Thursday, June 26, 2014

The "Fill-in-the-Gap" Tour

I started the "Fill-in-the-Gap" Tour today, so named because it 1) gives me something to do rather than the Cascade 1200 while I'm up here in Seattle, and 2) allows me to finish the northernmost part of the Adventure Cycling West Coast route, which I used last year to ride from Seattle to San Francisco.

Well, okay, the first reason is kind of lame. There are a ton of things that I could have done -- such as stay home in Nashville and helped host the Harpeth River Ride with all of my friends from the Harpeth Bike Club. Or just go to Seattle and hang out at Ivar's and eat. But this is the thing that I really, really wanted to do.

And so far, it's been a blast!

Jeff Bauer and I flew into Seattle on Thursday. Between the flight, the drive to Monroe, and assembling my bike, it was a long day. Fortunately, the bike went together fine, so after a nice dinner we turned in for the night.

The hotel was kind of noisy, thanks to a rail line that runs behind our room, but I managed to sleep until the sun came up about 5 am. After a few hours hanging out in the room drinking coffee and eating Darcy's Dinky Donuts, I finally bade Jeff a good ride on the Cascade 1200 and headed for Bellingham.

The roads quickly took me into flat farmland bookended by towering mountains. My planned route was only 84 miles with less than 3000 feet of climbing, however, so I knew that I should be able to avoid the tougher hills. Within 10 miles, I entered Snohomish and got on the Centennial Trail.

This rails-to-trails wends its way north through a series of small Washington towns. Since it's a rails-to-trails path, it follows an old railroad bed and is thus mostly flat with miles of quiet forest and fields. When it went through a town, there were lots of stops and turns, but the local economies have stepped up with plenty of coffee shops just off the trail. I stopped for second breakfast at Henry's Donuts -- business was slow enough that Henry came out and played on his electric bike with his daughter.

Eventually, my Garmin told me to get off the trail. So I ignored it, since the trail still seemed to go the way that I wanted. After a couple of miles, however, it started to move more east. When the trail ended a few miles later, I ended up taking Hwy 9 north and then east to get back on my route, picking up a few extra miles. I think, however, that they may have been flatter than the way that I was supposed to go, since I never ended up doing much climbing but still got to the other side of these mountains.

I stopped in Burlington for lunch at Arby's, then got a little turned around trying to get across the river. By the time I figured out where I was supposed to be, I ended up riding through a shopping center parking lot to get onto the right road. Fortunately, there was a See's Candies in the shopping center, so I was able to pick up some candy.

Yeah, I'm going to gain weight on this tour.

A few miles out of Burlington, I lost the nut on the bolt that holds the strut on my rear fender. The fender is so thoroughly locked down that it was not in danger of getting loose, but the strut was not rattling against the fender making an annoying clanking sound. I considered backtracking a few miles to Burlington, since the shopping center with the See's Candies also had a Home Depot, but decided to just wait until Bellingham to get a new nut.

Soon I was on Hwy 11, but when I saw some turn arrows from somebody's route I couldn't help but follow them. The new road pretty much followed Hwy 11, but was a little more quiet. Soon, it rejoined Hwy 11 at a very nice bakery, where I picked up a biscuit, cookie, and huge sticky bun.

Did I mention that I'm going to get fat on this ride?

Soon past this, the waters of Samish Bay -- off the Strait of Juan de Fuca -- hove into view. It was nice to see the water again, although it meant that I was going to have to do some climbing. While much of the land close to the bay is very flat, there are a lot of spots where the mountains crowd up next to it and the road gets steep.

After a few ups and downs, I entered Bellingham and was soon downtown.

One thing that was immediately apparent is that the town has a lot of cyclists, either just riding around for fitness or actually using a bike to get somewhere. Waiting at a red light, another cyclist pulled up behind me and I asked him where there was a hardware store. He told me to follow him, and I soon found myself at the biggest hardware store that I had ever been in.

They had the nut that I needed, so I got two of them. Then I cut through some nice neighborhoods to get back on my route, and finally hit my hotel about mile 93. That many miles works up an appetite, so after taking a shower and doing some laundry I had an excellent pizza for dinner, served by a very nice young lady named Georgia.

Hmmm ... more food.

Tommorow, I head for Canada. Unfortunately, I am now so fat that I don't look like my passport picture.


  1. You're friend should have come with you. Nobody is going to care about having done a 1200K outside of randonneuring circles. You took the kind of trip that would have included leisure and cycling. Good for you.

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