Author Topic: Pacific Coast: Vancouver or Bellingham?  (Read 9813 times)

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Offline John Nelson

Pacific Coast: Vancouver or Bellingham?
« on: April 28, 2014, 01:11:05 pm »
I'm planning to do the Pacific Coast route this summer, north to south. The official start of this route is in Vancouver. I've noticed, however, that flying to Vancouver is more expensive and there don't seem to be any bicycle-friendly airlines that go there (only United and Air Canada offer non-stop service from Denver). On the other hand, I can fly to Bellingham, WA for a bit over half the cost on bicycle-friendly Frontier. Considering the luggage costs of transporting my bicycle, I think flying United to Vancouver would be well over twice the cost of flying Frontier to Bellingham.

If I fly to Bellingham, I would ride the 21 miles up to the border before turning around and heading south.

Anybody else faced similar concerns when doing the Pacific Coast, and which way did you decide? Is it worth the extra cost and border-crossing hassle to go to Vancouver?

Thanks for your thoughts.

Offline adventurepdx

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Re: Pacific Coast: Vancouver or Bellingham?
« Reply #1 on: April 28, 2014, 01:23:41 pm »
My two cents:

I love visiting Vancouver, and think it's a great city and worth seeing. However, the "getting out by bike" from the city is pretty hard, and I've used a number of different routes to get from the Terminal City to the US/Canada Border at Blaine/White Rock. None of them I consider great, even the ACA Pacific Coast Route. At most you'll get is "passable". There's a lot of suburban crap to get through between White Rock and the Fraser River, and then there are issues with crossing the river itself.

Things are much easier biking from Blaine south, and Bellingham is a good start point with all the services you would need.

So if you are a completist, or want to see Vancouver, I'd say start there. If you're not, then it's OK to start from Bellingham.

Another option: fly into Bellingham or even Seatac (where you may get even better fares) and take Amtrak north to either Bellingham or Vancouver. There are two trains northbound daily, and the Cascades service has roll on bike service. From Seatac you could take the lightrail to either downtown Seattle and take Amtrak at King Street Station (just a block away) or get on at Tukwila which is a pretty short bike ride from the lightrail.

Offline atitus11

Re: Pacific Coast: Vancouver or Bellingham?
« Reply #2 on: April 28, 2014, 05:49:05 pm »
My girlfriend and I are taking that route this summer on our way from Alaska to Argentina, and I am from Seattle. I would fly into Bellingham. The city is much more manageable and you will have a better time getting around and then out of the city. By the time you deal with all of the Vancouver hassle and traffic, you will wish you skipped it for sure.

I would also recommend riding the full length of Whidbey Island and take a ferry from the southern tip rather than riding mainland. It is a beautiful island and plenty of great shoulders.
Live well and keep riding,
-Titus

Biking AK to Argentina (www.2w2c.com)

Offline Damian

Re: Pacific Coast: Vancouver or Bellingham?
« Reply #3 on: April 28, 2014, 07:39:08 pm »
I'm a Bellinghamster. I visit family regularly in Vancouver and Richmond, and I know this area pretty well. If you're traveling directly south from YVR airport, the trip to Richmond and beyond is quite pleasant, apart from the Steveston Highway which has no shoulders, is full of speeding cars and trucks, and is to be avoided at all costs. Fortunately, since Richmond is laid out on a grid, that's quite easy. The real hassle, as adventurepdx mentions, is crossing the Fraser River. Cyclists are banned from the Highway 99 tunnel and unless you take a huge detour to the east on Highway 91, your only recourse is to use the bike shuttle service. This is free and in summer runs every hour (or two) from 6am to 6pm. You can get info on the shuttle here: http://www.th.gov.bc.ca/popular-topics/driver_info/route-info/massey/massey.htm. The border crossing in Blaine is usually trouble free for cyclists. You go straight to the head of the line and while the staff are businesslike of course, they've always been very courteous to me.

By the way, the Massey tunnel is scheduled to be replaced by a bridge (including, yes, bike lanes!) with construction starting in 2017.

Offline Norsman

Re: Pacific Coast: Vancouver or Bellingham?
« Reply #4 on: April 28, 2014, 09:00:30 pm »
I don't think there is any particular need to start the ride in Vancouver, although it is a great city and quite bike friendly.  When I did my Pacific Coast ride in 2009 I started at the Canada/US border crossing at Sumas, just north of Bellingham, and didn't in any way feel I had cheated.  If you do fly into Bellingham and feel that you have to start your ride in Canada you can do that one of three different ways. 1. Ride up to any of the four crossings north of Bellingham, cross the border and turn around and head south. 2. Ride to the border at Blaine, continue on to Tsawwassen, catch the ferry to Swartz Bay and take the very nice bike route, the Lochside Trail, to downtown Victoria where you can take a ferry across to Port Angeles and start the ride south. 3. Bike SW to Anacortes and catch a ferry to Sidney on Vancouver Island and then take the Lochside Trail to Victoria.
« Last Edit: April 28, 2014, 10:00:08 pm by Norsman »

Offline adventurepdx

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Re: Pacific Coast: Vancouver or Bellingham?
« Reply #5 on: April 28, 2014, 09:51:41 pm »
...If you do fly into Bellingham and feel that you have to start your ride in Canada you can do that one of three different ways... 2. Ride to the border at Blaine, continue on to Tsawwassen, catch the ferry to Swartz Bay and take the very nice bike route, the Lochside Trail, to downtown Victoria where you can take a ferry across to Port Townsend and start the ride south. 3. Bike SW to Anacortes and catch a ferry to Sidney on Vancouver Island and then take the Lochside Trail to Victoria.

