Biking, Camping, Biking, Boating, Biking...
From the public library in Victoria, B.C.
It's been two days since I've left town, and despite a few glitches this trip has been off to a good start. I took the northbound Amtrak Cascades from Portland-Union Station at 12.30pm on Saturday, which brought me to Seattle. I layed over there for an hour and took another Cascades train north until I hit Mt. Vernon, Washington at a little after 7pm. There wasn't appropriate lodging in town (unless I wanted to spend $$$ on a hotel) nor at Anacortes the ferry terminal (the only hostel shut down), so I had to ride westward to one of two campsites: Bay View State Park (11 miles from the station) and Deception Pass State Park (18mi). Deception would be the nicer one to go to, but I would have to go over a couple hills to get to it while Bay View would go over none. Plus, there was little over an hour of good daylight left, and I wanted to avoid night riding as much as possible.
The ride west out of Mt Vernon took me through pancake-flat farmland surrounded by vistas of mountains. The highways were quite busy though, and when I reached the junction of Route 20 it turned into a four lane divided highway with trucks whizzing by at 70. Ugh. I reached the turn-off for Bay View right at sunset, which cemented the decision to head there. The four miles to the campground was nice. There was even a separated bike path that followed the shores of Padilla Bay for a bit--sweet! Halfway on the path, there was a nice flat grassy spot that would have been perfect for a tent. I thought about doing it for a moment, but opted to head to the campground, partially because I wanted to take a shower in the morn (the place I'll be staying at in Victoria has none!) and partially because I was worried that I would set camp in a spot that teenage boys in big trucks would drink at in the middle of the night (of course, they would have to walk two miles from those trucks to do so, but this was the thought that crossed my mind.)
I reached Bay View at about 8:30pm. Bay View basically consisted of RVs and campers, ugh. I asked the Ranger where the primitive (bike and hike) campgrounds were and he said there was none. "What?" I shrieked? "The person at the Parks Dept. said there would be three!" He said there was, but they built cabins there instead. He would set me up though, and for $10 I got a spot away from the RVs. It was real close to the road but had a great view of the bay. I set up camp quickly and then walked down to the beach.
The view from the beach made me wonder how long the park was here. On the other side of the water was a refinery, all aglow in lights, and a flame continuously shooting from a smokestack. Even though I hate them, I had always found them fascinating to look at. But I would have preferred the setting to be a bit more "rustic". Instead of looking at the refinery, I laid on a picnic bench and looked at the stars instead. I saw a lot more than I could ever see from Portland. I headed back to camp and turned in for the night (figured I should get some sleep since I had only 4 hours last night!)
At about 3am, I awoke, needing to pee. When I got outside, there was a glorious full moon, illuminating everything. I decided to walk down to the beach again and look at the water sparkling with moonlight. Catching my shadow I was reminded of an anecdote I read about Cat Stevens. Back in the 70's some people suspected that his song "Moonshadow" meant that he was linked with the Moonies. He said it was simply about seeing his shadow in the moonlight (dur!), and the first time he had ever noticed it was walking on a beach at night.
Sunday morning I showered, took down camp, and headed to Anacortes. The ride there took a little over an hour, going over one high bridge, a couple hills, the refinery, an Indian Casino, and some nice scenery. In Anacortes I got lunch and gathered supplies. I don't care much for Anacortes, it seems like the town is full of rich people and shops that cater to them. The last couple of times I was there I got rude, overpriced service from the cafes. But this time wasn't bad. I biked out of town and rode the three miles to the Washington State Ferries terminal. I had to wait about a hour for the incoming ferry to unload and for its passengers to clear customs. At about 2.30pm the ferry left and it was a beautiful 3 hour ride across the Puget through the San Juan Islands to Sidney, B.C.
I really love the ferry rides across to Vancouver Islands. Even though in Portland we live on water, it's rivers. Being on the sea is so much different. I love this part of Cascadia, all the deep blue water and endless islands, backdropped with either the Cascades or the Olympics (depending on which direction you look). I can never get enough of it. I spent most of the time on one of the outside decks.
In Sidney customs clearance went smoothly and I was in Canada! I met two other bicyclists who needed directions to Victoria. I gave them and noticed one of them had a Danger Room Comics shirt (a shop in Olympia). I asked him about it, and he said he knows one of the employees and they are planning on opening a new shop in Seattle, but this one would be "done right". (If you are into alternative comix, you'll understand what I mean.) We talked for about 15 minutes, I gave him my observations on what makes a good comix shop and where there are examples of that (for some reason Chicago has a number of them). Afterwards I rounded up grub in somnabluant Sidney (as someone told me on my first visit: "Sidney is for the newly-wed or the nearly dead.") and then headed south to Victoria.
The fifteen mile (er, 25km) ride to Victoria is laughably easy. I say that because most of the time when you're presented with this situation, you'll either have to travel on busy roads or go over a lot of hills (as i did to get to Anacortes.) But Victoria is different. For most of the way, you get a dedicated bike path, one that follows an old rail alignment. That means the ride is flat, avoiding the hills you see in the distance. and it passes through some real nice countryside! There's farms aplenty, and I saw "self-serve" stands selling eggs, hens, cows, horses, and deer feeding in someone's yard (!)
I got to Recyclistas, the bike shop I'll be crashing at, at 8.15pm, and there was a gaggle of people waiting! Oh yeah, I'm supposed to show bike videos tonight! Well I did, and it went over well, though I wished the folks there would have kicked down the suggested donation to help keep my roadshow afloat (only one person did, but at least he threw in a $20). The feature of the night was Quicksilver, a "classic" 80's movie starring Kevin Bacon as a bike messenger. After that, I called it a night.