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Originally published July 7, 2005 at 12:00 AM | Page modified July 7, 2005 at 12:55 PM

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Cycle-friendly Bainbridge inn is first stop on weekend of ups, downs and sweet scenery

If your idea of a sweet weekend getaway is getting away from your car, onto a bicycle and out of the city, Bainbridge Island, with its undulating...

Seattle Times staff reporter

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BAINBRIDGE ISLAND — If your idea of a sweet weekend getaway is getting away from your car, onto a bicycle and out of the city, Bainbridge Island, with its undulating terrain, is candy.

For the hard-core, there's a 50-mile route called The BUTWHY (Bainbridge's Undeniably Tumultuous Worst Hills You'lleverride). It climbs 4,400 feet and includes the villainous Toe Jam Hill.

For those less inclined, but still quite comfortable in a saddle, there's the 33-mile island perimeter route known as The Chilly Hilly. It's a course customarily completed during the Chilly Hilly ride each February. Challenging, but reasonable, if that's your thing.

But cyclists of a different sort, say those searching for a more leisurely workout (which isn't an oxymoron because, frankly, riding anywhere on the island is going to involve some hills) are advised to note two organized rides scheduled for this summer. The first involves a tour of five private gardens; the second, pie!

Or, you could just plan your own weekend cycling escape. A number of places cater to the cycling crowd, including the amateur tourist who is also craving good food and a cozy bed.

A perfect starting point for the novice visitor to Bainbridge is the Blackberry Hill Farm Bicycle Inn run by Dana and Bart Berg. Book a room, show up and the pair of avid cyclists will load you up with plenty of island-touring advice. (Bikes and helmets, too, if you haven't brought your own.) The inn has a covered bicycle shelter as well as a repair shop.

If you go


A Bainbridge Island cycling getaway

Lodging:

Blackberry Hill Farm Bicycle Inn, 8400 Paulanna Lane, Bainbridge Island. May through September. Rates: $89 to $135 (a 20 percent discount given to those who arrive on bicycle; bicycles also available on-site for guest use). 206-842-9024 or -4870, www.bainbridgelodging.com/inns

Dining:

Treehouse Cafe, 4569 Lynwood Center Road N.E., Bainbridge Island; 206-842-2814

Cycling info:

Bainbridge Island walker and bicyclist maps can be obtained at the two local bicycle shops:

• B.I.Cycle, 162 Bjune Drive S.E., Bainbridge Island; 206-842-6413. (You can also ask owner Tom Clune for a map of his 50-mile strenuous BUTWHY Ride route).

Classic Cycle is renting bicycles this summer. 321 High School Road, Suite 6D, Bainbridge Island; 206-842-9191.

Chilly Hilly course routes can also be downloaded via the Cascade Bicycle Club Web site, www.cascade.org

More Bainbridge bicycle routes: www.visitkitsap.com

Bainbridge rides this weekend and beyond:

Bike between sites on the Bainbridge in Bloom Garden Tour this Saturday and Sunday and get $10 off the usual tour price ($20 instead of $30). Tickets may be purchased at several outlets on Bainbridge Island and at nurseries and garden stores throughout Puget Sound. For a list of ticket outlets (and more information on the tour), see the Web site: www.gardentour.info. Or order tickets by phone, to be picked up the day of the tour: 206-842-7901.

The Bainbridge Island bicycle group Squeaky Wheels offers "easy adult bike rides" on the next four Saturdays in July: July 9, 16, 23 and 30. Sign up through Bainbridge Island Parks at 206-842-2306, or contact organizer Kitty Garrett at kittyg@ squeakywheels.org.

The Squeaky Wheels "Bike for Pie" ride is Aug. 14. See the group's Web site, www.squeakywheels.org.

Seattle-Bainbridge ferry info:

To ride a bicycle onto the Seattle-Bainbridge Island ferry, you'll pay the current peak-season passenger fare of $6.10 plus a $1 surcharge for your bike. For schedules, see www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries

The Bergs, both graduates of Bainbridge High School, are also reservoirs of local lore and up-to-the-minute happenings, which makes them ideal guides for out-of-towners, with tips such as: "You just missed 'West Side Story' but 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' plays at 3."

Innate love of nature

"Have you heard of the word 'biophilia'?" Dana Berg asks one Sunday morning, standing in her kitchen, looking every bit a cyclist in her fleece vest, bike tights and ruddy cheeks. She proceeds to explain how biophilia refers to man's innate love of nature — the need humans have to be connected with other living organisms.

That's why people are drawn to places like Bainbridge, says Berg, whose bed-and-breakfast, run out of her home, faces south to a pond with a resident blue heron, trout and otters. The house sits on seven lush acres with 200-foot fir trees. The couple has two cats, one chicken, one bunny and one teenage son, the youngest of three children, living with them at home.

