Riding the Local Islands By Motorcycle...And Ferry | BEHIND BARS

Anchors Aweigh: Island-hopping to a panoply of local paradise destinations.

For Hamm’s drinkers of a certain age, the “Land of Sky Blue Waters” was Minnesota. For motorcyclists, it’s the Puget Sound region. From the green-fringed edge of our land, Washingtonians are privileged to launch our bikes over the salty fjord to a splendid panoply of local islands, the Olympic Peninsula, and (with a passport or enhanced license tucked into the tank bag) north to visit our Canadian neighbors. The key to this enhanced mobility is a network of elegant maritime shortcuts provided by a fleet of public and private, national and international ferries—and when you ride a motorcycle aboard, those shortcuts become your own personal wormhole. This spring, Pretty Wife and I laced together a ferry-enabled trip featuring minimal slabbing and maximum joy riding—plus boats.

We started our backyard tour by lancing straight north on I-5 to gaze upon a pile of ludicrously expensive Great Dane puppies in Surrey, BC. At five weeks, they had reached the size of large rabbits. Preliminary research indicates that six weaner puppies make an admirable lap blanket for a 220-pound writer. Following an afternoon of spectating at their napping competition, we hopped BC Ferries’ Tsawwassen-Sidney run and slid between Salt Spring, Galiano, and Pender Island on our way to a final juke through Moresby Passage to the Swartz Bay ferry terminal on the Saanich Peninsula. There are places on that run where you can almost touch the cliff faces from the upper decks.

From Saanich it’s a short, easy ride down the 17 to Victoria. For a slightly longer, much prettier ride, we wound southward along the east coast of Vancouver Island.

A pedestrian’s paradise, the City of Victoria is a great place to park your moto and stretch your legs. From our hotel, we had unlimited footborne access to pubs with Canadian ale, sweetshops with British candy, tobacconists stocking the finest Habana varietals, plus the Inner Harbour with its food carts, water taxis, and seaplanes. For a riding treat, we tooled up to Butchart Gardens and took a floral stroll then buzzed out along the southern coast to Sooke and beyond. If you’re in the neighborhood, be sure to poke your fairing into the provo park at Goldstream. Those string-thin, track-smooth, perfectly cambered roads are the chocolate chips that make the cookie.

Four nights in Victoria isn’t nearly enough, but the ferry docks are easy to find, and we’ll go back soon. Boating the long way home on the Blackball ferry, we enjoyed a fast, private boat that offers riders not only priority boarding and bike chocks but also pre-knotted tie-downs to snub your bike to the steel walls. Regarding customs and immigration, this magazine would never encourage buying Cuban cigars or codeine-laced acetaminophen over the counter, and we’re certain you would never inadvertently forget the contraband tucked deep into your luggage. No need to mention then that the border with our friends to the north has normalized back to a fairly perfunctory set of questions. Under a full-face helmet, no one can see you sweat.

Docking at Port Angeles, we answered two more brief questions and were sent on our way along the 101. Ed’s housewarming in Sequim featured Vesper cocktails stirred from Hendrick’s gin, conversational stogies from Fidel Castro’s house brand, and a 6-gallon cast-iron pot of jambalaya.

We soaked up one brief spit of spring rain before our final embarkation at Kingston. Slipping down the curb margin, we eased in front of 600 cars, cut in line to grab tickets, and parked at the front for our pre-boarding privilege. Yes, you read that right: On WSDOT ferries, first class belongs to motorcyclists. Riders shy enough to sit idling in the cage queue are likely to be jerked out of line by a WSP trooper reminding them to please—for the love of god!—just go to the front like bikes are supposed to.

In a week of happy wandering, we put only a few hundred miles on our odometers—but a thousand smiles on our memories.

Defying half a century of consistent inability to either contain himself or support his choices with logic, Jack Lewis continues to proselytize on the merits of motorcycling despite regular and heavy doses of therapy, injury, and ignominy. On other topics, he also wrote a pretty good book entitled Nothing In Reserve.

Motorcycles are given first-class accomodation on most ferries, including priority boarding.