Monday, August 22, 2011

West Coast Tour: Vancouver BC to Seattle

With six days off in a row, I was forced to have some type of adventure. After checking with the usual partners who where grinding the wheel, I had to chose a solo event. Since I have a new not so shiny touring bike I decided on a ride from Vancouver to Seattle. The trip starts when I arrive at the Vancouver airport at about 3:00pm, spend my 2 hours setting up my bike and heading South.

As usual, I didn't really plan much... or not at all. So I stopped by the visitor center to get a map and ask questions that no one could answer about where to ride your bike. Thankfully the Vancouver city bike map has recommended bike routes.
Heading south out of town I took the east route to Stevenson Wharf where I had an excellent Slab of Salmon. Then after enjoying the sunset over the lake I road east to a curious Louisiana Voodoo community at the corner Dike and Number 4 road.
worth the visit, as long as its not dark anyway. Then onward to my grassy industrial camping site, which had the best blackberries I've ever had. Early the next morning I was up and packet to catch the George Massey Tunnel shuttle at 7:00am, then on to the rail trail near highway 91. In retrospect I would probably try to camp on this trail next time. Following the trail south through watershed park I took my one and only wrong turn (if such a thing is possible on a tour) but got to see some of the famous BC extreme mountain bike trails. Few of which I would have tried even on my 7 inch travel bike.

After leaving watershed park I headed south to Mud bay then East to White Rock for the boarder crossing into the US. It turned out to be uneventful, although completely unmarked for the rookie cyclist. After that I headed South to Blaine where I picked up the bellingham map with recommended cycling routes, perfect. See sometime lack of planning can be an excellent plan! I then took the very direct Portal Way drive down to Tenant lake Park for night number two. It was at this not so exciting bird refuge like park that I spent the night next to a large, ruminant stomach animal. I would keep waking up to snorting and loud breathing and of course the associated chewing.
I was too tired, and even less brave to do much but move around so that the large creature at least new I was there and didn't step on me. Thankfully in the morning when I woke up for good, it was gone.

After secretly leaving my campsite behind I road to the Bellingham Pier for a breakfast of oatmeal and peanut butter bagels. I made a stop at the shop in town to get some much needed anti-chaff stuff.... oh so worth it. Then I continued on via the amazing Chuckanut drive:
must see if your in the area. After that through the rain shadow filled with lavender to a little town of Edison where the Farm to Market Bakery is. Another place that you need to stop, have something wonderful from their menu, and bring cash because thats all they take.
After Edison the road is Mid West like until you hit highway 20 where you get to experience Washington traffic for the first time. Not so fun, but worth he sacrifice. There is a very large shoulder and plenty of room. Once you hit the bay, its actually pretty interesting too. After crossing Fidalgo Island head South to Deception Pass State park. I spent the night here, and it was well worth it. They have 5 campsites just for bikes, and they are away from everyone else so you don't hear the generators or screaming children. They also have token run showers... pure bliss after 3 days of sweaty touring. The beach and the forest are amazing too. If I was going to take an off day, this is where I'd want to spend it.

The next day was a marathon, that I didn't really plan on, it just happened again due to lack of planning. Whidbey Island is a beautiful place and well worth the ride. A good friend of mine just happened to grow up on the island and mapped out a route for me to ride, perfect.
After passing through oak harbor make a hard left to Coupeville then south to Fort Casey, back east to the N Bluff road along the coast, and through the forest. Basically follow the Holmes Harbor shore road to the Earth Sanctuary. From here I was on a time crunch (at least I thought) and so I took 525 head down and grind style to catch the ferry... which I missed by like 30 seconds. Finally at about 6:30 I was back on the mainland in Mukilteo thinking I just had a little while to get to a friends who I was staying at. Unfortunately it was still 35 miles to go. The greater Seattle area has excellent cycling maps with preferred routes in PDF form on the internet. The only problem is they are a little big for the iphone to process so you get to spend lots of time waiting for it to open. I'm sure the ipad would be excellent.

My good friend Todd who has a wife and 2 girls under the age of 5 was leaving the next day for Utah but was nice enough to stay up and wait for me to arrive at his house at 1100pm. I had an excellent time, although had a 1 close call with a mini van mom. She of course never even knew it. One thing I learned is that the bike paths and routes are very well planned out, although sometimes its difficult to find the quickest route, as the most direct may not be the fastest. I caught the BG trail at the North end of Lake Washington thinking I was almost there when within a mile the trail was closed for construction. They generously had planned out a detour, but it clearly wasn't a biker where set the route, more like a construction worker, or a sports car driver because it was ridiculous! Continuous grades up to 15% that take you to the highest point in seattle, just to bypass a short section of trail.
unseasoned cyclist would have been left crying on the roadside in the fetal position. When I got to the top of the ridge the detour promptly headed backdown to the shoreline. I elected to bail since the place I was staying was up on the ridge. I found my own way from there, with only one hill left. So when traveling in Seattle, don't take the detour, find your own way. There was one more such detour around the university bridge, luckily this time I checked the map and chose the better route. The next day I just hung out with old friends, spend some time cycling in downtown seattle, and promptly missed my flight out.

Sunday morning I was much more motivated to get out so I planned out my ride to the light rail, then the light rail to the airport... Unfortunately they didn't update there light rail times online, just in reality so when I showed up, the door where locked and they didn't run for another hour. After much stressing and suffering I just bit the bullet and took the $40 taxi to the airport. It turned out to be the better choice as I still was a little tight on time after the bike packing and checkin. For the first time ever, my bike actually arrived in SLC with me. I even just went straight to the lost baggage counter without checking, since thats where I always end up.

All in all it was an excellent tour. Next time I would probably do an Island tour like most of the other tourers. Starting in Victoria BC, doing the San Juan Islands, Whidbey, and back North. Or I would just do the Island's all the way South to the Olympic Peninsula.
Next section: Seattle to Portland

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