Sunday, August 10, 2014

PNW Trip 2014: Orcas Island Bike Ride

Arriving at Orcas Island

On the second day of our stay on the San Juan Islands, we decided to visit Orcas Island and ride up to the famous Mt Constitution, which we also did last summer. We originally planned on staying on Orcas this year, and even though we didn't have reservation to a camp site on the island, we called and were informed that the nice rangers at Moran State Park would accommodate us if we arrive on our bikes. Unfortunately, the heavy traffic near Seattle (from Tacoma all the way through Marysville) meant that we missed not one but two ferries to Orcas. We ended up staying at Odlin County Park on Lopez and enjoyed it very much. But we still wanted to visit Orcas, the island that enchanted us most on our trip here last year.


I'd forgotten my camera battery and decided to make a trip back to the car in Anacortes to fetch it. M. met me on the returning westbound ferry at Lopez, and we headed toward Orcas. It was a cool day with varied and multi-colored clouds. We waited near the ferry dock on Orcas for all the cars to unload and go by before pedaling north and eastward toward Eastsound. 

The first 2 miles has 3 short and medium-graded climbs followed by similarly graded descents. After getting warmed up on these short hills, we switched to our big gears and cruised on the flatland toward Eastsound. We took the scenic bypass and waved hello to the alpacas foraging on Dolphin Bay Road. Eastsound, busy this time of the year from all the summer tourists, came upon us after a fast 9 miles. We slowed and rolled through town and passed Crescent Beach, upped a hill and turned right to continue toward Moran State Park.

This 4-mile stretch has very different vista from the first 9 miles from the ferry. Instead of expansive farmlands and pastures, we were riding among trees. We topped our bottles at the entrance of Moran State Park. The mirror-like alpine lake followed. We knew we were close to Mt Constitution Road. After a small incline passing Camp Moran, we veered left as the road forked and began the climb.

Evergreens line the road

Mt Constitution Road to the summit is one of our favorite, if not favorite road climbs. The gradient is similar to that of Kings Mountain in Woodside or Bolinas-Fairfax Road from Bolinas to Ridgecrest. The pavement is in excellent shape, and the whole trip is pretty shaded. The Puget Sound only became visible in the second section of the climb, but the vista at the top is truly breath-taking. M. was riding her Trek 720 unloaded, and I was carrying a small pannier on my Kogswell P/R with the porteur rack. We were both comfortable riding in our 36 middle chainring and moved the gears up and down as the gradient changed.

Puget Sound Panorama

The climb is almost 5 miles long and we expended quite a bit of effort to ride up at a decent pace. The first thing we did when we got to the top was to stuff our faces with food we had, which was not very much. We were able to take a moment to enjoy the spectacular view of the Puget Sound, with Mt Baker in the background before heading down.

Alpine Lake

I ride downhills faster, so I stopped at the lake to take a few pictures, and M and I got separated here. After some initial confusion and waiting, we got back into contact and she waited for me at the gas station just east of Eastsound. One thing about riding on the island is that you always have to watch time if you have to catch a ferry somewhere, which was our predicament. Since we ran out of water and food, we shared a can of coke at the gas station and began to ride as fast as we can back to the ferry dock. The Kogswell actually performed very well and its standard-sized tubing gave a lively ride that encouraged effort. We got to the ferry dock with minutes to spare and really enjoyed the late afternoon light peering through the clouds on our way back to Lopez Island. Orcas did not disappoint!

Washington State Ferry

More pictures from the ride:

And even more pictures of the ride here.

Friday, August 8, 2014

PNW Trip 2014: Mt Tabor Sunrise Coffee

I realized that I haven't posted for almost a year. It has been a supremely busy year personally and professionally, and my riding mileage has been down, but I have resolved to maintain a respectable amount of riding going forward.

Sun just about to pop out

M. and I decided to do the same thing we did last summer for vacation--Portland for a few days, and the San Juan Islands for a few--since we enjoyed it so much last year. One of the highlights this year of our stay in Portland is joining a group of folks (some I have corresponded with on various bike online groups or forums before) for coffee in the morning outside, at sunrise, at a location that we traveled to on bikes.

Andy and Chris I know from the Riv google group. They were kind enough to set up the date and location. At 5:30, Andy met M and me outside of our Airbnb and we rode through SE Portland neighborhoods, including crossing several very short gravel/dirt sections in parks to get to the foot of Mt Tabor. The morning air is crisp and we began to see a few commuting cyclists when we were near the foot of the hill. Tabor has a gentle gradient and is well shaded. We passed or were passed by cyclists, runners, and (dog)walkers.

Not very long after, we reached a set of benches off the road. Though not quite the top of the hill, this location has expansive views to the East. four people were already there preparing their morning cup of joe. The equipment spans different water-cooking options as well as different coffee-brewing option.

Sun just about popped out from behind a set of mountains at this point (slightly past 6AM). Chris made M and I a cup of coffee with beans roasted by Courier Roaster and a ceramic filter cone. The drink is very good. The conversation, equally good, ranged from ride stories, stories on encounter with Riv folks and Jan Heine, and Portland stuff. The bikes were also very nice: there were at least 4 Rivs, a couple of 80's steel bikes, and my Kogswell.

I chatted with different folks and found out that Oliver follows my blog and also has a Kogswell P/R (which is partly why I am writing again, as I realized people actually read this blog). He was kind enough to take us to the top of Tabor as the group dispersed to the morning affairs (it's a work day after all).

We descended back to SE Hawthorne and cruised toward breakfast. along the way people were opening their garages ready to leave for work, but in most instances instead of a car, a bike or two pulled out, and we were riding amid many other cyclists on every street. One guy chatted with us for a couple of blocks and gave us direction on how to get to a New Seasons Market.

It was an enjoyable way to start the day, and I am grateful to participate in the fun ritual of sunrise coffee outside. I have since purchased a Hario grinder and an Aeropress, now I am ready to do coffee outside in the East Bay also! Who is in?

The rest of the pictures that I took of Sunrise Coffee on Tabor is here.