Thursday, October 9, 2014

Washington: State #12

I look like I know what I'm doing in July of 2010 on my first tour, but look closely, the sleeping bag and sleeping mattress are still in the package!
The very first bike tour I did was an Adventure Cycling Route called Washington Parks back in 2010. I pedaled about 1,000 miles from Eugene to Portland, around the Olympic Peninsula, up to Victoria, BC, the Southern Gulf Islands, The San Juan Islands, over the Cascade Mountains into Eastern Washington, hitting both Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens before pedaling down to Eugene. When I left, I had no idea what on earth I was doing.  My sleeping mat was brand new, still in the plastic wrapping, my sleeping bag was a summer bag meant for the Mediterranean climate, and my bike was brand new. I rode it around the parking lot, then home from the bike store, loaded it up, and set out for the month long trip. It is no wonder my brothers had bets on me that I wouldn't last longer than a day or two.

I managed to complete my first tour, about a month in length, with no serious problems, but I left a lot of Washington untouched, eager to come back some day to explore more. That “some day” came this past week as I made my way from Bellingham to Seattle, then on to the state capital and the coast. I feared entering Seattle on bike.  Although it is famed as a bike friendly city, getting into the city center looked intimidating! I could have made the trip from Bellingham in one day, but decided to stay overnight with hosts in Burlington, 40 miles south of Bellingham. My Warmshowers hosts here were inspiring, a couple the same age as my parents who still bike tour on a tandem and camp. Impressive!

Don and Pat were my Warmshowers hosts north of Seattle, 73 years old and they still tour on a tandem, camping as they go!
I left Burlington and followed the Centennial Bike Trail from Arlington, WA to Snohomish, which was a breeze following a well marked, no foot traffic, and flat path!   In Snohomish I tried to connect to the Interurban trail which was not an easy bike trail to follow. I felt like I was on a scavenger hunt as I looked for the path sign at every road junction.  At one point I found myself doing loops in a trailer park without finding an exit. If it wouldn't have been for some wrong turns and missed streets, I probably would have made it to Seattle without getting soaked. I entered north Seattle just as a rain storm hit, perfect timing to be welcomed to the Pacific Northwest! However, I consider myself lucky because that was the last rain I had for my entire route through Washington and up until today, almost 10 days later!

You need a PhD in bike paths to navigate this path into Seattle 

Last time I saw Carrie, we both lived in Barcelona.  I've seen quite a few BFIS teachers on my trip!
Great graffiti in her neighborhood, N. Seattle

Carrie, my host in Seattle, was a teaching colleague and friend from Barcelona, who came back to work in The States for a few years before setting out overseas again. It is always refreshing to talk with fellow international teachers because we understand each other well and share a passion to live and travel overseas. In Seattle I visited The Perkins School and had fun with the students watching videos on my website and talking about my trip. After my visit there, I explored the city on foot, doing my long training run for the NYC marathon on the Burke-Gilman trail around the periphery of the northern Seattle peninsula. I saw the UDUB campus, the downtown skyline, Lake Washington, and went through a few different neighborhoods. My intention was to get out again after the run to explore, but I spent too long in the Asian grocery store next to Carrie's house examining all the familiar foods from my SE Asia trip. I even found jackfruit!

This building reminded me of Bilbao's Guggenheim museum

Up close and personal with the Space Needle

The next morning, I departed Seattle. I could have stayed in Seattle longer, but I wanted to explore the Hood Canal and the Washington Coast, places I had missed on my first bike tour. I took the scenic route through downtown by the Space Needle and Pike Place Market before hopping on the ferry to Bainbridge and heading west. Bainbridge Island makes for delightful riding despite the hills. At this point in my trip, nothing can stop me, not even a few steep slopes, although one hill came up as a 20% grade on my Garmin! That afternoon I made my way over to the Hood Canal and stayed with my last Warmshowers host, Lou Allen. He was a character, just having hiked the entire PCT, his stories were endless and so were the supplies and gear that he had laid out in the downstairs where I slept. As you can imagine, he got me thinking about the hike myself and ironically I had just listened to the book Wild by Cheryl Strayed on my ipod.

Pike Place Market, a great stop before hitting the Bainbridge ferry

Fruit galore at Pike Place Market reminds me of Barcelona's Boqueria

Downtown Seattle from the ferry
The next morning I had beautiful weather for my ride along the Hood Canal down to Olympia. The scenery was familiar, similar to that of Seattle and Bainbridge, even Vancouver. Unfortunately I culdn't enjoy it as much as I wanted because I got two flat tires, which put me in a bad mood and made me flustered, anxiously expecting another (which came two days later). I made it to Olympia that evening in time to stop by a bike shop. They had a look at my back tire, and although there wasn't anything particularly unusual, the shop owner was extremely patient and answered a lot of questions I had about my bike and components.

The Swantown Inn, Olympia, Washington

I finally arrived to my accommodation for the night at about 8:30. Nathan and his wife Casey Allan run The Swantown Inn in Olympia and had reached out to me to offer a place to stay if my route brought me through Olympia. The state capital was a place I had missed on my previous trip and so I decided to come back on The Loong Way Home. The Swantown Inn is an 1887 Queen Anne/Eastlake Victorian Mansion listed on both the city and state historical registers. Once I saw my room and the beautiful victorian mansion, I realized I'd be foolish not to take an extra rest day. I spent the following day wandering the city on foot and taking pictures, the way I used to do back in SE Asia when I was better about being a “real tourist”. I needed a day off the bike without any trip logistics. Mentally I was struggling with the idea of finishing my trip and I found it necessary to ground myself in the present and enjoy my surroundings.

