Monday, June 30, 2014

Biking through Northwestern Washington, From Kitsap to Shelton

What's interesting about the Adventure Cycling Pacific Coast route is that we are actually quite far inland for the majority of the ride through Washington.  

Our route from Kitsap to Belfair, about 35 miles of riding for a total 152 miles of riding.

When we arrived at Belfair State Park, the Scottish guy we had met at Kitsap was already there.  It was great getting to see a familiar face and riding with another person on the same route.

At the entrance to Belfair State Park.

In addition to Mike, the Scottish guy biking to San Francisco, there was also French biker setting up camp. The French guy, Thomas, is also planning to go all the way to San Diego. Not only is it his first time touring, but it was also his first time camping!  He had started in Seattle and this was his first time setting up camp. 

We also set up our camp which basically means unloading the bikes, pitching the tent, getting dinner ready, Typically, Ethan sets up and cooks dinner while I pitch the tent and of course, inflate the air mattress. Some of the more, shall we say, "experienced" campers have been giving me a hard time about bringing along an air mattress. Well, you know what I think? Screw the haters. They're all just jealous of how comfortable I am while I sleep.

Inflating the air mattress is a daily task I do gladly.

Since we arrived at Belfair relatively early, we decided to go cook dinner at a campsite by the water so we could have a nice view while we ate. Mike and Thomas joined us for dinner and we had a nice meal.

Dinner by the water

Fellow tourers! From left to right, Ethan, Stephanie, Thomas, and Mike

The next morning, when we were planning our route, we realized there isn't really any camping along the Adventure Cycling route until you get to Elma which is over 60 miles away.  We thought about trying to make it all the way to Elma, but Ethan's knee has been sore so we decided to deviate off route a bit again.  We found a trailer Park near Shelton which had an area for tent camping and decided to stay there for the night.

Our route from Belfair to Shelton, 35 more miles of riding for a total 187 miles ridden so far.

The residents seemed very friendly but seemed to think we were crazy for leaving California!  Ethan and I didn't think there was anything too sketchy but the residents gave us some warnings about how crazy trailer parks can get!  Alas, we felt safe and were grateful for the place to do our laundry and spend the night for only $10.

Ready to leave the Shelton Trailer Park and get back on the road!

Well, that's it for now!  The next few days we took pretty easy because of Ethan's knee but we're back on the road and in Oregon now!  To get more up to date info on where we are, check out our GPS map here!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Into the Wild... Our first rides in Washington

Once off the boat, we were finally back in America! Hooray for cell phone service and Google maps! By going to Victoria, we had deviated off the Adventure Cycling Pacific Coast route, so we needed to head east to meet back up with the official route. The adventure cycling route came through Port Townsend, so we headed that way and decided to stop at Sequim (pronounced squim with a single syllable) Bay State Park for the night. The route we took to get there was the Olympic Discovery Trail and it was absolutely beautiful. The best part was that being on a trail we were completely separated from cars even though there were a few bits of unpaved gravel. The trail route is definitely longer and hillier than the highway route, but it’s worth it to be separated from the cars.

Our route from Victoria.  After landing in Port Angeles we biked about 25 miles for a total 79 miles biked so far.

The beautiful Olympic Discovery Trail.

I could pedal with this beautiful scenery all day!

Thankfully the sun doesn’t set until around 10 pm up north during the summer because we had quite a bit of pedaling to do after landing at Port Angeles! Still, the scenery was beautiful.

The Olympic Discovery Trail passed over its fair share of creeks. The views were always great but the bumpy wooden planks are rough on the hands.

We found a nice park bench to stop and enjoy a quick dinner.  Gotta love the freedom of wide open empty trails!

Taking a break, enjoying the scenery and having a bite to eat. 

Balancing the fully loaded bikes while we break for dinner.

Ready to go again after enjoying dinner!

The Olympic Discovery Trail led us directly to Sequim Bay State Park, so we didn't even have to get on a road to get to our campsite. Washington has special “Hiker-Biker” sites where you can pitch a tent for the night for only $12. They are pretty bare-bones with only a picnic table and a fire pit, but we weren't expecting luxury anyway. The park was directly on the bay so we could enjoy some great waterfront views.

