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April Bicycle Camping day 3

Thursday, April 21st, 2016


 “Thus, the sage performs effortless deeds and teaches wordless lessons.” – Lao-Tzu

I didn’t have too much riding planned for this day, I primarily desired to visit a few of my favorite spots on Fidalgo Island. But being at Deception Pass State Park – which I haven’t camped at in decades – I decided to explore a bit. The park features a unique dual beach, one side on Cranberry Lake the other on the Sound. From the seaside beach, which is a rare sandy beach, you can see Deception Pass Bridge. The Cranberry Lake beach is the swim area which we used to regularly visit when I was in single digits.

Swim beach at Cranberry Lake

It’s a stiff climb out of the park but once back on hwy 20, it’s a short gently slopping way to Decption Pass Bridge. I rode across to the central island where I parked my bicycle and then walked across the east side of the bridge back to Whdibey Island. Then on the west side back to my bicycle. Stunning views as always. I grew up just a few miles from here and these views just don’t get old.

Looking east from Deception Pass Bridge

There is another shorter span of the bridge and then I was on Fidalgo Island. I got off the busy hwy 20 at Pass Lake and rode the short, but uphill way to the turnoff for Rosario Beach. My favorite beach, I had decided to come here for a picnic lunch. I ate, then sat in the warm sun on the east side beach. I’d slept pretty poorly tonight before and dozing in th host sun was very welcome. I spent a bit of time on the west side beach before departing.

East beach at Rosario Beach

Once again it was a short jaunt (still up hill and steeply so to get out of Rosario) o my next destination – Sharpe Park. This park is only about a mile south of ere I grew up and it was basically built while I lived there. It more o less is a trail out to the very edge of the island. Over the years this has become more built up and easier to find ones way, but either way once you are at the headland it is just my favorite place on the island (and maybe anywhere). Right on these rocks on the edge of the Sound, you can traverse down to a bluff right on the edge of the island. There is soft grass the and I just laid in the warm sun for a good spell. No one else came down ther and I was just me, the bees, and in th distance seagulls and boats.

Looking off the edge of Fidalgo Island

From the park I took my usual, scenic, route into Anacortes. Nice riding but I was pretty beat from the cycling and poor sleep. Onice I got into town I decided I’d prefer to spend the evening in town, so I stayed at my usual hotel there.

before dawn the birds rouse –
the croaking of a lone frog

Photos from this day: April Bicycle Camping Day 3
Photos from this tour: No-Thinking Tour

Journey to the East – initial Stages

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

When I lost my job at the end of July 2011 I was thinking I’d set right off on a cross country bicycle tour. However all of the business involved in the lay off necessitated that I be in the area for at least a month and ideally three months. So I took my shorter 2011 tour and began planning for the cross country tour in 2012.  I have always found it the case that for the last, say 10% of the tour one finds ones thoughts turning primarily toward the post-tour. That is to say at that point you are ready for it to be done. I use the percentage because this time scales depending on the length of the tour. That is to say it may only be the last couple of days on an 2 week tour but perhaps the last week on a 10 week tour. This has held true for me on all my (self supported) tours which have ranged from 9 days to 103 days.  But for the cross country trip I wasn’t sure how touring in the months range would go – my longest tour at that point was just under four weeks (2009). So taking this into account I planned the tour in stages.

The five stages of the tour were:

Stage 1: Seattle  to Olympia
Stage 2: Olympia to Anacortes
Stage 3: Anacortes to Glacier National Park
Stage 4: Glacier to Minneapolis/St. Paul
Stage 5: Minneapolis to Bar Harbor

Now I should say that the “planning” for this was pretty loose. I basically have reached a point now where I can just pick up and tour and if I use the Adventure Cycling maps I don’t really even need to think much about the route (beyond getting on to their route that is – usually the first few days).  In all honesty I really planned out the first three stages and was rather coy about touring beyond that (see my initial Journey to the East post). The latter two stages, while really always expected, were defined in situ.   To give a good overview of the entire tour I’ll describe each of these stages both as planned and as they turned out in two posts. In this one I’ll cover the initial three stages – which is only about a quarter of the total tour – and in the next the last two.

