Saturday, May 15, 2010

Do the Zoo

Saturday, May 15— Under bright blue skies, we headed south along the shore of Lake Washington through Kirkland, Bellevue, Newcastle, and into Renton. Our route today would take us around Cougar and Squak Mountains and then past the Cougar Mountain Zoological Park and up and over Cougar Mountain—or as we like to call it: Zoo Hill, one of the hardest local climbs we do.

Our first climb was more of a practice climb or confidence builder. We turned up SE 112th Street on the south face of Cougar Mountain and climbed up and up to some great views of Lake Washington, Mt. Rainier, and the Cedar River Valley. The descents are always the best part of any climb, and the descent from this climb did not disappoint. At the bottom, we turned east again on SE May Valley Road to Issaquah-Hobart Road. Along this stretch and on this beautiful Saturday morning, cyclists outnumbered motorists 10 to 1. We easily passed a hundred cyclists on the roads today. A brief stop at Squak Mountain State Park gave us a breather and a place to get off the bikes.

Our turn north on Issaquah-Hobart Road puts the wind at our backs and us onto the ride's "Time Trial". We got into the drops, tucked low, and pedaled hard all the way into Issaquah. But the hard work was around the corner. Those who had ridden this route with me before were already groaning. A coupled of steep climbs through a neighborhood above downtown Issaquah until we drop down to Tibbets Park where we refilled our water bottles and prepared for "His Majesty the Zoo-ness."

As we turned up Zoo Hill, the road was immediately unforgiving. Zoo Hill is a winding, switchback climb with at least two false summits that bring hope and then dash that hope to the ground until you finally, for certain, undeniably reach the top. At the top, you can do one of three things: dump the bike and flop onto the ground in exhaustion (Tenille did this); circle around with a huge grin of pride and wait for all the riders behind you (Johnny did this); turn around, descend to the bottom and climb up one more time (no one in their right mind does this. And none of us did either.)

After a rest in the sunshine at the top, we enjoyed the delicious breezy high-speed downhill into Factoria where we stopped at Starbucks to chat and refuel on coffee and pastries. Our return home was straightforward as we relished our accomplishment and appreciated the remaining strength in our legs.

Distance: 56.21
Time: 4:03:03
Avg: 13.8
Max: 41.6

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Skagit Spring Classic: 109 miles of cookie-powered, chip-seal, headwind goodness

We liked to call it the Skagit "Headwind" Classic. But this year, I started accentuating the positive and this ride is now known as "The Cookie Ride." It's the Skagit Spring Classic with routes of 25, 45, 62, and 100 miles. I had never ridden the Century (100-mile) route and a few of us were ready to tackle it. I usually hit my first century ride on Memorial Day weekend, but I was willing to give it a go a few weeks early this year.

The day was looking to be a beauty. The skies were azure blue with a few white, puffy clouds. The weather was slightly cool but would warm up nicely without being too hot at all. Our group of seven—myself, Kristin, Tenille, Warren, Jim, Brenda, and Dale—arrived in two carpools, checked in, geared up, and hit the road. The winds near the Skagit Regional Airport were strong but our spirits were high. I glanced down at my cyclometer and noticed Kristin and I were going at a good clip. This was gonna be a good day!

We worked our way over the first 12 miles or so in the Skagit flats until we reached the base of Chuckanut Drive. Chuckanut is one of the most scenic drives in Western Washington, in my opinion. It flanks Bellingham Bay overlooks Lummi Island to the west with tall conifers along the roadway and steep rocky cliffs. We sailed uphill and rocketed downhill until we reached the first rest stop. Ah! Cookies! Here's an excerpt from SSC's website: "The Skagit Spring Classic is often referred to as the cookie ride, and for good reason. We bake thousands of cookies. Cookies of all types, Oatmeal raisin, chocolate chip, butterscotch chip, brownies, snicker doodles; the list goes on and on. It is our intent for you to leave our ride having consumed more calories than you burned." My friend, Rob, had asked me what my MPC (Miles per Cookie) was. By the end of this ride, I think I calculated it to be about 8.

After gorging on a few too many homemade cookies, taking a group photo overlooking Bellingham Bay, and refilling the water bottles, we remounted our bikes and dropped into Whatcom County and began turning east. Our route now took us along Lake Samish paralleling Interstate 5. The scenery was still amazing with crystalline blue waters and verdant green mountains. We made quick work of the miles and eventually hit our second rest stop at mile 38 at Donovan State Park.

Tenille describes what happened next: "Donovan was a tad crowded, and had a line for the restrooms that incontinently covered up the pavement markings saying "century riders THIS WAY" with an arrow pointing towards a small incline. That small mix up would cost us an extra six miles- an expensive six miles, too- being that we climbed the steepest hill before realizing our mistake." We turned out of the state park and had already climbed Bow Hill Road before we realized our mistake.

