Port Townsend

The next day we hopped back on the ferry to Anacortes and headed on our way to Coupeville to catch yet another ferry to Port Townsend, which we assumed was just another dot on the map.

We crossed through Deception Pass, which included the tallest bridge I’ve ever stood on.  The view was breathtaking.  The bridge rose 200ft above the deep turquoise, swirling water, which was also 200ft deep.  It was something to see!  Islands sat off in the distance and you could see the snow camped mountain ranges beyond.

Later that day we came upon a bunch of apple trees overhanging into the road.  We decided to raid one for snacks we could take on the road.  Ben got off his bike and jumped up to shake a branch and drop some apples.  The problem was he was standing right beneath the branch…Thud, thud!!  A few came screaming down onto Ben’s helmet.  I stifled a laugh, as Ben (thank goodness) still had his helmet on and was fine.

After rounding the last hill, along more quaint farmlands we reached the ferry to Port Townsend.  We met some fellow Coloradoans on the ride and were happily surprised to find out that Port Townsend is one of the most beautiful and entertaining small towns in Washington.  It was originally meant to be the West Coast’s New York, but instead they chose SF.  All the buildings are from the late 1800s, brick and preserved wonderfully.  It was a great place to take a day off.

We spent the next day stuffing ourselves with clams and mussels, walking by the seas and relaxing.

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San Juan Island

Chelsea was dead set on seeing some whales here in Puget Sound and she knew one of the best places to do so was around the islands near Anacortes.  There are hundreds of islands, the most common ones being San Juan, Orcas and Lopez.  We settled on San Juan as we’d heard that the killer whales had been hanging out around the west side of the island recently.

We set out early in the morning, leaving our pint-sized cabin behind and met up with a bike path that seems to have been a Rails to Trails project due to the fact that the bike path crossed part of the bay on a old bridge that was far stouter than it needed to be for bikes. The bridge spanned maybe half a mile and only bikes were allowed on it.  We passed no other cyclists that morning, but had tons of obstacles that we’ve never dealt with before.- hundreds of shells from clams and muscles littered the deck of the bridge. Seagulls would bring their catch up to the bridge, which they used as a long diner table. 

The path continued around various shipyards which I’ve always found fascinating simply because I know so little about them. Massive hulls of future yachts were set out in one yard while dozens of dry-docked boats were in another.  Others were full of parted-out boats that had seen better days.

The bike path ended and we navigated our way through some residential streets before popping out near the ferry terminal.  Our ferry was quite large, around 200’ long with four levels.  We were allowed onboard first and rode our bikes down the entire length of the ferry, marveling at how flat, dry and warm it was while riding inside.  At the end of the ferry we were directed to a spot where we lashed our bikes to a wall with a short piece of rope.  Dozens of cars and even semis came aboard for the 80-minute voyage to Friday Harbor, some 25 miles away.

Chelsea and I went to the top deck and leaned out over the handrail taking pictures and looking for whales.  We saw a porpoise or two along the way as well as seals.  I thoroughly enjoyed yelling, “Orca!” while pointing at floating masses of kelp in the distance. It never got old.

San Juan Island proved to be a slow, sleepy place.  While in a cab headed to a spot where orcas usually congregate I asked the cabbie,  “So what’s the most interesting thing that’s happened around her recently?”  He took a long breath and replied, “Well, about 20 years ago, the TV show, COPS came here to film some episodes. But they left after about two weeks because they realized nothing happens here.”

 

Larrabee to Anacortes

We left Larrabee State Park and continued our trek through the forest before a long descent that opened up to flat agricultural land. Some fields lay fallow while others were freshly tilled, exposing unusually dark, pungent soil. Most fields had some sort of bush planted with red or orange leaves that we couldn’t identify.

The roads became flat, rain intermittent at worst, and traffic was scarce, which enabled us to get into a great rhythm of drafting each other. Drafting requires a lot of concentration and communication but the payoff is well worth it. The rider in front points out road debris and directions while the person in the rear checks for cars and tells the front rider how to adjust their speed so that the bikes can stay about a foot apart.

We had loose plans for where we would stay that night other than that we wanted to dry out someplace and that we’d like to catch a ferry from Anacortes to San Juan Island the next day. We stopped at a cozy restaurant where the hostess rushed outside to show us a good place to park our bikes and then quickly sat us near the window so we could keep an eye on them. I asked her if she did bike tune-ups as well, but she declined.

While perusing the internet for various accommodations, we stumbled upon an interesting alternative – a miniature cabin just outside the port town of Anacortes.

It rained steadily on the ride from the restaurant to the cabin, which culminated in a massive incline. Part way up the hill Chelsea spotted a produce stand which we stopped at for some local apples and to give our legs a rest.

The cabins were on the outskirts of a tidy RV park, which was run by three jovial guys. One of whom was born in Boulder and asked if his favorite store, McGuckin Hardware, was still around. I told him that it was alive and well and that my dad worked there one day per week and that part of our gear had come from there. This set off quite a conversation between all of us which ended in them giving us some free pastries.

