All Aboard - The Subduction of Seaweed John - CycleBlaze

August 27, 2014

All Aboard

Portland, OR to Bellingham, WA

How fast plans can change, I will be taking the train to Bellingham and not Vancouver, BC due to weather considerations.

After five days of false starts and delays we'er on the train heading north!

Maps in hand but lots of details to take care of before heading out. Only an hour's notice to get me ticketed on the northbound 516 Amtrak Cascade, but with the Western Flyer it was a little more complicated.  All ten bike hooks at $5.00 were taken. A group of riders heading to Mount Vernon, Washington to meet a supported tour operator had taken all the bike hooks and I had to box the Western Flyer at the station.  I bought an Amtrak bike box for $15.00 plus $10.00 handling with many apologies from the baggage clerk for the change in Amtrak rules and fees. Then I was told the bike counted as one of my “free” checked bags, which meant taking one pannier as a carry on bag, no big deal.  I am happy so many bikers are riding the train. The lesson is to book your train as early as possible to get a bike hook in the baggage car.

The Amtrak 516 to BC is a brand new Spanish Talgo train with computer control suspension designed for third world track conditions because of the uneven freight tracks Amtrak is forced to roll on. The ride was the smoothest Amtrak passage I have experienced.  We reached top speeds of 80 mph (130 kph), which is flying for an American train. In Spain I experience the “real” Talgo hitting 300 kph (190 mph) The 516 was still an hour late getting into Bellingham thanks to track maintenance, which slowed us down to a slow crawl for the last twenty miles.

I was all alone on the Bellingham station platform near midnight putting the Flyer back together taking in the quite sea breeze and the sweet salt smell coming off the Straits of Georgia when drifts of a familiar chemical odor caught my olfactory memory. Part of my choice of this ride down the Cascade Mountains was to have a radical change from following the toxic coal trains of the year before. Then a blinding light and the deep roar of multiple locomotive engines and 1 1/2 miles (2.4 Km) of Powder River coal headed to the Tsuwwassen coal transfer docks a short distance into Canada labored past the station seeming to go on forever.  The start of this tour became the end of my last tour following the coal trains out of Gillette, Wyoming to Longview, Washington on the Lower Columbia River. (The effort to transfer coal to docks along the Columbia River in route to China has been stopped, at least as this writing.)

After getting the Flyer assembled and loaded, I fired up my phone and turned on Goggle Bike Maps to get turn by turn direction to the Bellingham motel row along the I-5 freeway.  It takes a decent headlight and a bit of faith to ride through a strange town late at night relying on the verbal commands emanating from one’s jersey pocket. Riding up unlit roads, over gravel paths and through pitch black parks I arrived at the Motel 6 who did in fact “leave the light on” for me at 1:00 am.  When traveling alone I normally stay at Yelp 2 star rated motels. Motel 6 pretty reliably rates 3 stars on my scale for meeting expectations of cleanliness, everything working, helpful staff and a general lack of sleaze. This is all I ask for or wanted for the next six to nine hours I normally occupy a motel room.  I realized I left my tiny folding Bluetooth keyboard on the train. Oh well.

Please note a couple of minutes of this coal train past by before I started filming. Each rail car carries approximately 242,000 pounds (110,000 kg) of Powder River coal.  This is what is fueling the climate crisis.

Today's ride: 10 km (6 miles)
Total: 10 km (6 miles)

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