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.
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.
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.
It 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.
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.
The 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.
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.
There 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.
The 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.
Eventually 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
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.
Right 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.
There 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.
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.
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.
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.
Riders cooling down at the party
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.