But before I turn you around, let me tell you about Bow Hill Road, which is probably the hardest hill of the ride and the home of Satan. That's right. The devil lives on this hill. As we climbed Bow Hill, a figure dressed in red and black carrying a... pitchfork? Yep, that's a pitchfork, was standing in the middle of the road, shouting at the riders and poking them with her implement of torture. Did I say "her"? Yes, I did. When I got up to Satan and could hear his voice, I realized it was a woman dressed up in this devilish garb. She was encouraging the riders, playfully whacking them on the back with her trident, and keeping them moving uphill. A few miles later, we were talking about this devil and Tenille said, "Y'know, she told me I was doing a good job!" I replied, "Tenille, if you're getting your 'attaboys' from Satan, you REALLY need to spend more time with Jesus!"

Warren and I both decided the proper response was to quote Jesus in Matthew 16:23, "Get behind me, Satan!" and we added, "And PUSH!"

After realizing our map-fail, we returned to Donovan State Park which added an additional six miles and found our correct route for the 100-mile riders. This section of the route was all new to me and I loved it. We passed by Cain Lake, Reed Lake, and then the gorgeous Lake Whatcom. Somewhere on the shore of this lake in 1990, I was baptized during college. Special memories for me. A park that we passed had a reader board sign that read, "Slow Down, Breathe Deep, Relax, Smile and Enjoy Each Day." A fitting reminder for a day like today. I had only one critique: "Slow Down, Breathe Deep..." The sign was located right next to a honeybucket portable toilet. Not a place I want to slow down and breathe deep.

As we turned south, we got on Highway 9 and enjoyed the smooth road. So much of what we had been riding on all day is known as "chip seal." It's a layer of asphalt or tar with a layer of gravel with a layer of tar and another layer of gravel. It's a cheap way to build a road and very common in rural communities. For cyclists, it's the bane of our existence. It makes for a jarring cycling experience. The only upside, as Kristin noted, is your triceps get a good workout.

Our third rest stop was now in view. I could tell we were at the back of the bus since the rest stop was sparsely populated this late in the afternoon. No problem for us. We had no appointments to make. Just roads to ride. The best part of this rest stop was when one of the volunteers pulled out a tupperware container and remarked, "Well, we always save the best stuff for last." His treasure he was sharing with us: Nanaimo Bars. This Canadian bar cookie is divine. It's chocolatey, rich, and I could have eaten four of them. I stopped at one. I still had some miles ahead of me. But, that Nanaimo bar gave me the fuel I needed for the remaining 30+ miles.

We now looped towards Sedro-Woolley and hit another big hill along Gripp Road. The climbing was steep, but the hill was short. I said to Kristin, "That hill has nothing on Cayuse Pass, huh?" Cayuse Pass is in Mount Rainier National Park and is one of the longest, hardest climbs I've done. Once you've got "impossible" under your belt, "hard" doesn't really register anymore.

At about mile 80 or so, I decided I needed some distraction to get through these remaining miles. iPod to the rescue. I turned on my iPhone speakers and played some of the same tunes that got me across the U.S. last summer on my cross-country tour. This was my first century since completing my cross-country challenge and a lot of memories were coming back. At this point specifically, memories of a tired, sore butt. Legs, feet, and ankles were all doing fine. But my backside was voicing it's disapproval.

Now we were back at Donovan State Park for the second time and ready to take the Bow Hill route that we errantly took earlier in the day. It seems Satan had gone home for the day. But the hill hadn't gotten any easier. Now we just had roughly a dozen or so miles ahead of us. We navigated the flat roads west of Burlington and along Bayview and Edison. I was feeling the effects of six and half hours on the bike and ready to reach our finish line and feast on the spaghetti dinner promised to us. My only worry was that the sign at registration said the dinner closed at 4:30 p.m. We were fast approaching that time. I called Warren and got word back that they'd be serving spaghetti until 5:00 p.m. We'd make it. But barely.

The remaining miles clicked by. I was riding with Tenille and I could tell she was nearly cooked, but we battled through those final turns and then reached the school where our fellow riders and our beloved spaghetti were waiting. My first century of 2010 was in the bag. And with our bonus miles, we had extended this ride to a rowdy 109 miles. I was done, but grateful for a beautiful day, the health to ride through it all, and great friends to experience it all with.

Oh, and a whole lot of cookies to eat along the way!

