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Monday, June 06, 2011

We made it to Vancouver!

Goodbye Portland! See you in...November?
Yes, it's really been over a week since I've posted. This is bad form for a blog that is supposed to be detailing this "epic" Cross Continental Bike Tour that April and I are supposedly "riding". But I gots excuses, believe me you!

For starters, it's the starter. Starting a big bike tour like this means going slow. Getting used to the weight of all those bags, which are heavy. How heavy? I'd guess my full luggage weighs around 50 pounds, which wavers with the amount of food we are hauling. Starting later in the day than we should. Riding 40-60 miles into the dark, or in a few instances past it (which is impressive, since due to the closeness of the Summer Solstice and the high latitude we are at, sunset is already after 9pm.) Being so beat tired when we arrive at our destination, we have barely enough energy to set up camp (if we were camping) and make dinner, let alone update a blog.

But as we get better at this thing during this trip, we will fer shure update at a regular clip. Hopefully 2 to 3 times a week. Please hold me accountable to this.

So yes, we got to Vancouver! We arrived Friday night, so the last two days have been more "leisurely", enjoying the bike fun fest known as Velopalooza. More about that on a subsequent post. 

The ride has been mostly good, though we have managed to snag a few setbacks. Besides April's stem-handlebar kerfluffle that was detailed in her post here, I managed to break a spoke on my rear wheel. While this in itself is a common occurrence on a bike tour, the fact that the wheel was a handbuilt wheel with maybe 300 miles on it is a bit more troubling (especially since the spoke broke on the non-drive side.) The mechanic in Anacortes, Washington (Skagit Cycles, a shop I would definitely recommend) surmised it could be a bad spoke, since a handbuilt wheel should not break spokes. I'll be keeping a careful eye on it, however. We had one flat tire (April in Bellingham.) My body seems to be doing well, but April had some knee pain on the last few days, so the several days off in Vancouver should hopefully help. (Read more from her here.)

I'm going to put a post detailing the first three days of the tour shortly after this one goes "live", but here's a quick recap of the tour from day four onward:
  • Day 4, Memorial Day Monday, May 29: Rather than break up the 80 or so miles from Tenino, WA to Seattle into two segments as originally planned, we decided on one monster day to make up for lost time. The first part of the ride was pretty bucolic as it was on rail-trails, then an okay segment from the towns of Yelm to Roy, than blah as we skirted Fort Lewis, then crap as we entered the outskirts of suburban Seattle (Spanaway to Puyallup) and its crappy suburban roads, then okay again after Puyallup as we primarily followed the Interurban Trail. We met up with snarkypup of rideblog and rode with her for several miles as the sun setted. You can read more about the ride at her blog. After parting, we were tired and it was dark, so we hopped onto light rail for the last 10 or so miles into Seattle to stay at HI-Seattle hostel. This was our longest day so far.
  • Day 5, Tuesday, May 30: The first dozen miles was through Seattle, which meant for slow going on city streets, but at least we got to take in the sights somewhat and stop at places like Mighty-O-Donuts. Plus, we think we spotted Jan Heine on the Waterfront trail north of downtown. We're pretty sure it was him, as he had a very stylish handlebar bag, a bike that vaguely looked "low-trail" from a distance, and was sporting that longsleeved wool blue Seattle Randonneurs jersey you always see him sporting in photos. (I don't think I've ever not seen him pictured in non-bicycling clothes. He seems to be the type of guy who dons a jersey and bike shorts for a ride to the store a quarter mile away. But I digress.) The rest of the ride on the mainland was on the northern part of Interurban Trail, which alternated between marginally pleasant and only slightly better than riding on all the other crappy suburban roads that surrounded the trail (and that's only because we'd have to deal with traffic.) Then a ferry ride to Whidbey Island! The last four miles on South Whidbey were quiet and bucolic. We got to spend the night in a rustic cabin!
  • Day 6, Wednesday, June 1: Our all-Whidbey day. The island isn't mountainous, but is very rolly. Thankfully the roads beyond the main highway are quiet and some even boast an ample shoulder! The southern part of the island is definitely the more quiet and bucolic half. The north half features Oak Harbor, the only place on this tour that we've gotten shit from drivers. And a Naval Air Station. The constant drone of Ault Field and the occasional low-flying fighter accompanied us on our stay at Deception Pass State Park. That and pesky raccoons.
  • Day 7, Thursday, June 2: We crossed over to Fidalgo Island at Deception Pass Bridge. We made a slight detour into Anacortes to get my rear wheel repaired. The ride featured riding through the flat rural bottomlands of the Skagit River Valley and along windy and scenic Chuckanut Drive into Bellingham, where we crashed at Kelly Peach's mom's place.
  • Day 8, Friday, June 3: AKA The Day We Never Thought We'd Get Out Of Bellingham. (And no, we are not dissing B-ham, we actually like the place!) Sleep in, make breakfast, stop at REI/Amtrak station/food co-op/Post Office/fix a flat. We left town at 5pm! An uneventful ride to the border through a mostly rural setting. We cross through the Peace Arch at 8pm without incident. Now in Canada! Another 15 miles or so of riding through the southern fringes of suburban Vancouver until we could get to a Skytrain station and cut off the last 15 miles of riding into town. We crash at Paul's place a little after midnight, exhausted. Leg one of the journey done!
And the trip so far, by the numbers, Harper's style:
  • Flat Tires: 1
  • Broken Spokes: 1
  • Knee Problems: 1
  • Bike Tourers Passed: about a dozen or so
  • Bike Tourers Heading in the same direction as us: 0 (It is indeed more popular to head north to south)
  • Ferry Rides: 1
  • Times Cheating by taking transit into a city: 2
  • Raccoons I had to shoo away from my bike in the middle of the night: 1
  • Mountain Ranges Summited: 0 (but just you wait!)
  • National Borders Crossed: 1
  • State Lines Crossed: 1
  • Days We Saw Rain: 5
  • Days We Saw Sun: What the fuck is the sun?
  • Days We Saw Temps above 68F/20C: 0 (Late spring? Ha!)
  • Number of Times Asked Where We're Going: Too many to remember
And the mileage? Yes, the mileage!
  1. Fri May 27: Portland to just outside Paradise Point State Park, Clark County, Washington (where we got rescued by Todd Boulanger): 19.5 miles
  2. Sat May 28: Kelso, WA (where Todd dropped us off) to Lewis and Clark State Park outside of Chehalis" 34 miles
  3. Sun May 29: to Tenino: 38.6 miles
  4. Mon May 30: to Tukwila where we caught Link light rail into Seattle: 67.3 miles (our longest day)
  5. Tues May 31: Seattle to outside Clinton, south Whidbey Island: 46.4 miles
  6. Wed June 1: to Deception Pass State Park, north Whidbey Island: 50.4 miles
  7. Thurs June 2: to Bellingham: 47.5 miles
  8. Fri June 3: to Surrey, BC where we caught the Skytrain into Vancouver: 48.2 miles
Total mileage: 351.6 miles

And photos!
Dancing Pants! Haven't seen this graffiti in Portland for years. Spotted outside Rainier, WA

Llama? Or alpaca?

Bike at rest. Sound Transit Link to Seattle.

The ferry from Mukilteo to Clinton on Whidbey Island

The Bike Shack, Whidbey Island

A beautiful old Raleigh, left to rot. Don't even look at that Brooks saddle! Outside Anacortes.

Downtown Edison, WA

April crossing into Canada at the Peace Arch

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