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Old 08-30-07, 04:02 PM   #1
pswann
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Destination Indecision--San Juan Islands, Napa, or VT?

A couple of weeks ago I posted a question about possible traffic concerns during a week-long tour in Vermont. I got some excellent responses (love this board!) and in the interim, my riding buddy and I started wondering why we were fixated on VT. When we thought of other possible destinations, two sprang to mind: Napa Valley, CA and the San Juan Islands in Washington.

Our travel window is roughly October 15-23. We realize this is high season in Napa, so we'll probably encounter increased car traffic. And it is approaching the rainy season in the San Juans.

My question is, has anyone toured either of these areas in this time period? And, if so, how'd you like it?
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Old 08-30-07, 04:15 PM   #2
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Have you considered SF to LA? I did that over Halloween week last year and it was excellent.
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Old 08-30-07, 04:59 PM   #3
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Here's a little secret: San Juans have over 200 days of sunshine each year. Shhh.... You'll have some rain during that time, but I don't think it would be enough to ruin the trip. Maybe half the days will see some rain (and not hard rain--more like a persistent drizzle).
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Old 08-30-07, 08:13 PM   #4
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The San Juans are nice, but there isn't much mileage to be covered considering you have eight days. The two biggest islands, Orcas and San Juan, can be completely covered by bike in a few hours each. If you are content to find a nice spot to just sit around and relax in for a few days, it could be a good trip. Or as part of your trip, spend a day riding Whidbey Is. and another day riding around rural Skagit County, both of which have very nice back roads and are adjacent to the San Juans.

Last edited by pmseattle; 08-30-07 at 08:15 PM. Reason: typo
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Old 08-30-07, 08:36 PM   #5
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Have you considered SF to LA? I did that over Halloween week last year and it was excellent.
The only problem with LA to SF is you have to start in LA.

Other than that it does seem it would be a nice ride.
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Old 08-30-07, 11:34 PM   #6
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The San Juans are nice, but there isn't much mileage to be covered considering you have eight days. The two biggest islands, Orcas and San Juan, can be completely covered by bike in a few hours each. If you are content to find a nice spot to just sit around and relax in for a few days, it could be a good trip. Or as part of your trip, spend a day riding Whidbey Is. and another day riding around rural Skagit County, both of which have very nice back roads and are adjacent to the San Juans.
One problem with this idea is that you might have to rent a car. Public transportation getting to the San Juans and Whidbey Islands would be hell at best, and if it's available you'll spend an inordinate amt of time getting there and back, and not much biking. And, the other problem might be, as pmseattle stated, is that you can cover the islands in a few hours or a day. And, rain. It might be a drizzle, but, it's late enough in the year that it will be a cold drizzle, so if you don't dry out you could stay cold the entire time. I get cold easily in the extremities, so, this is a big issue for me.

edit: sorry, I wasn't clear. Getting from the airport to the ferries for either Whidbey or San Juans isn't easy, public transportation a hassle. You could get you and your gear to the train station in downtown Seattle somehow (city bus would probably work), ride the train north to Mt Vernon (I think it stops there, you might actually get put on a bus, ask someone who knows better than I or check Amtrak's website. The Sounder might also work, but again, ask someone who knows), then ride from Mt Vernon to Anacortes to catch the ferry to San Juans. Then, ferry back and ride to Whidbey via backroads. Getting from Whidbey back to Seattle is someone else's answer. You could also potentially ride from the airport north, but, it's a lot of riding in industrial/urban traffic setting until you are well north of Seattle.
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Old 08-31-07, 12:41 AM   #7
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just come to Wisconsin... the biking is great here
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Old 08-31-07, 01:37 AM   #8
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I've spent a lot of time in the San Juans.

You're right about the weather... mid-Oct is right on the transition zone between the dry summer and the very rainy winter. The SJ's are in a bit of a rain shadow for systems from the south, but they get socked right between the teeth if a system comes roaring down the Strait - not only rain/drizzle, but some seriously high winds. But the weather doesn't really go into the crapper until Nov typically so the odds are in your favor. And it's never very cold (or hot for that matter). My guess is that you'd run about a 1/3 chance each of wonderful weather, a little bad weather, and really crappy weather. You roll the dice and take your chances.

While the SJ's aren't big, they are VERY hilly. You're almost constantly going up/down. If you're really exploring to the corners of the islands, you can easily spend a long day in the saddle or even two for either San Juan or Orcas, and Lopez is a nice ride for the day. Then threre's Shaw, and don't forget about the Gulf Islands on the Canadian side.

Time left over? Head over to Victoria and do some biking on Vancouver Island. Or from Friday, you can do a really great loop: Ferry to Victoria, then another to Port Angeles, then another from Port Townsend over to Whidbey Island, and then up to Anacortes and ferry back to Friday. You are NOT going to have any problem burning up a week or even two. And you always got to the head of the lines for the ferrys. You'll do a lot of ferry riding - I find them pleasant, but if you're the impatient type or want to boast of doing big miles, find another destination.

