Subject: Finishers Wander 21 - Seattle, Washington
Date: Sat, 01 May 2004 19:44:29 -0700
When in Rome ....
When in Twisp, do as the Twisps do and eat at the Cinnamon Twisp Bakery. It seemed the whole town was there. A cinnamon twisp is a twist of cinnamon bun wound into and around itself, similar to a chignon hairstyle. A delightful way to start the day and guaranteed to keep your stomach anchored for a while.
The North Cascades Scenic Highway is closed in winter and barely open in spring. Even with the 80+ degree days recently, there is much snow melt drooling across the road. Climbing toward Washington Pass I felt a slight unease about the grip of my tires. The road appeared to be generally clear except for the occasional cross flow of snow melt, but when I would heel into a lean, the transition from up to over felt itchy. The tires would grab but with a fraction of hesitation. Tires are not supposed to do that. Then I realized the twitch was happening each time I would cross a wheel track on the "dry" road. The road was dry, but the wheels of vehicles before me carried a little of the snow melt along the track. It was frozen. There wasn't enough of a layer to really be ice and slippery, but just enough so the asphalt was icephalt, invisible, and itchy. Staying in the center between the tracks solved that, but made for slow and ungainly flat apex corners.
Still, this road is one of the best you will find in Washington. With the snow on the peaks and the streams rushing full, it is an incredible view. Here are two photos of the east ascent to Washington Pass, the first showing where you will go [Photo of Washington Pass - uphill] and the second showing where you were. [Photo of Washington Pass - down valley]
I sat a moment, stunned that mere days ago I was watching the waves lap on the bare rock of the Maine coast. What an amazing country.
After the pass, the road continues to run down the canyon past the dams built by Seattle City Light. Just past the dam a sign says "flood evacuation route". The handiwork of the government is obvious and ridiculous at the same time. Of course it is the route, there is no other road whatsoever in any direction! And good luck, it should read instead "race the flood down the valley route".
From Maine to Blaine was a bit of pain, but like the NE corner, the traditional NW 4 Corner destination of Blaine WA is not the most northwesterly point. That is Point Roberts, and to get there, again, you have to go through Canada. With the Saturday afternoon customs backup on I5 stretching more than a half mile, and remembering Canadian gas prices, I jumped off to fill up at the very last exit in Blaine. Recognizing a local resident by the groceries being loaded, I humorously asked "I don't suppose there is a secret road known only to locals that will get me in line closer to the border?" He said sure. Go down here, left, right. The route through the residential area took me along the border barrier and joined the line at the back of the customs lot. But I still had to wait a good 30 minutes to get through. To keep the bike from overheating while idling, I shut it off and paddle-pushed each creep forward. When I finally pushed up to the window, the female officer said "You know, pedestrians are supposed to use the other side." Oh ho, a guard with a sense of humor! She asked the usual questions, and did ask to see an id, then looked at the entomologist's nightmare on the front of the bike and said "With all those bugs I should have you report to ag(ricultural) inspection." Are guards allowed to enjoy their job? Hmm. Canada is different.
Barely a half hour later I am back at the border to enter Point Roberts. The US border guard asked "And what might your citizenship be today?" I thought better of asking what day it was, but replied "US, same as it is every day." That's all he asked. This is almost too simple.
On the US border a hand lettered sign reminds "NO BEEF. All beef is still banned. This includes hamburger for your grill." This must be odd for the residents. There are no shopping centers in Point Roberts. Except for a small market, all the shopping is across the border. How "un-American" to prohibit hamburgers on the grill! Well, it is an odd place anyway. It uses Canadian money and gas is sold by the liter but at American prices (54 cents, in Canada it is 94 cents).
Finally I made my way to the intersection of Roosevelt Road and Marine Drive, the northwestern most point you can drive to in the contiguous US. The obelisk is engraved LAT 49 0 0 LONG 123 3 53 [Photo of NorthWestmost point]
Only one more target to go ... the western most road, so back to the border into Canada, and back again to the US, the 11th crossing on this trip. Never being asked for any id until today, I had packed my birth certificate securely in my luggage. Of course the guard at the last crossing wanted to see it in addition to my license. When I told him where it was and offered to pull aside, he snarled. Instead he asked "Have you even been fingerprinted?" Yes. Like a trout rising for a fly, he was suddenly intent. "What were you charged with?" The assumption is criminal. I said "I was charged with protecting millions of dollars of computers for Wells Fargo Bank. All federal bank employees are required to be fingerprinted." Have you ever had someone SNARL at you 'Have a good day'?
Headed for Seattle to visit with Dan (and see their new dog April), I noticed the HOV lanes are marked without times. They appear to be 24 hour permanent, like LA. Unlike everywhere else, however, the HOV lanes approaching the city end just where the backup begins, right at the city limit. Well that's useful if your intent is to get to the backup as quickly as possible.
Seattle sure is a pretty city when the sun is shining.
Twisp WA20 I5 BC99 BC10 BC17 Point Roberts BC17 BC10 BC99 I5 Seattle
Sam Lepore, San Francisco