Stage 1: Seattle to Olympia; 2 days (April 30th — May 1st);  88.5 miles

I’d been living in Seattle since returning from my 2011 tour and the first stage involved all the preparation for the tour. I had a storage place while I lived in Seattle and I spent much of the months I was living there selling stuff out of it. I was in a massive downsizing mode. My goal was to get to having all my stuff fit into a 5′ x 10′ storage unit. I also went car free during this time, for the first time since college. Two days before move out day I put everything into a van and put it into a storage unit in Olympia. I returned the truck in Oly and took the bus back. I was then in my apartment with only my touring gear and some cleaning supplies. I cleaned the apartment, checked out and by noon on April 30th I was bicycling away. My Journey to the East had begun.

I had the full load on my bicycle plus an extra dry bag of stuff (mostly clothes) from leaving the apartment.  I knew I’d get out of Seattle fairly late due to the check out appointment so I had a pretty short days ride planned. I rode to the downtown Seattle Ferry terminals mostly via trails and took the ferry to Bremerton. From there I took back roads to Twanoh State Park where I camped right on the water. The day was a relatively easy 42 miles but it was definitely tough with that heavy load. This is also the earliest in the year I have camped and it was pretty cold that night. The next day was just a bit more miles to Olympia via the reverse of the route I’d done on several occasions (including the year before). A blustery rainy day it was a good test of my new rain gear.

In Olympia I spent the next 3 days getting ready. I decided to get ride of some of the stuff I was carrying based on the last couple of days ride. I bought an initial supply of alcohol for my stove at REI as well as other needed supplies. My maps from Adventure Cycling arrived (I had waited until the last moment to get these to get the updated maps). The whole packing up my apartment and moving had been pretty strenuous so this break was welcome.

Stage 2: Olympia to Anacortes; 10 days (May 5th — May 15th);  429.2 miles (517.7 total)

The next stage of the tour was getting to Anacortes the start of the Northern Tier. Now I had just the year before ridden from Olympia to Anacortes over three days along the inside of the Puget Sound.  However I had several considerations beyond a quick route to the Norther Tier in mind so I decided to do a loop around the Olympic Peninsula. First and foremost all the passes (Rainy/Washington) on the North Cascades Highway had had not yet opened up and it wasn’t looking like they would for at least a week. Secondly while a loop around the Olympic Peninsula is nearly 500 miles it never is that far from cities where I could get any needed repairs, missing supplies and the like. Basically I spent an extra ten days doing extensive shakedown on the gear. With new wheels on the bicycle and a bunch of new camping gear I felt this was a good idea.  The final consideration was that I really wanted to go the most NW corner of the United States. Bar Harbor isn’t quite the most North Easterly corner but it is pretty close. Anacortes, though the town I grew up in which I dearly love, is not even on the Pacific Ocean: tt is on the Puget Sound (which I also love). For me a cross country trip should at the very least go from the Pacific to the Atlantic.

I had ridden counter-clockwise around the Olympic Peninsula a number of years before (tour 2007) this so I knew the basic route. But I picked up Adventure Cycling’s Washington Parks route as it differed from my previous route in that it bypassed hwy 101 around Lake Crescent which I felt was the most dangerous section of that road and looked to be even worse east bound. Plus it connected with the route I’d need to take up to  Cape Flattery (the most North Western corner of the US).  The ACA route had a few deviations from the route I’d taken before which was welcome.  I also worked out my first day of riding out to Lake Sylvia where I connected with the ACA Washington Parks route.

This first part of the tour was interesting; cold, especially at night and the parks mostly empty. I also found a number of the places I intended to camp either not open or permanently closed. The addenda that ACA provides for the route was of course not updated for this year so it was always a crap shoot on whether I’d find a place to camp. My second night at Lake Quinault I found none of the four campsites open and ended up staying at a hotel.  The night after that I was in the large Kalaloch campground which had only a few other people there besides myself. That night a raccoon unzipped my front pannier and stole my food bag. Luckily I was able to have breakfast the next day at the Kalaloch Lodge and resupply that afternoon in Forks. From that point on I either used a little padlock on my pannier or hung up my food. That same night the campsite I was heading for was closed and ended up going off route a bit to stay at a DNR campground (which doesn’t charge anything for cyclists which is pretty nice. No services though).

Campgrounds were either empty or packed with fisherman. As I headed out toward Cape Flattery I stayed at a campground that catered to fisherman and due to the start of halibut season it was just crazy packed. I stayed there two nights as I rode out to the Cape. The fishermen were generally good people and though the fishing didn’t seem so good this season (nobody I talked to caught their limited of one (1) halibut) they were having a good time. The next day the campground I stayed at was empty again. After two days on hwy 112 – which was a new route for me – I arrived in Port Angeles and the route was now very familiar – The Olympic Discovery Trail (third time riding this) then various roads to Fort Townsend State Park (only person in the hiker/biker area) then a rest day in Port Townsend staying at Fort Flagler for the first time (again the only occupant in the H/B area). After the day off I took the ferry to Whidbey Island and rode very familiar roads (I grew up on these islands) to Anacortes and the end of stage 2.