There are several books out on bicycling in the SJ's and Gulf islands.

Whatever you decide, have fun.

- Mark
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Old 08-31-07, 02:46 PM   #9
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If I was going to the San Juans from the Seattle airport I'd rough it to the Seattle-Bainbridge Island ferry, ride through Bainbridge and the Kitsap Peninsula to Hood Canal and Port Townsend, take the ferry to Whidbey Island, ride through Whidbey to Anacortes, and then I'd be at the San Juans! This would be at least two days' riding.

Not only is this a nice little ride, but it would take up some of those days that won't get used up just riding around the San Juans.
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Old 08-31-07, 05:44 PM   #10
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Vermont foliage usually peaks in late September / Early October. It would still be very nice in mid-October though. Mid-October colors peak in the Mid-Atlantic. PA and West Virginia are beautiful that time of year.

Here is a map showing average color peaks: http://www.weather.com/maps/activity...dex_large.html
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Old 09-01-07, 12:01 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markjenn View Post
I've spent a lot of time in the San Juans.

You're right about the weather... mid-Oct is right on the transition zone between the dry summer and the very rainy winter. The SJ's are in a bit of a rain shadow for systems from the south, but they get socked right between the teeth if a system comes roaring down the Strait - not only rain/drizzle, but some seriously high winds. But the weather doesn't really go into the crapper until Nov typically so the odds are in your favor. And it's never very cold (or hot for that matter). My guess is that you'd run about a 1/3 chance each of wonderful weather, a little bad weather, and really crappy weather. You roll the dice and take your chances.

While the SJ's aren't big, they are VERY hilly. You're almost constantly going up/down. If you're really exploring to the corners of the islands, you can easily spend a long day in the saddle or even two for either San Juan or Orcas, and Lopez is a nice ride for the day. Then threre's Shaw, and don't forget about the Gulf Islands on the Canadian side.

Time left over? Head over to Victoria and do some biking on Vancouver Island. Or from Friday, you can do a really great loop: Ferry to Victoria, then another to Port Angeles, then another from Port Townsend over to Whidbey Island, and then up to Anacortes and ferry back to Friday. You are NOT going to have any problem burning up a week or even two. And you always got to the head of the lines for the ferrys. You'll do a lot of ferry riding - I find them pleasant, but if you're the impatient type or want to boast of doing big miles, find another destination.

There are several books out on bicycling in the SJ's and Gulf islands.

Whatever you decide, have fun.

- Mark
+1.
Mark has nailed the San Juans and the Canadian side (Victoria/Gulf Islands) dead on. I have have cycled this entire area many, many times. The end of October may see you with some rain but nothing compared to what you can expect November through January. Personally, I would not hesitate at all in cycling the Northwest during your time frame. You can easily spend a day on each of San Juan, Orcas, Lopez and Saltspring (Canadian side). My advice is to explore every nook and cranny because you will find many hidden treasures...

Terry
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Old 09-01-07, 01:09 AM   #12
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Your worst choice would be most tourists' best ride ever, so don't lose any sleep over your decision. I'd just suggest that the Napa Valley tour is most suitable for an improvising mood -- there are lots of wonderful places just adjacent, and the weather is most likely to be accommodating. Whatever you decide, I'm jealous.
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Old 09-01-07, 09:13 AM   #13
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Excellent point

This is an excellent point, Takara! We are closing in on a decision. Just this morning we received what looks like a great itinerary from Life Cycle Adventures, a group that specializes in self-guided tours in Napa Valley. They put together a route for you and make hotel/B&B reservations, plus provided van support if you need it. Don't know the cost yet, but it sounds promising. Just reading their day to day decription of the route is pretty exciting. I'm kind of leaning toward Napa (for the relative warmth and great weather) while my buddy is leaning toward the San Juans, I think. But either way, I know we'll have a great time.

Thanks to all who have replied. This is really a great source of information. And if anyone else has ideas or opinions, please do share them.

Thanks again,

Phil
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Old 09-01-07, 11:55 AM   #14
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"This is an excellent point, Takara! "

What? There is wine in Napa!
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Old 09-01-07, 07:41 PM   #15
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good suggestion

There was this suggestion above:

"If I was going to the San Juans from the Seattle airport I'd rough it to the Seattle-Bainbridge Island ferry, ride through Bainbridge and the Kitsap Peninsula to Hood Canal and Port Townsend, take the ferry to Whidbey Island, ride through Whidbey to Anacortes, and then I'd be at the San Juans! This would be at least two days' riding."


Another variation on this is:
1. Ride to Seattle
2. Ferry to Bainbridge Island
3. Ride to Port Angeles
4. Ferry to Victoria, Canada.
5. Explore Victoria by bike
6. Ferry to San Juan Islands.
7. Spend remaining time in San Juans

you then have to get from Anacortes back to Seattle...
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