September 24 2012 by Jason Fogelson
It's the last day of my trip, and I've got the day to explore Bainbridge Island before I cross the Puget Sound and head for home. I wake up in the BEST WESTERN PLUS Bainbridge Island Suites, pack up my gear and go down to the lobby for a good free hot breakfast. I picked up a bunch of brochures from the rack last night, and I study them while I drink some coffee. Bainbridge Island is home to 23,000 residents, living on 27.6 square miles of land -- it's about five miles wide by ten miles long. There are over a dozen sizable parks on the island, and numerous bays and coves. There's one bridge to the Olympic Peninsula on the west side of the island (the Agate Pass Bridge), and one ferry stop to the mainland on the east side of island.
I hate to ask for directions, but I love to ask for advice. I stop by the front desk, and ask the front desk clerk a leading question. "If you had just one day on Bainbridge Island, where would you go?" "Oh, that's easy. I'd go everywhere. You're on a motorcycle, right? You can go everywhere."
I look at the map we have spread out between us on the counter. She's right. I can go everywhere. I decide to ride around the circumference of the island, as much as possible, before I return to the central town of Winslow.
I check out of the hotel and load up the Road Glide for the last time. By this point in a trip, I've accumulated a few souvenirs and gifts for my wife, and I sometimes wonder if I'm going to be able to get everything on the bike. I manage to stuff everything in the saddlebags and TourPak, and I sigh a deep breath of relief.
I ride out into the morning. There's some light fog again today, but I can tell that it's going to burn off early. I ride clockwise around the island, hugging the shore whenever possible. It's easy to see why people love Bainbridge Island so much. I cruise at a very leisurely pace, as the lush atmosphere makes everything slow down to a vacation pace. There are some hills and valleys on the island, which lends a sense of discovery to every road. Seattle is not far away as the fog lifts, I can see it from the western beaches. Beautiful neighborhoods hug the hillsides, and the parks are deeply forested and beg to be explored. Bicyclists, runners and walkers enjoy the roads and pathways, and there's almost a throwback feeling to the whole place. A few spectacular mansions stand out among the modest, well-kept homes, but the general feel is comfortable and relaxed. I continue around to the western side of the island, passing the entrance for Bainbridge Gardens, maybe the most beautiful nursery I've ever seen. I explore Agate Point, Point Monroe Skiff Point and Murden Cove before I return to Winslow and park the Road Glide. Winslow Way East is the main shopping drag in Winslow. It is perfectly set up for an easy stroll, with numerous galleries, jewelry stores, gift shops, restaurants and bars catering to tourists and locals alike. The street looks prosperous and quaint, an upscale version of the beach town with a very relaxed vibe.
I decide to find a meal before I catch the ferry back to Seattle. I settle on The Madison Diner, a casual restaurant in a restored 1948 diner car. I saw a feature on the restaurant on the Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, one of my favorite shows. I have the Chorizo Scramble, and it tastes as good as it looked on television.
Now, it's time to catch the ferry. I follow the signs to the harbor. It's Saturday afternoon, and there's not much of a line. I pay the $7.25 fare to Seattle (the only stop). It's a bargain to travel by motorcycle on the Washington State Department of Transportation's ferry system. Compact cars (under 14' long) pay $13.25; full-size cars and SUVs (under 22' long) pay $16.40. Even pedestrians pay more than motorcycles -- $7.70, and there's a surcharge of $1.00 for bicycles.
A friendly fellow motorcyclist notices that I'm a little unsure where to go after I pay my fare. He motions for me to follow him, and we ride down a motorcycle lane that leads right to the ferry entrance. We park with the two other bikes waiting for the ferry, take off our helmets and chat. "First on, first off. A motorcycle is the best way to travel," says my new friend. "Whenever the weather is decent, I ride."
The ferry arrives at the dock, and a small pack of motorcycles buzzes up the ramp, followed by a long line of cars, dozens upon dozens of them. Finally, a ferryman waves us on, and we ride to the front of the vessel. The trip to Seattle takes just 35 minutes. The ferry has multiple levels -- two for vehicles, and three additional levels above for passengers. There's a restaurant, a gift shop, observation decks, air conditioned enclosed seating and outdoor decks with exposed seating. I barely have time to explore the ferry before Seattle looms in the foreground. Can a ferry ride be too short? On a beautiful day like today, the answer is "yes."
I gear back up, wait for the ferry to dock, and take off into the city with my fellow motorcyclists. We're right in the middle of downtown Seattle now. I'll bet there are days when the ferry isn't such a great ride, but days like today would totally make up for it.
I pick my way through the light weekend traffic, find Interstate 90 and ride east to Bellevue and Eastside Harley-Davidson. Turning the bike in and unloading back into my suitcase takes just minutes, and soon I'm waiting for my car service back to the airport. Bellevue is not exactly a taxi town, so I've made arrangements to be picked up at the dealership and whisked away for my flight. A few hours later, I'm back at home, unpacking gifts for my wife, petting my dogs and enduring the lethal glares from my cats. Cats hate it when you go on a trip.
Western Washington State provided some great riding and some real surprises along the way. Riding through a heat wave is always a challenge, but I was prepared for the weather and I didn't try to push too hard. I wouldn't have minded staying longer at every single location on this trip. The hotels were great, and the surroundings were amazing. The bike was incredible, too. Taken all together, that's the definition of a good trip for me. This one will stay in my thoughts for a long time.
Now, the only question is, where should I ride next?
Miles Ridden: 72.1
Total Miles Traveled: 1,229.60