August 28, 2015 – Partly sunny, 65 degrees
Miles Today: 50
Miles to Date: 6,276
States to Date: 22
Much as I enjoyed Seattle, it felt great to climb on Surly, pedal down to the waterfront, weave through the container port, cross over the West Seattle Bridge, and log some distance. Five low mileage days made me antsy. Even though today’s route wasn’t difficult, it was more than mere commuting.
I climbed through West Seattle and descended to the Vachon Island ferry port. Ferries are an integral part of Seattle’s transportation infrastructure. Still, I was surprised how many people and vehicles took the twenty-minute ride midmorning. Crossing Puget Sound with ferries, pleasure boats and freighters all in view, I recalled how water used to connect us. Before railroads, before roads, rivers and bays were our thoroughfares.
Now, land connections dominate and water connections are weak bonds. Vachon Island is a separate world a mere two miles from the City of Seattle. It reminded me of Cape Ann in Massachusetts – varied terrain with lush greenery, well-kept vintage houses and a quaint scale. The grocery store where I stopped at noon was crowded and inefficient but no one seemed dismayed or rushed. Island time exists wherever water surrounds us, even if we’re only 15 miles from Amazon headquarters.
The ride after lunch only got better. Sun streaked through tall trees and illuminated mounds of fern and moss. I descended into the village of Burton. Magnolia Beach opened before me, an arc of fine sand beach and frame cottages. Seagulls lofted above. The sweet scent of salt air rushed my nostrils. All at once I was back home. Then it struck me. How far I’ve come. Until that moment my journey from Cambridge to Seattle had been measured in time and distance. A single jolt of sea air clarified my emotional distance. All the months I’ve traversed farms, prairie and mountains I never thought about the sea. But one waft from the opposite coast made my heart pulse a homesick beat. The world is not just round in shape. Memories retrieved mark the cycle of our growth. Like rings of a tree. Or seagull squawks that echo true on either coast.
I took a second ferry from Vachon to Tacoma, a short ride full of chatty passengers. The mainland greeted me with a great beer sign and blocks of amusingly tacky houses. Tacoma must have boomed when the bi-level was king, board and batten siding in vogue, and contrasting paint motifs all the rage. Baby blue with chocolate brown. Lemon with rust. Each house, identical to the next, screaming to be unique.
I passed the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, sight of one of the most famous civil engineering disasters of our era. Not the bridge I saw, which stands firm, but the one that wobbled in a 1940 gale and came crashing down. Beyond the bridge, I rode for miles along the bay. Hills, mountains, and sky all muted against the overhead sky. It started to rain – just barely. Puget Sound is like Ireland. Rain enhances the place.
I arrived in DuPont, where I will spend a few days with my niece and her family. When I stay with warmshowers hosts, I typically leave a calling card and a box of Altoids as gesture of appreciation. But my nieces rank flowers. I love riding with a bouquet popping out of my backside, proclaiming to everyone that, though I travel light, I still have space for something as ethereal as fresh flowers.