As I said most of this was familiar routes but with enough variety to mix it up.  This is one of the most beautiful areas in the states and I never tire of riding out here. Doing so in the spring and taking some different routes just added to the experience. Everything worked out with the bicycle and gear so by the time I left Anacortes (the biggest town I’d stay in for quite a while) I was in good shape.

Stage 3: Anacortes to Glacier National Park; 19 days (May 15th — June 3rd );  780.7 miles (1298.4 total)

I was now on the official Northern Tier route which begins in Anacortes. I more or less took the same route from Anacortes to Sedro Wooley that I used in 2011. This route is partly my own devising with overlapping segments with various published routes. I also chose to use the Cascade Trail from Sedro Wooley to Rasar State Park as opposed to the ACA route. This is basically because the route while on very nice back roads is on the other side of the Skagit river. To get to Rasar State Park you have to cross at Concrete and backtrack (which I did last year). Now there are other parks but Rasar has a great hiker/biker site, is on the river and I for one prefer City/State/National/DNR campgrounds over private. Plus it made for a better days ride distance ride at this juncture. I was again alone in the H/B site.  The next few days were a repeat of the previous years crossing of Rainey/Washington Pass. The North Cascades National Park campgrounds had yet to have opened up but luckily one of the parks had winter camping which was free, though there was no services.  The hwy had only been open for a week or so at this point and there was huge snow walls as I rode over the passes. There was a lot of people engaged in x-country skiing, snow shoeing and other snow based activities at the top of Washington Pass. Once again I wondered why there was nobody handing me a beer as I summitted. Clearly life does not mirror our advertisements.



Coming down Washington Pass I found the campground where I stayed the previous year full and once again skipping the published route I rode into Winthrop. My main motivation in this was going to the Old Schoolhouse Brewery though that necessitated staying at a KOA which I’m generally not in favor of. The next day after a couple hours of riding I turned onto the road up Loup Loup Pass concluding the section of this route which overlapped with the previous year and I was from now on always riding new territory. There were three more passes to do which I did in pretty quick succession: Loup Loup followed with a day off in Omak then Wauconda Pass where I camped a few miles shy of the summit and finally Sherman where it snowed on me as a sumitted. The campground I stayed at near the summit of Wauconda I was again the only occupant. In fact they weren’t technically open for the season so the proprietor let me stay there for free. I ended up having dinner at the gas station/general store/restaurant in Wauconda with said proprietor and his son. I signed the book at the restaurant which was filled with previous Northern Tier riders. This was the first place I’d been to where people knew exactly what the route was all about and were quite familiar with tourons from years past. I received many stories from these guys from various years as well as more info about the area.  I also heard about for the first the people that were “ahead” of me – this was a trend that would continue. There was apparently a Scottish fellow who was about a week ahead (and thus crossed Washington Pass the day it opened) and who was determined to be “the first person to complete the Northern Tier in 2012” – he would write such in the books that I’d see as I rode across. There was also a couple that had stayed here a couple of days prior.

After Sherman Pass there is a long descent and you arrive at the Columbia River. I’ve been all over Washington State – first camping as a kid with my parents and such and later on my own and then of course the last decade of bicycle touring but there are still many places I haven’t been. This northeast corner of the state is one of them. Even after the long descent you are still at a pretty high altitude. This would persist all across the “high plains”. The terrain is pretty interesting too – its all scrub and juniper and the like in between the Cascades and Sherman Pass but then you descend to cross the Columbia and enter the Colville National Forest. There is is much more like the Pacific NW with denser undergrowth and evidence of a lot more water. This persists until East Montana. The Colville National Forest is more or less the end of Washington State and at Newport I crossed into Idaho – the second state of the tour.


The weather had been pretty rainy, though in the typical spring on and off style for the last week or so. I was rained on less on the Olympic Peninsula in the rain forest than I was during my couple weeks of negotiating mountains. Of course as clouds cross mountains they do tend to lose water so not a huge surprise.  It was cold, especially at night during this period, dropping below freezing the night I camped at Wauconda. This would more or less persist until I was out of the mountains and into East Montana. I took another rest day in Sand Point Idaho where I was able to stock up on locally roasted coffee and drink beers in the local brewpub. The motel I stayed at was the best deal of the tour and was quite nice. It even had a little kitchen which let me continue to make my own breakfasts as is my wont. Soon enough I was back on the road and also quite soon I was in Montana – the panhandle of Idaho could be easily crossed in a typical touring day.

