Ride from Seattle to Vancouver & Party (RSVP) 2003

Just finished the two-day, Ride from Seattle to Vancouver & Party, a two-day, 183 mile bike ride to Vancouver, BC, that’s served as my “mini-vacation” away from work and family. It’s about 1/10 the size of the venerable Seattle to Portland, and generally attracts fewer amateurs because it’s more physically demanding.

Day 1: 105 miles

Seattle to Bellingham

Day 2a: 21.8 miles
(Bellingham to the CA border)

Day 2b: 56.9 miles
(CA border to Vancouver)

RSVP route map (pdf format)

I woke up at 4:00 am in order to have time to eat, slather on sunscreen, get dressed, drive to the starting point, pee, drop off my bag, pee again, unload my bike, pee a third time, and start. I arrived at 5:10, and it was pitch black outside. Normally, I would normally hear only crickets, but there was a flurry of activity as the riders checked in. (The photo is a little deceiving because it’s time lapse; it’s much darker than this.)

I was supposed to meet Doug, a coworker, but by 5:45, he hadn’t shown up. He’s a much faster rider than I am — most people on this trip are — so I started, assuming he’d catch up sooner or later. Apparently he started about ten minutes later and passed me up while I was taking the fourth of many potty breaks that morning.

The sun wasn’t quite awake yet, either, but the view of the sky above Lake Washington was really gorgeous. My bladder was calming down from the excitement of starting the ride. The first section of the ride was along the Burke-Gilman trail, a public use path built on top of a former railroad line. It’s a wonderful concept, but there are a lot of areas where the tree roots have pushed up the trail or driveways bisect the route, thus I don’t really like biking it as much as the Sammamish River trail which B-G connects to in a few miles.

The city of Snohomish, home of the locally famous Snohomish Pie Company, was the first place a lot of people stopped. The park downtown is pretty empty except for folks congregating around the cafes or the toilets. When not admiring
sexy bicycles or sexy biker legs, one can read ahead on the map.

The first serious hill of the day had us climbing up and around Woodinville. Since we were really early in the ride (mile 15), I paced myself very slowly so I didn’t go anaerobic , which would be really bad for endurance near mile 100. The first official food stop was at mile 38 in Lake Stevens. In the pictures, we see spouses riding together, cyclists inhaling bananas provided by the town, and people just standing around yakking away.
. This stop was mildly disappointing because many of us expected the sponsors, Stretch Island (makers of awesome fruit leathers) and Clif Bar (delicious nutrition bars, especially the Blackberry almond) to have some of their products available. I heard later that there were some grape-flavored fruit leathers.

As the miles piled up, I took fewer and fewer pictures. However, some areas like this view in Big Lake were prettier than the camera did justice. Following thereafter was Mt. Vernon at mile 78, the “major” food stop for the day. The volunteers did a great job doling out bagels, Fig Newtons, bananas, fruit leathers, advice and smiles. Some of the locals (unpictured) were endlessly amused by teasing the cyclists, usually by driving close by and yelling “boo”, but otherwise were harmless

Nearly everyone I spoke with after the ride agreed that the next fifteen miles to Burlington totally sucked. The route is flat, straight, windy, and on a very road rough. As a result, the store at the end of Chuckanut road became a mini rest break while people waited for the creme-de-la-creme of the route, Chuckanut Road then Bellingham. It’s a fairly rolling route with an occasional turnout overlooking the Sound. It was at this point that I realized Doug had passed me a long time ago and was taking a nap in Bellingham. Harumph.

After arriving in Bellingham, I checked in, found my luggage, ate dinner with Doug, then signed up for a massage from the Washington Sports Massage Team. I was the last customer of the day and the masseur gave me the option of a double session, which I readily accepted. Massage is a wonderful thing, especially when they work out all sorts of kinks and tension you didn’t know you had. I slept well that night.

The next day is divided into two neat chunks. The first is a mad dash to Lynden, home of Dutch Mother’s (405 Front Street), a wonderful breakfast buffet and good place to hang out until the Canadian border crossing at Aldergrove opens at 8:00 a.m. I got there fairly early, and as I was leaving, lines were forming outside the door.

It’s a few miles to the Canadian border crossing. Doug and I took photos of each other (I’m in the red, obviously), though this could be anywhere. You can’t see this in the background, but there’s a huge line of cars waiting to get into the U.S., no doubt going to Dutch Mother’s! The customs agent is courteous.

The next 18 miles was pretty uneventful as we worked our way to the food stop in Fort Langley. As we were starting to finish eating and refilling our water bottles, it started to rain fairly solidly. We waited a half hour before realizing that it was just getting worse. We worked a pretty quick pace to the Albion ferry, getting soaked throughout.

As fate would have it, I was the last one on the ferry while Doug, standing behind me, wasn’t allowed on until the next one. (Rumor has it Doug had made a snide comment about sufficient life jackets.) At least Doug got to stand under a canopy while he was waiting.

Following the mass exodus off the ferry, everyone slogged through the rainy muck with about 40 miles to go to Vancouver. My white socks were thoroughly black by now, but I was generating sufficient heat that I was no longer cold. At the 20 mile marker, I was coming down a hill under a bridge where I was supposed to turn right. I didn’t realize this in time, and my body went a different direction than my bike. Crash. A couple of cyclists stopped to see if I was okay — honestly, I just wanted to sit down for a few minutes. I had an impressive gash in my leg that, when combined with the rain, looked like my entire leg was bleeding. My rear brake handle was bent pretty severely and didn’t engage, but the bike seemed otherwise okay.

I was pissed off at crashing — and probably not firing on all cylinders, so to speak — that I rode at a fairly aggressive pace. I’m no Lance, but I think I have a little more insight into how he won Bagn

2 thoughts on “Ride from Seattle to Vancouver & Party (RSVP) 2003”

  1. Jim:

    I am researching a route to cycle from Vancouver to Seattle in 2 to 3 days and am always wondering how I can find a good quiet route that’s more or less traffic safe etc. etc.

    Do you have a route map that you can share with me? Thanks a million in advance.


  2. Michael, Here’s the RSVP 2004 map. The Vancouver part would be a little interesting to reverse, but the rest should be straighforward. Is this what you were looking for?

    – jim

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