Wednesday, August 3rd
I’m drinking a beer but I don’t feel i’ve earned it. It’s a Pacifico. The can is yellow with an anchor on it and it makes me think of Mexico. Unlike the other cans of beer i’ve sometimes drank at the end of a long day of cycling I don’t feel i’ve earned this one. I’ve only cycled 20 something miles. It’s been less than 24 hours since I reached the coast and I already feel slightly aimless. Perhaps this is why I didn’t take too much time off my bike in the last 80 days, because I don’t know what to do with myself when i’m not cycling from A to B. And I am terrible at relaxing.
I took the ferry to Orcas island in the morning.
But first I took a walk on the beach where i’d dipped my bike last night. I collected a few stones as mementos. It was the first time I felt I didn’t have to worry that I wasn’t cycling, though I still felt an urge to keep moving. I wondered what to do with the day, and quickly decided on the ferry before I had time to overthink or regret not hanging around longer.
I cycled a mile up the hill then down to the ferry port. The building was small, scrappy. The coffee was bad and overpriced. Much like all ferry ports i’ve found myself in.
I picked Orcas island as Aidan, one of the guys i’d camped with by Diablo Lake, had said it was the best. I didn’t really have many expectations.
A lovely but truly insane woman sold me the tickets and handed me about 5 different pamphlets of ferry times and maps. From what I could understand, ferries were free and frequent between the San Juan islands once I left the mainland to one of them, but, to begin transit to mainland Canada there was only one ferry a day – early in the day, to get to Vancouver Island. Then from there I could take a more frequent service into Vancouver. I’d worry about that all later.
I waited outside the building with the coffee i’d just bought. I went to check the time but my watch was not on my wrist. I began frantically cycling back to the campsite, but half a mile in retraced the morning in my mind, checked in my wash bag, and it was there. I coasted back down and finished my coffee. I’m surprised I haven’t misplaced more things during the last few months.
The ferry left at 10.20 I boarded alongside a couple of other older guys with racing bikes.
The ferry took an hour or so, first stopping at Shaw Island, before Orcas. The morning was dry but grey. From the deck islands drifted in and out view.
I pushed my bike off the ferry and leaned it against the wall outside the Orcas General Store. I knew I was making a mistake going in there. One apple cost nearly $3. I bought as little as I could and left.
I took a left away from the port and was immediately struck by how hilly the place was. This day, or two days, were meant to be relaxing, but I was already sweating up an 8% grade hill. I passed a couple who were biking who said i’d managed to pick the hilliest of the islands, but before too long I made it to East Sound.
East Sound is the main town on the island. A place with that chintzy craftsy seaside look and swarmed with families from Seattle and Vancouver buying $6 ice cream cones for their kids. But I was just tired and cynical, unsure how i’d spend the next few days ahead of my flight now I didn’t really have anywhere I had to be, I was no longer on a linear path.
So I stopped at a cafe and spent the next few hours writing up my final day, posting some photos, trying to find a place to stay in Vancouver.
The time went quickly and before I knew it it was after 4, it was sunny now, not grey, and I felt the day had slipped away a little. I cycled out to the bay, then headed towards Moran State Park where I thought I could camp, around 5 miles away.
Most of the roads were downhill from here, though I knew i’d have to climb up them tomorrow in the morning to the port.
Hiker/biker camping was $12. As usual with state parks the ‘primitive’ camping was in an pretty, isolated forest spot, but a long way away from the lake and the main attractions of the park.
I found the last remaining bench and camp spot and sat and drank that beer and felt like I hadn’t achieved a lot but I knew i’d need to slowly begin to readjust or redefine what achievement was and what my expectations of myself were now the mission of ‘cycle across America’ had been completed.
I made dinner then decided to go down to Olga before sunset. It was two miles, mostly downhill. There turned out to be nothing there. A tiny set of expensive houses, a long pier. I headed straight back past deer scattered across the lawns and forests, they roamed all over the island totally oblivious to people and cars.
I look at my pamphlets and the ferry timetables. I’d need to wake up and be cycling before 5am if I wanted to make it to Vancouver or anywhere in Canada tomorrow.
So I decide to spend a day on San Juan island, hoping for something a little flatter which I could explore in a little more detail. From there I could head to Vancouver on Friday morning giving me the best part of three days in the city. Perhaps i’d worry less about having to have a purpose there. Then, soon, Europe once again.