Saturday, August 15, 2009

There's No Place Like Home...

"There's no place like home, there's no place like home..." —Dorothy, Wizard of Oz

Today, I was finally riding again in Washington. On July 28, I had dropped my road bike off at Bicycle Bob's Bicycle Outlet in Portsmouth, NH. My hope was that I would see my bike again shortly after I returned to Seattle on August 1. It finally arrived on my doorstep on Friday, August 14. As I unboxed it, began assembling it and then put the finishing touches on it in our living room, my 11-year old daughter, Bethany, said, "Is it good to have your best friend home again?" I laughed out loud. I assured her that her mother was my best friend, but I agreed that it was very good to have my steel companion back under my roof.

On Saturday morning, after repairing the flat rear tire (the only real damage from the shipment), I mounted my steed and rode into our cul-de-sac on my way to Eastside Foursquare Church to meet our riding club. After two weeks of riding my 50 lb. Costco-special, beater mountain bike, I was amazed at my speed. I soared. It was refreshing to be back in the saddle.

At Eastside, I met up with Warren, Mike, Jim—our EFC Cycling Club regulars—as well as Tyler and Barbara, a couple from further south who rode with us years ago a few times. They were all aware of my 4000 mile ride across the United States, so there were plenty of handshakes, congratulations, and warm welcomes. I shared a devotional based on my "five take-aways" mentioned in my blog from July 28. We had a good time talking about giving God our dreams, seeing Him fulfill our heart's desires, and daring to dream big. After our group prayer, we hit the road.

We descended down Waynita Way to the Burke-Gilman Trail in downtown Bothell and turned east. We spent the morning catching up with each other. I shared stories from my summer adventure, but I also asked the others guys and gal about their summer. We rode past UW Bothell's campus and continued north towards Mill Creek where we met up with Gary who was waiting for us. We turned onto Seattle Hill Road amid a road crew and a few yards of construction. Mike was worried about riding over the steel plates. I chuckled and began to share with Mike how all my inhibitions about cycling on subpar road surfaces had vanished. Over our 4000 miles, we had cycled over everything... gravel, hard pack dirt, steel plates, cavernous pits, horrific potholes, ripped up asphalt... not much intimidated me now.

We paused at the Seattle Hill Road Starbucks for a restroom break and then dropped down one of the best downhills in Snohomish County. The sweeping descent to Lowell-Larimer Road is fast, curvy, and a downright thrill. It brought back memories of several of the great downhills from this summer... Donner Pass into Truckee, CA; Mount Rose into Sparks, NV; or racing down Monarch Pass into Salida, CO. But it was over too soon. No eight mile descents today. We turned west and rode through the Snohomish Valley amid dairies and farmland.

This flat section of roadway gave a couple of the guys the incentive to hit the gas. They passed me while I was conversing with Mike and Barbara. After getting passed a third time, I thought maybe it was time to play. I geared down and punched forward... 24, 25, 28, 29 mph. I flew past Gary, Jim and then Warren. As I eased up, Jim flew past me. When I caught back up to him later, he commented, "Well, I had my dream for today fulfilled... I gave you some Linda Ronstadt... when I "blew by you!"

We rode west through Everett and began climbing up E. Mukilteo Blvd. through Forest Park. This is really a beautiful section of roadway. The tall shade trees and forest create sun-speckled pavement. The road is lined with bright red, pink, and white flowered gardens. Overhead is a curving pedestrian bridge. The climb is short but steep and then followed by another sweeping descent that ends with views of Port Gardner and Possession Sound.

As we continued west along W. Mukilteo Blvd., I was thinking about how much I love cycling in the Northwest. After 4000 miles of exploring our nation, I'm still content that the Northwest is the best place to ride. Already this morning, we had ridden along bike paths, neighborhoods, farm country, city, and waterfront. Our region has so much to offer... We stopped at Harborview Park for a group photo and then finished the remaining mile or two to reach our mid-morning destination: Whidbey Coffee Co.

This eclectic coffee shop is positioned high above the Mukilteo waterfront with outdoor seating and cozy window tables. I ordered a white mocha and—of course—a cinnamon roll the size of a small child. Over coffee, I enjoyed spinning more tales of my summer ride. My friends obliged me by adding their laughter and questions. As much as I enjoy sharing my adventure, I hope that it instills in those I ride with a desire to experience their own dreams...

After our coffee stop, we returned through Mukilteo and then turned south near Paine Field and onto Casino Road. Mike shared with us—since he has offices near here—that this neighborhood has been plagued with a lot of gang violence lately. The Snohomish County Regional Gang Group has a document online that identifies a number of these gangs such as "MS13"—MS stands for Mara Salvatrucha and refers to large gangs in Central America and the United States. These gangs are composed mostly of Salvadorans, Guatemalans, Hondurans, and other Central Americans and subdivide into cliques, or factions. Another known gang in the area is “Asian Bloods (AB),” listed in this same document as "an Asian Blood set from the Casino Road area." I could tell from the people we passed at one intersection that they were conditioned to keep their heads down, eyes lowered, and not make contact with anyone else on the street. We didn't hang around very long, either.

We headed south along the Interurban bike path and crossed I-5 on a new bike and pedestrian bridge. This new bridge bypasses 128th Street SE, which has always been a busy overpass. It was refreshing to have this new bridge at our disposal. We continued on the Interurban down to Martha Lake and then took some side streets into Bothell and Briar. I had one more big challenge ahead for our group...

On the Briar/Bothell border, there is a looming climb named 228th Street SW. It's one of the hardest climbs in a local ride called "Summits of Bothell (S.O.B.)." I smiled as I told the group to turn left and begin climbing. I jumped out of the saddle and put some distance between me and the group. But halfway up, the hill was beginning to get the better of me. I sat back, geared down further, and breathed harder. At the top, I turned around to take photos of the riders behind me and give them some encouragement. Tyler was first up with Jim right behind him. Having both done the Courage Classic (172 miles and three Cascade Mountain summits over three days that took place two weeks ago), they were both well-conditioned for a stiff climb.

We rolled quickly down Meridian Ave. S into Kenmore. At the bottom, we noticed the new digs for Bothell Ski & Bike, our local bike shop that moved this year to be closer to the Burke-Gilman Trail. We crossed Bothell Way and got on the BG Trail once again for the last two miles back to the church. This section of the trail was recently redesigned and now features new pavement, tall cement walls, and landscaping along the trail. The trail was busy with other cyclists, pedestrians, joggers, and families. It was great to see so many others out enjoying our region. After cycling through towns and cities where we were the only people on bikes—and sometimes the only people as far as the eye could see—I was pleased to see so many others enjoying this sport with me.

Our last and final climb was back up Waynita Way. As I climbed up, I remembered the first time I climbed this road on the bike beneath me. I purchased it in 2003 and recall soaring up this hill with such a light bike compared to my old one. It was even easier today. And Jim was right on my tail. Not bad at all for a 60+ guy that just started cycling not so many years ago and has lost 15 pounds this year. I congratulated him when we pulled into the parking lot and then shook hands with my other friends when they reached us a moment later. I mentioned over coffee earlier that morning that the familiar song is true... "Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, but the other is gold." I'm grateful for those I've met on my cross-country adventure, but I'm more thankful for my cycling buddies here at home... After all, there's no place like home.

For more photos from today's ride, visit

Dist: 65.75
Time: 4:45:16
Avg: 13.8
Max: 36.3