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Posts for my short 2008 Club Ride/Credit Card Tour from Seattle to Vancouver and back by way of Victoria


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

RSVP and Back Again – day 1

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008
dawn in kirkland
Dawn in Kirkland

The first day of Cascade Cycling Clubs RSVP ride began early with my alarm waking me up at 4:30 in morning. The starting line for the ride was officially 6:30-7:30 and I planned to start around 7.  As I’ve mentioned before I’m always ride to the ride so I needed enough time to make it to Warren G. Magnuson park. There is one problem with this scenario: Lake Washington.  I live directly across the lake from the park, probably about a mile away. But lacking the ability to cycle on water I have to go around the lake to the north or cross one of the bridges to get there. The 520 bridge makes the trip just over 10 miles but you can’t ride on that bridge.  The shortest route around adds about 6 more miles and additionally would have me riding a section of the ride’s route but against the traffic. I could of course skip the start line and just ride directly to the first point of intersection, but I’ve never done this ride and wanted to experience the whole thing.  So what I settled on was to use the bus to get my bicycle across the bridge and then ride the remaining distance to the start line.

Of course taking the bus was not without its risks – the bus only had room for two bicycles on the rack and I could only afford to miss one bus. I was catching a bit of an earlier one figuring I could spend time at the start line drinking coffee or leave earlier if I ended up getting there early. I awoke before dawn and before my alarm clock after a pretty short night of sleep.  I of course had to sign up for this ride in January with out any knowledge of what I would be doing for work in the summer.  It turned out I was on one of the shortest projects in our companies history and that there wasn’t much leeway for vacation time.  The day RSVP started was a big milestone for work so I ended up working later then I’d want to the day before. And then of course I had to get everything ready, tidy up the house a bit and so on.  Add to that the fact that I never sleep well before trips I set out on a 100+ mile day on about 3 hours sleep.

Sunrise from the Montlake Bridge

Atlantis at the bus stopOf course the first bus that came by had two bicycles on the front rack.  This made me very nervous, I could if I hauled ass ride around the lake still and most likely make the starting line before 7:30 but I’d be fighting against the flow for a good bit.  But if I waited for the next bus and couldn’t get on the rack then I was truly boned – I’d have to just ride to the intersection point. So it was with much trepidation that I waited for the next bus.  Luckily it had no bicycles on it and after some fumbling getting mine onto the rack (first time I’ve ever brought my bicycle on public transit) I was set.  Fifteen minutes later I was across the bridge and putting my saddle bag and water bottles back on. With my ride recombobulated I set of to Warren G. Magnuson Park, crossing over the Montlake bridge to the rising sun. I cut behind the University of Washington and then hit a pretty busy two lane road to the park.  Pretty quickly I noted that the bulk of that traffic had bicycles strapped to them and that these were fellow RSVP-ers. There was a big line up of cars into the parking lot, but those of us riding in were able to ride right in.

start line
The starting line at Warren G. Magnuson Park.

BGTIt was 6:45am as I pulled into the park – right on schedule.  There were groups of people setting out, people collecting their registrations, dropping off their bags, using the facilities and so on. I pulled my bag out of my saddlebag and dropped it off (though I kept the saddle bag on), collected my souvenir passport holder, pinned my number to myself, hit the bathroom and then headed out.  I rode off with a couple of other riders at 7:05. The route begins with a quick series of residential streets and then turns on to the Burke-Gilman Trail. The BGT is a rail trail that is used as a pretty major commuting route and you never say more disgruntled riders then those struggling against this crowd. It stayed pretty slow and safe, the view of the asses in front of you didn’t change much.  There was a bit of excitement in Bothell due to a tree across the trail (it was stuck – people did try to move it) which you had to stop and hoist yourself over.  But otherwise it was a nice easy warm up to a long days ride. At Woodinville, about 500 feet from the apartment I lived in for five years, the route exited the trail and cut through town.  I took advantage of the facilities at the park ate some GORP and took off my socks. They day was warming up and was heading toward the hottest day we’d had in a while.

Cyclists backed up at a light in Woodinville

Having lived in Woodinville for so long, as well as having followed the first part of the RSVP route on a number of occasions, this was all familiar territory for me.  The biggest hill of the whole ride was the one out of Woodinville but it was one I’d ridden many times. I was surprised to see myself passing people on the climb as I don’t consider myself a particularly great climber. I like to keep a steady pace though and clearly a lot of people dramatically slow down when they hit a hill.  I’d say that part of this is that most people ride patently ridiculous bicycles.  The smallest incline and most of these racing bicycles are in their lowest gear and people slow down and then stand up for pretty minor hills. Clearly for most riders a more sensible gear range, even if you can’t bring yourself to have a triple (I don’t recall actually using the small ring on this ride) is in order. These bicycles seemed to have something like an 11-22 cassette which had most riders out of gears immediately.

