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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Looking for the elusive Orca

Rob and Kaye sent an email out Friday asking if anyone wanted to join them Saturday to ride to San Juan Island in search of the elusive Orcas.  I looked at Larry and said we are in, send an email.  With all the rain we have had, I am not missing a chance to ride if we have a clear day, even if it is overcast, just as long as it doesn’t rain.

 Life holds challenges between prior obligations, work, and family, so you never know who is going to show up if a reply to all on the email is not clicked or if you are still trying to determine if you have time and decide to wait until the morning of the ride to decide.

 The alarm went off Saturday morning and Larry looked outside.  Clear skies and the sun was starting to peak out, at least in our neck of the county.  It looked a little iffy to the east and south, but looking to the west we could see blue skies and that meant a good day for a ride.  We tried to tip toe around the house as not to wake a sleeping baby (never wake a sleeping baby) and his mother.  We were just about ready to back out of the garage with the motor off when mom and the little guy appeared in the doorway to wave good-bye to us.  Although our grandson is still not sure it is us under the black leather and helmets, he waved.

 We arrived at Sehome Starbucks and no one was there.  OTOH!  Maybe everyone looked east and not west.  A few minutes later Rob and Kaye pulled in.  One of our friends was under the weather, a new boat took precedence over riding today for another, and one had a “blood sucking appointment.” Riding on Friday, work, family, so it was to be just the four of us today.  When you ride with friends it is not about how many people you ride with, but that you are riding with friends.  Dawn said it best this week in a Facebook post:  FRIENDS -
F.R.I.E.N.D.S: (F)ight for you. (R)espect you. (I)nvolve you. (E)ncourage you. (N)eed you. (D)eserve you. (S)ave you.

 Rob was leading our adventure today, so we took the direct route down the freeway to Anacortes.  Good choice because this gave us time to stop at a great little donut place called the Donut House.  Kaye and Rob have been there before and with the food concession not opening on the ferry until almost arrival time at Friday Harbor, this seemed like the perfect solution for a morning snack.  Ha ha!  This little donut shop has a huge selection and how do you pick just one?  Finally I knew I wanted a maple twist or as Kaye latter called it a puzzle as you tried to pull it apart to eat it.  Larry had the same thing only covered in chocolate.  This was not going to be a good start for the diet today, but was definitely going to be a wonderful treat.

 Only a few more miles to the ferry and a fairly short line and then this is where riding a motorcycle has advantages, you get to go to the front of the line and board first.  We had about a fifteen to twenty minute wait before boarding and shortly after, we went upstairs to finding seating before the ferry departed.

San Juan Island was discovered by the Spanish explorer Francisco de Eliza and a year later discovered by the Europeans.  San Juan and Orcas Islands were named for Francisco, and Haro Strait is named for one of his officers.  San Juan Island covers 172 square miles.
First we rode out to Cattle Point, past the lighthouse and stopped at an old Navy radio compass station near the lighthouse that was built in the 1920’s on the southern tip of the island.  This former compass station is now used as a picnic area.  Hudson’s Bay Company established a farm, Belle Vue Farm in 1853 and unloaded cattle on a dock built near the point.  The lighthouse is a thirty-four octagonal concrete tower erected in 1935 used as an important navigation guide to vessels entering the Haro Strait and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  It is closed to the public but can be viewed after a short hike from the Compass station.
Back on the bikes we took False Bay Drive for a scenic ride past summer houses, B&B’s, and pastures with cattle, horses, and a few donkeys standing in a paddock next to the road.  Back out on the main road we headed to Lime Kiln Pt. State Park which was named for the lime kilns built in the 1960’s.  It is built at Dead Man’s Bay overlooking the Haro Strait.  It has a thirty-eight food octagonal concrete base and is a duplicate of Seattle’s Alki Point Lighthouse.  This was the last major lighthouse established in Washington State.
On the west side of the island is where the “Pig War” of 1859-1872 changed the boundaries between the United States and the British Empire.  The shooting of a pig--also called the Pig Episode, the Pig and Potato War, the San Juan Boundary Dispute, or the Northwestern Boundary Dispute-- was the only casualty of the bloodless war.  American Camp was located near Cattle Point Lighthouse and English Camp was located near Roche Harbor.

It began when a pig owned by Hudson’s Bay Co. ambled onto an American farmer’s garden and the farmer protected his property by shooting the pig.  George E. Picket (of Pickett’s Charge fame) was sent to defend the American citizens and from there it escalated into reinforcements for both sides.  .  This dispute was decided by Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany awarding the archipelago (an expanse of water with many scattered islands) to the United States.  One small pig led to one large international confrontation. 
Now it was on to Roche Harbor for lunch at The Madrona Bar and Grill.  A new entrance down to the marina winds along the hillside to prevent tourists from driving through the residential lined road that visitors previously used.  It was 56 degrees when we went through Anacortes this morning and not one drop of rain.  I don’t know what the temperature was at lunchtime but it was warm enough to sit on the deck for lunch and view the boats and yachts filling the harbor.    Good food, good conversation with Kaye and Rob relaxing and agreeing it was a great day for a ride.  Rob in I both ordered the Cheese burger in Paradise that came with cute little bar umbrellas decorating them.  Larry had the lamb burger and Kaye had the flame grilled basil chicken.  We wandered around the harbor, took photos of the gardens, and then mounted up, heading for the ferry.  Luck was on our side and we waited only minutes after arriving to board the 2:00 PM ferry back to Anacortes.

The elusive whale sighting is still just that--elusive.  We did see foxes that ran right across the road in front of us, deer that didn’t seem to mind the loud pipes, an eagle that flew down the highway toward us and passed just about 20 feet above our bikes as we rode down a tree covered canopy.  There were donkeys, llamas, and even a camel leaning casually up against the fence.  But no whale and that’s okay because I am sure we will return on another excursion.

Rain?  Okay we had a few drops just before we approached Chuckanut Drive and it did continue to rain all the way home.  We waved good-bye to Rob and Kaye in Fairhaven as they turned towards home and we still had about ten miles to go before we arrived home.

Thank you Rob and Kaye for an enjoyable day spent riding with friends.

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