Clyde & Athena mini tour!
Although I enjoy riding to work and school and back home, the cycling I most enjoy is out on quiet country roads. Unfortunately I live in the middle of a sprawling metropolis and don't own a car, so getting out onto nice roads can be a challenge. Someday I'd really like to go on some long bicycle tours and really see parts of the country, but for now, lack of time, funds, and yes, fitness level, are preventing that from happening.
In the past, I have been able to get out on short little two to four day bike camping trips and I've really enjoyed those. I've never experienced being freer than being out on my bike with a full load of camping gear on it and several days to get where I'm going. I can stop wherever and whenever I want to rest or snack or take pictures, and if one is open to stealth camping, you have a lot of freedom of where you choose to stop for the night too. Although I've enjoyed nice hotels with saunas, hot tubs, and swimming pools, and the hospitality of old friends as well as camping or stealth camping. Sometimes the cost savings from latter methods has enabled a stay at someplace with those amenities and the mix can make for a real varied experience (all good!).
Unfortunately, I haven't been able to get out on a cycle-camping trip for some time. It's been two years now since my last trip; three and half days cycling from Sacramento to Clear Lake, going around the southern tip of Lake Berryessa and through Calistoga. Just shy of a 145 miles, a lot of it brutal mountainous terrain, but a lot of great cycling too. Even if the mountains sucked, it was still a great adventure.
Recently, I've been feeling the wanderlust keenly, but alas, my touring bike is in pieces, awaiting time and funds to complete a full rebuild, and I'm lacking a few key pieces of lightweight camping gear I can't really afford right now. Furthermore, despite riding 7 days a week, about 15 miles a day, I'm still 280 pounds and get winded easily on hills and stairs. During the summers, I'm out of college and only commuting three days a week to work, but that's still close to 50 miles a week minimum, but somehow I'm going to have to do more to get fitter!
Early last year, my long-term girlfriend said something to the effect of "well if that is how you are going to spend your vacations, I guess I need a touring bike!". Not that we don't spend vacation time together, but I am able to get away a little more often than her. Obviously I was stoked that she is interested in touring! She used to be an avid mountain biker, but we've only been able to get out into the woods a few times the last three summers, and we each were not riding any kind of bike anywhere at all for several years before that.
So, we did a bunch of research and looking around, she wanted something brand new (not a converted MTB) and coming from a mountain biking background she wasn't interested in a classic touring bike similar to a road bike, but with longer chainstays. So she ended up purchasing a 26" wheeled Novarra Safari from REI, but hated the trekking bars and grip shifters. I got her some rapid-fire shifters like her mountain bike's and mounted them on a sweptback bar and new stem as well as replacing the seat with something lady friendly, more suited to a more upright stance, and in her size. She's put some miles on it, but she doesn't like this bike too much, I agree with her that it seems overly heavy, but she keeps describing it as "feeling like it is going to fly apart" compared to her GT's on fast descents. Not that there is anything wrong with it, just compared to her GT's, which are rock solid, it doesn't feel good to her. Eventually I'll find something better, but for now, it's sunk cost, and she's probably stuck with it for loaded touring.
Fast forward to this year and given how heavy her touring rig is and how little she likes it, I snagged a '96 GT Pantera off Craigslist for a song and converted it to a city bike for her with a rigid fork, sweptback bars, cushy slick tires, and a suitable saddle, etc. She loves this bike and has been getting out and riding more. This bike is very light, and she likes how minimalist it looks at the moment, so it still doesn't have any racks or even fenders on it yet. She's not commuting by bike right now (despite regular pressure from me!) and has the Safari should she desire to carry panniers on a trip, so this one may well not get racks for a long time, if ever.
Both of our birthdays are in August, and we usually try and take time off together and take a romantic trip somewhere. But our landlord just jacked up our rent again and is threatening to sell our building, so we both haven't wanted to spend money on travel that we should be saving for; first months rent, last months rent, deposit, pet deposit, a moving truck, and maybe a storage space, so here we are August already and we didn't have anything planned. :(
Although my partner has been riding more, she's not in great shape (I'm in bad shape too!), and says that right about at the 20 mile mark she just feels like she runs out of energy. In addition, as mentioned, the bike I usually use for touring is mid-overhaul and stalled there due to lack of funds and other projects taking priority and there are also a number of pieces of camping equipment we need to replace with much smaller, lighter things, but can't afford to do so right now.
