Archive for the ‘Washington’ Category

Back in Canada, eh?

Monday, June 15th, 2009

31 km, 2h 10 min

Heidi and Scott set a quick pace for the grey and chilly ride from Heidi and Dick’s place in Sequim to the ferries in Port Angeles. We were delighted to have guides for our ride out to the ferry, and we thoroughly enjoyed our visit with Heidi and Dick. They are living our dream life – retired young and enjoying the outdoor life in a beautiful setting where they can bike year round and still ski in the winter! Sequim is in the rain shadow of Mount Olympus, so it doesn’t get much precipitation, but in winter the snow can still be found not too far away the mountains.

We took the “Victoria Express” ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria. It’s a small family-run pedestrian ferry, but they were happy to accommodate our bikes, and we were able to bring them on fully loaded. Apparently the Coho car ferry doesn’t think bicycles are actually vehicles, so we would have had to board through the pedestrian walkways, and snake our way through narrow customs lines. The Victoria Express made the process quite painless, although our bikes did get a fine misting of salt water – we were assured that alternative arrangements could be made if requested. In addition, the Victoria Express is faster, cheaper, and more environmentally friendly than the larger car ferry.

After hopping on the boat, we were struck by how we did not need to clear any “exit” customs when leaving the US. The only other country that we were in that did not have exit customs was Greece.

Canada Customs in Victoria was a breeze. The customs officer was curious about our trip, so in the end we chatted with him for about 10 minutes about it. Becky asked to have our passports stamped – to help remember the specific date of our re-entry. Normally they do not stamp Canadian passports when Canadians return from the United States; however, the customs officer made an exception for us. Nice welcome home!

It was much warmer and sunny day in Victoria, and it did not take long for Becky to finally warm up – she was quite chilled after the mornings ride and the ferry was not particularly warm. We are staying with Rowena, a friend of Becky’s from university. Pulling up to her new condo in Dockside Green, we were greeted with a warm smile and welcoming hugs. It’s nice to be home!

Becky went to the grocery store to pick up a few necessary items (breakfast and snacks) and was shocked at the price of everything. The grocery store nearest Rowena’s place is in a new condo neighbourhood in downtown Victoria so the prices are a little steeper than at other places – but it is still going to take a while to get used to how much more expensive eating is.

For our first dinner out in Canada, Becky chose dinner at the Keg Steakhouse for “old time’s sake”. She remembers eating there for many special occasions back when she was studying at the University of Victoria. Unfortunately, the Keg’s standards seem to have slipped, and the meal was disappointingly mediocre. Oh well.

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On our way to Port Angeles

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Our loaded recumbents look even stranger when they’re right beside a diamond-frame bike

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Our bikes: safe and secure at the stern of the Victoria Express.

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View of downtown Victoria from the inner harbour

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Welcome home! (almost)

Saturday, June 13th, 2009

110 km, 7 h 30 min

We made it to within spitting distance of Vancouver, although not quite to Canada yet. In the end, our freighter trip was rather uneventful. The sun did not make a direct appearance until 2 hours before we arrived in Seattle, although it did a good job of keeping the sky lit up until the wee hours of the morning. A few whales blew some air our way, but not at the right time or close enough to get a picture. Becky can attest that some whales are indeed bigger than containers!

We did get the opportunity to watch the pilot and captain coast the ship across Seattle harbor while we waited for our tug. It’s amazing how long it takes a huge ship like ours to slow down as she coasts through the water. Our weather throughout the Strait of Juan de Fuca was gorgeous – sunny and warm – a great welcome to North America. The pilot was on board for almost five hours as we sailed through the Strait; first accelerating, then slowing as our docking time and tug priority changed. Our pilot was definitely the most high-tech equipped we’ve seen, with his own laptop and charts, and a link into the ship’s AIS system for navigation data. Fancy! The amount of traffic, and the traffic separation scheme is quite sophisticated. Since there is a lot of ship, ferry, and small boat traffic; everyone needs to report into Traffic Control when they are changing course, changing speed, or crossing the designated traffic zone, so there’s lots of radio chatter. This happens outside almost every port, but with more traffic and more destinations here, it is much more complicated. Seeing the radar beacons, transit lanes and “roundabouts” up close was fascinating.

Entering the US on the ship turned out to be a non-issue. Apparently, the Captain had briefed the customs folks about us, since they only asked a few general questions about our trip, provided us with a local weather report, and stamped us into the country. They were not at all interested in taking our temperature (Swine flu test) or examining our gear. The whole process was over less than an hour after we docked.

Less than an hour after we cleared customs, all our gear was off the ship, and we were making our way to the Bainbridge ferry. The ship conveniently docked less than a kilometer from the ferry terminal – so close we almost felt we could touch it from the ship. Also, conveniently the ferry was delayed by 15 minutes, so we bought our tickets and rode right on. We could not have asked for a smoother re-introduction to North America. We were guided to the ferry (and to John’s street on Bainbridge) by a local commuting cyclist and student at the University of Washington. It was great to be able to have a meaningful conversation with someone about our trip. Scott also had a brief conversation with Marty, who had ridden across the US a few years ago.

We stayed Friday night on Bainbridge Island at John’s place. John and Scott went to university together so it was a great opportunity to catch up and nice to get off the ship and begin our re-acclimatization to North America. On Saturday we rode to Sequim and stayed with some wonderful Warm Showers hosts (Heidi and Dick). We envy their lifestyle, kayaking, year-round cycling, nearby cross-country and back country skiing – they have given us something to strive for! We definitely could not have asked for a better re-introduction to riding in North America – we can only hope the rest of our trip is as nice.

We had hoped to meet up with Kathy, Randy, Sharon and John, whom we met on the boat to Turkey, and who are now home in Seattle. Unfortunately, due to scheduling conflicts, they weren’t around this weekend, and we needed to get moving in order to reach Kitimat for Becky’s high school reunion. Sorry guys!

In the first 24-hour back in North America, we made the following observations:

  • We are not a minority anymore (there are lots of people that look like us – so much that we often think we recognize people).
  • When people want to talk to us about our bikes, we can communicate.
  • Random people on the street actually speak English.
  • Sunscreen – others need it too! Locals in SE Asia did not need or use sunscreen, so they found us covering exposed skin with cream in the mornings to be peculiar.
  • Cars are bigger, and often only have one person in them. We also noted that Bainbridge Island has a ton of Toyota Prius’.
  • Grocery stores that have everything, but tend to overwhelm us with choice (too many different types of cheese and breakfast cereal!).
  • Portion sizes in restaurants are huge! (Even as hungry cyclists, we will need to remember to share meals).
  • When Becky talks to herself out loud, those around her actually understand what she is saying – and sometimes comment!
  • The eggs we’ve tried here don’t taste like anything. We tried two hardboiled eggs for lunch, and they had egg-like consistency, but were practically tasteless. We were reminded of the Chinese phrase for factory-farmed chicken ‘chicken with no chicken taste’. Well we’ve had ‘egg with no egg taste’ and we aren’t holding up much hope for the chicken!

Things we loved about riding on the Olympic peninsula:

  • You could hear the birds singing in the woods – we had not realized just how absent birds were in Korea and China!
  • The familiar smell of cedars.
  • Drivers gave us a wide berth – so much so that even though we were riding on the wide paved shoulder they were going over the center line rumble strips.
  • Seeing lots of other cyclists; including meeting four people who had ridden across America within our first 24 hours off the ship!
  • Quiet roads with nice shoulders.
  • Great ocean views.

Pictures below

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