Experiencing the San Juan Islands by Bike

Biking for a Cause

For the last 6 years, my wife Trish has been in charge of a committee that organizes rides for the benefit of a relief organization called Mennonite Central Committee (MCC).  Two years ago it was in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, which I briefly blogged about here, and this year it was in the San Juan Islands.  The ride draws all levels of riders, and while most split up throughout the course of each day’s scheduled ride, we all congregate at the end of each day to talk about the day’s happenings, about bikes, about MCC experiences, as well as play games, watch movies, sing hymns, and the list goes on.

The incredible thing about this ride is not so much the rides themselves, but the bonds created during the experience.  It’s funny how when you get a bunch of Mennonites together, community is established almost instantaneously, and at the end of such rides, saying goodbye to these newfound friends feels like saying goodbye to family.  This ride was no exception.  Getting to ride in the San Juan Islands was great, but getting to ride with the ‘salt of the earth’ was even better.

What follows is a rather simple picture gallery from each day, as well as the suggested route.

Day 1 – Riding Around Shaw Island and San Juan Island

The Map: Shaw Island

Want the GPX version of this map, or just more detail?  Click here.

The Map: San Juan Short Loop

Want the GPX version of this map, or just more detail?  Click here.

The Shaw Island route is the tamest of all the routes we did in the San Juan Islands, and many people rode the route multiple times before heading back to San Juan Island, our home base.

After getting back to San Juan Island, many people did the ‘San Juan Short Loop’ to add a few miles as well as a sense of accomplishment to the day.

Day 2 – A Long Ride around San Juan Island

The Map: San Juan Long Loop

Want the GPX version of this map, or just more detail?  Click here.

San Juan Island is one of the hillier islands of the four we toured, and I had the pleasure of toting around my friends’ baby Liesel, which proved to be a rather good workout by the end of the day.  Fortunately for me, Liesel kept me company on some of the longer hills and fell asleep almost immediately every time the bike started to move.

Day 3 – Time Trial Riding on Lopez Island

The Map: Lopez Island Loop

Want the GPX version of this map, or just more detail?  Click here.

Lopez Island is a great island to ride quickly, as it doesn’t have many large hills, has less traffic than San Juan and Orcas Islands, and has some beautiful coastlines and inland farmland to admire along the way.  Once again, many of us rode this island twice, mostly because it was just too enjoyable to ride one time.

Day 4 – Orcas Island and the Big Hill… Mount Constitution

The Map: Orcas Island

Want the GPX version of this map, or just more detail?  Click here.

Orcas Island is the busiest island outside of San Juan Island and – like San Juan – is rather hilly, but not quite as hilly as San Juan Island, with one exception: Mount Constitution.  Mount Constitution is a nasty climb that gains almost 2,000 feet of elevation in five miles.  What makes it even worse is that the first couple miles are about 10% grade or higher.  Still, many people attempt this formidable climb each year, and the common goal is to make it up to the summit in however many minutes you are old.

I unfortunately missed out on this ride, as I had to head back home and prepare for two 8-hour long graduate school classes the next two days, but Trish and about a dozen other MCC riders made it to the top and lived to tell about it, which I’d consider a success.

Some final reasons to visit the San Juan Islands:

Trish and I have already been throwing around ideas for the next west coast MCC ride in two years, and can’t wait to reconnect with many of the riders we met or have developed a relationship with over the years we have participated in this special fundraiser.  Hopefully it continues to be a successful community building and fundraising event for a relief organization that does incredibly important work.

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