The past month or so I've been doing a lot of research looking for 2-3 day rides I could do from our place in North Seattle, and it dawned on me that I could probably put together a route that we could manage at our current fitness level and bike situation if instead of focusing on camping, I bit the bullet and sprung for a night at a bed & breakfast, and broke the trip up into small legs instead of 45 miles of riding all at once like I usually do on my trips.
So the last couple of slow nights at work I researched a route and found a nice bed and breakfast for us to stay at, that is also reasonably priced ($130 including hot tub!). When I presented the plan to her, and she said "sounds like fun" and is excited about it! Yay! (insert dancing emoticon here! - why don't we have one of those?)
So, as "tours" go, I don't even know if this qualifies. Although we are barely riding 60-70 miles spread out over two days, I don't think I've ridden more than 35 miles in a single day in over a year, and nothing like back to back days of that many miles in probably two years. I don't think my partner has ever ridden more than about 35 miles in one day, never back to back, and hasn't been riding a whole lot this year, although she has gotten out for a few 15-25 mile rides and two 35 mile rides. Our load will only consist of a nicer change of clothes to wear to the nice restaurant we have reservations at near the B&B, toiletries, food for a picnic the next day, our locks, and binoculars for bird-watching and taking in the view. Each leg is tiny, at about 10 miles or less to hopefully make it manageable and we are both doing this on the mountain bikes we have converted for riding in the city. Total rackage? A front rack and a saddlebag support on my bike. I'll be carrying everything on my bike, which is fine as I actually enjoy riding loaded, and miss doing so while on bike camping trips and when I used to specialize in cargo, years ago when I was a legal messenger.
So, all in all, I was very pleased when she looked over our itinerary and declared it as appearing quite do-able. Which is good, because the hills on Bainbridge eventually wore her down the last time we rode there, and I'm sure there will be some hills that will be tough for us between Kingston and Bainbridge too, given the topography of this area. Since I'll be carrying everything, she can ride her nice light Pantera which she far prefers over her Safari. My commuter isn't ideal as a tourer, but I do okay on it on the rare longer ride I get in, and since it is just an overnight at a bed and breakfast I should be able to keep the weight down. My commuter doesn't have a rear rack, but I do have a very large saddlebag (18L Zimbale, similar to the largest Carradice) and I'm quite accustomed to carrying loads on the front rack, although I'll try and keep that weight down so it doesn't fatigue me too much.
So maybe not a "real" tour, but hopefully sharing this will encourage others who are similarly challenged by lack of equipment and fitness level to get out and ride!
Ride 10.7 miles from our apartment in north Seattle to the Edmonds Ferry Dock. Depending on when we arrive there and how much of a wait until the next ferry leaves, either have lunch on the waterfront there or in Kingston where the ferry makes landfall. I picked out a place that looks good (Arnie's) in Edmonds and there are lots of good options on the other side of the water in Kingston. We could also check out the Edmonds Marsh, which should have some nice birdwatching, but I expect we'll proceed directly across the water.
Ride 14.1 miles from Kingston Ferry Dock (or nearby restaurant) to the Green Cat bed and breakfast a little past the town of Poulsbo. Depending on how we feel, and how early we get there, we may ride the big 2.1 miles over to Kitsap Memorial Park and check it out. Again, depending on how we are feeling (and how many hills are between the two!), we'll either walk, ride, or maybe take a cab to/from the nice restaurant we have reservations at for that night (Molly Gardens).
So, a whopping 25 to 35 miles for the ride out, split into two main legs, and a couple of optional ~5 mile round trip side excursions.
7.7 miles from the B&B into the town of Poulsbo for coffee, and likely elevensies of some variety as we'll likely be delayed leaving the B&B by checking out their extensive gardens. Plenty to choose from in the way of food in Poulsbo. Might be hilly between the two.
7.1 miles from Poulsbo to Bloedel Reserve, to check out the gardens, birdwatch for a while. Definitely some hills on this leg of the journey.