I would be in Montana for a long time – it is the widest state on this route. There were a lot of alternative routes on the ACA maps and I would take them or not as the mood struck. Mainly as long as I could get to services and campgrounds I needed I would take the more out of the way and deserted routes. I was on one of these alt routes, riding on a dirt road as matter of fact, when I unceremoniously crossed into Montana.  The first campground I stayed at in Montana was empty except for the campground host as was the next. These were both on lakes and just fantastic. The campground host at the second of these camps regaled me with stories of wildlife and other bicycle tourons he had encountered.  I had thought I’d seen a wolf with cubs the day before and he did confirm that that was an area he had seen wolves so seems likely. I’d seen a bear cub the day before (the third bear of the tour) so it really was fantastic wildlife viewing opportunities here.



While most every day on tour is a great day you’ll still have better days than others. For some reason the day I rode into Libby was one of these. I was in this city campground that was just really beat and exposed and wasn’t feeling it too much. So I hung out at the library and then went to a hardware store where I got my windup radio. There being a super market right next to the campground I was able to get get some heavy items I normally wouldn’t want to carry and had a good solid dinner listening to NPR. So was back in good spirits by the next day. It was only a few more days of riding until I reached Glacier and these were some of the wettest days of the tour. Particularly the day I rode into Glacier it had poured rain and I lingered in Whitefish for as long as I could trying to wait it out.  It was still drizzling when I finally set out and would continue to do so – with bursts of real rain – all the way to Glacier. This was also the only period where I couldn’t find any HEET for my alcohol stove but it worked out as I ate most of my meals at the restaurant at Glacier.

It rained most of the time I was at Glacier and thunderstoms  predicted the day I ended up leaving. So while I had intended to stay at least three days there I only stayed two. The inter park shuttle system had started up yet and barring riding all over the park I had no way to see much beyond where I was. So I ended up taking on of the Red Bus tours which drove to several points around the park. It was again a rainy day and while I got to see much a lot was pretty fogged in. The Going to the Sun road had yet to open so I was not going to be able to ride out of the park on the main route. A pity but I know I’ll be back some day.

So that is the initial stages of the tour.  All in all it went pretty smoothly and there hadn’t been anything I could handle. The early days when campgrounds were not certain to be open was the most problematic but it all worked out. There was of course some down days, but surprisingly few. Most importantly by the time I’d reached Glacier I was at thirty-five days of riding and I wasn’t burned out on touring at all.  I knew I could continue on from and make it to the east coast of which I’ll recount in the next post.

Journey to the East: 16 May 2012

Thursday, May 17th, 2012


The Skagit River with Cascade foothills in the background

He who travels far will often see things
Far removed from what he believed was Truth.
When he talks about it in the fields at home,
He is often accused of lying,
For the obdurate people will not believe
What they do not see and distinctly feel.
Inexperience, I believe,
Will give little credence to my song.
-Herman Hesse, The Journey to the East

The wind at my back
Today began Stage 3 of my tour and the “official” beginning of my journey eastwards. The Adventure Cycling Associations Northern Tier route, which I am using for my journey, beings in Anacortes. Now I of course dearly love the town but to me a true cross country trip has to begin on the west coast, on the Pacific Ocean. This of course is why I traveled to the coast first, going to the most northwesterly point before heading to the most northeasterly. But whatever I may think the Northern Tier begins in Anacortes. Anyway today’s was a ride I’ve done before and quite enjoyed though I mixed it up a bit this year. For one last view of the sea I rode around March’s Point and once across the slough onto the mainland I took the Padilla Bay Trail along the mudflats. Back roads took me to Sedro Wooley and from there I chose to take the Cascade Trail and back roads to Rasar State Park.

Patches of snow on green hills,
distant peaks crowned white.
Cold nights ahead.

Journey to the East: 15 May 2012

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012


The Olympic Peninsula 

Can’t help whistling, the morning, the woods, how blue -Hōsai Ozaki

A glance back
With the final ferry boat trip here on the west coast the Olympic Peninsula is left behind. A fond farewell is bit to Port Townsend and its many fine coffee houses and pubs. It has been a nice jaunt on the peninsula with some familiar routes mixed with some new ones, places revisited and others discovered. Turning away from that which is now behind this was a quite well trod route today. I of course grew up on Whidbey and Fidalgo Islands and have often returned to them. Most of my tours have spent a time in these parts. I love riding here though so it is a welcome return. Very scenic riding along the edges of these islands and through the heart of Fidalgo into

I’ve added a few more days worth of pictures to my Tour 2012 photos set.

