Claire Petersky’s RSVP 2006 report

(Ride report by Claire Petersky, reprinted with permission)

    Mileage: 187 miles (includes being lost)
    On-bike average speed: 14.8 mph
    Terrain: Some hills — road elevation profile may be viewed
    Weather: Saturday: upper 60s to lower80s, partly cloudy in the morning, clear and sunny in the afternoon; Sunday: upper 60s to mid 80s, clear and sunny all day.

This was the second time doing the Ride Seattle-Vancouver and
Party (RSVP), the first time on the tandem. This ride is better than STP in many respects: less crowded, better scenery, more fun.

The preparations for the ride began on Thursday, the day before. I had a series of conference calls all day long, which I took from home, and madly packed during the breaks.  My friend Lynne came up from Portland with her tandem partner, Jason. I fed everyone dinner, and we went to bed early.

We got up around 5:00 AM. I made a full breakfast of toast, eggs, and smoked meat products. By 6:00 we were completely packed up and backing out of the driveway.

We got to the start at about 6:30. David and I were ready to launch, so we left Lynne and Jason promising to catch up. David and I had high spirits during the first part of the ride, on the Burke-Gilman trail, singing and passing other bikes. We did a brief potty stop at Wilmot Park in Woodinville and then resumed the course.

David and I have done the portion of the ride from Woodinville to Snohomish together many times, most recently just a week and a half before, so this section was very familiar to us. At the beginning of this section, just out of Woodinville, is the longest steady elevation gain of the ride, which we handled without difficulty. We waved hello to Lynne and Jason at the top (mile 15), and went on.

At Snohomish (mile 27), we decided to stop at a convenience store for some bananas. We ate the last two the store sold. The guy loading the beer into the store was suitably impressed that we had already come from Seattle and had another 75 or so miles left on our plate for the day.

At the Lake Stevens rest stop (mile 37) we ran into my friend and co-worker Steve. I ate two more bananas while David had undoubtedly more substantial food. After we took off, a bit down the road Steve caught up to us. He started to pass us, which David took as a challenge and started to sprint after him. Steve is in marvelous physical shape, and he had no problem outrunning us and leaving us in his dust.

This little section, from Lake Stevens to Arlington (at mile 54), was a trial when I rode it two years ago. Then, it was in the pouring rain, and I had a slow leak, such that I was creeping along on semi-flaccid tires while coming down with hypothermia. This time, we seemed to whiz cheerfully past exurban homes, fields and forests, and soon descended into town.

We had sandwiches and chocolate malts at the Blue Bird Café, and as we were walking out, saw Lynne and Jason studying their menus, having recently sat down. We chatted a bit, and then I went to the health food store across the street to buy some dried fruit as a digestible and nutritious on-board snack.

We made it to the Lake McMurray Sanican stop (mile 65). Lynne and Jason arrived, and Lynne and I stood in line for the blue room while David loafed. I met a former co-worker, Paul Fitzgerald, and his wife, who also works in the affordable housing arena at this stop, too. They took off, leaving a portion of a cold gallon of bottled water. I ended up refilling our bottles from their abandoned jug, since there was no other water there. Lynne and Jason also left. Finally, we did too.

We probably lingered too long at the Mt. Vernon rest stop (mile 77). I ate these weird Clif Shot chunky things I got as a freebie on STP and dried papaya chunks. David, I think, ate real food from the stop. Finally we hauled ourselves up and headed out. The winds were stiff across the flat agricultural lands, and our speed, typically around 19 or 20 mph, dropped to about 12 mph. We passed one group of bikes after another struggling in the headwind. I offered our slipstream, but we were too fast even at our low speed for any of them to latch on.

Finally, we reached Bow (mile 90). We stood around at the main intersection of Bow, rendezvous-ed again with Lynne and Jason. We sucked down some goos in anticipation of Chuckanut Drive.

We then did the upsy-downsies of Chuckanut Drive. While this is considered to be hilly and therefore somewhat difficult, the old-growth forest provided shelter from the winds, and it was actually a much easier place to ride than the open flats near Bow. Chuckanut is considered to be one of the most scenic roads in the state. We pulled out once just to admire the view.

When we finally reached Fairhaven, at about mile 103, we left the official ride course to find our way to the Western Washington University dormitories where we were staying. The road up, Knox, was probably somewhere between a 12% and 18% grade, and we quickly dismounted and decided that walking the four or five blocks was a better plan. A few other cyclists similarly were walking their bikes up the hill too. Near the top, a tandem team on their bike passed us – I can’t imagine the power it took for them to actually cycle up that slope, especially after already pedaling more than a hundred miles.

We remounted the bike at Highland Drive, and finally ended up at the dorms, at the top of the hill. At this point, it was 5:00, we were a bit fried, and it always takes longer than you really can cope with to get the bike parked, your luggage into your room, and your body into the shower. 

After showers, and newly freshened up, we toddled back to the information area to see if we could get a cab to a restaurant recommended to us. A cab miraculously appeared without us having to do anything. We got in, got to the restaurant, and were seated pleasantly at a table in the waning sunshine, where we could see the remaining bikes straggle into town.  People started pouring in to the restaurant, and we overheard the hostess tell one party it would be a 45 minute wait. So we clearly timed it just right.

