Wednesday, July 30, 2008

San Juan Island Tour, Day 3

Wednesday: I prepared for my ferry trip to Shaw Island today by going to Holly B's Bakery and getting a few treats, then to the market to get a sandwich. I ran into the couple from the Clipper and they were having to become cyclists to get around the island since there was no taxi or bus service and they didn't have a car. I couldn't tell if they were really liking all the biking they were doing but the guy seemed proud of his ability to climb hills. Strangely, on the ferry to Shaw, there were a lot of other bikes. I had thought I would be the only cyclist on the island that day since they don't get many visitors due to the fact that there's not much on the island other than some houses, a couple of orders of nuns and a grocery store at the ferry dock.
I set off from the ferry dock and was sure I was in some fabled bicycle paradise.

Only 2 cars had offloaded from the ferry and they were long gone, since I had drunk a ginger ale at the store and lollygagged while the other cyclists departed. I just missed photoing a great heron in a bay at low tide. Riding toward the Shaw Island State Park, I saw a woman walking on the road and realized that she was a nun, noting her blue habit and headdress. Up the road, another nun was walking her bicycle up a slight rise and, while I was passing her, mounted the bicycle and started to ride. I regret not taking her picture but she seemed very self-conscious.

Realizing, I could easily ride around the
island and have way too much time on my hands before the next ferry, I decided to explore more than just the standard loop. I rode down to Neck Point and stopped to take pictures, while guarding myself against the strong winds. I saw a sailboat that looked like the Adventuress, a boat I have sailed on. We had also seen it from the Clipper and the captain had pointed it out.

At the ferry dock later that afternoon, I saw the group of cyclists I had seen earlier in the day and talked with them. They were a church group from Medford, Oregon traveling around the islands and doing a lot of the kind of stuff I was doing, except with bibles. Later, when I returned to Spencer Spit for my evening read, there was a group of church-goers singing and drumming about some Mexican dude named Jesus.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

San Juan Island Tour, Day 2

Tuesday: the weather forecast for the San Juans had been a 40% chance of rain Tuesday in the day and at night but I heard rain on my tent Monday night and awoke to steady rain. I thought these islands were in the rainshadow! OK, no problem, I would read a book for the first time in many months until the rain let up (I entertained a Princess Variation but check-in time typically isn't until 3pm). Then I hopped on the Surly and rode into town with my shampoo, soap and towel. Yes, it was shower day; one public shower on the whole island for all of the campers to use. It seems ironic now that I am writing about it- I waited for the showers to stop so I could go take a shower.

My favorite ride route on Lopez Island was the one from Spencer Spit to Lopez Village. It rolled gently down along a working farm, worked by oxen.

A left turn went by the sign for the farmstand that seemed to always be open. At the sign for the u-pick berry farm, I turned right to Hummel Lake Road which curved to the right and left and it always felt like I was riding downhill, no matter the direction I was traveling. There were reed grasses along the lake where birds hid and lily pads on the lake itself, making it a good place to fish. The hills on this route were small and required minimal energy and
attention, leaving me more energy to focus on whatever it was I was going into town for.

I showered and, feeling very refreshed, felt it was a good time to be around other people so I did some food shopping. It started to rain again so I ducked into a cafe and managed to make a 16oz mocha last for nearly an hour. One thing to note: the island ways were starting to seep into my system and I no longer used a lock for my bicycle since no one else did and I didn't want to possibly offend anyone with my uptight city ways. When I came out of the cafe, I thought it was possible that my Surly could have become disgusted with me and taken off, having been out in the rain all that time, but there she was, saying, "let's go!" and off we went toward Shark Reef Sanctuary.
I caught myself smiling out loud, to nothing in particular, while on the way to the park. I had taken an unsigned road with the attitude that at least it was a nice road and who cared if it was the right one. I still wasn't sure if it was the "right" one but I was thoroughly enjoying it. Quiet, of course, and with some views, lots of flowers and it meandered and rolled just like the perfect bicycle road should.
And it turned out to be the backroad route to the Sanctuary. I hiked out to the point where there were lots of seals loafing and swimming by the rocks offshore.

At my return to my camp area, I grabbed my thermarest chair and my book and headed down to the spit area by a marsh, to read and relax while the sun began to set. I felt like I was really on vacation.