Sitting in the wind
sun sinking into the sea
forgetting why I am here

Proto-Tour 2003 day 5

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Tour 2003 Day 5 - Cattle Point Lighthouse

Cattle Point Lighthouse

So this is it, the final day of the Shakedown Tour. I rambled around San Juan Island until mid-afternoon on this day and then ferried back to Fidalgo Island. From there it was about an hour of driving and I was back at my place in Woodinville.  Thus my first attempt at bicycle touring came to a close.  I’d be back in this area next year, but this time solely under my own power. As always read the day 1 report for the intro to this series and details on the source narrative and such. The entire series are collected in the Tour 2003 category.


San Juan Islands Shakedown Tour 2003 day 4

05.19.03 11:12am Friday Harbor
I’ve checked out and am now ingesting coffee at a narrow park overlooking the Friday Harbor Marina. I can definitely feel the fear or maybe it is the loathing. A our tourist plea is always selling, selling, selling – it must just grate one one and f one is busy, then it is so continuous that any attempt of a facade must be worn thin. All of Friday Harbor feels lie that. It is not really slow island living, they are busier than most cities in some ways and it’s not even the busy season yet. I should come out here in the dead of winter sometime to see what it’s like.

So, one last bit of recreating before I travel homeward. I think a jaunt to American Camp and Cattle Point will be it.It’ll be 25 or 12.5 miles depending on whether my map is listing round trip or not. Either way a nice ride that will let me return for lunch, then departure. Things do seem calmer on this Monday”¦

Tour 2003 Day 5 - Riding on Cattle Point Road

Riding out to Cattle Point

1:03pm Cattle Point
I parked the car in one of the last two hour parking slots on Argyle Rd (above the ferry terminal) – I shouldn’t be much longer than that and I don’t really see them enforcing much, especially on a slack day like today. I got my gear together and set out for Cattle Point, more or less my final designation for this trip. The typical hill route – plenty of hills left for the the ride back of course. Riding past American Camp was probably my favorite bit of riding this trip. It was along the edge of a bluff with steep meadowlands to a beach. The Olympics and the Cascades in the distance, over the long expanses of water. The road wound a long those hills (and up and down them of course) was mostly empty.

I arrived at Cattle pt and there were a few tourists in those egg shaped trikes. They seemed like decent enough people but I didn’t linger and rode on to the end of Cattle Point Road to see what was there. A marina on a private drive it turned out, but I enjoyed the extra mile. Back to Cattle Point which truly is a stunning vista. A knot of small (tiny really) islands close by, an arm of San Juan Island and a point with a small lighthouse in between cast open water with land way in the distinct.  Today is warm, hazy and breezy. May be the warmest day yet – short sleeve weather even. A nice send off indeed.
Tour 2003 Day 5 - Cattle Point

Walking on the beach

On the beach now; I really had to yet to walk on the beach this trip. A bit at Guemes and on the edge of it many times here, but happy to spend a bit more time on the water.  It is so peaceful down here, very gentle swells, seagulls, alone here but for one lady beach combing and a photographer around the point. Neither of these present more than distant murmurs in the breeze.  I always feel relaxed and at home when I’m by the sea, even in stormy weather or in very short visits.  I walked around the point scrambling over some rocks with small tidal pools, then up the bluff and around the light house and finally back to the bicycle.

2:50, Friday Harbor Marina
Back from Cattle Point, round trip distance 20.4 miles – a nice ride.  I check the ferry schedule and the next ferry is 4:15 so I moved the car and rode to the marina to eat my sandwich. Riding past the ferry terminal I noticed about 10 cars in the Anacortes lane. I figure I’ll eat, get an ice cream cone, ride around the area a bit and move my car into the lane around 3:30.

3:55 Friday Harbor Ferry Terminal
Last Ride. I did a quick 1 mile loop around Pear Point. A true joy off of Argyle Road that had tempted me each time I went past it. I first had to climb a steep hill out of Friday Harbor but then was quickly on mostly forested roads. There were a few nice views of the bays on either side of the point. There was a stretch on this loop that was unpaved which was a nice bit of variety and equally nice riding in the woods. Completing the loop I ride down that steep hill I started with and was back in town. I reload the bicycle gear and move the car into line. At this point I got that aforementioned ice cream cone and on seeing the walk-ons board returned to my car just a couple of minute before cars began to load.


