Coming Full Circle – The final days on our bikes

Our cycling route through LA from the cruise ship terminal in San Pedro to the Amtrak station downtown

Our cycling route through LA from the cruise ship terminal in San Pedro to the Amtrak station downtown

After landing in LA, we slowly cleared immigration then jumped on our bikes and rode. We had a 50km ride through LA from the cruise ship port to the Amtrak station downtown. It was about 10km to Long Beach where we connected with the LA River Bike Trail. When we stopped and asked for directions at one point, the guy we asked said, “Man, you must be riding on the worst road in the world!” There was a lot of truck traffic since we were riding all along the port but the roads were wide and the trucks were courteous. It’s funny because we think big truck drivers are some of the best drivers out there. It’s those darn erratic minibuses that dart in and out and stop in the middle of the street to take on or drop off passengers that really give us headaches. Worst road in the world, traffic wise, must be that road going into La Paz, Bolivia.

Los Angeles is a metropolis, a huge urban centre where houses and buildings stretch to the horizon in every direction and there are so many highways through it, all of them full of cars. However, there are also some good bike routes. We rode through LA on our trip south all along the beaches and saw a very enchanted side of LA. Surrounded by busy highways, the LA River Bike Trail was a bubble of peacefulness, no cars and randomly lots of horses. There were many stables along the river as well. Though brilliant to ride, it wasn’t very scenic as I felt sorry for the few birds trying to find fish in the trickle of water completely encased in a huge concrete channel. Interestingly, we found that most everyone spoke Spanish still. They just didn’t expect us to also be able to speak it and was very surprised we we spoke Spanish to them. At one point, the bike trail branched as the river branched. Unfortunately, the route wasn’t well marked and we continued on the trail, which had turned into another trail and slowly, there was increasingly more people who lived by the path than people who cycled on the path. There were large tent communities under every overpass. We decided that this was not where we wanted to be and decided to go to a nearby mall to find wifi to check google maps on where we were. We ended up struggling to push our heavily loaded bikes up a little dirt trail that led up by a bridge through a hole in the chain-link fence. It was the quickest option to the nearby mall but we found out as we started on the path that it passed by one of these transient camp communities under the bridge. However, they were actually really nice as one guy came up and helped me push my bike up and through the hole in the fence. We followed the bike trail for about 30km until it ended just before downtown.

Riding through LA can’t be described as the best riding ever but we were just so happy to be riding again that it made it a really good day of cycling!

A highlight of our time in LA has been being able to visit my cousin, Vickie, and her adorable little dog!

A highlight of our time in LA has been being able to visit my cousin, Vickie, and her adorable little dog!

We made it to the Amtrak station and got our bikes and bags checked in for the train the next morning and then met my cousin Vickie. I had not seen in over a decade since she moved to LA and it was great to reconnect with her. The next morning, we hopped on the train heading to Seattle. It was nice to just see the scenery roll by, including some of the campgrounds we had stayed in on our way down. 

Amtrak station in LA

Amtrak station in LA

Watching the scenery roll by outside. Here are some snowy landscapes as seen from the train crossing over a pass near Klamath Falls in Oregon

Watching the scenery roll by outside. Here are some snowy landscapes as seen from the train crossing over a pass near Klamath Falls in Oregon

Close by not there yet!!

Close by not there yet!!

The train was about 34 hours long as we boarded the train in LA at 10am and arrived in Seattle at 8pm the next day. After waiting to get our boxes and bags and then putting our bikes together, it was already 9:30pm. However, we were really lucky and found a Warmshower’s host right in downtown and only a short ride from the train station. We stayed with Victor and his wife, who are from France and work for Amazon. We ended up talking with them for hours and they made us French vegetable soup for dinner. Soups in France, we were told, are always blended and don’t have meat in them. The idea of meat in a soup was strange because that would make it a stew! 

Our cycling route from Seattle back to Vancouver. We rode the Burke-Gillian trail out of Seattle to Snohomish, then the 50km Centennial trail north of Snohomish, then through the tulip flats to Anacortes Island. From Anacortes Island, we took a ferry to Sidney, Vancouver island, cycled from Sidney to Swartz Bay and took a ferry to Twassassen and then rode right back to our doorstep

Our cycling route from Seattle back to Vancouver. We rode the Burke-Gillian trail out of Seattle to Snohomish, then the 50km Centennial trail north of Snohomish, then through the tulip flats to Anacortes Island. From Anacortes Island, we took a ferry to Sidney, Vancouver island, cycled from Sidney to Swartz Bay and took a ferry to Twassassen and then rode right back to our doorstep

In Seattle, we met up with our friend Kristen who started the trip out with us. We are so happy that she was able to find the time to ride home and end the trip with us! We rode from Seattle to our home in Vancouver over three days – about 56km the first day out of Seattle to Snohomish, a big second day cycling 107km from Snohomish to Anacortes, and then darting between ferries on the third day with 8km to the Anacortes ferry terminal, another 10km from Sidney where the Anacortes ferry landed to the BC Ferries terminal at Swartz bay and then the last 15km from the ferry terminal at Twassassen back into Ladner where we were met by really happy family members! 

