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Back on the road

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

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I’m back on tour again, another shortish jaunt; this time a bit over a week. I’m heading up to Victoria, B.C. In Canada to see some experimental classical music concerts. I don’t plan to “live blog” this one but I’m thinking I’ll use Track My Tour. So if interested follow along here: Tour into Silence. I will post pics and write-up as per usual upon my return. If you are curious about the concerts I’ll be writing about them on my music blog: Wandelweiser Concert series.

Tour 2010 – day 14

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

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

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

Tour 2010 – day 13

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

“it’s still summer!”
Yet the geese are crying —
“Not for long, not for long”.

This pretty much is it; a short day entirely on a Rail-Trail ending at the hostel in Victoria. There are three primary routes to Seattle from Victoria and I’ve done them all. So today has the last bit of new territory before I retrace my steps home.

Cold, cold night
But the babbling brook
Lulled me to sleep

The morning was cold and clear and since it was an easy day I took my time getting ready. I used up the last of my fuel and oatmeal; there is a couple more camp meals left but it’s better to not carry the fuel over the border. The other tourons never got up this whole time and were still asleep when I left.

The Galloping Goose is probably the best rail trail I’ve been on. It’s dirt/gravel most of the way with paved sections at the end but the surface was uniformly excellent. Mostly hardpacked I’ve been on worse chipsealed roads. And the scenery was great; mostly it’s a tree lined corridor but sometimes right on the coast and at others near fields and farms. Of course you are away from cars almost the whole time as well. I enjoy and prefer road riding but a fine trail like this is a treat. The weather had become nice and warm and it was just fine relaxing riding.

It didn’t take too long to ride the thirty miles or so to Victoria even at a super leisurely pace. Once in the city I checked into the hostel and then walked around for a bit on the waterfront. I was of course looking for a brewpub and from the list at the hostel I made the trek to West Vic to go to Spinnakers.

This was a fantastic pub, real English style serving locally brewed English style beers from the traditional hand drawn pumps. I had a very nice ale, a very good and not at all gonzo Double IPA on cask followed by glasses if their excellent stout and rather tepid normal IPA. A good afternoons drinking. Then it was back to the hostel to take care of the business of return.

Some pictures from the tour

Miles ridden today: 33.4
Miles ridden to date: 636.6

RSVP and Back Again – day 4

Saturday, September 13th, 2008
Sidney by the Sea
Sidney by the sea.

The final day of my short little trip dawn mostly clear and windy.  After completing my morning routine in pretty short order I set out for coffee and breakfast.  I walked down the street checking out my options but the place that immediately appealed was a bakery that had doughnuts mounded up in the window.  I got a sugar cake doughnut and a blueberry scone to go as they had no coffee. I picked a small cafe a couple of blocks away and got a cup and a bagel.  The coffee was pretty meh but the pastries were fantastic.  There were a couple of other cyclotourists parked in front the cafe, a younger hippy looking pair and a much older couple. They set off before I had a chance to find out their destination.

Sidney waterfront
Sidney waterfront walk

sailboatAfter breakfast I checked out of the hotel and rode around Sidney for a time.  It really is a quaint little seaside town, with classic Victorian architecture, tons of cafes and a beautiful marina. I cruised the streets, checked out some of the neighborhoods and then began to make my way toward where I’d intersect with the Lochside Trail again.  As I mentioned yesterday I’ve done this route before and I knew that it wasn’t very far to Victoria, about 18 miles, and I didn’t have to catch my boat to Seattle ’til 4:30.  So I had a low stress day and I took the opportunity to see Sidney, cruise the trail and check out Victoria.

On the way out of town you pass the ferry Ferry to WAterminal that takes you to San Juan Island and Fidalgo Island. At one point I’d thought of taking this ferry to Fidalgo and then riding up Fidalgo and Whidbey Islands to the mainland and then home.  Not a trivial ride and I was a bit concerned that on the fourth day of riding after already doing near back to back centuries another 80 mile day would be too much.  I was feeling quite good at this point and I think I could have pulled it off. It would have been a day of hard riding though and I rather enjoyed slipping back into the touring mindset instead.