Riders: Bob H., Kristin, Warren, Jim, Tenille, Brenda, Dale
Distance: 109.02
Time: 6:58:51
Avg: 15.5
Max: 38.0

More photos are here.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Riding the Interurban

The Interurban Trail is a rail trail in Snohomish County. It is a hard-surfaced, non-motorized trail located on the Pacific Northwest Traction right-of-way, a route used until 1939 by the Interurban Railroad between Seattle and Bellingham. The trail in Snohomish County runs over 16 miles (26 km). In 1910, The Seattle-Everett Interurban Railway began electric passenger service. After the railway was abandoned in 1939, it was converted to a power line corridor. In the 1990s, the right-of-way was opened to pedestrian and bicycle traffic. Today, we were that bicycle traffic and our route covered most of it.

We left Eastside Foursquare Church and headed through Kenmore where another ride group three times our size merged with us. We followed them through Briar until we had to stop to regroup and reconnect with David who had pulled a sanican quickstop a mile or two back. Once regrouped, we rode into Lynnwood and found the Interurban Trail access point paralleling I-5.

Marlene had never ridden the Interurban and was pleasantly surprised when she realized where we were, "Hey, this is Lynnwood, isn't it?" Probably exactly what the original explorers said when they settled this area years ago. We rode north along the Interurban through Martha Lake and South Everett. We had to search for awhile to locate the access to the new I-5 pedestrian bridge. After spinning through a nearby neighborhood searching high and low, we found the trail entrance right on the I-5 on ramp, with a partition between us and the freeway. We crossed I-5 and continued north into Everett.

As we pedaled along the trail through Everett, our ride became a bit of a scavenger hunt. Locating the next Interurban Trail sign became the game. Some were hidden behind parked trucks. Others were on opposite sides of the street or at odd angles. But we found them all and made our way to the northern terminus of the trail.

We turned west just as the sprinkles began to turn to light rain and rode along Possession Sound on W. Mukilteo Blvd. The ride along the waterfront provided peek-a-boo views of Everett and the Whidbey Island as we swept up short climbs and fun downhills. Our destination was drawing closer, but first, we had to stop for the requisite group photo at Harborview Park. The gray sky overhead didn't damper our enthusiasm. But I was grateful we weren't standing in the rain for our photo.

Just a few miles more and we reached Red Cup Café. This café is warm and inviting with zany artwork, sculpture and photos all around. The food and beverages hit the spot. My half sandwich was exactly what I needed. When Warren ordered the "Orcas" sandwich, David was sure he had said "Oinkin'" and assumed it was a fairly large sandwich—appropriate for Warren. We laughed until David sat down with a cinnamon roll as big as his head. Who's the oinker now?

We enjoyed our coffee, baked goods, and sandwiches—as well as a warm place to dry out—almost as much as our animated conversation. Then we took to the rode and routed our return trip. We rode along a different route through Mukilteo past light industrial areas and even StockPot Soups.

When we crossed back over I-5, I took the group over to McCollum Park and then we followed the Mill Creek North Creek Trail. The ten foot wide hard surface trail is approximately 2.5 miles long running between McCollum County Park and 164th St. SE. But we called it our "Wonderland Trail." It sweeps up and down and around corners all in a wooded setting behind apartments and homes. We encountered a road hazard when a downed tree gave us the option of either bunny-hopping over or stopping and carrying the bike over. No one bunny-hopped, but we all wished we could.

We exited the trail at Mill Creek Town Center and then continued south on Bothell-Everett Highway until we reached Bothell. Even with a bit of light rain, this ride proved once again to be a day of great regional trails, hidden surprises, great fellowship, and—of course—good coffee. And a lot of it on the Interurban.

More photos here.

Riders: Bob, Jim, Marlene, Warren, Don, David
Distance: 51.15
Time: 3:53:44
Avg: 13.2
Max: 30.7

Friday, April 16, 2010

Riding Past the Restaurants

Our midweek ride tonight took the seven of us along more of the 7 Hills of Kirkland route up to Kingsgate. The evening was pleasant and the conversation was likewise. As we turned into the Kingsgate neighborhood, we passed Pizza Bank. The aroma of freshly baked pizza and pasta wafted through the evening air. Everyone of us groaned slightly as we imagined pulling into the parking lot, ditching our ride, and carbo-loading on a family-size with Italian sausage, pepperoni, and extra cheese. Tenille explained she hadn't yet had dinner and this was killing her.

We rode through the neighborhoods, passed quiet homes, and then dropped down Brickyard Road—a screaming descent that thrilled everyone. At the bottom, we headed into downtown Bothell along Main Street. I realized this might be torturous for Tenille. We passed Pen Thai Restaurant and all the exotic smells hit us as we rode by. We turned another corner and passed The Ranch Drive-In where burgers and dogs greeted us. Tenille was in agony now.

The agony would continue, but it would be a different kind. I warned our group that we were headed for a hard hill—the route up to Bothell High School. The long challenge was capably met by all six riders. Now we could enjoy a flat section and another downhill as we pointed our bikes to Kenmore. I thought we were well past the evening restaurant smells. But then we passed a home with... a backyard barbecue! The grill beckoned to us and everyone moaned out again. Cries of mercy came from Tenille.

