I got a couple of smart-alec birthday cards last night, but what would you expect when you’re on a 60th birthday bicycle tour of the Pacific Northwest.
It’s a modest tour by any standards: easy, so that everyone would feel comfortable on this ride.
The morning was another early start to get to the ferry at Orcas; we were heading to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, but first we had to get off this island. The 14-mile ride to Rosario Resort was nothing but ups and downs, with a big hill for the finish. My oldest son’s first words at arriving 2 nights ago, “I don’t think I can climb that hill out of here!” Expressions of encouragement were noticeably missing. Barbara would taxi out, like her ride in, so she got up early with us to make fried egg sandwiches for breakfast; it was all we had left in the refrigerator.
We were all complaining of our bikes; of course, it wouldn’t be the riders. I had spent some time the afternoon before trying to adjust my gears — neither Mark nor I could shift into the lowest gear; the chain would derail from the lowest crank wheel. This could only be remedied manually, by getting your hands dirty, too. And we needed that lowest gear when traveling fully loaded.
It’s hard to admit, especially when a photo of me with my bike maintenance certificate was circulating the web yesterday — I had no luck making any progress as I tried to tune up the rental bike. To say that I was making things worse would not be an understatement.
Moving on from tinkering, I thought I’d at least pump up my tires, but I was abandoned by the bike gods and all I succeeded in doing was letting air out. I had to find the Harbor Dive Master and luckily the Schrader stems fit his compressor. The tires were exactly inflated to 80 lbs each, but my confidence was a little flat. “This will help me psychologically tomorrow morning,” I said with a smile. He laughed and told me not to hurt myself, “That’s some hill.”
As we depart Roasario Resort
The temptation was too great; each of us would take our heaviest item and place it in Barbara’s panniers. Why not? She would be taxiing out. Maybe it did lighten our load, because getting up that hill out of Rosario seemed much easier and only minutes later we rolled down hill all the way to Eastsound, half way back to the ferry.
We left early to beat the winds, but they were waiting for us at Eastsound. The brisk headwind was cold, too, which motivated us to keep pedaling.
We made great time and arrived early to catch the 10:30am ferry to Friday Harbor. This route on the water was the most dramatic of our 3 ferry rides; the channel from Orcas to San Juan threaded close to the shore of other islands, many uninhabited. A factoid somewhere I read said there are over 700 islands in this archipelago, but of course many are only big enough to support a warning beacon. I keep wondering how this fantastical ride looks through the eyes of my sons, but like many young men they share few thoughts and even fewer emotions. There are little children on the ferry and they point and cheer and dance around as they see the shorelines of these fantasy islands move past.
Friday Harbor is the largest port that the Washington State Ferries connect. There’s a movie theatre, two book stores and lots of little shops filled with local artists’ wares. We have time to kill before our 4 o’clock check in, so we browse the whole town.
The Lakedale Resort was to be our home for the last 2 nights of this trip. I’d never visited before and I was a little wary; the photos looked nice enough, but it was a campsite with cabins and a cute lodge. We would stay in a 2-bedroom log cabin which looked cute as dimples online and proved to be in real life. The whole resort is adorable. We arrived early and had to wait for our room, but the scene on the front patio overlooking the lake was sublime. In no time the room was ready; David didn’t want to leave the lodge, but I said the log cabin would likely be just as nice. It was. One bedroom on the first floor and a loft with 2 beds and bath; the perfect arrangement for us. Barbara loved that the refrigerator came fully stocked with breakfast foods; we would have a hearty morning meal. But first it was time for presents and those birthday cards then it was off to Roche Harbor.
My riding pal Matt O’Toole told so many stories of happy times at Roche Harbor that when I saw how close by we’d be I had to make the dinner reservations here. We’ve seen many harbors on this trip, but this one takes the cake. It was filled with pleasure craft. The general store was the best stocked we’ve seen on the islands, so we shopped before dinner.
The dinner was a little bit formal, as the yachting crowd sometimes prefers; the highlight of dinner we knew would be the retiring of the colors just moments before sunset. A hush comes over the dining room as the color guard approaches; prerecorded music plays as the Roche Harbor flag, then the Washington State flag, the Canadian, the Union Jack and finally the stars and stripes are lowered. A little canon blast startles my table mates, but everyone else is waiting for the boat horns to begin blaring as the ceremony wraps up. It’s a fitting end to this 60th birthday on bikes.
The Lakedale Resort on San Juan Island