Sometimes the Lochside is on the road
Sometimes the Lochside is on the road

I really had falling right into my typical tour patterns, pretty much as soon as I was off the RSVP.  I slowed down, spent more time looking at things and noticeably relaxed.  I love touring and as iIve said in these pages a lot of it is a mindset. I can get into that mindset on rambling country day trips sometimes. As I’d riden this route before I really had little to think about w/r/t path finding and I was able to really enjoy this stretch of Vancouver Island.  The Lochside Trail, is a signed route that is partly on roads, partly on trail, sometimes on dirt roads between farmers fields sometimes on its own gravel path. It runs from the Ferry terminal at Swartz Bay. where I was yesterday, all the way to  Victoria where is joins the Galloping Goose Trail which runs to downtown and many miles outside Victoria.


My Atlantis on the Lochside

Coffee MessiahThere was a pretty brutal headwind on the Lochside, especially at the beginning as I rode parallel to the coast on pretty open roads. The sky was densely textured with overlaid clouds, though they didn’t look like rain.  Only a few miles on the coast before the trail turns inland a bit and follows the highway for a bit. Its hard packed gravel for most of this bit and is smooth sailing. I passed a few other riders here and I noticed a whole bunch parked at the McDonalds (why?) and more understandably at that Canadian institution Tim Hortons.  The trail leaves the highway after only a couple of miles and then spends the bulk of the remaining miles to Victoria cutting through and around farmland.  There are several points where you are on gravel paths that cut through trees, where I’d see dog walkers and horseback riders and as I got closer the the Victoria exurbs increasing amount of recreational users.

wetland
Crossing the wetland. (haven’t I seen this before?)

a paved section of trailA nice wooden bridge that cross a wetland signals that Victoria is near.  I was getting ready for lunch at this point so I made pretty steady progress. The trail tended toward being paved at this point and there were increasing number of parks and other riders along it.  Additionally street crossings occasionally popped up and the off trail parts were often through suburban areas.  The last little area before the route winds through industrial areas was a little bay that I ended up riding a leg of a race last time I was here. It has a fantastic large trestle crossing that was incorporated into the race (since I had full touring kit I didn’t do all that well in the race, FWIW).  After crossing that the route cuts behind business, outskirts of town and then crosses a bridge into Victoria.

trestle
Crossing the trestle

Parliment Building in the distanceI could see the Parliament Building in the distance but I wasn’t exactly sure how to proceed from this point. I oscillated across this drawbridge a couple of times before just going for it. My hunch worked out and pretty shortly I was downtown. Now I needed to find a pub.  I cruised the downtown for a bit checking out menus and such and eventually settled on the Irish Times Pub. I needed beer of course, but also vegetarian options and they had a number of items. I ended up having another Lighthouse IPA and then a Kilkenny.  I’ve had KilkennyKilkenny at the source so I’m always inclined to get it when I see it.  I alsow had a little four cheese pizza which was very good – it used an interesting blend of Irish cheddars and a smoked cheese for a rich flavor.  I read a bit more of the Murakami while I was here, but soon set out to see a bit of Victoria while I had the chance. I was pretty much in the heart of the touristy shopping zone past the Empress Hotel so I spent a while just walking the streets checking things out. It was kind of cool now so I checked out a couple of the Scottish shops to see if I could find a cheap flannel shirt but they seemed to still be stocked for summer wear.  I gelato joint called Oh! Gelato caught my eye and feeling the need got a very tasty Blueberry-Cheesecake flavored cone.

Swans
Swans pub

I ended up walking almost back to the drawbridge and near there I found  Swans brewpub that made very British style beers. I tried their Oatmeal Stout which wasn’t bad if a bit on the watery side for that style.  These two other guys that were taking up the other two stools of the three stool bar were talking of expat adventures the whole time. As I was paying up to leave one of them informed me that the Scotch Ale they had was one of the rare treasures of Victoria.  I declined another beer and the man offered to buy me one. I thanked him but said I had to go.  Which was sort of true, mainly I was worried about my bicycle which I’d locked up at the outdoor deck of the Irish Times pub – not exactly a kosher local. Also I was very full of beer and not that inclined for another.  I do kind of regret not trying that beer though. Oh Well I’ll be back.

