Monday, December 30, 2019

A Photo Journal: The Inaugural Pacific Northwest & Gulf Islands Tour

As you may recall, Don and I spent A Month Pedaling the Long Way from Montana to Washington. From Bellingham, our final destination, we would both be leading Adventure Cycling's inaugural Pacific Northwest & Gulf Islands tour.

The Pacific Northwest & Gulf Islands tour is a challenging 13-day, 595-mile route that traverses some of the most beautiful riding in the Pacific Northwest. The route includes many of my favorite places, both above and below the 49th parallel. I had waited for more than a year and a half to lead this trip. Suffice it to say that I was quite excited to get the show on the road!

This was our group of cyclists.
Front row (l to r): Greg, Barry, Cathy, me (Sarah), and Kitty.
Back row (l to r): Trina, Chris, Paul, Ron, Victor, Brielle, Don, Peter, John, and Ted.
Not pictured: Van. 

Bless the dear souls of these cyclists; these folks had no idea what they were in for when they signed up for this trip. With endless climbs, miles of hike-a-bike, and early morning ferries galore, this route is not for the faint-of-heart. Luck would have it, as there couldn't possibly have been a better combination of riders for the inaugural ride. Each and every cyclist was strong, adventurous, and impressively good-spirited.

The Route

Here's a visual of the route:

All 595 miles of the Pacific NW & Gulf Islands route.
Each color represents a different day of the tour.

And here's a brief verbal description of the route:
This 595-mile journey includes four ferries, four islands, and two border crossings. Other highlights include care-free pedaling along the world-renowned Olympic Discovery and Galloping Goose Trails, a visit to the European-influenced capital of Victoria, an exploration of the artsy Salt Spring Island (the largest of the Gulf Islands), and an optional soak in the healing mineral waters of Harrison Hot Springs.

Meet the Riders

Meet me, Sarah — Your Masochistic Trip Leader.
I will make absolute certain you are exercising your grit muscles,
while having copious amounts of Type II Fun.
(Photo: Peter McKenney)

Meet Don — Co-Leader and Mechanic Extraordinaire.
Along with fixing any mechanical problems,
this guy can make a sweat-soaked & hole-studded shirt look damn good.

Meet Barry — The Joke Teller.
If you ever need to get your mind off pedaling,
simply ride alongside Barry and ask for a joke.
Barry's jokes are sure to last for miles'n'miles!

Meet Brielle — A Positive Ray of Sunlight.
Brielle has a unique, magical power that enables her to sport a smile,
regardless of what is happening in the external world.

Meet Cathy — Team Cheerleader.
Cathy is a blast, always keeping the energy-level high.
Just one of her many fortes is being able to
photographically emphasize how much fun she is having.

Meet Chris — The Workhorse.
Pooey on those other horses, Chris is the real workhorse.
Chris will happily schlep half the group's half the group's everything else.

Meet Greg — The Posterchild for Ultra-Champions.
Greg is a champ. He is the epitome
for showing how one can push themselves
beyond their comfort zone...and succeed!

Meet John — Juggler, Photographer, & Horticultural Appreciast.
John is the quiet-type, but don't let that fool you.
Underneath that quiet is a ton of awesomeness!
Not only does John juggle, but he also sends photos
of flowers he sees en route to his wife. ~~Swoon~~

Meet Kitty — The Supreme Bullshitter.
Don't believe it when Kitty says, "This ride is killing me";
she'll be one of the first to camp, and then she'll buy a gravel
bike post-trip so she can participate in more rides that will kill her.

Meet Paul — The Grown-Up Kid.
Paul sees the world through the eyes of a child.
For Paul, there is joy and amusement in everything.
His spirit is wonderfully infectious.

Meet Peter — Mr. Waxing Lyrical.
As Peter spins his crank, he waxes lyrical about everything and everyone.
I want to shrink Peter into a little handlebar ornament
so I can carry his positivity around with me everywhere I go.

Meet Ron — The Boy Scout.
The amount of gear Ron carries on his bike puts the inventory
of a nearby outdoor goods store to shame.
This man is prepared for everything you can imagine —
and everything you can't possibly imagine, too.
If anyone needs anything (and we all did at some point in time),
Ron will surely have it. Thanks, Ron, for hauling extra goodies for us all.

Meet Ted — Beer Aficionado.
Ted has a secret power that enables him to identify the finest brews.

Meet Trina — Ms. Legs of Steel.
Lance? Pshaw!
Trina can cycle faster and harder than the best of them.
Imagine how speedy she must be without a load!

Meet Van — The Wise Rider.
Van has impressive intuition and resolve.
He knows what to do when things need to be done.

Meet Victor — The Spring Chicken.
You wouldn't know it watching this guy pedal, but Victor
is an impressive 70 years-old — 70 going on 40.
To top it off...he's relatively new to cycle touring.

The Trip

This is the group just before heading out to pedal the first mile of the trip.
This is a dang good looking group, isn't it?

