This last day on tour of Vancouver Island and the San Juan’s is a hectic one. I made all these travel plans before the Washington State Ferries even published their summer schedule, and even if they had, what options would that have given me?
Everyone’s become an experienced bicycle tourist by this point. Right after breakfast the water bottles are filled; the panniers ready to load. We’re all looking forward to this last day’s itinerary.
We have to catch the ferry out of Friday Harbor at 9:45am; that will be easy. It’s a brisk 5 mile ride across the island, a great wake-up ride this last morning of our trip together. We arrive over an hour early, in time to watch the inter-island ferry arrive and reload.
There are several pedestrians waiting, part of a seniors group, so I notice how light we’re traveling. The suitcases are as big as some of these widows. I appreciate that everything I packed I’ve worn, several times. The only garment I haven’t is the padded cycling britches; these multi-modal travels just haven’t added up to that many miles at any one outing, so I’ve gone without the extra padding.
This ferry ride is the critical component of today’s schedule. If it’s late then we’ll be stressed. We must ferry to Sidney then turn south along the Lochside Trail we traveled earlier in the week, return the bikes in downtown Victoria, catch a cab to the airport, all in time for a 3:40pm flight to Seattle.
We wait at the dock peering out to the corners of the harbor. I guess wrong; our ferry comes from the east and although it seems like it’s cutting it close, we depart right on time.
The ferry crews are very considerate towards cyclists; you get the feeling they all ride, too. Driving a car on the ferry can be hairy; many times it looks like there are more cars than room to accommodate them. Not so for bikes, but the accommodations could be better.
As you see here, the bikes are on a steep incline; we’ve got to tie them to the railings, which is fine except that half the ropes are made of that plastic crap — it’s not easy to get a tight grip on the bike in those cases. I compensated here and tied the rear wheel up, too. The best part is the last part: cyclists line up at the front and as soon as the ferry is secure in the dock we get to blast off. I was the first one to reach Canadian Customs, another possible delay, but not for us; we clear the terminal in minutes and begin our brisk ride south to Victoria.As we ride south there’s a brisk headwind and we’re exposed for the first 5 miles or so. Then the trail heads into the trees as we retrace our route past the farms, the horse pastures and eventually into Victoria’s outer suburbs. Trestles span the waterways and at one point we can hear the geese squawking before we see the marsh — they fly over us in formation just as we approach. There’s more wildlife in these northern climes; the gulls and geese make their presence known — they’re loud!
Whatever stresses we might have felt earlier are melting away; we’re on schedule as we race to Victoria. The four of us take turns randomly riding side by side; it’s been a great trip and everyone’s appreciative. The vigorous ride works away any travel anxieties. There’s just one last hurdle to clear — we must find a taxi as soon as we arrive in the city.
Luck is with us; as the bike rental shop comes into view I see the signs for the sea plane terminal — they dock right next door — surely there’ll be taxis waiting there. And there are. In a stroke of good luck there’s a taxi sitting just 30 feet from the bike rental shop. I pull up next to him, “Four to the airport?” He’s surprised to see his next fare arrive by bike. In 5 minutes we’ve returned the bikes and plopped our panniers into the yellow Toyota Prius; we’re on our way to the airport with time to spare.
As we weave our way out of the downtown I keep my eyes peeled for the bike trail we’ve just traveled. I spot it several times and point it out.
Eventually we board a twin propeller plane and pop off the runway. Everyone has a gorgeous view as we climb out. I can see Roche Harbor; it seems so close from the air. Friday Harbor comes into view and it’s like a last look, a flashing reminder of some of the favorite destinations we’ve enjoyed this past week. Soon the skies cloud over and we’re lining up for a quick landing at Sea-Tac. As we do, there’s a last look at the Olympic mountains to the west.
Our family tour is over; it’s been a great success. Everyone’s relaxed; we’ve all enjoyed an active, healthy 8 days in the Northwest. I’ll savor this exceptional journey for awhile, but I’m already thinking of my next tour.