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Bicycling The Cascade Loop and San Juan Islands (Washington)

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From: Wendy and Jeff
Date: June 26, 1999 through July 12, 1999
Total Distance: 517.5 miles

Note that Wendy and Jeff alternate narration on a day by day basis.
Watch out for that change of voice.

Narrated by Jeff June 26, 1999 SeaTac Airport to Seattle (downtown) 30-ish Miles
Getting Started
After weeks of planning, the trip begins. But as with all the best-laid plans, problems do arise. Our major problem was a lack of bike boxes. Flying with a bike is simple. The airline provides a big cardboard box for a nominal free ($10-$15), and our bike clubs (League of American Bicyclists or Adventure Cycling) provide "bike-fly-free" vouchers if we book our tickets through their agency. All we would needed to do wass show up at the airport with our bikes, request the boxes, remove the pedals and turn the handlebars, and wrap the whole thing up for delivery. Pretty simple, really.   Or, at least it should be.

On a preliminary check a few days prior to departure, Northwest Airlines assured us they would have boxes available, but none could be found on Thursday when I stopped by the airport.   Not to be deterred, I went to the Delta Airline counter, where they harassed me and would not give me a box unless I proved I was flying with them. This, despite the fact that we were paying for the boxes anyway!  After some convincing, Northwest arranged to have some boxes sent from the Harrisburg Airport. Well, Friday came but the boxes did not. Wendy and I spent the afternoon on the phone. The airlines national customer services representatives assured us that yes, we needed to have our bikes in boxes and no, they weren't obligated to provide them. Their lack of concern was extremely frustrating. After many frantic phone calls, I finally found an cooperative Northwest employee who really worked to find some. At midnight, we received the call that although the boxes were not sent (for the second time) from Harrisburg, this employee apparently begged Delta to give us some (used) boxes. All this uncertainty caused us both much stress, a family argument, and a nearly sleepless night.

We awoke at 4:00 AM, loaded the car, and headed to the airport. Might I just say how happy we were to see those boxes in all their cardboard glory. Wasting no time, we slipped the boxes into their cardboard accommodations and boarded the plane. The flight, with connection in Detroit, was uneventful and we arrived at SeaTac Airport around 11:00 AM. (2:00 PM Eastern Time). As with any bike trip, there was the ritual of gearing up. All was going fine until a strap on Wendy's pannier snapped. (A pannier is a "saddle bag" used to hold our gear. We each carry 4 panniers: two on the front mounted on a rack that sits low on the wheel, and two larger ones in the rear on a regular rack. pronounced "Pan-Years" to us, but we've also heard "Pan-Yeahs" especially among Canadians.)  Wendy was so short on sleep that she looked as if she might cry in her frustration. I did an emergency sew-up with a needle and some fishing line from our tool kit. Sufficient for now, but this was not the first failure on these panniers and the problem needed to be addressed.

Loathing city riding, Wendy had researched many possible routes from the airport and was ultimately torn between what may have been the recommended but complex route or a more direct but also more traffic laden  route (Highway 99). We chose a combination of the two, and started north on Highway 99. It was about what we expected.   Eventually, the road came to an abrupt halt due to road construction, and we ended up carrying our bikes over a median to get on track for the other (recommended) route.

Our first priority was to go to REI to do some pannier shopping for Wendy. After some consideration, Wendy chose Ortlieb panniers for the rear, and the REI panniers up front. We were quite a spectacle in front of the massive REI store (which included not just a climbing wall, but an enclosed climbing mountain!). While Wendy moved her gear to the new bags, I was chatting with numerous curious customers and fellow adventurers. A group of 3 cyclists stopped to chat, and after some conversation, we offered them the old panniers. The gentleman who accepted them, David Engle, mentioned that he was a High School Principal and that he would fix them up for some students. Wendy noted that his school district was one of her clients. In fact, David's was running software that she had written.  (small world). Eventually, we asked them for advice on how to get to the hotel where we had reservations along Green Lake.   David said that he lived in that area, and surprised us by offering us a place to stay for the night!  We accepted, and proceeded to follow the three other riders to David's house:  David, on a Klein road bike, and David (a different David) and Cynthia on a Trek tandem. We arrived at David's home, and were introduced to his wife, Margaret, and his daughter Erica. We all showered, and walked to dinner at a quaint hamburger stand. We had a great meal, including what Wendy described a the best veggie-burger she ever had. We walked the hillside a bit before returning for a much needed nights sleep. It had been almost 24 hours since we got our measly 3 hours sleep the night before.


Narrated by Wendy June 27, 1999 Seattle (downtown) to Snohomish 58 Miles
The Best Laid Plans
Our day began with a filling and much needed breakfast courtesy of our hosts and newfound friends, David and Margaret. The whole wheat waffles were the best I'd ever had (and I'm not just saying that). After breakfast, David gave us some route advice and the name and number of some friends in Wenatchee (where we'd be in a few days). We took a few pictures, and hit the road.

Our maps lacked the detail I like, but we managed to wind our way slowly up the coast towards Everett. The biggest mistake of the morning was mine. I directed us left instead of right. Although we both enjoyed the swift descent among the tall cedars of Puget Sound (that we both incidentally noticed was on the wrong side, but in our exhaustion we both failed to recognize the significance of its misplacement) - but it was a sad moment at the bottom of the hill when the road ran out and we realized we'd have to turn around and climb to remedy the situation. I was feeling more than a little guilty...

We stopped at the port of Edmonds and walked out on the rocky pier to watch the ferry's arrive from the San Juan Islands, and the "men in black" SCUBA divers enjoying the underwater park just off the coast.

After struggling with several discrepancies between our maps and reality (as we saw it), we finally arrived in the town of Everett. This town appeared to be a significant port and lumber town, but also had a medium sized city center including many office buildings and shops. The main street was wide, and inviting - but closed. It as Sunday. Pretty much the only open restaurant was "The Flying Pig" which turned out to be a very cute restaurant and brew pub. Although we didn't sample the beers, the food was quite excellent. Perhaps too excellent. We still had miles to go, and now big cramping lumps in our bellies. We both chucked when we received our bill imprinted with the slogan, "Cuz Beerz Makes Ya Smurter".

We went for a short digestive walk, and left Everett towards Highway 2. After a little searching, and an ominous warning, we found the road. This was a high traffic road with no shoulder and plenty of irate drivers. Deeming it "too intense," we pulled off and walked on the narrow bridge to the next intersection.   We decided to take back roads to our evening destination. It was a hilly jaunt through lush farmland and horse pastures (where I waved and said "hi" to most if not all of the horses). When we finally reached Fergusen State Park in Snohomish, we were thoroughly exhausted. When we saw the sign that said they no longer accepted campers, we were bewildered. We asked in town about motels in the area, but it didn't seem promising. We tried to get directions to Flowing Lakes County Park which was supposedly nearby, but nobody could direct us.   Eventually we found somebody who knew where it was, but he warned that it was very far and uphill. We felt a little better when he explained that very far was actually only about 6 miles, and besides, what other choice did we have.

Within a mile, Jeff had a problem with his front rack, and we used some nylon tie wraps to temporarily fix it (it's the most unconventional items in the toolkit that seem to provide the most utility). After 2 mostly downhill miles, we saw a sign for the campground. Our emotions were somewhere between cocky and euphoric that it was so near and easy after all. But, we kept riding and still no campground. True to his word, it was another 4 - very steep miles until we found the park.

The campground offered several very primitive but large campgrounds along a lake.   Most sites were vacant. There were no showers and no restrooms except for a porta-potty euphemistically called a "honey bucket" (a name which conjures mental images that both amuse and disgust me). After such a long day of riding in the cold, damp, Washington air, the unavailability of showers actually seemed to simplify things:   one less thing to do.