These are two great suggestions. The ride on Vancouver Island is very nice, and Victoria is cool. Either the Tsawassen ferry or the Anacortes ferry is going to put you at the north end of the Lochside Trail (the Vancouver Island terminals are less than 5 miles apart.) I'd probably choose the Anacortes option as Anacortes/Fidalgo Island is cool, and you could stop at one or more of the San Juan Islands on your way. (Salt Spring Island would also be a worthy side trip.) An added bonus side trip would be riding the Galloping Goose Trail from Victoria out to Sooke or beyond and camping out there. Either option would be easier and more pleasant than getting through Vancouver suburbia (though you may see a little of that on the way to the Tsawassen ferry terminal.)

One note: the ferry from Victoria (Black Ball/MV Coho) lands at Port Angeles, not Townsend. It's a day ride between the two, much of it on the Olympic Discovery Trail.

Offline Norsman

Re: Pacific Coast: Vancouver or Bellingham?
« Reply #6 on: April 28, 2014, 10:03:53 pm »

One note: the ferry from Victoria (Black Ball/MV Coho) lands at Port Angeles, not Townsend. It's a day ride between the two, much of it on the Olympic Discovery Trail.
Oops! Now corrected.

Offline dkoloko

Re: Pacific Coast: Vancouver or Bellingham?
« Reply #7 on: April 29, 2014, 10:17:46 am »

If I fly to Bellingham, I would ride the 21 miles up to the border before turning around and heading south.

Anybody else faced similar concerns when doing the Pacific Coast, and which way did you decide? Is it worth the extra cost and border-crossing hassle to go to Vancouver?

Thanks for your thoughts.

While I would have preferred to have begun at the start, Vancouver, Canada, I started south from Bellingham to avoid border hassles. While en route I met two riders, also traveling south, and having the same border concerns,  who did what you are thinking, riding north up to the border, and then turning around, riding south. They said border security chased them, brought them back, and detained them for hours, questioning them why they did what they did. You are warned.

Offline John Nelson

Re: Pacific Coast: Vancouver or Bellingham?
« Reply #8 on: April 29, 2014, 10:37:44 am »
They said border security chased them, brought them back, and detained them for hours, questioning them why they did what they did.
Wow! Thanks for the warning. I assume you mean U.S. border security.

I'll probably do it anyway.

Offline Itinerant Harper

Re: Pacific Coast: Vancouver or Bellingham?
« Reply #9 on: April 29, 2014, 11:57:49 am »
I agree with most of the opinions here w/r/t the Vancouver start, which I for one recommend - Vancouver is a great city. But there is another option for getting to the coast that hasn't been mentioned. Instead of going south from Vancouver go north and ride the Sunshine Coast. This route out of Vancouver is quite nice and once you quickly get through the 'burbs it is excellent wooded and waterfront riding with the occasional ferry ride. Then you take the ferry at Powell River over to Vancouver Island and ride down the east side with plenty of opportunities to go to the Gulf Islands. Then you either ferry into the states via Anacortes (visiting the San Juan's of course) or head into Victoria and take the Coho to Port Angeles.

This route FWIW is the route in Bicycling the Pacific Coast by Kirkendall and Spring. They also lay out the route around the Olympic Peninsula which keeps you actually on the Pacific Coast. The Adventure Cycling route inexplicably (well perhaps to not overlap with Washington Parks - get that if you want to go around the peninsula with ACA maps) uses what K&S deem the "inland route" which while a great ride I've done several times, it's not really the "Pacific Coast". Plus the Olympic Peninsula is must visit.

Offline Itinerant Harper

Re: Pacific Coast: Vancouver or Bellingham?
« Reply #10 on: April 29, 2014, 12:01:33 pm »
Oh also I've ridden into and out of Canada several times (and driven many, many times) and have never had issues with the border. Bring your passport and it's no big deal. Maybe they'll search a bag but most of the time I've just been asked a couple of questions and waved through. Less hassle at the ferry border crossings than the big crossing at Blaine, but still no big deal.

Offline adventurepdx

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Re: Pacific Coast: Vancouver or Bellingham?
« Reply #11 on: April 29, 2014, 01:06:50 pm »
Itinerant Harper's recommendations are also good, though it will add more time to the trip. There's a lot of good touring opportunities around the Puget Sound/Strait of Georgia and all the islands within.

Offline John Nelson

Re: Pacific Coast: Vancouver or Bellingham?
« Reply #12 on: April 30, 2014, 05:40:05 pm »
Thank you all for your comments and recommendations. I ran the numbers today. I can fly to Bellingham on Frontier for $119, plus $15 for my gear box, plus $75 for my bike. That's $209 total. To fly to Vancouver on United, it would cost me $200 for the ticket, $25 for my gear box, and a whopping $200 for my bike. That's $425 total. Even if I do decide to start in Vancouver, for the $216 difference, it makes more sense to fly to Bellingham and ride my bike to Vancouver.

Offline Norsman

Re: Pacific Coast: Vancouver or Bellingham?
« Reply #13 on: April 30, 2014, 09:30:37 pm »
Another option would be to fly to Bellingham and take a shuttle bus to Vancouver directly from the airport.  Check the following link. http://www.quickcoach.com
It costs about $30. You would probably have to contact them to ask about transporting a bike.

Offline John Nelson

Re: Pacific Coast: Vancouver or Bellingham?
« Reply #14 on: May 01, 2014, 09:59:02 am »
Thanks Norsman for the link. I'll keep it in mind as I do more planning.