The weather had really turned nice over the Fourth of July weekend, with Saturday predicted to be the sunniest, with temps edging into “hot” territory. When it gets hot I like to ride into the mountains, or on an island and as I’d ridden into the mountains (or at least foothills) the weekend before, islands it was. I’m still rather lacking in my fitness this year (though improving) and while I wanted to push myself, I knew I couldn’t do anything too epic so I thought a ride around Bainbridge Island would be ideal.
Seattle across the water.
This would be the fifth time I’ve ridden around Bainbridge Island; it is of course the destination of Cascade Cycling Clubs, Chilly Hilly which I’ve ridden three times. The other time I rode it was in the late spring as I was trying to get in shape for a tour. I had noted then how different the ride was compared to the winter and that certainly held true for the summer. Even moreso though is riding alone as opposed to with 7000+ other cyclists. My ride on this day was particularly tour like – stopping to look at things, trying side roads I’d not been on before and so on. Bainbridge Island is great for this style of riding, with beautiful views of the water, little cafes and shops in unexpected places and some really top notch country roads.
Typical Bainbridge Island road
Of course I had to ride into Seattle first, which is a pretty standard route for me now: Lake Washington Loop to the I-90 Trail, across Mercer Island, across the floating bridge into Seattle, through the International District to the waterfront and 17 miles later I’m at the ferry terminal. It was the fourth of July weekend so the terminal lot was packed with cars with a line waiting to get in. I had to wait with the cars to get my ticket, but then it was right to the front of the queue to board -the bicycle, always the best way to travel! It was a nice trip as always across the water and then I was off riding on the island. I was roughly following the Chilly Hilly route as it is a loop around the Island, but I’d dip into little side roads it avoided as the fancy struck. The above picture shows what these roads were like and this really is my favorite kind of riding: low trafficked roads with a mix of sun and shade, woods and views of the water. Can’t beat that.
Totem Pole at Camp Yeomalt
I passed Camp Yeomalt and attracted by the Totem Pole pictured above I pulled off the road. This was a WPA park from the 30s and along with the pole had a nice wooden lodge. It seemed pretty focused on day camps and the like (which I think are great programs; I loved day camp in my youth) and was a nice small park. There not being too much else at the park I was pretty quickly back on the road. The route in short order turned out of the woods and descended to a road along the beach with some spectacular views across the sound.
Mount Rainier across the sound
Of course it was a pretty stiff climb back up from the beach as the route returned the woods. This hill is of course part of Chilly Hilly, but there is a side road in which one half has been blocked off for cyclists and walkers that that ride doesn’t take (too narrow for so many riders I suspect). It’s a nice little jog of the main road and as it rises over a bluff above the water is far more scenic. As always I’d left a bit late (though not as late as some days) and while I’d had a snack on the ferry I found myself ready for lunch more or less about a 1/4 of the way around the island. Luckily on hitting a cross roads there was the Rolling Bay Cafe, which I immediately pulled over to get some lunch. I ordered a Mozzarella, tomato, Basil panini and noticed they had Mexican Coke.
I don’t drink soda very often, but I used to in my youth. It took me a while to figure out why I lost interest, but I think a lot of it has to do with the transition from cane sugar to corn syrup; it just didn’t taste the same to me anymore. A bottle of Coke made with real cane sugar is like liquid nostalgia; a mainline to countless childhood drinks in the hot sticky summer, washing down burgers, or any other time I could talk my parents into it. I still don’t drink soda very often but now that you can find Mexican Coke (still made with real sugar) fairly readily I do have one now and again. Still would generally prefer a beer, but mid-ride with lunch, Coke was it.
After my late lunch I wander around the Bay Hay and Feed which was a garden and farming store attached to the Cafe which had a nice outdoor nursery that was almost like walking through a garden. Soon though the lure of the road called and I moved on.
Just a few miles from my lunch spot was another park, Fay Bainbridge State Park. I rode into the park to take advantage of facilities and to check it out, not having been in this park before. There was a steep descent and then I was right on the beach. Now this beach was pretty packed with people sunning themselves and playing in the water. Taking an alternative way out of the park I was on this little enclosed bay lined with houses. The road wound along this bay but then ended, so I back tracked and rode up a hill that paralleled the park. I was back in the woods now and wending on and off more main roads. Due to the late start and my rather meandering ride it was starting to get late and I knew I wouldn’t get home until near dark now. So while I kept exploring, I did begin to spend more time in the saddle between stops.
I still always turned off the main routes when I could though, even when it just added miles without much progress toward the ferry. I was after all pretty much prepared to ride into the dark if I need to (or so I thought). The weather was not supposed to be quite as nice on Sunday and as the sun got lower in the sky there was a subtle shift in the weather. A wind picked up (mostly with me thankfully) and these fantastic scattered clouds appeared. One of those sections that just added miles, but is one of my favorites on Bainbridge is riding down to Crystal Springs Drive (pictured above) and then up along Point White Drive (pictured in my header image). I spent a bit of time at the beach where I took my header image and then rode back to the main route at the intersection of which is the Treehouse Cafe. The Treehouse Cafe is a great looking place with good looking pizza, beer and other food. However I’ve never eaten anything but Ice Cream there which I did once again; having my usual Huckelberry Cone. I think on the times I’ve ridden here its either too crowded (Chilly Hilly) or I’m running late (every other time) and am making for the ferry.
The road up from where the Treehouse Cafe is wends back into the woods and there is some good up and down. The picture above is of one of the steadier climbs over rather beaten up roads. I was energized from my ice cream cone and rode easily through these hills. I one point I passed a couple of kids struggle to get their bicycles up the hill, one of whom which was being assisted by his mom on foot pushing him up the hill. At the top of this stretch of hills was a new little park, set up for peaceful contemplation with a little stream, wooden benches, a peekaboo view of the sound and a Tibetan Prayer Wheel.
“I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion”. – Lao Tzu
I stopped here for a rest, and spun the prayer wheel which on it’s ninth rotation a bell rings out. The prayer wheel is cast bronze, beautifully embossed with the above saying form Lao Tzu embossed on it. A really nice spot and a beautiful addition to the islands many treasures. From here it was rolling hills into the little town of Winslow. Usually on Chilly Hilly I ride to the end of the ride, which is on the edge of Winslow and then right down to the ferry skipping the finish line crowds. But I wanted to see a bit of Winslow and rode around it a bit. A cute little town with lots of shops and cafes; I wished it wasn’t so late and I could linger, but I soon rode down to Eagle Harbor where the ferry dock is.
Then it was simply waiting for the ferry, the trip across and the ride back home. This was about the same as the ride in but it was getting dark when I hit Mercer Island and it was there that I discovered the lightbuild in my headlight had burnt out. A bit later I found out that my backup light was not in my bag – I’d taken it out to replace the batteries and not replaced it. I have to say I rather disappointed myself here, as I consider myself to always be prepared and here I wasn’t. Well it wasn’t quite dark yet so I booked it home. It was though after 10pm when I got home and quite dark. I of course was well lit from behind with my three blinkies and my generator powered taillight but was unhappy to not have had the front light. I made sure to get spare bulbs and to put my backup light back in my bag as I got home.
Anyway this was a great ride on a beautiful day. All in all I rode around 68 miles. You can see more pictures from this ride in my Bainbridge Island Flickr set.