Hanging out at Sequim Bay State Park enjoying the waterfront views. 

We cooked a simple meal that night, just ramen and a little canned chicken thrown in. But it was warm and filling and that’s what mattered. Ethan’s dad designed the insulation to go around the pot and I must say it works wonderfully! It’s excellent for keeping the boiling water hot while waiting for the ramen to cook.

Our simple dinner, ramen and canned chicken.

The next morning we slept in and took a while packing up camp, so it was after noon by the time we were ready to hit the road again. We also spent time checking out the route and looking for campgrounds. We decided that Kitsap State Park was a good distance away so we checked the maps and set out on the road.

Our route to Kitsap State Park.  38 miles for a total 117 miles biked so far.

Breaking down camp and reloading the bikes took a while but we’re getting better at it.

Ready to hit the road!

We decided to try out the solar panels for the first time by attaching them to the back of my panniers. They work best when they are directly aligned with the sunlight so keeping them flat isn’t optimal but they still seem to work. We connected the solar panels to the 10 amp hour battery to try and charge it up a bit.

Testing out the solar panels for the first time.

At the end of the day, we hadn’t noticed much of a difference in the charge off the battery, but 10 amp hours is really big (5 iPhone batteries) so it’s possible that the solar panels were working they just didn’t make much of a difference. Our route was also quite shaded so it definitely wasn’t ideal conditions for solar panels. As we get further south, the sunlight will be more direct overhead and there will be less shade so we should be able to get more of a charge out of the solar panels.

Our first stop leaving Sequim was at a food mart to stock up on food for the night. After seeing the car-campers and RVs enjoying s’mores, I was really craving s’mores, so I convinced Ethan to get graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate. Outside of the store, we met four more bicycle tourist! This motley crew of two boys and two girls were on their way to Sequim to visit some friends. They definitely embodied the free-spirited ideal of the 60s and seemed to be having a great time. Unlike us, they didn’t have fancy panniers. One guy just had two wire milk crates strapped to either side of his bike and one girl just had 5 gallon paint jugs attached to their bike. They were a reminder that we probably don’t need all our fancy camping gear in order to bike tour. I must say though, I have appreciated all the “glamping” (glamour camping) gear that Ethan and I have!

Our route to Kitsap kept us off the highways and mainly on side streets. The side streets are great in that they are scenic and there is little traffic, but they are often zig-zaggy and quite hilly. The zig-zags really add to the mileage and the hills really zap your energy. We had to walk our bikes up a few of the hills because some of the grades were quite steep!  This route was our first day really deviating and going inland from the coast meaning that we went up into the mountains a bit.  We could definitely feel the climbs and our pace was quite slow as a result!  Normally we can keep a solid 13-15 mph pace but I think we averaged somewhere around 8 or 9 mph on our way to Kitsap.

Enjoying the open roads on our way to Kitsap. 

We passed an old school house from 1912!

The views were great for taking a snack break.

Not quite the Pacific yet, but the bays are quite beautiful.

In the last few miles of our route to Kitsap we had to cross a bridge. It was a “floating bridge” so unlike must bridges where the highest point is in the middle, the middle was the lowest point. So it was all downhill for the first half and uphill for the second half. It wasn't as difficult of a climb as the Alex Fraiser bridge, but bridges are always a struggle!

Struggling to pedal up the bridge.

Thankfully reaching the bridge signaled being close to the campsite, so we should pedal away knowing the end was in sight. We got another hiker-biker sight at Kitsap state park and unpacked for the night.

Our campsite at Kitsap State Park. We definitely brought too much stuff!

In Kitsap we met another tourer who’s doing the same route as us! Like us, he just graduated from university and wanted to go on an adventure before starting his job as a lawyer. He’s from Scotland and only plans to do the route to San Francisco. Not surprisingly, he’s using the same Adventure Cycling route and map set that we’re using. He definitely planned better though because he packed a lot lighter. We have full front panniers and rear panniers, and somehow he’s managing with only rear panniers. Being from Scotland, he had never had s’mores before! He had overheard the kids at the site next to us talking about them so I was glad that Ethan and I had the supplies to introduce him to the best of American camping traditions. He found them incredibly sweet but definitely enjoyed them.