One last hill for the evening. We climbed up Norway Hill. The view of the setting sun at the top was a sweet reward for the hard climb. We gathered around the Norway Hill sign for a quick pic and then we rocketed down the backside and turned back into Eastside Foursquare Church. Our ride was complete, but I suspect that at least one of us was making a beeline for dinner.

Riders: Bob, Tenille, Jim, Mike, Randy, Glenn, Don
Dist: 17.69
Time: 1:25:19
Max: 41.
Avg: 12.4

Saturday, April 10, 2010

They Don't Miss Turns on the Paris-Roubaix

Today's ride is our own version of the professional cycling spring classic race Paris-Roubaix. It's one of cycling's oldest one-day races and it's noted foremost for it's rough sections of cobblestones, or "pavé", that give the riders a bone-jarring, teeth-chattering ride. Coupled with unpredictable springtime weather that produces rain, sleet, mud—this race becomes one of the most hazardous replete with crashes and pile-ups. All of which has earned it the nickname "The Hell of the North" and the "Queen of the Classics."

To honor this ride, we rode our own version on one mile of red brick highway, the Red Brick Road, in Redmond. This historical road contains the longest stretch of exposed historic red brick highway in King County. To reach this one-mile stretch, we left Eastside Foursquare Church and headed out to Woodinville and then south to downtown Redmond. We turned east and climbed Union Hill. The climb is steep and long, but scenic with tall evergreens on either side of the roadway.

Our group of seven was currently being led out by Johnny and Mark. I was doing my best to lead the ride from third place. Johnny and Mark are both strong riders so I wasn't surprised that they wanted to stretch out their legs and put the hammer down. Mark is an experienced triathlete and Johnny is just an all-around "like to go fast" kind of road rider. As we pressed further east along Union Hill Road, they both made the right choice to stop at intersections and allow our gang to regroup.

On one of the earlier regroupings, I called back to Marlene who was riding with us for the first time. "How's the pace?" I asked her. She gave me a thumbs-up and called back, "Great!" "Would you tell me if it wasn't?" I asked. She smiled. So our pace was good and those in the back weren't too spread out. Mark, Johnny, and I realized the advantage to riding fast and then stopping to regroup gave us more time to catch our breath and chat at the stop sign while we waited for the others.

At NE Ames Lake Rd., I turned to our group and gave them our next two turns. We'd be turning right onto Route 202-Redmond Fall City Rd. and then they had to keep an eye out for 196th Ave. NE where we would turn right again and be on the Red Brick Road. Mark looked back and said something to the effect of, "That's why I'm here, to ride the Red Brick Road! I'm following you!" A sense of doubt crept over me. He hadn't followed anyone this morning. But, fair warning was given. They knew where to turn if they got out in front again. And that's where Mark and Johnny went—out in front.

We turned onto Rt. 202 and Mark asked me if this road led straight to 196th. I assured him it did. He took off. Johnny followed suit. By the time I reached 196th Ave. NE and stopped, I could see them about a quarter mile ahead in the distance. They had missed the turn. I shook my head. Not in disbelief, but in quiet acceptance of a fact I've come to respect—"If you're in front, you better know where you're going." As the rest of the group soon joined me, I explained that our fast riders had missed the turn. I called Johnny's cell phone and left him a message. Then I shared with the rest of the riders my homily, "If you're riding in the front, you better know where you're going. We've seen this before, haven't we?" And then the litany of cyclists that have made similar bad calls rolled off our lips—Bob T., Warren, Cary. Someone added, "Yeah, but Cary would turn around, come back and say 'Hey guys, what's going on?!' "

The five of us who remained turned down the Red Brick Road and enjoyed the rapid bump-bump-bump of the cobbled pavement. Marlene and David J. both admitted that the bricks really could shake up your bladder. Nearby restroom, anyone? About halfway down the bricks, my cell rang. It was Johnny. "How's the Red Brick Road?", he sheepishly asked. "Where are you guys?!" They were already at our coffee stop in downtown Redmond, Peet's Coffee & Tea. I busted him a little for missing the turn but it sounded like he was just following Mark. I told them we'd join them in a few minutes. We concluded our red brick bumpy ride and headed into Redmond. We found Peet's Coffee and spotted Mark and Johnny reclining in chairs outside the front entrance with coffee already in hand.

