Monday, June 24 2013 – Today wasn’t a high mileage day, but involved bridges, two islands, and a ferry – and the beginnings of a huge issue that threatened to end the trip.
I had been emailing with a friend, Rick Wallace, the night before, and we’d arranged to meet for a coffee in the morning in Anacortes. So I set my alarm for early so I could get some breakfast and make it from Concrete to Anacortes in time.
I woke up feeling pretty good after a good nights sleep in a comfy bed. I looked outside and everything was wet and dripping from the ongoing drizzle and the dew, so much so that I had to get some paper towel and wipe off the windscreen, mirrors, dash and the seat. Breakfast was going to be at the Perks Espresso & Deli back out on the highway.
In retrospect I should have taken a closer look at the back tire before pulling out, but it looked ok in the gravel parking pad at the cabin. This failure would haunt me later in the day.
I got packed up and headed out to the Perks.
It’s a nice place, good food, but it’s kind of one of those small town places that has regulars who come in every morning for coffee. When I walked in looking like a blue spaceman, all conversation stopped and everyone stared at me as I walked to the back of the place to put my helmet and gloves on an empty table. By now, after 5 or 6 years of wearing the ‘Stich I’m somewhat used to it, but I still notice it.
After ordering my breakfast sandwich and a coffee, one old guy in the place started up a conversation – then all the others stared at him! He started by asking about the Aerostich and then went on, telling me that had fought in Vietnam as an infantryman, had a Harley-Davidson that he wrecked in a crash after getting back, then gave up riding for years and years until he found himself in a cabin way back of Concrete and used a 250cc scooter to ride into town for supplies, coffee at Perks and his pension cheques. While I ate I hardly had to say a word – he just talked and talked. What he had to say was rather interesting so it wasn’t very hard to take. But I did have a schedule to keep, and after finishing a second cup of coffee, I gathered up my helmet and gloves and said goodbye to the old fellow.
It wasn’t very warm, rather it was humid, but the Skagit River was steaming as the morning sun tried to burn through the clouds and light fog.
As I headed west things got wetter and wetter with the drizzle turning into light rain as I passed through Sedro-Woolley and onto the causeway to Anacortes. The closer I got to the coffee shop, the heavier the rain got.
Navigating to the Penguin Coffee Shop was pretty easy, it’s right on Commercial, one of the main roads in town. However, once inside I realized that I had somehow arrived way early and had about 45 minutes to wait. So I cracked open the iPad and surfed the news in Calgary for a bit on the free wireless in the coffee shop. Right on time, Rick showed up, so we got our coffees and muffins and caught up.
Rick is a really interesting guy, he’s served as a combat medic in Vietnam; as a firefighter/paramedic in Everett, WA and he’s taught a variety of courses over the years. A few years ago when he retired, he started his own business Crash Scene Safety Instruction in Anacortes. He teaches a series of courses that he offers to emergency first responders as well as to motorcyclists on how to manage a crash scene and help ensure the safety of everyone involved.
Finally, before leaving, he mentioned some roads I should ride on my way to the ferry terminal in Coupeville on Widby Island adjacent to Anacortes via the bridges at Deception Pass. They looked a heck of a lot more interesting than the arrow-straight Highway 20 on the island.
So we said adios, and I headed out – first stop, Deception Pass between Fidalgo Island and Whidby Island. There’s information on Deception Pass and the bridges on Wikipedia – click here. The area is called Deception because from far away, the two islands look connected, but in reality there’s a tiny third island, like the very tip of the peak of a mountain sticking up in the Strait between the two larger islands. In 1935, bridges were built from Whidby Island to Pass Island, and from Pass Island to Fidalgo Island.
Just past the bridge I turned left across the highway and toured around the northern part of Whidby Island, taking the long way to the Coupeville ferry terminal. A few minutes of riding brought me to Dugualla Bay and Dike, which I believe protects parts of the runways at NAS Whidby on the west side of the island. Occasionally I could hear jets taking off and landing but because of the clouds I couldn’t see anything. I stopped for a second at the dike to take a couple of pictures …
There’s a little town of Oak Bay that the road ran through and there’s a park on the waterfront. The tide was out and so I stopped and walked out on the pier that, instead of floating, was right down on the wet mud of the inner bay. The air smelled like ocean and sea-life and there were a ton of shell-fish scattered all over the place.