After a nice supper, we walked back up Knox, this time without our bikes, and soon were back at the dorms, where we promptly collapsed into bed.

The next morning we loaded up, and then made it to the university’s campus cafeteria. This was all you can eat. I had a huge bowl of oatmeal, eggs, tea and OJ, an excellent cycling breakfast. My husband had eggs, sausage, pancakes, a cinnamon roll, a muffin and OJ — probably enough calories, don’t you think? The price was right, and as a fussy tea drinker, I like being able to make my own tea.

I saw the developer of our local shopping mall, Ron Sher, while at breakfast. I’ve been involved in the local process regarding the mall’s redevelopment. Ron has been great for our community, and it’s always good to have people who have a major effect on local land-use be cyclists, in my opinion.

After breakfast, we zipped along the relatively flat farm land to Lynden (mile15). I made an emergency stop at a blue room along side the road, and a bunch of golfers yelled at me for making use of their facilities. My protests about the urgency of my needs however, produced laughter, and they let me use it without further fuss.
We crossed the border without any delays. I met John Calnan (who I know from our local board and the rec.bicycles.misc newsgroup) and his wife while David was munching on a PBJ just on the Canadian side of the border, and he took a picture of us, which you can see to the right.

At "the Wall", a short but steep (10% grade) hill, we were pleased to find that even on the tandem, we were able to make it to the top in one go. I used breathing techniques I learned from Zoot Katz, which were really helpful.

At Fort Langley (mile 39), David said that we should stop in town for lunch. It was only 10:50, and I protested that we should instead go to the official food stop, and have lunch later. But by the time we finished eating peanut butter bagels, water-melon, and bananas at the food stop, and lollygagging under the trees, we were in the thick of the ferry line at Fraiser River. We waited a long time in the hot sun, and I had a long conversation with Pat Matson, who I know from our local bicycling boards. David met Mark, someone who he knew from his programming past, and talked with him on the ferry. By the time we got off the boat and were once again speeding along the countryside, it was 1:10.

In retrospect, David was right – we should have gotten a real lunch at Fort Langley. We burnt up a lot of time at the rest stop and the ferry line, and we were hungry again. Unfortunately, now we were in the middle of nowhere, just farmland. On top of that, we missed a Dan Henry, and pedaled along the wrong road for a while. While I tried to reconcile my map of the Fraiser Valley with the cue sheet, David simply took note of the fact that no bikes were passing us, and that we were clearly off the official route. So we reversed course, and found our missed turn.

While I had turned up my nose at the fast food establishments at Hainey,just after theferry, by the time we re-entered “civilization” in Port Coquitliam I didn’t have that luxury any more.We pulled into an A&W Root Beer stand. Some other RSVP’erswere just leaving,and told us to enjoy the air conditioning and the rest. David and I did exactly that. He had a burger, I had chicken strips, and we had fries and huge icy mugs of root beer.

At this point, with all the delays, we were now more towards the back of the ride. At Fort Moody Rocky Point Park (mile 61) we had our final rest stop. I stripped off my jersey, shoes and socks, and ran through the water park equipment. One little boy, about five, squirted me with his water gun, hesitatingly at first, maybe afraid I’d be mad, but when I squealed and gave him a grin, he really let me have it while I ran through the sprinklers. David meanwhile cooled off with an ice cream cone instead. We sucked down some goo packets in anticipation of a large-ish hill ahead.

The Burnett Highway climb was not as bad as I remembered it from before. There were lots of cars, yes, but I think they cleaned up the debris on the shoulders more. Knowing what lay ahead in terms of the slope also made it much less trying.

Then we were riding on official bike routes through Burnaby and Vancouver. It was up and down, up and down, with lots of stop signs and cross traffic. The nice thing about being on the tandem was that I could easily consult the cue sheet, anticipating the turns and calling them out. We picked up several fellow travelers, who followed my loud calls of where to turn left and right.

Then we were dumped on to the park along the waterfront. I think this is dangerous. You have a thousand or so bikes, people who have ridden 180+ miles and are not 100% on top of things, winding in and out among milling pedestrians and tourists. You’re too tired to enjoy the view, so why take us there?

After a few harrowing blocks up hill through downtown, we were at the event hotel, at about 5:00 PM. The bike corral was jammed, and we had to lift our heavy tandem up and over the mess of bikes thrown everywhere to park it at the back where there was actually space.

Then it was up to the party. We got to our luggage to at least change out of bike shoes and dump the helmet. We had a beer, chatted a bit with Mark (the guy David met on the ferry) and his wife and riding companion. David invited him to have dinner with us, but he was more intent on finding beer.

When we got to our hotel about eight blocks away, the staff informed us that they had sold our room, so they were going to upgrade us to the penthouse suite. We ended up with a Jacuzzi in our room, a balcony overlooking the city, and a kitchenette. We took showers, and walked to the restaurant where we had dinner with Lynne and Jason. While we were eating, the city’s spectacular firework show started. We could see most of it through the restaurant window. We finally pushed ourselves away from the table and walked back to our hotel.

The next morning, the city was preparing for its Gay Pride Parade, and the street was already being set up and cleared. People-watching at breakfast at the local Denny’s was more interesting than usual. As we walked back to the event hotel, people were preparing their floats.

We loaded on to the bus, and had a long, boring ride back to the USA. The border crossing was thankfully brief, and we got home all in good shape.