The Once past the “big” climb the route wends through some wooded rolling hills, a nice decent and then past the little town of Maltby.  From this point on ’til Snohomish its great country riding.  The route is gently rolling and now out of the woods revealed that it was getting much warmer. I was cruising along really well at this point and passed a rider on a Bleriot who noticing my Atlantis, caught up and we talked bicycles for a bit.  Then a car came up and we got seperated in the reorg.  Not too long after that my chain broke and I pulled over to deal with that. I always carry tools and a quick link so I was able with out to much fuss to splice the chain back together. It was hot work in the direct sun and I found I was sweating pretty good as I made this repair.  The break had twisted a few links so by the time I was done I knew the chain could break again if I shifted into certain gear combinations. So I kept it in about the middle of the range for the rest of the ride to Snohomish where I knew there would be a roaming bicycle mechanic.

Farmland outside of Snohomish
Farmland in the Snoqualmie valley outside of Snohomish.

Luckily the route descends from just past where I had the break and then it is the flat Snoqualmie Valley to the small town of Snohomish. There a lot of cyclists were taking advantage of the bakeries, a well known and great pie shop, the pubs and other amenities. I waited around for the bicycle tech to finish with an increasingly anal adjustment of a ladies brifters and then he put my bicycle on the stand and heard my story.  He basically refused to replace the chain on the grounds that it would slip due to wear on my freewheel which he had no replacement parts on hand for.  He advised me to just avoid certain gear combinations and to check at the official stop in Mount Vernon where they’d have more gear.  So basically this was a waste of time and in fact caused me more grief as I later discovered that when he put my beloved Atlantis in his stand he broke off one of the cable guides. This caused the tension to get released on my rear brake so I only figured this out a few miles later when I tried to use it.

Centennuial Trail.
The start of the Centennial Trail.

I didn’t notice the brake issue for a bit as the route was totally flat as it went through Snohomish and then onto the Centennial Trail.  The Centennial Trail was what had first brought me to ride the first part of RSVP route about 5years previous. I was very curious about all of the trails when I began cycling again 8 or so years ago. I recall what an epic trip it seemed back then, riding to the trail, then out and back on the trail and finally struggling back to Woodinville. Its a nicely paved, mostly wooded trail that runs by rivers and lakes and is generally pretty flat.  It has a few annoying road crossings, made more so in that cars have the right of way but often wave you along.  On this day I ended up in one of those situations where a woman waved me on, then changed her mind and started to go, then I went and it pissed her off. I prefer to just stop for the cars and they take their right of way, it makes for less confusion.  Anyway I felt pretty slow on the trail, there was  good headwind at this point and when it was out of the shade pretty hot. Starting to get hungry too. So I mostly just kept my head down and rode it out.  At the juncture with Lake Stevens the route exits the trail and goes through town to a parking lot where the first official food stop of the ride was.

Lake Stevens
The Lake Stevens Food stop.

This was mile 37 on the route and I arrived around 10:30am.  They had a smorgasbord of bagels, fruit, peanut butter, cookies, energy bars and so on. Plus stations of water and a Gatorade analog of some sort.  I ate a bagel with peanut butter, a banana and various snacks as I refilled my water bottles and fixed my rear brake. A bit of a rest and a visit to the blue rooms and I set off.  I was trying to not spend to much time at stops and I knew that I’d probably end up spending a lot of time in Mount Vernon to get my chain fixed. All told I was there for 20 minutes. The route takes a couple of back roads through Lake Stevens and then rejoins the trail for a little ways.  I was following people a ways ahead and they went straight through a junction we were supposed to turn at. Some guys hollered me down (thanks if you are reading!) and I got on the right path. I hope those people ahead of me were other trail users.

country riding
Nice country riding

ArlingtonThe route is in serious rural territory now, with chipseal rearing its ugly head. I’d gotten into a fairly packed group at a stoplight and  there was much jockeying by various riders. At one point a rider on a Univega Gran Tourismo from the 70s or early 80s rode past and hollered out that he thought that he was on the oldest bicycle. I shouted back that he still might be, mines only three years old. After some smaller hills that were fully exposed to the now hot day the route does this fantastic descent into Arlington. Fully wooded, 12%, winding roads, they are a real good time to just fly down.  Luckily it wasn’t very crowded anymore and I was able to just bomb down these.  Then you hit Arlington which has a hill as you arrive on the outskirts, and then an immediate descent to the main street.  Last time I was here, on my 2007 tour (in which I used this route as well) I stopped at a cafe in a building that also housed the Rivendell Hair salon!   This time I was still full from the food stop, so I kept on riding.

