Day 122: Shaw Island, WA to Lopez Island, WA - Between the Ends of America - CycleBlaze

August 12, 2011

Day 122: Shaw Island, WA to Lopez Island, WA

The thing that wakes me up at 6:30 is the sound of the ferry's fog horn, which blows loud and long as the boat sails carefully through a world of white.

Heart 1 Comment 0

Within an hour I head down to the dock and walk onto the same ferry, where I spend the morning drifting from Shaw Island to Orcas Island to San Juan Island and back again. The fog is so thick that feeling the boat lean subtly to the left or the right is the only way I can tell that it's turning. The horn blasts constantly and the ferry has to slow to a crawl when other boats get too close. And even though it has powerful radar and GPS and other navigation tools on board, a deckhand still stands on the bow doing a very low-tech job called fog watch.

Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0

By the time I pedal back to the campground the sun shines brightly, the skies are clear, and I can see across the channel to Lopez Island. It's another perfect day—totally worth riding 6,300 miles across the country for.

Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0

In the early afternoon I head onto the ferry again, this time jumping off with the loaded bike on Lopez Island and riding to its only town. There I sit outside, under an umbrella, eat fish and chips, and look out onto Fisherman Bay with the sound of Glen Campbell singing "Rhinestone Cowboy" blasting from the restaurant speakers. I think about how not riding bikes is so much easier than riding bikes, and how it could be really tough to snap out of vacation mode and make the final push to the coast a few days from now.

Gas slash sass.
Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0

Lopez is beautiful, but I've ridden almost all of it in the last few years and I don't feel like pounding over what feels like extra hills. I stick close to town and eat ice cream, walk the marina docks, do some beach combing, and explore a few parts of the island I've never seen before. As I sit next to the bike and look out at the marina and watch the boats and kayaks drift slowly by, a guy on a moped stops in the parking lot next to me and asks about my trip. His name is Lyn and we talk about how far I've traveled, where I've slept along the way, and how much time I have left on the road.

"So where are you staying tonight?" he asks.

"I'm not sure," I tell him. "Probably at a campground somewhere."

"Well if you want to, you're welcome to head over to my place and set up your tent in the yard," he says with a big smile. "We've already got two out there. There's all kinds of room."

From the parking lot he shows me where it is—out at the end of the narrow channel that leads to Fisherman Bay, the island's busiest harbor. It might be the most desirable piece of real estate on the island.

"It was my grandfather's place," he tells me. "There's a bunch of people out there, and we might be having dinner, so come on over!"

I'm sold.

And then he speeds away, as much as one can on a silly maroon moped.

Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 1 Comment 0

I make my way to the house in the early evening and meet up with Lyn and his wife Kerrie. There's also Dan and Adrienne, their twin 19-year-old son and daughter Keegan and Katie, John, and Kerrie's mother Sheila. Within five minutes I've met them all, told my story, and find myself sitting on a porch overlooking the channel I traveled through in a boat 20 times as a kid, drinking a delicious Mexican beer I've never heard of. As if being adopted for the night wasn't enough, the evening is stunning, with sunshine and a light breeze and clear views out to Shaw and San Juan Island. The hours pass by in a lazy mix of drinking, watching the boats sail and power into the harbor, listening to hilarious family stories, telling jokes, and all of the guys flipping Lyn endless amounts of shit for wearing both orange-colored Crocs and a ridiculous-looking wide-brimmed hat decorated with a rainbow stripe and a sunflower. I laugh and smile so much my cheeks hurt.

Heart 1 Comment 0

The group turns out to be a great family, but that's no surprise. Anyone willing to throw open the door and welcome a complete stranger on a weird bicycle into their home and their week-long vacation has to be. Later on, everyone sits down for a huge dinner of lasagna and garlic bread and some fruity dessert with ice cream, all of it so good. As the conversation and shit-flipping go back and forth around me I laugh to myself. Before Lyn pulled up I was five minutes away from riding out to a state park on the east side of the island and setting up the tent, tucking inside, and spending the rest of the night all by myself in the darkness. What I fell into instead turned out to be so much better. It's more proof that one of the best things to do on a long bike tour is stop some place where people will be passing by and hang out for awhile. Random and wonderful things just seem to find me when I do that.

Lyn, John, Dan, and Keegan.
Heart 0 Comment 0

Lyn's wife has trouble believing that I could be comfortable spending the night on the ground on a thin sleeping pad in a tiny tent, so she offers me all sorts of comforts, from blankets and extra lights to an extension cord and an air mattress the size of a life raft. I politely say no to all of it until her last-ditch effort when she mentions a pillow. After four months of lightweight and compact living it's one of the greatest luxuries I can imagine.

Heart 2 Comment 0

Moonlight fills the tent again and only the steady drone of an outboard motor breaks the quiet of the night. In the distance I see fireworks exploding red and blue and purple over the west side of Orcas Island. I know it's probably the big ending to some community celebration, but I like to think it's for me, in honor of one of the most unexpected and enjoyable nights on this trip.

Today's ride: 20 miles (32 km)
Total: 6,306 miles (10,149 km)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 2
Comment on this entry Comment 0