I decided to take the Mukilteo Ferry ($6.50) to the Clinton Terminal on Whidbey Island because it was supposed to be a safe place for cyclists, and a good place to start my trip.
***[I included the miles I rode on the Centennial Trail (Seattle to Arlington) as part of the trip’s total mileage, so I guess my true *official* start was on the Centennial.]
I was wrong about Whidbey being a safe place to start. If you’re staying in Whidbey for multiple days, it has some great backroads. If you’re touring, you’ll likely stick to the main road that runs through the island. This road (the 525 that turns into the 20) is crazy dangerous, and there have been many accidents and some deaths where the shoulder goes from 3 feet to 0 feet.
To avoid the risky spots on the 525, I took backroads that added extra mileage (and extra hills) to my trip. For an avid cycle tourist the extra mileage may not matter as much, but I was an exhausted novice. At one point, someone drove me 2 miles down the 525 until we reached a safer stretch of the road.
Everyone mentions the brutal hill when you’re ascending from the Clinton Ferry (the hill isn’t bad, by the way), but they don’t mention the horrendous traffic on the road.
I stayed at Fort Casey in a hiker/biker campsite ($12), which is a patch of grass in the middle of RV camping. This was fine with me, and I felt safe.
If I could do it again, I would spend two days biking Whidbey and only take the backroads.