The cabin was absolutely perfect for us. It was the size of a small garden shed, about 8’x10’ with glossy pine used to cover the entire interior while rough-hewn lumber was used for the front porch and around the two windows. It had a queen bed, a heater, a microwave and refrigerator with a bath house and laundromat a short walk away. It also had wifi. In short, all our needs were met.

We are both quite fond of the simplicity and functionality of smaller homes as opposed to large, sprawling, inefficient houses. That being said, we wouldn’t have been opposed to a Jacuzzi out back.

Birch Bay to Larabee State Park

We left the old Air Force base which served as home the night before and hit a small coffee shop where I fought a smothered burrito in a hotdog basket with plastic flatware, which tested my patience while Chelsea bit her lip to keep from laughing.

After a few pictures in the town of Birch Bay we continued southward past a large BP refinery as well as lots of dairies and apple orchards. Carrots must be grown nearby as we frequently saw many in the road.

The hills rolled consistently as we maintained 4 mph on the climbs and broke 20 mph on the other side. On the descents, my weight and larger tires enable me to go about 20% faster than Chelsea but she is getting consistently better at drafting behind me and taking advantage of my wind-breaking abilities (snicker, snicker).

We made it to the quiet little town of Bellingham where we stopped for pizza and a local beer on an outdoor patio, keeping a close eye on our bikes below us. After our late lunch we stopped by a little grocery store and stocked up on provisions to take us through the next few meals- eggs, hash browns, sausage, Rice-a-Roni, granola bars, bananas, one can random German beer.

The scenery and topography changed not long after leaving town as we climbed in elevation, entering a completely new ecosystem. The forest was incredibly dense with tall, straight pines protruding up from thick, lush undergrowth. The road often was bordered by a cliff-like rock outcropping above us and a steep forested hill below us which led directly to the sea. Luckily what looked like a CCC-era guardrail separated us from the forest as I don’t think it would be possible to climb up the slope in any circumstance.

The road turned often and cars frequently slowed down behind us to wait for a straight away to pass. The drivers here have all been considerate and patient with us.

We made a sharp right turn and dropped into the Larabee campground, flying past an unmanned check-in office and followed signs to the campground, which held a few future-neighbors. After one quick trip around the campground we settled on a flat spot under a huge pine tree.

I offered to set up camp while Chelsea went to take a shower. She returned promptly, though, as the shower required 50 cents to operate, no Visa accepted. We checked everywhere and could find nothing smaller than a five-dollar bill between the two of us. Chelsea put on her batty-lashes and headed out in search of change amongst our neighbors. She quickly returned with twenty oxidized quarters from her new friend, Walt.

Post showers we went on a walk down to the beach and watched a seal bobbing about as well as two seagulls fighting. Chelsea decided that one bird was picking on the other and we unleashed a hailstorm of rocks to break up the brawl. Neither bird was injured (or scared, for that matter).

On the way back to camp we stopped by Walt’s camp to thank him again for his help in getting us warm showers. I asked if there was anywhere to buy firewood (something I despise) as collecting was not allowed. He offered to sell us a box of dry firewood, which we took him up on since things are more than a little wet around the area. Walt was a kind soul who seemed to have a soft spot for the hard stuff as his breath was undoubtedly flammable. He told us that he was “well known throughout the parts…” (whether for good or bad, we’ll never know). He said he spent 20 days at our campground and then went to a different one where he spent 20 more days. Walt is also the proud owner of the hairiest nose that I have seen in all my years. Not nostril hairy, but bridge hairy. Unique, nonetheless.

After making a stout Boy Scout fire and eating a filling dinner we lounged about drinking tea and talking about the ride. The sun had been down for a while and we couldn’t see our picnic table but heard a loud banging sound coming from it. We both flicked on our headlamps and caught three raccoons having a nude dance party on top of the table. They didn’t really want to leave but finally did upon our convincing. We packed up our edibles and stuffed the in the vestibules of the tent before falling asleep to the sound of rain.

We awoke around 8am, which is still almost dark in these parts. It had rained overnight and we didn’t want to roll up the tent on the muddy ground so we took it to a nearby picnic table since ours was full of gear soon to be packed. While rolling it up we were approached by a woman in her 50s who was parked next to us in a car with a bike rack holding two bikes. She inquired as to where we were headed. Chelsea told her our route and her eyes lit up. “You must be experienced cyclists!” “Well, not really…” Chelsea noted with a heavy inflection in her voice. “But you commute at home, right?” She countered. Again, Chelsea denied any serious previous biking experience. The woman seemed a bit confused about the whole situation.

After the woman walked away, I whispered to Chelsea, “Do we look like experienced cyclists?” while gesturing at our attire. Both of Chelsea’s leg warmers had fallen down around her ankles, I was missing an arm warmer and had yet to zip up my cycling jersey.

First Day of Riding: Birch Bay

Everything hurts.  My quads, calves, shoulders and hands ache.  Today we accomplished our first day of riding, 35 miles.  That sounds short, right?  Not when the wind is blowing strong and there are hills, big hills.

