The great Pull & Be Damned Rd.
[Update 02.21.12: I found my journal from this “tour” which it turns out I was just transcribing in the document I published below. So I’ve transcribed the rest of this day and edited the post accordingly.]
I’ve talked about what initially got me interested in bicycle touring in earlier posts, but rooting around my documents folder I found some fragments of a tour diary from what I thought of at the time as a “shakedown” tour. I was at this point planning on doing self-supported touring and was in the process of acquiring gear. After much research I had decided on REI’s Novara Safari and had managed to find one in the size I wanted (too small ultimately) and had been getting in some good rides on it. I had some old small Jandd panniers that I had gotten in college (at an earlier point where I was thinking of touring) but now knew that I needed to really outfit myself for self-supported touring with a full set plus camping equipment and so on. Anyway I decided to do a sort of credit card touring in the San Juan Islands, where I’d drive to Anacortes and bicycle around from there. It didn’t turn out like that due to circumstances, but I’ll leave that for the narrative.
So about this “diary”. Back then I wasn’t blogging, but I was posting regularly on Bike Forums and was an avid reader of Crazy Guy on a Bicycle. So while I wasn’t sure this was appropriate material for the latter I was planing on posting this stuff somewhere. I began writing this highly detailed narrative but never went wrote beyond the first full day. This was the only tour I did with film cameras and I was just buying disposable cameras and using those. So of course there were plenty of bad pics and even the ones that were focused and with enough light look like they are from another era. It also should be noted that even though I scanned these and thus they were at a high resolution, I had scaled them all down to what was a more typical size back then which now seems tiny.
Even though the narrative ends after the first couple of days I have photos throughout the the trip. So I’m going to upload all the photos I have and past in my original narrative (which would be quite different if written today I think). My next (first real) tour was of course a return to these parts as I did a (fully self-supported) tour through the San Juan Islands and Gulf Islands. This one I did indeed write up on Crazy Guy on a Bike. Anyway I’ll do a followup post where I summarize what went on the rest of the days of this tour as of course the details are mostly forgotten.
San Juan Islands Shakedown Tour 2003
I grew up on Fidalgo and Whidbey islands, the beginning of the San Juan Island chain. These were great places to grow up, scenic and away from the cities but close enough to not feel like the sticks. Fidalgo Island in particular with it’s mix of wealthy retirees, working class fishermen and refinery workers, and the tourist trade had the perfect mix of the down to earth and the cosmopolitan. With it being the jumping off point to the San Juan’s it had far less of the tourist industry than the rest of the chain. While I fairly regularly visited Fidalgo, I hadn’t been out to the rest of the Islands since I was a young lad.
I always loved bicycling, but succumbed to the influences of the automobile when I got my license. I kept an old mountain bike around in college, and used it occasionally. I worked for the schools housing department as a student and after graduating with a number of hardcore cycling enthusiasts. WhenI moved away from campus I was strongly “encouraged” (read endlessly harassed) to commute to work. This I did, doing a 4-5 mile commute for 6 months. I was in pretty lousy shape at this time and this was fairly tough, especially once we started adding Friday bike to town for lunch trips. But I began to get into shape. This was ruined by getting a job in the computer industry in Seattle. Eventually I moved to a place where I could commute to work, engaged in a diet and whipped myself into the best shape I’d been in since I was a lad. In the process I became obsessed with touring by bicycle.
So I wanted to bike tour, and I’d been trying to do a trip to the San Juan Islands for the last few years (nothing quite like working in the computer industry to foil vacation plans) I had arranged for 5 days off in May for a conference that ended up being canceled. So it became my San Juan mini tour instead. I was planning to drive to Fidalgo and stay in a cheap hotel as my base. Then take the ferry to Lopez and Orcas islands for day long rides. Then take the car to San Juan Island and stay for 2 days in Friday Harbor. Two things ended up conspiring against this plan: 1) a bike accident I was in 2 weeks before the trip and 2) I wasn’t able to get my hotel in Anacortes for the days I wanted to. So I re-planned.
The Master Plan
Day 0) 05.14.03 Wrap up work, pack, drive to hotel in Anacortes.
Day 1) 05.15.03: Bike Lopez
Day 2) 05.16.03: Bike Fidalgo, return to Seattle for a concert stay at home
Day 3) 05.17.03: Drive to Anacortes, ferry to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island.
Day 4) 05.18.03: Bike San Juan Island
Day 5) 05.19.03: More biking on San Juan, take late ferry home.