We cooked up a filling but watery and bland mac and cheese (I've never seen Jeff so excited about Bacos before), and managed to cleanup just in time for the absolute darkness and silence of a mountain evening. Not a creature was stirring, not even a cricket...

Narrated by Jeff June 28, 1999 Snohomish to Skykomish 50+ Miles
Oh My, What Have We Done?
After a good nights sleep in our quiet, wooded campsite at Flowing Lake County Park, we woke to steady rain. We decided to wait out the rain for awhile, and make a decision of travelling or not by noon. Ironically, shortly before noon, the rain had letup, dropping only a gentle mist now. So, we broke camp, checked our maps, and headed out for Skykomish.

The trek to the campground last night was an uphill battle, but we were rewarded with some nice downhill as we headed towards Highway 2. Along the beautiful rolling countryside we saw horses everywhere. We finally reached Highway 2, and began our eastern trek along the Cascade Loop.   Highway 2 was busy, but it offered a clean, wide shoulder, and it was primarily flat. A luxury to us!  As promised by our extensive collection of highway maps, traffic eased after about 15 miles, and we stopped for a fast food snack.

The air was damp, the sky was cloudy, and the mountaintops were hidden in mist.   We'd expected this, but still, it was gloomy. And, occasionally, we were treated to some grand mountain pass views off ahead of us. We stopped in the one-horse (if that) town of Gold Bar to call home, and continued on winding through the passes, making gradual ascents and descents. Then, suddenly, we were afforded a spectacular view of the valley carved by the powerful Skykomish river, nicknamed "The Sky" in these parts. A deep green waterway, pouring over huge rock formations with a a force unlike any river I know back east. I stopped for some pictures.   When I returned to my bike, I discovered a nail head protruding from my rear tire., explaining the clicking I'd been hearing all morning and possibly last night. The tire was still holding air, and I chose to leave the nail intact for now. We got back on, and almost immediately, Wendy's tire went flat.  Upon close inspection, we noticed her rim tape was badly cracked (don't use plastic tape). We didn't have any spare tape, but rather than re-tube on bad tape which would surely cause another flat, we used electrical tape. After finishing the repairs, we pressed on again only to be stopped in a few more miles when my tire finally failed (from the nail). At this point, we were both very cold and tired. While I repaired my tire, I could see that Wendy was doing her best to look as pathetic as possible - with the hope that some nice soul in a pick-up truck would offer us a ride. One driver actually did stop to ask if we needed help, but he was only going another mile or two, so we passed up his offer and headed on again. We stopped in Baring to mail a birthday card for my dad, and an anniversary card for my parents. While inside the post office, the clerk asked where we were headed. I mentioned the campground, but asked if there were any cheap hotels in the area. We were cold, tired, and a bit aromatic after last nights lack of shower. She suggested the Skykomish Hotel, which was 3-4 more miles than we had planned, but worth it in our minds.

The last 8 miles seemed to be mostly flat or downhill, and we soon checked into the Skykomish Hotel. This 110 year old hotel had a history.  It was originally built as a brothel to entertain the railroad workers, loggers, and other mountain-folk. Now, it is believed (at least by the waitress) to be haunted. We didn't care. We showered away 2 days of sweat and went downstairs for dinner:  huge portions of diner food including eggs, toast, hashbrowns. An odd but oddly satisfying meal. We took a short walk though the town of Skykomish (with a population of 239, it's not much of a town), and retired for a warm night's rest.

Narrated by Wendy June 29, 1999 Skykomish to Leavenworth 53 Miles
Because It Feels Good To Stop
I didn't know what to expect today, but I certainly had fears. It felt a little like we had never really recovered from the stress and sleeplessness and jet lag of the travel. The cold weather and long days left us both on the verge of exhaustion.   We'd been complaining that our legs had "nothing in them" and kept making the kind of careless mistakes very tired people make.

We knew that, and we knew that today's ride began with a 16 mile climb over Steven's Pass. Neither of us had ever climbed anything quite like this.  How we would manage was a big unknown. Our plan was to ride 50+ miles into the town of Leavenworth, but just in case, we'd made several contingency plans including spending another night in the not-much-of-a-town Skykomish to rest our legs. We'd also found a few "bailout" points where we could stop if we got too tired. But we really wanted to get to Leavenworth because it was a "real town" with all the amenities, and because the campground had showers and laundry. In other words, Leavenworth would be a fine place to take a day off our bikes.

So with all the possibilities in mind, we enjoyed a good breakfast and set out on our way into the damp mist again.Within a mile, I reported that my computer (to give speed and distance) wasn't registering.  I cleaned the nodes, and it worked again.Within a few more miles, Jeff reported a problem with his computer, and I began to fear that today, like the days before, would be plagued by mechanical problems. Jeff's problem was fixed by another nylon cable tie, and we continued on.

To our relief, the climb was what we euphemistically called "gentle."   I'd estimate about a 6% grade. Now, we commonly climb hills of 8% or more in our native Lehigh Valley, but not on loaded touring bikes, and not for 16 miles. 6% is not easy, but it's "doable."  So we climbed, and climbed, and climbed.

We stopped to look at a fabulous rushing waterfall, and saw we already had 5 miles behind us. At 7.5 miles, we stopped at Deception Falls to take a 1/2 mile hike down a trail to view intense, beautiful, and loud water rushing through rocks. We ate a small snack, and continued our climb.

I should mention that although this was hard work, we were rewarded with gifts we could not have received otherwise. We were sprayed with gentle mist from water falls of melted snow, and bombarded with the sounds and smells of trees, wind, and nature. We could hear (and subsequently stop to inspect) the rushing watershed through rocks, and whistle back at the birds and chipmunks. Moving slowly, we were able to savor the stunning subtleties - all of which would have been blurred, invisible or silent to a motor-tourist. This is why we chose to travel by bicycle even when it causes us some pain at times. That, and the endorphins.

As we ascended amid the magnificent snow-capped peaks, we had to stop several times to wipe sweat from our eyes. We were hot while riding, and chilled as soon as we stopped - but we were oddly encouraged. Although we were both tired, it was becoming clear that we would be okay - and better than okay - we would make it. After 3 hours (plus an hour for the hike) the summit of Steven's Pass came into view. We'd expected some sort of fanfare or commercialism:  a gift shop, or overpriced concession stand, or something. In fact, all we saw was a muddy parking lot, and the ski lifts for the closed ski lodge of the resort of the same name.

We donned our gore-tex jackets in anticipation of the cool, damp air in combination with our descending speed. We stopped in less than a mile to add full-fingered gloves and balaclavas (head, neck, and face masks) for additional warmth. We stopped again to add hats to our bundles to keep the light snow from falling in our eyes.

Soon, we were rolling effortlessly (except for some hand cramps from the braking) and enjoying the still beautiful scenery. We were both pretty euphoric from our triumph, and I was reminded of the old joke, "why do you run?" asks one man.   "Because it feels so good to stop," replies the other.

Eventually, the road began to level. When it was time to move our legs again, our tiredness became apparent. Talk of "bailout" routes came up again. As we descended to Coles Corner, the sun started to shine through the clouds. We stopped at a rest area (the last business establishment we had seen was the "Last Chance Espresso Stand" far on the other side of Steven's Pass) and were amused and grateful for a charity organization that was giving out juice and cookies. (Apparently the goods are given to them for free, and they give them away for free, but hope to get cash contributions in return. sort of a nice money-laundering scheme.)  We indulged in the snacks, refilled our water bottles, and left a generous contribution for the charity.

