Helens-Rainier-Seattle-Vashon Tour 2012: Seattle, Vashon, Tacoma, Sickness, End.

The Cobain house and bench

Monday, August 20th. A day off in Seattle. I took a casual approach to the morning, since my only commitment of the day was the Bike Touring Workshop I would facilitate at Bikeworks in the evening. I hung around my private room in the HI for a bit, and then set out to explore.

I’ve been to Seattle scads of times since I’ve lived in Portland, so there’s not a heck of a lot of new ground to cover, but try to cover new ground I did. I set out first for Capitol Hill and then the Central District, where one of my favorite bike shops, 20/20 Cycle is located. Unfortunately, Alex, the owner wasn’t there, so I chatted with the guys in the shops, and then headed eastward to Lake Washington.

While riding along the lake, I took a quick pause at a parklet with a park bench. Being a music nerd, I recently found out this particular bench is a shrine to Kurt Cobain, as the house that adjoins the parklet (seen in the photo) was the last house that Kurt lived (and died) in. The bench itself is covered with all sorts of Cobain/Nirvana graffiti. Unfortunately I didn’t get a good shot, as my camera had no charge left. (I foolishly forgot to bring my charger for the trip.)

I rode southward along the lakefront, pausing at Seward Park, then I headed westward to the Columbia City neighborhood, where Bikeworks is located. Before the workshop, I met Davey who works at Bikeworks  and set up the event. We’ve known each other for years, as he was also heavily involved in comics and zines (he worked at ZAPP, which is the Seattle equivalent to the IPRC.) We had a burrito and chatted, as he had other obligations for the night. Then it was the workshop, which went fine, albeit with only two participants. After a beer in the neighborhood, I zoomed back downtown to the hostel.

On Tuesday I left the hostel and headed for Vashon Island. The route I took out of downtown hugged the waterfront. The first part went through the port, then through Alki Beach, Seattle’s beach neighborhood. The views were great, and after about an hour and a half of riding I was at Fauntleroy in the far SW corner of town. I didn’t have long to wait for the ferry to Vashon Island, and the ferry ride itself was quick.

The first item of business on Vashon (as it was about 3pm) was to stop by my host’s house and drop off gear so I could explore the island unencumbered. Thankfully her house was right near the ferry terminal. But it was quite the hill to get there. (This would be the theme of Vashon Island.) I did a thirty mile loop exploring the island, passing by sound views, houses, farms, trees, and a few villages. The riding was quiet but very challenging, as Vashon had loads of hills, many of them steep. I don’t think there was any point on the island higher than 500 feet in elevation, but the grades felt as steep as 15% in places! (Later in September there is supposed to be a century ride on the island with 10,000 feet of combined elevation!)

Vashon was an interesting place. It was sleepy, just like I thought, a haven for folks who want to be near a city but want to be in a rural environment. But it had a surprising number of services, at least in the “town” of Vashon. (There are no incorporated cities on the island.) Here was not one but two grocery stores, hardware stores, post office, pharmacy, restaurants, a library, post office, and a bike shop! One could survive on the island without having to head back to Seattle (or Tacoma) for every little thing. I can see the appeal of living in a place like this.

My host Yve was great. Her house was one of those 70’s “rustic” deals, with high ceilings in the common area and a great view in the backyard. She has been living on the island for awhile and really likes the community, though she finds it a bit limiting at times. I could see that, and this is what prevents me from living in a place like this. I can dream, though.

Wednesday was the final day of the tour. I bid adieu to Yve in the morning. The plan was to bike the length of the island (about 15 miles) southward on the main road (Vashon Hwy.) to the southern ferry terminal, where I would catch the ferry to Tacoma. Vashon Hwy. was the flattest road on the island, with mostly gentle grades, so it wouldn’t be much of a problem with the load. But a bigger problem would soon surface.

I made a quick pause in Vashon town to stop at the grocery store, bike shop (which had a great collection of vintage bikes, like a Raleigh DL-1), and coffee roastery. This is when I started to feel sick. Nothing that bad at first, just a general blah and slight nausea. Now I suffer occasionally from acid reflux, so the slight nausea and blahness are normal, so I chalked it up to this. But as I biked southward to the ferry terminal, I started to feel worse and worse. At the ferry terminal I started to feel chilly. By the time I got off the ferry (a fifteen minute ride) I felt really nauseous. This limited my enjoyment of biking around Point Defiance Park, as I was less concerned with the great scenery (reminiscent of Stanley Park) and more concerned with my urge to throw up. Finally I hit up a bathroom and attempted to puke. Nothing, just dry heaving, eh. But I felt better, so I drank some water and took some ibuprofen.

I felt okay for the ride through Tacoma to the Amtrak station, where I’d catch the 6pm train back to Portland. Here is where I started to feel really bad. Even though it was a mild day, I felt cold, cold enough to put my hoodie on. On the train, I had chills and the urge to puke, again. This was not good.

As the train neared Portland, I texted April who was to meet me at Union Station. I told her I was sick and we would need to take a cab home. I was in rough shape when I got off the train, feverish and wanting to puke. After the ride home, I went to bed, which is where I stayed for about thirty-six hours, battling a fever of 101F.

I don’t know exactly what hit me, but I’m suspecting it was a case of food poisoning. Not fun, but I’ve had a couple cases that were worse. It put quite the damper on what was otherwise a great tour.

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