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Riding Around Olympia

Friday, August 12th, 2011

Riding Around Olympia - 18

Parking my Atlantis in a little neighborhood park in West Olympia.

I moved out of the house I’ve been living in, in Kirkland, WA at the end of July and didn’t have a new place to move into until September 1st.  So I’ve been spending the last couple of weeks with a friend in Olympia, WA and I’ve managed to get in a few good rides.  I went to college in Olympia and used to know the town well, but it has definitely changed in the decade plus since I was here. In these years I’ve visited a few times but never rode around the city and as I’ve often said riding around an area is the best way to get to know it. So on a couple of rides I rode on trails I never knew were here, visited my old college to see the extensive (and ongoing) changes and enjoyed the quite extensive bicycle facilities here.
Riding Around Olympia - 03

On the Watershed Trail

The first day I set out to check out this trail I’d seen often but never ridding. It started by the I-5 highway onramp and pretty quickly went into woods.  The clearly signed Watershed Park and Trail is a real nice and clearly fairly new trail, that wound through woods with side routes back to the parts of the city. Eventually it became increasing urban, eventually running right along some thoroughfares. It ended in a clearly ridable gravel trail with a sign indicated the trail would be extended further at some point in the future.

Riding Around Olympia - 01

The end of the road (but I'd like to explore onto the gravel parts sometime)

Apart from just riding around town my ostensible goal on that ride was to go to the Olympia Food Co-op to pick up some supplies.  The Co-op had beautiful covered bicycle parking and was easily accessible even though it was on a main route.  I took the main drag into town and rode around the waterfront and up by the capitol building to where my friends place is.  I was really impressed by how much of the road had bicycle lanes, clear signage and there were bicycle racks everywhere. I’d only brought my iPhone with me so not a lot of pics, but it was a fun easy route that brought me back to some of the old stomping grounds as well as introducing me to some new places.

Riding Around Olympia - 05

Quality covered bicycle racks at the Olympia Food Co-op

My parents had come up to visit so I spent a few days with them up in the Seattle area before returning to Olympia.  This time I wanted to ride out to the college which is about 6-7 miles west from where I was staying. From my friends place I rode through these beautiful classic neighborhoods, some of the oldest in Olympia. Lined with big old oaks and other trees, these wide, low traffic roads were pleasant and scenic riding. Laving the neighborhoods for the downtown  I took a pretty wandering route, following a clearly marked bicycle route, but also checking out things of interest as I noticed them. I ended up straying from the signed route after a point and riding by some of the places I used to live in and back routes I used to ride back then.
Riding Around Olympia - 06

Typical neighborhood street around the capitol area.


Riding Around Olympia - 08

A bit of a greenbelt with hiking trails in West Oly

Finally I made it to the college which after 15 years I’d have expected some changes, but I was pretty impressed with some of the ones they had made.  There are now little pea-patches scattered throughout the housing complex. Housing at Evergreen is a mix of dorms and apartment like buildings and in the later there is a lot of space in between them that are now filled with these little gardens. There was composting everywhere and facilities scattered about to collect rain water, store equipment and other support for this initiate. There was a new community center-ish looking building with an extensive garden out in the old modular housing are as well.

Riding Around Olympia - 09

Typical riding outside of town, with clearly marked bicycle lanes

Riding Around Olympia - 12 Evergreen is a good campus for riding on, with lots of wide boulevards and paths for riding around all of the majors stairs of which there are several as you ride up to main campus from the housing area. The main campus was the most extensively changed and plenty of work was in-prgoress. Most dramatic was the clock tower which was completely ensconced in scaffolding and workers were hard at work doing something (I never could figure out what was being done to it). The College Activivities building was completely reworked and there was a massive new building to the east of it.  The paths all around that area had been re-routed but it was still as easy as ever to ride all around campus. The interior of the updated CAB was completely different with the 2nd floor cafe gone (now an addendum to the primary cafeteria), with the main floor now more organized around student use with a quiet room and more open areas. The library building also had been reworked with the main lobby now featuring a single entrance to the computer lab and the library proper and the art gallery being on the opposite side.
Riding Around Olympia - 13

My Atlantis in front of one of the new buildings at Evergreen

I only poked around campus so much, but was impressed to see all the changes. It is good that this innovative college isn’t standing still.  From there I rode to a trail that was there back when I was and was now rather bumpy from roots. It begins in a really wooded section that apart from the roots is quite fantastic riding. It then moves to more open areas riding close to Evergreen Parkway. I rode it to the end where it dumped you out on Harrison which had been extensively developed since I was last here.

Riding Around Olympia - 15

The trail leading out from Evergreen

This was now a wide boulevard with lots of new housing and strip mall type shopping. Not my kind of development but at leas they greatly improved the cycling infrastructure along with it. Harrison used to be a nearly shoulder-less road and now there is bicycle lanes along at least the renovated section I was riding on.  From here I more or less looped back to a bit I’d been on before so I could visit the west side co-op for more supplies. Then it was back to East Olympia by the state capitol to the place I was staying.

Riding Around Olympia - 17

The extensively developed Harrison Street

It was good to be back in Oly and ride these great roads and see places I’d been before. There is always a danger of nostalgia in a trip like this but I have to admit it didn’t strike too hard. All of these stuff just felt really in the past for me and even if it was a really good part of my past, I never felt much inclination to return to it.  I could definitely see living in a town like Oly, it has a nice mix of culture and out of the city living that is close enough to major cities to fill any gaps it has, but I’d have to have a real reason for it. Just its amenities and the connections I have from the college days doesn’t seem quite enough for me. See all my pictures from my rides around Olympia in my Olympia 2011 Flickr set.




Bainbridge Island Ride

Sunday, July 10th, 2011

Bainbridge Island - 18
The weather had really turned nice over the Fourth of July weekend, with Saturday predicted to be the sunniest, with temps edging into “hot” territory.  When it gets hot I like to ride into the mountains, or on an island and as I’d ridden into the mountains (or at least foothills) the weekend before, islands it was.  I’m still rather lacking in my fitness this year (though improving) and while I wanted to push myself, I knew I couldn’t do anything too epic so I thought a ride around Bainbridge Island would be ideal.

Bainbridge Island - 06

Seattle across the water.

This would be the fifth time I’ve ridden around Bainbridge Island; it is of course the destination of Cascade Cycling Clubs, Chilly Hilly which I’ve ridden three times.  The other time I rode it was in the late spring as I was trying to get in shape for a tour.  I had noted then how different the ride was compared to the winter and that certainly held true for the summer. Even moreso though is riding alone as opposed to with 7000+ other cyclists. My ride on this day was particularly tour like – stopping to look at things, trying side roads I’d not been on before and so on.  Bainbridge Island is great for this style of riding, with beautiful views of the water, little cafes and shops in unexpected places and some really top notch country roads.

Bainbridge Island - 02

 Typical Bainbridge Island road

Of course I had to ride into Seattle first, which is a pretty standard route for me now: Lake Washington Loop to the I-90 Trail, across Mercer Island, across the floating bridge into Seattle, through the International District  to the waterfront and 17 miles later I’m at the ferry terminal.  It was the fourth of July weekend so the terminal lot was packed with cars with a line waiting to get in. I had to wait with the cars to get my ticket, but then it was right to the front of the queue to board -the bicycle, always the best way to travel!  It was a nice trip as always across the water and then I was off riding on the island.  I was roughly following the Chilly Hilly route as it is a loop around the Island, but I’d dip into little side roads it avoided as the fancy struck. The above picture shows what these roads were like and this really is my favorite kind of riding: low trafficked roads with a mix of sun and shade, woods and views of the water. Can’t beat that.

Bainbridge Island - 01

Totem Pole at Camp Yeomalt

I passed Camp Yeomalt and attracted by the Totem Pole pictured above I pulled off the road.  This was a WPA park from the 30s and along with the pole had a nice wooden lodge. It seemed pretty focused on day camps and the like (which I think are great programs; I loved day camp in my youth) and was a nice small park.  There not being too much else at the park I was pretty quickly back on the road.  The route in short order turned out of the woods and descended to a road along the beach with some spectacular views across the sound.

Bainbridge Island - 05

Mount Rainier across the sound

Of course it was a pretty stiff climb back up from the beach as the route returned the woods. This hill is of course part of Chilly Hilly, but there is a side road in which one half has been blocked off for cyclists and walkers that that ride doesn’t take (too narrow for so many riders I suspect).  It’s a nice little jog of the main road and as it rises over a bluff above the water is far more scenic. As always I’d left a bit late (though not as late as some days) and while I’d had a snack on the ferry I found myself ready for lunch more or less about a 1/4 of the way around the island. Luckily on hitting a cross roads there was the  Rolling Bay Cafe, which I immediately pulled over to get some lunch. I ordered a Mozzarella, tomato, Basil panini and noticed they had Mexican Coke.

