And that's it for the 2016 trip. Two train trips, nine ferry rides, one houseboat, one chapel, one treehouse, one fantastic cabin. Airbnb and VRBO have really changed the bike game for places to stay -- much more reach into communities, like the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood in Vancouver. Spent yesterday walking the city, shopping for groceries at Granville Market and cooking up scallops, accidental quinoa (no rice), broccolini and bacon-wrapped dates for our team wrap-up dinner.
Up at 4:30 this morning -- Mom and Dad were very good sports to share in that part of the experience -- to ride an easy two miles down to Pacific Central Station in Vancouver. A long line for customs/passports for the Seattle-bound Amtrak. This is one reason I love the train: all of us and our fully-loaded bikes just got in line with everyone and went through inspection. Can't do that at the airport. Somehow the quirky, reality-tweaking elements are still the really fun parts of a bike trip.
1 July 2016
(Galiano to Vancouver part 4): .... you have a second problem, in our experience: to the shuttle drivers, time is relative, and although I'm not sure hauling bikes and bikers 3 miles at a time under a river is such a bad gig, it doesn't seem to do much for the drivers' moods or interest in Swiss-watch precision. Our driver today was particularly grumpy when he showed up, off schedule and either a few minutes early or very late. But we stripped and loaded the bikes and panniers and got to the other side. Another 10 miles or so through Richmond, south Vancouver, over the bike/light rail bridge, and up then down the big city hill, into our excellent Airbnb house in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood, met up with
Mom and Dad/GL + GT, and had a end -of-trip-plus-Molly's 21st is coming dinner at the French Table near our house -- very tasty. A day tomorrow to hang out in Vancouver and then train back to PDX Sunday.
A few Vancouver BC photos of the day
(Galiano to Vancouver part 3): When they built this tunnel a while back under the Fraser River -- the only crossing for miles -- they forgot to put in a bike lane. Good thing the BC government doesn't have to face off with fanatically opinionated commuting cyclists of any kind and that none of them are engineers to tell you the hundred screw ups and thousand sub-screw ups with the tunnel plan; also that none of have Internet access or like writing letters to the editor.
Anyway, it was too late to fix the problem structurally so the government hired a contractor to run a daily bike shuttle, hourly or so during most days. forever (or at least until the new tunnel in 2017-18).
Finding the shuttle pickup site is an adventure all on its own, which currently requires traversing a town, a park, a golf course (last two by gravel trail), and a small bridge, then following the one or two signs pointing out the pickup point. Once you've found the site ....
(Galiano to Vancouver part 2) From Tsawassen, the main Vancouver-Gulf Islands ferry terminal about 15 miles south of the city, we rode a backroad towards Delta, Richmond and south Vancouver. A couple of final adventures. I take us on a short, optional, unintentional detour towards the massive container ship port. Anne Marie picks up this navigational snafu a little before I do, possibly by noticing that the only vehicles anywhere near us are railroad cars, massive yellow backhoes and 18 wheelers, and that we are nearly back at the ocean. We correct this detour easily and start heading towards Vancouver again. This is actually a great ride, flat and scenic, from the coast through dairy and flower farms, neighborhoods, a cool little river town, Ladner. Here is where our past experience comes in handy, sort of. To get across (or under) the Fraser River, you have to know about the Massey Tunnel bike shuttle.
(Galiano to Vancouver BC part 1): One last night in the beautiful Galiano cabin then on the road by 7am to catch the Tsawassen ferry, charged up with the last of our Peet's coffee. A secondary fueling stop at the bakery near the dock with cinnamon roll to go, then a last few ferry-deck rounds of a card game called Presidents. I always win this game but try to be humble.
The Eagles' Nest cabin.
Line Marie is really an outstanding mosaic artist. This is a built in desk in the dormer window in the cabin.
30 June 2016
Another excellent rest day, this one on Galiano at this almost off-grid island nirvana. We visited two years ago and met Bernard and Line Marie, and were happy to see them again. They're French-Canadian artists, vegans, travelers, innkeepers, just very nice people; they built both this cabin and their main house down the hill, and just put in a large new solar panel below the house (we saw it from the ferry coming in). Extra sleep, tasty lunch at the market, some competitive card games, an add-on ride for me over to Montague Harbour heading towards the northern part of the island. Coming down to the last leg of the trip: ferry to Tsawassen tomorrow, then a victory ride into Vancouver.
