Days 31-42: Around the San Juan Islands (& Victoria)
Days 31-33 were spent on Orcas Island, with our extremely generous hosts, Carl & Beth. We take over their pop-up trailer in the yard, listen to the sounds of horses on the other side of the fence, tour the YMCA camp, and watch a movie outside one evening. We also explore the little town of Eastsound and ride out to Olga (through Moran State Park).
Day 34, we hop a ferry over to Lopez Island. It’s a grey day, with intermittant drizzle, so we explore Lopez Village and then settle into a small coffee shop for a bit. We camp at Spencer Spit State Park and opt for a regular site, since the hiker-biker sites don’t have fire pits. At the urging of the park ranger, we wander down to the water. There’s a long beach, littered with oyster and clam shells and driftwood. Someone even built a mini pirate ship statue. And, at 9pm, just as we’re crawling into bed, the jets from the naval air base on Whidbey Island take to the sky for some very loud manuevers. We plug our ears for 20 minutes and then all is quiet again.
Day 35, we hop on another ferry, this time to San Juan Island. The ferry docks in the small town of Friday Harbor, where we find some coffee and groceries before heading to the campround. We decide to stay at San Juan County Park, with the plan to ride the three miles to Limekiln park to look for Orcas. When we get to San Juan County Park, though, it’s too beautiful to leave, and we hunt for Orcas there. The hiker/biker sites are in a clearing, right along the bluff, with an amazing view of the Sound. We never see Orcas, although several seals come out to play. Our neighbors are two cycle tourists from Seattle, and we all share a campfire and stories. In the middle of the night, a storm rolls in and the sky breaks open and we watch lightening move across the water.
We decide to stay on San Juan Island for two days, so that we can meet readers Ryan & Shannon. So, on Day 36, we explore parts of the island. Roche Harbor, at the tip of the island, is a resort town and marina. It was originally a company town for lime production a century or so ago, but has recently been turned into a Disneyland-esque resort. We and our bikes get some very strange looks. Just outside of Roche Harbor, however, is a large sculpture garden. Beautiful and fascinating and definitely worth a stop. For the night, we stay at Juniper Lane Guest House, a delightful inn that is recommended to us by Ryan & Shannon. Pizza is on the docket for dinner at Vinnie’s, delicious pizza and a near-comical owner. And we cap off the evening with a porter tasting back at Juniper Lane.
Day 37, we’re off to a slow start, ejoying several cups of coffee in the back yard of Juniper Lane, followed by lunch with Ryan & Shannon in town. We mill around Friday Harbor for a little while and then hop the ferry to Sidney, B.C. As we’re pulling out of the harbor, there’s a lot of comotion on the back deck, and we wander out to explore. As it turns out, there were Orcas right near the harbor, quite visible from the ferry. Russ sees them and then hands the binoculars to me, just as the ferry turns away. I go back to believing that Orcas are just a story made up by the visitor’s bureau. We arrive in Sidney, roll through customs, and meet a Canadian couple returing home with their bikes. They offer to show us the way into town and we tell them about our trip. Carl and Beth recommended a small Greek restaurant named Maria’s Souvlaki and we hunt it down for dinner. Over plates of lamb souvlaki, we talk with the couple at the next table over, on a bike tour from Eugene. Amongst many stories, we hear that their Thermarest Neo-Air mattresses popped after just a few days, and we are glad they were out of stock when we tried to buy them. We spend the night at a campground just outside of town. There’s only one site occupied, because of the fire ban, we are told by the two women rangers who check us in. We’ve already eaten, so we don’t need a fire, and it’s dark and starting to drizzle, so we quickly set up camp and turn in for the evening.
Day 38, after coffee and a chat with another bike touring couple, we roll out of Sidney, along the Lochside Trail to Victoria. The Lochside and Galloping Goose trails are wonderful interurban routes that we highly recommend! From Sidney, you wind through farmland and neighborhoods, some dense wooded areas and even across old wooden trestle bridges. We explore downtown Victoria, wandering around the inner harbor and the Parliament building, before heading to meet our hosts, Steve & Melissa. As Melissa’s sister, Leslie, is also visiting, we set up camp in their backyard. They steer us toward a wonderful thai restaurant within walking distance and then we all stay up late swapping stories over steaming mugs of homemade chai tea.
Day 39 is a grey and rainy day. We’re slow to roll out and decide to leisurely explore the city a bit more. We visit several bike shops that have been recommended to us and ride part of the coastal touring route that runs along the water’s edge. Later in the afternoon, we walk to the market, and we get caught in the rain on the way back. As we walk in the door and shake off the rain, Mel is quick to offer us bowls of freshly homemade butternut squash soup and some wine. We spend a quiet evening inside, hiding from the rain, reading.
On the morning of Day 40, we’re up early, so that we have enough time to ride back up to Sidney to catch the ferry back to the US. Our initial plan to head over to Vancouver fell through and we decided that we were ready to start making our way back to the mainland US. It’s still grey, but not raining as hard, and we ride the Lochside Trail back up to Sidney. Because of the crazy ferry schedule, we’re forced to go all the way to Anacortes and then get on another ferry that backtracks to Orcas Island. Fortunately, Leslie has made plans to head to Orcas also and we have someone to talk to for our nearly 5 hours of ferry-riding time. We also meet a couple on the ferry to Anacortes that has recently moved to Salt Spring Island, and we all talk about food and biking and travel. We finally arrive back in Orcas and head up to Eastsound for a few more days with Carl and Beth.
Days 41-42 are spent on Orcas Island. We log into the internets, wash clothes, and plan the next leg of our trip. I also spend a chunk of time making a pair of headbadges for Carl and Beth, a silhouette of a dog, in honor of their Nikita. Beth treats us to homemade cobblers (apple and blackberry)!
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