A bike ride in the county

Follow along for a moment: If everything that Phillip said about bicycles was simultaneously transcribed and published, he would have tomes so numerous that even Marcel Proust would think it excessive. His love of bicycles overflows and he wistfully tells tales of favorite rides – along the banks of rice paddy fields in Korea on a rusty, old cruiser; up endlessly steep Austrian mountains on a trusty steel Peugeot; down the Pacific coast and into Mexico on a beloved blue Raleigh Grand Prix. But he is perhaps the most nostalgic for rides in Whatcom County where he grew up. So when the opportunity finally, finally came up for me to join him on his infamous “Pie Ride,” just days before we moved out of Washington state (forever?!), I threw my hands to the heavens, tears streaming down my face, and after the sobbing had subsided, I whispered “yes, I am ready.”

Okay, so we are both fairly dramatic about bicycles.

A country ride, how novel, I remember thinking. If the scars on my face and the missing part of my tooth are any indication that city riding isn’t ideal, I didn’t realize this until we packed up and pedaled out of Bellingham into “the county.” Phillip’s sister being in town and joining us was an added bonus!







So off we rode into the early morning fog, past the dreamiest of barns, the lushest of fields, the noisiest of cows. Farm dogs snapped at our heels, puddles were narrowly avoided, and wardrobes were swapped as storm clouds rolled in and heart rates rose – I think every single configuration of neon yellow reflective jacket and Paddington Bear-blue rain slicker was tested (Phil in yellow, his sister in blue; Sarah in blue, Phil in shirt sleeves; etc. in perpetuity).







But Phil called this a “Pie Ride” so where was the pie? In Lynden, of course, twenty miles north of B’ham. Once in town, we coasted down Front Street to the famous Dutch Bakery, hitched our bikes outside, and scurried in for warmth and treats. Lining the walls of the shop, boxes of pies towered a dozen high for the Christmastime rush, and we queued up for slices of our own. Bumbleberry, a mixture of berries for which the region is renowned, was generously dished up and we stuffed ourselves silly. Our blood sufficiently sugared, we saddled up again for the ride back home.







We had grown cold from sitting at the bakery for so long, and we tried to pick up our speed for the return, but by that time the light had changed, and we were seeing everything from a different angle and it was so beautiful that we had to stop for photos of highland cows basking in the golden hour, even as we cursed ourselves for not wearing thermal pants.



We lingered at this wooden tower for a spell; Phillip’s seen it countless times and is no less impressed by its construction and intrigued by its history – it looks like it is from another time and frankly, from another continent. We searched for clues, but with the wind picking up, we started on the final stretch to Bellingham. A truly spectacular ride, one that I would be happy to repeat!


The next morning we were treated again to pie, a lovely rum raisin and apple crafted by Phil’s sister, but this time we only needed to go as far as the kitchen, so it all averages out, I guess. Forty miles or a couple of steps, if it’s pie, I’ll take it!


Riding the Amtrak Cascades

As I mentioned, back in April, Phillip and I hopped on the Amtrak Cascades, a train route that spans the entire Pacific Northwest coast, all the way into the lower mainland of Canada. We boarded in Seattle and detrained in Bellingham just in time for Easter breakfast, a two-hour journey.  Though, if you’ve got a bit more time and a passport handy, you could ride the train in its entirety from Eugene, Oregon to Vancouver, British Columbia. I can assure you it is a beautiful way to travel.

That being said, if time is of the essence, I have heard that the most scenic passage is between Seattle and Bellingham, as it offers the most extensive view of the Puget Sound. At times, the tracks run right along the shore for unobstructed visibility that is second to none. The morning of our trip started out a bit gray and overcast – as typical as any day in April in the North West, but that only served to authenticate the experience for me. I had been raring to ride the rails for months! Not to mention, a dreary early-morning often means a sunny late-morning in the PNW. Good news for us!










In a blink of an eye, we’d pulled out of Seattle’s King Street Station in the International District and found ourselves chugging past the sprawling and industrial city of Everett, before cruising further north into lush, verdant Skagit County, already a favorite Washington locale of mine. The Cascades’ path parallels Interstate 5, a road we know all too well after countless jaunts up to Bellingham, so we were pleased with our new westwardly vantage point, as well as the comfort of traveling by train (coffee in the bistro car, oh but of course).















But the real draw is its Puget Sound views, and there is no shortage of crashing waves, ragged coves, rocky shores, and piney, wooded islands. It is a spectacular tour of what makes this part of the country so special and I would recommend it to visitors to the area and locals alike – after all, I lived in Seattle for four years prior to booking my ticket!

Here are a couple of tips for making the most of your ride on the Amtrak Cascades:

1. Run straight to the bistro car to be first in line for coffee and to grab a seat at one of its booths or its counter of outward-facing stools. If everyone gets a window seat, then everyone wins!

2. Buy your ticket in advance. This is particularly important in the summer, when tourists opt to spend the day on the train as an attraction in and of itself. Additionally, Amtrak rewards the forward-thinking by frequently offering discounts on trips booked two or more weeks out.

3. Finally, though it goes without saying, if you’re traveling on Easter, do be sure to stuff your bag full of jelly bean-filled plastic eggs in a variety of pastel colors. Obviously.

All aboard!