Pedal power: Good times, good cause, good reason to get in gear

Pedal power: bicyclists disembark a ferry at Lopez Island on the morning of the 2014 Tour de Lopez.

You can take it fast or you can take it slow.

You can go the full distance, 31 miles roundtrip, or you can call it quits anywhere along the way, or whenever you feel the tug to retire from the roadway or the spirit moves.

It may well be the “make-it-up-as-you-go” nature of the annual bicycle tour hosted by Lopez Island, the Tour de Lopez, that makes this springtime event the true kick-off to the tourist season in the San Juans. While Memorial Day has long been thought of as the official start to the season, the yearly arrival of some 900 or so bicycle enthusiasts to the second smallest of the San Juans’ ferry-served islands should serve to put that long-held notion to rest.

Its popularity can’t be denied.

“Typically, we get people from all over the world,” Lia Noreen of the Lopez Islandtour de lopez Chamber of Commerce said. “We get lots of families with little kids and there’s a steady group that comes every year from Friday Harbor, and from Orcas too.”

Sponsored by the Lopez Chamber, the Tour de Lopez, now in its 12th cycle, is a non-competitive road rally featuring four marked routes of varying distance, five, 12, 18 and 31 miles, that meander through the bucolic, pastoral landscape for which the so-called “Friendly Isle” is renowned and that also serves as the centerpiece of several popular companion events.

Although the majority of tour riders hail from Washington state, the event draws pedal-power activists from across the continent: Oregon, Alaska, California, Montana and Arizona are but a few of the states represented by this year’s troupe of riders and, according to Noreen, quite a number are coming from Canada and at least one from Israel as well.

Tour de LopezThe tour gets under way Saturday morning, April 25, and concludes with a barbecue lunch, beer garden, live music and raffle drawing at the Lopez Community Center. It’s preceded by the Second Annual Bite of Lopez the day before, Friday, 4-8 p.m., where tour riders can check in early, enjoy food prepared by local vendors and, among other offerings, live music by the island’s Los Hermanos.

Fresh air, a little exercise and a weekend of entertainment may be the hallmarks of the tour for the participants, the event is also an important fundraiser for the chamber. Proceeds from the tour help cover the chamber’s costs to maintain and operate two restrooms and two showers in Lopez Village, the showers being the only two available for public use on Lopez.

Good times, good cause, good reasons to get in gear.

To register for the 2015 Tour de Lopez, visit the Lopez chamber website, www.lopezisland.com