san juan islands (PART 2)
At the Channel Inn at La Conner, we met Ashley and Matt, our Backroads tour guides. Like most Backroad guides, they were squeaky clean and just a little too chipper. But they were just too nice not to like them. The rest of our group was a fairly odd combination. A couple of married couples, a couple of women traveling together, some single women, and then a group of 6 women who were traveling together who wore little rubber tiaras and called themselves, “The Princesses”. They were just a complete riot and so out of control the whole trip. I wasn’t the youngest, one of the princesses took that role. But Dad was definitely the oldest. We had 19 total, 5 men and 14 women. An interesting mix. The Channel Lodge sits next to the SnohimishChannel that separates the mainland from Fidalgo Island. The lodge itself was very nice and we had our welcome picnic on the terrace over looking the water. The weather was spectacular. A couple of clouds, but very nice. After our lunch and the mandatory safety spiel, we set out for our first ride. La Conner sits in the Skajit Valley innorthern Washington. It’s a very agricultural intensive area, so thankfully our first day of riding was along flat roads that took us on a loop of some of the nearby farmland. Most of the crops had already been harvested, but we did see some corn, cabbages, and green chop. How do I know? Well because some farmer must have gotten tired of us city folk asking what was in what field, so they labeled them: “Spuds”, “Cabbage” “Green Chop (Cow Feed)”, and “Corn”. You know after living in Missouri for two years, I think I can identify corn when I see it growing. ; ) But the ride was fantastic. So pretty and peaceful. And flat. Did I mention flat? This was the only day that Matt or Ashley would use the “F” word: flat. We biked for almost 16 miles. So not bad for a warm up day. After the ride, we cleaned up and then we sat on the terrace overlooking the channel and just relaxed, it was great. We had our welcome dinner that night at a local restaurant and the food was great. This really isn’t the best trip to take if you are on a diet.
The next morning, we got up early and made some bag lunches for us to eat on the ferry. Now yourthinking, bag lunches? How good can the food be? It’s really good. Matt and Ashley really put out a nice spread for us and you had all sorts of things to choose from. Plus they load you up with snicky snacks for the roads. Low calorie items like granola bars, chocolate, M&Ms, cookies, etc. Apparently Backroad’snickname is “Snackroads.” And it’s true. They are like Jewish mothers pushing food at you. Not that I tried that hard to push them off. The ride itself was a little bit challenging. First we left the town of La Conner and rode across the Rainbow Bridge which crosses the Snohomish Channel and onto the Snohomish Indian Reservation. The ride was great. A little hilly to start, but do able. It was a bit brisk this AM, so I was riding with a jacket on, but it was still perfect riding weather. We biked through deep forested areas in the reservation. It was really nice. Matt’s family lives on one of the islands close by and his kids set up a lemonade stand by the side of the road next to a pretty bay. We stopped and had a glass of lemonade and to take some pictures. But that was a mistake. Coming out of the bay was a serious gut buster. It’s so long, probably only .3 miles, but steep. I was tasting that lemonade again as I went up it, but I did manage to bike to the top without spewing lemonade. Most of the group ended up walking their bikes up the hill. From there, it was more “rolling” terrain. We left the reservation and winded our way around the back roads just taking in the pretty country side. We did a lot of hills and for some reason, we would climb a hill and it was sunny and hot, so at the top of the hill, I’d take my jacket off. Then we would descend into a bay or valley that was still shrouded in fog and the temperature would drop a good 20 degrees and instantly I was freezing. It was odd. But we finally made our way across Fidalgo Island and stopped at Anacortes where we would catch our first ferry.