17 miles to Leavenworth, or 7 miles to a closer campground. We'd have to decide later if our legs had enough to get us through. We were so tired that even that additional 10 miles was questionable.  While we seemed to be feeling stronger after the rest stop snacks, but it would be naive to ignore the fact that nearly all of the remaining miles were downhill!  We were still pretty euphoric as we slowly glided though the beautiful Tumwater Canyons into Leavenworth.   We passed through the silly and/or quaint and/or absurd and/or cute pseudo-Bavarian village without stopping. At the far end of town was the "luxurious" Leavenworth KOA campground "sporting all the amenities of home."  KOAs are considered luxury next to the State Parks, and we kept joking that they were the the Kadillac of Kampgrounds.

We setup camp, enjoyed warm showers, and feaster on potato cheese soup made from veggies we'd dehydrated and mixed ourselves before we left. It's becoming a joke with us that everything we eat while bike touring is the "best we've ever had" (because of the hunger of the exertion). But this soup was very, very tasty indeed.

Soon, we turned in for the night, looking forward to a day off to rest our legs, renew our spirits, and enjoy this silly pseudo-Bavarian town.

Narrated by Jeff June 30, 1999 Leavenworth 0 Miles
Even God Needed a Day to Rest
I awoke early in our luxurious KOA digs. The sun was bright, the birds were singing, and we weren't going anywhere.  Today was a day to relax, do laundry, and most of all:  be tourists. We decided yesterday that we both needed some recovery, and Leavenworth was the spot.

At 7:00 AM I gathered our laundry and set out for the camp Laundromat, only to find that we had no change and there were no change-machines.   The camp store would not open until 8:30. Not accepting defeat, I walked the half mile to a local lumber yard and obtained the needed quarters. With the clothing in the washer, I returned to camp and prepared for a good breakfast. Wendy was still in the tent resting, so I patiently waited for her to rise. Once awake, she finished the laundry and I prepared potato pancakes. We devoured our cakes, folded the clothes, and caught the 11:00 AM camp shuttle into town.

Town was Leavenworth.  A contrived Bavarian village, complete with gingerbread-laden structures, German-type souvenir shops aplenty, beer gardens, German food and sweets and even a few (real, not contrived) towering snow-capped mountains to complete the picture. A brief history of Leavenworth might help:  Up to 30 years ago, it was a logging town. When logging in this area slowed down, the trains changed locale, and the town was near ruin.   On the verge of extinction, they sought professional help. The results of a university study suggested that they "go Bavarian."  Without any sort of public assistance, the residents of this town mortgaged everything they could and slowly changed the facade of their buildings from the traditional western style, to alpine architecture. In fact, they even passed an ordinance that said all new construction had to bear this same architecture and styling.   It's phony, and tacky, and hilarious. And it worked. No other town we passed through (except Seattle, of course) was as bustling with tourists and their dollars.

We arrived downtown, and proceeded to stroll the streets, dodging in and out of occasional shops, smelling the goodies, and chuckling the whole time. Wendy and I, being on bikes, had no room for souvenirs, so there was no temptation there.   Finally, we stopped for lunch at a chalet looking restaurant called Gustav's that was chosen more for the view of the snow-capped peaks to the west than it was for the menu.   I enjoyed some traditional kielbasa with sauerkraut while Wendy had a grilled sandwich. She washed her lunch down with some draught root beer, while I sipped the local Icicle Ale.

After we'd had all of the town that we could stand, we walked to the grocery store (which pronounced: Willcommen der Safeway), bought some dinner staples, and walked a mile or so back to the campground. It was mid-afternoon, and we decided to sit by the pool until dinner.

Dinner was a feast. I got a fire going in our site's firebox using some cedar I had split in the morning. We had barbecue and fire toasted garlic-herb bread, and Cajun rice. It was too much food, but it was great and we knew our depleted bodies would appreciate it.

After dinner, we called home, washed up, and took a walk to help us digest the great dinner. As the final embers twinkle in the firebox, this days journal entry is complete. Tomorrow, our journey continues on the "dry side" of Washington.


Narrated by Wendy July 1, 1999 Leavenworth to Chelan 58 Miles
Feeling rested from our day off, we woke early and were on the road by 8:30. As we continued our journey west on Highway 2 towards Wenatchee, we watched the brown, barren, scrub-laden, southwestern type mountains grow closer. These hills were more reminiscent of huge mounds of sand than they were of the spectacular blue and green snow-capped peaks we could still eye in our rearview mirrors. Don't get me wrong - these mountains were beautiful too - just unexpected.

The road to Wenatchee was unfortunately under construction for nearly the full 20 miles that we followed it.   We alternated riding on the shoulder and riding in the road depending on the circumstances - but despite our efforts probably picked up a few pound each of road tar on the undersides of our bikes. Eventually, we reached the city of Wenatchee, and city it was. It was the kind of anytown USA that sported a big, wide main street lines with Wal-Mart, outlets, and chain restaurants. While I'm sure it is a pleasant enough town, it wasn't the ambiance we were seeking this trip. We called the friend of the couple we'd met in Seattle (David & Margaret), and left a message on their answering machine thanking them for the offer of accommodations, but saying that Wenatchee would not be an overnight stopping point for us. Mostly it would not have been enough miles for us. We enjoyed a filling breakfast at a chain diner called Smitty's (good buckwheat pancakes and buttermilk biscuits) and continued our trek on 97A, heading north now.

According to the maps, 97A was a quiet, low traffic road that ran through the canyon created by the Columbia River.  It was, in fact, all that - but what no map warned us of was the brutal headwinds and crosswinds. The headwinds were fierce enough that when they gusted, it felt like hitting a wall. Our comfortable 17-20 MPH pace was reduced to a grueling 5-8 MPH crawl. The crosswinds, while not quite as crippling, threatened to throw is off the road in either direction as they deemed fit.   We'd try to compensate by leaning into it, and they the window would die down again, leaving us in positions as precarious as before. Frustrated, we continued on.  Slowly.

When we saw the powerful roaring cloud of water from the Rocky Reach Dam, we knew this would be a good diversion. Besides the awesome hydroelectric dam itself, the accompanying museum offered an insider's view of the salmon ladders that were built in conjunction with the dam so the fish could continue to migrate upstream. We also spent some time exploring the well done museum of electric innovation, and regional geologic and historical information. The birds-eye view of the turbine maintenance area impressed us both.   All the tours were free. As if it wasn't enough, the grounds were all lush green with wonderfully colorful and thought out flower garden and topiaries. A nice diversion from the otherwise desert landscape.

Speaking of desert - another change we had not anticipated was the dry, completely cloudless sky. Although the temperatures were probably only in the high 60's or low 70's,  the air was very reminiscent of the southwest, and as I said, completely unexpected. We had Seattle dampness in mind (but weren't complaining).

As we were about to depart from the Dam, I noted that my rear tire had gone flat.   I performed a glass-shard-ectomy, replaced the tube, and off we went into the relentless wind again.

My map said the town of Entiat was ahead, but even after the "Welcome" sign, we saw no stores. Just a park and some homes. Just as I was remarking that we couldn't have seen town - no espresso shack - town appeared. A gas station, a diner, a fruit stand, some small service businesses, and of course, an espresso stand or 3. We opted for the fruit stand, and enjoyed a nice siesta in the shade.

