Have you followed this whole journey from the beginning? Follow this link to find all the episodes of our North American Cycle Tour – 2019.
Monday 15th July: Everitt (Washington, USA) – Rest Day
We had a good sleep-in this morning. We’d spent the night with Roger and Sarit for dinner and a movie. We haven’t been to a movie theatre in ages. So, after watching the “Rocketman” biopic (which was pretty good), we retreated to Famous Dave’s for a rib dinner. We’ve certainly enjoyed enough protein to keep us going for another month.
Tuesday 16th July: Cycling from Everitt to Bainbridge Island (Washington, USA): 50kms
Ride Time: 3hrs 30mins / Ave Speed: 9.1mph
We got a late start this morning. In fact, it wasn’t morning at all, it was 12.15 pm! It was almost a no-start as well when Sarit backed the car out with my bike leaning against its rear bumper. Thankfully, she heard it crash to the ground and stopped before she ran it over. She was mortified, but after a quick check, everything was fine and we down-played the whole thing to settle her nerves. These bikes are made of steel and are pretty tough. It’d take more than a simple fall to damage them, especially as it fell on the opposite side of the derailleur.
We used Google Maps to plot something of a convoluted route down through Everitt to Kenmore, where we picked up the Burke-Gilman Trail. We stopped for a coffee and a rest at a Chevron service station opposite the trail on the northern end of Lake Washington. Interestingly, it was right across the road from our friends Danna and Cam’s apartment, where we had stayed before. They had recently moved, though, so no dropping in for a beer!!
The Burke-Gilman Trail is a 27-mile long rail-to-trail that connects Seattle to Bothell, just past where we were. It was noticeably warming up as we crossed onto the trail. Fortunately, much of the trail is shaded by large, overhanging trees that kept us cool. Long sections of the trail run behind some very fancy and expensive houses on the lakeshore. It was interesting gazing into the open rear of the houses to see all their belongings on display.
The trail took us past the University of Washington to Fremont, where we had stayed a night last year with a Warmshowers host. Making good time, we decided to drop in for a beer at the Fremont Brewing Company’s Urban Garden, right across the road from the trail. We visited it last year and liked its beers.
We were heading to Bainbridge Island, opposite Seattle, where we had stayed with Warmshowers hosts Jeremy and Jacqui last year. They are also well-traveled. We ended up staying for three nights with them and had a ball. So, catching up with them again would be a pleasure as we passed through.
We finished our beers and crossed over the 4th Street lifting bridge, and started the climb up the Dexter Street hill. This turned out to be much easier than it was last year. With our new “Climbing Legs,” hills haven’t presented too many problems lately.
Crossing through the city, we went down to Colman Dock to board the ferry to the island. The ride through Seattle downtown was once again pretty easy as bike lanes are everywhere. Dozens of other cyclists joined us as we lined up for the ferry. It’s only 20 minutes to get across to Bainbridge Island, but enough time to get upstairs and get some waterfront photos.
When the ferry docked and lowered its boarding ramp, a flood of bicycles spilled out onto the dock and began the short climb up the hill to the main street. Jeremy and Jacqui had moved houses since last year and were much closer to town than before. Shazz and I parked the bikes, and I went to the supermarket to buy some beers, wine, and snacks to take with us. We never arrive empty-handed at someone’s place when they’re putting us up for nothing!
When we arrived, Jeremy and his son Ben were working out in front of the new house. Jacqui was still at work in Seattle and wouldn’t arrive home till around 9.00 pm. The boys downed tools and got themselves a beer and then Jeremy gave us a guided tour of the new place. They were in the process of renovating the house and there were building materials and tools scattered everywhere around the floors, interspersed with cooking gear and furniture. Having renovated a house ourselves, we were quite accustomed to living in a messy environment for long periods till things were completed.
As Jacqui wasn’t arriving till later, Jeremy cooked us all a hearty curry for dinner. Our offers to help were batted away. When Jacqui got back, we all sat around the living room catching up. Since we had seen them last, they had crewed on a yacht that had done an Atlantic crossing. No simple vacations for these guys!
We stayed two more days with the guys before heading back to Seattle again to make our way south.