I pulled up to Mark and chuckled. "You're a great leader. Just gotta work on following!" I handed him my camera so he could see photos of all he had missed while I went inside and got my coffee and pastry. Interesting side note about Peet's. They can't warm your pastries. That's right. No microwaves or toasters on the premises. The guy behind the counter explained that this required an additional food service permit. You've got to be kidding. When David and I were chatting about this later, he commented on a book he recently read called Outstanding: 47 Ways to Make Your Organization Exceptional. Apparently, not being able to microwave pastries violates about 23 of those ways.

After our coffee, baked goods, and conversation was concluded, we headed back to EFC. Our route along the Sammamish River Trail was busy for an early spring Saturday. In fact, I was amazed to see not just one or two, but no less than five Cascade Bicycle Club group rides each with at least 40 cyclists. Everyone was out today. What had started as a cold morning was now turning into a warm afternoon. It was a refreshing alternative to the wet and muddy Paris-Roubaix. But to its credit, on that ride no one misses their turns...

Riders: Bob, Mike, Johnny, Mark, Marlene, David J., David Z.
Dist: 42.0

More photos here.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Tonight, we began our midweek rides. Tenille, Randy, and Glenn showed up. Randy is a longtime friend of mine and new to cycling this year. I was excited to finally get to ride with RL. He brought along his co-worker and friend, Glenn. The rain had finally abated, and the only wet was going to come from the road spray. Otherwise, I was calling this a dry ride. We set out to do 16 miles along the Seven Hills of Kirkland. We warmed up on the Juanita Drive Hill and then enjoyed the sweet descent down Holmes Point Drive.

As we reached the bottom, I turned back to Randy and asked him if he enjoyed that downhill. It was the fastest he'd ever ridden. I was pleased for him. But then I shared the bad news. I said, "In the parlance of Financial Peace University, you now have an 'elevation debt' and as you know, you have to pay off your debt." In other words, we had a serious hill ahead of us to climb. But I let Randy know he was fully permitted, once he reached the summit, to shout at the top of his lungs, "I'M HILL FREEEEEE!"

Glenn jokingly shouted back, "Hey, I didn't know there were going to be hills on this ride!" I replied, "Glenn, when I said we're going to do a portion of the 'Seven Hills of Kirkland', that might have been an indicator to you that there were going to be hills on this ride!"

We pressed on, climbed and climbed. I chatted with Tenille for a bit as we chugged upwards. (I learned later from Randy that my casual talking while his chest is heaving to get air into his lungs is somewhat discouraging. So sorry, friend!) At the top of the hill, Randy let it out right on cue...


Saturday, April 3, 2010

It's All About the Coffee Shop

My theme for 2010's cycling club rides is, in a word, coffee. Specifically, coffee shops. A few riders are on to me. They've noticed my trend. That's alright by me. You have to have a goal for the end of the ride. A reward. Something to look forward to. So, this year, it's all about the coffee shop.

Today's ride was actually led by Kristin. Although, I helped her determine the route and I selected the coffee shop. But, I made sure she was out in front (which isn't hard to do as she likes to ride in front... hard-core roadie that she is.) We left Eastside Foursquare Church and headed on the Samammish River Trail into Woodinville past the wineries and then continued south on Rt. 202 to English Hill. The nice climb up and over English Hill warmed us up on this unseasonably cold Spring day. The temperature never climbed above 45 degrees today.

Once over English Hill, we continued west on NE 133rd St. and turned north on 232nd Ave NE. This route is a familiar one we use to get to Duvall. It avoids some of the higher traffic roads and is a more secluded route with stately homes mixed in with older ramblers on heavily treed lots and a road with plenty of rollers. The route Ts with NE Old Woodinville Duvall Rd. which is a nice decent into the Snoqualmie River Valley.

We rode into Duvall and stopped at a corner where we encountered a dozen or more members of the ByrneInvent Cycling Team. They were relaxing on their bikes waiting on a couple other riders. They took off about the same time we did. I knew it would be wiser to follow them rather than try to leave before them and watch 18 cyclists pass me in the first half mile. We began our loop around Cherry Valley Rd. and at the bottom of the first hill, I was surprised to see the ByrneInvent team stopped on the shoulder. Flat. One team member had flatted and now everyone had pulled aside to wait on him. I resisted the temptation to shout out to them something like, "Hey guys, a little early for another rest stop, huh?" I knew I wouldn't be able to outrun any of them if they gave chase to beat on me...

Our loop around Cherry Valley included a regroup stop at Valley Foursquare Church as they were getting ready for Easter services. This church is of interest to me because they are one of my graphic design clients. The two A-boards we passed as well as the signage outside the church were designed and printed by me. Fun to see my work while out on the road. If you're looking for a good church out in Duvall, check them out.

