Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Day 102 Gravesend, UK

With our flight at 8.30pm we had to be at the airport at 5.30pm and so we busied ourselves packing most of the morning and having breakfast with Howard until Sarah met us at 3pm. We had arranged with Sarah to give us a hand to the airport as it was a good walk and sky train ride away. Sarah pushed my bike while Kris and I carried the bike boxes to King Edward sky train station. Sarah and I waited with the gear while Kris run back to the house to push his bike back to the station. We had loosened the pedals so they were not able to be ridden.

At the station we took turns to manoeuvre the bikes and huge boxes down the 2 elevators and across the station to the platform which thankfully was not too busy. When the trained arrived Sarah threw the boxes on and Kris and I wheeled the boxes on taking up three carriages. After a half an hour ride we arrived at the Vancouver International airport and in a similar fashion we launched the boxes off the train and got the bikes off just in time.

Another relay in the elevator we arrived in departures and said farewell to Sarah, thanks for your help, it would have been a nightmare without you! We began to disassemble the bikes and pack them in the boxes however as the boxes were so huge we only had to remove the pedals and turn the handle bars. We used all the tape we had sealing the boxes and carried them through to check in. This did not go too smoothly as the boxes were too big to go down the conveyor belt even in the oversized baggage area! We had to wait half hour for the ramp guys from British Airways to come and inspect the bikes which meant removing them from the boxes again. There was also some confusion as to whether the boxes would even fit in the containers that get put on the plane!
Eventually they were cleared for take off and we watched them get dragged away. We waited an hour or so before the flight which was half hour delayed. The nine hour flight went quite quick what with Kris having a few whiskeys, watching a few movies and sleeping a few hours. On arrival at Heathrow we collected the bikes but Kris’s box looked as though it had been used as a punch bag so we removed the bikes from the boxes to assess any damage and thankfully there was none.
My mum and Aunty Jill had come to meet us with a trailer in tow to load up the bikes. We made it back home safe and sound and where mum had said she had stocked our cupboards with a few bare essentials! So that’s another trip all done and dusted and our minds are ticking over ideas for the next great adventure! Thanks to everybody that made our trip such an amazing experience

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Day 101 Vancouver

Saturday 28th August
Daily mileage 17miles Average Speed 9.25mph Ride Time 1hr50min
Total Mileage 3995

Another lazy morning, doing some laundry, updating the blog and bike maintenance before we ventured out about 1pm. We went to Broadway for some window shopping and lunch then we laid in the park for a bit, cycled round the waterfront and relaxed on the chair sculptures. We met Sarah and Howard at his work at 6pm then cycled over to Sarah’s place for home made pizza. We enjoyed a few beers and good conversation before cycling home at 11pm, in the dark again. It seems so weird cycling in the dark but here there are more bikes on the road than cars and any cars seem to put bikes first so you feel really safe.

We did some calculations this morning and have realised that we have spent £2,900 each for the 3 month trip where £900 of this was on flights and insurance. So £20 a day each which we feel is really reasonable especially when some might spend the same if not more on most package trips to say Las Vegas, Ibiza or Cyprus. Cycle touring can be as cheap as you want it to be depending on the level of comfort you desire. Of course all the strangers and warm shower hosts that we have had the pleasure of meeting have helped us stay on budget and we can not thank them enough.

We would also like to reiterate that we have been raising money for Cancer Research UK and we wish to make one last plea to anybody that has enjoyed reading our blog and following our adventure to make a donation to our chosen charity via the just giving link below, big or small would be greatly appreciated and thank you to everybody who has already donated.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Day 100 Vancouver

Friday 27th August
Daily mileage 22miles Average Speed 8.01mph Ride Time 2hr48min
Total Mileage 3978

Howard had to work but we had a lazy morning then I cycled in the pouring rain to Broadway in search of bike shops and 2 bike boxes. The bike shops were not too helpful and so Howard suggested Amtrak the train company. I found the station where I got directed as an extra on a film set that was being filmed as I arrived! I eventually made my way to the information desk where Jason wanted to charge me $22 for one box. After a short chat I was promised two boxes for free!
I cycled via the waterfront again back to meet Kris and when I returned I was absolutely soaked. Thankfully the sun came out and we walked to the sky train station to catch a train over to Amtrak to pick up the boxes. We had to negotiate the two huge boxes back through the film set, on the sky train and walk them several blocks back to Howard’s basement. These boxes are so big we do not even have to remove the wheels to pack the bikes but this means they are not easily manoeuvrable and I struggled to carry it when it was empty.