Friday 19th July: Cycling from Bainbridge Island to South Hill (Washington, USA): 77kms
Ride Time: 5hrs 18mins / Ave Speed: 8.95mph
Morning rain saw us get away to a late start. We had to push our bikes up and out of Jeremy and Jacqui’s steep driveway and up the hill to the road. Another long hill lay between us and the main street, but we ascended it without completely busting ourselves.
We met a woman and her young son on the ferry. They had ridden over on their bikes and camped overnight in the rain. The young fella didn’t seem too bothered by the inclement weather at all. The woman told us about the best way to get through the southern suburbs of Seattle and onto the Green River Trail that we’d need to ride on to go south.
Just south of the city is its industrial area, a grey and grotty area that has become a shelter for many homeless people. We rode right through the middle of one such tent city. No one seemed to notice us as they sat around breathing in the heavy smell of shit and urine that wafted through the air.
We had to take the narrow sidewalk along East Marginal Way and stop to cross the many intersections that slowed our progress. Finally, after consulting a couple of young women pushing prams, we took a shortcut over a lift bridge and headed towards the Green River Trail. It took a bit of finding too! The directions we were given were pretty sketchy. So we stopped to consult good ol’ Google Maps. While we were doing this, a crazy woman was walking towards us. We knew she was crazy by the way she wore her pants around her ankles and her men’s Y-fronts on backward! Not wanting to get into some twisted conversation with her, we promptly scarpered across the street and on our way. Fortunately, we were still heading in the right direction, and we basically accidentally stumbled onto the trailhead.
We would have made much better progress if the trail didn’t meander all over the place, following alongside the snake-like Green River. We stopped for lunch at another Chevron service station in Tukwila. Now we were on the Interurban Trail, an arrow-straight track that took us directly south to our jumping-off point at Algona. The two trails combined kept us off the road for over 20 miles, and although the Green River Trail wandered all over the place, it was much more preferable than cycling in the traffic.
We then took the West Valley Highway South, which ran alongside the freeway. Unfortunately, an accident on the freeway had brought it to a dead stop, and all the trucks were now coming down our street! So, for about 10 km, we mixed it with the traffic from the freeway as they frantically tried to get around the blockage. This meant some pretty close shaves, as there was no shoulder on our otherwise quiet road.
We eventually came out on Valley Avenue East which took us into Puyallup. The traffic had gotten no better as we made our way down through the town’s main street. In front of us lay a huge hill that seemed to go straight up from where we were standing. We stopped by some shops to rest before taking on the hill. A South African lad approached us and asked us about our trip. We were happy to chat with him as it gave us some extra time to rest and gather our strength for the big climb, which we’d be doing on the sidewalk.
I was determined to get up the hill without walking. After all, we had gotten over the Rocky Mountains, and we had earned our climbing legs. The hill, though, was a slog. It was steep from the start, and we had to negotiate tree limbs and even steeper curbs as we crossed over side roads. Just when you thought you were at the top, the hill had a false summit and carried on even further. I passed a guy on a street bike who looked like he was on his way home from work. He also took the footpath to avoid riding in the traffic. After what seemed like an age, I eventually reached the top. My legs were screaming, and my lungs were almost bursting. As I pulled up and began my recovery, the guy on the street bike huffed and puffed past me, “very well done,” he wheezed as he went past. That made me feel better! Also, I knew we didn’t have much further to ride today to get to the Airbnb we had arranged to stay at tonight.
Once Shazz had got to the top, we crossed over the road to a 7-11 and bought a cold drink, and had a rest. A few kilometers down South Meridian Road, we found a Safeway and went in and bought some dinner and a few beers for the night. We prayed there were no more hills, as the extra weight would probably kill us.
We rode on down past Pierce County Airport and turned into a gated community at South Hill. No one stopped us, so we rechecked our Google Maps and coasted down to George’s house, our Airbnb, for the night. George is an avid collector of antiques, and his house is jam-packed with them. He has collected stuff from many different countries, so it’s an eclectic horde he has amassed. We were completely worn out by now, having ridden 77 km today in challenging conditions. We went and sat out the back in the sun and took a couple of beers with us, I nearly fell asleep in the chair.
We still have lots more friends to catch up with so read the next episode – Good Friends and Volcanoes: Cycling from South Hill to Portland.