June 21, 2002: Island in the Sound

Yesterday, the Frogs flew into town, lugging the usual two bike boxes, helmets, shoes, clothes for the lady, and (their paranoia runs deep), rain gear.

"I hate to tell you this, Craig, but today is going to be a beautiful day!"

"You've said that before, Al. I know what that means - it'll only rain enough to soak us clear through, but not enough to drench us."

No, really, today's going to be about as good as it gets."

It sure started off that way. We rolled down the driveway a little after 10 AM, hoping to make to 12:15 ferry from Southworth to Vashon. Up the hill through Quail Run, over the bridge to up[town Gig Harbor, down the hill (and up again for a brief stop at Old Town Bicycle to check on the status of our tandem with the frozen seat post - they're not open this early!), then REALLY down the hill onto the waterfront. Around the harbor, and out to Crescent Valley - this is the start of so many of our bike rides. After the grind to the county line, comes the cruise into Al's Store, and onto the Olalla Triangle, where we meet our friend John, just as planned at 11:30. Being an engineer, he wonders why we're so slow (after all HE got there at 11:00; guess he didn't want to be late!). Kitsap County is adding shoulders on its roads all the time - Olalla Valley Rd and Banner Rd sport new ones, just in this year. Around 12:15, we head into the Southworth Ferry Area. John covers the cost of the remaining tickets in a book, and we try to convince Craig, that, Yes, those cars are indeed coming from a ferry, unseen around the corner, and we had better HURRY NOW if we intend to make this trip.

The air has warmed up quite nicely; it's possible to wander around the ferry deck even in the breeze. Not a cloud in the sky, Mt. Rainier hoving into view around the northern tip of Vashon, and the Olympics fading into the mist behind us. The Vashon dock is a busy place, with three loading spots, and two or three boats coming and going some times. But between trips, it's a quiet backwater, stuck at the base of a killer hill (as are all ferry docks). So it's best to fuel up before we go. Luckily, the Mexican Place is still there, so we park our bikes and stroll on in. Leigh thinks she's eating Italian.

Somehow, we finish the entire load of burritos, quesadillas, tamales, beer, ice tea, etc, put before us, and head out onto the road - just as the next boat unloads. For the next twenty minutes, we wait in the shade at the bottom of the hill, to let the troops roll by. Finally, we ascend to the island center plateau, 400 feet in 1.5 miles, and cruise along on the best day of the year. After Leigh's stop for the requisite post card to document her trip (much easier than taking and developing pictures. she's learned, and she can't break a camera, either, this way), we get pay back for the climb as we bomb down towards the island's eastern shore. Along the way, we pass this Ape Statue. (I know it's sideways, but the guy's upside down to begin with, so what does it matter?)

Down on the Sound once again, the day takes perfect form. No clouds, clear air, sea breeze, 73F - Paradisio! We pause out on a dock jutting into the bay formed by the junction of Maury and Vashon Islands (Maury is actually a peninsula connected by a 100 yard wide isthmus to the main island - on it's other side is the well protected Quartermaster Harbor, many boats in it's calmer waters, and the funky locales of Dockton and Burton. And, the infamous Gravel Quarry.

All over the Island, we've seen signs "Island yes! Glacier NO!" Because of its location in central Puget sound, gravel hauled from the quarry at the tip of Maury is easily barged a bit up north to be used as landfill for the Third Runway being graded at Sea-Tac airport. Not only do many believe the runway to be environmentally unsound (or just plain noisy), but the Vashonites have apparently gotten on board, and counter-attacked the land-raping company, Glacier, which is mining the gravel, and having the gall to then ship it in plain sight away from their bucolic paradise. I must say I have divided loyalties about this, as the gravel company's land has some of the sweetest intermediate mountain biking in the whole Western Washington area, and is the site of our very first local Xterra triathlon.

Oh well; not being residents, we have the privilege of just observing, and not having to feel, or take sides. What we will take is the roundabout trip back up to the Island plateau, and then back down to the southern ferry terminus, at Talequah. Our good friend Caron Campbell once lived about 1/2 mile from this ferry, on the Sound itself. She had a monster views, 150' of high bank waterfront, and a new, but cute house where she was set to live out as many years as she could. Which turned out to be about 2, and the high bank suddenly got very much closer to her house, the foundation cracked, the house moved, was condemned, and had to be destroyed ("put down"?), leaving her with zilch except the land, which no one would buy as it was clearly a risky site. Few people love the water enough to have their house actually fall INTO it.

The ferry trip back was another slice of Puget Sound paradise, being one of the few times I've stood up in the wind and not shivered on one of those rides. We briefly thought about feeding at Anthony's, but were clearly too early, sunset being five hours away, and family matters calling us home to Gig Harbor. We still had North Tacoma to traverse, and then ... the Narrows Bridge!

I stopped everyone at the Osama-inspired Jersey barriers separating the side road from the bridge deck, and started an instructional pep talk about getting safely to the other side.

"Is it anything like the Hood Canal Bridge?" Leigh wanted to know.

"No, this one is very safe - a three foot wide sidewalk, separated from the traffic by raised pipe and grating. You'll need to get off and walk around the towers ... "


I chuckled, "You'll se when you get there - there's a little step. The big problem is getting OFF the bridge. Traffic's slowing from 55 to 10 in only fifty feet, and you're in the way. We need to cross over the exit line to turn left. I'll guide you when we get there."

The biggest problem on the bridge was some excessive trash. Stuff is always flying out of pick up trucks, and I see everything from string to camper tops lodged on the sidewalk against the railing. This time, a broken, cumbersome cardboard box, filled with IKEA parts, blocked our path. Bits of it I started throwing over the rail.

"Don't" screamed Cheryl, over the traffic roar. "Just let the clean-up guys take care of that!"

I tired explaining to her that there WERE no clean-up guys - we were it - but instead, I just moved it as far out of the way as I could, and crept on to the exit. Once there, I got us all across the traffic safely.

Then, up the hill and onto our brand-new, very own bike path which the power company has paved below its transmission lines from Cushman dam in the Olympics, ruining a perfectly good dirt bike trail from my house down to the Sound. But the gentler folk now get to trudge along for 2.4 miles out of view (but not hearing) of any cars, and feel as if they're on a jaunt in the woods. I hope they all get brain cancer from the power lines.

So, a perfect day - as Craig said, it's kind of neat to make a complete loop of fifty miles starting and ending at your own house, and riding out in the country, over two ferries, and Island, a huge Suspension Bridge, and even a Big City (Tacoma), in only four hours riding time. We are so lucky.