At first I had my sights set on something around Mount Hood and/or Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Washington. With the extended service (both in service hours/days and where it goes) of the Columbia Gorge Express, it makes a tour out here a lot easier, ride one way and catch it back from Cascade Locks or Hood River, or do the reverse. But I did the camping trip with Emee a couple weeks a couple weeks ago, and realized how out of shape I am for touring and riding. Touring in that area would mean some nice scenery and some gravel, but some good long and steep climbs. This might not be the right tour for me right now, I need something easier.
I’ll let you in on a secret: Sometimes I get jealous of the touring opportunities in the Midwest. I know, I know, the scenery is so much better out here, I get it. But the Midwest in its general flatness allows a lot more mellow touring options. Sure, there can be rolling hills, but there’s no Oldman Pass on Wind River Road, where you climb 1,500 feet in five miles at about a 10% grade. Plus there’s lots of rail trails for touring. I thought about what kind of mellow tour I could do here, and the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway became the obvious choice: 130 miles of mostly flat to rolling low-to moderate traffic roads through the middle of the valley. It’s a bit boring compared to going into the mountains or out to the coast, but a bit boring is what I needed now. So I booked a ticket to Eugene for Monday and planned to ride north to home at my own pace.
Then I got wind of the weather forecast: It was shaping up to be another heatwave for this week. Do I want to do a bike tour in a land of little shade when it’s going to be 95-100F out, even if it’s a mellow ride? I debated it for a couple days, and decided to dramatically switch plans: I still needed to get out of town, but needed to go somewhere cool. The mountains offer some relief from the heat, but you have to sweat a lot to get that relief. No, I needed something with ocean influence.
I could do a tour of the Oregon Coast, but I already have one lined up for mid August. I could head north, though. Four full days isn’t enough to do the Olympic Peninsula, and I’d love to get to the San Juan Islands, Vancouver Island, etc, but they are too far away. I’d eat up two days alone in the transit. I needed something in the Puget Sound, where I can start and end from either Seattle or Tacoma.
So I decided to do a little loop: I get into Seattle via Amtrak today (Monday July 23) around 3:30 PM, then immediately hop on the ferry to Bainbridge Island. I can camp at either Fay Bainbridge or Kitsap Memorial, both on the water, at the most I’d be riding 20 miles from the ferry. Not hard to do when you can get in by 5 and sunset is still close to 9 PM. On Tuesday I’ll ride north to Port Townsend and spend the night. Then another ferry on Wednesday to Whidbey Island where I’ll bike the south reach of the island. On Thursday I take the last ferry to Mukilteo, work my way to Seattle, and catch an evening train home.
It’s all through mostly familiar territory, though I haven’t been to south Whidbey since 2011. But it’s all nice. And most importantly, the temperatures will be nice. It looks like highs will be 75-80 in most areas, though it may get a little more toasty inland. Still, it’s going to be significantly cooler than Portland!
And while I’m bummed that I’m not going with my initial two tour itineraries, the summer is still young. With my lightened workload, it’s still possible to hit up both…
I probably won’t be posting much here during the tour, but check out my Instagram and flickr feeds for updates.