ClimbingWe now find ourselves on Highway 9, which at this point is filled with a decent amount of fast traffic. It does have a wide shoulder though so for the most part this was okay. But it was now plenty hot and highways never have much cover. So hot, dusty, fast traffic, not really a good time.  But I knew from last year that after 5 or so miles there is a turn off to I-5 which is where most of the traffic is going and then it becomes pretty nice as it goes through woods and around Big Lake.  So this went as I expected until the Dan Henry’s indicated a turn off from hwy 9 on a road I didn’t take last year. I’d heard there were a couple of changes to the route so I figured this was one of them. Its possible that last year I just didn’t take this bit, which was good as it pretty much just added miles and hills and intersected with Hwy 9 again at Big Lake. So that’s pretty much the story for this part, the longest climbing of the ride, if not the steepest. But now it was very hot and it seemed that whenever you exited the woods was when a hill would start. A one point on this section a tire popped on the rider ahead of me, with the sound of a gunshot. I was startled but I checked that she was okay and she was, so I rode on.

Mount Baker in the distance
Mount Baker in the distance

After a nice twisty descent the road interested again with hwy 9 at Big Lake.  The climbing and the heat had caused me to run through my liquids and on those back roads there were no facilities. So I was very happy to reach Big Lake which I knew there was little grocery store at the far end. I rationed my water ’till I reached the store and then pulled off for a break.  I replenished my bottles, drank an entire little bottle of Gatorade and ate some peanuts and half a muffin. I clearly needed salt and electrolytes.  I was feeling a bit tapped from the heat at this point and ended up resting here for 20 minutes.  Of course it then turns out that the Mount Vernon stop was only 5 easy miles up the road. I had reached the last big food stop at 76 miles.  I’d been riding with my too short a chain for 50 miles now.

Mount Vernon Food Stop.
Mount Vernon Food Stop

As I had just stopped 20 minutes before I was pretty set for food and drink. I made myself a peanut butter sandwich which I saved for later and had some watermelon which was kick ass at this point.  Then I went and waited in line for the mechanics. There were two of them working at a frantic pace and 4 or 5 people ahead of me.  Almost all of the repair they had to do was brifter adjustment.  This is why I prefer friction shifting – it isn’t susceptible to cable stretching or requires precises adjustments. There were a few tire, tube, spoke replacements and finally I was up. I told him of my need and he informed me he had no chain but maybe one of the mobile mechanics did.  Then as we were waiting for this guy to come in, I again got the skipping issue. I said I just wanted to be able to use all my gears and if they could just add links I’d be happy enough with that. So they used a couple of links I had and a couple he had and they managed to get my chain to a usable length again.  It cost me a lot of time though, I was there for just over an hour and I had thirty miles left to go.

Mount Vernon
Riding out of the Mount Vernon food stop.

churchIt was now 3pm, the hottest part of the day.  But we were closer to the water and a then veil of clouds had arrived to lower the temperature and block the sun a bit.  Along with this came an increasingly vicious headwind. There is pretty much a constant wind that blows east from the sound (as I experienced on my Olympic Peninsula Tour, it blows against you ’til you turn south) and as we got onto the Skagit Flats it became brutal. After getting through Mount Vernon, and under the I-5 you hit these flats and it is uninterrupted pancake flat farmland to the water.  Decent country riding otherwise but the wind was punishing. Due to the delay I’d had in Mount Vernon there wasn’t as many riders around so I had to be careful to stay on the route. I had a few rides following me at one point, which of course makes one even more careful.  At last there was the turnoff to Chuckanut Drive and a little mini-stop just before it. This stop had water and watered down Gatorade for free but was selling other things. So it was some organization and not Cascade but still it was welcome. I ran into a rider on a Rambouillet here as well as one on a Long Haul Trucker. Also a tandem team snapped my picture as the Rivendell Poster Boy. Shortly after this I set off for the series of hills that is Chuckanut Drive.

Chuckanut Drive
Chuckanut Drive

There was a bit of flat right after the mini-stop and then you cross a wetland and it begins. Chuckanut Drive hugs the coast from the Skagit Flats to Bellingham.  The coast of Washington state on the Puget Sound is a rocky, glacier carved affair which means hills and constant changes.  But none of the hills were that tough and I have to say considering that we were at 90 miles at this point I pretty much hauled through this.  Its an incredibly scenic route, with the Puget Sound just past a lane and some trees and you’d go from being on the edge of a cliff to diving into deep woods. It’d suck with a lot of traffic but I only saw a half dozen or less cars over the 11 miles of the drive.  I even passed a few riders on this section as well as all this magnificent scenery.  As I began the descent out of Chuckanut Drive I hit 10,000 miles on my odometer. This is a pretty accurate account of the miles on this frame (I put it on before I rode it at all) and was a big milestone for it.

