Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tour de Lopez

Every April for the past four years we have gone up to the San Juan Islands ( northwest of Seattle) and participated in the 'Tour de Lopez' bike ride with friends from both Portland and Friday Harbor. It's a great ride put on by the Chamber of Commerce of Lopez Island.

Getting there is half the fun! It's about a 5 hour drive up to the ferry at Anacortes where we hoped to get on one of the few scheduled rides to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. This is where our friends live, who retired up to the island over 10 years ago. We always try to get there a few hours early to secure a place on the 2:45 hour long 'express' run. Waiting in line with the other cars gives us a chance to catch up on some reading... or me a chance to do a quick sketch of the ferry dock. The weather is cool and cloudy. I notice lots of dogs and bikes coming along with all the other paraphernalia stuffed in the cars. Once on the ferry we meet up with another couple we know who will be sharing our friend's guest house with us. The ride is beautiful as the ferry meanders around Shaw and Lopez islands on it's way to the quaint village of Friday Harbor. To the East we catch glimpses of the snow capped North Cascades.

Once on the island we have a short 5 mile ride to our friend's house, which sits in a beautiful meadow punctuated with rock outcroppings and a view of the water. Nature at it's best.

We unload our bikes and gear and spend the rest of the day and evening catching up with old friends. The weather is not looking promising, with showers predicted on the day of the ride. There will be seven of us participating and we'll need to catch an early ferry over to Lopez the next morning.

Up early, we are disheartened to see a steady, cold rain falling and dark skies! It's obviously decision time! Some decide to brave the weather and bike the short distance to the ferry. A few of us, who would rather stay dry as long as possible, decide to accept the offer of a ride in the truck, which also serves as a bike transport.

An hour and 20 minutes later we arrive at the small ferry dock on Lopez. The sky at this point is just spitting rain and there are signs of some possible clearing. Once off the ferry we must climb up a long hill and then make our way to the park where we get our maps and wrist bands for the lunch and festivities after the ride. Three options are provided...an easy 10 miles, then 17, or the entire 32 mile ride. All have some hills and gorgeous scenery. 600-700 riders usually participate, but we notice that there seem to be fewer riders this time .... probably due to the weather. Four in our group decide to do the entire 32 miles and three of us go for the shorter 17 mile loop. Since we normally ride longer distances, these should be really enjoyable provided we aren't hit by a downpour!

Fortunately, the air is cool and the ride is invigorating, and luckily, not too wet! We ride past farms, ponds and beaches sprinkled with rocks and driftwood. A few rest stops along the way, one at an old one room school house, provide brownies, fruit and drink to restore energy levels. Riders pass with both small children and family pets sequestered in carts behind their bikes. Reclining bikes and tandem bikes mix with both old and new models of road and hybrid models. The roads are wet so everyone uses a degree of caution.
At the end of the ride in Lopez Village there are tents set up with food and drink, a terrific quartet playing for the crowd, and lots of happy people. The sun finally makes an appearance and helps warm us up. By mid afternoon we get back on our bikes for the 4 mile ride back to the ferry dock so we can catch the 3:45 back to Friday Harbor.

Waiting at the ferry dock a deep discussion takes place assessing how every one's equipment handled the ride.

Once back at Friday Harbor, the last five miles takes us back to our home at the guest cottage, where a celebratory meal awaits. What a great way to spend a weekend with friends!

The following morning we get the 11:05 ferry back to Anacortes and then drive back down to Portland, arriving home exactly 7 hours later.

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