Seattle to Vancouver
Bremerton to Shelton
That was steep, as we descended to the harbour where the ferry awaited. Over Puget Sound, through Bremerton heading south west towards Shelton. Distant views of Mount Rainier on the right and a reasonably non-descript road took us to Shelton, a town built on lumbar with a tourist information in a railway carriage behind a preserved train.
Shelton to Quilcene
Back to Blondie’s for breakfast and the waitress was on fine form. She rattled through the menu, served us with a smile and kept us topped up with coffee. 0930 and away, one street out of Shelton, but the lady in the yellow focus screamed at all of us in turn that this road wasn’t suitable for a bike, did she have another suggestion Descending to route 106 via a mile long gravel path was interesting but not as much as the Indian lady netting 7 enormous Salmon from the river as they swam upstream. Onto the 101, the main road north. Hoods canal to the right, mountains to the left. A coffee shop at Hoodsport saw Keith and I talk Trump to a couple from Colorado who were taking a 6 week road trip after retirement. Their knowledge of Brexit was good, but they didn’t like Donald. The final 3 mile climb over the pass led to a lovely decent with distant views of the Olympic range after which we settled into the Mount Walker Inn for the night. ‘You’d better eat soon’ crooned the Innkeeper and even though it was August only one place was open in town so it was down to the diner/microbrewery where we tried the local brew, ate the local salad and munched the fried stuff.
Quilcene to Port Angeles
The breakfast table was all set up when we arrived. ‘Rye, English Muffin, Wholewheat, white? Like a rabbit caught in headlights Tony stammered as he tried to process yet another choice from the waitress. Eggs, soft, hard, over easy, boiled, poached (that’s the English version) how they got it right was a mystery. “I don’t know how many times I go through this a day’ sighed the server as we ordered. Route 101 led to Smithy’s diner. A huge carved hamburger and various other statues announced its presence but it was inside that really set it apart. Pinned to ever available area including the ceilings were dollar bills. It had all started when someone wanted to leave a business card. ‘It’ll cost you’ was the reply, so he pinned a dollar bill behind. A few years ago, they’d exchanged then, $35000 was the result. It was also republican central, Fox news on the TV, Army posters and American flag table cloths, quite some place.This was also the centre of cannabis sellers, in an old row of railway carriages, the vendor explained that there were definitely medicinal benefits and wrote a web site address to back it up.We were due to run the 101 and its shoulder, but gradually a path is developing. From the railway a new path led to a back road, then onto the Olympic Cyclepath which utilised old roads and a few tracks. We were to follow this all the way to Port Angeles
Weather forecast checked, sun and occasional cloud, Hurricane Ridge it is then. We were met at the Ranger station by Ranger ‘biker’ Smith who gave us the alternative route as the main road to the pay desk was closed for resurfacing. Not a bad job really as he checked out the bikes outside before telling us that Levi Leipheimer had done the climb in 1h 30 mins but a ‘kid from Bellingham had rocked up and done it in 1h 22 mins. We took the old road, mostly covered in moss and tree debris that led through the woods. $15 lighter at the pay station we were back on the road as it looped towards the top. Averaging 5.5%, after 16 mile climbing the mountains came into view. Gorgeous views and Ranger ‘geologist’ Smith gave us a rock talk, very entertaining after which a few of us walked the shorter trails above the car park watching the sea mist roll up the mountain.
West of Port Angeles
West from Port Angeles and along Black Diamond Road. It climbed then descended with beautiful mountain views, the best road today. The shoulder on 101 was wide and it felt safe even with trucks and overpowered trucks passing before Grannies café came into view and we sampled the coffee and ice creams. Past Crescent Lake where the east beach gave expansive views across the lake with waves lapping on the shore. A climb through the woods and a long long descent led to Blackberries café in Joyce for enormous slices of meat and cheese crammed between 2 pieces of bread. Why they do this is unsure, maybe fear that supplying 2 thinner sandwiches won’t go down well, is the bread merely a vehicle for the filling?? I’d picked up that the Pacific Trail appeared soon, question was finding it. Thankfully on the bridge a local who biked pointed us the right way, along tracks, under the bridge on a purpose built section and along an old railway path. Into Port Angeles along the docks and we were back.
Port Angeles to Victoria
Ferry at 0815, the next at 1245, best to catch the earlier. Up at 0630, breakfasted and out. Good job I bought tickets the day before as the queues were enormous and with a brief check of passports we were on the Coho, bound for Canada with 2 on board who had never been before. The mountains and mist made a fine scene as we bid farewell and 90 minutes later we entered Victoria harbour. Many cities have the bus tour, so Grays Line map in hand, I led 9 others for a tour around a city.. First stop Fisherman’s wharf for the obligatory coffee break, prices cheaper than the USA. Onwards passing the cathedral and a lunch stop in mid town where we admired the new form of cycling, electric bikes. Ferociously heavy they were proving very popular with the locals. Onto the coast where the racing cyclists were doing circuits for viewpoints across the bay.
