“One of the most important days of my life was when I learned to ride a bicycle”, Michael Palin. The bicycle symbolizes freedom, one of the first rites of passage as a child, growing up and stepping, or riding, into independence. Romantic images conjured in the imagination of riding down a country lane with the wind in your hair, and your cares carried on the breeze.
Susan B. Anthony spoke to this sense of independence when she said, “the bicycle did more to emancipate woman than any other single thing”. Riding a bicycle is about getting back to basics, besides being beneficial for the figure, it is good exercise, good for the environment, and good on the wallet.
On this mother/daughter day out, we began our adventure riding through Lopez Island, WA on E-bikes. I chose to rent E-bikes from Village Cycle on the island, for two reasons. First, I looked forward to a new experience and second, I wanted to frame the day for ease and enjoyment.
What is an E-bike?
After boarding the ferry in Anacortes and a 30 to 40 minute excursion, we arrived on Lopez Island. Situated in the San Juan Islands, this picturesque place is 30 square miles of rolling fields, serene open spaces, woodlands, and provincial island life.
Matt, from Village Cycle arranged for our E-bikes to be parked and waiting for us at the ferry terminal. Another wonderful service Village Cycle offers, making our stay easy and pleasant. Throughout the day, I became accustomed and grateful for the warmth and friendly nature of the local Lopezians, the island where everyone waves a friendly greeting.
A brief read through the instructions and with helmets on, we mounted our bikes and our adventure began! The first step, getting used to the feel of the E-bike with its electric motor and different gear settings. This was not quite like my childhood bicycle but as the saying goes, “It’s like riding a bike”, the memory and know how is always with you.
E-bikes, also referred to as pedelec, indicates a combination of pedal and electric power, or power-assisted with an electric drive system. The motor on an E-bike is relatively low powered so they are classified as bicycles rather than a strictly motorized vehicle like a moped or motorcycle, where there is no need for pedaling.
Riding the E-bike
Generally travelling at speeds of 16-20 mph e-bikes use a rechargeable battery pack, usually mounted on or near the rear wheel. They hold a charge for approximately eight hours, which has the range of 28-30 miles when travelling at the 16-20 miles per hour. We toured through the island on back roads and main highway for several hours with no problems.
Once we took off, we discovered the E-bikes handled just like a regular bicycle, augmenting the human power with the electric for a very smooth and even ride. E-bikes are designed to make the terrain of hills and headwinds more manageable, allowing the rider to travel further without over exertion.
E-bikes can be used by anyone for exercise, for rehabilitation, weight loss, and even older populations can keep moving on a pedal-assisted E-bike. While the landscape of Lopez is stunning, so can be the hills, especially the first one climbing away from the ferry and onto the island itself.
Provincial Path through Lopez Island
Lopez Island is very bicycle friendly with bike paths and wide shoulders on the main highway as well as meandering side roads that are well worth the turn. Our first laughable but serendipitous mishap led us to one of these provincial side roads and down a charming rural path.
As we cruised along the main highway, away from the ferry dock, at our comfortable 15 mph, our map of Lopez leading us into the Village, blew off my bicycle and away with the wind. I had been carrying it attached to my handle bars, so I could see it better, naturally. However, it seems the ethers had other plans. We pulled off at the next junction in the road and spent several minutes surveying our surroundings.
We obviously looked confused, so when a local gentleman came upon us, riding a traditional bike, he kindly offered us help, pointing us in the direction of town. His advice led us off the beaten track, riding through the quiet, rural farmlands of the Island. The aroma on the warm air smelled sweetly of fresh cut hay and hollyhocks blooming by the side of the road.
Here we happened upon the Labyrinth. At the bottom of a hill a hand painted sign, reading “Labyrinth” pointed down a gravel drive. Intrigued and delighted, we turned our bikes down the path. I mean, who can turn down the chance to explore a Labyrinth?
Walking the Labyrinth
Whispers of Nature Herbs and Healing Garden the next sign read. Walking through the gate, the landscape opens into a truly beautiful, tailored, medicinal herb and flower garden path which leads you through the winding and circling passage of the seven-circuit, outdoor labyrinth.
Labyrinths have been walked by people of many cultures and throughout history. Known to be meditative and spiritual places, they symbolize wholeness with their connected inner and outer circles, representing ones journey through life.
The labyrinth, along with Whispers of Nature, were created by Susie and Nick Teague after moving to the Island in 2006. They maintain the gardens still, using earth friendly and sustainable growing practices. You can find many of their products alongside other growers at the Farmers Market on Saturdays through the summer, or for more on their mission, labyrinth, and herbal products, contact them at [email protected].
Entering Lopez Village, the Heart and Hub of the Island
Our next stop riding on these rural roads, the heart center of Lopez Island, called by the locals The Village, or Lopez Village. Looking out onto the bay are the quaint shops, eateries, and tourist stops that make this thriving center active and alive. A glance down the boardwalk reveals kids licking ice cream cones while their parents pop in and out of boutiques, sipping ice cold coffee drinks.
Amongst them we found the San Juan Visitors Center, and a wealth of information on the area bike rides as well as recommendations for dinner. A quick jaunt across the street from the Visitors center, we paid a visit to Village Cycle, to thank Matt for all his help in organizing our escapade and to ask a few questions. The staff at Village Cycle, like Matt, are not only genuinely friendly and helpful, but also extremely knowledgeable.
The Journey Continues to Fisherman’s Bay
Every year, during the last weekend in April, the Tour de Lopez, a non-competitive tour, and hundreds of cyclists’ ride across the Island. We chose to ride as far as Fisherman’s Bay and Shark’s Cove. Following Fisherman’s Bay road for about a ½ mile we circled around the bay itself and biked out to the spit. Here we found a pretty little stretch of beach looking west.
Sitting among the driftwood, we rested and replenished ourselves with a light snack. A little further on, another ½ mile or so, south, brings you to the tip of Shark reef and its corresponding state park. Each place we stopped and every road we traveled down offered us peaceful views and serene vistas. It is easy to feel the lure of island life.
We found it difficult to turn back. But as the sun lowered in the sky and the sea air became cooler on our skin we rode with the attitude of the professional E-bikers we now were. Heading back into Lopez Village and toward the highly recommended Vita’s Wildly Delicious Café to take our supper. A perfect match it was too!
Vita’s Wildly Delicious Café
Vita’s aims to feed the stomach, soul, and heart and they do not disappoint! We dined on several dishes, filling our bellies with puff pastry, ginger/kale salad, and a homemade Brie mac & cheese which proved to be a splendid upgrade from the standard childhood favorite in comfort food.
Vita’s has seasonal hours, so if you visit during the spring, summer, or fall be sure to take in their wood fire pizza nights and wine tastings. Find yourself a seat on the patio beneath whimsical glass orbs or a spot on the lawn where you can engage in a giant Jinga game. Good cheer and good food is what you will find at Vita’s.
Satiated and satisfied, we slowly rode our bikes through the Village, whispering our good byes and headed back down the main highway toward the ferry terminal. Our adventure and our day on Lopez was coming to a close. Re-parking our bikes in their slots of the bike rack, knowing Matt from Village Cycle would be back to retrieve them, we waited for the ferry.
Thank you Lopez Island. It was a magical day, full of new memories for this mother and daughter to share.