We rode our bikes back to the art gallery where we were meeting Howard and his friend Sarah from the meet up group along with 500 or so other riders that were gathering for the start of the critical mass ride that runs the last Friday of every month throughout the year and apparently runs in 300 cities internationally. The atmosphere was buzzing with people riding with stereos strapped to their bikes, people dressed up and a great deal of alcohol being consumed. We followed the mass around Vancouver for 2 hours and about 15miles.

The idea of the critical mass is to promote cycling, get cars to turn off their engines and cycle, and for the city to build more bike lanes and basically there are no rules. Everybody just cycles anywhere, through lights etc and various people named corkers, cork the traffic by parking in the middle of junctions. As you can imagine some cars get very annoyed and the bikers just ring their bells! After the ride the 4 of us stopped in a Chinese restaurant for a delicious dinner then cycled home again in the dark.

Day 99 Vancouver Island to Vancouver

Thursday 26th August
Daily mileage 35miles Average Speed 10.13mph Ride Time 3hr27min
Total Mileage 3956

We packed up the tent for the last time and cycled a few miles to the ferry terminal where we arrived 10mins before the 10am ferry and luckily managed to go straight on. We had a coffee and enjoyed the ride for an hour and a half crossing. On arrival of the mainland we followed our host Howard’s detailed instructions to his work. We had to ride the hard shoulder of the busy 17 highway then stop at a shell station to take a free bike shuttle service through a tunnel. We did well to find this as there were no obvious signs and it had many a cyclist confused at the entrance to the tunnel where no bikes are allowed.

The other side we took a side road number 5 through the heart of Richmond then found a bike path over a bridge into Vancouver where we stopped for a rest and brunch at a supermarket. We gave Howard a quick call and arranged to meet him at work so we found another bike path over another bridge into Downtown Vancouver where we met Howard a warm shower host at his music repair shop. He took a break and we went to Starbucks for a coffee.

Howard knocked off work at 6pm so we had a wander round town for a bit then we all cycled to the Vancouver Art Gallery where we met 10 other cyclists in a meet up group that Howard organises. We did a 5 mile ride around the waterfront then stopped at a park for a BBQ and watch the sunset over the ocean. We cycled back to Howard’s in the dark but there were so many cyclists about even at that time it is just the thing to do in this city which is great.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Day 98 San Yuan Island to Vancouver Island

Wednesday 25th August
Daily mileage 15miles Average Speed 9.9mph Ride Time 1hr31min
Total Mileage 3921

I was up at 8am and crawled out the tent with out waking Kris who enjoyed a nice long lay in. I sat at the waters edge watching two seals playing in the water. As the sun rose above the hill the heat was on the tent and so Kris appeared. We had breakfast at a picnic table looking out over the ocean and decided that as checkout was not until noon we would not be moving until noon! We saw a deer that was very friendly and allowed Kris to get within a few meters to snap away.

Kris cut his hair and so needed to jump in the sea to wash the bits of hair off but it was freezing so it was very quick and not very successful. This is our 3rd day cycling and camping with no shower. We laid sunbathing for a few hours then could not put it off any longer as out ferry was leaving at 3.40pm. We left the campsite at 1.30pm and cycled up and down lots of hills some that followed the coastline which was beautiful.

Arriving in Friday Harbour we had half hour to spare so we spent our final $10 as once we got on the ferry to Vancouver Island we were leaving USA and arriving in Canada! We had prepared ourselves to go through customs however much to our amazement a bloke barely even looked at our passports and we were away. On the ferry we charged batteries for the 40min crossing and arrived in Sidney Harbour where we asked about cheap motels but the cheapest was $100 needless to say we got directions to the nearest campsite!
Luckily it was only a few miles up the road on a bike path and in the direction of harbour where we depart for the mainland tomorrow so it was not so bad and at $13.70 we could not complain. We found our spot and watched a movie in the tent still with no showers. The campsite was deep in a forest area and the mosquitoes were out!

