Well, if the number 13 is unlucky for us, it’s only because it marked the last day of our fantastic multi-day bike tour through Washington state. Alas, the big loop is done.
The final morning dawned bright and breezy, with enough clouds moving around that we donned leggings and sleeves for the ride to downtown Anacortes for breakfast. Sweetie did a quick bike tune and lube, having spent some time on my wheel the night before and reporting that it wasn’t torqued as much as he had initially feared. Whew.
I picked Dad’s Diner for my sweetie to get a load of their house-made meats. My eggs, potatoes and biscuit were plenty filling. The food was great, service fantastic; just note that if you’re vegan you won’t have options here beyond potatoes. The many photos of dads on the wall (including Darth Vader and Mike Brady of The Brady Bunch as well as less fictional people) make for some entertaining viewing, too.
The old downtown core of Anacortes along Commercial Street is lined with the kinds of shops that made it easy to stroll along the sidewalk with our bikes. Hubs stayed with the gear when I wanted to stop at an antique store or art gallery — what a sweetheart.
We made our way up to 3rd Street, where Bikestop co-owner Carolyn Moulton was working outside. I met Carolyn when she went to the National Bike Summit a few years ago and we renewed our acquaintance and chatted about how our trip was going.
Hubs stepped into the bike shop to pick up a couple of things while I hit Alley Cat Antiques next door, a fascinating maze of everything except the apples I collect. It connects directly into Marine Supply & Hardware next door and I found myself looking at books on sailing and rustproof hardware before I knew what was happening. I apologized and the owner chuckled and said, “Oh, it’s fine, we’re family.”
Backtracked to Alley Cat’s register to buy my little assembly of Scrabble tiles to spell out the word BICYCLE a couple of times, then caught up with Hubs. While in the shop I thanked the owner at Alley Cat Antiques for having this WE SHIP sign up — SO important for bike travelers as well as others who might have capacity constraints (say, flying home).
Idea for the local tourism bureau, maybe headquartered at the Visitor Information Center: What about promoting a “we ship your shopping” service? If I knew I could consolidate my purchases into one shipment and leave it to be sent on a schedule that would let me get home first to receive it, that would ROCK.
Carolyn offered us new water bottles; I took her up on it to replace the one that got a bit too funky when I left a juice/water combo in it for a full day and night. She filled the new bottle for me and we were off to get on the Tommy Thompson Trail.
Nick Stowe, the other owner of Bikestop, made sure to ask if we had our route plan, confirmed that we were using good roads, and gave us a paper map with a couple of suggested alternatives if we wanted some extra miles.
Sidebar on bike travel information sources: Yes, paper maps still matter! They provide a much better contextual understanding of the overall network and alternate routes than trying to zoom out on a tiny phone screen. Even better: A bike map you pick up at a local bike shop and discuss with the people who work there. Their firsthand knowledge is invaluable for knowing the character of a road’s traffic as well as its infrastructure.
One of the nice things about checking our route to confirm it this morning was the wording on the WSDOT page for the construction at SR20/Sharpe’s Corner: “Cyclists should use USBR10 across the Tommy Thompson Trail for access to Anacortes.”
Sure enough, we got to skip all the construction delay at the new roundabout WSDOT is installing (which will include a trail connection). This was easy thanks to the past efforts of Anacortes community members who built the trail and built the Tommy Thompson Trestle not just once but twice after it burned mysteriously in 2009.
In particular this route out of Anacortes is special thanks to stellar volunteer John Pope (formerly a board member for Washington Bikes when I served as executive director) who has led the effort to identify and designate the US Bicycle Routes in Washington state. I got to attend the Anacortes ribbon-cutting when USBR10 was originally designated in 2014.
Many of the same people who worked on the Tommy Thompson Trail — including John’s wife Michele Pope, who serves on the Anacortes Parks Foundation board — are now working to complete the Guemes Channel Trail. When it’s finished you’ll be able to ride from the Tommy Thompson Trail in downtown Anacortes to the ferry terminal along the water’s edge, bypassing the car traffic on SR20. It will be fabulous.
The ride through and out of Anacortes gave us a variety of sights: Many people using the trail, a long row of boats on both sides as we passed through a working boatyard, art installed on the back side of a warehouse to enliven the trail, an adorable older couple rolling along on a two-seater assistive mobility device (think fat-tired e-trike), kids out learning to ride with parents encouraging them, and some otters we saw below the trestle thanks to a nice couple from Michigan that pointed them out so I could try to get a picture of a sleek, furry tail vanishing under a nest of rocks.
The Tommy Thompson Trestle is a beautiful, curving 2,000 feet long. The surface on either end is some kind of artificial decking for a while, making for a nice smooth surface. Some wood planking in the middle makes for a bumpier ride before returning to the smooth riding.
The trestle brings you out to March’s Point Road, which for a few blissful hundred yards had a brand-new surface on its three-foot shoulder, then we were back to chip seal and two feet of shoulder. This road took us past the industrial setting of the Shell Puget Sound Refinery, which as we rode past blew its horn for a test of their evacuation warning system.
Continuing with a left turn onto South Marsh’s Point Road kept us off SR20 and on a quiet side road. Shoulder was gravelly much of the time, mostly narrow, but the very low traffic volume kept this from being a problem.
