63.5 mi / 11.7 mph / 1784 ft. climbing
392.3 mi / 11.1 mph / 14274 ft. climbing
Our day to really head home. Up early in the pre-dawn to do our biggest mileage of the trip (plus a ferry crossing), our bike-touring neighbor who arrived in the dark was also packed up and gone before the light (or before anyone could ask him to pay the $12?)
Some peaceful final riding on the Olympic Discovery Trail, and quiet roads, before we hit the US/state highways for most of the ride home. The vehicles roaring by us formed an unending stream, and literally every 3rd or 4th vehicle was an RV of some sort; it seemed that the entire Olympic Peninsula was being drained of RVs, flowing back across Puget Sound at the close of Labor Day weekend. At least the shoulders were huge so the noise was the only annoyance.
Some 15 miles out from the Kingston ferry, we checked the schedule, and decided to target the 1:30pm departure. The 12:45pm might be possible if we pushed it, or held off on lunch ‘til then, but we didn’t feel any need to wreck ourselves, especially since we had plenty of riding to do after.
Just as we got onto the Hood Canal bridge, the lights started flashing, indicating that it would be opening up to allow boats through. Ok, we’re definitely not making that 12:45pm now! This was our third time over the bridge since we’ve lived in Washington, and the second time we’ve been stopped. The first time must have been a submarine from the Navy base, but our car was stopped so far back in the line that we couldn’t even see the bridge. This time it was just a couple of dinky sailboats. It takes a long time to open and close the bridge, so it seems silly that any approaching boat causes the bridge to open, but those are apparently the rules of the sea! At least it was much quicker than when the sub went through, maybe 15 minutes, but I almost wished it was a sub since passing all the stopped cars on the shoulder let us get a front-row vantage point this time!
We stopped to eat lunch in a field in quaint historic Port Gamble, and when we set out again, it looked like we’d definitely have no problem making the 1:30pm ferry. Then I thought, hey, if the 12:45pm ferry is late, maybe there’d be an outside chance of us following the last cars on before it departs. Checking my phone as we rode (safety first!) it looked like it was on-time. Oh well.
Since we’d taken this ferry on our bikes before, we knew right where to go this time, and, whoa, is that the boat still at the dock? It looked like the last cars were in fact still being loaded onto the 12:45! As we rolled up trying to assess the situation, Rett saw the worker directing cars glance over at us and yell “bikes – GO!”, so, we went! Scrambled aboard just as the rope was being drawn behind us, and moments later we were underway! Yeah!! Objectively, it was a fairly stupid inconsequential thing, but to us it *felt* awesome that despite setbacks, and without even trying, we beat our goal! Also it was simply invigorating to feel that movie-scene leaping-across-the-gap-rush to catch the departing boat!
Back on the “mainland”, we still had a big hill to go up and down before reaching home, but it was much easier than the first time we’d done it, so a pleasing indicator spending a week riding bikes makes us stronger bike riders and not exhausted bike riders. Our longest day was also the perfect day to catch our most-consistent tailwinds of the trip.
We stopped at our favorite Cairn Brewing, 11 miles from home, for some celebratory beers and for some cans to take home, as we do every couple weeks. I realized then that while my first couple bike tours had started and ended at my front door (a maxim endorsed by Ken Kifer, one of my bike-touring inspirations), none of my subsequent ones had, which means Rett had never done a door-to-door. So it was empowering to imagine our neighbors, who may have seen us rolling out 9 days ago, and upon seeing our return, might briefly think “Have they been gone this whole time?” before realizing “nah, that’s crazy, because no one goes out of a bike ride that lasts 9 days!” But, we did!
Only then did I discover that the vibration from 11 miles of riding had caused the bolts on the inside of my pannier to punch a perfectly round hole in two of the beer cans, draining 16oz of Imperial Blueberry Wheat into a place far worse than our mouths. Luckily the only contents that got soaked were the tent and the pannier fabric itself, so it was the least-bad pannier of my 4 to take such alcohol abuse, and, if it was going to happen, the very end of our trip was the best possible time to be taught a lesson about safe beer transportation!
And if that was one of the worst mishaps of the trip, that’s a pretty good trip. Claire, the new touring bike I built for Rett, acquitted herself admirably, a big improvement over her didn’t-even-know-if-she’d-like-touring old bike. And we both were carrying a ton of weight, which made us slow, but was an important part of our goal to be more comfortably self-contained than we’ve been before. That was both a requirement of COVID-19 touring, but more importantly, an experiment to learn if we would enjoy truly living a life on our bikes. The result: we loved it!