Victoria to Friday Harbor
Labor day, was this really Canada? The town was abuzz with a wooden boat festival and the harbour seemed to be the place to be. On the way down the little ferries were buzzing all over the place like the Red Arrows as they charged towards eachother, ‘must be bored’ I thought. As it turned out they were part of the show at the harbour where 5 little taxi boats looking like tugs performed their ‘world famous ballet’ so they’d be practicing. The road north was along the Lochside Trail. A mishmash of tresel bridges, dirt track, road and true tarmacked cycleway it was hugely popular as the daily counter at 700 indicated at the start. The long tressel across the water near the start was pretty impressive and Ian enjoyed the birdlife in the pools as we progressed. We left the trail at Sidney getting there very early because it hadn’t been running for a week (unprecedented) so I was unsure about the queues. The aquarium of the Salish Sea was a good hour’s distraction. Its pacific octopus and 3 larger fish tanks gave a solid introduction to the seas around the San Juan Islands. Through customs and into the hands of good cop/ bad cop. The American stern faced, the Canadian wise cracking ‘What do you call a cow with 2 legs shorter than the other?’ ‘Lean
San Juan Island
Heading north west too wards Roche Harbor we dropped to the harbour to some kind of Disney Land full of lovely people admiring the artists, playing petanque and investigating the new houses just built. It was truly a millionaire’s playground, flying in from San Francisco, going on the boat that belonged to the relative and flying back again after a few days. Down the west coast, lots of trees and expensive properties that had taken the best views. However here was English Camp. In 1860 the Americans and English lived happily side by side for 12 years until one day an American shot a pig. A tense situation developed where even the president was involved. It was finally resolved by the King of Germany who granted the San Juan Islands to the Americans. San Juan Country Park provided a respite, full of sea kayakers, a better way to go round these parts. South to the far point Lime Kiln State park, where Phil saw an Orca fin. One last section of coast that had been bought by the locals and we were back to the private properties and trees.
A ferry with no charge for cyclists intra island, that only charged eastbound, but the exception was getting into Canada, confused? Jigsaws on the table, islands passing by it was a pleasant 80 minutes to Lopez via Orcas and Shaw Islands where we ascended the hill and arrived at Lopez Village, home of Holly B’s and her enormous cinnamon buns. I found the store, dollars in hand but oh no…shut, today, tomorrow and the day after. After 20 years of waiting as well. The lady at the store promised to tell her as I consoled myself with a cookie from the grocery store. Lopez looked better than San Juan, flatter, less private properties and more sea views. Yesterday you could count the sea views on one hand, today much better and at Shark Reef Sanctuary the seals lay on the rocks amidst the churning sea. Lunch at Southern store and on to the south eastern area for more views before heading up the east side along those long straight roads to catch the 1905 ferry back to Friday Harbor
Another 0700 start, back to the café, banana and chocolate chip muffin and away to Orcas island the northerly one. Shaped like an inverted pretzel we headed up the left side along the spine of the island. Lumpier than the other 2 islands it was also busier with no shoulder as we passed through farmland. Eastsound is at the top and centre, another little Disneyland, everything was in place and lovely, even the sugar cubes were stacked beautifully. We fancied going up Mount Constitution but were unsure of the height. ‘It’s 4000 feet and there’s only a water tap at the top’ we were assured by the owner of the café. Can’t be right we thought, Hurricane Ridge was 5400feet and that’s high. The park ranger station were more realistic, 2400 feet over 5.5 miles with a pull in half way up. Settled then, so Phil, Keith, Ken and Steve headed up with myself wondering why I’d brought a fuller pannier than usual. In the end it was fine, just over an hour and a pretty steady climb. The views over the islands started at 1200 feet and were pretty good all the way up. The final section flattened with a final steep bit and we were there, car park, expresso concession in an Airstream caravan and even a gift shop. Atop was a tower you could climb that gave distant and panoramic views.
Friday Harbor to Crofton
We were regulars now as we all trooped down to the café for breakfast. I’d discovered the muffins, though at $4 a pop they needed to be dense. The rest tucked into eggs and granola. We caught the 1030 ferry preparing to re-enter Canada, whereupon Sidney arrived and the rest of the Lochside Trail that guided us to the ferry port. Salt Spring Island, should be renamed Devon Island as the roads were short and very steep in places. Heading inland we followed the signs (often bike) to Ganges and the fabulous Embe bakery with a huge selection of mouthwatering items. Suitably refreshed it was back to the hills to climb out of the town and along the coast. A few had gone ahead and it was a surprise when they came back reporting that the coast road was gone, where a worker was battling with a 30 foot drop and quicksand to re-instate it. After a quick conference it was decided to head across country to the ferry port after which it was a dullish section to the motel. Cycling always constrains menu choices. The motel owner will gleefully tell you about his/her favourite where the coffee is bottomless and the fries are fresh, the thing is they always underestimate the distance, so 3 miles along the Trans Canadian Highway was out for us then. Into the Haida-Way next door for a salad of lettuce and tinned Salmon, yuck.
