Headin' back East again: the run-in to the ferry, and the Amtrak station at Everett - Over the hills and far away - CycleBlaze

July 17, 2016

Headin' back East again: the run-in to the ferry, and the Amtrak station at Everett

On the last morning of my ride through the mountains to the sea,  I awoke to find condensation on the tent, the first dew of the year.  Knowing the tent would be packed for a few days, I delayed my start, and a convenient brisk northerly dried the tent quickly and thoroughly. 

While I was finishing breakfast and packing up, Steve walked up to say hello.  An artist from California, he's a painter, and has been coming to Whidbey each summer since 1990.  He takes a modest summer rental, and devotes his days to painting.  This year, he's been unable to find a rental he can afford, and he tells me a story that he's seen unfold over the past 10 or 15 years. It's one that I've seen and heard in scenic spots around the world:  land and housing are being bought up by wealthy retirees from the cities, and local schools are closing because young families who can't find affordable housing, cheap land, or work, are leaving the Island.  It was a sobering if unsurprising counterpoint to the quiet and attractive countryside I'd ridden through in the past couple of days.

My ride to the ferry was just 20 or 25 minutes, and I was first-in-queue onto the ferry to Mulkiteo on the mainland.  The ride across the narrows was a brief quarter-hour, my attention to the water and the shore distracted by an enormous black Hummer which moored itself beside my bike: chrome letters on its tailgate proclaimed it to be a G3 hybrid.  DSMG--a green symbol of macho power?

The peri-urban coast road from Mulkiteo to Everett was a winding and occasionally hilly ride northward, pleasantly shaded on the eastern side.  The neighbourhood was quite posh, with big new houses, harbour views, and lots of big pricey SUVs, the latter apparently de rigeur despite the mild climate.   The last section of the road before Everett proper took me through Forest Park, its huge firs and roadside flowers reminiscent of Vancouver.

The coast road disgorged me onto big arterial roads running N-S and E-W, in this part of town bordered by modest frame houses, bungalows and two-storeys.  There were no signs directing me to the train station, so I asked for help at a gas station. "Straight north about a mile to Pacific, then East to the station.  It's a big brick building on your right aafter you cross the bridge over the tracks." Her directions were clear, succinct, and spot-on, and how often can you say that?  Just as well, too, 'cos there were no signs at all to the station, not even on my turn-off to the right as I left the bridge.  No matter, I found the smart new (in 2002) airy and spacious station housing the Amtrak, Greyhound, and city and regional transit systems.

The 30-ish attendant at the Amtrak desk was courteous and helpful, and made sure I knew everything I needed to know to get my bike and gear properly boxed and ready to go.  I needed a couple of hours to get everything sorted, repacked, and the box weighed, and with my ticket verified and the bike checked, he gave me a recommendation for lunch at a nearby steakhouse.  I found a supermarket another 15 minutes' walk away, and loaded up with groceries for my 3-day train ride to New York state.

I walked back to the station, finding it odd and not a little disconcerting to be in a city again (even a smaller one--about 100,000 people live in Everett), with traffic, concrete and tarmac all around. The station itself was a pleasant eddy, though, and once again I found a payphone which let me call home to Marcia, to let her know that my 5 PM "Empire Builder" to Chicago was on time, and that I'd see her three days' hence in Utica.  (Not sure if Amtrak's marketing department is into slightly self-mocking humour.  Probably not, but I found it a little droll and slightly absurd to be riding on a big grand train with the same name as the khaki knee socks worn by the colonial bwanas in Africa, tucked-in regimental ribbons s'posed to offset their bony knees, safari jackets and pukka shorts with knife-edge creases...)

More follows on trains in the "Notes on trains" appended below.  The Empire Builder climbed gradually into the Cascades as evening fell, following an attractive valley parallel to those I had ridden just a week before.  A pleasant enough journey, to be sure, and I enjoyed chatting with my seatmate, a fellow in his mid-20s heading home for a week with his family in the interior; but my ride on the bike had brought me much more immediate joy and beauty.  I was glad to be heading home--if moved along by a pair of knee socks.

Today's ride: 25 km (16 miles)
Total: 2,231 km (1,385 miles)

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