Monday, July 28, 2008

San Juan Islands Bike Tour, Day 1

Timing is everything

Monday: I made it down to the Clipper in time to wait in line, just like at the airport. My bike was charged $10 round trip, half the fare that I was quoted on the website so I figured I was ahead of the game. The guy who came to take my bike to the boat put me at ease by telling me that he had a Bianchi Volpe and he would take good care of my bike. Then he gave me the advice of wiping down the frame at my destination because there would be salt residue from the inevitable spray. Oh, yeah, I would have never thought of that.

Our arrival in Friday Harbor was within 10 minutes of the WA State Ferry’s departure to Lopez Island, my basecamp for the next few days. There was a couple on board who were also planning on making the ferry and I figured they would, since they only had their backpacks. I claimed my panniers, loaded up and rolled over to the ferry dock, just in time to see them closing up the stern of the boat and preparing to depart. The ferry worker saw me and said, “sorry, timing is everything”. I turned to head toward town and saw the couple coming toward me. They had squandered their precious minutes on a bathroom stop and now we all had 3 hours before the next boat. I thought about eating lunch but wondered what to do with my bike so I set off toward Roche Harbor.

Oh, yeah, there are hills on this island. I hadn’t ridden up much of a hill with my bike loaded down yet so it was a bit of a shock. Plus, I was used to riding a fast, light road bike up and down mountains but this was a touring bike, made of steel, built tough andburly (the burly Surly). I had to change my attitude and my outlook so as not to get frustrated with going slower. I stopped to take pictures, wandered down unmarked roads, made detours, stopped to smell roses. San Juan Island, in an attempt to be bike-friendly, has created cyclist rest areas and the photo below shows my bike enjoying a well-deserved rest. Wow, how the time has flown! I had started out with three hours to squander and wondered what I would do and then realized that I had better get myself back to the ferry before I missed another one. No time for lunch; maybe I can get a snack on the ferry.

The ferry was the slow boat, taking 1.5 hours to get to Lopez and stopping at Orcas and Shaw first. We had to yield twice to another ferry coming from Anacortes so that increased the time. To make things more interesting, the snack bar was closed so I was at least grateful for the yogurt I had stashed from the Clipper cruise (and was now warm so I could drink it- darn, where was my spoon?). Off the boat at Lopez, I made a good run at the hill and did just fine, starting to get the hang of this loaded-down bike thing. I was relieved to turn off to Port Stanley Rd and get away from the traffic- yes, all 10 cars or so, this is a Monday on Lopez Island. Lovely road along the water, up and down smallish hills, signs pointing me to Spencer Spit State Park, cars waving to me (and not just because I was wearing a skirt) and I was feeling good. I made my way down toward the beach camping area because those are the non-reservable biker/hiker sites and I was figuring they would be available. And when I say down, I mean I was walking on a steep trail, using all my strength to control the bike from running away from me and crashing. Once I made it down to the flat area, I passed one site that was occupied, then saw, crushingly, that every beach site was taken. Funny, those are awfully big tents to be carrying around in panniers. Well, must find a spot somewhere and then get some food. So up the hill I went, using every muscle and burning who knows what for energy for those actions. Was I powering myself with a Clif bar and a yogurt? I guess my body was digging deep into its reserves; I was suddenly very grateful for the gourmet meal I had eaten after the Seattle Century on Sunday. After a little map-reading, I found a separate camping section of the Park where cars were not allowed. They are down a lane off the main car camping area and the sign states, “State Park vehicles only”. There were 6 sites, all wooded, lots of privacy, so I grabbed one and then headed to town.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Better Half of the Seattle Century

As this weekend was deemed "volunteer weekend" by me, I dutifully arose at 4:15 am to help with set-up and registration at the start of the Seattle Century. I had conned Annie into doing the same and she had suggested that we do the ride afterward since our involvement included free entry and there was going to be a rest stop every 12 miles. We agreed on a "tra-la-la" ride, hitting 2 of the food stops. 

After completing our assigned tasks of checking people in and giving out numbers and assembling the goodie bags (2 beers, coffee and smoked salmon), we were ready to do some riding. However, the first 20 or so miles were on the trails and it had been raining so we weren't too excited about getting wet on a boring, flat trail. We agreed to hop in my car and drive out to Marymoor and we planned on meeting another volunteer, Sam, there to ride with him. We just happened to park in the same lot where the food stop was set up and, since we wanted to look like bona fide riders, we first changed into our cycling clothes. We also had ride numbers: I had selected 99 for Annie (as in Agent 99) and 86 for myself because I felt I was going to be 86d after being awakened so early.