Anyway, that’s it for Kitsap! We've been taking it slow and definitely haven’t been reaching our goal mileage but we have the attitude that it’s more important to have fun than to complete the entire route. We’re still in Washington so I’m not sure when we’ll have service again but expect more updates whenever we have internet access again!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

From Ferry to Ferry

Thank goodness for Starbucks! Hate all you want on the corporatization of America, I have really appreciated being able to stop at Starbucks along the route to get internet! Unfortunately, we’ve been travelling slowly and pretty far away from any major towns, so Starbucks have been few and far between. Alas, we found one in Centralia so posting and charging time it is!

Anyway - for the route so far, this is roughly where we've traveled:

Our first ride, Vancouver to Tsawwassen, 32 miles.
From Tsawwassen, we took the ferry to Victoria. Or rather, we thought we took the ferry to Victoria. Turns out, the ferry actually drops off about 30 miles north of Victoria near Sidney.  Here's the route we took:

Our second ride, Tsawwassen to Victoria, approximately 22 miles of riding for a total 54 miles so far.

As the ferry headed towards into Victoria, we passed by some islands and saw some beautiful waterfront homes.
Beautiful homes set along the coast as we head to Victoria.

Gorgeous coastline

Thankfully, there was a separated bike path that took us all the way into town. The route was gorgeous, thickly wooded and not too hilly.

Pedaling down the beautiful path.

The trail went over several idyllic creeks. The views were amazing but the bumpy wooden road was annoying!

The best parts were the parts that were paved!

Our first stop when we made it into town was the Swan’s pub for dinner. Several locals recommended this place for its local brews, so we gave it a try.

Getting dinner at Swans “brew pub” and hotel

While we were outside locking up our bikes, a bunch of people stopped to ask us about our bikes and our trip. One couple, Yves and Patti, had done several previous tours and they invited us to stay with them for the night! We gladly accepted, thankful to have a warm shower and a nice place to sleep for the night. We ended up having a great conversation with them about their past trips and getting tips for starting out. Unfortunately, we totally forgot to take a picture with them. They are really into kayaking and do sea kayaking instructions. You can check out their website at Yves baked the most delicious maple syrup chocolate chip brownies and they sent us off with a few for the road. In the morning, Yves graciously biked us to a local outdoors store so Ethan could get a set of fenders. He also led us to the ferry station before we parted ways. Thanks to Yves and Patti for being amazing hosts and a great start to our trip!

From Victoria, we had originally planned on taking a ferry to Seattle, but turns out that ferry costs $240 for us and our bikes. We decided to take the cheaper route to Port Angeles even though that meant about 150 extra miles of biking. Even though we arrived at the station around 11 am, the next ferry to Port Angeles didn't leave until 3 pm so we had a lot of extra time to explore Victoria. We took our loaded bikes and biked around the area for a bit.

Checking out the Parliament building.

Totem poles! They seem to have a bunch in the Northwest region.

Queen Victoria – a reminder of Canada’s British heritage.

Ethan got really excited about this tree, he wanted to climb it!

After exploring the city a bit, we went to go check out Huntingdon Manor. It’s a beautiful little bed and breakfast that also serves High Tea! We went in and enjoyed some delicious high tea.

The entrance to Huntingdon Manor.

The manor

Hanging out in the gardens

I got a green tea and Ethan got a chai. They were both delicious!

Ethan enjoying his chai!

We had a lovely view of the gardens.

Our first course was strawberries tossed in sugar served with Chantilly cream. Delicious!

The traditional three tiered serving. Beautiful presentation and delicious taste!

My personal favorite thing was the croissant with prosciutto and aged cheddar. 

Close up of the pastries. We were in sugar heaven!

After leaving High Tea it was back on the boat for another ferry to our next leg of the trip!

Loading the bikes on the ferry to Port Angeles.

Well that’s it for Canada! We had a great time exploring and I’d love to go back some day! It will just have to be during summer because I don’t think I could handle a Canadian winter!