Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Sweetpeas Invade Canada

ooh!  August!  Must be time to ride to Canada!

Best Enabler Cyclist Friend and I signed up for this one the day signups opened in January.  Dorm room and hostel reservations procured several months later; place to sleep in Seattle (her brother's house) arranged.

Day 0

NEW BICYCLE was ready.  Well, it was ready after I tossed the garage looking for the Acorn Bag stiffener piece; the bag was getting floppy.

Procured vegan-friendly road snacks, stopped by daughter's house to retrieve my Thermarest mattress, collected Cecil and HER Sweetpea, and off we went.  The drive was long, because traffic stops in Tacoma.

Day 1

Got ourselves to the start before the ride started (this is a first, for me, anyway).  No coffee stand.  Not good.

Cecil and TRFKAF are ready to go

Did find Ross; hugs were exchanged.

Five miles into the ride we came upon a rider who had apparently hit one of the bollards on the Burke Gilman Trail.  He wasn't looking so good.  Cecil took up traffic control at one end and I took it up at the other - between a very large number of RSVP cyclists heading north, and daily bike commute traffic heading south, it could have been very ugly otherwise.  Nat (fellow rando) came by, and visited a bit.  I admired his pretty new bike.  He admired my pretty new bike.  Eventually emergency services arrived and took him off to the hospital and Cecil and I continued on.  The Burke Gilman is considerably less claustrophobic when one is not stoking a tandem.  Just saying.

Off the trail, north to Woodinville, up the Woodinville hill, where I was to find Cecil at the convenience store.  Got to the store.  No Cecil.  Hmm.  Took care of business, and found a can of iced mocha.  Also found Cecil, who was looking for me.  Consumed the iced mocha (yum!  and so handy!)

Lynne gets very, very crabby if she doesn't have her coffee in the morning

She had been waiting at the OTHER convenience store.  Enjoyed the rollers, not so much the stretch on 522, then onto Springhetti Road and out into the country.  Passed through Snohomish, but did not get onto the Centennial Trail until it was required, thus skipping the Bollards of Death.

She's got the matching picture

Arrived in Lake Stevens with plenty of time, ate, refilled water bottles, applied sunscreen, stood in line :-) and headed off again to Arlington.  Used my mad STP-in-a-day skilz, and performed most of the above while standing in line.

The descent into Arlington was even more fun - have I mentioned that I really like riding that Sweetpea down hills?

Lunch was at the Shire Cafe/Mirkwood.  Right by Mordor Tattoo.  Bill A found us there. You can't make this up.

Really CAN'T make this up

Sweetpeas in the Mirkwood garden

Bill A at Mirkwood (lunch stop)

Off again on Hwy 9 (much nicer shoulder for longer, now), then the climb on Finn Settlement/Lake Cavanaugh Rd.  I could have done without the double log truck passing, otherwise all fine.  I even passed people while climbing.

Stopped at the water stop.  The Sweetpeas got much love there, as did the Acorn Bag.

Off to Mt Vernon - more drinks and snacks.  It was hot.  There had been a steady headwind all day, and as we got onto the Skagit Flats, it turned into a stronger, gusty quartering headwind/crosswind.  Pick you up and drop you in the ditch type of wind.  Relentless Forward Motion was called for.  Passed the Bow Cemetery, several pretty farms, and finally arrived at the NO LONGER DEFUNCT Bow Store (now The Pizza Shack).  Bought a cold Sobe, drank most of it while waiting in line to pay.

More crosswind/headwind, but we were soon climbing up Chuckanut Drive, with lovely shade and no headwind.  Always pretty.  Brief stop at one pullout, and another to turn on the rear blinkie, continued on to the Famous Pink Lemonade Stand.  My last descent was a bit hampered by a slower rider taking up the whole road.  Found Cecil at the lemonade stand, drank two big glasses of pink lemonade, and then proceeded into Fairhaven and Bellingham.

