In preparation for a longer self-supported tour to Nova Scotia in September we planned a brief 5-day loop (283 miles) from Seattle to Victoria and back.The last time we carried our own gear was in 2005 in Hawaii. We needed to be sure we could handle the weight, and that we knew how to pack enough but not too much. Also neeed to see how to work out our nutrition needs while cycling and staying different places each night. We learned a lot and will summarize at the bottom below the video.
Sunday August 7 – 50 miles to Port Townsend
Sheila took her final dose of Prednisone this morning as we packed up 4 panniers for a 5 day bike tour. There was a lovely morning skyline as we departed Seattle via ferry to Bainbridge. We had a fully loaded bike and fresh legs. We stopped in Port Gamble for water and treats. Then we crossed the Hood Canal floating bridge with its view of Mt. Baker. There are lots of hills on this route, almost 2300′ of climbing in 49 miles. Google maps suggested an alternate route into Port Townsend which we tried. It was hard to find. First we almost ended in a sand and gravel pit. Then its true suggested course was a rutted gravel road which pitched down at about a 15% grade. Kind of walk-biked down that. Finally the track disappeared in a huge field with no sign of where to go. Thanks Google. So we backtracked and rode to Dale and Paulette‘s home on the well-known trail. Saw this cool Hobbit House on the way. We also bought drinks and a slice of pie for the next morning’s breakfast. We had a lovely visit which included dinner and her homemade raspberry pie! A great start to our trip. That’s Dale & Paulette with us in the bottom image.
Monday August 8 – 69 miles to Victoria, BC
We rolled out at 7 AM with lots of deer in the streets. We were aiming to catch the 12:45 ferry which required a noon arrival. That could take 4-5 hours. We were chugging happily along when we suddenly threw the drive chain at 30 mph. Spencer ran back up the road and snagged it then readily repaired it thanks to his Tucson extra master links. A good part of the route to ferry in Port Angeles was on the Olympic Discovery Trail. It’s greatly improved since we last rode it in 2009 for NWTR. The trails are longer, better marked and quieter than they used to be. We ended up with a little 5 mile detour, though, as they continue improvements. We also were caught by a long-forgotten 17% grade that we had to walk up because we missed the necessary shifts. The sunflowers were reminiscent of riding in France. We made it to Victoria with no border crossing hassles thanks to the efficient ArriveCan system. Once in Victoria, we made a quick bike shop stop for replacement parts, and arrived at Shawn and Jeff’s for a lovely meal and beach walk with Rumi the dog.
Tuesday August 9 – 65 miles to Bellingham, WA
Day three was all about dirt and detours. Canada is mostly very comfortable for cyclists. There are well marked bike paths everywhere. It was an easy 10 miles to the ferry. No wait and only an hour and half crossing. Then we did 10 miles on the Boundary Bay Dike Trail which was flat but dusty gravel and included a 3 mile detour. We were pretty pooped out from the jostling. After some urban riding (during which the trail markings were just BARELY enough) we got through Surrey to the US border crossing. That went fast and they had a much needed “washroom” that included a water bottle filling station. From there we headed pretty directly south (with occasional detours). We’re used to seeing Mt. Baker from Seattle. It was fun to see a different side of it and much closer, both from the ferry and while riding. We were getting pretty antsy getting in to Bellingham and stopped for food and rest at a Haggens Grocery. We’d pushed our battery use to the point that we were almost empty when we arrived to our overnight at Bellingham Cohousing where showers, games, and sleep were the highest priorities.
Wednesday August 10 – 50 miles to Arlington
We had a lovely morning learning about Bellingham Cohousing at their regular coffee klatch. Rolled out to cloudy skies for the trip over scenic Chuckanut Drive going the opposite direction from usual. Guess what? More road crews were out. It is summer, after all. We watched the weather changing and stopped at Farm to Market Bakery for excellent cinnamon rolls, featured in the NYT last month! We also got some scones for the next morning’s breakfast. Planning ahead for breakfast seems to always be a good idea. The tide was quite low and the weather was moving fast. Before long we had to pull out our rain jackets when the rain started to feel like pellets. The wind was straight in our faces most of the day, and pretty stiff. We took better care to take more frequent breaks which really made a difference. We had about 10 miles on HWY 9 which was twisty and had quite a few BFTs – Big Trucks. Slipping onto the last ten miles on the Centennial Trail was a treat. We spent the night with Lance who hosts through Warm Showers (a community for bicycling tourists). He was an excellent host.
Thursday August 11 – 49 miles home
There’s no place like home! It was wonderful staying at Lance’s last night. His cat Spot was hefty and friendly like our last two cats so we were right at home. This shows us before we left that morning. With just shy of 50 miles today it was all pretty much familiar territory… a lot on the Interurban Trail so no photos today. However, we discovered another Google Map challenge. It wouldn’t route us the way I wanted to go, so I made two course directions for us to follow. Unfortunately, we learned that you can’t easily find a route to the start of a course you’ve already mapped out. So we had to struggle to connect the dots between the two. Just another learning for us. Tooling down past Greenlake was a welcome ride.
So…what did we learn?
- Despite Sheila having some minor health issues that kept us off the bike most of the two previous weeks we were up to this many miles a day and this many days in a row. YAY! Not bad for a tandem team with a combined 143 years.
- The pannier packing cubes from REI were BRILLIANT and worth every penny. Our system for organizing everything in them worked very well.
- We also bought a cellphone holder from REI for the bike so we could easily follow navigation. It worked well. However, we learned that using the phone for navigation eats up the battery. Good thing we have two phones and a backup battery!
- We packed more than enough clothing and had room to spare.
- Sheila got a couple of charlie horse cramps in her calves at night so we started buying more bananas and fig bars which seemed to help.
- We have a clearer idea how distance and climbing impact battery longevity. Spencer was able to manage the battery usage based on the difficulty and length of each day. We re-charged it and all our other electronics nightly.
- With this much weight on the bike, Sheila needs to hold the front handlebars while Spencer takes the bike off the kickstand.
- Our trip to Nova Scotia next month will be about this much riding times 2. Fortunately we’ve planned a 3-day rental car trip in the middle which we decided, today, was a very wise idea! We’re ready for a rest.
- There will be changes to the plan and it’s best to 1) accept that and 2) go with the flow.