9.5 miles to Bainbridge Ferry Terminal, route can be shortened to 7 miles via HWY 3, which has less hills. This will likely be the toughest part of the ride, Bainbridge Island is famous for the "Chilly Hilly" bike ride, and it's no misnomer! We might stop at the famous yarn store in Bainbridge (Churchmouse) and will probably have dinner on the island before catching the ferry back to Seattle. I do feel really lucky that we have so many ferry options within striking distance of home, lets us get out of the city! We really liked the Harbour Public House when we rode over there for me to pick up a rear wheel from a Craigslist seller, so I suspect we'll eat there again before riding over to the ferry terminal to catch a boat back to Seattle.
Finally, 10.3 miles from Colman (Seattle) Ferry Dock to home via Myrtle Edwards & Ship Canal Trails and then north on city streets. This is a familiar and pleasant ride for us (excepting the "mont" in Fremont!) and will probably fly by.
So, about 35 miles (34.6 + restaurant & shop detours) for the second day. 60-70 miles total, depending on routes chosen and side trips. I've done more than that in one day with a single overloaded pannier before!
It's a start though!
Hopefully next year I'll have my tourer built back up and we'll both be a little stronger and with some new lightweight gear and we can get out and do something a little more ambitious and a little more suited to our tastes! But, all in all, I think this will be a fine and fun adventure that will whet our appetites for more and be something that we can accomplish without it being miserable or totally exhausting.
I should have nice pictures to share here about a week from now!
Great plan! It is a tour, you are out for more than one day. :)
I am doing a tour starting later this coming week and I am not camping, I don't have the set up for it. Instead it is a supported tour with hotels and B & Bs.
I love when it becomes an adventure. And riding with my wife is the best. Congratulations!
Oh, and happy birthday to both of you! And pix or it didn't happen! ;)
Thanks for the birthday wishes!
I too love riding with my partner, I'm very happy she is game to do so, even though at times the hills make it miserable.
A quick recap (TL: DR version of the above) ;)
- ride 10.7 miles from our apartment in north Seattle up to the Edmonds ferry dock and take the ferry over to Kingston and catch brunch
- ride just over 8 miles to Port Gamble for afternoon tea in the Tea Room there.
- ride another 6 and half miles on to our bed and breakfast for the night.
- optional 5 additional miles to and from dinner at the spectacular Molly Ward Gardens restaurant
- 8.5 miles from the B&B to the town of Poulsbo for lunch, via the wonderful Big Valley Road
- 6.7 miles from Poulsbo to the Bloedel Reserve to view the gardens and bird watch
- 3.0 miles from the Bloedel Reserve to have a picnic at Hidden Cove Park on Bainbridge Island
- 5.7 miles from Hidden Cove to Churchmouse Yarns in Winslow
- 1.1 miles from Churchmouse to Harbour House & then ferry
- 10.3 miles from Colman Ferry Dock to home
= 35.3 miles
60-65 miles total. Doesn't sound like much, but based on prior experience on Bainbridge Island, we expected some hills that would be difficult for us.
Arrival at the Edmonds ferry. A block or two past it (to the north) there is a nice little strip of a park that overlooks it and the water. I didn't frame this shot as well as I could have, I couldn't see anything in the viewfinder. There was a little bit of rain so light that it was closer to mist as we rode north out of Seattle, but we are used to that, and it was actually quite pleasant with the temperature being cool, especially for an August day, about perfect for cycling in really.
I chose to try out putting all of our stuff into one pannier and my large saddlebag, with just locks and cables and a few straps in a small bag strapped to the far side of the front rack, counterbalancing our clothes and toiletries. This way my partner could ride unloaded, on her converted mountain bike she uses around town, rather than on her tourer that she doesn't enjoy riding.
I wanted her to be able to enjoy the trip as much as possible, and I enjoy pedaling a loaded down rig, so she's just got tools and spare tube in the saddlebag, and phone and wallet in my little top tube saddle bag at the front there, plus one of our cue sheet holders on the handlebars.
A shot of the dahlia garden in Port Gamble:
The 8 miles to there from the Kingston ferry dock was very do-able, no hills that were very hard at all, few long grades, and the temperature continued to co-operate, being quite cool and the light rain had lifted. Lots of low, dark, threatening clouds, and even some clearing fog, but the rain forecast for later in the day never materialized over us.