Chuckanut Drive

Samish Bay

Some very, very warped route designer had us climbing up Ferry Ave, rather than continuing over to Elwood and 32nd to pick up Bill McDonald Parkway there.  I providentially threw the chain at the bottom and walked it.  My bike computer has 21% for parts of that hill; nothing less than 13%.

Checked into the dorms.  Not much to say, except the mattresses were pretty thin, and on plywood (students are encouraged to bring an egg-crate or memory foam mattress topper), and I seemed to be in a co-ed suite.  Fortunately, no (single) bathroom congestion.  Oh, and no elevators.  I was only on the second floor; Cecil was on the third floor.  Could have been worse - we could have been in the dorms on the very, very top of Sehome Hill.

Chatted with Nat again before heading off to Boundary Bay Brewery for dinner.

Excellent band (Cecil call them a Trad Band) - besides their own stuff, they did some Pogues.  Lots of little kids playing with hula hoops.  They had no clue how.  It was with EXTREME restraint that I did not get up and show them (superpower - I can hula hoop forever).  Dinner was yummy, but as we snacked walking to the Brewery and had fries in the beer garden, I couldn't really do it justice.

hanging in the beer garden; good band!

The church meeting was going full tilt when we started back.  Altar call.

Day 2

Breakfast in Bellingham before heading out.  Cecil acquired a new friend who wanted to know all about vegan nutrition for cycling.  I quietly ate my non-vegan breakfast.

"I'm the vegan"

North through the scenic flats (farms, Wizer Lake, more farms, Lynden, Double Ditch Rd), singing selections from the Pogues, and then into the border crossing.  The Sweetpeas made it across the border with no undue suspicion other than querying our rider numbers and checking them on a list.  Brief pause to document, and then onward.

Sweetpea Invasion of Canada is complete

It was getting hot.  Approached "The Wall", having Sweetpea geared down well in advance to ward off a chain throwing mishap, and climbed on up.  Still hot.  We stopped for popsicles.  Mmmmmmmmmmm.


Must.  Have. Popsicle.

Ft Langley - rest stop; ate a pbj and some grapes, topped up the liquids.  Exiting town, we saw what I thought was a cool play structure.  It was.  A play structure for goats.  I can't believe the number of riders that missed it.  More pictures.

I thought it was a cool play structure, but it was full of goats!

Big route change - with the completion of the Golden Ears Bridge, the ferry ride, with accompanying long wait and unpleasant stretches of 132nd and Lougheed Hwy were completely eliminated.  No more riding through Maple Ridge.

Peaceful ride on the south side of the water to the bridge, a totally cool spiral ramp up, and an amazing bridge.  The stretch on the other side was pretty nice, too.  The Pitt River Bridge has also been replaced, with a miniature version of the Golden Ears Bridge.

The Golden Ears Bridge

Coast Meridian hasn't gotten much better.  One of my cycling nightmares is to be caught and crushed between a double dump truck.  Guess what passed me, in my (not really wide enough) lane?  Ack.

A stretch of neighborhoods, one with a nice man watering any cyclists who wanted it (do me! do me!).  Getting hotter.  Coquitlam and Port Moody - downtown with highrises, but providentially, not as much traffic as previous years.  Fantasizing about Rocky Point Park by now - watermelon, ice cream, shady green grass.  The watermelon was running low, so I had just a bit, but compensated with an ice cream cone.  Cecil got a Diet Coke and we found a shady spot to sit.  Then more sunscreen, and off to the Barnet Hwy.

It seemed shorter this year, and easier.  Of course, this was the first time in many years that I had ridden it on a single.  Crosswind/headwind, which were cooling.  Hot.  Very Hot.  The last pitch on the Barnet, which really isn't much - the air went still.  My bike computer chose to read out 120deg F.  Maybe a little high, but when I reached the shaded bus stop, I had to stop and recompose.  After awhile, Cecil noted that my face wasn't quite as red as it had been initially.  Woof.