After our loop, we descended down Stillwater Hill and turned north on Rt. 203 back into downtown Duvall. It was at this moment that I began to really look forward to the upcoming coffee stop. I even began fantasizing about my pastry of choice. Despite making better food choices these days, I knew I wasn't going to be able to resist the urge... A P P L E F R I T T E R. I could hear it calling. I nicknamed it the Gut Bomb. And as we pulled into Tressa's Bakery, dismounted our bikes and walked into the warm and cozy café, I saw the object of my desire. One left. I'll take it. Plus a white chocolate mocha. (Adding up calories burned minus calories about to be consumed... I might just break even.) After cycling nearly 40 miles in temperatures of about the same number, we needed this warm-up. It felt good to kick back, relax, converse with friends, and enjoy the ambience. Until we all noticed the CD playing in the background was skipping. Kristin kindly informed our barista and she took care of it. Didn't need that song skipping in my head for the remaining 20 miles.

Our return route to Bothell was direct and uneventful. No it wasn't. As we climbed back up NE Woodinville Duvall Road, a woman in an SUV pulled alongside of me with her passenger window down. "Excuse me sir! One of your riders in the back has fallen over!" Fallen over? She made him sound like he was a fence post. I turned around to check on David, our recumbent rider who was in the back. When I found him, he was fully upright, but smiling sheepishly. Apparently, his rear wheel had caught the road edge and he tumbled. Nothing hurt but his pride. We pressed on, back into Woodinville and toward an old standby, Norway Hill.

Norway Hill is like the exclamation mark to many of our rides. If you just didn't get enough climbing in, tack on Norway. It's a hard, steep hill that ends a block from Eastside Foursquare. I used to resist it, but not today. I am powered by Apple Fritter. I am fueled by white mocha. I have calories to burn. See, there's a reason why it's always all about the coffee shop.

Riders: Kristin, Bob, David, Jim
Distance: 49.52
Time: 3:47:25
Average: 13.0
Max: 32.0

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Put on Your Big Girl Pants

Our Saturday morning club rides begin with a short devotional and prayer. This morning I began a short discussion around a book I'm currently reading, Shut Up, Stop Whining, and Get a Life by Larry Winget. The author isn't a Christian, that I'm aware of, and his perspective isn't exactly from a Christian worldview, but his premise was worthy of discussion. I asked, "How do we as Christians love others and offer compassion but don't enable someone to keep making bad decisions. How how do we love people but still are able to get in their face and say "shut up, stop whining, get a life"?" We talked a bit about Ephesians 4:15, "Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ." Kristin summed it up well when she added, "Sometimes you've got to say to someone, "Put on your big girl pants and deal with it!" That would prove to be good advice for the ride ahead...

We headed south to Juanita where we were met by our first adversary: a flat. Two new riders, Neal and his son Tim, were joining us today and it was Tim's rear tire that flatted within the first five miles. I forgot to review that rule... No flats within the first five miles. Our team-approach to flat repair paid off and we were back on the road riding along Juanita Bay, up Market Street, and into Kirkland along the Lake Washington waterfront. The day was looking good.

We rode up our first sizable hill up into Clyde Hill and Yarrow Point. No whining yet. That's good.

Our route took us through Medina and Old Bellevue and then we turned right off Main Street and joined the Lake Washington Bike Trail. It starts with a HC Climb (that's French—"hors categorie," Tour de France lingo for "beyond category" which means really steep) that goes up, turns right, keeps going up, turns left, and keeps going up. The view of downtown Bellevue and Lake Washington is gorgeous, but you have to lift your head and look up. Most riders are focused on the tire in front of them and trying not to barf up a lung. The whining was beginning... where are your big girl pants?

At the top, we regrouped, caught our collective breath, then enjoyed a great descent, some easier ups and downs, and racing through the neighborhood of Beaux Arts. The trees and shade make this section of the ride truly beautiful and I can see why any family living here has so chosen. Neal mentioned to Tim that this would be a great ride for the middle of summer when it's 90 degrees. The shade definitely would cool you down.

We rode across the I-90 bridge, crossed onto Mercer Island, and then followed Kristin as she led us through Covenant Shores and around to the northwestern corner of the island. We took the counter-clockwise route around the island and noticed very quickly that we not the only ones on the island today. Dozens of other cyclists were out today. Training groups, pairs of friends, other cycling clubs, racing clubs riding in formation—they were all out today. The weather was still filtered sun but not too warm. We rolled around the island enjoying the twists and turns, the slight rises, and short descents, until we reached the northeast corner of the island where I-90 crosses. Our goal was to hit a Starbucks or Tully's for coffee. The only problem was that since we had started on the west side of the island, we now had another long hill between us and the downtown shops. No matter. I brought the right kind of pants... Big Girl Pants. Let's bring it.

So up we went. This hill was harder than the first two. By a factor of three at least. I tried hard not to remind myself that this was Kristin's idea. We even gave everyone a vote... Hill or no hill? I think Neal—who voted for the hill—was shocked at what he had elected to ride up. But we made it up. We had an easy downhill into town and then promptly found the Tully's where an iced latte, some coffee cake, and chair in the sunshine made the effort worthwhile.

