Finding Fair Trade in Astoria

Having seen a little bit more of Astoria it’s clear that there are more “fair trade” options that I saw in southern Washington (which actually isn’t saying much). However it seems the coffee shops don’t have Certified Fair Trade coffee but do claim to be “fair trade”. That’s one of the ongoing problems with trying to establish the claims of some places and products. Around here there are a lot of local coffee roasters and they often claim to be ‘direct trade’ or ‘fair trade’. Sometimes you have to go on trust when you’re passing through a place but I hope it’s genuine and that they are doing their best for the producers they purport to help.

On the grocery side, there’s lots of Certified Fair Trade products available for tea, coffee and chocolate, so I’ve been stocking up on Fair Trade chocolate whilst in town. Delicious!

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Two’s company

Another stop in Fort Stevens and the rain is trying it’s hardest to stick around. But now I have my friend Nicholas from Vancouver to commiserate with, moan about the weather and dream of the epic vistas along the coast. He arrived last night and I found him in a mall car park trying to put his bike together after coming from Portland on the bus. Luckily no mishaps and a quick tune-up at the bike shop today should see us on the road again tomorrow

The Washington ‘Franz’ Breadmaker Mafia

Travelling as a vegan presents its own unique challenges. I’ve had many people wonder (as well as myself) how I will cope with the non-vegan Latin American world. We shall see.

I didn’t quite expect to have problems as I meandered through Washington. Less choice, certainly, but real difficulty? Surely not…and being mostly rural, each town typically had little choice of grocery store and it seems even less choice for the company who makes your bread. I encountered ‘Franz’ for the first time.

Quick ingredient check…oh, milk products. I see. Next. Ah, same. Right, next one then…ok this is getting silly. And lo and behold pretty much every single loaf contained milk products or eggs. I often wonder why particular ingredients are in certain products and this was no exception. In every loaf?? Not one without…? Well, after a lot of hunting and not a few stares from the shelf stacker waiting patiently while I scrutinised his wares I did find some Franz bagels that did not contain milk products. Yay! They’re vegan friendly! But check out what else they contain.. Any chemists out there who can explain the need for all those ‘tasty’ extras..???

You’d think that just a little more choice would be available in these parts, but perhaps they’re in cahoots with the Washington dairy association or some other such friendly corporate lobby group..

Franz Plain Bagels. Warning: Does not contain dairy
Franz Plain Bagels. But here's what they do contain...

Things didn’t quite get to the point where it was a matter of loaf and death:

Further thoughts from Washington

Southern and southwest Washington was pretty rural and not much along my route for attractions once I got past the San Juan Islands and Hood Canal. The spectacular Olympic mountains did their best to hide and so I never really got to see them properly, other than from a distance. So I occupied myself with sitings of coffee shacks, rainclouds, trees and the occasional dose of sunshine.

When I made it to the coast it was quite spectacular though and tries to rival the Oregon coast. I heard Westport is a surfing mecca but I never got the chance to see it in anything but a foggy drizzle.

The other curious siting I made several times was when passing through Indian reserves and the fantastical attempts to entice people into buying fireworks. I don’t know if this is year-round or because 4th July is coming up, but various shacks, roadstands and other claptrap-looking buildings twirled their signs and let you know they had the best fireworks anywhere. Lucky I didn’t need to stop for any live demonstrations.

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The first few days in Washington

Blogging is not easy when there’s no wifi or power connections along the way. With ferry times to make in the early days and then getting through the lone (and lonely) rural Washington towns it’s been a struggle to find any connection to the outside world.

However I’ve made it south through Washington and now have made it over the Columbia River at Astoria (negotiating the 4-mile bridge) into Oregon. The next stretch will the Oregon Coast, a rightly famous route for bike touring.

Unfortunately I won’t make it to Portland. I had some Fair Trade related plans that didn’t work out and despite the many many attractions of this vegan-and bike-friendly city it was not worth the near 150 km ride each way. So I’m taking a couple of days to rest in a lovely campsite, despite its size (“the biggest this side of the Mississippi”) that is a short walk from the miles of ocean and Oregon sands.

I’ll post some pictures and more details on the last week shortly.

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Day 2 Victoria, Vancouver Island

Today is a bit of a rest day, although biking into Victoria and back is a little more distance than yesterday. Still, nice to have some time to explore and catch up with some Fair Trade goings-on in the Victoria area.

I’d arranged to meet Andrew from Level Ground Trading ( to give me a little insight to what they do in the world of Fair Trade. In many respects they go ‘one better’ and have established a number of ‘Direct Trade’ relationships with their various producers. The connection to where our food comes from is a key element of fair trade principles and it was great to see where Level Ground have set these up.

Andrew (right) and Kieran with the Level Ground (Scooby-doo lookalike) van

In the afternoon I headed into Victoria and a surprise find in Market Square was The Global Village store, an entirely volunteer-run Fair Trade craft and tasty food shop. I knew nothing about it before now but it’s a long-established business so if you are in the downtown Victoria area drop by to find some quality artisan products.

Lotti and Sarah from The Global Village, Victoria

And so it begins!

Day 1 – Gulf Islands National Park (McDonald Provincial Park), Vancouver Island. Distance today: ~50km

Finally the ride is underway. A few false starts, delays and anxieties about leaving, but now I have pedalled away from Vancouver. And it being Vancouver, it was raining when I left. Nice touch. However, by the time I got to Tswwassen for the Island ferry the sun was out, a breeze was up (which I had certainly noticed earlier when riding into it) and things seemed much brighter.

I found a few people eager to know where I was going, fellow bikers I met headed to or from the ferry. A bunch of guys embarking on a big ride of their own across Canada, and a very helpful lady heading home (on her Surly LHT no less) to Victoria.

However, now that it’s underway, the scale of the trip is beginning to hit home. A bike that somehow gets forever heavier; traipsing and backtracking for the campsite; unpacking; setting up the tent; remembering that this is a more simple existence, or should be if I wasn’t worrying about how I’m going to pack up again…it’s a day of very mixed feelings and although I’m glad that finally the trip has started, I have a heavy heart thinking of the complications and perhaps less glamourous parts of the journey. I think it’s just something to get used to. Shedding a few pounds from my bike will certainly help, if I can (eating all the food doesn’t count…)