Days 22-31 : Twanoh S.P. to Orcas Island
Today marks one month since we left Long Beach. I can’t decide if it feels like we’ve been on the road for much much longer, or if time has just zipped past. I do know, however, that I have completely lost all track of what day it is. (Which means that I had to actually look at a map to remember where we’ve been over the past week to write this update!)
So, let’s back way up to Day 22. This was the day that we got up rather leisurely and rode along the Hood Canal, headed NW. We crossed the Skokomish River, teeming with fisherman (which we learned later were in pursuit of King Salmon, as the fishing season had opened just a few days prior). We pulled over at a small farm stand and picked up some smoked salmon and crackers for lunch – and got to talking with the matriarch of the farm, who informed us that it’s been a working farm since the 1880s, and who also let us in on the local knowledge that Bill Gates and the Nordstrom family have summer houses along the canal (shhh…).
We rode down Highway 106 to Twanoh State Park, passing a touring family on tandem, and meeting four other bike tourists at the park. Popular spot! We devoured our salmon picnic lunch and drank some coffee – and made the decision to just camp there for the evening. We’d only ridden 14 miles at that point, but it was such a beautiful spot and we wanted to take advantage of the fact that this is an open-ended tour. The camp hosts directed us down the road to the nearest mini mart and we stocked up on ingredients for dinner and then staked our claim at the most beautiful (so far) campsite ever. The rest of the afternoon, we indulged in just relaxing. I wandered down the beach to sketch for an hour or so. Russ discovered the camp store with fudge bars. We did laundry. We had a long, roaring fire. We met one of our readers! (Hi Russell!) And then we went to sleep by ourselves, with the water just a few feet away. It was lovely.
On Day 23, we woke up early, again to the sound of the waves. We headed off down the road into Belfair, where we found a little diner for breakfast and scouted out our route into Bremerton (where we’d catch the ferry into Seattle). We finished our coffee, opted for the old highway route, and headed out. A few miles down the road, we discovered that we had completely missed our turn to the old highway and we scoured Google maps on the iPhone to find a side road that would connect us. We also came to discover that relying on Google maps can sometimes lead you down a dead-end path. The map showed a road leading from the modern highway to the old highway – so we took it. After a half-mile or so, we ran into a locked gate. As we were consulting the iPhone, a car drove up. ‘Great!’ we thought, ‘we’ll ask them for directions.’ Except, they were consulting an iPhone also and were totally lost as well. No luck. We decided that the gravel turn-off a few hundred feet back must have been the way through, so we took off that way, telling ourselves that it just meant more Adventure! We bounded down the gravel road, consulting the iPhone at each turn and each Dead End sign and each locked gate, continuing to head deeper into the woods, trying to ignore the sounds of the loggers a mile or so away and the faint evidence of some sort of large critter.
Eventually, we came to the end of the last fork… a locked gate. Frustrated, because the map on the iPhone showed that we were almost there, we turned around and high-tailed it out of the woods (but not before I flew over a large bump, catapulted one of my front panniers off the rack, and got it wrapped up in my front wheel). When we got back to the highway (happy to be out of the woods), we opted to just take the shoulder next to all the heavy traffic and get down to the ferry.
Pulling in to Bremerton on bike is a bit unnerving as well, since you’re on the highway, with a lot of fast traffic, and not much of a shoulder, and no real clear signs where you’re going, and lots of hills added to the mix. But, we made it to the ferry, got some coffee, had a snack, and waited. I asked one of the ferry staff where we should wait and he directed me off to one side. Then, I asked if we got on last (as was the case on the mini ferries in Oregon) and he said, ‘Oh, no, you get on first!’ Woo hoo! From Bremerton to Seattle is an hour-long ferry ride… and absolutely beautiful.
Arriving in Seattle, we found our way to a bike shop to pick up a bike map of the city and then proceeded to completely confuse ourselves getting to our home stay. (Note: Seattle’s bike infrastructure has been, amusingly and accurately, described as “stealth” and “opportunistic” – and this was our experience, as we had to keep asking folks where the bike path led and lean on the iPhone GPS to tell us where we were.) About four blocks from our home stay, I turned right to get us on the correct cross street and was met with a hill that just made me laugh for the sheer ridiculousness… 30% grade?… a hill so steep that they had actually installed steps in the sidewalk to help you walk up it. Welcome to Seattle!
