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.
The 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
There 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.
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.