Every evening we held a Map Meeting, at which we discussed
the day's going-ons and reviewed the next day's ride.
Here is our Map Meeting at Fort Ebey State Park on Whidbey Island.
We held our meeting as we watched the sun set over lovely Puget Sound.
(Photo: Victor Mollozzi)

There were various stops along each day's route where
folks could grab a refreshing beverage or a yummy treat.
As my Surly is named Shirley, it comes as no surprise that my favorite
stop was Shirley Delicious.
(Photo: Ron White)

Van, Brielle, and Ron enjoy some non-saddle time at Shirley's.

Here's another one of our stops, at Discovery Bay Village Store.
One of my favorite things about riding with this group was that we all stuck together.
Although this stop was 27 miles into the ride, all fifteen bikes were out front when I arrived.
This, my friends, is evidence of the cohesiveness of our cycling family.

Meals are a big part of any long-distance cycling trip.
We took turns cooking for each other.
Each day, two designated riders would create menus,
shop for food, and then prepare the meals.
We all met up at the grocery stores to help carry food.

This is a typical volume of food required each day
to feed sixteen hungry cyclists.

Paul displays one of the many ingredients that are
critical to pull-off a delicious tortellini dinner.

And here is how one cooking team opted to organize their outdoor kitchen.

As there were four ferries on this tour, there was some waiting around to do.
Kitty and I goofed around as we waited for the first of those ferries to take us
from Whidbey Island to the Olympic Peninsula.
(Photo: Peter McKenney)

The ferry waits were a great opportunity to have a second breakfast.
Paul, Ron, Ted, and I wait for the Blackball Ferry to take us from
Port Angeles, WA to Victoria, BC.
(Photo: Victor Mollozzi)

And here is our colorful bunch about to load the ferry that would take us
from Salt Spring Island to the mainland port at Tsawwassen.
(Photo: John Beaston)

The ferry rides provided great opportunities to catch some zzzzz's.

There were a few mechanical mishaps on this trip.
Though flats, such as the one Paul is fixing, were common,
they were a minor inconvenience.

This, on the other hand, was a big deal.
Don's rim failed — catastrophically!
Don was fortunate he wasn't riding the bike when his rim gave out.
Four hundred dollars and one helluva headache later, Don was back on the road.

There were miles and miles of pleasant trail riding.
Here, Barry and Greg pedal along the Canyons to Coast Trail in BC.

And there were miles and miles of fun, flowy trails, too.
Here, Brielle dons her effervescent smile as she
pedals the final miles of the Sooke Hills Wilderness Trail
to Goldstream Provincial Park.

This gate, along the Sooke Hills Wilderness Trail,
was made for wide-hipped bicycle touring rigs.

There were miles of sweet, pedal-free downhill...but you had to earn them.

The most difficult downhill to earn was along the Sooke Hills Wilderness Trail.
A 13-mile stretch included a number of very steep, 16% grades.
Even the strongest of riders had to dismount
and push their steeds up some of the inclines.
Here, Greg starts to tackle this beast of an uphill, while a group of
others stop to catch their breath.

Don was invaluable at helping folks to get past the steep grades.
He'd push his bike up a section, leave his bike, run back downhill,
help a rider push their bike up the hill,
and then rinse and repeat.

My favorite Map Meeting was the last one,
which some riders referred to as the "Kumbaya Meeting."
After a brief, Sarah-led, close-your-eyes, meditative reflective session,
we went around the circle and shared our favorite parts of the trip.
On the day we rode the Malahat First Nations/Sooke Hills Wilderness Trails,
nearly everyone cursed the challenge of pushing their bikes up the steep grades.
But, by the end of the trip, most riders agreed that this challenge
was their favorite (or at least their most memorable) part of the entire trip.
(Photo: John Beaston)

Open Road Gallery

Greg Siple was one of the co-founders of Adventure Cycling Association. For years, Greg took photos of cyclists as they passed through the Adventure Cycling headquarters in Missoula, Montana. I am fortunate to have had Greg Siple snap a photo of me before he retired.

A Greg Siple original — me and my Brompton when we passed
through the Adventure Cycling headquarters in 2017.

Each issue of Adventure Cyclist magazine features an "Open Road Gallery." This section displays one of Greg's photos, as well as a brief write-up about the featured cyclist. With a tilt of the helmet to Adventure Cycling and the Open Road Gallery, I took a photo of each rider alongside their bicycle. I love these photos! They really capture the personality of each of the cyclists. Plus, it's fun to see everyone's set-up.
















Thank you to all the members of my Pacific Northwest & Gulf Islands cycling family. Not only was it a joy to lead all of you positive-minded cyclists, but it was also a joy to see each and every one of you flex your grit muscles and show your badassity! Much love to you all!


  1. Wow! What an amazing ride and excellent recap. These riders will remember this forever,

    You gave them epic stories and helped them live life!

    1. The awesomeness of this trip was definitely a joint effort on everyone's part.

    2. True! But I know the work put into this by you, and they were lucky to have you


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