Bainbridge Island - 07

I don’t drink soda very often, but I used to in my youth. It took me a while to figure out why I lost interest, but I think a lot of it has to do with the transition from cane sugar to corn syrup; it just didn’t taste the same to me anymore. A bottle of Coke made with real cane sugar is like liquid nostalgia; a mainline to countless childhood drinks in the hot sticky summer, washing down burgers, or any other time I could talk my parents into it.  I still don’t drink soda very often but now that you can find Mexican Coke (still made with real sugar) fairly readily I do have one now and again.  Still would generally prefer a beer, but mid-ride with lunch, Coke was it.

After my late lunch I wander around the Bay Hay and Feed which was a garden and farming store attached to the Cafe which had a nice outdoor nursery that was almost like walking through a garden.  Soon though the lure of the road called and I moved on.

Bainbridge Island - 11

Just a few miles from my lunch spot was another park, Fay Bainbridge State Park. I rode into the park to take advantage of facilities and to check it out, not having been in this park before.  There was a steep descent and then I was right on the beach.  Now this beach was pretty packed with people sunning themselves and playing in the water. Taking an alternative way out of the park I was on this little enclosed bay lined with houses. The road wound along this bay but then ended, so I back tracked and rode up a hill that paralleled the park. I was back in the woods now and wending on and off more main roads.  Due to the late start and my rather meandering ride it was starting to get late and I knew I wouldn’t get home until near dark now.  So while I kept exploring, I did begin to spend more time in the saddle between stops.

Bainbridge Island - 16
I still always turned off the main routes when I could though, even when it just added miles without much progress toward the ferry. I was after all pretty much prepared to ride into the dark if I need to (or so I thought).  The weather was not supposed to be quite as nice on Sunday and as the sun got lower in the sky there was a subtle shift in the weather. A wind picked up (mostly with me thankfully) and these fantastic scattered clouds appeared. One of those sections that just added miles, but is one of my favorites on Bainbridge is riding down to Crystal Springs Drive (pictured above) and then up along Point White Drive (pictured in my header image).  I spent a bit of time at the beach where I took my header image and then rode back to the main route at the intersection of which is the Treehouse Cafe. The Treehouse Cafe is a great looking place with good looking pizza, beer and other food. However I’ve never eaten anything but Ice Cream there which I did once again; having my usual Huckelberry Cone. I think on the times I’ve ridden here its either too crowded (Chilly Hilly) or I’m running late (every other time) and am making for the ferry.

Bainbridge Island - 22
The road up from where the Treehouse Cafe is wends back into the woods and there is some good up and down.  The picture above is of one of the steadier climbs over rather beaten up roads.  I was energized from my ice cream cone and rode easily through these hills. I one point I passed a couple of kids struggle to get their bicycles up the hill, one of whom which was being assisted by his mom on foot pushing him up the hill. At the top of this stretch of hills was a new little park, set up for peaceful contemplation with a little stream, wooden benches, a peekaboo view of the sound and a Tibetan Prayer Wheel.

Bainbridge Island - 23

“I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion”. – Lao Tzu


Bainbridge Island - 25I stopped here for a rest, and spun the prayer wheel which on it’s ninth rotation a bell rings out.  The prayer wheel is cast bronze, beautifully embossed with the above saying form Lao Tzu embossed on it. A really nice spot and a beautiful addition to the islands many treasures. From here it was rolling hills into the little town of Winslow. Usually on Chilly Hilly I ride to the end of the ride, which is on the edge of Winslow and then right down to the ferry skipping the finish line crowds. But I wanted to see a bit of Winslow and rode around it a bit. A cute little town with lots of shops and cafes; I wished it wasn’t so late and I could linger, but I soon rode down to Eagle Harbor where the ferry dock is.

Then it was simply waiting for the ferry, the trip across and the ride back home. This was about the same as the ride in but it was getting dark when I hit Mercer Island and it was there that I discovered the lightbuild in my headlight had burnt out. A bit later I found out that my backup light was not in my bag – I’d taken it out to replace the batteries and not replaced it.  I have to say I rather disappointed myself here, as I consider myself to always be prepared and here I wasn’t.  Well it wasn’t quite dark yet so I booked it home. It was though after 10pm when I got home and quite dark. I of course was well lit from behind with my three blinkies and my generator powered taillight but was unhappy to not have had the front light.  I made sure to get spare bulbs and to put my backup light back in my bag as I got home.

Anyway this was a great ride on a beautiful day.  All in all I rode around 68 miles. You can see more pictures from this ride in my Bainbridge Island Flickr set.

Riding into Autumn

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010
Kitsap Color Classic 2010 -15Atlantis in Poulsbo

The primary reason I’m a member of the Cascade Cycling Club is to support their advocacy work, but I do try to do one of their rides every year or so. Previously I’ve ridden Chilly Hilly (reports on these rides here) and RSVP (my report here), but the one other ride of theirs that I’ve wanted to do for a while is  the Kitsap Color Classic (hereafter KCC). The KCC takes place on the Kitsap Peninsula upon which I’ve ridden a section of before:  Hood Canal Bridge to Kingston on my 2004 tour, in which you can see some pictures of the most of route from the ferry to near where I live now. Not being able to do Chilly Hilly this year and with work and my summer tour more or less counting out their summer rides (not that I was all that interested in their big, crowded multi-day rides to be honest) I signed up for the KCC just a couple of days before the online registration deadline. It’s only been about three weeks since I’ve returned from my tour and I’m trying to keep my riding up as opposed to years past where I enter into a post-tour doldrums. This seemed an ideal way to keep on riding into autumn.

KCC  LogoThe last of Cascade’s organized rides the Kitsap Color Classic has previously been held in the first week of October, but due to the inconsistent weather they moved it this year to the last Sunday in September.  Now autumn in the Pacific NW is highly variable, some years September is the best month of the year, sunny, crisp with cool nights and the trees starting to change color. Other years it can rain the whole month; this September is apparently nearly at a record level of rainfall. There have still been plenty of nice days and its not been all that cold but when its rained it really has rained.  The day before the ride was beautiful with clear skies and temperatures in the low 70s, but a stiff wind broadcast the change that was about to occur.  During the night this wind blew in clouds and a steady rain began to fall.  I got up early after a fairly poor nights sleep to this wind and rain, but even at dawn it wasn’t very cold. This is the famous “pineapple express“: warm moist air from the tropics on a beeline for the Northwest.  I donned rain gear and set off around 7am in a pretty steady rain.

Kitsap Color Classic 2010 -0On the Ferry to Kingston

I’d say most of the people who do these Cascade rides drive to the ride, which frankly just strikes me as odd.  This difference in mindset perhaps explains part of the reason I don’t really do many club rides: it’s just a completely different culture.  This can also be seen in that I rode my touring bicycle, fully prepared for about any contingency as opposed to the plastic bicycles prepared only for a race with a support vehicle that the bulk of the (non-racer) riders utilized. If I had driven to the ride I could have gotten up about an hour later and would have missed most of the rain. As it was I rode a quite familiar route from Kirkland to Shoreline and then down into Edmonds where the “start line” is and I picked up my registration.  I tend to take the latest start time on these rides as it misses the early birds which seem to be the bulk of the riders (the other distinguishing feature of myself and most other club members) but I’d made this ride quick enough that I ended up on the middle of the three ferries you can take to the peninsula.  There was only a hundred or so other riders on this ferry – indicative of the fairly low numbers of riders that do this ride (I didn’t see a bib number greater than about 380) also perhaps reduced thanks to the rain. On the ferry I got a coffee to help warm up and changed my socks – this was a great move as with the fresh socks (and coffee!) I felt a lot better, almost dry. As we approached Kingston, I could see that the clouds were breaking up a bit and it looked like the whole day wouldn’t be in rain. After about twenty minutes on the ferry we docked, the cars were let out and off we rode.