Tour 2003 Day 5 - Ferry Terminal

Leaving San Juan Island

4:20pm, Strait of Juan de Fuca, aboard the Sealth
It was a much more laid back trip back to Anacortes then the trip out. No saturday night crowd of kids, no eager tourists there for their overnight. Just tired tourists, those whose trip ends on this day.  Locals of course, ignoring things as usual.  Very nice weather, comfortable standing on the deck of the ferry still in my shorts and t-shirt. I spend most of the trip outside, absorbing all I can.

5:00pm, Leaving Lopez Island, still aboard the Sealth
We have just pulled out of Lopez on the last leg of my San Juan trip. Only the drive back from Fidalgo Island to Woodinville remains.  So this will be the final entry for this trip unless something interesting happens in that drive.  It has gotten cold – I put on warmer clothes but still spend as much time as I can outside, taking it in. A thin layer of clouds has robbed us of the suns warming rays as we move eastward, the sun sets behind us.  But there are those who look back toward where they have been and those who always gaze forward to see where they are headed and I have always been been in the latter camp.  Absolutely beautiful views of Mount Baker in the first half of this trip, with swirling clouds around it, but its whole face out.

It is from nature we come and in nature that we find the greatest beauty.

All of the daily reports from this tour can be found in the Tour 2003 category.
All the pictures from this tour are collected here: ProtoTour 2003 Flickr Set.

Proto-Tour Day 3

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Tour 2003 day 3 - The Golden Road

The Golden Road

This was the third day of my 2003 Shakedown Tour around Fidalgo, Guemes and San Juan Islands.  On this day I drove back from Woodinville to the ferry terminal on Fidalgo Island and took the ferry to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. This sucked up pretty much all of this day. I don’t have too many pictures from this day either though plenty of rambling in the journal. I’ll excerpt some relevant portions in this post. For the intro to this series and details on the source narrative and such see the day 1 report. The entire series are collected in the Tour 2003 category.

San Juan Islands Shakedown Tour 2003 day 3

05.17.03 5:15 Aboard the Elwha
I love the throbbing rhythm of the ferries; that deep bass thrumming that they all have when underway.  Its hard to believe I’m back amount the San Juan’s, these islands I love. It was raining in Woodinville, but out here the weather is just as it has been the last few days: sunny, with big clouds and lots of wind.  A glorious spring. Anacortes and Guemes are now behind means I’m heading toward Lopez Island – the only other stop on this evenings trip.

Tour 2003 day 3 - Ferry

Ferries passing in the setting sun

5:42 Lopez Island (from the Elwha)
Pulling into Lopez, which from afar looked pretty flat. If it genuinely is (editors note: it is) apart from the rather short steep hill up from the ferry dock, it would have been some nice easy riding. Oh well, it’ll have to be ridden on another trip (for that see here).  I love the water and the islands and miss them dearly. Thoreau may be correct in stating that only from the shore can you understand the sea, but I do love being on it. But for the shore, truly only an island can really give insight into the sea.


Tour 2003 day 3 - A San Juan Island

One of the San Juan chain as seen from the ferry.

The ferry is packed with an obvious mix of islanders and tourists with perhaps an inclination toward the regulars. Lots of kids – teenagers fully decked out for the prom, two little league teams of what look like about 10 and 12 year olds, plus many other kids running and galavanting about the boat.  The islanders can always be recognized as they just ignore the trip either sleeping, reading or otherwise just ignoring the beauty outside their windows. As for myself I do not make the mistake travelers often do and I recognize that I too am a tourist – but I did grow up here and am no parvenu. My roots are in the islands.


Tour 2003 day 3 - On the ferry

The Golden Road to San Juan Island

Heading in towards Friday Harbor we were sailing right up the Golden Road. Plenty of zenith still in the sun but a glorious path to the true west. The setting sun with big clouds all around and the island below – a true path that must be followed.

05.17.03 7:30 Front Street Ale House, Friday Harbor, San Juan Island
Off the ferry , uphill for a little ways and then just off the main drag my hotel. I check it and check out my digs which was some sort of suite that I had to get as I had booked late. It wasn’t all bad – it had a jacuzzi tub!  The important aspect for this trip was that it was on the first floor and easy enough to move the bicycle in and out of. I unloaded the car and then headed out for dinner.

