Monday, July 16, 2018

Tour de Vancouver: Bringing it all Home

What are you doing here? The trip is almost over and you've cut in line! You won't understand a thing here unless you've read this blog, and then this blog, and then this one, and then this one. Go read those first. Do your homework! Clean your room! And stay off of my lawn!!!

July 7: Seattle Again

When I first planned this trip, the last day was going to use the route that I had taken four years earlier to return to Seattle. But between that and July 7, RandoGirl and I bought (more or less) a house on Bainbridge Island. I wanted to show everyone the house and a bit of Bainbridge -- plus, I knew that the Silverdale and Bremerton sections would be busy and unpleasant -- so I altered the route.

After another huge breakfast, we left Port Townsend by following the old route and getting on the Larry Scott Trail to go by the paper factory. Parts of this were paved and other parts weren't, and we got confused a few times, but eventually it ended about the way that I remembered and we had to get on Hwy 20 for a mile. Fortunately, that road has a decent shoulder and the Saturday post-holiday traffic was not too bad, and soon we turned off on Hwy 19 towards Irondale.

In Port Hadlock, we got on Oak Bay Road for a fast run towards Port Ludlow. The shoulder here was not as good and traffic was both heavier and more aggressive than I remember from 2014. I was happy when we finally turned on to Paradise Bay Road after a brief stop at a convenience store for coffee and rest rooms.

Traffic was definitely heavier crossing the Hood Canal Floating Bridge, but we had the big shoulder so that was no problem. On the other side of the bridge, Steve and Joyce passed us in the van. They turned right, as was our original plan. But we turned left to follow the new route.

In retrospect, I wish that we had turned right since most routes seem to favor taking Hwy 3 to Big Valley Road, and then coming up from Poulsbo. I had opted for fewer miles and hills, so we turned left on Hwy 104 through Port Gamble, east on Hwy 307 towards Kingston, and then down Miller Bay Road. All of those were busy with a shoulder that came and went and often had debris, and were not very scenic either. We were so happy to get to the end of that, past the casino, and over the bridge onto Bainbridge Island that nobody wanted to stop for a picture of Agate Passage.

Once on the island, we turned off onto some of the quieter roads along the west coast. Everyone was pretty tired by now, so we cut off some of the southern sections and headed into some nice Bainbridge Island neighborhoods.

Then we went down to the Harbour Public House where we had a huge late lunch. We caught the ferry afterwards and most of the team took the water taxi to Alki Beach and back to the house. Jeff Bauer and I didn't want to wait for the ferry, so we bombed down the roads instead -- not realizing that Cathie was also going with us. She got a little lost, but made it home fine a little later.

Back at our house, we all hung out drinking and chatting and packing up bicycles. The next morning, Jeff, Tom, and Judy flew back home while Steve, Joyce, Jill, and Cathie did sight-seeing. Then we loaded them up and they flew back.

In spite of a few challenges, it was a good trip. It must have been, since everyone is already asking when the next one is and where we will be going. Hopefully by then I will have ridden a few more of the roads so I better know what to avoid.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Tour de Vancouver: Island Time

Today's blog is about a long trip, so it's broken into multiple entries. For stuff to make sense, read this one, and then this one, and then this one. Then come back here.

July 5: Orcas Island

Today was one of the best routes, but it was also one of the toughest. And that's how things should be.

Tom and Judy were good to ride with us again by now, so Jeff took over in the van. He did an excellent job staying close and being available in case the route was too much for the battered couple, but Tom had recovered very well and finished strong. This also gave Jeff a chance to find a replacement for his rear derailleur cable, which had crapped out for the last 15 miles of the previous day's route. To someone who is so used to riding fixed gear bikes for 1200Ks or RAAM, however, it was nothing to Jeff.

After a huge breakfast at the hotel, we passed through an apparently sleepy and/or hung-over Bellingham and returned to Chuckanutt Drive.

It's good to have a camera with a timer. Let's you run around and get in the shot ... even if it took four tries.

Since Tom and Judy didn't get to bike through here last time, we took it easy. Then we put the hammer down when we got back to the flats.

We were making very good time, and our lunch stop at Edison was almost "second breakfast." Jeff joined us, having finally found a shop with a Campagnola derailleur cable (who'd have thought that Campy would even have to go weird on their cables?!).

Back on the road, we passed a lot of cyclists heading north.

Some just looked like day riders, but there were quite a few touring cyclists as well.

Eventually, the quiet road along the water smacked into busy Highway 20. But this road had a good shoulder and we were only on it for long enough to get over the channel and on to Fidalgo Island.

We then turned onto a road through a more industrial section of town -- nice and quiet -- before heading out past the refinery and onto this lovely bridge.

Yeah, we all took pictures of it. It lead to a multi-use trail ...

... that included totem poles near RV parks ...

... and views of Anacortes industries across the water, with Mount Baker in the background ...

... before finally entering Anacortes via a field of dry-docked pleasure boats.