Kitsap Color Classic 2010 -4Riding from Kingston to Port Gamble

The first part of these rides are always the least pleasant: the scrum of riders jostling into position and there usually is a bit of a climb right off a ferry which of course the wide variety of riders all handle differently. As I was riding in this group I began to wonder why I do these rides at all; even with the rain the early morning ride by myself was a lot more enjoyable to me.  But after a couple of miles we reached the Kingston “food stop” which is at the beginning of the ride as this ride is actually three loops that all start and stop at this point.  I didn’t need to stop at this point, so I just rode on with a fraction of the peloton remaining.  As I said this ride is three loops on the Kitsap Peninsula of fourteen, twenty-five and thirty-six miles that you can string together as you please. If you do all three loops you end up encircling the peninsula and have done about sixty-five miles.  The ride to Edmonds and back would add about thirty-six miles to my ride so if I did the whole loop I’d end up at over a hundred miles. Not impossible of course but on this day I didn’t think I’d be riding quite that much. So I set off on the longest loop figuring I’d add one of the others as I saw fit.

Kitsap Color Classic 2010 -5Riding from Port Gamble to the Hood Canal Bridge.

I’d set off with a half-dozen other riders or so but we began to string out along the route as we progressed. I’d ride with a couple other rides just in sight ahead or a few behind, passed every once in a while or occasionally even passing a rider myself. But most of the time I was riding by myself on these great roads.  My mood changed from wondering why I had done this, to thinking this was the best Cascade ride yet.  I love these kind of roads, they are the typical PNW back roads: in trees, winding through valleys with farms, rolling hills, mostly light traffic and the occasional quaint little town. The weather too was slowly improving; a bit of drizzle in the beginning gave way to merely overcast skies and finally patches of blue began to appear.  The first little town we approached was Port Gamble, which was celebrating their Old Mill Days.  Due to the increased traffic expected for this we were mostly routed around the town. Perhaps because it was still early, perhaps due to the rain, their was little traffic and the crowds were pretty spare.  From Port Gamble it was mostly valley riding which was fantastic – along green farms, among trees, mostly flat. When we reached the intersection with the Hood Canal Bridge though we were now on highways which while not as pleasant weren’t bad riding either, the route would always go off these highways when it could, so it was never too long on them.

Kitsap Color Classic 2010 -9Entering Poulsbo

A bit more than half way ’round the thirty-six mile loop was the cute little town of Poulsbo.  Here was the other food stop in a water front town, which I took advantage of.  The clouds had mostly cleared up at this point and while there was wind it was now quite pleasant riding. I hung out at the park for maybe a half an hour, eating a bit, refilling my water bottle and checking out the park. The park was in front of a harbor with many nice looking sailboats, had a boardwalk along the all of the harbor and various other amenities. The city of Pouslbo had a number of good looking pubs and restaurants – too bad the ride didn’t end here!

Kitsap Color Classic 2010 -14Poulsbo Harbor

There had been a few hills, or grades really on the route so far, but exiting Poulsbo was the first (and pretty much only) steep climb on this route. It was short though and while I drove me to the small ring it wasn’t very onerous.  The route then descended back to the water and wended along the coast for a bit before diving back into the woods. I did a good long stretch here without seeing many other riders and apart from damp roads this was some of the best riding of the day.  A couple of parts the road would dive down into the trees, like riding into a a tunnel.

Kitsap Color Classic 2010 -18Riding from Poulsbo to Kingston

Kitsap Color Classic 2010 -22There was another section of highway, a bit more along the water, some farmland and then suburbia as I approached Kingston.  As enjoyable as this whole day had been I was feeling fairly tired already.  The riding wasn’t the issue for the most part I think it was how poorly I’d slept the night before.  I decided to have lunch in Kingston (it was now around 12:30) and see how things went from there. I’d been wanting to return to the Main Street Ale House since I was last there on my 2004 tour so I jumped at the chance. The pub was pretty empty, which was a bit unexpected as all the nearby pubs are always packed when I’ve done Cascade rides – another indication how sparsely attended this ride was (or I suppose everyone was still out riding).  I had a beer and some prawns and really felt much better after this. But I was just so tired, so I decided I was done for the day – I still had the eighteen mile ride home afterall.  I walked around Kingstons main street a bit and then rode down to the ferry which was unloading cars. Only a few minutes later bicycles were loaded – pretty much perfect timing. Cars were then loaded and we left the peninsula and the end of my Kitsap Color Classic.  The weather had completely turned now and it was warm with blue skies and big fluffy clouds.  It was a much more pleasant ride home then it had been on the way here.

Kitsap Color Classic 2010 -27Sailboat reveling in this windy day

This is definitely a ride I’ll do again – there are those other two loops waiting for me after-all. I think on a day that I was feeling better I could do the full loop even with the ride to the ferry – perhaps a goal for next year. I made it home around 3:45pm with a total of 76.5 miles ridden.

See all the photos I took of the Kitsap Color Classic in my KCC Set on Flickr.

No train a-coming

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

Lunch break

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

Late Spring/Early Summer Riding

Monday, June 29th, 2009

Since I put the old blog to pasture I’ve of course kept up my riding. But its been a rather rocky year so far, with one of the coldest, snowiest winters I’ve experienced in Washington, one that went on well into early spring. While I of course kept on commuting and doing small rec rides that did eat into the steady increase in distance I experience every year. Then work really picked up with the project I was assigned to having an early June completion data. This led to much work related exhaustion from working into the night and even the occasional bit of weekend work.  Additionally the project kept getting pushed out, so the long days just went on and on.  Thus as it got nice I still wasn’t riding as regularly as I normally would for this time of year.  This kind of stuff happens though and I tend to make it up in the less busy periods. However I had a summer tour planned, starting on the Solstice, and I needed to be “tour ready”.  I never “train” for any sort of riding, I just like to ride and do it a lot.  I can ride further and longer as the year progresses and so far  hat’s been sufficient for the tours I’ve done. This is my most ambitious tour to date at 25 and I’m probably the least prepared for it. However I have gotten in a number of great rides during the late spring and early summer, here’s a few pictures and notes:

My Atlantis on Bainbridge Island

My Atlantis on Bainbridge Island

I missed Chilly Hilly this year as it ended up conflicting with the Seattle Improvised Music Festival so I decided to do my own ride around Bainbridge Island. I did this on a beautiful spring day and I have to say it was quite a different experience.  First off the lack of throngs of other riders is the first major difference a difference that I prefer. Secondly it was of course sunny, warm and the foliage was loaded with green, buds and spring flowers. It was an example of some of my favorite riding, the islands of the Puget Sound. Hilly riding, but on light traveled (though oft chip sealed) roads through beautiful woods, with the sea all around you. It really can’t be beat in my opinion.  Not being part of a group ride I was of course free to explore side roads, trails and alternative routes. I didn’t stray too much from the route but I did find several little roads that kept the route a bit more on the water.  Also I was able to stop at a few places that always seemed too crowded: first off in the town by the docks, where I had a nice grilled vegetable sandwich and later a little store about 3/4’s the way around where I got a fantastic (and much needed) huckleberry ice cream cone.

I of course rode down to the ferry for the ride, which nearly doubled the length of the ride, but also gave me a chance to directly document the first stage of my upcoming tour. While I’ll be taking the ferry to Bremerton on that day, they leave from the same dock. Kirkland to the ferry is a ride I’ve done many times, but I’m always tweaking the route a little bit.  On this occasion I finally took what I now think is maximally optimum.  I love Puget Sound rides with the ferry as a connector, it nicely breaks up the ride, gives you a chance to refuel (with beer even!) and is absolutely beautiful.  See all of my pictures from this ride, including some on the ferry, in my Flickr set.

A view of the titular River from the small city of Snohomish

A view of the titular River from the small city of Snohomish

Another memorable ride that I did just a few weeks ago involved working out a connection between two favorite routes of mine. Sandy'sThe first part is the RSVP route to Snohomish which I last rode in August last year as detailed here.  It was a nice partially cloudy day, which kept the heat down though there was quite a bit of wind. I was riding into it for a good part of the route to Snohomish, but thanks to the rolling nature of that ride and a decent amount of it being in the woods it wasn’t too bad. The final stretch into Snohomish when you are riding the flat of the valley was the worst with the wind.  Leaving Snohomish was the new segment for me, a meandering route to Monroe and then eventually to the familiar Snoqualmie Valley road.  This was the third part of the ride and another old friend that I’ve ridden many times. Here’s a good collection of pictures from one of those rides covering this part of the ride. As per usual I made a stop at rando favored destination Sandy’s Espresso, this time arrive about five minutes before it closed.  After that it was this great wending route through Snoqualmie Valley farmland to a point where it crosses the Redmond-Fall City road. Feeling that I was hitting the wall a bit at this point I took this road rather then the more scenic (and hilly) route notated in those pictures, but it was all for the best as I got back home around 7:30pm which was just about right.