Day 97 Orcas Island to San Yuan Island

Tuesday 24th August
Daily mileage 26miles Average Speed 12.2mph Ride Time 2hr08min
Total Mileage 3906

Last night we could hear the patter of tiny footsteps in our food bag and had to rescue our bread from the mice who was enjoying munching on it. Amazingly we enjoyed 12 hours of sleep as we woke at 10.30am mostly due to the thick tree cover it still felt cool in the tent. For our shower we took a morning swim in the lake which was crystal clear and clean. Neither of us being strong swimmers we challenged ourselves to swim across the lake to the deck which we succeeded at, just.

We packed up the tent and we had decided that I would be missing out if I did not see the view from the summit so we locked up the bikes and I stood at the roadside with my thumb out. Believe it or not the first car that came up the hill pulled over and two lovely ladies stopped to give us a ride. I am so glad that we did as the view was great from the top. Many more photos later we got a lift back down to our bikes and were extremely thankful for the ride.
We rode back into town and found a café for a coffee and recharge of batteries. We had to cycle hard to make it to the ferry terminal by 4pm and the hills made this hard work. We made it just in time and boarded the ferry to Friday Harbour on San Yuan Island. 40mins later we arrived and after a short stop at the visitor information centre, market and liquor store we started pedalling across the island to a campsite on the west coast.

Despite the ride only being 10 miles and very beautiful it was challenging due to the steep hills and time frame to ensure firstly the campsite was not full and secondly we made it before sunset. We were pleased to find out that they reserve hiker/biker sites and our spot could not be more perfect. The tent was up in record time and we sat looking out across the ocean where the sun would go down with Vancouver island in the foreground.
As we sat soaking up the amazing colours we could see seals splashing about and before long we saw a pod of killer whales travel right across the horizon. We could even hear the water being forced up through their blow holes, it was breathtaking. We sat until dark taking thousands of photos and enjoying the peaceful surroundings. A very unusual black fox with a white tipped tail was lurking about us looking for scraps of our tasty chicken dinner.

Day 96 Seattle to Orcas Island

Monday 23rd August
Daily mileage 24miles Average Speed 9.6mph Ride Time 2hr35min
Total Mileage 3880

We loaded John’s car up with the bikes and left Emerald City at 8.30am on our way to Anacortes ferry terminal with a quick stop at Starbucks for coffee to go and a sausage and egg muffin. Unfortunately we just missed the 10.15am ferry and so had to kill a few hours until we hopped on the 12.30pm ferry to Orcas Island. We were joined by a group of 22 cyclists on an organised tour of the islands which appears to be very popular.
We pretty much slept the entire journey and luckily just about woke up as we arrived in the harbour. The sun was shining and we soon realised that the island is extremely hilly. We headed for Eastsound market and grabbed some lunch which we took to the beach to eat and have a skimming competition. A quick wander around the gift shops and we kept cycling toward Moran State Park via Cascade lake. We climbed up mountain road and arrived at Mountain lake where we were camping.
The lakes were gorgeous and extremely picturesque set in amongst a lush green forest backdrop. I set up camp while Kris continued to ride up the mountain to the summit to photograph the sunset. He was set a challenge to ride the distance in as many minutes as his age. He managed 30mins and 26 sec which is amazing considering the steepness of the road. Unfortunately the trees were too high and blocked the perfect sunset photo but the view of Mt Baker and Mt Rainier were perfectly clear and impressive. Despite not being able to see the sunset, watching the full moon and the colours change on the snow capped mountains was well worth the climb.

On the way down it was quite dark and the deer were out and not scared of humans. They were in the middle of the road and stood still as he approached as they cannot hear the bike coming. Kris arrived back at the tent at 9pm just in time to watch a movie before sleep.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Day 95 Seattle

Sunday 22nd August
Another enjoyable lazy morning where Kris was pleased to be able to watch a Man United match v Fulham. It was raining outside and with all the windows here it was quite cosy to sip on a star bucks coffee and look out over the lake. After lunch John dropped us off in town to watch ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ at the cinema while he went to the sculpture gardens with Sally then when he met us after our film finished he decided to join us to watch ‘Expendables’ so we were on for a back to back movie session. I know I’m biased but I’m sure the first film was far better than the second!

