Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bike Touring In The San Juans With A Two Month Old

Lest your eyes deceive you, that really is Hawkins road on Orcas Island in Island County, Washington. Accompanying me on this particular foray is Jenn Nuckols who will feature prominently in this little travel summary. A fine time will have been had by all by the time you finish at the bottom, and your eyes will be opened or perhaps locked shut regarding the myriad possibilites of taking a two month old on a bike camping trip. Suffice it to say, A, our two monther has grown immensely, T, our two year old has picked up fabulous skills, and the Foley Hawkins family had a wonderful time with Jenn and Kristina. So here we go.

Claire and I took off early Thursday with the kids to have a five day trip to San Juan Island and Orcas Island. We had numerous interested parties at first but one by one, they cashed in their chips and bowed out before we could even set sail, let alone pack up. Left were two of the most powerful young women I have ever met, Kristina Westbrook and Jenn Nuckols.

Kristina met us in Anacortes and we picked up Jenn at her house in Seattle. The trip up was relaxed but we soon found ourselves 15 miles ahead of Kristina, who still had to stash her car in Anacortes and make an earlier ferry. She was intent on going to Shaw and experiencing the real wild. Jenn opted to go with Kristina and we all piled in, paid our passes, and bid the girls farewell.
The Foley Hawkins then traipsed over to San Juan Island where we saw the coolest fire engine ever (Pictured: T's favorite)

Then we went over to the Whale Museum where T tried his luck at becoming a sockeye salmon. Whales and fish are cool and we were excited to see both in the wild. T didn't really like being an orca whale but the late term, dying and ready to spawn sockeye? No problem.

We made camp and then T and I rode back to meet up with Jenn and Kristina whom I supposed had just gotten off the ferry. In reality, they were on their way up Beaver Valley Road and we met at the top of the hill near a swarm of bees (crazy). We rode back to camp and then had a nice dinner, depicted here. The first meal of the weekend was macaroni and cheese with vegetables and tuna. I could have lived on that for the whole weekend.

After dinner, I was able to snag this wonderful photo of Kristina playing with T. They were discovering flowers together and the moment was very special. I must now mention and it cannot be overstated, what a wonderful help Kristina and Jenn were on this trip. Ever helpful, always interested, excellent cyclists, strong sportswomen, and great friends. In fact, the first person T wanted to go visit as I write this is Kristina. How very nice!

The next morning, we suited up, got on our bikes, loaded T, and then headed off to American Camp. San Juan Island has a history of war between England and America that was settled by Kaiser Wilhelm deciding that Orcas was closer to Lummi Island than San Juan was to Vancouver, thus from his excellent map reading skills and the fact that the Hudson Bay Company's "businesses" on the island were a sham (akin to Microsoft company software hobbies that are designed just to pollute the martetplace), the whole archipelago was consigned eventually to the Washington State Ferry system and a bunch of rich landowners. It was a nice ride down the west side of the island none the less and we happened upon some parks and saw lots of animals and a few tractors along the way.
While English Camp on the northwest side of the island is a serene oasis of beauty and tranquility, American Camp is a windswept wasteland that reminds one of Scotland of Cape Cod. Lots of wind, not many trees, one lighthouse that looks pretty derelict. We had a picnic in the yard of the beautiful laundress who helped the soldiers out with their problems and contributed to the overall peace of the camp. Hmmmmm.....

We rode back to Roche Harbor but this time with Claire mounting her trusty LeMond Steed and riding with us from American Camp. Claire is a really strong rider and pummeled us into submission, despite giving birth to A just two short months ago. Though not depicted in this photo, Claire has offered up a consolation prize which thrills and delights the losers. Thanks Claire!

A massive squall met us in Roche Harbor so we somehow skipped the promissed showers and huddled into the van with trailer in tow. Pictured here, Jenn and Kristina make the best of their new living arrangements. Kristina is the real trooper. Jenn..... eventually came around.

