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San Juan Islands 2019


San Juan Islands & Victoria, Canada

2019 PAW Bike Tour


    Back in the 80’s we visited Victoria, Canada and flew over the San Juan Islands on our way back to Seattle.  I’ve wanted to visit the islands.  Several year ago, Pedal Across Wisconsin started offering tours, and I’ve wanted to go.  But when Sharon Erickson told me that it was really hilly, I balked.  I’m allergic to hills.  Last year Jim and I got e-bikes and the San Juan Islands became an option.  I started making reservations December 2018 for the August 2019 road trip to Anacortes, Washington, where the bike trip would begin.

     After staying in Amarillo, the first night, we enjoyed temps of 69 degrees in Raton, New Mexico.  It had been sweltering in the 100’s in Oklahoma City for weeks.  Our next night in Fort Collins, CO was a chore to drive to.  From Trinidad to Denver is all under construction.  It was so bad that we rearranged our trip home to go through Hays, Kansas AND rearranged a late September trip to avoid the same area.

    In Rock Springs, Wyoming we had lunch at the Outlaw Inn.  That brought back many memories for the both of us.  Jim used to eat there all the time when he was in the oil industry.  My grandmother and I would eat there on our way to Ron & Ann’s, my aunt and uncle, who lived in Delta, Utah.

    Our worst hotel of the whole trip was in La Grande, Oregon.  It was a Rodeway Inn under the Choice hotel umbrella.  I complained to the Choice hotel chain the next night.  The place was old and crumbling.  There was a fire hazard with a power strip in the room.  To get to parking in the back required maneuvering a tight alleyway to get in and out of.  We parked between 2 cars.  At ten p.m. the front desk called and said we were taking up two parking spaces.  We were fast asleep and Jim told them he would correct the parking.  He went back to sleep and the next morning we were the only vehicle in the parking lot.  The internet did not work and the front desk told me it was a problem with my device.  Said device worked in 17 other hotels along the way. 

    The next day we made a stop in Richland, Washington to have brunch with a friend of Jim’s from Cody, Wyoming.  Marilyn Larson has a lovely home and we had a great visit before hitting the road for Kirkland, just two hours from our final destination of the road trip in Anacortes, Washington.  The Seattle traffic was intense at 4 p.m.  Would hate to fight that commute every day.

    We checked in with the PAW crew and got our room assignment at the Anaco Bay Inn.  Loved this historic, well loved hotel in Anacortes.  There were cookies when we checked in and fresh cookies the next morning as we left for the ferry to take us to Lopez Island.

    Lopez Island was VERY hilly, but locals told us it was the flattest of the islands.  If you plan to bike the San Juan Islands, I suggest you rent an e-bike.  It is $275 for seven days and well worth the cost.  Or ride a motorcycle.  The drivers were not the best.  Three people passed us on blind corners and two had on coming traffic.  I thought we were going to see a crash, but luck stayed with us and we made it back to the ferry to go on to Friday Harbor.  The ferry was an hour late and it would be bedtime (I turn into a turnip around 8 p.m.) by the time we got checked into the hotel.  Thankfully the ferry had food.  Jim got the last of the chili and I had a tin of tuna with jalapenos & tomatoes on crackers.  Light dinner to say the least after a day of hard biking.

    We stayed in the Friday Harbor Suites.  We had a fantastic suite with living room, kitchen and king bedroom. 

    We met Carol Long, a retired special ed teacher and Marnie & Roger Black, from Glasgow, Scotland and Mike Henderson, who lives 30 miles from Carol in Wisconsin.  We ran into and ate with them numerous times.  Our old PAW friends Sandy & Sue, the twins, had flown from Minnesota and were riding rental bikes.  Mark & Dee ride a tandem.  Mark retired from the oil business and had been a competitor of Jim’s.  Strangely enough Mark & Dee had Schlumberger jerseys and shorts.  What?  Jim worked for a subsidiary of Schlumberger and we didn’t get bike clothes.

    Drivers were more courteous in Friday Harbor.  We enjoyed the ride to the Lavender Farm and bought items that would be shipped to our home free. 

