Sunday, March 29, 2009

Son of a Summit... Summits of Bothell, that is.

It paid off to make this week's ride a Sunday ride. Yesterday it poured. I may have seen cats and dogs during that downpour. But Sunday was whole different story. Today was beautiful. But today was going to hurt. I had yet to choose a route when I sent out this week's email. I knew it would be short. If 30 miles qualifies as short. But I didn't know where I would take the riders. It was a mystery ride. And moments before I headed out to the parking lot to greet the group, I determined our route. We'd do a portion of the Summits of Bothell.

The Summits of Bothell, in its full glory, is 8 summits in 38 miles with 3,250 ft vertical evlevation gain. More per mile then RAMROD. We were only going to do about half of those summits and only do 27 miles, but it still meant a lot of climbing early in the year when--for some of us--we had yet to earn our climbing legs.

Our first climb was south of Eastside Church just past the Safeway. Within one mile of our start, I had our group climbing up and up. Fortunately, I didn't lose anyone. But we were all gasping. Except for Cary. I don't think he ever hurts. And for a guy north of fifty, that's impressive.

We crossed Finn Hill and the shot back down to EFC. At least one rider asked if we were done and could he pull into the parking lot. I smiled. Nope. More pain to come! Next was Norway Hill. It's a steady climb, but the grade isn't as bad as some of the other hills. The view is always outstanding. That is if you have enough energy to lift your head.

Next, we rode through the UW Bothell/Cascadia campus to take us into the North Creek office park where we climbed up NE Hollyhills Drive. At the top, we caught our breath, warmed up in the sun, and looped around to tackle the next hill... the worst of the bunch.

They call this next one, "The Wall." And with good reason. I don't have a way to measure the grade, but wouldn't be surprised if it was close to 15 percent. Everyone gasps when they see The Wall, let alone when they reach the top. But reach the top, we did. And as a gift to my group, I decided that would be our last hill. We would take the easy route back to Eastside.

We even stopped at a playground at Stipek Park, but we did more sitting, drinking, and talking than playing. It was a busy day at the park. Lots of families out and about. The cutest moment of the day was when I was approaching the restroom and a lively little four or five-year old girl on a two wheeler said to me, "I know I should be wearing a helmet to be safe, but it's too small and I need a new one." I smiled and replied, "Well, make sure your parents know that! I'm glad you want to be safe!"

I tugged the straps of my helmet. Gathered the group, and headed home.

Riders: Warren, Cary, Jim S., Bruce, Bob H, Rob, Brenda, Kristin, Johnny
Dist: 27.00
Time: 2:07
Avg: 12.6
Max: 37.7
Weather: Warm and Clear

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Taking a Loop Around the Rock

Our route this week was to look "the Rock"--Mercer Island. As we gathered at Eastside Foursquare Church in the morning light, we shared a brief devotional, prayed, and then I reminded my group of the rules of the road. Mercer Island was highlighted in a few news reports last summer on their propensity to stop cyclists for not obeying traffic laws. Basic stuff, like blowing stop signs or rolling through red lights. But, I also learned that to officers on "the Rock," a full stop means putting your foot down and stopping all forward movement. So, with those reminders we set off for a beautiful morning of riding.

As we rode through Kirkland and Carillon Point along the waterfront, the weather was cool but it was dry. And for the first weekend of Spring, that was a great thing! As we stopped at an intersection in Hunts Point, a group of neighbors was out landscaping the entrance to their neighborhood. I thought about whether I should have stayed home and worked in my yard... "Nah!" I replied to myself as I hit the gas and turned the corner!

We rolled through downtown Bellevue and began the very hard climb up from Old Bellevue. I was surprised I made it up without having to drop into the granny gear. But, I was breathing hard, so don't think for a second it was without effort. At the top of the climb, one of the other riders said my favorite words. "I've lived in this area for years and I've never been here!" I relish those moments when I can lead a ride into a neighborhood, along a route, or through a town that someone in the group has never been.

But, some of the best views were still to come. We rolled up and down through Beaux Arts. Founded in 1908 and incorporated in 1954, the Town of Beaux Arts Village has a population of 300 residents. The community is stunning with tall trees, ivy, and classy homes tucked along short rolling streets with peekaboo views of Lake Washington and the East Channel bridge of I-90.

Dropping out of Beaux Arts, we hopped onto the I-90 trail, crossing over to Mercer Island. I once again reminded everyone to watch that they ride single file and obey the stop signs. The traffic was tame on this early Saturday morning. At least initially. As we reached the "Cape of Good Hope" of Mercer Island, a driver pulled out of a driveway looking to her right, but never to her left where I was. It wasn't a near miss, but it could have been.

After reaching the "west coast" of the island, we turned inward and rode to Starbucks for a rest stop, caffeinated refreshment, and a moment to sit in the sun. On the return ride, we crossed paths in Kirkland with another group of cyclists out for their Saturday ride. The sun was warming things up even more. This was a beautiful day for a ride. A great day to take a loop around the Rock.