Soon after our rest, we turned off onto 971 with 9 miles to the Lake Chelan State Park campground.   We'd hoped the change in direction would solve our wind problems, but in fact the wind was as fierce as ever. To make matters worse, now we were climbing rather steeply too. At this low speed, the crosswinds nearly blew me over. I put a foot on the ground to keep from falling, and realized that with the weight of my bike, the stiff wind, and the steep hill, that I couldn't start again. I began walking, and Jeff - not wanting to get too far ahead, did the same. When we reached the crest and started to descend, the wind relented some, and the landscape turned lush with tall cedars again. We began to relax, but one more windy climb snuck in before our stupendously beautiful (and not just because we were exhausted) descent to Lake Chelan.

We secured one of the last campsites (it was 4th of July Weekend), paid our $11, and proceeded to our beachfront site mere feet from the 55 mile long (and less than a mile wide) glacier lake. Our tent tonight will feature views of the clear night sky and the majestic mountains reflected with the moon on the glacier lake.

We setup camp, walked on the beach, showered (coin-op), and walked to the look drive-in for as-good-as-to-be-expected dinner, and a very thick milkshake for Jeff.

We were both tired from the wind and sun, but not the kind of exhausted we were before our day off. We were feeling strong for whatever tomorrow dished out, but also confident that we'd sleep well in the rapidly cooling mountain air.

Narrated by Jeff July 2, 1999 Lake Chelan to Pateros 30-ish miles
The Longest Day That Almost Was
After a wonderful sleep in our lakeside campsite, we both woke up at 6:30 AM to a bright sun glistening off the lake. We stepped out of our tent to enjoy the sun licking the top of the ranges across the lake. After the normal morning routine, we shared some dry snacks to hold us over until we reached our breakfast stop on route. We broke camp and set out around 8:00 AM.

After Yesterday's brutal winds, we weren't sure of what to expect today. As we rolled out of camp and began cruising along our lakeside course, we wound along with hills to the right and the 55 mile Lake Chelan to our left. What Views!

After 15 miles, we reached the quaint town of Chelan, with all the promised touristy amenities. After weighing all the options (and choosing to leave our bikes locked where we could see them after a suspicious fellow appeared to take inventory of us with his eyes) we stopped at the Campbell House, a restaurant affiliated with a fancy local resort for breakfast. We devoured our meals (granola waffles with yogurt and berries for Wendy, scrambled eggs, smoked ham, hashbrowns, and a fresh-out-of-the-oven buttermilk biscuit for me.  All were very good.)

After breakfast we went for a short walk, and then set out again on our bicycles. The pace was slow, but my overly enthusiastic legs got the best of me and i was continually charging ahead. I humbled myself with a little convincing from Wendy. I don't know if my legs are getting stronger or if I was just excited not to be fighting yesterday's headwind, but I made an effort to calm down on the pace. We climbed a bit, then had some downhills and flats. There was some wind, but it wasn't overwhelming.

Soon we reached Wells Dam, quite lame compared to our tour of Rocky Reach. After a brief tour, we pressed on towards Winthrop. In a short while, the weather began to change for the worse. It rapidly got colder and darker, and just outside of Pateros it started to rain. We looked into the hills where we were headed, and the storm was very visible. We decided to wait it out. As we waited, our muscles cooled down, and our spirits as well. We contemplate bailout options including some local campgrounds. Winthrop was still 40 windy, cold, wet miles away.

To kill some time while we waited for the storm to pass, we did some grocery shopping. When we returned from shopping, we discovered that somebody had moved our locked bikes. The lock cable "somehow" was now wrapped around my rear cassette. Our bikes, locked together with packs, would have been impossible to lift. Trying to roll them forward would have created this exact situation. Suspiciously in front of our now tangled bikes was a parked car with Texas plates, and a back seat strewn with clothing and camping gear, and the lights still on. As I struggled to free the cable, the car occupants returned; A shabby pair of 20-ish year olds suspiciously coming out of a grocery store without any bags. They made no eye contact, but moved from their car to a nearby bar, only to emerge from there within 5 minutes as well with no bags. I had the willies by this time, but they thankfully drove away.

I tried to settle myself, and we sat on the curb for a light snack. Enough time had passed that we decided to cancel our reservation in Winthrop (We don't usually make reservations but it was the 4th of July Weekend) and camp instead at the Alta Lake State Park 4 miles out of town. 4 miles uphill - and over a dangerous unmarked cattle guard.

I Guess I was a bit disappointed, feeling like we had quit the fight, but in the end it was probably the best choice too. Alta Lake was a cute out of town park, although not as charming as last night's Lake Chelan. We arrived and quickly set up camp along side some rocks inhabited primarily by prairie dogs (which Wendy insists on calling whack-a-moles). Just as we set up the tent,the rain began to fall again, and we both jumped into the tent to wait it out. We felt better about having stopped early.

After the rain subsided, we walked the grounds, had some mochas at the concession stand (yes, you really can get them anywhere), showered and prepared a simple dinner of pasta with tomato sauce. Soon the light will slip from the sky and we'll enjoy another deserved night's rest. But first - we'll whip up a batch of hot mocha pudding. Tomorrow: Winthrop.

Narrated by Wendy July 3, 1999 Alta Lake to Winthrop 43 Miles
It's Always Something
Today's journal entry starts yesterday, When we arrived at Alta Lake, we took care to choose a campsite near a woman a two children with just a simple tent. After many nights near up-all-night loud RV-ers, we try to choose neighbors who we believe will be quiet. These neighbors were, in fact, quiet for awhile - except for some scary fire building, we didn't hear from them until 10:00 PM or so. Then, a posse of men, teenagers, trucks, dogs, boats, bright lights, and RVs appeared. They arrived like thunder and were totally rude. It was all we could do to tune them out and fall asleep... Until 5:00 AM when they rose to go fishing. And it was not a gentle awakening, but a loud ordeal of cursing, door-slamming, wife-abusing (at least verbally) and engine revving. Again, we tried to put it out of our minds. For $5 per night ($10 for them - since they had cars), I guess we got what we paid for.

At our own pace, we awoke, had some breakfast, and were on the road to Winthrop by 8:30 AM. We enjoyed the payback descent for yesterday's ascent, and remembered to go slowly to stop before the cattle guard at the steepest part of the hill. At the bottom of the hill, we resumed our journey north on highway 153 along the Methow (pronounced: Met-How) river. Either the change in direction or the new day blessed us with considerably less wind than the prior two days. While it was not abundantly sunny, it was pleasant riding weather. We were feeling nice and enjoying the pleasant smelling apple orchards when tragedy struck.

Jeff's front wheel slipped off the narrow, partially washed away part of the shoulder of the road. Unable to right himself, he - still on his bike - slid a good distance down the embankment. I watched the whole thing from behind, and it didn't look good. By the time I stopped, Jeff was already standing and running down the embankment to get his front pannier which had slid off. I made him sit down, and we took inventory of the situation: a very deep, gory gash on his right hand. This was the kind of bloody mess that - had we been anywhere near a town - I would have taken him to the hospital for stitches. He also had some serious road rash on his left side, both above and below the knee. His t-shirt, his shorts, and his gloves were all torn. (The long sleeved shirt which already had many holes in it and was to be retired at the end of this trip anyway, of course remained unscathed.) As for his bike, the handlebars turned themselves a bit, probably from a desperate attempt to stay upright, and the fastening hook for one pannier was quite bent.

We cleaned and wrapped his wounds as best we could. When he was feeling a little better, we fixed up his bike and eventually got back on and starting riding. Slowly at first. As it turned out, owing to adrenaline, Jeff was actually riding faster than before. Every few miles I'd ask him how he was feeling, but the answers - even when he tried to put a bright spin on it - were not encouraging. We were really in the middle of nowhere so our options were limited. We kept riding.

As if that weren't enough, another disturbing thing happened. A kid threw a firecracker at us from a moving car! Fortunately, it landed squarely between us, and was apparently a dud producing only a relatively small explosion. The sheer stupidity and invasiveness of this act was profoundly disturbing to us both.

