I haven't had the time to sit and and write a detailed report, and I forgot my camera. So, this is going to be just like all my previous reports: boring! Geoff gave me a ride to the start, and I found out something very interesting about him. Can't share, though. The ferry ride was fun: I sat near Jan Heine and had a nice little chat with him. My first memory of Jan is hearing him say that he wanted to finish the Tahuya 300 before dark (2006), and being in awe. I searched for Mike Huber, but I couldn't find him for some reason.
This is SIR's 15th year: it was great to meet John Wagner, one of the founders of SIR. Ron Himschoot introduced him, and John spoke a few words to us, before we set off. I had a few goals on this ride: 1) No candy bars (dentist's orders), 2) Finish, and 3) Get off Highway 9 before dark. I accomplished #1 and #2.
Start to Joseph Whidbey State Park
Very few sections of this route are new to me, so navigation wasn't going to be a problem. The first 20 miles were a touch cold, and I historically take a while to warm up. I rode with Rick Groth for long periods on this stretch. I also met his wife, Julie, who stopped at quite a few spots to take pictures of us.
There are two dogs about halfway into Highway 525 and they were in their usual spot, but they were too tired to give any chase. Greg Cox bounded by with a cheery hello: he had to drop Mary off at the airport, and had started late. The turn onto Libbey Road marked the first new section of the ride, but I loved it, as it took us off of Highway 20 traffic. We hugged the water, and arrived at the first control, where quite a few folks: Ole Mikkelsen, Ron Himschoot and Geoff Swarts were manning it.
Joseph Whidbey State Park to Bellingham
Ken Carter was indeed riding near me. Hhmmn. After mooching a banana off of Ron, I took off. I had been bonking a bit before the the Libbey turn, and it felt good to get something in the system. The water at the park had been shut off right after it opened, which was very weird, but there was a gas station not a mile away from the control, and I stopped there for food and water. The clerk there was very kind, and full of questions about our ride. She had moved up here from Oregon, and was enjoying it so far. I took this opportunity to take off my booties, but left the leg warmers and the skullcap on.
I spied Ken a little ahead of me, but instead of making the turn onto Golf Course Road, he kept going. He turned around after I called out to him a couple of times, muttering a "I wasn't paying attention" with his thanks. We rode a little while together sharing tales of not having enough miles in our legs. His superior climbing took him away, and I never saw him again. Or maybe I saw him near Mount Vernon. Don't remember.
I crossed Deception Pass during a nice long break in traffic, and found Rick again. We swooped down the descent on Deception Road together, and I passed another tandem on Satterlee Road. I saved Sylvia (new?) from a wrong turn (though she would have dead-ended pretty soon had she kept going), near Thompson Road. She wanted to wait up for her buddies, and I kept on. On the descent to the Farm to Market turn, the tandem went by. Instead of making the turn, we all pulled into the gas station together.
This wasn't a control, but should have been. It was fairly far to the next control with almost nothing in between until Bellingham, so it was a good stop. Several randonneurs and randonneuses had the same idea, but after food and water and more clothing adjustments, I set off again. Thai on fixed-gear, caught me near the Museum on Bayview-Edison Road, and disappeared. I found out that the nature foods store at the corner of Bowhill Road and SR 11 had closed. They had some good stuff and I have stopped there at least a couple of times.
I stunk pretty much all the way through Chuckanut drive, but since I didn't see anybody for a while, assumed that I was the last. Chuckanut was beautiful as always, and traffic was moderate. I made it through the core of Bellingham without getting lost (though I almost missed a left turn). Crossing I-5 was, well, fun.
Bellingham to Deming
I found a cheery Dan Turner manning the control with an assortment of goodies. He warned me that Deming was a better place to get food, and signed my card. The store had the most dour-faced convenience store clerk in the world (he even trumps the one I met in 2007 in Mount Vernon). He didn't want anything to do with me, except money of course. Dan gave me a brief run down of the next few miles, and renewing my promises to ride his 300k, I took off.
This stretch was extremely pretty, as I was able to see the snow covered peaks in close proximity, and the wind seemed like it would be favourable the moment we turned south. The fluttering flags were a great comfort. I was sad to leave Highway 542, but we shall see more of it, and at a slower pace to boot, courtesy of Dan (he promises a climb up to Artist's point). The moment I turned onto Highway 9, I felt the tailwind. I met Peg at the control together, eating an Ice Cream, and I resolved to get some for myself.
Deming to Arlington
Wanting to get off Highway 9 before dark, Peg and I left the control together, and rode in a pace line for a while, but the conversation was too good to ride like zombies. So, we pulled next to each other, started yakking it up, and the next few miles just blew by. Peg has an excellent sense of humour, and we tease each other almost constantly on one thing or the other, but all in good fun. For a while there we were doing good time, but eventually I tired and Peg slowly pulled away. She wasn't very far away, and I could still see her. We regrouped near Sedro-Woolley, where she ate something and I made a phone call to the Home Department. When she stopped to put on her night-gear, I caught up to her yet again, and were joined by a smiling Jim Jensen, who apparently rode 20+ bonus miles, having missed the SR-9 turn. Jim usually rides a tandem and was clearly missing his navigator, Ann. Instead of being 2 hours ahead of us, he was near the back of the pack.
We all dressed up, and figuring the temperatures would drop, I wore my skullcap, and was really warm for the next few miles. We stayed mostly together till Arlington, but I think Jim and Peg got there a few minutes before me. The Tandem (the Sneed's), and two other women also pulled in shortly after. Another rando reunion at the Arlington Haggen's.
Arlington to the Finish
I spent about 25 minutes here, and I don't know why. A combination of poor planning and general tiredness. I need to get back to my in-and-out-of-controls-quickly mindset again. However, sometimes you need to rest a while to recuperate, and I took off first, knowing that Jim and Peg would catch up to me. I almost missed the turn onto the Centennial Trail, but made a U-turn and got on where I was joined by the two.
The gentle uphill grade of the trail gets me each time. I soon dropped off the back, and while I could stay near them, the gap wouldn't close . The downhill bits on the trail had me catching up to them though, and we rode through Machias to the information control. Ron, with the thoughtfulness of a very experienced randonneur, had included the Info Control question on the route sheet, so there was no need to whip out the card. I made a mental note of the answer, and set off again. We rode together tight and fast on Lowell-Snohomish road, but my riding companions pulled away near the climb.
The climb: Luckily for me there were no witnesses. The two red-blinkies were gone by the time I got to the left turn on 41st avenue. I spent some time there recuperating from the climb, but it wasn't over yet. I knew I would finish, and typically near the end of rides, I lose all motivation to get there as fast as I can: the road curved left and then right, and with that the steep climbing would be over. Mukilteo Boulevard is a never-ending series of rollers, but the last few hundred yards are all downhill.
Ron Himschoot and Mark Roberts were at the finish with pizza, and Peg was just about to hit the showers. I ate the last two slices of veggie pizza (colossal mistake), and the Sneed's, Sylvia and another woman whose name I didn't catch, all finished. Sylvia wanted veggie pizza, and there was none left. Very sorry about that, Sylvia. I showered, and after a bit of a nap, got a ride home from Mark Roberts. What a fun way to celebrate SIR's 15'th year!