To tidewater and Whidbey Island - Over the hills and far away - CycleBlaze

July 15, 2016 to July 16, 2016

To tidewater and Whidbey Island

Nearing the end of my two-wheeled journey

On a fresh cloudy morning, I headed towards the Pacific coast on quiet back roads near the river:

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After a late breakfast in Sedro-Woolley, the excellent ACA Northern Tier map showed me secondary roads to follow before I rejoined SR 20 near tidewater at Padilla Bay.  By late morning, sky was beginning to clear:

Tidewater and some splendid clouds over Padilla bay
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Pausing at Jesse's Emporium, a Native American art and weaving centre, I bought some earrings for my wife and daughter.  The centre was quiet during my visit, so we chatted about his business and the artists whose work was on display, as well as my journey.   Having had a fruitless conversation with Tracfone's tech support to start the day, I asked Jesse if there might be a payphone nearby.  He said that the big casino just down the road had one.  I thanked him and wished him well, and rolled up to the casino's entrance.

The young fellow at the big main door laughed when I said hello: "You're the first visitor I've seen come in on a bike!" he said, and yes, the casino had a payphone, and of course I could use it, and don't worry about your bike, sir, just lean it against the wall, and I'll keep an eye on it.  Such a contrast with Tracfone, I thought, which seemed to have an endless supply of reasons why I couldn't phone home.  I spent a cheerful half-hour catching up with Marcia and confirming our planned rendez-vous in Utica in upstate NY a few days hence.

Today was a short ride, just 65 kms from Rasar SP to the campground at Deception Pass SP.  I stopped for the obligatory photo of the splendid bridge to Whidbey Island:

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Crossing the bridge was not quite so straightforward as taking the photo from the conveniently sited viewpoint.  The two-lane bridge, busy with motor traffic, has no shoulder for cyclists, and the pedestrian sidewalk is narrow as well.  I eased across the sidewalk with one shoe clipped in, the other ready to touch down.  As it turned out, I need not have worried about squeezing pedestrians or being clipped by a passing car; but I was alarmed by the extreme posture of a couple of young women tourists, leaning waaaay out over the railing to get that essential selfie.

Checking in to Cranberry Lake Campround at mid-afternoon, I set up camp in a secluded and well-wooded hiker-biker site, and spent rest of the day pottering about camp, as one does--doing laundry, catching up on my notes, and having an enjoyable swim in the freshwater lake which borders the park.

I was well away from SR 20, and a kilometre of forest shielded me from any noise of motors and tires.  Towards suppertime, however, the sky above my wee sylvan idyll was split by the roar of jet engines, as two pairs of low-flying warplanes set off for the western horizon from the Oak Harbor Naval Air Station just south of the park.  An hour or so later, they returned, and an hour or so after that, another sortie roared off.  That cycle continued until around midnight. 

The whole business reminded me of a conversation I had had a couple of days earlier with a cyclist on Washington Pass.   He had alerted me to the noise of aircraft when I said I was planning to stay at Deception Pass, and said he'd asked another camper about the warplanes.  He said he was told, "That's the price [was it "sound"?] of freedom."  Perhaps.  Having camped beside train tracks and beneath the flight paths of warplanes, I find the sound of the trains less malevolent and less disturbing.

Onward to Langley Fairgrounds -- my last day of cycle-touring

Whidbey Island offers a signposted Bike Route, which I picked up just after leaving Deception Pass SP.  The Route follows attractive and quiet back roads south towards Oak Harbor.  A rider passes farmsteads and the occasional sculpture:

Old outbuilding, Whidbey Island farm
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Poor creature has lost a tusk in the translation
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The Bike Route then leads back to SR 20, full of traffic on a cool, clammy Saturday morning.  In Oak Harbor's more modern, suburban portion I found myself on arterial roads full of fast traffic and lacking bike lanes or paved shoulders.  It was dispiriting, with a bad vibe, so I took refuge on the wide and well-constructed sidewalks, which were empty of pedestrians.  "This too shall pass," I said, and indeed it did. 

A little further south, I found a good lunch spot near the small settlement of Coupeville, and left warm, dry and well-fed, Oak Harbor and its Saturday traffic and resident jets just a fading memory.  SR 20 was under construction for a few kilometres, but the combination of gravel and chipseal was manageable, and once away from my unpleasant reacquaintance with urban traffic, I found the few drivers to be careful and considerate.

I had marked out South Whidbey State Park as a campground for the night, and as I neared the park, I found a sheriff parked on the shoulder.  He was marshalling runners--I had seen a dozen or two, in groups of 2-3-4, wearing vests of distinctive red-orange. They  were part of a "Ragnar Run", teams of 12 runners doing a 196-mile marathon relay in many states, and this Saturday, July 16, was their final day.  He told me that the State Park was closed, and suggested I try Langley Fairgrounds, a little further along to the southwest. 

Langley Road turns west off SR 20, and offers a quiet, winding, forested route into a pretty village with its farmers' market.  But the entrance to the fairgrounds was chock-a-block, thronged with hundreds of red-vested runners finishing their marathon.  I checked to see if Langley Motel had a room, but no, so pushed on towards the ferry at Clinton, a few kilometres further south--and lo! just around the corner I found the deserted back entrance to the fairground, with its sprawling and nearly empty camping section.  I spoke with a couple of folks in a pickup who were waiting for their daughter, and they suggested just setting up camp.

So I did:  I pitched my last night's camp in a nice open spot, with some late afternoon sun and a fresh sea breeze from the north. 

Last camp at Langley Fairgrounds
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As a good fairground should, this one had restrooms with hot showers and spacious sinks for my final laundry before my cross-country train ride the next day.  The gods were evidently in a good mood, as I also learned from a poster that camping would not be permitted at Langley Fairgrounds effective Sunday, July 17.  Who knew?? I certainly didn't, but it didn't matter, as 24 hours hence I was due to catch the Amtrak to Chicago.

Today's ride: 138 km (86 miles)
Total: 2,206 km (1,370 miles)

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