Monday, June 30, 2014

Closing the Loop

I went to bed Monday night dreading my Tuesday ride. The forecast called for rain until mid- to late-afternoon, with temperatures mostly in the 50s and 60s. A lot of people would just call that "Seattle," but to these Florida-conditioned bones it is "yucky."

So, imagine my pleasant surprise when I awoke to this:

Apparently, the rain that was supposed to hit the coast that morning moved inland. It dumped all over Jeff Bauer and the other folks on the Cascade 1200K, which is too bad. But I was dry and warm and happy, and that's good enough for me.

I had some time to kill waiting to check out of the hotel, so I had a coffee and cinnamon roll (only so-so) before packing everything up and heading downstairs to wait for someone to come into the hotel lobby/restaurant. About 8:45, I gave up and left the key in my room. I went by a Safeway to get some Gatorade, and then hit the Pacific Northwest Trail to leave town.

This is a nice trail, with some sections of fine gravel and others paved. After wending past the local cardboard plant (or something like that) on the shore, it went inland to shadier and hillier sections.

Eventually, the trail ended and I was on busier Hwy 20 for a bit, then slightly less busy Hwy 19. I got off this after a mile or so to pass through a few small port towns on Oak Bay. They were cute little towns, but none of them had a diner that interested me for second breakfast. To make things worse, this road was hilly.

Soon I hit Hwy 109 and the Hood Canal Floating Bridge, one of the longest floating bridges in the world.

The bridge has two lift sections for boats. For cyclists, it has a huge shoulder ... and, since it's a floating bridge, it's flat.

Beyond the bridge I stopped at a convenience store for some chips and a cold bottle of tea. It hit the spot, and I rode strongly there for the next miles, even catching up with the only other touring cyclist that I met on this trip.

He gave me his name, but I immediately forgot it. He was a nice kid from Midlands area in the U.K., however, and was doing a three-week tour to San Francisco. As I had just done the same thing back in the fall, I gave him some tips on good campgrounds and places to visit. I would have ridden further with him, but as he was riding loaded and I had a long day ahead, I knew he could not keep up with me.

Soon, my route took me into more crowded areas. I almost took the wrong turn on a roundabout, but the name of the road made me think.

In Silverdale, I passed a Panera Bread ... or started to pass it.  You know me -- I quickly came about and bought their three-seed demi and a coffee. It was the break I needed before heading off on the last few miles towards Bremerton.

Coming into the ferry area, the hills come back and the traffic gets aggressive. I got to the ferry about 1:40 pm, and discovered that the next boat did not sail until 3 pm.

When life gives you lemons, however, you trade them in for limes and fix yourself a gin and tonic. Life didn't give me lemons or limes, of course, so I just went to the little shop next to the ferry office and had a great lunch consisting of a German bratwurst on a bun and some french fries with unique dipping sauces. Then I put on my tights and jacket, waited around another 45 minutes, and got on the ferry.

The ride over takes an hour, most of which I napped through. I awoke as everyone started shuffling around getting ready to disembark, and hurried back down to the main deck and my bike. The let the cyclists off first, and it was a bit of a race as we all sprinted away from shore. After a mile of tough climbing inland and zooming from one light to the next, I had to stop and take my jacket and tights off again. Then, I just tried to follow people (and my GPS) out of town heading north.

Soon, the GPS had me on the Interurban Trail, which is a set of bike lanes and multi-use paths that enables you to make your way from about the Seattle city limits way up to the northern suburbs.

Most of the lanes were good, as were many of the multi-use paths. The 15-mph speed limit was no hindrance for me on my touring rig, and traffic was fairly light.

There were spots, however, where the signs must have been stolen -- or placed somewhere that I couldn't see them. I would come to an intersection and there was no path on the other side of the road, but there was a bike lane. When I got on the bike lane, my GPS buzzed and told me that I was stupid (again), showing me that there was this path over to my right or left. Eventually, I was able to get back on it, but every time I asked myself exactly why I was bothering.

As the day waned, the trail also got more crowded. I didn't that much mind people walking two- or three-abreast, or even people weaving around on junker Huffy's walking their dogs, but I almost ran over a little kid who ran out to get a ball. It was at these points that I would have been more willing to just get on the road and take my chances with the cars.

I got off the trail at the southern edge of Everett, turning east. After a nice descent away from the interstate, I was rolling down a road following the Snohomish River.

You may recall me passing through Snohomish on the first day of my trip. When I got to this town, I closed the other loop on my route. Then I turned towards Monroe, and started wondering how Jeff's ride had gone.

Not as dire as the sign might imply. He finished a couple of hours ahead of me, and was asleep in the room when I got there. Fortunately, he was more than willing to go out for some dinner. It had been a lot of miles since the bratwurst and french fries.

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