Have you followed this whole journey from the beginning? Follow this link to find all the episodes of our North American Cycle Tour – 2019.
Thursday 4th July: Rockport to Burlington (Washington, USA): 63.6kms
Ride Time: 4hrs 20mins / Ave Speed: 9.1mph
It was 10.30 am before we got away. We were a bit hung over from last night’s little effort at the pub, but we had a great time. I also looked closely at the other tent poles, and they were all in a similar condition, with cracks on their ends. We won’t need the tent again after this for a while, so I can fix the poles properly in Bellingham, which is now only two day’s ride away.
We got back out on the 20 and headed to Concrete for lunch. The route takes you into the town before a river and brings you into the main street via another bridge behind the town. The place looked deserted until we hit Main Street. Most of the town appeared to be enjoying a band at the Veteran’s Memorial Park in the middle of town. We slowly rode past it, taking some photos of all the flags on display. There were hundreds of them.
We stopped at the 5B’s Bakery and Eatery just past the park. It appeared to be a regular place to stop for cyclists as there were half a dozen bikes in the racks outside. We parked our bikes on the verandah fence as they won’t fit in the standard racks everyone uses because of our panniers.
We ordered some coffee and cake and sat beside a table full of cyclists. It turned out they were a Bellingham family staying at a campground down the road from here. As we were still not entirely happy to be riding on the 20, we asked them about the Cascade Trail, a local Rail-to-Trail route they had used to ride here. We were just worried about how sandy it was as our bikes being so heavy, tended to sink into it, making life very difficult. They said the trail was packed hard and shouldn’t be a problem. So, knowing the trail would probably take us longer to ride, we chose it anyway, as it was another chance to stay out of the traffic on the 20.
The trail was good in some sections but rough and slow in others. The bikes were taking a bit of a hiding, as were our asses! Frustrated with the conditions of the trail and our lack of progress, we got back on the highway just before Hamilton, although we returned to the trail briefly to short-cut the town center.
Now back on the ACA route, we rejoined the 20 just after the tiny hamlet of Lyman. We had added a few kilometers to the ride by staying on the route, but there was little traffic to trouble us as everyone was using the 20.
Now back on the highway and closer to the coast, the shoulder had widened, and the road surface was good. This meant we began to make good time and were soon on the outskirts of Sedro-Woolley, a sprawling town with a 4th of July rodeo event in full swing. The traffic here was thick, and so were the cowboys. They were everywhere!
Fortunately for us, a wide footpath follows the main road through town that acts basically as a bike path. So, rather than mix it with the traffic, we made good time on the footpath and were soon through town.
Shazz had managed to secure a room for us in a Motel 6 in Burlington, no mean feat on one of the US’s biggest public holidays. This meant we would be within riding distance of our Trans-America goal, Bellingham, and staying with our friends, the Bowers, once again.
The straight stretch of road between Sedro-Woolley and Burlington is nothing to get excited about, especially after the wilderness we have just ridden through. Down here, away from the mountains, the coastal plain is flat and mainly given over to cropping. Most of the distance is on Native American land, and most side roads had a fireworks stall on the corner.
Shazz got out Google Maps to thread us through the small side streets of Burlington to the Motel 6 on Burlington Boulevard in the main center of town. The room was nice and neat, and clean. The bed was comfortable, but there was no fridge, which was tricky if you wanted to take a couple of beers back to the room.
We were tired but got cleaned up and headed down to the Red Robin Burgers and Brews just down the road. The 50s-themed restaurant was full of holidaymakers, but had just what we wanted, a burger and a couple of craft beers.
We stocked up with more food at Fred Meyers and returned to the room for an early night.
Friday 5th July: Burlington to Bellingham (Washington, USA): 35kms
Ride Time: 2hrs 30mins / Ave Speed: 8.6mph
Our ride today was tracing our steps from last year. We didn’t need to look at Google Maps to find our way up onto Old Highway 99, which runs adjacent to Interstate 5 heading north.
We cycled up and over the Samish River and up to Bow Hill Road where we encountered a Detour Sign that said the next bridge was closed for resurfacing. Damn! That would mean we’d need to cycle a significant amount of extra kilometers. We waited a while for someone to drive down from the roadworks direction. Eventually, a guy in a pickup drove down to our intersection, and we stopped him and asked if it was OK for cycles to pass by the roadworks. He wasn’t sure, but he said we should ask the workers, they might let us through.
In the past, we’ve always been able to cycle through roadworks, especially if it was the weekend and no one was working on them. We had done it many times. The only problem was the bridge was at least a couple of kilometers up the road and out of our sight. If we got turned around, four more kilometers would be added to our detour. We were apprehensive, but we finally decided to ride up to the bridge and try our luck.
The bridge was awash with busy workers, trucks, and the stench of freshly-laid tar. We nudged up to the barrier and looked hopefully at the work crew. One of them got an older guy’s attention, who came over to us. By the look on his face, I was expecting to be turned around, but, on the contrary, after making sure the machinery had been turned off and the other crew was alerted to our presence, he begrudgingly let us through. It was a sticky, smelly affair as we negotiated our way across the roughly turned-up surface of the bridge. But, once we were on the other side, we knew we wouldn’t be bothered by any traffic because of the road closure. Happy days!
We were making good time, so we decided to stop for lunch at the Alger Bar and Grill in the tiny crossroads village of Alger. The owners, a couple of local ladies, were very chatty and cheerful, and surprisingly, a fair number of patrons came and went while we took our time.
Just up the road, we crossed under the Interstate and rode down and around Lake Samish. This was the exact same route we took last year, so we knew we had a mighty big hill and an upwards ride to the Bower’s house in Bellingham.
Last year we made the ascent with about four rest stops. I was excited to see how we’d go this year with our “climbing legs,” now a real thing. I managed to reach the Shell Service Station at the top of the winding climb in one go and was barely drawing breath. Shazz was forced to get off the road to let two passing cars by her, but other than that, she’d made it in one go as well. We were both well chuffed. We now had a measure of our improvement from last year and were clearly much stronger on the hills.
As Stephanie and Rich wouldn’t be home till around 5.30 pm, we had plenty of time to kill. Stephanie had given us the code for the front door so that we could let ourselves in, but we still felt a little awkward about entering someone’s house while they weren’t there.
Eventually, we began to get cold. So we decided to push on anyway and let ourselves in. We knew Steph and Rich trusted us anyway. The road up to their place is also quite a climb, but we managed to handle it better than last year’s effort.
We rode down the long dirt drive and onto their flower-laden patio. We had arrived. We had finally finished what we set out to do last year and were pretty happy with ourselves. The extra training and preparation before the ride had paid off. We are now experienced climbers who can tell anyone that we’ve ridden over the Rocky Mountains on fully-loaded bicycles!
We’re not stopping yet. There’s still the Pacific coast to explore. Check out – Southbound and Down: Cycling from Bellingham to Anacortes.