    Roche Harbor was my favorite place.  We left our bikes at the top of the hill, to walk down to the harbor.  They had bathrooms 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.  They were boy/girl with showers.  I went into #3 and laid my camera on the bench.  After I did my business, I washed my hands, grabbed my camelback and left.  We waited in line to order breakfast, paid & got our table number.  Before the food came, I realized I didn’t have my camera in my hand.  I had left it in the bathroom.  I ran back but it wasn’t there.  I had lost all my pictures.  Jim tried to console me and told me this was an opportunity to get a new and better camera.  After eating a great breakfast, we walked around the harbor.  The area made its claim to fame with limestone kilns.  Jim took pictures of the kilns and we visited a historic hotel.  We ran into Tom from our group and happened to mention the loss of my camera.  He told us to go to the lost and found.  Start by asking where it is at the grocery store.  We walked to the store and were told it was in the historic hotel.  We walked in and I asked the front desk about lost and found.  “What did you lose?” asked the young man.  “A little silver camera.” I replied.  “Like this one”, he held up my camera.  Jim’s jaw dropped to the floor and I squealed with delight.  My CAMERA! ! !  The day just got brighter.

    On the ride back to the hotel we stopped at San Juan Winery and enjoyed a glass of wine with Pam & Kyle, who were part of the PAW crew.  Pam is quite the saleswoman.  She talked us into getting San Juan Island PAW jerseys to commemorate all the hills that we climbed.

    After spending three days in the San Juan Islands, we took a ferry to Sidney. We rode the trails 18 miles to Victoria, Canada.  We checked into the Embassy Inn.  We were told our room would be ready in 30 minutes, so we waited.  It was 2 ½ hours before we had a room key.  If we would have been told it would be a couple of hours, we would have walked downtown. 

    The cycling around Victoria was fantastic.  There are dedicated paths to and from for walkers and bikers.  We never saw so many bikers on this whole trip.  Seems the mayor of Victoria is a cyclist and she made sure Victoria has accessibility.

    On our last day in Victoria, we chose to take the metro system (BC transit) to The Butchart Gardens.  The flowers were amazing and I had 10,000 steps before lunch.  We enjoyed a wonderful meal at the Dining Room Restaurant.  It was originally the house of the woman who started the gardens from her husband’s quarry that had raped the land.

    After our meal, we walked to the dock to take a boat ride on the lake by the gardens.  What a great ride!  There were 11 passengers and our Captain, who was quite entertaining.  There are federal waters on the lake.  You can park your boat, little house or greenhouse for free on the federal waters.  Once a week someone comes to take the waste from your vessel.  It is free also.  They want to keep the waters pure.

    Funny story about that dilapidated greenhouse we spotted.  Years ago, it was growing marijuana.  Pot was illegal, but grow it they did.  Little boats would pull up and get their pot.  Now marijuana is legal in all of Canada.  But it can only be grown out of sight of the public.  Now the little greenhouse can not grow pot, because it can be seen from the waters. 

    For our last day in Victoria, we had to ride back to Sydney.  The day was misty with light rain.  We wore our rain coats and took the luggage to the U-Haul truck.  I checked out of the room and we started to ride to the ferry.  Two miles in, I reached up to take a sip of water.  I didn’t have my camelback.  WHAT?  It had my id, my passport, my money, my life.  We turned around and rode back.  I went to the front desk and asked for a key to our room.  There was my camelback in the stuffed chair in the living room.  I put it on and we started our journey over again.  4 bonus miles for us on our last day.

    Once we got stateside it took 45 minutes to get through customs.  Not bad for a boatload of cars and over 100 cyclists.  We looked like locusts swarming the bay.  Once we got our luggage and bikes loaded, we had a 4-hour drive to our hotel in East Wenatchee, Washington.  Note to self.  When we do this ride again, book the first return night in Anacortes.  Start the next morning with fresh eyes.

    The area around Wenatchee has apple orchards covering the hills along with shipping crates.  I-90 has mountain pass after mountain pass.  We had lunch at the Iron Horse Bar in Coeur D’Alene.  The visitor center gave us information about all the paved bike trails in Idaho.  I can see a return trip in our future.

    Finally, we made it to Wyoming and had lunch in Farson.  We spent the night in Laramie and met Steve and Anita for dinner at the Rib & Chop House.  Had a wonderful chat before going to bed exhausted.

    Saturday morning, we had breakfast with my Aunt Jo Ann.  She is living in what she calls “The Wrinkle Ranch” across the street from Brown & Gold UW shop.  She is sharp as a tack and so much fun to talk with.  I love her to death.

    Our last night traveling was spent in Hays, Kansas.  We drove 4,263.7 miles and rode our bikes for seven days.  It was the trip of a lifetime and I want to do it again.

Here is the pictures Link


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last modified August 31, 2019