We returned to the house briefly before heading to a local Japanese restaurant where we were joined by Allison and her boyfriend Brian and other daughter Lesley. We had a quick lesson in the etiquette of eating sushi and tucked in to our raw fish and rice. It was tasty but personally I think we need more practice with the chopsticks. Back at the house we finished off the apple pie and ice cream before bed for an early start hitting the road in the morning. We are going to miss this place terribly and can not thank John enough for his overwhelming kindness and hospitality for not only putting us up but for making our stay in Seattle so interesting and comfortable, we have really enjoyed your company, thanks John.

Day 94 Seattle

Saturday 21st August
We had a nice lazy morning and while John was out running some errands Kris took the single kayak out for a 3 mile long paddle around lake Washington and I drew up some statistics. Kris was lucky enough to see a small turtle and a blue heron but unfortunately the turtle was camera shy. I calculated that in the 94 days so far we have had 21 days off, and have stayed in 13 motels, stayed with 14 warm shower hosts, 29 random strangers and have camped 38 nights!

When John returned we drove into town to pick up my rear wheel from the bike shop where the very kind manager at Performance Bicycle gave us the repaired spoke for free, thank you! One look at the rim we could see that there are so many splits in it, I hope it holds until the end. From here we went to the REI shop which is a massive place selling all kinds of outdoor equipment. John purchased some new bits for his forthcoming hike into the Cascade mountains and we window shopped but could have spent hundreds as there was some really nice gear.
Back at the house boat we were joined by Johns wife Sally and their daughter Allison and other daughter Jean and boyfriend Ryan. We had cheese and biscuits on the deck while the steaks were sizzling on the BBQ. We enjoyed a delicious dinner with true American style apple pie and ice cream for dessert. We truly enjoyed a great evening.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Day 93 Seattle sightseeing

Friday 20th August

We had a lovely cooked breakfast then jumped in the car to the bike shop to drop off my rear wheel to be fixed. On closer inspection the actual rim is split in several places so on return to the UK Betty will need some major attention and its amazing she has held up this far. We went up very steep hills to the Lake View Cemetery where we located Bruce Lee and his son Brandon Lee’s grave stones. We paid our respects and fulfilled one of the two things Kris has always wanted to do in USA along with running up the Philadelphia steps from Rocky!

We got dropped off at Pike Street Market which was buzzing with street entertainers and busy stalls with Salmon being tossed high in the air. We searched high and low for the bubble gum wall which we had seen in a movie earlier in the trip and we eventually found it down a dark alley. It was grossly funky with passers by stringing their gum and sticking it amongst others on the wall. We met up with John again at 2pm and headed up another steep hill to a small park that gave a great view of the city skyline with space needle towering above. You could also see Mt Rainier in the background that stands at 14,411ft and does not look real as it is sitting in amongst the clouds.

We went over to the beach where we skimmed the stone into the water that we had carried all the way from Sandy Hook in New Jersey on the Atlantic coast 4000 miles to the Pacific ocean. It was very sentimental and Kris celebrated with another handstand. On the way back to the house boat we stopped at the Ballard Salmon Ladder where you could go underground to see the Salmon that had managed to avoid the massive sea lion at the entrance to the tunnel and were struggling to swim upstream from salt water to fresh water. We also visited Troll St where there was a huge troll eating a VW campervan hiding under the bridge.

Back at the house we jumped in the large boat and went out on Lake Washington armed with a book of all the magnificent houses on the water edge and who they belong to and how much they cost. We found Bill Gates’ house that was the most magnificent and it took $100m to build. Most of the houses that were in the book all belonged to people that invented various computer software such as Microsoft, Word etc. We stopped in the middle of the lake for cheese and biscuits washed down with a few beers then with a top speed of 60mph we viewed the sun starting to set as we made our way back. We walked up the street to dinner in a pizza restaurant then back to sleep after an exhausting action packed day of sightseeing.