The night passed pleasantly enough and the morning dawned cool and clear. As we had been setting up camp at Potlatch State Park the night before, we’d started talking with another biker. He was pushing his bicycle up the gravel road. “Hey, what’s up?” Mike had said.
“Just looking for a place to pitch my tent.”
“We got the last spot.” Mike shot me a look and I nodded. “Why don’t you camp with us? There’s plenty of room.”
Our new friend was riding a beautiful Rivendell Atlantis touring bike. The Atlantis is a high-end model with lugged frame and classic lines. It goes for more than $2,000 and he had outfitted it with retro racks and canvas panniers. His clothes matched his vintage bicycle. He wore a jaunty short-billed cap, a wool sweater and corduroy knickers. He looked like something out of the 19th Century. He’d sort of jumped the shark with the whole gig, but it was still pretty cool.
As Mike made up our usual breakfast of oatmeal, I wandered over to where our companion was making his. He had an alcohol stove; a simple device that uses anything from rubbing alcohol to windshield de-icer as fuel. It burns at a much lower temperature than our MSR jobs so it takes longer to boil water, but it’s completely silent. Our MSRs make a noise that could be described as a low-flying jet. I was fascinated by this little stove, but when I saw how long it took him to cook, I was glad we had our noisy, high-pressure MSRs.
We finished breakfast, packed up our gear and were off. We waved goodbye to our eccentric friend who was still waiting for his water to boil.
Today’s ride would take us south a bit, then we’d head east along the southern part of the Hood Canal to Bremerton where we’d catch the ferry back to Seattle. A few miles south of Potlatch State Park there’s a store and we stopped for second breakfast. While we sat on the bench munching bananas and oatmeal cookies, we watched a fellow put 4 quarts of oil into his car. “I’ve had a few oil burners like that,” Mike said.
“Me too. Remember my 55 Chevy?” We both laughed.
The ride along this section of Hood Canal is one of my favorites. It’s gently rolling terrain with nice wide shoulders and smooth pavement. As we pedaled along through the woods and past cottages lining the banks, we were treated to frequent views of the water. The sun was out and a few white clouds added emphasis to the azure late summer sky. Today’s ride would be about 40 miles, counting the ride from the Coleman Ferry Dock in Seattle to Mike’s house on Lake Union and we made good time with a steady 12-15 mile-an-hour pace. We stopped at a park with a boat launch and had lunch. We lay on the grass and watched the boats bobbing at anchor. In the distance we could hear the put-put-put of a commercial fisher as he plied the waters a few hundred yards off shore. It was around 11:00 O’clock and the day had warmed up nicely. The sun felt good on my face and it wasn’t’ long before I drifted off to sleep.
I awoke sometime later, sat up and looked around. Mike was tinkering with his bike. “How’s the crank?” I asked.
“Hasn’t loosened up one bit since I got that gunk out of the threads.”
“I guess it must’ve done the trick.” I replied.
Once back on our bikes, we fairly flew and it wasn’t long before we rolled in to the small town of Belfair where we stopped for a couple of beers we bought at the Safeway and drank in the parking lot behind an ’89 Chevy Blazer. We got a bit off track at this point. Instead of taking the low-traffic Old Belfair Highway into Bremerton, we stuck to Highway 3, which is busy and has a crappy shoulder. It was tense going and after a few miles we pulled over for a breather and to regain our composure. As we stood around the parking lot of a 7-11 another cycle tourist rolled up and we chatted for a while. He was a guy in his 60’s from Boston. He’d flown into Seattle and was headed down the Oregon Coast. It was his first day on the road and our last and I have to admit, I envied him a lot.
The ride into Bremerton on Highway 3 was nerve wracking, but the view as we rode along Puget Sound was breathtaking. We pedaled by the aircraft carriers docked at the Navy Yard, through town, down the hill, past lines of waiting cars and up to the bicycle parking area. In the distance we could see the ferry and before long we were enjoying cold beers in the restaurant on its upper deck and planning our next trip.