Days 24 – 27 were spent in Seattle. We got lost (twice) in REI, ate the most insanely huge hamburgers at Lunchbox Laboratories, participated in the Bike-In Movie night, met amazing people (and their pets!), dropped into some fantastic bike shops, and had a truly wonderful time. (More about Seattle in the near future.)
On Day 28, we rolled out of Seattle, headed North to Whidbey Island. We had scouted Bikely to find a route to Mukilteo (to catch the Whidbey ferry), picked the “scenic, touring” one, and were pleasantly surprised. It’s circuitous, but follows the smaller streets and keeps you out of much of the heavy traffic. We flew into Mukilteo (there’s a mile or more down hill stretch that drops you at the ferry landing), indulged in salmon & chips and root beer floats, and hopped on the ferry. The ferry ride to Clinton (Whidbey Island) is quite short (20 minutes). And then we huffed up the hill out of the ferry landing in Clinton (sheesh, what’s up these hills at ferry landings?!). The ride to Langley from Clinton is only 6 miles. There’s one long slog of a climb from the ferry landing, then the rest is rollers, surrounded by trees and beautiful homes. Langley is a very small town (actually, we were told not to call it a town… it’s Langley Village). We had coffee at one of three places on the main strip (just a block long) and relaxed for a bit (if you want to learn how to slow down, go to Langley!). Then we headed up the road to our home stay… and a delicious homemade chowder for dinner. Thanks Ron & Donna!
Day 29, we rode up Whidbey Island to Coupeville, where we had set up another home stay with the family of an old friend of mine. We took the small roads that zig-zagged across the highway. Lots of rollers, lots of beautiful scenery. A few picnics, lots of glorious sunshine, lots of time to daydream. Coffee as we rolled into Coupeville. Arriving at our home stay, where there were two other couples staying also, we were told that they were going to go get crab and would we like to go? Sure, we said, collecting our stuff. Bring a windbreaker, they said. Confused, since it was quite sunny and warm, we did as we were told. And then we discovered that we weren’t walking to a market, we were getting on their boat to go pull crab out of their pots out in the Sound! Well, this trip is all about new experiences, so we hopped in the boat and enjoyed the ride out to the pots and back, even though we came back sans crab. Thanks Judy & Marshall!
Day 30, we got off to a slow start, which is okay sometimes. We were told about this little restaurant in town (Coupeville) with amazing cinnamon rolls – and so we went. And they were definitely amazing. And so was the view from the porch. And, if you haven’t been to Coupeville, it should be on your list, because it’s an amazingly quaint and warm little town that’s overflowing with history. From Coupeville, we followed a series of small roads and then the main highway North to Anacortes. Anacortes is actually on a separate island (Fidalgo Island), connected to Whidbey by a tall, narrow bridge at Deception Pass.
We opted to walk across the bridge, thinking that it would be less nerve-wracking and allow us better views. We certainly got the better views, and met some lovely people on the path as we squeezed by them on the very narrow pedestrian path. But, walking wasn’t exactly less nerve-wracking, because you can feel the bridge shutter each time a truck or RV rolls across, and there’s a pretty good wind that rips through there. I was glad to get across to the other side. We made our way to Anacortes and out to Washington Park to camp for the night (a few miles West of the main part of town, but right near the ferry terminal). We weren’t sure what to expect with the campground (as it’s right outside of town), but it was beautiful and wooded and quiet.
Day 31, we rolled out of camp and down to the ferry terminal to head out to Orcas Island. The tickets are not cheap, but it’s tempered by the fact that riding the ferry between islands is free. We secured the bikes and found a spot in one of the outdoor viewing areas to watch for sea life. Orcas? Seals? Anything? Just some jelly fish, far below us. But, a beautiful open sky, dozens of wooded islands, sailboats… a beautiful view of another kind.
And then we got to Orcas Island, had a small picnic lunch, and set off up and over the hills to our home stay here. Why we thought that islands would be flat, I have no idea, because there are some pretty steep and painful hills here. But, we got up and over them all. And in the process, saw open fields and wildflowers, small ponds filled with water plants, artist studios, very friendly people… and one small farm where the cows had figured out how to get over the fence and were wandering down the road, talking loudly to each other. ‘Surprisingly, this isn’t the first time this has happened,’ remarked the postman as he rolled past us and the cows.
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