On the Cedar River

On the Cedar River

The final ride before I set out on tour was just this past weekend.  This was another familiar route but one I hadn’t done for a year or so.  The route heads from Kirkland to Lake Sammamish and then to Issaquah. From Issaquah its a combination of wooded highways and back country roads to tiny bump in the road, Hobart. From there you take nice country roads to a point where it crosses the Cedar River. From here you can do a trip into Deep South King Country or hop on the Cedar River Trail back to civilization. On this day I had a need to be back home by 5pm so it was on to the trail.  I’m not so into trail riding these days, but sometimes they are a nice connector. You can ride on the Maple Valley Highway which parallels the CRT but while its got a big shoulder and is no problem to ride on, its not exactly fun riding.  The trail on the other hand, begins as gravel pretty deeply in the woods.  It becomes pavement after 5 miles and runs for another 10 miles. It gets used but its not heavily used.  It runs along the rive for the entire way and there are some really scenic beautiful spots.  I’ve seen eagles pull salmon right out of the river during spawning season here.  One thing I really like about this loop is the mix of terrain, from city streets, to country roads, to a nice flat rail trail, its got it all. And beautiful scenery, with Lake Sammamish, Tiger Mountain (lots of para-gliders were out on this day), small little all American towns like Hobart, the Cedar River Watershed, Mount Rainier and the Cedar River.  A highly recommended route that has many options for extensions, variants and the like.

So three recent rides, all of them good times and great cyclotourism.  Apart from touring this is my favorite kind of riding; exploring the backroads of Washington State.  I’ll be back on these roads soon enough.

RSVP and Back Again – final thoughts

Sunday, September 14th, 2008
My Atlantis in Victoria
My Atlantis in Victoria

I had a great time on this trip both on the group ride and even more so on my solo return home.  I said in the past that the reason I do Chilly Hilly every year is to remind myself why I don’t do large group rides.  I missed Chilly Hilly this year but RSVP filled that role.  I’d wanted to do RSVP for a while as I’d wanted to experience the group ride but without the total insanity of STP.  I’m a self-supported cyclotourist at heart and the vast amount of hand holding and the rigidity of these rides just doesn’t appeal.  As I mentioned at the beginning of these reports, it is just a totally different type of rider that can drive to a ride, do the ride as if they were a racer with noting on their bicycle but a single water bottle and then get shuttled back home. Again I think its this whole racer/cycling as a sport mentality.  Which though I may seem to sneer at it, really is fine,  I’m glad people are out riding.  For me though, its about independence, fending for oneself, seeing new sights, finding new routes and most importantly being able to slow down and think.. That just doesn’t happen if you are going too fast or riding too far.  Ones focus is totally different. So I tried to treat RSVP like a tour, not worrying about rushing through, seeing the sights and so on. But I still was in the saddle nearly all the time and I wouldn’t do those spur of the moment sight seeing or talking with locals and so on that occur on tour.  My pace is always much faster then normal on group rides and this was no exception.  Day 1 was the fastest century I’ve ever done, if still slow by roadie standards.  I think in general I prefer the one day rides, if I’m going to dedicate more then a day for a club ride I’d rather tour or do an S24O where I can get some thinking done. One thing I should say is that Cascade does a great job running these rides and much thanks to all the staff and volunteers that work so hard for these events.

Once I hit the solo portion of this trip it was just like I was one a tour.  I can’t really describe how different I felt, but all the things I mention above immediately kicked in. I took my time, I’d stop for whatever, I didn’t worry too much about pace. I did have a bit of schedule to make so that kept me motivated but in general I was riding at the pace of a one who is able to contemplate his surroundings. What this really brought home to me was that I wish I’d done a full on tour this year. Yes my other vacations (including Japan which starts tomorrow!) are all fantastic experiences, but I love touring more then about anything and I’ll miss getting more then this taste this year.

A final word on equipment for this trip. I was basically on a credit card tour so I was going pretty minimal with just my Paladin Saddlebag. That worked great for this purpose and it held four days worth of clothes, supplies, toiletries and so one perfectly.  Could easily do a week long credit card tour with just his bag I think.. My Atlantis kicked ass as always even though I had a bit of troubles on the first day. I should have replaced my chain before I set out, I’d actually thought about it but chose not to. A mistake. Otherwise it performed great, I really can’t get over how comfortable I am on this bicycle.  The only new kit I had was the Jack Brown tires which I can say I love. They handle so great and are just a tad rougher then my 37mm Panaracer Pasalas I’m used to. So far they are holding up so I hope I can use these as my primary non touring tires from now on.

So that’s it, another nice trip with only its shortness as my one regret. I’m off to Japan tomorrow and when I come back it’ll be into autumn here. The first half of October is often very nice so hopefully a bit more rec riding is in my future. And then it’ll just be winter commuting and the rare ride in the cold.  Next year though I’m definitely going to do a real tour, hopefully the longest one yet.

RSVP and Back Again – day 4

Saturday, September 13th, 2008
Sidney by the Sea
Sidney by the sea.

The final day of my short little trip dawn mostly clear and windy.  After completing my morning routine in pretty short order I set out for coffee and breakfast.  I walked down the street checking out my options but the place that immediately appealed was a bakery that had doughnuts mounded up in the window.  I got a sugar cake doughnut and a blueberry scone to go as they had no coffee. I picked a small cafe a couple of blocks away and got a cup and a bagel.  The coffee was pretty meh but the pastries were fantastic.  There were a couple of other cyclotourists parked in front the cafe, a younger hippy looking pair and a much older couple. They set off before I had a chance to find out their destination.

Sidney waterfront
Sidney waterfront walk

sailboatAfter breakfast I checked out of the hotel and rode around Sidney for a time.  It really is a quaint little seaside town, with classic Victorian architecture, tons of cafes and a beautiful marina. I cruised the streets, checked out some of the neighborhoods and then began to make my way toward where I’d intersect with the Lochside Trail again.  As I mentioned yesterday I’ve done this route before and I knew that it wasn’t very far to Victoria, about 18 miles, and I didn’t have to catch my boat to Seattle ’til 4:30.  So I had a low stress day and I took the opportunity to see Sidney, cruise the trail and check out Victoria.

On the way out of town you pass the ferry Ferry to WAterminal that takes you to San Juan Island and Fidalgo Island. At one point I’d thought of taking this ferry to Fidalgo and then riding up Fidalgo and Whidbey Islands to the mainland and then home.  Not a trivial ride and I was a bit concerned that on the fourth day of riding after already doing near back to back centuries another 80 mile day would be too much.  I was feeling quite good at this point and I think I could have pulled it off. It would have been a day of hard riding though and I rather enjoyed slipping back into the touring mindset instead.

Sometimes the Lochside is on the road
Sometimes the Lochside is on the road

I really had falling right into my typical tour patterns, pretty much as soon as I was off the RSVP.  I slowed down, spent more time looking at things and noticeably relaxed.  I love touring and as iIve said in these pages a lot of it is a mindset. I can get into that mindset on rambling country day trips sometimes. As I’d riden this route before I really had little to think about w/r/t path finding and I was able to really enjoy this stretch of Vancouver Island.  The Lochside Trail, is a signed route that is partly on roads, partly on trail, sometimes on dirt roads between farmers fields sometimes on its own gravel path. It runs from the Ferry terminal at Swartz Bay. where I was yesterday, all the way to  Victoria where is joins the Galloping Goose Trail which runs to downtown and many miles outside Victoria.

My Atlantis on the Lochside

Coffee MessiahThere was a pretty brutal headwind on the Lochside, especially at the beginning as I rode parallel to the coast on pretty open roads. The sky was densely textured with overlaid clouds, though they didn’t look like rain.  Only a few miles on the coast before the trail turns inland a bit and follows the highway for a bit. Its hard packed gravel for most of this bit and is smooth sailing. I passed a few other riders here and I noticed a whole bunch parked at the McDonalds (why?) and more understandably at that Canadian institution Tim Hortons.  The trail leaves the highway after only a couple of miles and then spends the bulk of the remaining miles to Victoria cutting through and around farmland.  There are several points where you are on gravel paths that cut through trees, where I’d see dog walkers and horseback riders and as I got closer the the Victoria exurbs increasing amount of recreational users.

Crossing the wetland. (haven’t I seen this before?)

a paved section of trailA nice wooden bridge that cross a wetland signals that Victoria is near.  I was getting ready for lunch at this point so I made pretty steady progress. The trail tended toward being paved at this point and there were increasing number of parks and other riders along it.  Additionally street crossings occasionally popped up and the off trail parts were often through suburban areas.  The last little area before the route winds through industrial areas was a little bay that I ended up riding a leg of a race last time I was here. It has a fantastic large trestle crossing that was incorporated into the race (since I had full touring kit I didn’t do all that well in the race, FWIW).  After crossing that the route cuts behind business, outskirts of town and then crosses a bridge into Victoria.