John had dropped back a bit when we coming around the island so Warren had gone back to retrieve him and make sure he found his way to Tully's. First, I think Warren was glad that after all these years of riding, the tables had turned. We used to say, "Who's gonna wait for Warren?" Now, Warren is doing the waiting—and fetching. When he got John to the base of the big hill, my phone rang. They were looking for an alternate route. I couldn't blame them. So I provided a longer but flatter way and they soon joined us at Tully's. John had already phoned his wife and asked her to "do him a solid" and pick him up at the Tully's. She agreed. I wondered what her fee would be.

After leaving Tully's and saying farewell to John, we headed back through downtown Bellevue—hitting every street light we could, because that's what you do in downtown Bellevue. At the light at 112th and NE 8th, I glanced to my left and saw the window signage at the David Barton Gym. Their slogan, "Look Better Naked." Hmmm. Perhaps. But after today's ride, I think we all look best when we put on our "big girl pants."

More photos here.

Riders: Bob, Jim, Brenda, Kristin, John, Warren, David, Neal, and Tim
Distance: 45.26
Time: 3:10:57
Avg: 13.8
Max: 40.2

Saturday, March 13, 2010

To the Bike Expo: German Acrobatic Cyclists, Hasidic Jews, and IC3

It was a cold morning on our way to Bike Expo. but the promise of more than 300 exhibits of bikes, gear, travel, health and fitness plus three stages of speakers and performers kept us moving. Our route along the Burke-Gilman Bike Trail into Seattle wasn't too eventful until we passed Matthews Beach Park and I passed three pedestrians that were dressed a bit peculiarly. As I neared them I realized it was an Hasidic Jewish couple and their daughter. The tell-tale black broad-brimmed hat, long coat, and untrimmed beard gave him away. I wondered if we had cycled too far and were now in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

We rode on into Fremont, crossing the Fremont Bridge and into Seattle via Dexter Avenue. I had not ridden along Dexter before and recognized some familiar businesses like KING TV's broadcasting studios and a few radio networks. After missing a turn, we rode a bit deeper into downtown than we needed, but retraced our path back into Belltown and then westward to the Olympic Sculpture Park and then along the Elliott Bay Trail that would take us to Cruise Terminal 91.

The view across Elliott Bay was stunning as the sun began to emerge from the clouds and warm up our late morning. Cascade Bicycle Club was routing us around some commercial property that borders the Cruise Terminal so our route to Expo for the final mile or two wasn't as direct as we had hoped. We turned onto the pier and passed other cyclists, pedestrians, and buses. And two kids on unicycles.

After entering Expo, we could tell we wouldn't be disappointed. Two floors of exhibits with booth after booth with cycling gear, organized ride info, cycling tour operators, food distributors, and so much more. My first stop was at the International Christian Cycling Club booth where Mike Leaman and Jay Bonner were greeting attendees and giving away Hammer Nutrition samples. They were getting plenty of visitors on this busy Saturday morning and early afternoon. The place was a zoo. I was glad I brought my backpack. I filled it with cycling grub samples, fliers for upcoming rides, and free cycling magazines being handed out. It also limited me to not buying anything more than what I could fit INSIDE the backpack!

After making my rounds upstairs, I headed downstairs to make sure I didn't miss the German Artistic Cyclists, Corrina Hein, Stefan Musu and Lukas Matla. These three cyclists were absolutely stunning to watch. The video at the top of this blog shows some of the amazing tricks this athletes are able to do with a bike. Needless to say, I did NOT attempt any of these moves on the way home.

On our way home, we headed north toward Discovery Park but turned to take one of my favorite hidden bike routes—a walking bridge that crosses the Burlington Northern RR and connects W. Government Way to W. Commodore Way. When you exit, you are south of the Ballard Locks. We walked through the Locks, remounted our bikes, and returned back to Eastside Foursquare Church along the Burke-Gilman Trail once more. It was a day of sights, tastes, and tricks... and plenty of miles.

More photos here.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

First Club Ride of the Year!

This was gonna be a great day of riding. I could tell when I pulled into the parking lot and already could see a half dozen cyclists getting ready. The first weekend of March marks our first Eastside Foursquare Church Cycling Club ride. This date in the past two years has been cold, wet, and miserable. Today the temps would break 60F and be almost balmy. I wasn't alone in my excitement. By the time our ride would begin, we would have 13 in our group!

We descended Waynita Way and jumped on the Burke Gilman Trail riding into Kenmore, then turning north through Briar and Mill Creek. The sky was blue and the roads were dry, so it made for a fun and lively morning riding with friends I hadn't been on a bike with since the 2009 season ended in October. We were quick to catch up on all that's been going on and just enjoyed the morning to ride and relax. I commented at least once that this sure beats doing yard work!

