From Bremerton to Shelton – Welcome to Washington State, Now Get Your Rain Jackets Out
|Read about our trip from Portland to Bremerton on bikes and trains and ferries|
We woke up early. Finally, finally, finally, we were ready to start our adventure. At least that was how I felt, that we could not have our adventure until we were out, on the road, with our bikes. Somehow, in my mind, the train trips up to Seattle, and the ferry ride to Bremerton did not count. I was still trapped in destination thinking, not yet accustomed to journey thinking. Actually, I still struggle with that.
As a child, maps fascinated me. The romantic in me tried to picture who had gone to those places for the first time, and drew their route, and some of the features. Over time, “adult” concerns replaced. Perhaps, as I put “adult” things aside, and take up less serious concerns, I am returning to some of that wonder.
To be honest, I did not remember maps, geography, and exploration, until I started this rewrite. And I came into it, almost by accident, finding and building the map below. This map clearly shows how geography has influenced this part of Washington. Bremerton sets on a peninsula, bounded on one side by the Hood Canal, and on the other by nooks and crannies of Puget Sound. The only landward way out is the one we took, toward Belfair, and on to Sheldon.
Prior to the start of our adventure, we had plotted our route, using GPSies.com to generate .TCX files. We tried, several times, to merge the ACA supplied Way Points, but were not able to overcome our Garmin Edge 705. Finally, we built .TCX files for each scheduled day, and kept hard copy of the Way Point information.
We based our route on a number of sources: START: Bremerton – 0.0 miles – RIGHT onto Kitsap; 0.2 miles – LEFT onto Auto Center; 1.1 miles – RIGHT onto Werner; 1.3 miles – LEFT onto Union; 1.5 miles – LEFT onto 3rd; 2.3 – RIGHT onto Kent; 2.7 – RIGHT onto Sherman Heights; 3.8 – RIGHT onto Belfair Valley Road; 9.0 – STRAIGHT onto Old Belfair Highway; 13.8 – RIGHT onto Highway 3; 15.3 – RIGHT onto Highway 106; 19.3 – LEFT onto Trails End; 22.6 – RIGHT onto Mason Lake Drive West; 29.2 – RIGHT onto Mason Lake Road; 34.0 – RIGHT onto McEwan Prairie; 36.5 – LEFT onto Brockdale; 38.6 – LEFT onto Northcliff; 39.9 – RIGHT onto Railroad; 40.3 – End in Shelton
For the day, we climbed about 2400 feet. While we climbed no mountains, we did ascend three attention-getting hills. The first was shortly after we left our motel, and quickly focused on our day’s work. The second, higher climb, was the ascent to Belfair Valley. Later, at Trails End, we would climb those backbone hills which keep Bremerton from being an island.
We awoke to grey skies. Turning on the TV, we caught wall-to-wall coverage of the Seattle run. We wished Kerry and her sister well. We were greatly that they were predicting rain, especially in the Elma – Sheldon corridor. Over breakfast, we discussed our options. The blogs suggested a couple of easy days to acclimate to touring. The plan, for the first full day of riding, was to preserve an option to go to Twanoh State Park, about 20 miles away, until we got to Belfair. We would either camp, or go on to Shelton. We decided that, if it rained by Belfair, we would press on to Shelton. If it were dry, we would buy food, and go to Twanoh and camp for the night.
We rolled out of the hotel at about 8 AM, turning south and west, ready to continue our adventure, ready to get down to the business of actually riding. We spent the first fifteen minutes, stopping at convenience stores and gas stations, trying to get a road map of Washington State. It was surprisingly hard, but we finally bought one. At last we had a hard copy, large overview map of Washington State. We continued up the hill we had started. I discovered my bike odometer would not work. Only after we got back to San Jose did I discover that damaged wiring prevented the odometer from functioning.
We worked our way toward Belfair. We climbed up our second hill. It began to rain. I had started the ride, wearing a long sleeve jersey over a short sleeve, and shorts. Only after the mist had turned to sprinkles, and on to a drizzle, did we give in and put on our rain jackets. We pedaled on generally good roads, with only occasional traffic.
Reaching Belfair, in the rain, we made our decision. It was Sheldon or bust. There was no sense in showing up at a camp ground at noon, a soggy noon. It was much too soon for lunch. So, we purchased sandwiches for later, and biked through the little town.
We turned down a side road, fronting the Hood Canal. Houses blocked access and views of the waterway. Some of them were for sale. The signs made me think of a friend who is getting ready to retire to Washington State. I wonder if she might buy one of them. We saw other houses which, while they were not for sale, looked like something we might like.
We arrived at the junction where, to the right, we could ride to Twanoh State Park. It was flat. To the left was the road to Sheldon, Trails End. It started out with an impossibly steep climb. We pushed our bikes up, through the rain, knowing that, had we stayed with the plan, we would have had to attack this hill in the morning.
Once on top of the ridge, we settled back into biking. Flat ground is easy. True hills are a slog. Rolling terrain requires planning. The rider can either coast down, and begin to pedal up the next one. Or, as Marian often does, the rider can use the reverse slope to build up speed and momentum. On the next climb, the rider works their way through the gears, sometimes reaching the top before they get to 1 / 1. Other times, they do not.
Reaching Mason Lake, we stopped at the County Park for lunch. This was the only public access point to the Lake. We ate our lunch, standing because the two picnic tables were water-logged. On the far side of Mason Lake, we crossed paths with two young lads working their way up from Portland to Vancouver. We chatted for a couple of. minutes and then parted ways.
Swinging back onto the road, my Garmin battery unexpectedly ran down. On future legs, I would wrap it in a plastic baggie, and would have more expected battery performance. Circumstances forced us to rely on the ACA maps and turn-by-turn directions. We knew this game well, falling back on our Mountain Biking experience. Marian had the only working odometer. Having no data to entertain me, I just settled in and pedaled.
We got to Sheldon in the afternoon. On the road into town, we shared the road, for a time, with the motor traffic. Eventually, we moved over to an unpaved but well-drained trail. The rain continued to fall, and the creeks and storm drain flowed freely.
Our first stop, for refueling, was at a local fast food place. We had hoped for hot chocolate, and a chance to dry out. Alas, they had no hot chocolate. So, we drank our drinks without ice, and looked for our lodging options. We had no experience in wet weather camping. So we decided to go into a motel.
We settled on the Shelton Inn for the night. Our room was on the first floor, and roomy enough to take our bikes, without endangering our ankles and shins in the dark. The owner was generous in her supply of rags to wipe the bikes down and keep from dripping on the floor. The Shelton Inn had no free breakfast. We hopped over to the local Safeway to stoke up on bananas and bagels for breakfast. With that, we settled in, sighing at the forecast for the next day
Because of the rain, we elected not to expose either our camera, or the iPhone to the elements. To be honest, I was still learning to step out of the moment, to take pictures. I know, now, that had I been working, I would have found gems along the way, despite the grey, soggy ride.
Marian’s iPhone worked like a champ. Access the net is a huge information upgrade, far beyond any resources I have ever had. My Garmin battery came an unwelcome surprise. Better care to keep it dry would help, as we continued to ride in the rain. My Polar S150 waterlogged, early on, and I stopped trying to use it altogether after the third day.
Our bikes handled well. The fenders were marvelous, keeping our feet remarkably dry. We relearned that we would be unlikely to pedal up slopes steeper than 8%, if they went on very long.
|Read about the unexpected way we traveled from Shelton to Elma|