Bryan riding along the Centennial Trial with Margaret, our host in Snohomish

Bryan riding along the Centennial Trial with Margaret, our host in Snohomish

The ride through Washington was brilliant because there are so many bike trails. There is a great program in that state of turning old, decommissioned railway tracks into bike routes. Amazing! Leaving Seattle was a breeze because we followed along the Burke Gillian trail all the way from the University of Washington, continued along the waterfront all the way to Bothell and then turned into the Sammamish River Trail for a few more km until Woodinville where we had about 20km though the town and up and over a big hill on Hwy 9. The next day was on the marvelous Snohomish Centennial trail that goes for 50km through rural Washington state. On both days, over half of our riding was on paved, completely separated from traffic bike routes that went through wooded areas and parks…and since they all used to be rail lines, the grading was so gradual that we often didn’t realize we were climbing at all! Our last part before Anacortes was through the colourful tulip fields, which were all blooming early this year and perfect timing for us to visit. 

Kirsten, Bryan and I at the Tulip Fields by La Conner

Kirsten, Bryan and I at the Tulip Fields by La Conner

On the Tommy Thompson Trail in Anacortes Island which is another converted old railway line that includes a lovely viaduct over the bay

On the Tommy Thompson Trail in Anacortes Island which is another converted old railway line that includes a lovely viaduct over the bay

We stayed with the lovely Margaret, a computer linguist originally from Norway, and her son in Snohomish. Eventhough we only knew each other for a night, I feel like we have made a life-long friend with Margaret. She is a beautiful soul and always had a smile on her face. In Anacortes, we stayed with Collie in a beautiful house that he designed up high ontop of a hill. It was tough to get to his place after an over 100km day but we did appreciated all the downhill in our rush to the ferry terminal the next morning! 

A happy bunch! Bryan, me, Margaret and Kirsten

A happy bunch! Bryan, me, Margaret and Kirsten

As we arrived in Twassassen, Bryan’s dad Bill came out to ride the last part home with us. I had joked that my back tire was going to burst as we made it onto the driveway since I have literally burned all the rubber on the tire. My back tire is so beyond bald that it is showing the blue of the protective material under the rubber! Ironically, as we rolled into our home street, I did get a flat tire…however it was my front tire! 

It has been an incredible trip and we came full circle, riding home on the same streets that we rode out on 19 months ago…and with our friend Kirsten too! We have ridden from the northernmost country in the Americas all the way down to the southernmost country. We actually exceded expectations since we visited the most southern point in South America, literally the rocks at the end of the continent. It is a place that is inaccessible by road but we rounded Cape Horn on the cruise ship. We travelled all the way to the southern end of the Americas and back again without using a single plane. Wowza! 

Big smiles as the ferry is about to land in Canada

Big smiles as the ferry is about to land in Canada

First glimpse of Canada in 19 months with the Canadian flag flying in the distance in the ferryport in Sidney

First glimpse of Canada in 19 months with the Canadian flag flying in the distance in the ferryport in Sidney

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3 thoughts on “Coming Full Circle – The final days on our bikes

  1. Congrats for your great adventure, read it from cover to cover and hope to ride the west coast (next summer) from Vancouver to California and more(?) after a little stretch from hometown Québec city to Toronto and the train to Kamloops.
    I’m sure many infos from your blog will be useful, so I thank you for your good work!
    Hoping life will be good for you & Brian in the coming months, maybe we’ll meet someday on the road of BC!

    • Hey David!

      Thanks for your comment 🙂 That is so exciting that you’re thinking of doing a trip! It is so amazing to be out there on your two wheels. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

      Here are a couple things I thought of:

      If you’re going to ride the Pacific coast in the States, there’s a really helpful book – Bicycling the Pacific Coast: A Complete Route Guide, Canada to Mexico by Vicky Spring and Tom Kirkendal. It’s basically the “bible” for cyclists on the west coast. However, consequently it is a really popular cycling route which you might like (bike trails, hiker-biker campsites every 20-30km or so, step-by-step directions in the book, lots of other cyclists) or you might not depending on what your preferences are. If you want to get off the beaten track a bit, lot of cyclists in Oregon recommended the central valley (apparently good food, lots of Warmshowers hosts, better weather) than the coast (beautiful but more touristy, lots of RVs that think the whole road should be theirs, not as many Warmshowers hosts). We stayed on the coast following the book and it was beautiful but a bit stormy in Sept when we were there. Totally recommend going into Baja California if you like vast wild spots. Camping in the Central Desert there with the billions of stars overhead was truly one of my favorite parts of the trip. For Baja California, you do need to be able to carry enough supplies to at least survive a couple days on your own in the desert.

      Give me a shout if you have anything else you’re curious about. Let’s keep in touch 🙂

      Hugs, Maggie

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