Riders: Warren, Bob H., Ken, Mike, Cary, Rob, and Jim
Dist: 27.81
Time: 2:03
Avg: 13.4
Max: 35.0
Weather: Cool and Clear

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Braving the Wind to Get to the Ice (Cream)

Saturday's Club Ride got cancelled. Too much steady rain, followed by heavy rain, accompanied by strong wind. So, when the sun finally broke out this afternoon after church, I thought it was time to get a handful of miles in. But, then I considered asking my son, Kyle, to join me. After all, he's going to be working on Cycling merit badge for Boy Scouts in the month ahead and he's got some miles to get in, too!

He was in. But, he informed in not too strong of words, he wasn't going to wear any spandex.

No problem. I'll let him learn the hard way how uncomfortable it is to ride in denim. I was just glad I had a cycling buddy for the afternoon.

We planned our route. He needed a 10 mile ride to knock off one of the Cycling merit badge requirements. So, we opted to head north from our home to Mill Creek's Coldstone Creamery. My wife, Susie, and daughter, Bethany, would drive and meet us there. The sun was out but the wind was blowing. Fortunately, the wind was at our backs, so the ride was a comfortable one, if a little cold.

We arrived at Coldstone to find the other half of our family waiting for us. I chose the coffee ice cream with pecans. Kyle went for the mint and chocolate. Bethany selected cake batter and oreos. Susie mooched off of mine. While we dined on desserts, we watched the weather transform before our eyes. First came the rain. The rain morphed into hail. The wind picked up and drove it all sideways. We began planning our return trip in the back of the minivan.

But this March weather has been fickle at best, and schizophrenic at worst. The rain and hail passed over us and bright blue sky appeared overhead. I encouraged Kyle to finish what we had started and coaxed him with a return route sans hills.

We turned south down Bothell-Everett Highway riding headlong into about a 10-15 mile wind with 30 mph gusts. I soon realized that an additional layer or two (or four) would have been advisable as I shuddered in the cold icy gale. Admirably, Kyle was pedaling along nicely. Not complaining at all about the wind.

Soon, we turned the corner into our neighborhood and found relief from the relentless gusts. We rode along the quiet neighborhood streets, while I picked a few extra streets to make sure our final miles added to an even ten.

As we pulled into the driveway, I gave Kyle a high five. Then I hit the shower to warm up while he fell on his bed to give his jello-like legs a much needed rest.

One 10-mile ride ride done. Cycling merit badge is now underway. I can't wait to tell Kyle about requirement #9.

That's the 50-miler...

Sunday, March 8, 2009

From Snow to Sunshine

Our first EFC Cycling Club ride of the year looked to be a very wet and very cold one. As I cycled the seven miles from home to Eastside Foursquare Church, I got my first phone call from a new rider who had planned to join us but was now calling to say, "No way." As the rain began to fall, I figured I might be alone today. Would I ride more than just the seven miles back to home?

But shortly after shooting the video above of the lightly falling hail/snow, Rob pulled up and greeted me. The ride was on! But, now I was committed. No turning back. Rob is new to our club and spent the last year in Australia. I commented that this was NOT Australia weather. He smiled and nodded as he pulled a jacket over his kangaroo emblazoned MAPEI jersey.

While chatting with Rob, David rode up and joined in. Now we knew who the dedicated cyclists are! I shared a brief devotional, we prayed, and then headed down the hill. As we rolled through Kenmore and turned north, I was ecstatic to see blue sky and sunshine breaking through the gray clouds. This day's ride might turn out far better than I expected!

Our route took us through Brier and then onto the Interurban bike trail where warm sunshine illumined our course. In fact, the sun stayed on us all the way through Mill Creek where we stopped at the Seattle Hill Road Starbucks for coffee and oatmeal.

The warmth of the Starbucks was welcomed as we lounged in the oversized chairs and told stories about our off-season cycling adventures. It was good to be back on the bikes. And back on the bikes we needed to be.

As we departed Starbucks, the clouds had caught up with us and we faced a stiff headwind. But, fortunately the rain still abated. Our route wove through new developments and old neighborhoods taking us east and then south through Clearview. We stopped for a photo op at Clearview Nursery & Stone which is notable for it's petroliana (gas station collectibles), commercial signs, and whimsical decor that adorn the property.

Both David and Rob took turns holding up the world--which is actually an old Union 76 gas station sign repainted to look like Earth. Who said cycling isn't hard work!

At the end of our ride, we congratulated each other on beating out the rain. I said farewell and went inside EFC to rest and warm up for my remaining seven miles home which would round out the day at an even 50. Upon heading back outside to mount up and hit the road, I noticed my run of good weather had run out.

It was finally raining.