Crossing the trestle

Parliment Building in the distanceI could see the Parliament Building in the distance but I wasn’t exactly sure how to proceed from this point. I oscillated across this drawbridge a couple of times before just going for it. My hunch worked out and pretty shortly I was downtown. Now I needed to find a pub.  I cruised the downtown for a bit checking out menus and such and eventually settled on the Irish Times Pub. I needed beer of course, but also vegetarian options and they had a number of items. I ended up having another Lighthouse IPA and then a Kilkenny.  I’ve had KilkennyKilkenny at the source so I’m always inclined to get it when I see it.  I alsow had a little four cheese pizza which was very good – it used an interesting blend of Irish cheddars and a smoked cheese for a rich flavor.  I read a bit more of the Murakami while I was here, but soon set out to see a bit of Victoria while I had the chance. I was pretty much in the heart of the touristy shopping zone past the Empress Hotel so I spent a while just walking the streets checking things out. It was kind of cool now so I checked out a couple of the Scottish shops to see if I could find a cheap flannel shirt but they seemed to still be stocked for summer wear.  I gelato joint called Oh! Gelato caught my eye and feeling the need got a very tasty Blueberry-Cheesecake flavored cone.

Swans pub

I ended up walking almost back to the drawbridge and near there I found  Swans brewpub that made very British style beers. I tried their Oatmeal Stout which wasn’t bad if a bit on the watery side for that style.  These two other guys that were taking up the other two stools of the three stool bar were talking of expat adventures the whole time. As I was paying up to leave one of them informed me that the Scotch Ale they had was one of the rare treasures of Victoria.  I declined another beer and the man offered to buy me one. I thanked him but said I had to go.  Which was sort of true, mainly I was worried about my bicycle which I’d locked up at the outdoor deck of the Irish Times pub – not exactly a kosher local. Also I was very full of beer and not that inclined for another.  I do kind of regret not trying that beer though. Oh Well I’ll be back.

The Empress Hotel
The Empress

I quickly walked back to where my bicycle was locked and it all seemed okay. It was still too cool for most people to want to eat outside though it was starting to clear up. I decided I do one more bit of shopping before I moved on.  You can get Cuban Cigars in Canada, which you can’t in the US due to our ridiculous embargo.  I rarely smoked cigars, but every once in a while I enjoy one and I’ve only had Cubans a couple of times. There was a smoke shop just up the block from the Irish Times so I headed there. The shopkeep asked me what I was after and described a variety of different smokes. I settled on a Bolivar Habana which he described as a spicier smoke (I smoked this the weekend after I returned, it was fantastic).  After that purchase I unlocked my bicycle and rode down to where the Victoria Clipper is. I still had about 45 minutes so I locked up down there and strolled the waterfront for a bit.

The Parliament Building
Parliament Building.

buskerI bought a fresh squeezed limeade from a street vendor to enjoy as I walked along the waterfront and up by the parliament building.  I was committed to spending the remainder of my Canadian money as I never remember to bring it back when I end up with leftover.  The waterfront marina is a boardwalk style park with buskers, street vendors and out on a pier a bunch of shops.  I did a cruise all the way around and with check in time approaching eventually called it a day.  I deposited my last Canadian two dollar coin with a girl playing the Irish fiddle (quite competently) and headed to the Victoria Clipper port.

The Victoria Clipper
The Victoria Clipper

Checking in was pretty straightforward but they wanted me to remove all the bags from my bicycle. Said it would be outside!  I wasn’t happy about this, but I pulled off my rear bag and removing my little carry on from it, filled it up with stuff for the ride and put the contents of my front bag into the saddlebag. My front bag is pretty permanently attached so I left it on, but empty. I checked my saddlebag and after a quick passport check I was on board.  There isn’t much to say about the Victoria Clipper. It is a high speed catamaran that is pretty akin to taking the bus or an airplane. I’d done it before when I was a lad and recall being pretty bored. So I read the whole time finishing the Murakami book as it pulled into Seattle. They did have small deck in the back that you could go outside on, which I’m pretty sure they didn’t have the last time I rode it. It was so incredibly windy that I only stepped out long enough to snap a couple of pictures.  As it was dark when I got into Seattle this is the last picture I took.

heading home
Just to say the word
home, that one word alone,
So pleasently cool – Kobayashi Issa

We docked around 8pm and it took 30-45 minutes to get our bags and get through customs.  I successfully smuggled my cigar through and then I had to put my bicycle all back together.  Finally I was ready and I set off at night in the Seattle Streets. I of course was prepared for this with my Schmidt Hub and E6 light, plus an additional Cateye light on my handlebars I use as a front standlight.  I noticed a bit into the ride that my Odometer wasn’t registering and I pulled over and reseated it.  Probably less then half a mile unrecorded I figure.  That done I rode through Seattle and up to the I-90 trail.  This is the fourth time I’ve done this route and while it’s become fairly routine it always is a bit stressful. First off its a pretty stiff climb up from the waterfront, there is always traffic and this time it was night. I made it okay and once on the trail it was a mechanical ride home. I felt great though I have to say, no where near as beat as I usually am when I do this final bit. The hills on Mercer Island and later on the Lake Washington loop portion of the ride were no problem at all.  Of course I really hadn’t ridden much this day, but still with four days of riding, I was feeling that I was in pretty decent condition.

I pulled in at home at 10:20pm and unloaded the bicycle. And then even though it was after 10:30 at night I hosed down my beloved Atlantis and wiped it dry. It had just been exposed to seawater after all.  After that I had a shower, a beer and some food and after an hour or two went to bed.

See all my pictures from this day, in my RSVP day 4 gallery.
Total distance this day: 40.6m/65.3km over 3’50” of ride time
Total distance for the whole trip: 286.7m/461.4km

RSVP and Back Again – day 3

Friday, September 12th, 2008
My Atlantis in Stanley Park
My Atlantis on the bicycle path in Stanley Park

The day dawned bright and clear and promising to be another hot day. I had a couple of tasks that needed to be resolved in short order: Coffee, Food and collecting my bicycle from the RSVP storage room.  I had awoken around 8 and the bicycle storage was open ’till 11 so I wasn’t particularly stressed about that. Coffee and food were much more pressing, so after getting myself ready I headed out looking for same.  I was kind of interested in a breakfast type place but not really wanting to spend much time looking I settled for Delany’s Coffee house. I got a bagel and a muffin there and worked my way though a couple of cups of coffee. Their coffee wasn’t bad and the calories were welcome.  While I was there I read through a number of haiku from The Sound of Water: Haiku by Basho, Buson, Issa, and Other Poets. I love haiku and Sam Hamil is the best translator of them I’ve read, a poet himself he really retains the music of the words.

This world of dew
is only a world of dew —
and yet. -Kobayashi Issa

The RSVP ride has options for return to Seattle, but that just doesn’t sit well with me. A lot of cyclists have no problem driving to rides, taking the bus back and driving home, only riding on the ride. I suspect this is again the influence of racing on normal cycling which creates some sort of concept of riding as a sport as opposed to transportation or an activity.  So I never planned to take the RSVP bus back, but with the craziness at work I did have limited time.  My plans had begun at taking Sunday off and spending the day in Vancouver then doing a week long tour back, to using a combination of ferries and riding over three days, to finally a two day return using a combination of riding, ferries and at the end the Victoria Clipper.  So for today I needed to ride to at least Sidney BC and could ride to Victoria if I felt so inclined.

Back streets to Stanley Park
Riding from my hotel to Stanley Park

It got very crowded at the coffee house, I figured it was a lot of RSVPers looking for breakfast before taking the bus home. I got another coffee to go and headed up to the bicycle storage at the Coast Plaza Suite Hotel. I collected my ride, girded my loins and headed out to my hotel.  From there I packed up, finished my coffee and headed out.  I had decided that I’d spend a bit of time in Vancouver before heading out to Vancouver Island. As a kid we used to vist Vancouver a couple of times a year (I lived on Fidalgo Island, only about an hour and a half south) and one thing we used to do a lot was bicycle around Stanley Park.  While I still frequently visit Vancouver, it is more often the downtown part for various music events and I hadn’t been to Stanley Park in probably 16 years.  So I decided to do the loop around the park before heading out of town.