Another couple of recommendations -- the espresso and smoothie bar at the Daystar Market on Galiano wins best in both categories for the trip, and dinner was bicycle-takeout from this spot, the Wild1 Thai Cookhouse: chicken sate, pad Thai, seafood curry, and an Indian thali with paneer. Where did we all eat before brilliant food trucks?
In case you're looking for a good book or some salmon tacos and cerveza on Galiano, this is the place in Montague Harbour.
Line Marie and Bernard's new garden
29 June 2016
Thursday morning at the Eagles' Nest cabin on Galiano Island overlooking Active Pass, the waterway between Mayne and Galiano. We made it here last night after our treehouse adventure -- an easier downhill-trending day but still lots of heart and thigh breaking uphill on Pender. Ferry from Otter Bay on Pender to Sturdies Bay here and then a beautiful ride to this spot, one of our favorite past places to stay. More tonight.
The treehouse on Pender Island. Good: beautiful natural setting, great adventure in small-impact living, very quiet. Bad: On top of a small mountain, reached by means of a very steep road, not easy on the pannier-loaded bikes.
28 June 2016
Music, tea and coffee, forest panorama .... All in the treehouse. Once you get up there.
27 June 2016
Romelia, Romelia, wherefore art thou ... and dost thou come with a tasty cracker or two ...
(Lopez to Friday Harbour to Fulford Harbour, Salt Spring Island, part 1): No storms, broken bones or near-catastrophes since the weekend. We had an excellent two days on the south end of Lopez, cooked up some homemade noodles and sauce, listened to the Hamilton soundtrack a lot (that's how we like our history in this family), made it to Holly B's bakery a couple of times, rode back up Lopez on Sunday and caught the ferry for Friday Harbor. Stayed in the former Elite Hotel again, now known as the Bird Rock. Onto the ferry this morning for Sidney, BC and a quick bike ride to Swartz Bay, then ferry to Fulford Harbour on Salt Spring Island, and landed here at the Fulford-Dunderry Guest House.
(Lopez to Friday to Fulford, part 2): We don't really go to great restaurants or "great restaurants" in our tribe (though we do have a gift certificate to use for Le Pigeon on some special occasion.) I would happily trade any Michelin-starred, sommelier-powered, gastronomic wonder meal to eat instead at one of four places in the world: The G&E Courtyard Grill in New Orleans, long gone (smoked mozzarella and crawfish pasta); breakfast tart and coffee at Le Loir Dans Le Theiere in the Marais in Paris; raclette from our friend Sabine and her family in the Alpage de la Peule on the Mont Blanc trail in Switzerland; and Rock Salt, here in Fulford Harbour on Salt Spring. Amazing, inventive home-cooked and local food; really, really nice people bringing it to you; and a unique and beautiful place in the world. Seared albacore and green curry bowl for me, baked snapper for Molly and Rachel, steelhead for Anne Marie. Off to Ganges for a farmers' market and then a treehouse on Pender in am
(Lopez to Friday Harbour to Fulford Harbour, Salt Spring Island, part 3): We also biked to the Salt Spring Island Cheese Company a few miles outside of Fulford and spent the afternoon doing a self-guided tour around the small farm-factory, and then tasting amazing goats' milk soft cheeses, including their Juliette and Romelia varieties, and winding up with chocolate goats' milk gelato cones. Just a lovely place, with its own open air cafe where we could have had artisan goats' milk pizza on the terrace, but we had enough energy from the gelato to burn on the ride home and had other plans for dinner.
25 June 2016
Evening at the cabin near Mud Bay
The pici process. Dinner evolves.
Soon I will be your homemade noodles.
Biking on Lopez. Just had to get here.
Rest day with reading, biking to Lopez Village for groceries at market and goodies at Holly B's.
