Aug 18: Back in the saddle! From La Conner to Port Townsend (46.8 miles)

I slept in a bit while Jack prepared a breakfast of bacon, fresh blueberries from René’s garden and a Dutch Baby (puffy pancake)

After a big meal, it was time for me to resume biking south. It was very hard to leave La Conner after all the hospitality I received here!

Today I’ll be biking over the Deception Pass Bridge onto Whidby Island, south to Coupeville/Keystone where I’ll catch a ferry to Port Townsend and camp ay Fort Watson State Park

I biked across the Deception Pass bridge, the same one I cruised under a few nights back.

It did not take long to find myself riding with a large group of bicyclers that were participating in the “Tour de Whidby” event. I stopped at a refresh booth and they were happy to give me some of their goods! Such friendly people.

The route passed along West Beach Rd. Which really needs to be renamed to West Bluff Rd. Due to all the hills. I survived them though and stopped for lunch at the “Knead and Feed Bakery” in Coupeville.

Before I knew it I rounded s corner and was at the just arriving ferry from Port Townsend.

It was a nice ride across the Admiralty Inlet to Port Townsend, which is a really cool looking town.

On my way through the city I found the street market in full swing with crafts, food and live music. I had an early dinner of homemade grilled sausages and headed over to the Fort Worden State Park. I snagged a bicycle only campsite with trees and a picnic table. Sweet!

The beach next to me looks out towards the southern end of Whidby Island.

Tomorrow I will decide if I am heading south through Bremerton or west around the Olympic Peninsula. There are trade offs I have to think about.

Aug 16: Day Hike on Ptarmigan Ridge near Mt Baker

Rene a took me on a beautiful hike near Mt Baker on the Ptarmigan Ridge trail.

This was the perfect trail to test out how my shin splints. I’ve learned to expect a lot of up and down on a trail with the word “ridge” in its name, but this trail is has long traverses with short an mild uphills. If you look closely, you can see the trail on the right of this photo and heading to the pass on the right.

The only drawback was the smoke haze that seems to be everywhere up here. At least we don’t smell it.

We saw lots of lupine an other alpine flowers

And we feasted in wild blueberries

We also saw another new (to me) flower: the Western Pasque Flower, or “Mouse on a Stick”

There was still plenty of snow up here

While having lunch we spotted a Mountain goat across the valley, and on the way back we came across a family of Ptarmigan

We heard stories of a flower-filled meadow and a herd of Mountain Goats just around the next rise, but we were out of time.

I’m happy to report that my shin felt fine after our 7-mile hike.

I need to come back here and hike some more!

Aug 15: Land and boat tours of the La Conner area

Today I got a VIP tour of Jack and René Hulbert’s seed farm business. I learned so much about what they do, it was amazing. The first half of today’s blog is tiny amount of fascinating knowledge I learned about seed farming.

We visited a cabbage seedling field planting where the tiny plants in soil pyramids are drooped down a funnel by a worker and are then planted and watered by a special machine m, all pulled by a tractor. For seed crop, they plant male seedlings on either side of the female seedlings to ensure good pollination. Once the males have done their job, they are removed. The male plants will also seed, but their seed is considered a contaminate.

The female plants are left to flower and seed then dry up. Many fields that appeared to me as dead, useless scrub are actually the crop! Here’s some cabbage seed almost ready for harvesting.

Once a field has been used for a crop, it will not be used for the same type of crop for 4 to 14 years to prevent contamination between strains. There are many, and always new variations of cabbage, beets, spinach, etc., and the seeds that are lost during harvesting could impact next years crop.

There is also a cross-contamination risk from the bees used for pollination, so the farmers work together to ensure that the plots used to grow similar crops are separated by anywhere from one to five miles.

The seed crop is harvested on sunny days to minimize moisture and quickly brought to the processing site where seeds and chaff are separated and undesirable seeds are removed. A variety of fascinating machines are used in this process, and are tailored to specific seed types.

Chaff is often removed with air tables that can blow off the lighter leafy/stem matter. Round seeds are rolled down a series of ramps that eliminate things that do not roll (stems, leaves, dirt) and things that roll too fast (rocks, undesirable seeds, etc.).

Non-round seeds need other mechanisms such as screen seines to separate the desirable from non-desirable seeds.

After the sorting/selection processes, pure seed is obtained, but that is not the end of this journey. Seeds can be coated with a layer of nutrients, fungicides and/or pesticides that help it get off to a good start. These too are sorted to ensure they are coated with just the right amount or else they are reprocessed or rejected.

Jack and René have to maintain high standards as their clientele that span the world expect the highest quality product. I did not take pictures of the processing machinery in case it was proprietary.

Wow, so much I never knew!

That evening my family got together for a boat cruise from La Conner through Deception Pass to the Salish Sea. We spotted Osprey, Bald Eagles, porpoises and two Minke whales! Here we all are: Jack, Michele, Janet, Dale and René.

Here’s the view heading out of Deception Pass under the bridge I’ll be biking over soon

After the cruise we grabbed one more beer with Julie and Eric

All in all a great day!

Aug 14: Birch Bay State Park to La Conner (64.9 miles)

I slept great! Since I was camping so close to the bay, I was worried about waking up covered in dew, but was pleasantly surprised to find my tent an sleeping bag dry.

I’m carrying my 2-person tent for just a bit more room. I had unpacked all four panniers the previous night and so need to repack everything again, but I have not yet memorized where everything goes. I need to balance weight on the left and right sides and keep more often items easily accessible. I keep a list of what goes in which bag as a Note on my phone.