Boats in Olympia's harbor

The state capitol, Olympia

I was pampered at The Swantown Inn with a delicious breakfast both mornings and even got to stay in two different rooms. The first night I enjoyed The Columbia Room complete with a claw tooth bath tub and the second night I was upgraded to The Astoria Room with a jacuzzi tub in the bathroom. On the top floor of the inn, there is a day spa, in case you want to indulge even more while staying at Swantown.  I had seen a sign about the sheets for sale at their Inn when I checked-in and laughed to myself., wondering who would really buy sheets at a B & B? Well, if it weren't for carrying two full panniers, I would have! I have never slept in such comfortable and soft sheets, and that is coming from someone who loves flannel sheets.  I asked Nathan what made the sheets so special and all he could tell me was that they were made from a special microfiber material, but that people had complimented them so frequently they decided to sell them to guests. 


Luxurious beyond belief

This is where I spend my Friday night.......

When I left Olympia, I headed west out to the Washington Coast. I had circled the north west portion of the Olympic Peninsula but I had always been curious to see the coastline south of Aberdeen to the Oregon border. It is dotted with small roads that hug the coast and I had a hunch these were idyllic cycling roads.

A sunny ride over to the Washington coast

Washington's southern beaches are long and flat

As I headed out to the coast, I retraced some of my route from four summers ago and it brought back a lot of memories.  I could see the mountains off to my right in the Olympic National Park, roads were quiet and there was a decent shoulder. Idyllic doesn't even begin to describe the scenery on the southern Washington coast. The roads are flat and the beaches are long. There are a handful of inlets and small peninsulas, along with rivers and wildlife. The smell of salt and dampness lingers in the air reminiscent to that of the Oregon Coast.  With sunshine and warm temperatures, the riding along here couldn't have been better. That night leaving Olympia I stayed at a state park in Grayland. The campground was full but the host wasn't opposed to asking other campers if I could share a sight. It had been a long time since I'd stayed at an official campsite, almost 2 months, and I was delighted to have all the amenities like hot showers, running water, and good ground for pitching a tent.

When the road doesn't go by the ocean, it hugs a river or a lake
I lucked out and found a family that looked friendly; a couple with two teenaged daughters, Morgan and Analis. Eileen was an elementary teacher, both visual arts and support staff, and her husband Juan was from Peru. They had met while she was getting her teaching degree and went down to Peru for a project. Originally I was going to have dinner at the tavern up the road, but when they invited me to chili and s'mores, I couldn't resist! It's funny how I found this particular family out of the 100 sites of occupied campers.   I thoroughly enjoyed my evening around the campfire talking with them about education, travels, bilingual and multi-culture families. We connected in so many ways, who would have known. It's moments like these, completely spontaneous and yet so precise, while being on the road, that I'm going to miss.

Beach, flat, no traffic, tail winds, sunny,.....what more can you ask for?

Lots of inlets and marshes as well

The next morning I was on the road before Juan, Eileen, and their daughters were up.  I was motivated and inspired to explore the Washington Coast and somehow more at peace with the idea of my trip coming to an end. I took the long way to Long Beach, going by every possible inlet to take in the most coastline as possible. Nathan put me in touch with some other Inn owners two nights later in Long Beach, Washington. Again the road was flat, deserted, and I had a tailwind pushing me along merrily. Ten miles from my destination a Harley approached and got close enough to ask me if I was Melissa. I gave them some sort of look of confusion wondering how on earth they knew me. It turns out it was Susie and Billy, the owners of the B & B I was staying at in Long Beach, The Boreas Inn.

The Pacifica Room at The Boreas Inn in Long Beach, Washington

The outside deck, one of many places to hang out and relax at The Boreas Inn

Long Beach's claim to fame is that it's one of the world longest beaches. The sandy beach extends a good 30 miles up a long skinny peninsula and there is even a trail alongside for running and walking, which I ran the next morning. It's a neat community and doesn't feel like a typical beach town filled with tourism. I arrived with plenty of time to explore the area on foot and also get pampered at The Boreas Inn. Susie and Billy were native Oregonians but have been in Long Beach for the last 19 years running their B & B. The style is completely different than the Allan's Victorian mansion, but equally as enjoyable. There is a lot of common space at The Boreas Inn where guests are invited to rest and relax, read, munch on fresh baked goodies and sip a warm drink, or soak in the hot tub in the backyard in a separate little hut. I strolled down to the beach before having dinner with Susie and Billy. Since I was the only guest that night, I got to spend some time with the owners and had fun learning about life as an inn owner and the history in the business. Both Susie and Billy are fabulous cooks. I tried Susie's baked goods and Billy made me breakfast in the morning 2-3 courses, no less, which lasted me all day.

These were the starters at breakfast.  No wonder I didn't need lunch.....

On my loop around Cape Disappointment State Park

As you can imagine, I could have stayed at The Boreas Inn for days, but with Oregon only 20 miles away, I was on my way the next morning. I explored Cape Disappointment and cycled around the state park before heading over the giant, expansive, and intimidating bridge into Astoria. I'm glad I set aside time in my trip to explore Washington's southern coastline. On my previous Washington tour, I crossed the Oregon border after pedaling through Mt. Rainier National Park and Mt. St. Helens, an impressive region as well, but Washington's southern coastline is quiet and peaceful.  Not to mention, the southern coast of Washington makes for excellent cycling because it is so flat and makes for fast pedaling.  I realize I  lucked out and got some incredible riding weather with along the Pacific Coast, with summer-like temperatures.  I'll take it!

Fishing the waters around Cape Disappointment

More views from Cape Disappointment

No comments:

Post a Comment