Based on the accounts of several locals, Berg is the Island Bicycling Advocate, familiar to all because she's passionate about two-wheeled transportation, she's friendly, and her Giant bike is coated with all sorts of bumper stickers, as well as a sign that reads "Bicycle For Peace" in seven languages. Note to linguists: The Norwegian word for "peace" is "fred."

She parted ways with her faithful VW Jetta five years ago and now commutes by bike, one more Bainbridge enthusiast in a helmet and a screaming yellow windbreaker pedaling past the pastoral (farmhouses framed by sheep) and the cosmopolitan (farmhouse-turned-bistro). Berg is convinced that there's something joyful about pedaling. So when she decided to convert part of her upstairs and her basement into guest suites, she wanted to showcase bicycling as well.

"People get here and they see bicycles and they say, 'Oh yeah. A bike!' And they smile and it makes them feel good," she says.

Tougher than expected

On this morning, Berg tells a pair of recreational cyclists (me and my friend Valerie) that any ride on the island will steep us in scenery. Berg, unlike her husband, isn't a BUTWHY-type rider, which is a good thing since this will be the first two-wheeled experience on the island for both of us. And I'm still in the early stages of a relationship with my bike, bought just last year.

We want to hear from you

If you take this bicycle getaway, let us know. Submit your comments.

The most important thing about all bicycling is to be bright, Bart Berg says. Wear visible clothing; have common sense.

Dana Berg hands us a copy of a walker/cyclist map of the 28-square-mile island, nicely designating routes according to color: Chilly Hilly (purple); steep (orange), scenic flat (blue). The map also shows nearby restaurants, restrooms and drinking fountains.

The couple suggests we head south on the island and start at Lynwood Center, a small commercial area with an eatery, a movie theater and a massage studio. From there, either ride east along Pleasant Beach Drive through the cedar, Douglas fir and hemlock of Fort Ward State Park; or ride west along the beaches of Point White and Crystal Springs drives. Both routes are easy, the Bergs promise. I begin envisioning an unhurried and flat experience of the sort provided by Bicycle Saturdays and Sundays along Lake Washington to Seattle's Seward Park.

But less than a half-hour into our ride, heavy in breath, I lose faith in the Bergs.

It doesn't help that the sun, which had been flirting with us all morning as we rode the ferry in, has vanished and we now stand in a downpour. And it doesn't help that I've already been humiliated. One minute into the ride, the chain slipped off my bike and then later, pooft! the map flew out of my jersey's back pocket. When I figured out what happened, I thought about turning around and looking for it. But I decided against it, fearing I'd lose momentum and gain even more distance between me and the more experienced Valerie, who graciously led.

Our ride had started out great, though, because we were both hungry. We arrived at the Bergs, greeted promptly by Mrs. Black the chicken (who'd provide eggs for our breakfast the following morning), and took in the verdant views and checked out our rooms (an upstairs suite; one room with a queen bed and the other with a double bed and a pair of bunks). We sipped tea and remarked on the eclectic interior design (Dana Berg runs a furniture store in downtown Winslow) and learned about biophilia and accepted the couple's bicycling advice. And then, we took the Bergs' recommendation to eat lunch at The Treehouse Cafe.

Lost in the beauty

The Treehouse, which doesn't mind the cleated customer, serves espresso, sandwiches and huge salads, plus ice cream, beer and wine. It's a known place among local cyclists who ride the nearby Baker Hill loop.

We ate, filled our water bottles and took off.

We planned to head through Fort Ward State Park, whose Web site lists foxes, chipmunks, coyotes, otters and raccoons as some of the resident creatures. If followed correctly, our ride (marked in blue) would end at the base of Toe Jam Hill (orange), which we were both curious to see.

But even though there are signs that read "Fort Ward," we end up on one hill and then another. We're on a bluff overlooking the water. We're under a tree in the rain. We ride on, figuring we'll eventually get somewhere, but we pass no other cyclists to ask. We see an eagle. We inhale the scent of wet woods. We meet a motorist and ask her how to get back to Lynwood Center. She points us in the right direction and when we ask, "Is it far?" she replies, "It's a lot longer than I'd go."

Eventually, though, we get there, spotting the Treehouse, radiant in sun that has now decided to shine. Rich Passage glimmers and beckons, so we take Point White Drive, which hugs the water. Folks garden in front yards. Red-winged blackbirds flit about in cattails.

We arrive at a pier where a pair of boys are hauling a load of something in their T-shirts. We find out later, from 7-year-old Hannah Correa-Denoncourt, that the boys are carrying sand dollars. She's counting the 46 that now belong to her.

"Only place you can collect them on the island," her mom, Lisa, says.

Then we head back to Blackberry Hill to that cozy — and dry — bed, which now looks even better.

Florangela Davila: 206-464-2916 or fdavila@seattletimes.com

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