After about 30 miles, we arrived in the town of Twisp just as the apparent 4th of July parade was breaking up. We walked down the quaint but slightly contrived old-west main street, and thoroughly enjoyed two "cinnamon twisps" from the busy bakery of the same name. We then walked down to check out the end of the local farmer's market and craft show, and noted that this little town in the middle of nowhere had a rather large hippie population. Plenty of hemp clothing, tie-dies, aromatherapy, and organic everything. The market was ending, rain was looming, and Jeff was stiffening up from his fall. We got back on our bikes and rode the remainder of the trip to Winthrop and the Winthrop KOA while eyeing with awe but uncertainty the magnificent snow-capped peaks that were once again in front of us. (Because we were making a big loop, we would pass through the cascade mountains twice.)

Because we'd changed our reservation at a campground on what is probably the biggest camping weekend of the year,we were stuck begging with the campground owner for any spot he could find. After a sob story, he came through with an unsanctioned, small, but perfectly fine spot right on the Methow River for us and our two bikes.

We pitched our tents, showered, and walked a mile or two into town. Winthrop, like Leavenworth, has chosen to ward off economic death by becoming a tourist trap. In this case, the theme is wild west, but it's done a kind of yuppie mountain biker flair, so that every other store seems to be "ye olde espresso saloon" or some other paradox. We lunched at the local brew pup (as usual, root beer for me, the hard stuff for Jeff), bought some post cards and gauze, and headed back to the campground for the not very exotic tasks of doing laundry - one of the disadvantages of travelling light.

Tomorrow we had planned our hardest day of the trip: A long, steep climb over the 5000+ foot Washington Pass and then the 4000+ foot Rainy Pass - both along the very scenic North Cascades Highway (which is in North Cascades National Park.) We're not ruling it out just yet, but we're also looking into other options in the very likely event that Jeff's battered body stiffens overnight up after today's fall. He says he's feeling "as good as to be expected," but neither of us can predict what tomorrow will bring. We'll have to wait.

Narrated by Jeff July 4, 1999 Winthrop to Burlington 132 Miles!!!
The Cheaters Guide To Bike Touring - or - you did HOW many miles in 3 hours?
Step 1: take a tumble off the bike the day before, eating a pound of asphalt and losing a pound of flesh. Step 2: Hobble around the campground for a day like a gimp with a limp, looking for some pity. Step 3: Hope and pray for some pity and the offer of a ride.

Enough secrets told. Here's today's story. By now you are aware of my fall yesterday. I woke up this morning sore and stuff as if I'd battled with a Mack Truck and lost. The KOA staff had been trying since our arrival to get us a lift down the road, and this morning even posted a sign in the store. Just as we were losing hope this morning, a young gentleman named Jeremy offered us a ride as far as Burlington on his route home to Vancouver. He said he would make room for us and our bikes in his truck after he returned from his midday mountain bike ride along one of the many trails in this area.

With an eased mind, we now had some time to waste. We washed up and walked into town for breakfast. We sat down at the outside patio of "The Duck Brand" restaurant and enjoyed coffee and omelets of grand size and wonderful flavor. After breakfast, we strolled through town, and then back to camp. Jeremy was not expected until after 3:00 PM, so we relaxed in camp enjoying the green grass and blue sky above. As 3:00 came and went, we began to wonder if Jeremy would come back for us at all.  Eventually, he did. We gathered our gear, packed his truck, and headed out to Burlington. Although we couldn't enjoy the sights and sounds as intimately as we have become used to while bicycling, it was a relief to my sore body to have the day off.

As we began our ascent through Washington Pass, then Rainy Pass, we watched forests and overlooks pass us by in a blur. It was a bit sad, but I don't think I could have peddled my loaded up bike up the passes in this condition. We stopped near the top to enjoy a view of the beautiful mountains and the glacier green Ross Lake below.

Soon, we were in Burlington, and Jeremy offered to take us slightly off his route and right to the Burlington KOA instead of just leaving at the edge of the highway (we gave him the choice.) We arrived, unloaded, said goodbye, gave him a little gas money for his trouble, and checked in. Since it was the 4th of July, the camp was busy with activities. We attended the Ice Cream Social before dinner, and then crafted a yummy enchilada stew from a dried mix we'd bought in Leavenworth. Well fed, we retired to our tent for a night's rest in preparation for tomorrow cruise to Anacortes. We were put to sleep by hours of fireworks, going out with a bang.

Narrated by Wendy July 5, 1999 Burlington to Anacortes(Fidalgo Island) 27.5 Miles
A Quiet, Normal Life
This morning, we awoke neither particularly early or particularly late, ate a simple breakfast, and were on the road by the very average time of 9:00 AM. We rode a few mostly flat or gently rolling miles to get to Highway 20, and then some more easy miles on 20 until we crossed the bridge to Fidalgo Island. After the spectacular mountain scenery of the past week, this morning's ride was sort of ho-hum. Light industrial, a little bit of farm land, a refinery, and some creature comforts (espresso, gas stations, fast food, etc.)

After we crossed the bay,things started to look up. Traffic got a little lighter, and there were occasional views across the bay into the still mesmerizing mountain peaks. It seemed like we arrived in Anacortes in no time. We were expecting a quaint by touristy seaport town, but Anacortes was not that. To our disappointment, the town started out as very commercial and generic. As we followed along the main street (appropriately called Commercial Avenue) to the "old town" neighborhood, it started to gain some character - but not too much. This seemed like a town that benefits from some tourist traffic but was not willing to prostitute itself in the way that Leavenworth or Winthrop did. We stopped for some spicy ginger beer and great rosemary pizza at a bakery and sat on the sidewalk to enjoy it next to a one legged bicyclist (whom we didn't talk to.)

After a nice rest, we got back on our bikes and rode the remaining 4 miles along the coast to Washington City Park. We found a quiet, wooded spot, set up camp, showered (hot, high pressure, not that clean, coin-op) and caught a free (!) bus back into town (in case you're windering, the rosemary pizza we ate earlier was breakfast.) In town, we walked a bit and eventually ended up at the local brew pub (I knew we would) where jeff had the hard stuff and I had the root stuff (I know it's corny, but I've really been enjoying these craft root beers). We sat at an outdoor table and plotted a course for the next few days while we waited for our pretty good brick oven pizzas. We then walked some more, went to the grocery store, and caught another free bus back to the campground. We were a little early for the bus we wanted, and we decided to take an indirect bus that was leaving immediately and take a small island tour.

Returning to camp, we took a long walk on the 2.5 mile loop trail at the perimeter of the park, and caught occasional glimpses of the Olympic mountains - every bit as breathtaking as the cascades.

The weather today has been perfect. High 60's (F) but not a cloud in the sky. It feels much warmer in the sun. Apparently this is the first nice day on the "wet side" of the state since October. People are coming out of their metaphoric shells. We're wondering if we arrived in time for the famed (but possibly only in myths) dry season. We're hoping, of course, that it will remain this way for the remainder of the week. The weather reports say it will, but we've been warned that things can change quickly here. Still, we can dream.

Narrated by Jeff July 6, 1999 Lopez Island 38 Miles
Leisurely Lopez
This morning we awoke in a forested Washington Park campsite listening to nature in all her glory and the sound of the ferry horn in the background. Today would be unlike the past ten days. Not only would we not have to break camp, but we would be peddling our bikes with much less gear. Today, we decided to tour one of the many San Juan Islands: Lopez. The San Juan Islands are a series of islands in Puget Sound only accessible by ferry or seaplane. We chose Lopez for its legendary beauty and tranquility. We decided to catch a 10:00 AM ferry which allowed us to take a leisurely pace for our AM preparations. I grilled some homefries for our bellies to accompany some orange juice and a baguette. After breakfast, we lightened our loads. We removed some panniers, and limited the others to a more minimal load: rain gear (you never know), tools, snacks, etc. By 9:00 AM, we were on the road to the ferry launch.