The view north out of Port Gamble from the overlook on the waterfront there:
A naval vessel* has adopted the highway between the Hood Canal bridge and the bed and breakfast. The sailors probably hate their captain! They're already serving our country, and now they have to spend their time off picking up roadside trash and trucker bombs?! I wish I had taken a photo of the Adopt-A-Highway sign outside of Port Gamble that said something like "Paranormal Services", but we were cruising along so nicely I was loathe to stop.
* The Bangor submarine base is right nearby, but Bremerton also has a large naval yard and isn't too far away.
This was part of the road to the B&B from the highway. Nice riding here! If only it all could be like this!
We opted to walk the two and half miles from the B&B down to Molly Ward Gardens for dinner and catch a cab back up the hill, so a little over 26 miles total for the first day, with the detour around Kingston to the excellent J'aime les Crepes Creperie for brunch and another little detour off our route to Kitsap Memorial State Park.
Formatting-wise I suspect I should split this into two posts, so day two next!
"Pics or it didn't happen!"
Alright! You asked for it!
The second day started out on-track for our plan and very nice! We had a nice breakfast at the Greencat B&B, although we felt a little guilty as we weren't very hungry yet and didn't want to eat too heavily before riding, so we didn't actually have very much of the nice food provided. After taking in the three acres of whimsical gardens on the grounds we set out on the nice roads out to the highway and a long descent down to Big Valley Road.
The grounds of the gardens were filled with handmade whimsical wood furniture like this.
This house well on it's way to being overtaken by moss and ivy is at the north end of Big Valley Road. When I was doing my research on which routes to take on our trip I was trying to discover how many hills were on competing routes and looked at a few Strava segments in the course of this research. I was baffled as to why someones Strava info showed them going back and forth over this 4.7 mile long road several times in the middle of a long (40+ mile) loop ride they did. Baffled, that is until we rode it. Big Valley Road is the kind of road you dream about! Almost no traffic, a decent shoulder (although given the light traffic and my mirror, we rode in the road for much of it), easy rolling hills, never too steep in the ascent, never so steep in the descent that you really spun out, and so could keep pedaling. Beautiful farms with llamas, horses, goats, etc and vistas of woods, hills, and across the valley at times.
We had arrived at the wonderful Molly Ward Gardens restaurant too late to view the gardens before having a spectacular meal (largely drawn from said gardens), but they graciously offered for us to stop by anytime, whether eating there or not to view the gardens. Our route took us right past them on the second day so we took them up on their offer and had a most pleasant break very early in our ride. Neither of us wanted to stop after only having ridden two and half miles and much of that downhill, but we were glad we did as their five acres of gardens were quite nice.
I particularly liked their use of these windows in this fence bordering their property.
At the end of Big Valley Road, we turned onto Bond Road to roll into the town of Poulsbo for some lunch. The highway signs directing traffic into Poulsbo made me doubt my handwritten cue sheets for once and instead of heading forward into town on a smaller street, I got into the left hand turn lane at the first traffic light. When my light turned green, this happened! -
I've got a few too many images to fit into one post, so the rest of the story in just a minute, as I split this into two posts.
When it turned out that Poulsbo inexplicably lacked a bike shop our plans had to change. We walked 1.7 miles with our bikes to downtown Poulsbo to catch some lunch as planned and figure out our next steps. Luckily I remembered from all the research I was able to do on slow nights at work that there is a path that runs from the American Legion park along the waterfront and then on a boardwalk over the water into town, so the hike-a-bike portion wasn't all bad:
A chamber of commerce style posting board at the park along the waterfront offered up this false hope:
Notice "bicycles" listed. The sign looked old though, and sure enough, when I checked out their website with my phone, it listed three times as many departments now, but no longer included bikes. I suspected that if somehow they did still have some sort of bicycles there, unlike just about any bike shop, they wouldn't have a square taper NDS crank available. So, after spending lunch researching the local bus system we hiked up the hill to the Poulsbo "Transfer Center" which turned out to be a pair of covered bus stops and two port-a-potties!