Stanley Park bicycle path
Stanley Park bicycle path

LighthouseThe path is a 5.5 mile one way loop around the park . When I used to come here as a kid the path was shared by cyclists and pedestrians and I don’t think it was one way. Since then it is seperated by height and being one way is clearly safer considering the amount of traffic it gets. It isn’t a place to ride for exercise, but for a scenic leasurly tool around one of North Americas great parks. One such a beautiful day this was a real treat, the shockingly blue skies highlighting the various public art and sights of Vancouver.  Highlights including lighthouses, the Lions Gate Bridge, a large collection of totem poles, numerous instances of public art and of course spectacular scenery.

riding out of Stanley Park
I took my time riding around the park, making sure to check out all the things I’d remembered and to see what had changed or been added.  The cricket fields were still there though didn’t seem to be a match this morning and it looked like they built a large new visitors centre by all the totem poles.  Most of the way around the park is Second Beach and it already was getting filled by people out to enjoy this hot weekend. After an hour or so I exited the park and continuing on the seawall path began the route to Tswassan where the ferry terminal to Vancouver and the Gulf Islands is located. I was now around 11:30 in the morning but I wasn’t in any rush.
The seawall bicycle route
Most of the waterfront in Vancouver is parkland with a bicycle path running along it.

Sculpture in the waterfront parkI was following the Bicycling The Pacific Coast route by Vicky Spring and Tom Kirkendall (in the third edition, they now have you go up north along the Sunshine Coast and riding more of Vancouver Island) and it follows the coast while in the city and then takes a route around UBC, then the airport, across the Fraser River and then west to Tsawwassen.  I wanted to make steady progress, but again I wasn’t in any rush.  I’d pretty much decided that I’d stay in Sidney instead of riding to Victoria today as that would allow for a bit more riding on my final day. Plus last time I rode through Sidney I only stayed long enough to get a new bicycle computer and to buy a cup of tea.

There did seem to some discrepancies from the Kirkendall and Spring route in the years since the book was published but I only got off route once and for only a couple of blocks. In general riding in Vancouver is great. They have tons of signed bicycle routes, even if they are just on the streets, they are well signed and usually safe roads.  Even when I was riding right downtown it was so much better then riding in Seattle (which is much better then most of America). The drives don’t seem angry that you are there, they are used to it and just consider it typical. Really a dramatic difference, drives may pass you at about the same speed, and give you similar space but they aren’t afraid or angry and its much safer.

Atlantis at the Maritime Museum
Now that’s a big anchor.

Riding by UBCI stopped for a bit outside the Maritime museum before continuing on, there I enjoyed a Mint Aero Bar, one of the true Canadian treasures. As I was following along the coast I saw vast amounts of recreation on this beautiful day. A huge number of kayaks set off as I rounded one cape and of course tons of sailboats, sunbathers and at one point a beach volleyball tournament.  One stretch I had to walk my bicycle along the beachfront path as it was so packed with people.  But eventually I was back on the road and riding up the only real hill of this day as I climbed up to UBC.  But once up the hill it was very gently rolling hills on a well shouldered arterial. I was able to make up some time here, just cruising along for over ten miles. Eventually the spread out houses got more dense and there were some shopping and then some light industrial. The route seemed to dead end on a highway and I pulled over to double check I was on it. There was a big bridge that it said I should ride over and as I was scoping that out a group of riders whipped past. Figuring they knew what they were doing I immediately set out after them.

Crossing the bridge
Crossing the Arthur Laing Bridge

I followed these riders onto hwy 99 and the Arthur Laing Bridge over one of the branches of the Fraser River. Once over the bridge we were at the airport and the club riders circled around to a bicycle trail that ran below the bridge. The route I was on followed the road to the airport and then just before it turned off to Richmond. The bicycle path had a sign saying it went to Richmond and the Airport but I chose to follow the printed route.  I suspect the path post dates the book and it would have worked out, but I felt I didn’t quite have the luxury to explore it.  It worked out fine anyway, as I was deliberating two girls on old 80s bicycles passed me by so I ended up following (and later passing) them on the published route.  It was only a mile or so to the Richmond turnoff and soon enough I was in this airport town.

Veggie Buffett
Veggie Bunch – Vegitarian Buffet.

As I rode down the city streets of Richmond I spotted Veggie Bunch, a vegetarian Buffet. I was plenty hungry at this point and this looked like just the ticket.  I locked my bicycle up and headed in. I was the only one at the buffet (it was 1:30 now) but I loaded my plate down with a little of everything and pretty quickly put it away. As is usual with a buffet, some was good, some not so good but I was full and ready for the next leg. Behind the Veggie Bunch was basically a huge warehouse that was an indoor Asian market. I walked around it a bit and bought a bottle of water and a peanut crunch thing of some sort.  A nice little break from the ride and I was now feeling ready for the last bit to the ferry.

A temple I rode past.

The route goes through Richmond and then follows pretty major roads through various fringe city types of places.Dragon Some interesting sights along a road that sort of paralleled Hwy 99, a large mosque looking structure, the temple pictured above and what looked like a Chinese theme park with a huge plastic dragon at the entrance. Just past this was a crossing with a major road that lead to the freeway and things became less trafficked more back road feeling. A couple of turns and one a true back road I crossed the freeway and was at this stop where you wait for a van to take you through the George Massey tunnel.  This tunnel is not accessible by bicycles and the nearest bridge crossing that is, is over ten miles out of the way. So the Ministry of Transportation provides a free shuttle service for cyclists through the tunnel.

George Massey Tunnel
George Massey Tunnel

Where you wait for the shuttle on this side had a bench and a sign with the crossing information.  There were two college kids lounging on the bench with their old bicycles as I pulled up.   They took up the entire bench, primarily by leaning their bicycles on the front and while they greeted me friendly like they made no offer to move them.  One of them, the boy, was wearing only a speedo and was lying down eating spaghetti out of a Tupperware container. The girl noticing my Obama Spoke Cards asked if I was from the US and when I answered in the affirmative, informed me that she was as well, from Georgia.  I felt like I was on the set of Gummo. I went and sat under a tree and ate my Asian Peanut thing and drank some water.  Eventually the van arrived, which had this neat trailer that could fit about a dozen bicycles and was easy to load up. A woman rode up just before we left and so we were four in the crossing.


After having to endure the banter of the two kids on the short crossing I set out as soon as they unloaded my bicycle. Across the parking lot was a couple who had a various Rivendell accouterments: a Country Bag on one bicycle and the man was wearing a Rivendell cap like mine.  I talked to them briefly before setting out, they seemed like my kind of riders, practical and out enjoying the scenery from the saddle. I had I think around 45minutes to ride 9 miles to the ferry. Not particularly daunting but I really, really didn’t want to miss this. So I totally hauled ass to the ferry. It was a flat route with only a couple of bumps as it crossed freeways and I kept my speed around 20mph the whole way.  The ride had been technically quite easy so far so I really didn’t mind expending effort here.  There was an increasingly strong headwind as I approached the water but I made great time.

Ferry Landing
The ferry departs
As the tardy man stands in
The first winter rain – Yosa Buson

I pulled in at the ferry at 3:45, after having ridden about 44 miles.  I had made it well before its 4pm sailing to find a couple of other cyclists in the waiting area. A couple others pulled up while we were waiting. Two of these were islanders who had ridden to the mainland but a couple others looked like solo tourists.  Always good to see.  It had clouded up as I rode down and now it began to drizzle a bit.  Luckily the ferry pulled in and we loaded on before the rain became anything beyond rather pleasant.

Ferry Terminal
Ferry Terminal

I was on the Queen of Vancouver which pulled out of the terminal around 4:20.  This is a big ferry taking a lot of cars and pedestrians to Vancouver Island.  The crossing took about an hour and a half and I mostly walked around the ferry enjoying the crossing of the Georgia Strait.  The ferry had a cafeteria, a cafe and a duty free shop and I checked all of these out as well.  I went outside and listened to a naturalist presentation on the flora and fauna of the Strait and then feeling a bit cold went in to get a cup of Green Tea.  Returning to the outside I read a few more haiku.

With dewdrops dripping,

I wish somehow I could wash

This perishing world -Matsuo Bashō

Islands in the Strait
Islands in the Strait.

About half way across the strait a storm hit with rain, thunder and lightening. We caught only the edge of it and soon moved away from it, but it broke up the scenery. It also became quite windy at this point and I moved to the opposite side of the ferry to be in the lee of wind.  The late half hour or so was going around the Gulf Islands, of which I recognized all the ones I’d visited in 2004 for my Island Tour.  Around 6pm we landed with the weather still looking a bit sketchy as we waited to ride out from the ferry.