Chuckanut Drive

After that descent there was one last climb with the infamous RSVP lemonade stand at the top. This has apparently been a fixture on the RSVP route for ages with a family raising money ostensibly to put their kid through college. I got a cup and left a couple of bucks for his further education. It was incredibly cold, too cold even. But a good sharp lemonade, not overly sugared.  I pretty quickly set off and from this last hill, it was downhill, into Fairhaven and various arterioles to the edge of Bellingham where the Days Inn and the official end of Day 1. My mileage at this point was 107 miles.  I was staying at Western Washington University so I still had a bit of riding to do. Of course its a back up a hill, but then its simply winding through the college and I was at the dorm I’d be staying at.


I quickly checked in, collected my bag and wheeled my bicycle into the elevator and up the three flights to my room.  I was in a nice new seeming dorm that had rooms with a connecting bathroom for every two rooms. I was in a corner room and there was a little hallway with the two rooms and the bathroom off of it. The other room’s occupant was either in town or had yet to arrive so I was able to leisurely shower. Rarely had I even enjoyed a shower as much as this one.  Putting on fresh clothes was always quite welcome. That done I needed pizza and beer and walked into town to find them.  The places I initially targeted, a wood-fired oven pizza place and Boundary  Bay Brewing were overflowing with cyclists so I set out to find a place I could get right into. Rudy’s pizza was where I ended up and while it was mediocre pizza, it was by the slice and so I was able to eat immediatly. I also had a couple of IPAs while I was there. After alleviating my caloric needs I walked around Bellingham during a beautiful sunset. Walking past Mallard Ice Cream parlor, I felt the need to try their hand made Ice-cream and got a basil cone that was amazing.  After that I walked back to Boundary Bay and finding it much emptier was able to get a seat at the bar and have an excellent Oatmeal Stout. Full up I headed back up to campus and read for a bit and then went to sleep.

Sunset in Bellingham

Total miles for the day: 113.3 (182.3km)
Ride Time: 8’6″

See all my pictures from this day, in my RSVP day 1 gallery.
Index to my entire RSVP and Back Again adventure

I would ride 10,000 miles

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

9999.9So while on the trek described in the previous post, I rolled my odometer on the Atlantis to 10,000 miles. Sure some people ride that every year (or more) but its taken me around 2.5 years to hit that goal.  My Atlantis is all grown up now.  Also seems to have hit some sort of limit on the various mid-range components. Lots of stuff seems to be getting worn at about this point. I’ll probably want to give the bicycle a pretty good overhaul in the near future.

This event occurred around mile 110 of 114 on my RSVP ride. I was almost at the finish but still had to get these shots. Expect a full report on that ride including the exciting 10k event shortly.  I’m crazy busy with work right now and just havn’t found time to sort photos and write reports. But it will happen.


RSVP and Back Again: setting off

Friday, August 15th, 2008

RSVP LogoSo the day has come, my big cycling event for this year: Cascade Cycling Clubs RSVP ride.  Packing I’d guess 275 miles of riding into four days, in between about the busiest I’ve been at work in a long time. Tired yes, but I feel pretty good cycling wise. My rides of late really have not taken the toll on me they would have earlier in the year. My conditioning is up but also I’ve gotten better at balancing the calories, liquids and other things one needs in a ride.  So this will be a nice test, though not quite up there with a long tour. A bit more mileage on the first couple of days then I tend to do on tour, but no load to speak of on the bicycle besides myself.

The weather has been ideal cycling weather of late, temps rarely climbing above 80, nice mix of clouds and sun, little rain. But just as this ride begins things take a turn toward the warm.  It is projected to be in the low 90s today and a tad cooler tomorrow.  These of course are the days where the bulk of this trips riding will be done. Luckily the highs aren’t quite as high the further north you go. So leaving Seattle around 7am it’ll be comfortable and then hopefully by the heat of the day one is nearer to Bellingham where the high is a good 8 degrees less.  Saturday is supposed to be a few degrees cooler on average and again it is a bit lower projected for Bellingham.  Hope that all works anyway, long distances in the heat takes it toll. Guess I don’t have to worry so much about the rain gear though.

Time to go and damn its early – as I’ve said before this is why I rarely do these events. Lack of sleep sure doesn’t help for long rides, but I’ll abide.  Anyway I’m off, expect reports on my return.

The four day plan

day 1:
“¢ Bus and ride to Warren G. Magnuson Park
“¢ RSVP Day 1

day 2:

“¢ RSVP Day 2
“¢ Party in Vancouver!

day 3
“¢ Downtown Vancouver to Tsawwassen Ferry landing
“¢ Ferry to Sidney
“¢ Sidney to Victoria via Lochside trail

day 4
“¢ Hang in Victoria
“¢ Victoria Clipper to Seattle
“¢ Seattle to Kirkland This is pretty much straight up from the pier through town to the I-90 trail and then the Lake Washington Loop route to downtown Kirkland and home.

My Atlantis for the ride. So early I had to use the flash!