After yesterday’s mostly urban route, today’s very rural roads were a quiet relief — even more so thanks to the expert route advice of Island County planner Brian Woods.
One of the reasons I blog about our travels is that those real-life experiences can be just what someone needs to decide whether a particular route works for their abilities and interests. When we consider a route or destination the first thing we do is look to see what others have experienced by bike. When I find firsthand knowledge from local riders it’s pure gold, especially for those “wormholes” that get you away from faster, heavier traffic. That’s just what Brian gave us.
Today consisted of bike-ferry-biiiiiiiiiiiiike-ferry-bike. We started off with a hearty breakfast at Hogland House, chatting with our host Kay about what got each of us started biking and our overall plans, then sat out on the quiet back deck looking at the water and the yard bunnies for a while to let breakfast settle while we sipped coffee. Kay took our picture for us as we prepared to set off for the first teeny-tiny ride of about a half-mile to the ferry landing.
Waiting in line we chatted with Mike, whose bike pulled a small trailer; he had just returned from his own bike adventure that consisted of taking the train to Shelby, Montana, and biking 350 miles or so. Given his Whidbey Island Bicycle Club jersey I had to ask if he knew Brian, and of course he did.
A primary benefit of bike travel with ferries involved: No waiting! Drivers need to make reservations since their vehicles fill up the vessel. Walking and biking passengers, on the other hand, just show up. There’s always room for one more.
After the 20-minute ride to Clinton — short but very breezy — we were glad to start warming up with the climb up from the ferry landing. We quickly got away from the small settlement and onto those quiet county roads. As a bonus, riding on those back roads enabled us to avoid most of the state route miles Google Maps would have pointed us to. Local knowledge, I’m tellin’ you. (Our route map on RidewithGPS)
Just for fun I started keeping score on driver behavior. Kudos to the polite drivers of Whidbey Island — every single person who overtook us when they weren’t facing oncoming traffic crossed over the center line and left us plenty of safe passing space.
As Brian pointed out, the state route does provide the shortest mileage with the least climbing. SR 525 has good wide shoulders so it’s doable and the portions of our route that used it weren’t bad at all. They just weren’t as enjoyable as the quiet tree-lined roads with occasional peeks at Puget Sound down some side road or driveway.
Taking this route added about 10 extra miles and some climbing. Most of the climbs were long more than they were steep and I managed the whole day on the bike — no getting off and pushing up a hill the way I had to a time or two (or three) on the Ride for Major Taylor route. And almost every uphill brought its reward in the form of a nice downhill with earned acceleration. (The reverse is also true, of course — a nice long downhill often brought an up as the price for the fun.)
We made one stop I highly recommend, for pie at Whidbey Pies & Cafe, at Greenbank Farm. This peaceful spot features local products from cheeses to wine to artwork, gardens, wetlands, hiking trails, and a solar power project. The pie crust was incredibly flaky perfection, an assessment I feel highly qualified to make since my mom was a pie baker extraordinaire.
We bought a couple of bottles of local wine (good thing Hubs has that extra bag capacity) and got back on the road toward the ferry. After some highway miles we dropped down to a quiet street lined with nice homes — and bordered by signs that read TSUNAMI EVACUATION ROUTE, which is the case for just about any coastal properties in Washington state.
This nice flat bit took us straight to the ferry landing. We could see the vessel in port as we pedaled toward it but we were pointing straight into a headwind and I definitely didn’t have any sprinting in my legs. Thus we watched it pull away just as we got to the landing, but that was fine — another one would be along. We got our tickets from the kiosk, sat on a bench in the sun, and enjoyed the quiet while we waited for the next vessel due in 45 minutes.
A 35-minute ferry ride and we docked in Port Townsend. I chose the Manresa Castle for our stay because who wouldn’t want to sleep in a castle? It sits up on a bluff, meaning one last long pedal of a couple of miles from the landing, but we had climbed bigger hills so we just pegged away.
Manresa Castle is an older place, not as fancy as the name “castle” suggests, but comfy. No bike parking outside but we’re not really comfortable leaving them outside overnight anyway. We brought our bikes upstairs in the old service elevator, which happens to be the oldest elevator in the state still in use.
We had intended to go back downtown for dinner and revisit a restaurant we loved the last time we were here, but that would have meant climbing that long hill again. Instead we walked over to a nearby Mexican restaurant, only to find it closed for the day. The QFC next door yielded us a tasty variety from the deli case and we headed back to our room to put our legs up, eat pasta, and crack open those newly purchased bottles of wine.
Distance: 39.7 on the bike today
Total mileage to date:
Bike: 80.15 miles
Ferry: 9.7 miles
Wildlife: Five deer in three sightings (one, then two crossing the road, then two others browsing near some cattle in a pasture); heard an eagle scream: plenty of birdsong, chipmunks, and of course the yard bunnies that started the day.
Yesterday: South Seattle to Mukilteo
Tomorrow: The longest mileage in the whole trip, Port Townsend to Port Angeles, and a stretch of highway I understand will make me really wish for completion of the Olympic Discovery Trail.
The Whole Trip
- On the Road Again: Getting Ready for a Washington State Bike + Ferry + Train Vacation
- Day One: Southwest Seattle to Mukilteo
- Day Two: Mukilteo to Port Townsend
- Day Three: Port Townsend to Port Angeles
- Day Four: Port Angeles to Lake Crescent
- Days Five and Six: Lake Crescent to Victoria, BC
- Days Seven and Eight: Victoria, BC to Friday Harbor
- Days Nine and Ten: Friday Harbor to Lopez Island
- Day Eleven: Lopez Island, a Gentle Retreat
- Day Twelve: Lopez Island to Anacortes
- Day Thirteen and Done: Anacortes to Southwest Seattle
- Bike Touring Northwest Washington: How Our Bike + Ferry + Train Loop Worked Out