I ended up at the Front Street Alehouse [editor: in which searching for a link appears to now have closed! What a shock, this was my favorite place to eat and drink on the island.] where I had some seafood (fish and chips I think) and a couple of beers while I read up on riding routes on the island.

8:30pm Front Street Ale House
So a “celtic band”,  is playing at the old Front St. Alehouse leading toward my ordering a third beer (perhaps as they struck up “Danny Boy”).  San Juan brewing’s Oatmeal stout is quite good, so I don’t mind an encore. The band, 1066, is composed of a banjo/violin player, Guitar and keyboard with a local occasionally sitting in on harmonica.  Mostly they played folk songs and not so much of the jigs and reels you’d get from a more trad “celtic band”.

So that’s about it for this day as recorded in the journal. I think after dinner I walked around Friday Harbor for a bit and then retired for the night. Tune in to the next post for actual riding around on San Juan Island.

All the pictures from this tour are collected here: ProtoTour 2003 Flickr Set


Proto-Tour 2003 day 1

Monday, February 20th, 2012

ProtoTour 2003 day 1 - Pull & Be Dammed

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.]

Introduction 2012
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.

Tour Plan
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

ProtoTour 2003 day 1 - Novara Safari at the Hotel

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.

ProtoTour 2003 day 1 - Refinery in the Distance

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.

ProtoTour 2003 day 1 - ACFL

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.

ProtoTour 2003 day 1 - Development above the Ferry Terminal

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 Renée Travis published by Terragraphics.  It uses 3D satellite generated topographic maps and looks pretty good.

ProtoTour 2003 day 1 - Reservation Rd.

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.

ProtoTour 2003 day 1 - LaConner across the slough

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.

ProtoTour 2003 day 1 - Anacortes Inn

Anacortes Inn

Morning mileage: ~20m
Evening mileage ~22m

All the pictures from this tour are collected here: ProtoTour 2003 Flickr Set

Tour 2011 – Day 4

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011


Tuesday 08.16.12: Anacortes WA to Rasar State Park

I should start off by saying that staying at the motel in Anacortes was not an unexpected outcome. This tour is the least destination driven I have done – I basically have some time and an ultimate goal, but beyond that I’m taking it as it comes. So I was always prepared to stay in Anacortes but if I’d had mire time I also could have continued on. It’s a nice way to go.


I ran some errands in town and then took the Tommy Thompson Trail out. This is a great rail trail I’ve ridden before that crosses the bay on a long trestle. It ends at March’s Point which is the location of two oil refineries but has a nice road around it that avoids some hills (and the hwy). About 3/4s the way around the road was closed with a detour up a hill. I risked it and rode through to find it impassable right near the end. So I rode back and took the detour which went up through the refinery and then down a steep hill right at the Trestle of the trail! I rode south and then took the next road which kept me on the edge of the 20. Finally it intersected March Pt road right near the roadwork. Sigh. Anyway I pressed on crossing the bridge and was on the 20 heading east to the mountains.


I rode the 20 to the little town of Sedro-Wooley and the jogged of it to the Skagit Highway. This road follows the river and was mostly bordered by trees on the other side. Lots of fisherman out, no services for the duration, luckily I was all set. Pretty great riding overall – flat, scenic, a tailwind and good temps.


The wind at my back,
the warm sun too,
the mountains slowly march closer.

My ass was sore(this is the price of the lack of riding this year – lower endurance) but I was riding fine until about 60 miles where I began to feel pretty tapped out. I reached Concrete about this time and rode down the main drag- only the bars had action, no stores. As I passed a junk shop the proprietor came round the corner and noticing one of mine he said he had a couple of blinkers in the shop. Talked bicycles and riding a bit – not a fan of mountain bikes as they are too slow. He was curious about my Atlantis, thought it was old of course, but in the end conceded it was a good bicycle – offered me $10 for it. I replied I was still using it. Any he told me there were no stores in town so I ended up riding back a bit to a gas station store and getting food for the night.


It seemed that the camping was before and after Concrete so I rode back about 7 miles on the 20 (into a headwind to add additional insult) to Raser State Park. I was definitely beat at this point and quite hungry as well. The h/b site seems new and is quite nice though no water directly at hand. No one else here again, I quickly set up and made dinner as it got dark.

Miles ridden today: 71.8m
Miles ridden to date: 224.1

Some pictures from the tour

Tour 2011 – Day 3

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011


I was definitely tired from yesterday’s exertions as I end up sleeping until 9am. I was woken up earlier at first light with the pattering of soft rain, but it stopped quickly so I ignored it. When it came back I got up to cover my saddle which was good as it soon became hard and steady for a spell. It didn’t last though and when I finally did get up it was partly cloudy and warming up.