This picture was taken from the normally floating part of the pier back up to the fixed pier on the shore …
For some reason, there’s a Flintstone’s car sculpture prominently displayed in the park …
Rolling through downtown Oak Bay, I eventually wound up on the Highway 20 for a few miles until taking another local road along the waters edge. Lots of old homes, twistie roads and long vistas out over Puget Sound. Just south of the small town of Coupville is the Coupville-Port Townsend Ferry Terminal at Fort Casey State Park. I rolled up to the toll booth, paid my fare and got into a conversation with the supervisor and the girl in the booth. It started with her asking what the red thing on my left thumb was. I explained that it’s a squeegee for wiping the water off the helmet visor, and that led to riding in the rain (which at this point is was lightly drizzling) and a discussion among the three of us about the Aerostich suit and where was I from and where was I heading … Some cars pulled up behind me so I figured I’d better push on to the front of the line, and I was the first to board.
Ferry pulling into the dock
Right up front on the ferry
While I was on the ferry watching Port Townsend slowly getting closer, I was thinking about how the bike was handling the last little while – it was getting a little squirrelly. I figured at the time that it was just that the tire was getting old – it’s pretty near the end of life with the wear bars showing and it was pretty much squared off. Turned out to not quite be the case.
But I got distracted by this ship out ahead of the ferry:
A little “google-fu” (thanks for that term Rob!) I discovered by searching the registry number on the forward hull (194) that the ship is the USNS John Ericsson – a fleet replenishment oiler – check her on wikipedia if you’re interested.
The waterfront part of Port Townsend looked pretty interesting and I would have liked to have had a look at a couple of larger buildings that were obviously pretty old and had very interesting lines.
Instead of stopping and checking the bike out, because there wasn’t a handy place to pull over, I just pressed on towards Port Angeles. The rain eased off the closer I got to Port Angeles and I rolled into town and headed directly for the Black Ball Ferry Terminal and …. just missed the next-to-last ferry. Well it was still there, but they had the full capacity of bikes and had no more room. There was a later ferry, but it arrived in Victoria rather late and I didn’t want to have to be running around Victoria looking for a cheap motel at 1130pm. So I decided to stay overnight in Port Angeles. The helpful agent at the Black Ball office suggested coming back at 7am when the office opened to buy a ticket for the 830am departure – doing it that way would save me the reservation fee, while practically guaranteeing me a spot onboard.
There were a lot of motels up on the highway on the edge of town so I rode out there and pulled into a place called the Victorian Motel. I figured with a name like that it must be interesting. Parked and found the office, then asked how much for a ground floor room. The answer? $110 a night! For a dump of a motel! I figured there’s got to be better less expensive alternatives.
Rode back to the waterfront and popped into the Visitor Information Center and checked out some other places. I found the Downtown Hotel, which was less than a block away – with a Euro-room for $55 a night! Sold! Oh wait, there was a catch – there always is. I asked what a Euro-room meant. It means no toilet or shower in the room, just a sink. Toilets are out in the hall and shared among all the Euro-rooms. I went up to have a look and the manager showed be a room – and it was actually really nice! There was a bathroom right next door and the manager figured that they’d have lots of empty rooms so there’d be no problem with line-ups for the bathrooms. I paid up for the night and got a key.
It’s an old building and looks very heritage on the outside, but it’s been totally renovated inside.
It was still pretty early in the day and so I thought maybe I’d get an early dinner and then head on up to Hurricane Ridge for a look. There’s a diner on the ground floor of the hotel, so I had a chicken sandwich and fries and watched my bike just outside as the rain slowly got heavier and heavier. Dinner done, I saddled up and headed for the Hurricane Ridge road and fought the bike on every curve and turn. The rain got worse and so when I got to the Park gates and was told that there’s a $15 charge to go further, I said to myself – that’s it done for the night, I’m not paying $15, going up to see clouds and rain, and fighting the bike all the way back.
Heading down, I finally pulled into a viewpoint, where there was no viewpoint because of the low clouds and rain, to check the tire. I kicked it and it was soft, so I checked the pressure and found it only had about 15 lbs!! No sweat, I have a compressor handy – I’ll just fill it up and it’ll be fine. So I dug it out and starting filling the tire up. It takes a while because it’s not a high capacity unit, so I was just standing around in the rain. I guess I looked like I needed help because three drivers stopped by to see if I needed a hand. That surprised me a bit.
Anyway, with the tire back up to pressure, I rode back to the hotel, parked the bike and lugged the luggage up to the Euro-room, where I chatted with Louise and read a book on the iPad and worried about the tire and what to do about it in the morning.