BARBARA AND I SURVIVED the Longest Tuesday, and our 13-year-old Ford Ranger with locking canopy — our Chariot of Backfire — is now parked on Lopez Island awaiting our whim.
It was a good end to a challenging day.
Out of the cabin at 6:35 on a pristine, calm and quiet May morning, the day after Memorial Day. The 2.5-watt solar charger I set up for WeLike’s batteries has performed well so far and the boat’s big outboard started right up — a concern, since we have no dock power to keep batteries topped up at our Center Island moorage.
We tootled across Lopez Sound, past Rim, Ram and Rum islands, to the Hunter Bay public dock, just less than 3 miles away, and I demonstrated that, yes, he CAN be taught, by pulling into a small dock space without ramming anything (we won’t go into the history on that issue just now).
Barbara had offered to stay with the boat — she doesn’t mind a day of reading — while I made the excursion to Skagit County to retrieve the Ranger, which we had left parked a week ago on a back street near Anacortes’ Skyline Marina. My day would also involve dashing about on shopping errands for needed groceries and for supplies for various projects we want to accomplish on the WeLike and around our new home. (My most unusual purchase of the day was an extending fiberglass and aluminum pole threaded to hold a scrub brush, and designed to extend to 23 feet, so I can scrub several years’ worth of dust, tree pollen, and lichen off our cabin’s peaked metal roof.)
Getting there was half the fun. But you had to really like bike riding.
I do, luckily. Through maneuvers I wouldn’t have wanted preserved on video Barbara and I managed to get my bike aboard WeLike, whose cockpit is enclosed by a full canvas canopy that can make simply boarding her an exercise in doing the limbo. At Hunter Bay, we reassembled the bike, and I donned my day-glo cycling jacket, kissed my wife and headed toward the Lopez ferry terminal, about 12 miles away.
Unfortunately, the Hunter Bay dock is at the bottom of a very steep hill, so I ended up pushing my bike uphill for the first half-mile, puffing like a birthday-candle challenged octogenarian. (Lopez is known as the San Juans’ best cycling island, because it so flat. Ha, I say!)
Once up the hill, though, it was a treat. I biked through quiet woods where deer watched me pass. A little boy waiting for a school bus on a lonely road was surprised to see me, and waved. I found a route on some of the quieter byways, with farm pastures lined by hedges of blooming pink Nootka roses that sweetened the air. My route took me past the glittering water of Fisherman Bay, and I detoured briefly into Lopez village to buy a bottle of water at the supermarket. This was a chore, of sorts, and a challenge for sure, but not so bad a way to start the day.
I ended up pushing my bike again, up the final hill before zooming down to the ferry dock, speeding happily past a long line of cars waiting for the 9:30 boat. Which didn’t end up leaving until 10:05. So I had time to buy a $1 used J.A. Jance paperback in the little waiting room (a benefit for the highly regarded Lopez library) and change into a sweat-free T-shirt for my day of errands.
The next ferry back from Anacortes that would give me a few hours of shopping time at the big stores in nearby Burlington departed at 4:30 p.m. I had made a ferry reservation — you can do that now — so I didn’t want to miss that boat. Besides which, Barbara was waiting, and it turned out her cell phone had no service, so all she could do was have faith that I’d show up on time.
It all worked out. I sped around Home Depot and Fred Meyer, slinging things into my cart, and did my best to melt down the Visa card once again. (Can’t wait for those pension payments to start on Friday!)
Back on the island, we loaded many bags of groceries and supplies aboard WeLike, along with my island bike and a 5-gallon jug of non-ethanol gasoline to feed the old boat’s expensive tastes. The newly painted waterline dipped slowly beneath the waves. In a breezy late afternoon with whitecaps all around, we cruised slowly and carefully back to Center Island.
It was 9 p.m. by the time we’d eaten dinner back at the cabin. We fell into bed and slept the sleep of the weary but accomplished islander.
I can’t wait for more explorations of Lopez, or jaunts to one of the local farms for fresh eggs or produce. Inside the canopy of that pickup: another old bicycle. But next time maybe I’ll drive to the top of that hill.