For a mere twenty dollars you get a spot high on a bluff overlooking Puget Sound and neighboring Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.
“What kind of fish do you put in your fish tacos?” I asked the waiter as he hurried past.
“Fish,” he said over his shoulder.
“There goes your tip!” I replied, but by then he had disappeared into the kitchen.
It was one of those rare balmy days you get in late summer in the San Juans. Big white fluffy clouds ganged up along the horizon creating the perfect backdrop for the fleet of pleasure boats bobbing in their slips at Roche Harbor.
We were sitting in the bar at the Hotel De Haro, in the patio section of course, having a few beers and enjoying the scenery before we rode back to our campsite a dozen or so miles south. We’d just finished a plate of French fries and were thinking about getting dinner. I’d been talking up the fish tacos to Shari, and had intended to order one, but the place was hopping, the wait staff hustling from table to table… we’d been lucky to get our beers.
There's a pedestrian mall with all kinds of wares. We opted for ice cream.
No bicycle touring trip of the San Juans is complete without a visit to Roche Harbor on San Juan Island. We’d come across from Anacortes that morning and had ridden to San Juan County Park on the west side where we’d set up camp in the hiker/biker campsite. For a mere twenty dollars you get a spot high on a bluff overlooking Puget Sound and neighboring Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.
The ride from Friday Harbor, where the ferry docks, had been pleasant enough. We’d drifted along through rolling bucolic farm country and had spotted three or four bald eagles along the way. But the ride really gets spectacular once you reach the Sound and begin heading north along the West Side Road.
At about five miles, the road leaves the water and climbs a couple of super steep hills, levels out for a while then provides a crazy-fun descent into San Juan County Park. After checking in and a light lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, we headed for Roche Harbor. The ride takes about an hour and without the burden of full panniers, it’s a pure delight.
Along the way we stopped at an alpaca farm, the historic English Camp, and the outdoor sculpture garden. The road continues past the sculpture garden and climbs a steep hill only to drop dramatically back down to sea level. We decided to avoid the climb and instead took a short cut that meanders down a gentle descent right into Roche Harbor. It’s a nice ride along a tree-shaded lane past vistas of the bay and marina.
We were sitting in the bar at the Hotel De Haro, in the patio section of course, having a few beers and enjoying the scenery before we rode back to our campsite a dozen or so miles south.
In mid-August, the yachting set is drawn to Roche Harbor in droves. Lots of Topsiders and Izods, sunburns and baggy shorts. We felt a little out of place in our bike togs, but no one else seemed to care or even notice—it's that kind of laid back place with a very good, Provincetown, Cape Cod kind of vibe.
After a trip to the general store at the Marina and a stroll along the docks to admire the yachts, we rode back to our campsite, cooked a light diner, poured glasses of wine and settled in to watch the sunset. I’d left the rain fly off the tent and we drifted off to a spectacular view of the Milky Way.