Crofton to Nainamo
Back down the steep hill and past Chemainus. A carriage pulled by 2 horses appeared then murals on the left. To the right lay the town complete with 50 murals depicting history of the area. I chatted awhile with the carriage driver who had forgotten his cowboy hat ‘first time in 6 years’ Hugely popular with Chinese visitors his $20 ride around the murals were a sell out as the breathless tour guide proved booking him for the first ride. The weather had turned as I chased everyone down, finally catching at Silverdale where breakfast in the form of the bakery appeared. Cinnamon buns so gooey, you needed a knife and fork and in 3 different flavours. A pretty town just of the main highway it was being prepped for a Western Film to be shot. The Pan Pacific Highway followed, loud and fast but a good shoulder, past the lumber yard and into the back country south of Nainamo. A lunch stop at Coco Café in the rain after which the final run to Nainamo and the Buccaneer Inn
Nainamo to Qualicom
Onwards into the gloom heading North West along the 19 parallel to the coast. Sufficiently wet so that no-one really felt like stopping at any beach access, so we ended up in Starbucks at the strip that was Parksville for lunch. Onwards through lighter rain to stop briefly at Qualicum to admire the murk over the water where I met a Swiss guy who had spent 5500 euros shipping his RV from Liverpool to enjoy a year round the USA. Qualicum Bay Resort arrived, cabins by the sea, where we hung everything out to dry inside as the cloud gradually cleared
Qualicum to Powell River
The weather had continued its downward trajectory as we donned the sou’westers and breakfasted at the Sandbar café. Looking out the window the road seemed a touch busier than it should be with logging trucks thundering by, after all the 19 was close and parallel. “It’s a film shoot” said the older couple, ‘they’ve closed the main road until Buckley Bay’ and diverted it onto this one’ 8 miles later the traffic calmed as we headed along the coast. Still raining we arrived at Courtney, the largest town in the area and dived into Tim Hortons fast food joint for bagels and yet more coffee. ‘Did you see the Crofton Shipwrecks?’ asked Keith. Drat in the rain it had clean flown my mind, so with a 2 mile retrace I was on the seaside trail to the wrecks. Sunk in the 1930’s in a line they created a breakwater and at low tide much of the skeletons, bows and sterns were in evidence covered in mussels and surrounded by oysters. The rain continued to fall as some of us headed right through Comox which was a pretty little town, but the ride through the trees and along the coast afterwards was even better with uninterrupted views for a change. Heading past the airport and the airplane museum, I arrived at the ferry for the trip to Powell River on the ‘Orca’ a large ferry built in Gdansk the previous year. Here we met Allie and Rog Moors, a British couple who had tandemmed around New Zealand and up? the Pacific Coast. What was unusual was that Allie rode on the front, but what I found fascinating was that the frame was coupled but very open with the longest top bar for the stoker Co-Motion had built. How it didn’t flex is anyone’s guess. The Westview Motel was lovely, large clean rooms and a good view and our evening finished well with a great meal (Salmon burger) at the restaurant opposite.
Powell River to Sechelt
Had a great breakfast at Base Camp in Powell River, for there in a tiny kitchen was a young lady turning out amazing breakfasts. It was 19 miles to the ferry and we had 2.5 hours and it was lumpy. With 2 punctures, Keith right at the end and Jeff timing it perfectly we made it with a 20 minutes to spare. The ferry ride was lovely, almost Fjord like as we sailed between the islands in the sunshine. Landing at the other side, it was lunch there or in 26 miles, the former was chosen and a second breakfast ensued. Up the hill and then the most amazing break in the weather as a monsoon hit, Linda and Barney had thunder and lightning as they pootled along at the back. The rest of the day was up and then down, nothing flat, for me quite tiring, through the trees with occasional views of the sea to the right, but nothing constant. At Half Moon Bay we settled at a small run down café for brownies next to an old shop that sold Robin Hood Flour and Campbells soup!!
Sechelt to Vancouver
Oh I love a ferry chase, the 1045 boat was the best to get as we set off in the gloom of an overcast day. We set of in groups of 2-3 mixing it with the commuter traffic along a road with a moderate shoulder. The joker was the terrain which was undulating aside from a lovely flattish section parallel to the main road, and yes we all caught the ferry. The road to Vancouver was a delight, pretty well signed as we entered the city from the west along Marine Drive and then 31st street to the inevitable coffee and cake stop, as Steve said ‘This tour marches on its stomach’ The final entrance to Vancouver over Lions Gate Bridge was breathtaking, far reaching views from the cycle path. The Sylvia hotel by the bay was lovely and 20 minutes later we set of round the peninsula. What I didn’t know was it was one way, so the inland forested track showed the way to the east side. This was a popular trip, lots of hire bikes taking all sorts of nationalities around the bay and beaches.
My 7th tour of North America, New England next.