I was able to stick with this plan with the replacement of biking Fidalgo on Day 1 and Guemas/more Fidalgo on Day 2. While I am very interested in self supported touring I had neither the gear nor really the inclination to do so this trip. I really wanted to be able to get back to Seattle for this music concert for one thing. The other was I was still really sore and my endurance down from this bike accident I was in. I wasn’t sure if I could bike all day and camp and still really enjoy myself. I wanted to be able to really relax and have a real break from all the work I’d been doing. I considered this a scouting tour, for a longer self contained SJI touring in the future.
Day 0) 05.14.03 Woodinville -> Anacortes WA by Car
Worked later than planned, then it was all rushing. Did laundry, ate the food in my fridge that would go bad, packed and loaded the car. All this from about 7:3-pm to 9:00pm. Ran to the Top Foods for vitamins, dental floss, beer and water – should have got some food. Then to Barnes and Noble for some reading material. I was looking for Michael Chabon’s Summerland which I was able to find, and Gao Xingjian One Man’s Bible which I was not able to find. I did get Cape Cod by Henry David Thoreau, to continue with my reading kick (plus it is fairly appropriate for the island setting I’d be heading to what with all the ocean and beaches in that book) I also discovered a new edition of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn based on a newly discovered manuscript which I have to say I’m fairly excited to read. However I probably won’t read it this trip, as I think that Summerland will be the ideal vacation reading.
Finally I’m leaving Woodinville to my old hometown. Put on Hanging Gardens by the Necks, and made it into Anacortes as it was finishing. Puts my driving trip at around 65 minutes, which is pretty good time. Checked in at the Anacortes Inn which I decided to use as the Seattle Bicycling Club uses it for it’s annual San Juan tour. Alas I ended up on the 2nd floor, but it was an easy carry of the bike up there. I took a leisurely bath and began reading Summerland which sems like it’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s set on a fictional San Juan Island (which sure is appropriate) and involves a lot of baseball. I’m not obsessed with baseball but enjoy it well enough. When I played as a youth I played catcher, which the hero of Summerland plays, nice to see recognition of the best position in the game) Michael Chabon is a brilliant writer, and while it was perhaps a bit above it’s target audience, I loved the lyricism and the beautiful imagery. My favorite quote from the book sums it up pretty well:
“A baseball game is nothing but a great slow contraption for getting you to pay attention to the cadence of a summer day.” Summerland, p. 64
I planned out my ride on Lopez before bed, noting that the Ferry times, really required an early start. I wasn’t too happy about that as I wanted to sleep in, and really relax.
Day 1 (05.15.03) Anacortes WA
My Novara Safari (more pictures can be found in my Safari Set)
The Store 12:30 pm
On one of my various day trips to Anacortes over the years I discovered “The Store” a place that looks like a small country general store. I had stopped for water, and found the best muffins I’ve ever had. It became a regular pilgrimage. I went there both mornings I was on Fidalgo Island, and missed it on the rest of the trip.
A miserable night of tossing and turning led my to abandon my original plan and go with Plan B: Biking Fidalgo and Guemas Islands instead of Lopez. A cappuccino and blueberry bran muffin at The Store are helping to restore my vigor. I also bought a disposable camera while I was here.
Riding behind "The Store"
03:10pm Gere-a-Deli, Anacortes WA
Bike the hilly region behind “The Store” that I was not too familiar with, even though I recall some friends of my parents lived backed here. It’s a nicely hilly area with big views over the refinery and out toward Mount Baker. I wandered around the various residential backroads around the elementary school and eventually decided to go to the Anacortes Community Forest Land trails. These trials are places I had never really explored while growing up there. Turns out it is a huge 2000+ acre trail land park, with a number of small lakes, swamps and miles of singletrack trails. My Novara Safari is described by REI as an “Adventure Touring” bike and I always joke to myself when I go off road that I am adventure touring now. So with this thought in mind I hit the easy, wide gravel path into the forest lands.