My route today is southeast to Bellingham and then south along the coast to La Conner.

The start of the trip meanders through forest and farmland on a series of roads. Unfortunately I missed the turn 3 times and had to stop, reassess where I was (thank you Google Maps) and correct. This added a few miles to today’s ride.

It was a warm morning, eventually rising to 80F in the afternoon. There was a lot of smoke haze, so not much sun. I stopped for a snack east of Bellingham next to a farm. Very pleasant.

Two bikers soon arrived to join me. Bill was riding a recumbent bike (no photo) and Dave was riding a CoMotion Americano – the same bike as mine:

We had great pizza for lunch in Bellingham where I learned they are biking the Washington Coast from the US border down to Oregon. We rode together the rest of the day.

We biked along and above the coast through Chuckanut and had intermittent views of Samish Bay. We stopped in the tiny artist colony town of Edison and visited the Breadfarm Bakery where I was introduced to my new favorite treat: a crispy-outside, soft inside, Carmel croissant muffin known as a Kouign-amann. I should have bought a bunch for my ride!

I left Bill and Dave at Bay View State Park and proceeded south on a bike trail along the bay:

I arrived in La Conner at my step sister, René and her husband Jack’s house. I’ll be here for a few days visiting with other family that lives up this way (step mom Janet, step sis Michele, and step niece Julie and her fiancé Eric), learning about their seed farm business, boating in the Deception Pass area, hiking in the Mt Baker area, and eating well!

Thanks for reading!

Aug 13: Vancouver, BC to Birch Bay State Park (55.23 miles)

I caught the 7:45 train from Seattle to Vancouver arriving just past noon. I lugged my bike and huge duffel bag outside for repacking.

(An observant reader may point out the above photo was taken in the US). I unpacked my duffel bag into four pannier bags and hung them on my bike. Let the riding begin!

Today’s goal is to exit the city to the south and head southeast, cross back into the US and head down to Birch Bay State Park on the Sound in Washington.

Vancouver is very bike-friendly: in less than a mile riding on city streets I roll onto a bay-side bike trail that takes me to a bridge with a wide bike lane. Nice start!

I then rode south through a residential area. The street I took had long sections that where through traffic was limited to bike only.

I crossed the Fraser River on the Alex Fraser Cable-Stayed Bridge, which was the longest cable-stayed bridge until 2005. Perhaps you too did not know what a cable-stayed bride is: Cable-stayed bridges have cables attached to a central tower, whereas suspension bridges have the cables attach towers at either end of the span. I’ll be crossing a famous suspension bridge, the Golden Gate, in about a month.

The border crossing at Blaine was confusing to me: signs directed trucks to one place, busses to another, passenger cars with Nexus to another, and passenger cars without Nexus to yet another lane. No guidance for bicycles. I got in line with passenger cars without Nexus. Soon a guard directed me to the office building nearby. I walked up to the counter, handed my passport card and declared “I’m a bicyclist crossing the border”. Her response was “Looking as you do, you’d better be!”. I was handed a stamped piece of paper and was on my way in no time.

I biked on 2- lane road, sometimes with a shoulder, through rural farms down to the bayside community of Birch Bay. I camped at the local State Park.

I checked into a Hiker/Biker campsite away from the drive in spots and so near the bay that I could hear the bay wake crashing on shore.

I had the place to myself and quickly fell asleep. A successful first day!

Aug 11-12 Fun in Seattle

I took the looooong train ride from San Jose to Seattle (Amtrak’s Coast Starlight).

It was a 26 hour ride, but the bright side was that I did not have to disassemble my bike and the extra cargo fee was only $20.

I did upgrade myself to Business Class, which with the vacant adjacent seat and levitating leg rests, provided me a maybe 5’x4′ platform to sleep on. I successfully accomplished a decent 6+ hours sleep curled up, so I’m guessing I’m ready for the nighttime part of big wall climbing.

When I awoke early Friday morning, we were stopping at the train station in Dunsmuir, CA, where I had been a few months earlier while hiking the PCT. Thee air was very smoky from the Carr fire I think. The smoke remained a hug issue as we continued through Southern Oregon. This is the sunrise I captured

I arrived a few hours late, but was still able to score a few northwest microbrewed IPAs and a yummy burger before I crashed at my long time friend Mike Hobbs’ SO/girlfriend place in West Seattle.

On Saturday, we drove out to Elki Beach, not only because it is a beautiful place on the Puget Sound,

but because they were having a massive music festival: 4 stages plying about 5 bands each. We enjoyed the band “LVL Up”, but also learned they are breaking up. Good, but unpolished music, on the beach, and just to make sure you knew you were in Seattle, it rained on us.

We walked around a bit an wore out Cathy and Mike’s Greyhound,although she did enjoy trying to figure out what beach sand is.

Sunday we returned to the other end of Elki Beach for brunch and to watch the Scuba classes, and imitate art

We then visited the Locks at Ballard which, like the Panama Canal, elevate/lower boats entering and leaving lakes to the Sound. The Locks also have a fish ladder to help the ocean Salmon and Trout return to their freshwater breeding places. We saw a lot of big Salmon and trout but I failed to get good pictures. I did get a picture of Mike brushing his dogs teeth, which I did not know was a “thing”

So, thanks Mike and Cathy for letting me crash’s at your place, for feeding and entertaining me and for just being great people! Cathy, somehow I let you take all the pictures, so I have none with you!

Thanks for reading!