August 9: Port Angeles to Victoria, British Columbia - The Great North American Sticky Bun Hunt - CycleBlaze

August 9: Port Angeles to Victoria, British Columbia

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JIM ARRIVED AS PROMISED after his two-hour drive round Seattle and up to the islands. He is a slightly shy man, in glasses, his hair wavy, his manner thoughtful. He is an excellent conversationalist and a man committed to cycling and a better world. A sticker on his car tells the world that he doesn't shop at Wal-Mart. Another urges Tacoma to remember that it's beautiful.

"I started riding in high school," he said, "and really I got into the bike trade by hanging around bike shops until they got so busy they gave me a job."

Port Angeles: its just seemed, well... so American.
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He raced when he was young, "and back in the seventies it was considered pretty strange just to ride a bike, especially in a blue-collar city like Tacoma. People thought you were pretty eccentric, some sort of nut."

Then he began touring, including in Laos and Cambodia, and now he gets out "as often as I can." His wife is half-Indian, as in original American, and he laughs that as a kid she played cowboys and Indians "and all the kids, including her, wanted to be a cowboy."

He feels sad that fashion has so dictated the bike trade. It's good for business, he concedes, but his soul says a bike is too good, too simple and useful, too beneficial, to be turned into a frippery.

We were sitting on a low wall outside the motel when he arrived. We had the tyre and the tube off the wrecked wheel - the rim was also close to the end of its natural life, although it would have finished the trip - and the cassette sprockets stood in a heap, shiny from where I had cleaned them with toilet paper.

Jim, by the way, favours putting on a tyre by starting at the valve. That was how I did it for years until someone persuasive told me I was wrong and, since it mattered little to me, I began at the other side. Nobody has explained the benefit of either. I will go along with Jim until such time as the United Nations or the International Standards Organisation rules otherwise.

Jim and we parted reluctantly after more hours in an Indian restaurant - Indian in this case as in Asian India - than the owners probably expected. Jim drove off back to Tacoma and we took the faster of the ferries across to Victoria, in Canada.

One ferry takes cars; this one takes only passengers and their bikes. It's also a lot faster.
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The faster ferry doesn't take cars. It takes passengers and it takes bicycles. The first walk on and the second are hefted aboard by beefy ship staff. It seemed an obvious step to me to

"Your bikes have dropped into the water." "Did they float?" "No, you can't have pumped the tyres hard enough." - Exchange in the port terminal.
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build a little ramp and wheel the bikes on to the upper deck, but doubtless has considered and then abandoned the idea. I apologised for giving them so much weight to lift but they were nonplussed. "This is nothing," one man said. "It's the loaded tandems that are really hard work."

Victoria is a lovely town that owes much to the influence of the queen and her era after which it is named. It has 19th-century dignity, the buildings substantial and in scale but devoid of the endless fiddly additions characteristic of part of that era. The town has a half-circle harbour with

Victoria harbour, complete with flying-boat taxis.
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ferries and yachts and flying boats. It doubtless relies on tourists but it has resisted becoming a museum. It has built apartment blocks to keep the centre of town living, and it has built them in elegant curves and in interesting but not obtrusive styles. The modern and the Victorian blend. I don't suppose the apartments are cheap but at least they stop the town dying at night, stop its losing its purpose and soul.

Not that we are staying anywhere so grand. We have the last but one room in a travellers' hostel, a place of youth and dreams and excitement mixed with the uncertainty of being far from home.

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