Chris Austin is the owner of Mostly True Vashon Tours, which blend history and comedy. (Courtesy photo)

Chris Austin is the owner of Mostly True Vashon Tours, which blend history and comedy. (Courtesy photo)

Island tours tell “mostly true” history, now from e-bikes

Islander Chris Austin, a fan of history, comedy and biking, is offering his Mostly True Vashon Tours for the second year in a row — now with the option of taking the tours on an electric bike from Vashon E-Bike.

Previously, Austin offered van, bus and walking tours to share his knowledge of the island served up with some laughs — and decided to add e-bikes to the mix of his offerings this summer. His bike tours are relaxed, he said, and a fun way to learn some of the island’s history from the ice age up to the present — all from the seat of a bike.

“I think what makes e-bike tours unique is you get to experience the island differently than when in a vehicle. You get the organic sensations that cycling provides: wind in your hair, sounds and smells that you miss when inside a car,” he said.

While some recreational bikers look askance at Vashon’s steep hills, Austin said the e-bikes make them much easier, and he can guide tour participants to the “easy hills” around the island and will shorten the tour if people are feeling fatigued. Additionally, he said, the bikes themselves are precision German bikes, quiet and comfortable and perfect for the island. An added bonus is that the stops along the way to tell the island’s history give folks time to catch their breath.

Typically, Austin’s tours start in the heart of town, where there is a lot of history, he says, including a well known mural depicting 100 years of island life and, more dramatically, the site of a 1970s bomb explosion near the Vashon Pharmacy.

The tours typically traverse the heart of the island, with stories along the way about the island’s geology, early industry and fishing history, including the true tale of an island fishing vessel that was struck by none other than the USS Arizona. The tour also heads to the Chautauqua Beach neighborhood, home of the Chautauqua movement in the late 1880s, where a hotel, dozens of cottages and a 1,200-seat pavilion for a variety of speakers all stood. The bike tours are available in every season, rain or shine, as long as people are interested.

Austin covers the serious and the silly and promises people will be able to tell fact from fiction, whether on one of his traditional tours or taking part on an e-bike.

“I really try to put a lot of humor in it, and I also try to educate people,” he said. “It is a lot of fun.”

Tours can be personalized and include some of the island’s wineries, for example, or include any areas of personal importance.

For more information or sign up for a tour, email Erin Kieper at

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