Ferry docking
Ferry Landing.

Not inclined to linger I walked up the ramp and as soon as possible mounted the bicycle and set off. I was riding with one of the locals while the other tourons were dilly dallying getting themselves ready.  I’d done this ride before on the aforementioned tour so it was easy sailing for me.  Across the parking lot, over and overpass and onto the Lochside Trail.  It was just over 5 miles to Sidney and on the trail a pretty quick 20 minute ride. I arrived at Sidney around 6:30pm, on a nice, if cool, summer evening.

On the Lochside Trail

At the turnoff to downtown Sidney I talked briefly with the local lady I’d been sort of riding with. She lived just outside of town and was riding on the trail a bit further. I bid her safe riding and turned down into town. I rode past a couple of hotels and after doing a quit circuit settled on the Best Western. Probably could have found something more quaint but I really didn’t care much- I was just here for the night and only intended to sleep, shower and so on.

Exhausted, I sought
A country inn, but found
Wisteria in bloom. -Matsuo Bashō

After checking in and taking said shower I walked into town in search of three things: a bookstore, beer and food.  I wanted a book to read tonight and on the Victoria Clipper the next day as I was done with my little haiku collection.  It turns out that Sidney prides itself as a big readers town and there was something like ten bookstores in this tiny city.  One of these was open late and I hit it and picked up Haruki Murakami’s latest work to be translated: What I talk about when I Talk about Running.


I walked down to the waterfront and there was the Beacon Landing Pub.  I wasn’t that inclined to search around so in I went and immediately ordered at a Lighthouse Brewing Beacon IPA which was pretty decent.  Along with this I got Halibut and Chips which was super good.  A second beer, Vancouver Island Brewing’s Pipers Pale Ale was decent.  I read a bit of the Murakami and then headed out. I visited a beer store and picked up a bottle of porter and walked around town a little bit. It was dark now and there wasn’t too much to see so I headed back to the hotel. I read a little, drank my Porter (which was really good, but I failed to note the brand) and watched a bit more of the Olympics.

Distance ridden today: 49m/78.8km over 3’58”
Distance ridden so far: 246m/395.9km

To see all my pictures from this day:: RSVP Day 2 Pictures
To see my accounts of the rest of the trip: RSVP and Back Again

RSVP and Back Again – day 2

Thursday, September 11th, 2008
Red Square
Riding across Red Square at WWU.

I woke up at 6am with thoughts of breakfast on my mind. Back when I was in high school I stayed at Western a couple of summers for Debate Camp and I knew you could get breakfast in the Student Union and while not great food, there would at least be plenty of it. So I got myself and my bicycle ready and leaving it in my room headed over to the Student Union. There I found it wasn’t going to open for hours so I just returned to my room and rode off to the official starting point. As I was riding out from campus I ended up following a recumbent rider down to the street where the motel that was the starting point. At a point where he should have gone left he went straight and I thought maybe he was taking an alternate route that avoided the road in front of the motel.  Turned out he was going to IHOP, which I decided was just the answer to the breakfast question.  I pulled in right behind him and as they were about to seat him, he suggested we seat together.  So I ended up having a big breakfast of blueberry pancakes and hash browns and talking RSVP with another rider.  A good start to the day.

The route went right through downtown Bellingham

After breakfast I rode down to the Days Inn where the “start line” was to find not much to compare the the Seattle start. I was hoping for at least a place to fill my water bottles but there was nothing.  Figuring I’d find something on the way I set out.  At first I was on the wrong route – they had a back way up to Western marked out that I had missed the night before.  I figured this out pretty fast and backtracked to the real route.  This curved around the outskirts of Bellingham and then dived right into Downtown.  I saw a few other cyclists at this point, but it was late, around 7:40 and I was definitely in the back of the pack.

leaving B'ham
Bellingham suburbs

The route wended through downtown, then a bit of light industrial near the waterfront and then up into the suburbs and outskirts of town.  A crossing under the I-5 and pretty soon there was increasingly less houses and more farmland. I was feeling pretty good all things considered, thought it took a lot longer to warm up.  I only touched on this yesterday, but at the end of the ride, which is I believe the second farthest I’ve ridden in a day, I was feeling pretty good. My backside was a bit tender, but I had experienced little hand discomfort and was not feeling like I’d put myself through an unbearable trial. I think all the walking and such I did afterward helps for that, gives ones muscles a “coming down” period. I also was rubbing Tigers Balm on my legs and any other part that felt a bit overworked. Whether it was those factors, or just that I’m becoming a lot more used to longer rides I was doing good on day two here.

sunny day
Farmland and sun.

chip sealIt was a perfectly clear day and it was already warming up as we rode the farmland outside of Bellingham. The route took mostly little country roads past big houses, farmland and the occaisonal gas station. The riding was nice, though the roads were often chipsealed. During this part I passed the occasional rider, but was mostly getting passed by fast riders who felt they could start late. At one point the “peloton” passed me, a good dozen riders in a pace line. I don’t really get the appeal of that kind of riding, but to each their own.  After the mostly empty country roads we took a left onto a  two lane highway type road that ended in Lynden. I’d been nursing a single bottle of water all this morning so I pulled over at the first gas station on the edge of town to refill.  I ran into my breakfast companion there, who was enjoying a gas station sandwich. I was still full from my large breakfast so I mostly just drank while I was there. I took this opportunity to remove my socks and put on sunscreen.

Cyclists enjoying Lynden

Riding through the little burg of Lynden I saw a lot of riders eating at the many cafes, restaurants and bakeries.  I was glad to see that I’d caught up with a lot of people even if it was because they were stopped. The way I see it is I used that time at the start and they rode for a bit and then spent that time. It all evens out in the end. Lynden runs out pretty quickly and after a short jog across the main highway, we turned off onto ruler straight roads, laid out in huge squares dividing vast farmland. These were all horribly chipsealed roads and there was a bit of headwind as well. With no trees to protect us and the day warming up nicely at this point it was a good thing I’d put on my sunscreen.  For a mile or two I rode behind two women, one of whom was talking about playing music. She was describing how she played experimental music but was working on more pop oriented stuff and wanted her first CD to be more in that direction so as to not get pigeon holed into the experimental community.  As someone who also makes experimental music I was really curious about this, but they were a bit stronger riders then I am and relentlessly pulled away.

US on the Left, Canada on the right
US on the left, Canada on the right.

Oh CanadaThe road took a left turn and rode parallel to another road with only a ditch separating them. When I saw a speed limit sign across the way in Kilometers I knew this was the US/Canadian divide.  Now that is an undefended border!  One thing worth noting is the chipseal on the US road, and the nice smooth asphalt on the Canadian side…  Pretty shortly we did a bit of a jog to get around the duty free store (of which some of my compatriots were at. I assume they were Canadians who were riding home) and then rode up to a man seated on a stool who checked my passport and waved me into Canada.  There was a group of riders posing in front of the ‘Welcome to Canada’ sign and the Dan Henry’s changed from the Apple (for Washington State) to the Maple leaf. I made the crossing around 10am and around 27 miles into the ride. There was a huge line of cars for the crossing to the US but once past those the riding was again nice and open. The route was like the reverse of how it’d been this morning outside of Bellingham; starting off as farmland and then the density increasing as we got closer and closer to various suburbs of Vancouver.