After getting back into our car support, I dutifully minded the children while preparing a tasty and nutritious meal for T and the girls. I wore this Fatcyclist jersey for as long as Claire would let me in honor of Eldon organizing and fundraising $140,000 for the Lance Armstrong foundation ride in Seattle on the 21st. As a funny aside, Kristina is depicted in the same jersey and related that she was once told "hey, you are not a fat cyclist!" by an onlooker. I have enjoyed no such clarifications from people while wearing my jersey but I'm sure that it's just a communist plot.

After dinner, we retired to the beach where we watched the sun go down. A word to the wise: while the rocky, pebbly beach is a great place to see the waves up close, the field above has a much better view of the strait, the seals, the whales, and the sunset. Be advised. Don't go down the long staircase if you are looking for a nice view. Never the less, Claire takes amazing pictures and well, this is our group. I love everyone here immensely.

We made it eventually to Orcas Island I didn't seemt to get any pictures, but T showed his amazing abilities and marshalled his motor pool to great effect. The campsite at Moran was much more secluded, much more quiet, much wetter, and on an incredibly steep hill, which, if you have never biked, comes right after a long climb out of east sound. I had taken T along in the trailer, we happened into a lumberyard picnic, rode Enchanted Parkway, and did some shopping for fruits and the like. We were living like a bunch of freeloaders and T playing in the dirt at the end of the day was a wonderful sight.

Claire found some time to show off A a little here. Claire, in addition to being pretty awesome with the timer two photos ago, is a virtuosa with the "arm hold" method of photography, and in a rare, lucid, eyes open moment, snapped a great photo of A in her natural habitat: with mama. A is 9 weeks old in this photo.

T found his was onto a rock is is the king of the world. He grew so much on this trip and we were glad to put the maternity leave to good use. I think that he is about to respond to the many bird calls heard roundabouts in the trees.

In perhaps my favorite time up on Mount Constitution, the Foley Hawkins enjoyed a little rain and got to sit above the clouds. It was so peaceful and magical that the ride down the hill seemed like murder in comparison. Never the less, everyone was hip, the people who took our photo were also good lefties, and I pictured myself in the middle of an Ursula Le Guin novel. I had grown up under the impression that Le Guin had written up here on the island but wikipedia tells me that she lived and worked in Portland. Surely there must be some spillover. Anyway, my apologies to Jenn for misleading her.

After the cold descent into Olga off the top of Mount Constitution, we had brunch and celebrated both my third fathers day and Claire's birthday. Times are good.

Kristina rode off in the afternoon, ok, we carried her to the ferry dock, and then we went to Friday Harbor to see a Bill Frisell concert. I hadn't seen him in a while but Claire and I had seen him many times while we were dating so I just couldn't give up the chance to stoke some fires. Here, A enjoys a nice ride on the ferry to and from the concert. Jenn looked over the kiddies and we had a very romantic evening. Pay very close attention, A is a very serious girl and this is as full blown a smile as I have ever seen in the wild.

T got the good mommy lovin' as well and the chili that I made for everyone turned out pretty well. As it turned out, we biked something like 100 miles or so. I don't really count that sort of thing anymore but Jenn would give us daily totals and we had a nice time riding around. Orcas is much hillier and I find, more satisfying to ride on. It doesn't have any loops to speak of for riding but the terrain is super great. San Juan has nice stuff along the way and is easier to navigate, has more historical markers and the like, longer views, and more farms, but Orcas has the love of my lovely wife as well and an excellent shuttle service (contractually obliged to mention it) to boot.

We made it back to civilization eventually and had rested ourselves on the way back. I could never live on island time and am happy to to live in a city and on a bus line, but it was nice to visit a slower paced life. Jenn (pictured) was fantastically helpful and you can see that T just loves A.

The statistics for the weekend: 5 days, 4 nights, 100 miles, more descent than climbing because we got a ride to the top of Constitution, 6 people, 4 of age. We drove something like 320 miles to cover the sag responsibilities, and had a great time.