Whitefish, Montana to Seattle, Washington: (Amtrak)
Unfortunately, as it was an overnight journey, we missed out on any mountain scenery in the darkness, par for the course at the moment! We awoke around dawn to find ourselves in the Columbia River Valley and still well amongst the smoke we thought we’d escaped from back in The Rockies. We wound our way through some nice forest scenery before hitting the gloomy skies of the coast above Seattle.
The West Coast’s burgeoning homeless problem was on full display for us outside the train window. Almost every railway bridge and overpass was occupied by a rag-tag collection of tents and makeshift shelters. Personal possessions lay scattered about and nobody seemed to pay any attention to them anyway. With winter coming, I wondered how these people would survive in these conditions.
Seattle railway station is a grand affair with white marble walls and ornate stucco ceilings. We had booked a Warmshowers host for the night in Fremont, on the other side of town 9kms away, so with plenty of time, we loaded up our bikes and disposed of the boxes and had a look around.
We rode right through the centre of the city using Google Maps. It was actually quite easy with well-defined bike lanes to guide us through the traffic. The ride is a bit up and down, especially if you go down towards the waterfront (which we avoided).
We had to wait at the 4th Avenue Bridge as it opened up to let some shipping traffic through, then we made our way across and headed up past the Fremont Brewing Company to our Warmshowers hosts Judy and David. It was so nice of them to host us, as they were heading to Europe the next day and with 2 small girls, were frantically getting everything together they’d need for the trip.
We talked with Judy for a while and headed back on foot to the Fremont Brewery for a few drinks. The place was pumping with young, trendy sorts chatting enthusiastically around wooden barrels that served as tables. Shazz found a Vietnamese restaurant on Google and after a couple of pints, we headed around there for our first Pho in some time.
Back at Judy and David’s, we met David and took their suggestion about riding up to Bellingham via the islands to the west of the coast. As we had plenty of time now, the island route meant we could look around a bit and stay out of the busy traffic areas on the west coast highways.
Seattle to Bainbridge Island, Washington: (15kms/Ferry)
In the morning, we said goodbye to Judy and David, the girls seeing us off out the front in the street. We headed back down to the waterfront and the ferry terminal for breakfast. We bought our tickets and had to kill an hour before boarding. There we quite a few other cyclists in line as well, which was a good sign.
We were told we might see whales or dolphins on the short trip over to the island, that got us excited, but, alas, there were none. Once at the island, we waited for all the cars to disembark and then we cycled up into the main township of Winslow. We were told we could camp at Fay Bainbridge Park on the north side of the island, but we wanted to know if there were any spots available today before we rode up there. So we went to the Tourist Information and they told us it was booked out. It had changed from a State Park to a City Park and you could now reserve places – which everyone now did!
So we went and had a coffee and Shazz got on her phone and began looking around for accommodation. Our good karma stocks must have been working for us today as she found a Warmshowers host just up the road a few kilometres. Jacqui, our host, was at work, but told us to go up there and let ourselves in! We said thanks, but no thanks, we’d rather wait till you were home first. So, we hung around town getting lunch and more coffees and looking in the shops.
Eventually we rode up to their place, their garage door was open and there was stuff piled everywhere for everyone to see, but no-one was home. We sat out the front for a while until Jeremy (Jacqui’s husband) arrived. Jeremy was an Englishman, very casual and very likeable. He invited us in and settled us in a spare bedroom. The house was adorned with all kinds of souvenirs and mementos of their extensive travels. We felt immediately at home here in this place.
The large kitchen area looked as though a bomb had hit it! They’d had a surprise birthday party the night before for their son and the dishwasher had broken down. There were dishes of all sorts everywhere you looked. When Jackie arrived they informed us they were heading into Seattle to have dinner with their son for his birthday, so we’d have the house to ourselves tonight. So, wishing to repay their hospitality, we got stuck into the dishes and cleaned up around the kitchen for them.
They are such nice people, we eventually stayed 3 nights as Jeremy wanted to show us around the island and take us for a beer or two at the Bainbridge Island Brewery.