Sam arrived in about 5 minutes and we took off together. I was in front and knew the route went up Novelty Hill so I got us over there, though I never saw a ride marking until we were on Novelty so I guess I was just on auto-pilot from my many previous rides in that area, including Goosebumps. At one point, Sam remarked to me, "I see your goosebumps" and I wondered if I was now a marked woman for having participated in a particular ride so regularly but then I realized he was referring to the fact that I was looking cold with my arms exposed. He stopped and gave me his arm warmers to wear and we were off again.

Up hills and down hills and a lot looked familiar and there were other markings from the 7 Hills of Kirkland and Flying Wheels rides and Annie and I kept having flashbacks of this or that thing that happened at this or that point on each of the previous rides that we'd been on. Food stop in Duvall with sandwich makings, then off on the lovely Cherry Valley and an interesting variation to avoid the closed Kelly Rd. We headed down the valley to Carnation and a pie stop near Remlinger Farms which was so perfect and the best thing about the ride so far. We parted ways with Sam at this point since he was an honorable man and was doing the full 100 mile ride and we were shortcutting back to our car in Redmond. We headed up what is called by some the Seven Steps to Hell, otherwise known as Union Hill Rd. I really like the climb because it is in steps and you never have to work too hard before another rest comes. Plus, it is a beautiful wooded road without a lot of traffic. 

We made it back to Marymoor Park with about 44 miles total. You can see our route here. We drove back to Seattle without traffic and back to Annie's car at the official finish. Annie headed home but I knew that my volunteer gig entitled me to one more treat: a post-ride gourmet meal. I enjoyed a mixed salad with macadamia nuts and cranberries, sauteed asparagus, pasta and barbequed salmon. A string quartet played in the background and beer was flowing freely in the beer garden. A pretty nice little "tra-la-la".

Friday, July 25, 2008

A Night at the Races

Friday, July 25
FSA Grand Prix at Marymoor Velodrome

All the photos I have from watching track racing last night are somewhat blurred, due mostly to the fact that the "sports action" setting on my camera is set for soccer or running and has no idea how fast a cyclist goes around a track. These guys and gals are fast!

The first few races of the evening were the Keirin, a motor-paced race with a motorcycle setting the pace. Before the last lap, the motorcycle exits and it's an all-out sprint to the finish. The riders are racing at 30-32 mph with one gear, no brakes and no coasting. Next 
up was the Miss 'n Out where the last rider over the line on each lap is eliminated until there are some number of riders left and they all sprint for the finish line. I missed some of tha
t race while I was out stretching my legs and talking with people I hadn't seen in a while. Greg and I had ridden out to Redmond and had arranged for a ride back in the car with Allison and Don, whom we hadn't yet seen that evening. Sure enough, we spotted them near the beer garden and we were saved from riding home in the dark or begging a ride from someone else.

Next up was the Madison race, named for the races that took place at Madison Square Garden in New York. The race consists of teams of 2 riders each but only one of them races at a time. The resting rider slowly make his way around the track, hovering above his teammate. When the racing teammate needs a rest, the resting rider swoops down and clasps hands with the racer and is thrown into the race (quite literally) by the Madison sling, a transfer of momentum from racing rider to resting rider. All the other racers on the track at that moment have to pass above them, making for more of a challenge but also raising the possibility of a crash.
There was a team named "Gentle Lovers" and were in pink and red. The announcer seemed to like to say the name as much as the crowd liked to hear it. We all couldn't help but wonder what kind of business would be called Gentle Lovers: a Love Pantry without any S&M props?

One thing I noticed about the Madison race was that it was like a soap opera. You could turn away for a while to chat with your friends and get a bite to eat and when you returned, there they still were making exchanges and flying around the track. That is not to say it was boring because there was plenty of action (damn fast), drama (avoidance of crashes) and pumping up of the crowd (fast guy is passed by really fast guy). I was happy to see the entire track oval was lined with fans; the word is getting out about how much fun it is to watch races at the velodrome