24 June 2016
(Seattle to Lopez part 1):
Day 1: train to Seattle. Stayed in houseboat on Lake Union.
Day 2: yesterday. Usually the Day of Pain and Near Catastrophe comes a bit later in the trip. I managed to build it in early, right on day 2. It started out well enough with a beautiful Seattle city ride through Fremont and Phinney Ridge, with a stop at Lighthouse Roasters -- thumbs up from all -- and then on to the Edmonds ferry terminal. I grew up in Seattle and really enjoyed going through the core of Phinney Ridge -- felt both Old Seattle and rejuvenated and I'd never really been through it.
This was (until the very end of the day) the high point. Getting through North Seattle to Edmonds, the traffic increased and the bike lanes shrunk. I was really surprised at the poor bike access at the ferry, especially.
(Seattle to Lopez part 2): So once upon a time, in 1992, Anne Marie and I went on an engagement bike trip, and on the first day went from Seattle to Port Townsend (via Bainbridge and Poulsbo). This ruinously hot and dusty day ended with heatstroke for Anne Marie and almost no engagement for me. (The trip got better and here we all are).
24 years older and wiser, for this trip I thought I could find a different road and different weather. I did. A different bad road and different bad weather.
Unless you're willing to duck onto back roads that add a fair amount of mileage and hills, there may be no good way to do this route. It's all highway. The view is a clearcut strip broken by clearcut forest. The traffic is insane. The shoulder, like the judgement, skill and muffler care of the drivers zooming by you, narrows progressively as you get farther up the peninsula. The route is broken up a bit by the thrill of the Hood Canal bridge, destroyed not too long ago by a storm.
(Seattle to Lopez part 3): So from the Hood Canal Bridge, a long ride towards Port Townsend. Downpour, darkness, very tired and cold family, unsafe roads. We made it to Chimacum, near PT but 4 miles from our Airbnb. Thursday night in Chimacum at the Chevron minimart. The minimart had its blessings -- chocolate and fluids, a very nice proprietor, warmth, electricity -- and its downsides (stumbling intoxicated dudes, a guy bringing in his chainsaw for some reason, and no obvious means of getting out of there). We were finally rescued by our lovely and kind Airbnb host, Peatt, and her son Liam, who packed our grimy bikes and soaking bags and grimy us into her SUV (two trips), hooked us up with outstanding Mexican food from the San Juan Taqueria near her house, and brought us to what we will call the Chapel of Warmth. Peatt's Airbnb is an eclectic, beautifully India-influenced house with a wood stove and really comfortable beds. One of the best ends to a challenging day.
(Seattle to Lopez part 4): Molly and Rachel at Holly B's Bakery on Lopez Island. After yesterday's adventures, we tuned the plan. Plan A was biking 9 miles to catch the Port Townsend ferry to Whidbey Island and ride to Anacortes, another 40+ mile day after 40 or so yesterday. We went with Plan B, the secret backup plan: catch a little known bike ferry option with Puget Sound Express, a whale watching boat that makes a round trip daily from Port Townsend but stops at Friday Harbor. No whales today but we were still happy for the ride and really nice people running the service. Then Washington state ferry from Friday Harbor to Lopez, a 12 mile ride to our next Airbnb. Burgers, fish cakes and groceries at the Southend Cafe and Store. Rest day tomorrow.
23 June 2016
Closing time at the San Juan Taqueria. Dinner time for us.
Another adventure story coming soon. This is the happy ending.
Photos from day 2
Welcome to the 2016 bike trip! Happy to have you aboard.
Quick note to get this started. Yesterday we rode from our house in Portland to Union Station and got our bikes and ourselves on to the Amtrak train to Seattle. We landed at the King Street Station and made a stop in Chinatown for dim sum which we ate on the sidewalk to avoid hauling all our stuff in the restaurant. Biked to Lake Union and our first stop, an Airbnb houseboat called the Hippin' Jicama. Dinner was salad and gnocchi and oysters at Crow in lower Queen Anne after a healthy climb up the hill. We're getting ready to ride to the Kingston ferry, then on to Port Gamble, Port Ludlow and Port Townsend. Cloudy and cooler with some rain. More soon.