Canadian Country side, and up ahead
Canadian Country riding. Over those rolling hills is “The Wall”

It was around this point that a series of rolling hills became the only real hill of this days ride.  Dubbed “The Wall” by RSVP partisans I have to say that once again I was unimpressed by the climbing on this ride. Not that I really wanted any more, its just that there wasn’t really any worth complaining about.  It was BTW riding up “the wall” where I realized the issue with Roadies and their improper gearing. I’d been passed by this group of riders and then on a smaller hill I passed them.  Then they passed me again on the flats and at the wall I just blew past them.  Miles later they passed me again.  This I think pretty clearly indicates that they kept a higher average speed on the flats and thus are probably stronger riders. But then they run out of gears on the hills and have to grind up them, lowering their average below what they probably could sustain if they could spin up the hills.  Anyway this was the kind of thing I was thinking about on today’s ride 🙂 After the wall the route goes through some suburbia and then into Fort Langely where once again I noted a fair amount of riders enjoying the local goods. I stopped at a little park just outside Fort Langely to use the facilities and then just a mile or so past that was a ferry crossing we had to take.

ferry line
Waiting for the Ferry

hwy thrillsThere was a huge backup of cyclists at the ferry crossing so I joined the line and settled in to wait. It was quite hot now and it was not fun to be in the direct sun.  Most of the time I was waiting I was in shade, which was much better. I ate some GORP, reapplied some sunscreen, talked a bit with my neighbors. They loaded the ferry with cars and would then fill up the spaces with cyclists so it a lot of time to get us all across. All told I spend just over an hour waiting and crossing. One thing I noticed as I waited in line was the most roadies in my immediate vicinity didn’t have caps on their tubes.  I had once been lectured by an REI employee about how that shortens the life of the valve so I thought this was strange.  Then I realized that they must be doing it for weight – the insantiy of the roadie knows no bounds.  The ride after the ferry is a lot less enjoyable. It is almost all busy roads and mostly highways.  The ferry dumps you off right on Hwy 7 and the route follows that all the way to the town of Maple Ridge where in a park there the first food stop of the day was. I was passed by a girl on a Rambouillet whilst on the highway. I had noticed her bicycle while I was in line for the ferry but hadn’t been able to check it out. Makes for four separate Rivendell’s (including mine) that I saw on this ride. The highway went right into the town and things slowed down a bit and then I was at the park and pulled off among the throngs of riders.

Food stop
Food stop

suburban CanadaThe day was plenty hot now and I definitely welcomed a chance to relax, eat fruit and peanut butter sandwiches and drink lots of water.  There was also a farmers market going on in the park which I checked out before heading out. I had arrived here at 12:20, the perfect time for lunch, so I made sure I was well fueled. This was 46 miles into the ride and there was about another 40 to go.  The next 30 miles would be about the least enjoyable of the trip.  After leaving the park, the route goes through the city and out to the suburbs. Then it is out in farmland again, but the roads here were heavily trafficked. There was no shade and the sun was beating down on us.

bridge crossingEventually the farmland gave way to more industrial developed land. And we started riding on a highway that was undergoing construction. There was a seperated bicycle path at first and then a bridge crossing where you were supposed to walk your bicycle across (I for one did).  Once past that the character of the ride changed dramatically.  We were now in the far flung exurbs of Vancouver and were mostly riding on city streets and arterials. We were constantly stopped at lights, taking cuts through neighborhoods at one point crossing a gravel stretch between two cul-de-sacs and at another taking a short little trail through a wooded section.  It was slow going with all of the stops and I was now in a pack of about ten riders.

Riding through exurbia
Riding through exurbia

Lights would cause us to lose people and others would wait for them to catch up. Eventually I was riding with only a couple of other riders as we finally got off the start/stop routine and onto a more direct arterial.  The heat really takes its toll and I was definitely lagging a bit. So really as annoying as this kind of riding had been it wasn’t all that bad – you never could really push it. Right at about this point there was the final Cascade mini-stop, at a park with a little  water fountain that kids (and overheated cyclists) could play in. The park was packed on this scorcher of a day, with tons of people speared out in the shade, playing in the fountain or down by the seashore.

Water sport
Fun on a bun. Spot the RSVPer!

This stop was 62 miles into the ride and it was now 2pm.  With 20 miles to go, I figured I’d make it to the finish around 4:30pm which was almost exactly one hour more then I’d been planning on. That hour of course was given to the ferry, so I really was keeping myself right on track  Apart from water this Mini-Stop had lots of watermelon, which I have to say is so good on a hot day like this that it’s really impossible to describe. I ended up spending about 25 minutes here and as I rolled out on what would be the least fun part of the ride, it was pretty much the hottest part of the day.

up to the freeway
To the freeway young man

hwy 7Right past the park we ride up an on-ramp to a freeway, in fact our old friend Hwy 7. This is classic style divided freeway with two lanes in each direction. The shoulder was about the size of another lane so it was pretty easy riding. But the sun was seriously beating down on us and we were riding into the wind. The route spent about 12 miles on this freeway and it was genuinely no fun. But I just did a head-down push through it kind of thing and boy was I happy when we rode into a town like section and took a right off the highway. Of course this immediately went up hill at the top of which people seemed to be sun-stroking out.  I manned my way up the hill and then again the character of the ride changed.

Vancouver Neighborhoods
Typical Vancouver neighborhood.

More neighborhood ridingThere was a quick cut through a residential neighborhood and then a park and we were riding on a bicycle trail a bit. From then on out all the way to into the city we were on a signed route that mainly cut through classic Vancouver styled neighborhoods. There were numerous bicycle only paths and crossings and in generally it was pretty nice. I was riding on my own at this point and the Dan Henry’s were increasingly sparse. So I had to pay a lot of attention and take care to stay on the route. This was also relatively rolling but none of the hills were very long. At the top of one of them was an old VW bug with a sign wishing RSVP riders Congrats and informing us there was only one more hill.  It was pretty much right after that one and on the descent from it a few other riders caught up with me. As we rode into Chinatown I was again with a group of about a half dozen other riders. Lights peeled off these riders and as I turned into the Gaslight district I was again on my own.

Gaslight district of Vancouver
Gaslight District of Vancouver

The Dan Henry’s were now incredibly sparse and you had to just assume you’re going straight unless told otherwise.  At one intersection I encountered a man and his maybe 13 year old son looking at the route guide. They latched on to me which of course just added some pressure to my current situation.  We were still on the route it turned out and I was very happy to see the next Dan Henry and another rider. As we neared the finish more and more riders (all a bit uncertain w/r/t the Dan Henry situation) joined us and eventually we were maybe 6-10 riders. At one intersection there was an ambulance and police and as we wended through them, they were loading a man in a neck brace who shouted out in pain as they loaded him into  the ambulance. A skateboarder apparently who’d gotten hit.  Always sobering.

The last couple of blocks
The last couple of blocks

There was one final bit of confusion where we nearly missed a turn but I saw the Dan Henry at the last moment and we stayed on track. I was leading this small group at the end, but only because I was riding flat pedals. One thing which I haven’t mentioned yet was that at any stop all the cyclists would launch off and then basically paused as they all clipped in. As I have flat pedals I can take off and just go.  Even when I did ride clipless pedals I rode ones that had a platform on one side so you could just take off and then clip in when steady.  I found this continuously amusing though, when someone was shakily trying to clip in right in front it was a bit disconcerting. Anyway once past this one jog it was only a couple of more blocks and then there was a cheering (small) crowd and the Marathon photo people taking pictures as we took a hard right into a parking garage.  it was 4:45 and I’d ridden 78.6 miles from the start line to here.  From there we stored our bicycles, received instructions on reclaiming them and headed up to where our bags and the “party” was.

the beer
The alcohol part of the party

I had fully intended to get my bag and head to my hotel to clean up and then return to the party.  But I had to cut through the party to get my bag and seeing what that entitled I decided to instead check it out for a few minutes, drink my “free” beer and then go out into Vancouver for better food and drink.  The beer was some mediocre massed produced Canadian thing (considering that we are mostly Washingtonians and that Canada has great microbreweries you’d think they’d plan that a bit better) but it at least washed down the road dust. The food was burgers and for those of us who don’t eat beef, garden burgers. Not really what I was in the mood for.

Cooling down
Riders cooling down at the party

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not really disparaging the party. If you were in a big group, or knew a lot of people here or were totally wiped by the ride a good time could certainly be had. But on a beautiful summer evening, in one of the great cities of the West Coast, right on the waterfront with tons of amazing restaurants, well I had other things in mind. So I downed my beer, ordered a commemorative t-shirt and headed to my hotel. It was only about three blocks away so I was soon checked in and enjoying a shower.  After cleaning up and changing clothes I set out to see what was in the immediate vicinity with an eye toward seafood and beer. As it was only 5:30 or  I walked around for about an hour and then finally settled at The Boathouse Seafood Grill & Pub.  This was just what I was after, a classy seafood joint that had an attached pub where you could get the good eats but in a pub atmosphere. I spent a nice leasurly time there drinking an IPA and a Pale Ale as I ate Miso Encrusted Halibut (which was amazing) and later a slice of Key Lime Pie. I watched a bit of the Olympics which was on the bar TV while I was there.  Afterwords I walked around the waterfront as the sun was going down, but eventually I was overcome with weariness and went to my hotel where I watched a it more Olympics and went to sleep.

Waterfront at sunset
Vancouverites out enjoying the sun

My total riding for the day was 83.4 miles/134.2 km over 6 hours.
I’d ridden 196.7 miles/316.5 km total in two days for the RSVP.

To see all my pictures from this day:: RSVP Day 2 Pictures
To see my accounts of the rest of the trip: RSVP and Back Again