June 22 - Gig Harbor to Port Townsend, WA: Eventually, we leave.
Gathering steam @ Olympic Village took more than an hour. Free breakfast at Boogie's bagels, goodbyes, an invocation from an LDS bishop, initial route instructions from Alf, parking the truck, lining up for a group Photo at the Mountain Shoppe - it's amazing we left at all.
Through the Harbor, we had a police escort, blocking traffic at key intersections. Once in Kitsap, Steve had arranged (offering a free breakfast) for rolling coverage from two sherrif's cars. This allowed us to cruise down to the Port Orchard foot ferry, with many clocking over 40 mph on the best downhills.
While waiting for the ferry, Tom saw an official looking man with a cap and papers striding towards our party.
"Captain; excuse me, captain!" Tom assumed he was the captain of the ferry, which was idling at dockside.
The man perked up, saying "Yes?" Tom went into a rap about our tour, making a pitch for a Mary Bridge contribution. Ten minutes later, the Captain returned with a book of vouchers for the ferry. Turns out the guy was a volunteer fire department captain, and happened to have a spare book back at the station.
We handed our bikes to the deckhands of this miniature craft (now I know why they called the original ferries across the sound the "mosquito fleet"). They stacked 15 bikes on the roof, wheels slid under the shallow rails, without any lashing. Said they did it this way all the time. We prayed for calm seas and no wakes, with over $20 K of touring cycles on top. Bad way to end the trip if we lost them.
By now, the day was warming, and settling into a routine, broken by a 5 mile cruise up Big Valley road - smooth asphalt, wide clean shoulder, no traffic. A gentle roll down into Port Gamble, and lunch, packed at Boogie's and served by Louise and Helen. There, we learned about the 72 dozen cookies they baked, chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, snickerdoodle, and "Ranger" (oatmeal and coconut).
Port Gamble is a little vestige of Kitsap's glory days in timber. A loading dock still receives logging trucks, now filled with matchstick sized hemlock and fir trunks, not the one-tree-to-a-load of years gone by. Overlooking Hood Canal, we soaked up the food while soaking up the sun, out for the first (let's hope not the last!) time.
We grouped up for the siege over Hood Canal bridge. A floating two laner, there is barely enough room for us and the cars, the claustrophobia made worse by the south wind whipping us toward the outer bulkhead.
We spread out over the 20 miles through Port Ludlow to Port Townsend. Most of the way, the overhanging canopy of maple and alder shaded the afternoon from our backs. Not until a few miles our of PT did we find traffic, rushing home or to shopping.
Pedaling from PT to Ft. Worden State Park took us over a hill, finally swooping down to an open field next to the balloon hanger. Sheltered from the breezes coming off the Strait of Juan de Fuca, we lined our tents up facing the setting sun, and started to get to know each other.
One thing we learned is Louise and Helen are pros at setting up and cooking dinner for this large, famished group. Ravioli, salad, rolls - all we wanted, and all of it good.
Another thing we found out, Tom is like a border collie - not that he herds us around, but he has a concern for the flock. Not until the last rider is in and safe does he break out his ritual end of the day beer.
Later, someone made a small campfire for the kids, and broke out some grahams, marshmallows, and chocolate. Tommy and Elizabeth had a great time burning the Marshmallows to a crisp, pretending to eat them, then watching the charred remnants sizzle a quick death in the embers.
Port Townsend started life as a harbor for logging and fur trade, got excited that it might be a railway terminus, then went bust after the turn of the century when the old growth was gone and Seattle got the trains. It left a legacy of a brick facade downtown along the docks, and Victorian mansions on the bluffs above. During WWI, Fort Worden was built, one of three guarding Admiralty Inlet, the entrance to Puget Sound (the other two are Flagler across the Port, and Casey over on Whidbey Island). The Federal Government kept the town alive long enough for the hippies to take over. For a long time, PT looked like it was stuck in 1973 granola central, but lately, its emerged into the '90s, taking full advantage of its gorgeous setting, light rainfall, and funky architecture to become a festival city. Blues, Jazz, arts - every weekend from Easter to Thanksgiving, it seems, is given over to some special event here.
This week, its a blues festival. Rumor has it, the participants are jamming tonight in the officers' mess, located just behind our encampment. Pat and Jim go over to investigate, trying to get (like Joni Mitchell sang) some blues for free. But alas, bluesmen and bikers hours dont mesh - they're gettin up just about the time we're going to sleep, and they stop laying just about the time we rise for the early start. Sort of a recursive bikers' blues in there, somewhere - ain't it sad we can't hear 'em sing?
That night, it rained.
Miles: 78; Vertical: 4000 feet. Flat tires: Alf
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