The journey began with a flight to Vancouver, Canada for which, while I got a great price on the ticket, United charged more for the bike (as luggage) than they did for my own ticket. Oh well, maybe if I do this again I’ll try to pass the bike off as a trade show display but the total price to fly with the bike wasn’t too bad. I stayed near the airport and got the bike ready for the journey to begin the next day.
I set out the next morning from the hotel and made a short detour over to the Speed Skating oval, newly built for the upcoming 2010 Winter Olympic games. It’s a gorgeous facility, but unfortunately they won’t leave the ice oval after the games as the building will be modified for other uses. It was a grey day and I started pedaling away. For the first hour or so, the route followed the Fraser River, heading west, and then continued through the suburbs of Vancouver for the next few hours. I was using the Adventure Cycling Association's maps and had downloaded their route to my Garmin Edge 705 GPS training device, which reassuringly beeped and had an arrow for every turn or route change. The nice view with the mountains in the background changed as I began to head south, and I decided that the Vancouver suburbs are pretty boring. Worse, it started to drizzle and then steadily increased the further south I went. By the time I got to the US border around early afternoon, it was raining pretty hard and I had my rain gear on. I rode past the line of waiting cars to the booth, but unfortunately the border patrol person made me go inside as I didn’t have a vehicle with a license plate. After a miserable 30 minute wait in my wet gear, they took a quick look at my passport and gave me a piece of paper to give to the guy outside and I was on my way. The route went on through a pretty boring rural area and then I finished the day in Bellingham, WA, just happy to find a budget motel and get out of the rain.
The next day was arguably one of the more scenic days, and excepting the Oregon coast, certainly the most scenic in Washington and it was further helped by sunny skies and no wind. From Bellingham, there were 20 or so miles of hillside road, meandering on a forested shelf overlooking the bay. As the scenery leveled out, I rode through flat farmland punctuated by the occasional slough. I encountered some road cyclists flying by on a weekly training ride complete with aero bars, which was quite a contrast to my Mack truck of a bike. The road then went on to Whidbey Island, and had a pleasing mix of bays and rolling terrain—the fishing villages brought coastal Maine to mind. Finally, it was time to take a 30 minute ferry ride to Port Townsend, a Victorian era town with many historic buildings. I felt like riding a little more, so I went another hour or so on to the next town, Port Hadlock.
Day 3 was a long day travelling south along the western side of the Puget Sound down to Shelton. From there, I left the route and utilized Old Highway 101 to get most of the way to Olympia where I stayed with an old friend. I lingered a bit the next morning before getting out of town.
Now off of the Adventure Cycling route, I headed south on a combination of rail-trails and eventually crossed the route at Centralia, WA, but instead headed towards a bed and breakfast at Winlock. This was my shortest day, and also the least climbing, so my legs and other parts of my body had a chance to recover.
The next day had a few highlights but also some lowlights. It was a foggy morning, and the rural area was complete with a few snarling dogs that emerged from houses / compounds that had an unruly, sprawling appearance such that I wondered if they might be meth labs. The sun eventually broke out and there I was at the Columbia River. I went westward on the Washington side for an hour or so, then took the ferry across to the Oregon side at Cathlamet. I expected the ferry to run continuously, but it ran only every hour so I had to wait a bit. The next 30 miles or so westward to Astoria was unexpectedly hilly, and by the time I rolled into Astoria I was quite tired. I made a lousy selection for a hotel and decided that Adventure Cycling tends to rely on campgrounds and non-chain budget motels.
I left Astoria the next morning and headed out to the nearby coast. I first rode with a German couple for an hour or so until they stopped at Cannon Beach; they weren’t going as far as I’d be going that day and their approach was much more leisurely. Maybe next time for me. After many days riding alone, I’d continue to encounter touring cyclists the next two days, including two “funemployed” women, an older guy from California, and two younger guys who probably hadn’t packed a razor for the trip. At some point, though, I decided that I wasn’t “funemployed” (despite not feeling carefree, I was having fun this week, though) and hadn’t planned to be gone for very long, so remembering that I’d started at the Vancouver speed skating oval, I decided that I could make it to Eugene, OR, and the legendary Hayward Field track by Wednesday afternoon, making it a weeklong tour bookended by symbolic nods to other sports I’ve participated in (running and speed skating) rather riding further south to California (or spending several more weeks finishing the entire route to the Mexican border outside of San Diego) on a full-fledged bicycle odyssey.
The Oregon coast was amazing. It looks a lot like the rugged coast of Northern California, but my impression was that the coastal hillsides have more pine trees and less chaparral, and there seemed to be more sandy beach than in California. Much of this route was on a wide shoulder on US 101, but parts of it went on scenic roads, especially the first afternoon where the course put me on the Three Capes Scenic route. I was happy to roll into Pacific City, OR and stay at a great hotel with a brew pub across the street. The weather had been warm and sunny so the beach was full at check-in time, then the sunset was amazing, and later the stars were gorgeous. The next day was going to be a big push to get to Florence and the weather and scenery continued to be excellent. From Florence, the final day into Eugene was pleasingly mostly flat, rolling along side a pair of rivers. After ceremonially concluding my ride at Hayward Field, I rode the few miles to the Amtrak station and boxed up the bike and checked it for the ride home. As the scenery rolled by out the train's windows, I reflected on the past week's journey of over 650 miles (1050 km) by bicycle with a feeling of satisfaction.
This URL has the photos from the trip: http://www.flickr.com/photos/35710734@N05/sets/72157622330965197/show/ The first set of photos at the oval was actually taken the afternoon of my arrival in Vancouver as I rode there to test my reassembly of the bike. I chose the hotel for its proximity to the airport as well as a bike shop, to which I did need to make a couple of trips for some last minute adjustments. At the end of the trip, I didn't get a picture of Amtrak's box, but it was much easier given its larger size than the standard size box I used for the airline (from a local bike shop).
Editor - Jim
This blog weighs in on topics such as long-distance skating, the Illinois canals, cycling, and a variety of related (and occasionally not-so-related) topics. I'd like to correspond with others interested in skating the Hennepin and I&M canals.