Then down and up to the Frances-Union bike route through Burnaby (stupid riding behavior by Mr. Yellow Jersey at the corner of Hastings), and the Adanac bike route through outer Vancouver (another kind person spraying bicyclists), lots of up down up down up down with a few serious, but short ups, and then, passing the Cathay Villa Old Folks Home, we found ourselves in Vancouver proper.  First, through Chinatown, where traffic lights, signs, and directional instructions all seem to be mere suggestions (sure.  YOU hit someone's 95 year old grandmother and deal with it!), then Gastown (ditto) where Mr. Mahadev and his yellow taxi seemed intent in offing some cyclists, and finally, exiting Gastown, where it became much, much more sane.

Finally, left on Cardero, up to Comox, and done.  Whew!  Cecil went off to find some vegan food to bring to the party; I went on up, and immediately drank three glasses of icewater.  Went to collect my finisher patch... "name?"  "Hi Ross!" :-)  whereupon I heard about the squirrel bite to the face of an unfortunate rider.

Little Pink Bear recovers after the ride

After cooling my feet in the fountain, we hiked off to the hostel.  Wonderful shower, then a tour of English Bay, Granville Island (water bus!), and Yaletown.

Animals are your friends!  Don't eat them!

Bridge structure

Sculpture by English Bay

Dinner at the Yaletown Pub, where we witnessed an interesting  pre-wedding bride's party.  Or rather, Cecil got to see it.  They were sitting behind me.  Probably something that is best not  described in a relatively family-friendly blog.  It is possible that Cecil is still washing her brain.  Usually one has to go to a special store and pay money to watch this in a private room.

Dinner was good - I had a bowl of Singapore Noodles and a beer and consumed it all, to no ill aftereffects.  Cecil had a pizza and beer.  Walking back to the hostel, we bought food for the next day, and she bought some frites.  I passed on those.

Hot night.  I think I finally fell asleep, but didn't sleep well.

Day After

Breakfast at the hostel.  Hiked back to the Coast Plaza, retrieved our bikes, went to load them on the truck.  "Rider number?" "Hi Ross!"  He finally got to see my new bike :-)  Then loading onto the truck, where I really did not want to let go until both wheels were on the truck.  The guy loading just didn't get it.  But "hey, did you know there is another Sweetpea on this ride?" :-)  Yes.  They are friends.

That's Ross in the bright blue t-shirt in the back

Bill found us sitting on the steps waiting to load the bus.  I knitted.  Deb from Tacoma came over to chat, because I was knitting.  Eventually we relocated to another spot.  I finished the sock, and started casting on the second one.

Finished Filey sock number one

Busses weren't loading until 10:30; lots of knitting accomplished.  (Yarn Harlot: "I find that I am so much more patient now that I have something to knit")

Waiting to load the bus in Vancouver

Loaded, headed out.  It occurred to me that perhaps we couldn't take our cherries and plums across the border, so we ate them.  Long wait at the border.  Knit, knit, knit.  Eventually had to get off the bus and go through Immigration.  Cecil: "want to make faces at the one-way mirror?".  No.  I don't want to do the secondary interview thing again.  Been there, done that, an hour of my life I will never get back.

Immigration officer: "what is your profession?"  Human Factors Engineer.  "Welcome back".
Customs officer: "any fruit?" A banana.  Some cherry pits.  "that's it?  ok"

More bus to Seattle, with a slight detour through the NOAA facility.  Our bike were waiting for us, and we were the first bus.  The next bus was still back at the border.  Those poor people.

Long drive back, with a pause in Kent for food and in Centralia for gas.  Good thing we were not going the other way - traffic was backed up from Tacoma to before Olympia.

Dropped Cecil off; joined husband and son at HUB for dinner.  Got to bed too late.  Started my new job the next day.

rest of the pics here


bikelovejones said...

Congrats! Looks like The Sweetpeas will have to form an official fan club.

Mr. Fusion Jazz said...

Yes, congrats! Thanks for the ride report. Almost as good as being there, especially with the pics and vids. I could actually feel the headwind. But not the heat. Hate it when it's hot.

Cheers, Gene in Tacoma

P.S. I'll have to ask the Deb I know in Tacoma if she is Deb from Tacoma.