We arrived in minutes, purchased our tickets, and waited in line with the other tourists, vendors, and island inhabitants. We soon departed, and enjoyed views of the Olympic Peninsula's snow capped mountains, as well as Mount Baker (also snowy), and a cool sea breeze. Finally, We docked on Lopez and unloaded our bikes amid a little chaos;  A large tour group had leaned their bikes against ours, and it took uncomfortably long to sort the whole pile out. When we finally got on, the bikes felt a bit strange. We had each left more than 30 pounds of gear behind at Washington Park.

With renewed vigor we began our island tour. Not quite a three hour tour, Gilligan, but close. Lopez was everything we expected:  peaceful, subdued, and beautiful. We roughly followed a route outlined in TerraGraphic's book, "Touring the Islands."  The route was perfect, even if the cues weren't.   Mileage seemed wrong, and turns miscued. We persevered an continued our travel though the quiet roads. We soon came upon Lopez Village, a cute community with shops, cafe's and several espresso stands. It was noon and we sat at an outside table at Gail'sfor soup and sandwiches, while looking over today's route. After lunch, we continued winding along the tree lined roads, occasionally catching a glimpse of mainland or a lovely bay cove. Soon we were in the village of Richardson. Not much of a town, but what a view of the Olympics!  We took a moment to become absorbed by the beauty, then pedaled on through farmlands strewn with "antique" tractors, and pastures with horses, cows, sheep, and even llamas.

Mackaye Harbor Day Park Beach offered us more and wonderful distant views of the mainland, and a crystal clear sea below us. The island was all but silent except for an occasional vehicle, or more likely a fellow cyclist pasing us in the other direction. As our tour was coming to an end, we deviated from the prescribed course and cut back across the island to Lopez Village again. We did some grocery shopping for our evening meal and sipped some iced mochas and a creamsicle drink while we lounged in the shade. As the hour grew late, we pedaled to the dock for our ferry.   While we waited, some recumbent bicycles were ridden in. We talk to the captain of the tandem, and found out that he was a key designer of Vision Recumbents.   We spent quite awhile discussing recumbents, and checking out the components and design of his machines. Eventually, the ferry arrived and we boarded.

Back at camp, we showered, cooked a great BBQ dinner, and started a fire so that we could toast (in in Wendy's case, char) marshmallows.

I didn't see this - but it was reported to me like this. After dinner Wendy and I walked up to the camp restrooms to use the facilities. From the lady's room, Wendy could hear me singing through the wall in the men's room. Believing she was alone, she shouted out, "I can hear you singing."  A woman who was in the room with her (in a stall) replied, sounding a bit scared and confused, "I'm just sitting hear quiet as a mouse not bothering anybody."  She must have though Wendy was nuts.

Soon, the sun was setting again and we crawled into the tent for another night of restful sleep.


Narrated by Wendy July 7, 1999 Anacortes to Port Townsend 38 Miles
Town and Country
The rain stopped before morning, and we awoke to overcast - but dry - skies.  Perhaps it was the cool dampness of the air that kept us lingering in our comfy sleeping bags a few extra minutes, but the air also reminded us how extraordinarily lucky we've been weather-wise. Once we pried ourselves from our warm, dry nest, we set about the business of the day:   breaking camp, eating a simple breakfast, and hitting the road again.

Because we were initially following backroads along the coast, we encountered more - and steeper - hills than recent days. My legs started out a little numb and lethargic, and I could tell Jeff was a little frustrated with my slowness. In a few miles, we re-joined the less hilly but more traffic laden highway 20. My legs felt better.   Soon, we came to the Deception Pass bridge which crosses between Fidalgo and Whidbey islands. The bridge is very high off the water and nestled between two rocky ledges in such a way that it not only provided spectacular views, but it was in fact a spectacular thing to view itself.

On the bridge, we saw another loaded bike tourist, but he seemed neither talkative or energetic. At a rest stop, we said "hi" and gathered from his accented response that English was not his first language. His riding style suggested exhaustion. We followed him for a few miles, but Jeff felt that he was weaving so much, it wouldn't be safe to pass him in traffic. After not too long, he pulled off towards a restaurant, and we continued on to Oak Harbor.

Oak Harbor is the largest city on Whidbey Island, and seemed to bear no other unique distinction. We didn't know for sure what we were missing, but nothing we heard sounded that promising. We went only as far as the nearest grocery store to stock up, before returning to highway 20 and the much more interesting sounding Coupville.   After Oak Harbor, the road became high traffic with no shoulder. We rode on the sidewalk for awhile, and at the first opportunity turned onto a quiet back road with nice views of Penn Cove. The lack of traffic and easy roads made us both feel light and cheerful, and Jeff took a few opportunities to perfect his mooning technique.   Although I've never tried it myself, I imagine it to be difficult to pull down one's bike shorts to reveal a vertical smile while managing to keep a heavily loaded touring bike upright and forward moving. Sorry, no pictures...

We soon arrived in cute and artsy town of Coupvillle, and sought out our lunch spot.   We found the Captain's Galley, and thoroughly enjoyed our shared meals of crab cakes, spicy seafood chowder, and extremely tender Mussels from right there in Penn Cove.   Garlic bread too. Our only complaint was that we ate too much. We went for a walk through town to digest, and stopped in some of the craft shops and galleries.   We ran into another bike tourist (from Canada) and found out that he was riding with the bicyclist we'd seen earlier, but they'd gotten separated. They were, with a few others, at the very beginning of a down-the-coast adventure. We chatted a bit, then departed.

Back on the bikes, we took a pleasant shortcut to the Keystone - Port Townsend ferry terminal that was not only more direct and less trafficked than the main route, but also provided us with bucolic views of prairie landscapes. Blue skies, red barns, yellow rolling fields, green hills and trees. Without planning it, we arrived at the ferry dock just in time to load-up before the boat departed. Unlike yesterday's ferry which gave us views of huge mountain peaks, today's overcast skies allowed no such visions. We chatted for awhile more with the bike tourist we'd met in Coupville who had received word that the rest of his party was already at the campground near Port Townsend.

Although it would be easy to lament today's grayness, it is in fact yesterday's sunshine that should be celebrate. Apparently the clearness of the last two days has really been the only warm sunshine in western Washington since October. Seattle is - after all - notorious for its rain.

After the short ferry, we cycled through the very cute looking town of Port Townsend and took the un-recommended short but challenging route to Fort Worden State Park.   (We later discovered that the much recommended route was only marginally longer, and much less hilly.)  Fort Worden is a former military base that now supports two campgrounds, a youth hostel, and conference services. The former barracks and other buildings have not been used for military purposes since the 1950's, but still are very military in look and feel.

We obtained a lovely, quiet campsite nestled among tall cedars in the hiker/biker section of the upper campground for $5. After pitching the tent, we took a walk down towards the beach under the guise of stretching our legs - but my real goal was to find a mocha latte to satisfy my new Seattle-sized designer coffee craving. Latte in hand, we returned to our tent, showered (very hot, high pressure, and clean too!) and called home (my call did not go through, and I didn't know it at the time but a heat wave had caused a massive electrical outage in the New York metropolitan area that prevented phone service, among other things.  Hard to imagine such heat while immeresed in the chilly Washington air.). Dinner was a simple but delicious and filling pasta with sundried tomato pesto. After dinner, we did laundry (again.)

