Monday, June 17, 2013

Vashon Island Ride

A 2012 New York Times article compared the ferry to Vashon Island to a time machine. I can imagine that the somewhat isolated island community has preserved old ways of life, so I was curious to bike around the place and see for myself. Others have written ride descriptions before, I have particularly liked the posts on Ken't Bike Blog.
Since I could take bike paths pretty much all the way to the Fauntleroy Ferry, biking was the sole mode of transportation and this was a car free ride. Riding long(-ish) road rides from my apartment is  something I haven't quite figured out yet here. There seems to be water, city or freeways all around. As I pedaled along the Seattle waterfront at 7:30AM, I only saw confused looking tourists who were trying to find their cruise ships. A mile long line of taxicabs in front of the Aquarium would take care of them. A long stretch along the Alki Beach was almost deserted, too, except few early joggers. I barely managed to buy the $6 ferry ticket and was let onto the ferry as a last one, together with another cyclist.  Fifteen or so minutes later, we have presumably traveled back in time.

It was a pretty good climb from the sea level to the island's spine, and my lungs and sinuses, still recovering from a recent viral infection, responded with convulsions and overproduction of mucus. I felt totally out of shape, but as I rode quiet roads south along the western side (counter clockwise), I was able to start noticing some interesting things along the road. 
First, a huge ant hill! I haven't see one in so long, yet these busy colonies used to be a common sight when I was a kid and hiked the Czech woods. Next thing that caught my eye as I pedaled along were bushes with yellow and red berries. I though it was too early for raspberries or blackberries to be ripe, but I stopped to check them out. These were salmonberries (as I found out later at home online). First, I was not sure if they were edible, thought that most compound berries were, plus these tasted so good, that I could not stop picking them. I left my bike on the side of the road in deep grass and just went along the bushes in search of more and more berries, till I realized I should go back and find my bike.
This was a second thing that reminded me so strongly of my young years back in Central Europe: you have to earn your berries, since there surely will be stinging nettles next to them. Yes, Vashon nettles were 10 feet tall and stung quite a bit.

 I rode all the way to the south-most tip of the island, to a Point Defiance ferry dock, had a quick snack and climbed north and along the eastern side of Vashon, towards Burton peninsula. A viewpoint along the way offered a good view of another ant hill to the east.

 After Tramp Harbor, I remembered to look for the famous red bike in a tree, sure it was there, but compared to older pictures on the internet, missing a handlebar.

Vashon town center was very busy with a farmers' market, Father's Day celebrations, traffic jam etc., no yesteryear nostalgia there. Just north of town center, I followed farm roads towards the coast, to get off the main island highway and enjoy some more downhills and climbs. Unknowingly, I missed the Betty Macdonald farm. I knew she had moved to Vashon after the chicken farm fiasco, but had no idea about the farm's location. Betty Macdonald is also kind of associated with my youth - she was very popular in Czech Republic in the eighties, I guess since she was one of the few American authors allowed to be translated and published, and she was also a favorite author of my mother, who insisted I read all her favorite feminist books (I prefered sci-fi).
I rolled onto a ferry back to Seattle in early afternoon and really enjoyed the views of our volcanoes both right (Rainier) and left (Baker) from the upper deck.

 Alki beach was a zoo on Saturday afternoon, with the bike path clogged with people, pedicabs, roller skaters and other damn cyclists.

Seattle waterfront was my home stretch, for total (including the ferry nautical miles) of 81 very, very enjoyable miles. Nothing beats feeling like a kid again, especially on a bike.

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