Ruben and set out at 6:25 and climbed up and over 65th just like last year. Friday morning was threatening rain, so we were dressed in pretty wet weather gear for a summer ride. We opted not to use the same Sherpa Service as last year as we figured out the Best Western is just 2 blocks from the Rodeway Inn in Bellingham. We got on the road around 6:50 in the morning.
We rode without stopping the full 28 miles until we hit Snohomish and had coffee, biscotti and a bran muffin. The only thing of note here was my realizing it was a Friday not Saturday as the construction work on Lake City way was going on and I saw a few commuters. The trail north of Snohomish was pretty much empty except for us riders. We had a quick stop in Lake Stevens to get some more road food, and use the sanicans, which because we were early in the ride were still clean. Gotta love that.
We opted not to stop in Arlington as we did last year, and continued on to Mt. Vernon. We hit some rain just to the east of Mt. Vernon for about 15 minutes – it was hard enough that I had to stop and put my electronics into baggies which we had remembered to bring.
The Mt. Vernon stop was practically empty and I was just starving at this point. Fortunately it was only sprinkling. I ate a half a bagel with PB&J, and tons of fruit and grabbed some crackers. I could have even eaten more, but we decided to move on and to find a coffee shop (out of the potential rain) or eat lunch in Bow. The route, however, doesn’t really go past any shops at this point. I did see an espresso place in Avon (small town to the West of Mt. Vernon), but we didn’t stop…
We were really lucky this year – the rainy weather brought us a tail wind through the Skagit Flats. There was a small stop at Bow, but it was 1:15, we had 20 miles left, we were hungry and I had heard good things about the Rhododendron Cafe. So we stopped and actually had a lunch. Two other cyclists were there with us, but they had cycled down from Bellingham just for lunch. The quote from them was “those guys have numbers, like they’re in jail”… Still they sat and watched riders go by for a while after they were done eating.
Service was a little slow, but the food was tasty… and the berry cobbler was quite good. We got back on the road around 2:30 and started the climb up Chuckanut drive. This year I could totally climb the hills and appreciate it – not feeling the constant pain of the hamstring tear. Our next stop was at Rocket Donuts in Bellingham about an hour later, and then onto the Best Western to pick up our bags and our hotel for some much needed clean up. Total for day 1: 112 miles riding, 7:25 ride time, 10 hours total time, 15.1 mph and 2 REALLY nice pit stops.
We had dinner in a pretty good Thai restaurant where we saw some other riders. During our conversation we mentioned we had stopped for lunch in Bow, took our time, etc. One guy said “oh that’s the way to do it, (pointing at his friend) – he wanted to be the first to Bellingham” (apparently they were actually second into Bellingham). So I said “well we did our intense riding earlier in the year when we did STP in one day, so this time we wanted to relax and enjoy the ride”… Hehe. Not many years I’ll be able to use THAT as a trump card
Day 2: we woke up again at 5:45, and got ready. We crammed a bad bowl of cereal courtesy of the hotel, checked out and rode to the bag drop off at the Best Western. Our plan was instead of heading back to McLeod and the route that way, we headed north on Meridian and west across Bakerview back to our route. We left at 6:35, and then stopped a few blocks down the road at a Walgreen’s and then at Woods Coffee – for coffee and a scone. Much better than the breakfast at the hotel. We were ostensible on the road by 7:15 – about 45 minutes after we had originally wanted to be, but happy we had found a good coffee shop.
The valley north of Bellingham is also beautiful and we had no wind… great for a morning riding. A detour had us go up and over a hill back to Hanegan road sooner than the cue sheet had listed. We passed our share of folks and were passed by a fair share, but the road was mostly empty. Having had breakfast already, we skipped the Dutch Mother in Lynden (although Ruben used the public restrooms) and kept going to the border.
I still get a chuckle about the ditch into Canada. Don’t cross it! (And yes, there was border patrol watching…)
This year the “Wall” (the big hill) was MUCH easier than last year, although this was the only time I even remotely felt my hamstring. It is better but not 100% (and I have to accept it may never be again).
It was sad that the ferry in Fort Langley wasn’t part of our ride this year… Ruben was especially sad since he did this just this spring. Instead we rode this very beautiful NEWLY paved road near the water for quite some time (and managed some great averages) and then went over the Golden Ears bridge – which was just gorgeous. The descent on the other side was a little odd (the sidewalk felt funny under the tires). The rest of the ride from this point feels “functional” – loads of city riding and traffic, but I still like the excellent park in Port Moody and want to take Elias there. We stopped there, had another little snack (I should have eaten more), then headed UP the hill on route 7A. Again, SO much easier than last year.
I was passed by a bunch of people, but eventually we caught up with them during all the stop and go of the bike way in Vancouver. Eventually we caught up to riders 1, 2 and 3 and rode in right behind them. Even though I registered on January 5 we were rider 1280 and 1281 respectively, I guess because RSVP sold out on Jan 6!
Ruben and I finished just around 1pm. Stats for day 2: 5:06 ride time, 6:30 hours total time (if you include breakfast at the coffee shop), 15.5 av speed. We got into the garage and found there were probably 50-75 MAYBE bikes down there. In fact we had made such good time and were so early that our bags weren’t ready. We did a lot of stretching and ate the burgers at the “party” while we waited. Eventually we got our bags and were among the first to shower. It felt awesome.
While waiting for my sister and hubby to come into town, we walked down Robson and caught the Zombie meet-up, walked with the zombies for a bit, then sat and had more snacks at a coffee shop around the corner from the finish line. Jacki and Ron showed up, we had dinner at a Malaysian place called the Banana Leaf restaurant (quite good), then headed home. There was 0 wait at the border, and we were home by 9:45pm.
I saw this quote on one of the message boards “Not only are there fewer cyclists on RSVP, since there is less support, there are fewer inexperienced cyclists. The slower riders may be slower, but they are more likely to know what they are doing and are more predictable. You’ll be able to more comfortably pass them.” (by Claire Petersky). It’s really true.