Vancouver BC is only 470 miles from home, a relatively short travel for us and we are anxious to get up there and start the fun. We call these, “travel” days where we move a longer distance without much in the way of sightseeing stops. As we head up into the Cascade Mountains toward Mt. Hood (elevation 11,000′) there is plenty to see, but this is our backyard and the highlights are easy to reach on a Saturday ride. Knowing that, we don’t hesitate to keep it pointed northwest at highway speed along Hwy 26 to Portland.
The goal (obstacle) of the first day is just to get through Seattle and it’s infamous non-moving traffic. With that in mind we planned our launch, timing the Emerald City for mid-day, as far from the ever increasing morning and evening rush hours (and hours) as possible. I guess it could be worse, but traffic was starting to back up at Tacoma, and then it got worse.
There are three basic choices traversing this mess, if you need to stay on the east side of Puget Sound (we did)…….I-5 goes up the middle and drains downtown when everyone gets off work……..I-405 is the east side loop with traffic from Bellevue, Redmond (Microsoft) and about a million other drivers……at this time of day it seemed a toss up, we stayed on I-5.
The third (sometimes) option would be to use the Express Lanes. Not the HOV lane, but an actual freeway that switches direction depending on time of day, with limited exits and ramps. Afternoon, the lanes are open to the north with a single lane entrance which was backed up (stopped) for a couple of miles. I thought it was going to be faster to stay on the slow, but moving main I-5……..WRONG! We should have endured the snails pace “get on” because later as we were putting a foot down every 10 feet, we could see the express lanes whizzing past at 60+mph. For the next couple of hours we could have gotten off and walked faster than the two wheeled beast was moving. Karla had a fourth option……..”Never, never again do I want to see Seattle, or anything within 60 miles of Seattle.” Thinking this slogan was not going to make the tourism department’s top ten, we kept it to ourselves.
We have a few travel (Karla) rules (Don) guidelines……one is how many miles we will cover on our longest (travel) days. The number while still under debate, is 400…sometimes less (Karla) sometimes more (Don)….OK, usually less ? We reached Bellingham at almost exactly 400 and checked in under a light drizzle (Seattle sunshine), relieved we would not be starting the next day in traffic.
Our alternate route would have been to stay on Hwy 97, riding the east side of the Cascades and then crossing over in northern Washington or southern BC, On the next trip (there will be another) that’s going to be our plan. It will take an extra half-day to reach Vancouver, but worth it to miss Seattle. As a side note, there are some really great things to do in Seattle…… first I must convince Karla…..the plan would be to go west of Puget Sound and stay in Bremerton, then ride the ferry into Seattle. We’ll see.