It was another nice day - a good mix of town and country. The cool, damp air, while not ideal, produces at the end of the day a natural kind of euphoric exhaustion.   We will both sleep well tonight.

Narrated by Jeff July 8, 1999 Port Townsend to Bainbridge 54 Miles
The Last Real Day Of Riding
After a peaceful night's sleep in our "primitive" campsite inside Fort Worden's camping area, we crawled our of our warm tent and began the day. We decided to stroll the grounds of this retired military base before starting today's route. After we packed up up our belongings neatly on our bikes, we took a leisurely stroll across the base and back down to the beach area. The beach was lined with old military structures, campsites, and rushing waves. At one end stood the original lighthouse, like a sentry guarding the peaceful scene. After our walk, we called Wendy's grandfather to wish him a happy birthday, stopped in the park office to pay our $5 for the campsite, and rolled out toward downtown Port Townsend.

As with most of our accommodations, we had an immediate climb away from the campsite - tough on our not yet ready bodies. Sleeping by water most nights has been a treat, but the penalty is that water settles into the hollows of each valley, and our mornings usually begin with a leg screaming climb. We wound our way up the hillside and then descended into the town for some breakfast. We found a cafe on the waterfront and enjoyed the view more than the food. After breakfast, we walked through town. Port Townsend is architecturally charming with turn of the century brick and stone facades. We enjoyed the shops and galleries along the main street, but bought nothing. We returned to our trusty steeds and rolled out.

As we climbed and climbed out of town on highway 20 we enjoyed occasional view of the Olympics. The road was comfortable with its clean, wide shoulder and courteous traffic. As our route leveled off, we made our turn onto highway 19, a winding, low-traffic road with gentle bends and beautiful landscapes. As was so often the case, we were mesmerized by the snow covered mountains, farm lands filled with horses, cows, sheep and even llamas, the waterways dotting and dividing the landscape, and the impressive forests of towering evergreens, mostly cedar reaching straight and tall to the sun. Along highway 19 we came across another wonderful sight, a pasture filled with a large herd of buffalo, including many young, brown, fuzzy calves - grunting. We stopped for awhile to watch, listen, and take some pictures.

In a short time, we reached highway 104, and headed southeast toward the Hood Canal Bridge. As we approached this bridge, we realized that for safety's sake it was best to walk the bikes across instead of ride. The shoulder was narrow and laden with glass and rocks - not at all bicycle friendly. We soon realized what a wise choice this had been. The bridge contained pretty much every obstacle known to bicycles:   grated surfaces, long exposed sewer grates, large seems at odd angles,  and of course plenty of debris and a total lack of shoulder in some places. But the oddest thing about this structure was that halfway across all traffic stopped. We were walking past those vehicles that had passed us earlier. There was a sign warning of a drawbridge, but we saw no evidence of the bridge either moving up or swinging out - and saw no machinery to support such a maneuver either. After a seemingly long while, traffic began to move again and we continued walking across the shoulder of the long bridge. Tired and irritated, we made it to the other side:  the Kitsap Peninsula.

Needing a break, we decided to veer from our planned course and pedal into Port Gamble.   Signs suggested that there were facilities in this town - but we rode through and saw nothing. Port Gamble was true to its name - a gamble. We'd lost that bet, but rather than backtrack, we decided to cut diagonally back to highway 305 via highway 307. Still needing a rest stop, we were glad when we saw the town of Poulsbo. We stopped for some subs and frozen Starbucks coffee, then pressed on towards Fay Bainbridge State Park on Bainbridge Island.

Just before crossing the Bainbridge Bridge, we were bombarded with highway stands - shacks really - hustling fireworks of every variety. After our earlier encounter with a firecracker, these vendors did not make me happy, and I was glad to pass the "Last Chance Firework Stand," and cross the bridge onto Bainbridge.

Fay Bainbridge State Park is nestled on the northern coast of Bainbridge Island, offering coastal views of Seattle and the mountain ranges we'd passed through earlier in our journey. We setup camp and grumbled that the RV campers got a great view of the shore, and the tent campers did not. We walked down to the rocky beach to relax before eating our homemade Mexican pasta dinner. We played a few games of rummy until darkness made it impossible to see. As we played, a group of campers across the way could be heard coughing, giggling, and saying, "ere" as they departed from their tent for munchies. A hint of marijuana smell wafted our way to confirm our suspicions.

Soon we settled into our  tent for a peaceful night's rest, listening to the nature's best coming alive around us.


Narrated by Wendy July 9, 1999 Seattle 0 Miles
This morning we awoke in no particular hurry to another gorgeous day in Seattle (how often do you hear that?). We started off by calling the bus company to get route information, only to find that we had virtually no chance of making the last bus of the morning: 8:00 AM. We relied instead on a taxi to take us (sans bikes) to the ferry that would bring us to down Seattle where would spend the day being pure tourists.

Departing the ferry, we walked north using the Space Needle as our beacon. We stopped at Seattle's Best Coffee for some mochas to keep our designer coffee addiction alive. Then, we continued north until we saw the bustling and aromatic Pike Place Market. The highlight of the market was clearly the fish market that featured a bunch of wacky performer-vendors singing, throwing fish, entertaining, and offering samples. (For the record, the crabs were huge and fresh, the salmon looked wonderful, and the small taste of smoked salmon we had made us wish we had a means to take some with us. The salmon-jerky was interesting, but a little too odd for actual consumption.)

After the market, we continued on to the Space Needle where we balked at the high prices and long lines. We debated for awhile and eventually decided to go up to the observation tower anyway. "Hey, we're here. When else are we going to be here," we rationalized. We made it a little cheaper by buying City Pass books that would take us to most of the city attractions for about half the price.

So we waited in the long, hot line and eventually took the glass elevator to the tacky but panoramic monument to a long gone world's fair. We spent a few minutes oohing and aahing at the 360 degree views, and the descended. We found lunch at a bagel place with tables outside. After lunch, we headed to the Seattle Art Museum.   The current feature at the museum was an impressionist exhibit. We were frustrated to find out that our City Pass books would get us into the museum, but not this exhibit. Gotcha. Feeling somewhat bilked, we paid the additional fee to enjoy the okay collection of art drowning in an unfortunately large crowd of people moving very slowing as they listened to their too-detailed recorded analysis of each piece. The museum also featured several nice collections of American, European, Asian, American Indian, and local (Washington) exhibits. We spent awhile seeing what there was to see, and then hit the road again.

En route to the ferry, we stopped again at Pike Place Market. We bought some onion cheese bread, some oranges, and an orange fleshed honeydew. A pleasant ferry and a prompt bus returned us to our campsite for another night of sleep amid the gently crashing waves, singing birds, hungry mosquitoes, and giggling pot-heads - also here for another night.

Narrated by Jeff July 10, 1999 Bainbridge Island to Seattle to Kent 30-ish miles
Winding Down
With the promise of our last full day on the bikes, I rolled out of my sleeping bag around 4:30 AM. I wanted to sit on the beach and watch the sunrise behind Seattle, just across the sound from the Park. The skies showed me the promise of a beautiful view and nature was awakening around me. As I began my beachside wait, I paced up and down the beach, waiting for the perfect photo. Soon, though, I disappointedly stumbled across an unnatural beach find:  empty Budweiser cans tossed about. I picked up 4 cans and a cigarette pack and placed them on a table and continued my guard, still pacing. Soon, I was again confronted by human waste:   A cardboard beer carrier and another dozen cans. Once again I cleaned up after these disgusting, lazy beer swillers, with an apparent lack of sense and a bad sense of good beer as well. As I finished my clean-up, the skies awoke in a glorious burst of color. The sun rose behind the distant mountains, lighting the Seattle skyline, and dancing on the Sound in all its brilliance. Satisfied with my experience, but disgusted by humanity, I returned to our tent for a little more rest.

