous road kill, a pair of men’s underpants, and–best–a Jim Beam coffee mug placed perfectly, upright, on the gravel shoulder.
A mere 25 miles in, a brisk descent into Shelton, expecting a Dairy Queen lunch but happily surprised by a Subway. Gulped down a couple of six-inchers and ambled on, another relatively easy 28 miles along sleepy Cloquallum Creek into the outskirts of Elma.
There we found the one place to camp, the Elma RV Park, whose owner introduced us to the local (female) sheriff, showed us our site and the free pile of firewood, and gave us two baggies of homemade cookies. For $10 we got a perfect spot, complete with the cleanest bathrooms we’ve ever seen camping. We set up camp, showered (a quarter for 3 minutes), and walked half a mile this sunny, breezy early evening to the Rusty Tractor for dinner (“family restaurant” a euphemism for “no beer” which one might expect across the highway from the LDS temple).
So as soon as we finish our burgers, we’ll hit the gas station convenience store, then back with a bag of beer for some Phase-10 around the campfire. Planning an early start for what will be, with luck, the penultimate Washington ride.
Day 4 totals: 52.8 miles, 1953 feet of climbing.
Ashley’s postscript: today is the anniversary of my femur/hip-crunching bike wreck. I worried, that night, that I’d never ride right again. Rolling along today, I thought not at all about the hardware holding my femural neck in place. So cheers to my talented surgeon, and to the remarkable healing capacity of the human body.