December 18, 2014 | Posted in:Vancouver Island, Washington

The ride out of Sooke was again a smooth one along the Galloping Goose and Lochside Trails. I should note, however, that there are three spots where bridges over roads had been removed when the trail was built. It is quite a surprise after several miles of 2% maximum grade to suddenly drop into a gully and have to pop back up a 10%+ grade on gravel. It may have been even steeper because there was no possibility of riding. My bike with all the weight on the back was especially fun to push because the light front end coupled with the slight offset of me standing on the side and utter lack of traction made the bike naturally glide right off the side of the trail. I’m not going to say I did any cursing, but I’m not going to say I didn’t. Obviously we were expecting it on the way out, so it wasn’t as bad.

Galloping Goose Trail

Galloping Goose Trail

The ferry out of Canada was loaded with touring cyclists, from the crazy young Brits heading wherever south with cobbled together equipment to the large elderly group on folding bicycles doing a week-long supported tour. The computer on the American side had broken down, so they almost left the foreigners behind in Canada. When we got to the States, the customs guy was standing there holding a bridge hand’s worth of passports while radioing into another office to run the information. We were the last and by the time he got to us he was looking pretty weary and in the mood to get the hell out of there. Us too.

Lots of touring bikes waiting for the Sydney Ferry

Evening on the San Juan Islands ferry

We had hoped to find a decent spot to stealth camp just outside the ferry terminal, but the topography was all wrong, so we opted for a fairly nice hiker/biker site at the nearby Washington County Park. We had dreaded climbing the massive hill out of the terminal and wanted to save it for morning when we were fresh, but when we climbed it that night, it was much easier than we had remembered. The campground was on a dead end at the bottom of a huge hill, so we got to have our morning climb anyway.

Our first hill out of the campground the next morning would be a pale comparison to things yet to come. The rest of the way to Whidbey Island was an onslaught of steep hills. Brandy was ready to kill me because my map-based hill predictions were consistently off. Well, not exactly. Wherever I said there would be a hill, there was a hill. It’s just that there were a lot more hills in between those hills. I was a bit confused about why the cycling map chose to show some hills and not other, more odious ones, but I was happy to have a cycling map at all.

The crossing over Deception Pass to Whidbey is a huge metal span over a deep strait with fantastic views in either direction

The crossing over Deception Pass to Whidbey is a huge metal span over a deep strait with fantastic views in either direction.

The geologic history of the area as a heavily glaciated subduction zone has led to some very interesting island shapes. Whidbey Island is very long and quite narrow is some spots with many knobby protrusions, and you know I’m a sucker for strangely shaped landmasses. It has been claimed to be the longest island in the continental US, which is, of course, a preposterous claim to anyone who has lived in New York. It is the fourth largest though, which I found surprising considering that I’d never heard of it before this trip. It is also topographically challenging, so we enjoyed several more solid climbs through the rest of the day. Cycling was a bit of a hassle owing to the fact that your options were either massive, steep hills with lots of extra miles, or a highway with an inordinate amount of traffic of some of worst drivers we’d yet encountered in the PNW.

Jet over Whidbey Island

There is an Air Force training school on the island, so you also need to endure the roaring of fighter jets endlessly circling overhead. This might actually be a benefit to the local residents because it makes the island less desirable to the Seattle tech elites whose second homes seem to be creeping around the surrounding islands, driving up cost of living.

We took side roads as much as possible, but hopped on the highway at points to avoid the >>> on the map, indicating mega hills. We seemed to have more or less chosen the reverse of a classic car rally route as there was a consistent flow of old-fashioned cars heading in the opposite direction, complete with passengers in period dress.

Old fashioned cars on Whidbey Island

Cycling on Whidbey Island

Whidbey Island

We ended our day at South Whidbey Island State Park where we had some nice hiker/biker sites secluded from the regular camping next to a trail along some cool bluffs. Another cyclist showed up after we’d gotten settled in and we shared our hot dinner with him and he brought over a local beer in a large-format bottle. Yes!

Hiker/biker camp at Whidbey Island State Park

Camp at Whidbey Island State Park

Smugglers Cove Road (I’m also a sucker for cool road names) out of the park was a dream, but we were a little disheartened by how tough things had been the previous day, and not really looking forward to a day of suburban cycling into Seattle (Brandy the former, Lewis the latter). We have a bit of mental disconnect we need to work on to improve our cycling moods. We both have different conditions that affect our headspace, which can lead to one of us bringing the other down and negative attitudes. Brandy is frustrated by surprise hills and terrain that is tougher than it seems like it should be. I absolutely despise suburban riding and am greatly affected by driver behavior. As of writing this in November, we’ve gotten way better at dealing with each other’s negativity flashpoints, but it is always an ongoing process when cycling with others.

The ferry to the mainland dropped us into Mukilteo, a huge suburb with a nice, big climb out of the terminal on a busy highway. We participated in some delay tactics by lounging around at an ice cream shop at the terminal.

When we could no longer put off the pain, we began the long climb along the busy highway out of the terminal. As my patience with traffic is short, I led us off the first opportunity to flee the horrible highway and butted right into a hill of biblical proportions. As I ground the million percent grade at about 0.01 mph, I didn’t dare look back. I could feel the daggers of Brandy’s eyes in my spine well enough. The bicycle maps provided by the counties in the area are generally quite good, but in this case, there was no >>> for this >>>>>>. Of course, this >>>>>> meant this < the rest of the way into Seattle, so we had that. However, the next several miles through Mukilteo and Lynnwood were a suburban nightmare of high-speed multi-lane roadways, strip malls and heavy, aggressive traffic. The guy who slowed down to give us the thumbs up on our trip was a boost, but that was more than wiped away by the scumbag who swerved at me and then yelled at us to get where we belong when I calmly asked him why he did that. Ass. That experience makes me hope to never see the borders of those towns again.

Douchebag driver in Lynwood, WA

The douchebag

Once we got to the I-5, we were able to finally hop on a nice trail most of the way into the city. It was fairly well signed, except at one point where we missed our turn and got to enjoy a nice, unnecessary hill. After finding our way back to the trail, we ran into our friend from the night before and rode with him the next several miles. He had gotten lost as well and got to enjoy the same little detour we had :)

Riding through Seattle was easy enough and we got to our friend’s place in Capitol Hill without incident. I was in a pretty negative mood at this point, so we promptly went out for drinks at a funky bar after a quick dinner and shower.

Biking into Seattle... Ahhh!

Biking into Seattle… Ahhh!

Traffic jam on I-5

Glad I’m not involved with this.


We met some kids at the bar who were on an adventure of their own. They had ridden across the country on 30+ year-old motorcycles. We invited them over to our friend’s rooftop which has amazing city views and had a fun after party with them chatting about travel and adventure and life. This was exactly what I needed to erase all of my negativity and renew my travel excitement. I got to feel the serendipity of their day ending in a place they never would have expected, and my day ending with some people I would never have expected. This is exactly why I travel. You can have the worst, most defeating day and it can still end at the top of the world sharing the mutual energy of beautiful people randomly entering your life.

A rooftop view of Mount Rainier where I set up my office for the next few days.

My office for the next few days