The Empress Hotel
The Empress

I quickly walked back to where my bicycle was locked and it all seemed okay. It was still too cool for most people to want to eat outside though it was starting to clear up. I decided I do one more bit of shopping before I moved on.  You can get Cuban Cigars in Canada, which you can’t in the US due to our ridiculous embargo.  I rarely smoked cigars, but every once in a while I enjoy one and I’ve only had Cubans a couple of times. There was a smoke shop just up the block from the Irish Times so I headed there. The shopkeep asked me what I was after and described a variety of different smokes. I settled on a Bolivar Habana which he described as a spicier smoke (I smoked this the weekend after I returned, it was fantastic).  After that purchase I unlocked my bicycle and rode down to where the Victoria Clipper is. I still had about 45 minutes so I locked up down there and strolled the waterfront for a bit.

The Parliament Building
Parliament Building.

buskerI bought a fresh squeezed limeade from a street vendor to enjoy as I walked along the waterfront and up by the parliament building.  I was committed to spending the remainder of my Canadian money as I never remember to bring it back when I end up with leftover.  The waterfront marina is a boardwalk style park with buskers, street vendors and out on a pier a bunch of shops.  I did a cruise all the way around and with check in time approaching eventually called it a day.  I deposited my last Canadian two dollar coin with a girl playing the Irish fiddle (quite competently) and headed to the Victoria Clipper port.

The Victoria Clipper
The Victoria Clipper

Checking in was pretty straightforward but they wanted me to remove all the bags from my bicycle. Said it would be outside!  I wasn’t happy about this, but I pulled off my rear bag and removing my little carry on from it, filled it up with stuff for the ride and put the contents of my front bag into the saddlebag. My front bag is pretty permanently attached so I left it on, but empty. I checked my saddlebag and after a quick passport check I was on board.  There isn’t much to say about the Victoria Clipper. It is a high speed catamaran that is pretty akin to taking the bus or an airplane. I’d done it before when I was a lad and recall being pretty bored. So I read the whole time finishing the Murakami book as it pulled into Seattle. They did have small deck in the back that you could go outside on, which I’m pretty sure they didn’t have the last time I rode it. It was so incredibly windy that I only stepped out long enough to snap a couple of pictures.  As it was dark when I got into Seattle this is the last picture I took.

heading home
Just to say the word
home, that one word alone,
So pleasently cool – Kobayashi Issa

We docked around 8pm and it took 30-45 minutes to get our bags and get through customs.  I successfully smuggled my cigar through and then I had to put my bicycle all back together.  Finally I was ready and I set off at night in the Seattle Streets. I of course was prepared for this with my Schmidt Hub and E6 light, plus an additional Cateye light on my handlebars I use as a front standlight.  I noticed a bit into the ride that my Odometer wasn’t registering and I pulled over and reseated it.  Probably less then half a mile unrecorded I figure.  That done I rode through Seattle and up to the I-90 trail.  This is the fourth time I’ve done this route and while it’s become fairly routine it always is a bit stressful. First off its a pretty stiff climb up from the waterfront, there is always traffic and this time it was night. I made it okay and once on the trail it was a mechanical ride home. I felt great though I have to say, no where near as beat as I usually am when I do this final bit. The hills on Mercer Island and later on the Lake Washington loop portion of the ride were no problem at all.  Of course I really hadn’t ridden much this day, but still with four days of riding, I was feeling that I was in pretty decent condition.

I pulled in at home at 10:20pm and unloaded the bicycle. And then even though it was after 10:30 at night I hosed down my beloved Atlantis and wiped it dry. It had just been exposed to seawater after all.  After that I had a shower, a beer and some food and after an hour or two went to bed.

See all my pictures from this day, in my RSVP day 4 gallery.
Total distance this day: 40.6m/65.3km over 3’50” of ride time
Total distance for the whole trip: 286.7m/461.4km