Our route took us through neighborhoods, and parks, and along side roads that most cyclists in our group aren't familiar with. Our pace quickened as we reached our halfway point and began turning back south towards Woodinville and Bothell. Riding with a large group like we had this morning makes the conversations even more interesting. One rider drifts back while another comes up to the front of the pack and I get to start a new conversation. One of my favorite parts of riding with our EFC group is the conversations that are enjoyed while on a ride.

A few of us hammered hard as we rounded a corner in Maltby heading into Woodinville. Then we turned into Wellington Hills golf course and began the steep descent to Highway 9 that we like to call "The Plunge." You have to be sure your brakes are in good condition otherwise you'll be sailing right into the front doors of Costco.

Our final miles took us onto the Sammamish River Trail and into Bothell where we stopped for a post-ride latte and baked goods at The Lyon's Den. When we entered, I noticed there was a group of hearing impaired or deaf people chatting with each other. A couple of them were ordering ahead of us in line, writing their orders down on paper or on PDAs to hand to the counter staff. When I got to the front of the line, I said, "Now we go from the hearing impaired to the fashion impaired," referring to the colorful group of lycra-clad cyclists I was with.

Our coffee and conversation was a great conclusion to our first ride of the year. I'm already looking forward to next Saturday.

More photos here.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Not So Chilly, But Still Quite Hilly

As soon as I arrived at the Coleman Dock Ferry Terminal in downtown Seattle, I knew I should have been there earlier. The weather was forecast to be a perfect day for cycling—especially for a late February in Seattle—and that meant that this year's Chilly Hilly was very well attended. The registration table was crowded and a line emanated from the table for nearly fifty yards. I could see I would be in that line for a little while. I was given some peace by the announcer telling everyone over the P.A. that there was plenty of room on the 8:45 a.m. ferry. I would learn later that he was either lying or terribly misinformed.

Jim and David, two of the other riders I had planned to meet, had already crossed the street and were waiting in the queue area for the 8:45 a.m. ferry. I found Tenille who was still near the registration area. We crossed Alaskan Way and found the back of the crowd. The queue area was full and the ferry personnel were holding the remaining cyclists back. We weren't getting on the 8:45 ferry. We better get comfortable in this parking lot. We're gonna be here until 9:35. We waved goodbye to Jim and David as their ferry pulled out of the dock and began sailing to Bainbridge Island.

Eventually, we were able to board the ferry and begin our journey across Elliott Bay. The sky was slightly overcast, but the air was dry and only mildly cool. When we pulled into Bainbridge Island, the ferry was buzzing with energy. These cyclists were ready to ride! This was Tenille's first organized ride and she was no exception. I could tell she was getting excited.

The first 15 miles of Chilly Hilly give you some nice warm-up hills, but nothing too strenuous. Those hills are saved for the second half. I enjoyed the pace as we rode and chatted and enjoyed the views—both of the scenery around us and the crazy cyclists riding with us. A group of at least 25 riders were passing us with bright red plastic flags pinned to their clothing with a white skull and cross bones stenciled onto each flag. I surmised these were "cycling event bandits"—riders who did not pay the registration fee, but are riding the event anyway. At least they weren't hiding the fact. The pirate flags made that fairly obvious.

At the halfway stop, we pulled into the large park that was packed to the gills with cyclists of all kinds, booths with an assortment of food, and a few too little portable toilets. I made a beeline to the shortest line I could find and waited... As I wandered back through the crowd and the food vendors, I was puzzled once again—as I am every year—watching these cyclists buying footlong hot dogs loaded with chili. A meal suitable for the end of the ride, but something I would never eat mid-ride. I could only hope they would make it to the finish without cramping up and dying on the next hill.

And the next hill was soon to appear. As we turned the corner to Baker Hill Road, I glanced at Tenille to see the look of shock coming across her face. It's a long, slow climb, but one that can be knocked out if you've been cycling all winter like we had both been doing. It's such a pleasure to pass other riders on the hills. I made no attempt to hide my glee.

The remaining miles took us along the southern end of the island. We rode along the waterfront, enjoyed a few more good hills, passed two unicyclists, and stopped for photos with the city of Seattle in the background. The weather was warming up and the sky was becoming blue and sunny. I was thoroughly glad I had made the decision to ride today and missing the early ferry was no longer a big deal at all.

At the finish line, we could smell the hot bowls of chili waiting for us. We parked the bikes, headed indoors, and grabbed our steaming bowl, piece of cornbread, and beverage, and toasted to a great ride behind us and a full calendar of cycling ahead of us.

More photos here.