On the last day, we spent the morning picking up rotting apples in their orchard for them. It was back-breaking work, but we wanted to repay their amazing hospitality. We also were able to organise a place to camp for the next night at Jeremy’s friend’s place just above Port Ludlow, about 50kms from here, so it suited us well. That night, with a bit of coaxing, Jeremy and Jacqui got out their slides and we had a great time watching some of their travels and listening to some remarkable stories. We found we shared a lot in common with these guys, I hope we keep in touch.
Bainbridge Island to Port Ludlow, Washington: (54kms)
In the morning we said our goodbyes, it was a little sad, but we needed to press on. We headed down to the 305 and followed it across the Agate Passage Bridge. We were astounded by how much traffic was on this island highway and were beginning to wonder whether we’d have been better off riding up the coast. So, after a while, we began looking for some quieter side roads to exit onto.
There wasn’t much choice around here though, so we rode up through Poulsbo and got onto Highway 3. At least this road had a decent shoulder to ride on. We followed the 3 up until the Hood Canal Floating Bridge which connected to the Olympic Peninsula. The smoke-filled air gave the place an eerie feel and we were glad to finally get to the other side of this rather long bridge.
Now on Route 104, we found a small road cutting across to Beaver Hill Road which would eventually take us into Port Ludlow. As we were about to find out, Rocktogo Road was an abandoned quarry road and was now overgrown with waist-high weeds. Nevertheless, we forged on as it was still very cyclable, at least we were out of the traffic! At the far end we had to squeeze the bikes under a chain fence that stopped traffic from entering, but we were now on Beaver Hill Road and into lighter traffic.
We took the Oak Bay Road turnoff and rolled into the Port Ludlow Village Market. As it was still pretty early, we sat down at a table and had something to eat and a coffee. Asking around, we found we could buy some beers down at the Marina to take with us up to Steve and Lisa’s place (Jeremy and Jackie’s friends). Down at the Marina, we sat down with two guys under a pergola and enjoyed a couple of beers while we watched the comings and goings of the boats.
Eventually, we continued up Oak Bay Road to Steve and Lisa’s. Steve was already home and showed us around to the front of their gorgeous log home, right on the water’s edge. Greetings over, we brought out our beers and sat around on the garden furniture while Steve bought out a huge bowl of Dungeoness crabs to eat. He had pulled them out of pots from the front of his place just an hour ago and cooked them for us. They were so delicious, it was hard not to make pigs of ourselves.
Shortly after, Liza arrived home and joined us out the front. We learnt that Jeremy is building Steve and Liza’s new house for them and that they were in the process of packing up their place, so sleeping inside was not an option as the spare room was full of packing boxes.
Not bothered in the least, we picked a spot on the grass to the side of the house with a bay view and pitched the tent. A little bit of rain during the night cooled the air and made it comfortable for sleeping in our bags. We had landed on our feet once again!
Port Ludlow to Port Townsend, Washington: (27kms)
In the morning, Liza made us coffee and something to eat, having said our goodbyes and thanking them again, we pushed our bikes up the steep hill to the main road and headed off to Port Townsend.
We took our time getting up there as it was only about 27kms, stopping at a service station for brunch and getting onto the Pacific Northwest Trail to ride through forest and down to the waterfront at Port Townsend. We had arranged again to stay with a Warmshowers host tonight.
As we arrived at the port, we checked our bearings on Google Maps. We were quite early and decided we’d spend some time looking around this quaint little town. As we were deciding where to go, someone pulled up alongside us in a small van. It was Ricki, our Warmshowers host. She was down at the port doing some work on her small wooden sailboat. We arranged to meet later at her place and she gave us directions.
After a walk around town pushing our bikes and taking turns minding them and looking at shops, we rode over to the Marina and had lunch at Doc’s Grill. It was still quite hot, but we sat outside so we could keep an eye on our bikes. It was ironic to enjoy a couple of beers from the Silver City Brewing Company (our hometown, Broken Hill, in Australia is referred to as The Silver City!).
Our late lunch devoured, we cycled up the hill to our host’s place. There we found Ricki waiting with her dog and we eventually met Charlie, her partner. They had both moved up here away from the rat race a few years ago and had fallen in love with the town.