Possibly the trickiest part of the whole journey came when we had to connect with a narrow trail on the north side of the SR20 bridge. This required a left turn at a location that has drivers coming off on an exit ramp not expecting anyone to be turning left because it wouldn’t be legal for a driver to do so. We experimented with going down the side road, then pushing (in my case) our bikes up the grassy slope to the trail so we could avoid doing something unanticipated by people hurtling toward us at 60+ mph in two-ton steel cages. Also not awesome.
This connection could use some warning signs for the drivers to tell them they’re on USBR10 and about to come to a bike crossing — putting that on my “Let’s see what we can do about this” list from the trip.
This trail serves as USBR10 across the Skagit Bridge. Ignore what Google Maps currently will tell you to do at the bridge’s end — they gave us a route that said to cross at the intersection across four lanes of highway-speed traffic. Not necessary.
The much better USBR10 routing has you loop around under the bridge to pick up the absolutely empty on-ramp (at least when we were using it, and this doesn’t look like a location that draws a lot of traffic to that ramp) to get onto SR20 eastbound.
We used the shoulder of SR20 for roughly 1.2 miles before taking a right on LaConner-Whitney Road; highway traffic was busy and fast but this stretch has a wide shoulder. If we had time for a slightly longer trip it would have been nice to return to LaConner, which I visited on a sisters’ weekend in November. As it was, we appreciated the very wide shoulder on this road, particularly in light of the headwind we were riding into.
We then turned onto MacLean Road, which again gave us a wide shoulder and very light traffic all the way to Mount Vernon. Fields that in April would be bright with blooming tulips are plowed brown this time of year; other fields are green with crops on this rich agricultural land. MacLean Road makes a slight jigjog (left on Wall, right on Division) to get to the bridge, which I suggest crossing on the skinny sidewalk if you don’t want to be in a teeny tiny nonexistent shoulder up against the curb and separators of said sidewalk alongside drivers aiming toward the connection to I-5.
Even with all the poking around in downtown Anacortes we had plenty of time to fill before catching our late train. When we got to Mount Vernon and onto First Avenue I promptly stopped for the sign that said ICE CREAM at Mount Vernon Cafe & Lounge. Not a ton of options for vegetarians if we had been seeking a meal, although I had a spinach salad first before digging into the peanut butter and chocolate concoction in the tall, frosty metal cup. Such healthy choices. (When I say “not a ton” I mean grilled cheese sandwich and salads, not even the pasty commercial veggie burger that’s a typical option.)
Then it was back to poking into antique stores. I lucked out with not one but two apple finds at the first one I visited. We turned on Myrtle Street and that took us to the fantastic open space above the riverwalk utilized for the Saturday Farmers’ Market, open-air concerts, and other community events.
Facing onto the plaza, Old Movie House Antiques — which is, yes, in an old converted movie house — yielded one more apple and a nice chat with the proprietor about how busy that space is much of the time. The plaza has a number of nice benches and tall tables with chairs to enable some lounging in the sunshine without having to buy anything — those kinds of public spaces are so important to having a community that makes everyone feel welcome.
The morning coffee having long since worn off, we made our way to the Skagit Food Co-op for some recaffeination and their free wifi and sidewalk seating — good place to put together a blog post and for Hubs to read the book on World War II naval history I bought him back in Victoria, if a bit noisy with passing cars and trucks. Also very happy to go to a Silver Bicycle Friendly Business!
When it came time for dinner we gave the co-op a bit more business by going around a couple of blocks to their really wonderful combo restaurant/cafe, C Square/Third Street Cafe,. I’ve eaten here before on trips to Mount Vernon and it’s an absolute favorite for the fresh local foods, cool vibe that welcomes everyone from families to romantic couples, and outstanding service. Eat there if you’re in Mount Vernon. It’s also conveniently close to Skagit Station, the Amtrak station just around the corner.
The train ran 30 minutes late — always a possibility given that Burlington Northern prioritizes freight movement over passenger rail. I always sign up for the handy text alerts so at least we got word that this was happening. There’s also a cool live train-tracker site, similar to the Washington State Ferries Vessel Watch page.
When the train pulled in the friendly Amtrak staff hustled our bikes onto the baggage car and brought our bags to us after we got seated so they could get the train moving as quickly as possible to try to make up a little time. As always, I enjoyed the train trip for the comfortable seating, plug-in at my seat, and views gliding by the window, although it got dark as we sped to Seattle with intervening stops at Stanwood, Everett, and Edmonds.
Our house-sitting daughter drove to King Street Station to meet us. This got her part of the way back to her place and enabled me to give her a quick hug. Sure, we could have ridden up the hills back to our starting point, but it’s funny how, after many days on the road, I just wanted to get home. Not that I’m excited about the pile of laundry that needs to be done, but a long hot bath and our good coffee will help me continue that vacation vibe. Maybe we’ll start planning the next long bike tour.
Distance: 20.8 miles by bike
Total mileage for the trip:
Bike: 264.45 miles
Ferry: 80.7 miles
Train: Approx. 62 miles (Funny thing about train schedules: They helpfully tell you the total time, which is the more important metric, but they don’t tell you how many track miles you’re covering.)
Car: Weird but true — 8.5 miles at the very end.
Wildlife: An otter (I really did see it, just couldn’t take the picture fast enough), birds galore.
Yesterday: Day Twelve: Lopez Island to Anacortes
Tomorrow: Laundry, maybe some weeding and watering in the yard, a few work things despite being still on vacation, general recuperation, long bath at some point.
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 State: How Our Bike + Ferry + Train Loop Worked Out
- Bike Touring Planning (Relationship) Lessons Learned So Far