In a while, we woke, ate some wonderful fruit (because there can be no leftovers in bike touring, I watched Wendy eat a whole melon), and set out for the Seattle ferry and our next campground. We arrived just in time to roll right into the ferre.  Soon we found ourselves in Seattle again. We were planning to meet an old school friend of Wendy's for coffee, but miscommunication and conflicting schedules left us on our own. After some coffee, we plotted a course to the Seattle/Kent KOA. I should note that although we had planned to find a motel near the airport for our last two nights, when the time came, we were both inexplicably inclined to continue our streak of camping. Surely this is testimony to the quality of our new Mountain Hardware Horizon 3 tent (which we spent months researching), and our cushy Thermarest mattresses.

We started by following the signed bike routes from downtown to the airport. The route was the industrial, not so pretty route that we took into town on the first day.  But it had the benefit of being low traffic and having a wide shoulder for most of the way. Eventually we turned onto the Green River Trail, a very windy and indirect path. Judging from our maps and our experience, it would take 2-3 miles on the trail to equal one straight-road mile, but the trail wound along the river, affording us views of the surrounding area beyond Seattle. We could have chosen a more direct course, but this one offered serenity, relaxation, and most importantly, the total lack of vehicular traffic short of bicyclists, walkers, and skaters. We finally arrived at camp, set up, showered, and walked to a nearby bus stop along a direct route back to downtown Seattle. Ah, life is good.

We arrived in Seattle, bought a few gifts at Pike Place Market, and wandered to the Seattle Aquarium for some more tourism. I enjoyed the aquarium, and Wendy said, "eyoo..." a lot. After the aquarium, we went to the Omnidome across the street to watch an IMAX film about the eruption of Mount Saint Helens. This 30 minute film was overpriced, but very cool and realistic indeed. As we exited the movie, our bellies reminded us to eat, and we chose the nearby Fisherman's. This waterfront eatery offered great seafood at not-so-bad prices. I had a delicious mesquite grilled Alaskan salmon, and Wendy had some great tuna. A grand meal by any standards, and beyond that for two people who have eaten many camp-meals for the last 2 weeks. After dinner, we walked up the waterfront, and eves-dropped on an in progress Cowboy Junkies concert at Seattle's music pier.

We headed for our bus stop just as the sunlight began to fade and the street people emerged. Feeling a little threatened, we decided that we'd be out of the city earlier on subsequent nights. Our bus arrived and we quickly boarded. Our 45 minute return bus trip entertained us with a conversation between the driver and an apparent street person - seemingly harmless and with the Seattle fashion sense or good luck to be wearing Gore-Tex pants. The conversation was filled with humorous anecdotes. Stories about Seattle's failing sports teams, the new overpriced and unwanted stadium with a retracting roof (Safeco Field) that was about to open, woman, and much, much more. Finally we arrived at our stop, walked back to camp, and crawled into our tent for another restful sleep.

Narrated by Wendy July 11, 1999 Seattle 0 Miles
The Final Frontier
Our plan was to catch an early bus into downtown Seattle, and then pick up another bus to the Boeing Museum of Flight. It was a workable plan, but we felt a little silly since the first bus went fairly close to the museum - and the second bus basically backtracked to where we'd already been. The bus driver suggested a different transfer point, and stopped the bus to let us out in a particularly seedy neighborhood. We looked around for awhile, and although there were a few bus stops in the area, none appeared to be for the bus we wanted. After a good amount of uncertainty, we opted to stand near a traffic cone that said, "no parking - bus stop" that had no other route information, but appeared to be in the right place. It turned out we were right and eventually our bus arrived to take us to the museum.

Despite our general ignorance of aircraft design, Jeff and I had lots of fun examining the planes on display at the museum. There was an extensive collection of small planes from a variety of eras. The historical information was was usually interesting, and often humorous (at least to us). We got to walk in a retired Air Force One, walk through the original Boeing Red Barn, see one of the original Apollo capsules and plenty of other stuff. Bombers, mail planes, bi-planes, human powered planes, gliders, early passenger planes, and lots of other stuff. It's a small building - but it's packed full of neat engineering. We really enjoyed it.

After the museum, we caught the bus back to town and had a light lunch at Steamers on the waterfront, which was crowded (probably owing to the location) and pretty cheap. We got some fried food because that was the thing to do. After lunch, we caught a bus heading north to the Woodland Park Zoo. We walked around the zoo until closing time, and I discovered that despite my original beliefs about myself, that I am a bit of a bigot after all. Without meaning to, and without any real evidence, I continue to believe that mammals are the cutest, smartest, and overall highest evolved members of the animal kingdom. The snakes, eels, fish, birds, bugs, and other creatures I could leave behind - but the giraffes were great, the orangutans awesome (but lazy), the zebras were wonderful, the elephants were huge but graceful, the goats were silly, but the lion cub triplets were missing (we couldn't find them).

After the zoo, we decided to head back to the campground. We didn't want to repeat yesterday's error of staying in the city until dark. As the bus headed south towards Seattle again, we were confronted with the awesome sight of Mt. Rainier. Although this is one of Washington's most known landmarks, hazy skies and other smaller-but-closer mountains had prevented us from getting a good view. But there it was: the Seattle skyline in the foreground, and the magnificent and huge Rainier in the background - snow covered and majestic - it looked like it was just painted as a backdrop to the city. It was breathtaking.

At the campground, we went for a swim and walked down the street for a light dinner before retiring for our last night in camp.

Narrated by Wendy July 12, 1999 Kent to SeaTac 0 Miles
Going Home
Our last day is a short one - or a long one - depending on how you look at it. We awoke and packed up at a comfortable pace, and set out on our bikes towards the airport. The airport was only 5 miles away, but we wanted to be sure we had plenty of time to box our bikes and make our noon flight. We climbed over a big trafficy hill leading to the entrance of I-5 (which we didn't take) and encountered our first and last taste of rush hour traffic. Most of our trip, however, was through residential neighborhoods. After the initial climb, it was fairly easy riding. We stopped en route at a market to buy some packing tape (for the bike boxes), and soon we were on the airport grounds.

As we arrived at the airport, we were treated again to a stunning and unexpected view of Mount Rainier - this time as a backdrop to the airport. Realizing that it may be a long time until I see such grand, quiet beauty again, I nearly cried. Instead I just paused and silently thanked the mountains, and the trees, and the air for all they had given us these last two weeks. For letting us play in their world.

Once in the airport, things were a little less serene. Northwest Airlines again bungled things with our bikes. They claimed they'd never handled bikes before, couldn't find the boxes, and didn't know what to do after we boxed them. The boxes they found were adequate, but actually too short for our bikes (which are of average size). Jeff had to kind of rebuild them a little and use loads of tape to make them fit. After our earlier experiences with this airline, we were pretty irritated. Given the number of bike tourists we'd seen or heard from, and the fact that Northwest is endorsed by the League of American Bicyclists, it seemed impossible that we were the first to fly our bikes through SeaTac. After we boxed our bikes, they made us drag them a good distance down to the "odd sized baggage" counter downstairs, where they were dragged into darkness.   Hopefully towards our plane.

An hour of waiting, 7 hours of flying, an hour of layover in Detroit, and 3 timezones later - we claimed our bikes at Lehigh Valley (ABE) airport, and made the short pilgrimage home before midnight. Same as it ever was.

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