We are now sitting comfortably in Birch Bay at a hostel on a former Air Force base, enjoying some tea.  I am relishing the fact that my legs are still.  When we finished the ride today I asked Ben if he was sore at all.  He replied with a smile, “Not really.  I feel great!”  I smiled back, but inwardly cringed.  I though to myself, “Oh my… every muscle in my body is screaming!  How am I going to do this?”

But then I remembered what the goal is: to have an unbelievable adventure and get into the best shape of our lives while doing it.  And that is exactly what today was, an adventure.

We rode the metro out of Vancouver today and managed to get ourselves lost, lost enough to finally ask for directions.  After hopping back and forth on the wrong trains we managed to get it right on the third try, third time’s a charm!  Canadians are incredibly friendly and helpful.  On the train, the moment we mentioned to ourselves that we were lost people jumped in to help us.  I am very impressed with their culture.Can you spot the creepy guy in the back?

About three hours after the start of our trip, we arrived at the border.  Unable to see any indication of where bikes were meant to go, we headed into the line of cars.  We realized we were probably in the wrong place when they had us pull up to get our license plates photographed…oops.  The guys at the booth laughed a little and took care of us anyways.  He thought we were nuts for biking to Mexico and added what seemed to be the millionth, “Why this time of year?”

Yes….America!!!  One border crossed.  One more to go.

We rode on, along farm roads through some of the most beautiful country I’ve seen.  Fog hug low near the fields and fall foliage coated the countryside with vivid yellow and orange hues.  The mountains rose from the sea behind us, only to be covered by clouds.

This morning we were extremely lucky, as the rain held off until the last hour of our ride.  And even then it was manageable.  Almost like a cleansing rain, soft and fresh.  It made the earth smell amazing.

We ended the day at dusk in Birch Bay, riding along a quiet road that touched the sea.  All you could hear was the lapping waves and seagulls calling. – Chelsea

Here’s a look at our set up and beautiful Birch Bay

Our New Favorite City: Vancouver

I’ve never heard a single bad thing said about the city of Vancouver, and today I learned why – this place is simply incredible.

The streets are unusually clean, there’s very little honking, people are polite almost to a fault at times. The scenery is like nothing I’ve ever seen before blending mountains and ski runs with a bustling modern city surrounded by pristine waterfront with low-flying float planes overhead.  The ocean, mountains and city are all worth seeing exclusively, but the three of them work together to make for a truly unforgettable experience. This is my new favorite city.Not long after settling into our little hostel we left to meet up with my old friend, Gareth who is the most well-traveled person I know. He grew up in New Zealand and has since lived in the UK, Australia, Mexico and now Canada.  He’s a civil engineer as well and has generally worked 7 or 8 months per year while taking the rest off to travel which has enabled him to visit over 70 countries.  He and I met while working at a silver mine in the Sierra Madre mountains of Chihuahua, Mexico several years back.

Not long after we met up with Gareth, his girlfriend, Kiran, showed up as well.  They are likely the most international, interracial, and interesting couple I know.  She now lives in Vancouver but was raised in the UK though her parents originated in India.  She had a great wit and taught us the a very amusing colloquialism of differentiating between Indians from India and Indians as in Native Americans when speaking about them.  She’d use the term, “Indian dot” while poking her thumb to her forehead to denote those from India, while using the term, “India feather” while putting three fingers behind her head to denote Native Americans.

When Gareth first moved to Canada he did so by way of the Pacific Coast. He bought an RV in Southern California with an Aussie mate of his and drove it up to Canada. They had tourist visas for 90 days and completed the trip in 89.  – Ben

Our first full day in Vancouver we took the advice of Ben’s Kiwi friend, Gareth, and hopped on our bikes to bike around infamous Stanley Park.  Once we got down to the water, a pedestrian/bike path wrapped around the peninsula, providing breathtaking views of the sea and the mountains rising up from it.  We were immediately scolded for being on the pedestrian path, rather than on the bike path, which was one lane over.  We shifted our direction on the one-way path and took in the sights.  Sailboats sat at their docks slowly rocking, while seaplanes buzzed overhead.  A low fog hugged the base of the mountains and sat just above the ocean.  The ride was perfect and gave us a panoramic view of the city, which is now one of my favorite cities in the world.  If you haven’t been, it’s a must.  Tall trees and greenery flood the city and every thing is pristine.On the ride I kept exclaiming, “Look at that tree!  Ohh!  Look at that”, which I have since learned from Gareth is typical American fashion.  He noted that Americans commonly state, “wow, look at that tree!” while he laughs and asks if that is the first tree they’ve ever seen.

As we came to the end of our ride, we slowed to look at a map.  I clipped out my left foot and then leaned right to look at the map.  “Whoa, whoa…”  Crash.  My pride was hurt more than anything.  I came up laughing.  Well, got that out of the way.  I have been told that you will fall at least once when you learn to clip in.  Done. – Chelsea