We cut through a couple of quiet neighborhoods before getting back on Highway 20 for a couple of miles. The shoulder here came and went, and the cars did not seem happy to be sharing the road with us. Just before the ferry, there was a sign saying "Bike Lane Ends." I laughed, because there were no markings for a bike lane. Some "Share The Road" signs would have been better, or preferably a couple of "Bikes May Use Full Lane" signs.

Either way, we had over an hour to the next ferry. I even changed out of my bike clothes as we hung around waiting to see if Jeff could get on with the van. He did, and we soon boarded the boat.

Some of us napped and read, while RandoGirl and I worked on one of the dozens of jigsaw puzzles that were on the tables. Soon, we were on Orcas Island.

Steve and Joyce's wheel had gone flat during the ride, but since the van was there it was easy to change and soon we were crossing the hills on this little island. We buzzed through Eastsound and headed south on the other side, where we had a long climb followed by a steep descent down to Rosario Resort.

The resort was busy due to the holiday. It was after 8 pm by the time we got checked into our room, put away our stuff, and got cleaned up, so we opted for the simple dinner at the grill down by the marina.

July 6: Port Townsend

Since we were all sharing driving duties, today was my day in the van. I chose it because I knew that the two ferry crossings would be tricky, and because the route today was fairly straight-forward.

However, I still needed a ride. And, since today was the one-year anniversary of my crash in Andorra, I had something to prove. So I climbed Mount Constitution -- the highest point on the San Juan Islands.

It was not yet 6 am when I headed out of the resort and did the very tough climb back to the main road. I then turned right and within less than a mile entered Moran State Park.

All of the campers were still asleep as I passed through the campground and the lake.

The deer, of course, were up.

If you ever go to Orcas Island, you will encounter a bunch of deer that have almost no fear of humans. I even saw a couple of young bucks, who barely looked by as I rode past on my bike.

I soon turned off on the dead-end road that climbed the mountain.

The bird on the sign had probably already enjoyed his worm.

The park was a CCC project back in the 1930s, and some of the bridgework and railings are still in use. Just past this bridge I got to a closed gate a little ways beyond the last of the RV parking. A sign there said that the gate opened at 7 am. Since it was almost 7 am, I hoped that they wouldn't mind me jumping the gate early.

A park ranger passed me a little later near here, but did not say anything to me about jumping the gate. Most of the Orcas Island people that I met were very chill, so he probably figured "no harm, no foul." A refreshing point of view from a government worker nowadays.

Halfway up, I stopped at a scenic overlook.

A guy in a truck pulled up next to me and began to unload his bike. We chatted briefly, and he told me he was just climbing up from here. He agreed that the toughest part of my route was getting out of Rosario.

He was right, too. The rest of the way up had a few short 10% and 11% sections, but it was all easier than riding around Vashon Island. Soon I was at the top.

Pictures fail to capture the view from up here, since you can see virtually all of the San Juan Islands.

It was windy and cold, and I knew that RandoGirl would be worried about me, so I started down.

Although the climb had been hard physically, the descent was rough mentally. I rode my brakes almost all the way, through every curve and switchback and moderating my speed on the few straight sections, thinking about how far I had come in the year since my crash ... and trying to block out thoughts of ever having to do that recovery again.

Obviously, I made it down. The steep stuff into Rosario was worse in some ways, but better in that I knew it now, and soon I was back at the hotel.

The group had opted out of the steep climb back to the main road, instead ferrying people and their bikes via the van. I took the last folks up, took their picture, and then headed back to the room to pack everything up.

Once our bikes and all of the bags were in the car, we drove to Eastsound and had breakfast with everyone. Then we headed to the ferry in hopes of getting on an earlier boat. Fortunately, island life was in full swing, and the guy at the gate gave us the green light. The car and all of the cyclists thus made it to Anacortes together.

We took Marine Drive out of town -- a lovely road, but very lumpy -- and then followed Rosario Road back to Highway 20 at Deception Pass.

We checked in with the riders via text and they were doing well. So we went on past Whidbey Naval Air Station ...

... and stopped in Oak Harbor for lunch.

The riders took a less busy route on the west side of Whidbey Island. While it meant fewer cars and nicer views, it also meant that they were having a hard time finding food options. Nonetheless, they were still doing well, so RandoGirl and I headed down to Coupeville to see if we could catch an earlier sailing of the ferry to Port Townsend. It meant sitting in the van for about an hour and a half, but they were able to squeeze us in after a couple of boats came and went.

Since we were at least one boat ahead of the group, we had time to check in and lug our bags up to our third-floor room. We were staying at the Palace Hotel -- a lovely old place that was once a notorious brothel and is now supposedly haunted. Since it's old, it did not have an elevator. And since it's the Pacific Northwest, it did not have air conditioning. We opted for a walk to see the town while the stuffy room cooled.

We got back to the room about the time that everyone came in. We helped with bags and bikes as much as possible. After everyone got cleaned up and dressed, we went out to another great dinner at the Silverwater Cafe. When we got back to our rooms, they had almost cooled off enough that we could enjoy a restful night.