Lake in the ACFL
I rode past some swamps, and small lakes, on this nice path, taking pictures as I went. Lots of step singletrack trails led in various directions of this main path, but I stuck with the main. Eventually this petered out and I ended up on some much more difficult paths. Very narrow with lots of exposed roots, rocks logs and other hazards. At this point, I encountered the only the person I saw in the park, A Mountain Biker on a Specialized MTB with full suspension. We exchanged pleasantries and he advised me to “Just go with the flow” in regards to riding these trials. A valid philosophy to be sure but I am a bit novice as a trial rider for bombing trails like these. I road when I could, but I walked the bike on the steepest bits, especially the steep downhills. At some point on these trails I broke my right toeclip. Making the steep descent off a singletrack I ended up on a gravel road by a massive construction zone above the road out to the Ferry Terminal. I biked out the gravel road (puling over at one point for a massive dump truck with trailer) and ended up in a maze of new cookie cutter housing developments that have sprung up in this part of the island. I meandered through this suburbia until eventually I ended up on Oakes Ave (SR20 Spur- the road to the ferry) This road is pretty busy, but has a nice wide bike lane, so a nice ride for the most part.
Coming out of the ACFL above the ferry terminal
I biked back into Anacortes taking side streets and avoiding the ferry traffic. I hit commercial looking for Anacortes Cyclery (where I got my first bike, and actually all subsequent until my current ride) AC was not where I remembered and I biked up and down Commercial Ave looking for where it had moved. No luck and I there were no other bike shops. I was racking my brains thinking of a way to fix my toeclip, but the plastic bit which held the strap was completely sheared off. I figured I’d need to ask around and I went to my favorite Deli, Gere-a-Deli on Commercial Ave. I asked there about a LBS and was informed that Anacortes Cyclery was gone and that Skagit Cycle, outside of town by the old Drive-In Theater (where I saw Star Wars back in the day) was the nearest one (they have since moved into town). Not a great ride out to there, but I figured I’d throw the bike in the car, get the toeclip fixed and bike the reservation that lies in that part of the island. Anyway I had a great lunch at Gere-a-Deli where I ordered The Green Giant, a vegetarian sandwich with avocado that kicks much ass. Before I left I called the LBS and confirmed that they had clips and could put them out. Then I biked back to my hotel and the car.
[And that’s where my original typed narrative ends. But it turns out I was more or less transcribing a written journal I was keeping at the time so I’ve returned to that source to complete the narrative.]
7:57 Village Pizza
I went to the bike shop, Skagit Cycle and got two new toe clips. Nice and very competent guy there. Good deal as well, the two clips and labor was only about $15. I also bought another San Juans bike book that actually has elevation info – ‘Touring the Islands, Bicycling in the San Juan, Gulf and Vancouver Islands‘ by Peter Powers and RenÃ©e Travis published by Terragraphics. It uses 3D satellite generated topographic maps and looks pretty good.
Riding on Reservation Road
So the LBS was right next to Highway 20 on March’s Point, so I parked at a convenient Park & Ride and rode around the point. A nearly trivial ride that took me less than 30 minutes – this really made me think abut how epic i seemed as a youth. On the way back I crossed the 20 at Reservation Road, biking past Padilla Heights Road. I did some beautiful miles through tunnels of spring green trees, with breaks opening onto views of Similk Bay. I biked some roads with great names: Snee-oosh and passed by the best named road ever: Pull & Be Damned Road.
La Conner across the slough
Snee-Oosh wraps around this whole headland which is reservation land. There was some long climbs both on Reservation and Snee-Oosh roads but eventually there was a long descent and then I saw La Conner! I had completely forgotten this bad route to La Conner. I chose not to go to La Conner as it was after 6 at this point. I stopped at a cute park by the Res activity center, snapped some photos of La Conner and ate a Power Bar. Then it was a long climb back to Reservation Road to where I a had turned onto Snee-Oosh then simply retracing my route back to the Park and Ride.
9:30pm Brown Lantern
Post Village Pizza I went for a short stroll around Anacortes. The sky was beautiful: glowing pink and purple. That big evil cloud I had attempted to photograph earlier was now a dark purple. As I walked toward Causland Park and the new Library the last of this magical glowing faded and it was then my favorite time of day – post sunset twilight. Still plenty of light to see but the sky is just layers and layers of grey, especially when overcast like tonight. It is so quiet, so full of potential. Dogs barking seem like they are miles away, barking through a tube from the previous century.
I was writing this while drinking Black Butte Porter at the great Brown Lantern Ale House on Commercial Ave in old town Anacortes. Once ‘open mic’ began I finished my beer and headed back to the hotel for the night. So that’s day one of this, nearly lost in the mists of time, “tour”. Tune in to the next post for more from this long weekend in May of 2003.
Morning mileage: ~20m
Evening mileage ~22m
All the pictures from this tour are collected here: ProtoTour 2003 Flickr Set