While pushing our bikes up the hill to the transfer center, we passed this very Boot Hill looking cemetery:
I offered many times to let my girlfriend ride ahead and I'd catch up to her, but she wasn't having any of it! If I was stuck walking, she was going to walk with me! :D
It was only a half hour on an air conditioned bus (during the hottest part of an 80 degree day) to the ferry terminal in Winslow though. The bus made limited stops, but this still got us within a few (uphill) blocks of Classic Cycles on Bainbridge Island. We had visited this shop before as they advertise a bicycle museum as well. The museum turns out to mostly be bicycles on the walls and ceiling and one short hallway of the bike shop itself, but is pretty amazing in the bikes they have on display. Definitely worth the stop! I had visited the other bike shop in Winslow, in the past, as well, and I fully expect they would have been able to help me just as well, but Classic Cycles happened to be a little closer to where the bus got us to. As I suspected, they were able to have us on the road again in about 20 minutes.
So we missed out on right at 15 miles of riding, checking out the Bloedel Reserve and our planned picnic at Hidden Cove Park, but we also missed out on the worst hills of the trip and riding in the hottest part of a rather warm day! 80 degrees might not sound that hot to many of you, but both of us have lived in Seattle for a number of years now, and although we moved from very hot places, we are well acclimated to this climate now and that is quite hot to us! :lol: I imagine it was rather humid as well, at least for these parts. The hills up to this point were eminently doable, even for us, as overweight and out of shape as we were, and so after having all the rest of the ride be easier than we expected it to be, we weren't heart-broken to miss this portion of our planned ride that we know from previous experience as being quite challenging for us!
Happily back on our bikes again, we rode just shy of another mile and a half to Churchmouse Yarns & Teas, Harbour Public House for a meal and a few well earned drinks and then to the ferry dock for the trip back to Seattle.
This was one of those times I would have loved to have a helmet mounted video camera. We both love riding our bicycles onto a ferry, something about it is so cool, but this time it was really grand! The open end of the ferry perfectly framed the highrises of downtown Seattle just beyond the headland protecting the harbor.
Mount Rainier was just visible as we pulled out of Eagle Harbor on the ferry out of Winslow on Bainbridge Island.
The moon was out as well.
At this point we were looking forward to the ride home from Colman Ferry Dock in Seattle. This is a ride we know well, and other than the slog up the "mont" in Fremont, we usually take the very pleasant route along the trail in Myrtle Edwards Park, past Pier 90, on the trail through the Balmer rail yard, and then the Ship Canal Trail. After climbing through Fremont, it is a nearly flat, fast (for us!) ride home.
Alas, the days detours and annoyances were not at an end! In all my research on our routes, I had neglected the final leg home, as I ride this sometimes two days a week. What's to know right? Well, as we rolled up to the entrance to Myrtle Edwards Park and the trail leading along the waterfront for a pleasant sunset ride, we were met instead by 40,000 stoners exiting Hempfest! AHHHHHH! It had been held at a different park, in a different part of the city for several of the recent years, so it wasn't on my radar at all! My partner insisted on trying to force our way into the crowd, despite my telling her that to my eye, the police were obviously trying to push everyone out of the park before sunset and there was no way they were going to let us through, much less the press of humanity impeding our progress.
Sure enough, not only did a police officer stop her from entering the path, but some event designated "official" type ranger person wearing a badge in the shape of a pot leaf then proceeded to sarcastically apologize for us not being able to "go on our little ride". I had to immediately turn around, as I was sorely tempted to flatten his nose, but there were police all around. I was impressed by his skill in community outreach, being so rude and disrespectful to us, for no reason at all! My girlfriend actually tried to reason with the cop, explaining that forcing us onto city streets with 40,000 stoners getting behind the wheels of their cars and through the bar traffic of the Belltown neighborhood was endangering us, but of course, no dice.
So we had to hammer out a route up the hill from the waterfront, through massive amounts of pedestrians, and summer bar crowds across the part of town where the city's two competing founding fathers street grids of one-way streets don't line up! I was looking forward to us putting in 10.3 miles on the way home, but this route was actually shorter, albeit far less pleasant, netting us only 7.5 more miles.
Total for day two:
sadly just 16.2 miles
So, a whopping 42.2 miles total for the two days! ;)
Still, we weathered the curveballs thrown at us like champs, and enjoyed the nice parts so much that she has already started planning our next overnight bed and breakfast bike trip! WIN! :thumb:
Happy trails everyone!
Great write-up, always like photos from back home. Taking your time and smelling the roses is best in my book.
Later tonight or tomorrow, I'll do a little editing and clean up the repetitive word use and catch any typos or such that I missed. Thanks for the props!
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