I took my time at Fort Townsend State Park using the showers and seeing what was there. Turned out to mostly be hiking trails (which looked great) so eventually I headed out on the route I’d taken in to Port Townsend last night.


A marina is at the end of the trail and while there I swung by the Port Townsend Brewery. It’s just a tasting room and I needed food first so I rode around the marina ’til I found the Marina Cafe where I had lunch before riding back to the brewery for a couple of beers. Brewery’s: the real reason to tour. I give their Hop Diggity IPA a thumbs up.


I’d definitely lingered long in PT and it had become hot (this is more August like) so I pretty much rode to the docks and caught the next ferry. It wouldn’t be a WA State tour without a trip on a ferry and this one was particularly nice: clear, with a bit of cloud for interest and warm enough that standing outside was perfect.


The route I’m on now I’ve ridden on several tours so not much new to add. It was warm but I hugged the coast most of the time as I rode back roads as usual. Beat from yesterday’s long haul (and the heat and probably mid-day beer) the West Beach Road rollers really wore me down. However the traffic on Hwy 20 had me missing those hills. I stopped briefly in the center island at Deception Pass Bridge to let cars pass and to enjoy the view.


Now on Fidalgo Island I got off the 20 and rode up Rosario Rd, which goes past my childhood house, which turned out to be a horrible mistake – it had been recently graveled and oiled and was hard, slow, unsafe riding. It seemed that all the side roads had been graveled as well so I stayed on the more direct route and the gravel eventually petered out on Havekost Road. It was getting late and I was really tired so just got a room at the Anacortes Inn.


I walked the rather long distance To the Rockfish Grill which is the Anacortes Brewery’s brewpub. Yes two breweries in one day, this is indeed the life. A couple more pints and I was back I’m sorts. I dug their porter by the cask conditioned IPA they had was the big winner.

Miles today: 42.7
Miles to date 152.3
Some pictures from the tour

Tour 2010 – day 14

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

Sound of waves
far off close by
how much longer to live?

Things tend to work out, that’s been my experience anyway. That is to say when you leaving things to chance, unplanned where something can easily go wrong it tends to work out. Of course I’ve had my share if misfortune and things not working out but they often do. A case in point in two cases today where I was taking risks, not without understanding mind you, they both worked out better than I hoped.

Leaving the hostel thus morning I set out on the Lochside Trail which I’ve ridden twice before and there I’d nothing much to say about. But at the beginning of the route there is this bit on the road where it’s easy to miss the turn and I did. But I just kept going figuring once I hit the coast the roads would turn inland and eventually intersect the trail. But I did have a ferry to catch and while I had some cushion there was some pressure here. I ended up following these tiny little signs for the Coast Tour bicycle route and not only did it intersect with the Lochside, it was the much more scenic and pleasant route. It was on the water, passed through nice little neighborhoods and went around a forested park. A bit more hilly but a fun ride.

I’ve done the ferry before but it was a spectacular sunny day and the boats were out in force for this Labor Day weekend. Not much better scenery than the San Juan Islands from a bust on a sunny day.

A green bug
Hitched a ride
On my handlebars

Labor Day weekend – this was the cause of my second bit of stress. This is the last hurrah for summer before school and a lot of people go camping thus weekend so trying to camp anywhere without a reservation is seriously a crapshoot. I’d planned to go to South Whidbey State Park which seemed to have 3 hiker/biker sites which are unreservable and have a good chance of not being occupied. But that campground is the last one on Whidbey and was about 75 miles of riding from Victoria. With the little extra I did this morning plus I took a jog into Anacortes to take care of some stuff it’d be over 80. That’s a long day and Whidbey is hilly. Not to mention there’s a headwind… The ideal thing would be to camp at Fort Casey State Park but it has very few sites and Labor Day weekend. But I figure I’d try and then head to South Whidbey after finding it full.

It’s six as I pull into the campground, the last few miles in a particularly vicious headwind. I circle through the entire campground and it is indeed full. That is except for a handicap site. I pass that by and then go back to it hoping it has some sort of exceptions. The sign tells me that if it is unoccupied after 6pm it’s first come first served. It’s 6:04. Things tend to work out. Oh and a couple hours later I caught a glorious sunset.

Some pictures from the tour

Miles ridden today: 63.9
Miles ridden to date: 700.5