I don’t like hilly or chilly, but when my friend Jake (who also rides a Big Dummy to ferry his three-and-a-half-year-old daughter around) asked who was crazy enough to join him at Chilly Hilly, Cascade Bicycle Club’s first ride of the season, how could I say no? We took the last of the four ferries to Bainbridge Island, which I think was a good move. Here’s the crowd from the 9:35 ferry, all three lanes–fast (18 mph and up), medium (13-17 mph), and slow (12 mph and slower)–were completely full:
I should mention I would never have considered the ride if I hadn’t already planned to spend the day with the lighter (under 30 pounds) kid. For the first time in two and a half years we’d finally planned to do a divide-and-conquer weekend: I was to take the big kid swimming on Saturday while Mr. Family Ride took the little kid balance biking, and then we’d swap on Sunday. Things didn’t go according to plan, though, when the little kid decided at the last moment that he wanted to come swimming, too. I don’t know if this is a lesson in not sticking to the plan, but in the locker room I lifted the little kid and pulled a muscle in my lower back. I could barely move, but figured sitting in a warm pool for an hour couldn’t make things worse so I hobbled out with the kids and periodically hissed at them, “Don’t touch Mama…Mama can’t move!” while they cavorted around. I somehow got them showered and dressed and we made it home in one piece (we were in the car, by the way) and Mr. Family Ride whisked them away for the rest of the day so I could lay on a heating pad. I still can’t believe I made it out on the bike yesterday. I warned Jake I could possibly chicken out due to immobility, which I felt like a complete a-hole about considering his brother is unconscious in the hospital after a bike crash. I woke Sunday feeling stiff and sore, but so much better (which I still find amazing considering how poorly I started out).
The Sunday forecast had threatened rain and snow for the last ten days, but the weather was great. After reading about last year’s ride on Tubulocity I knew things couldn’t possibly be as bad this year. The earlier riders would have been pretty cold, but we had sunny skies the whole time–though a few snowflakes fell on us. The kids were troupers. I dressed my guy in a snow suit and put chemical heat packs in his snow boots and he must have been toasty enough because he fell asleep ten miles in. He woke up when we got to the cider stop where we discovered when you take the last ferry and then make slow progress, you miss out on some of the goodies. They found the last couple allergen-free energy bars (allergen-free!) for the kids and we got our cider and banana fix.
Going into the race we planned to do the full 33 miles, but when we stopped for a run-around break nine miles in, the volunteers at the intersection let us know that the southwest corner of the island is the hilliest part and we agreed to take the short cut, making our ride only (only!) 20 miles. The hills were big, but there was only one hill we were forced to walk. Jake recently put an electric assist (BionX 350W 48 volt) on his Big Dummy, but didn’t use it in a show of solidarity…and because he had a lot of riding to do after Chilly Hilly: uphill to the hospital and then home to Shoreline. A lot of the hills looked huge from the crest of the previous rise, but once we’d coasted down and gotten into the hill, they weren’t too bad. We didn’t see too many other riders due to our late start, but many of the brave participants we encountered walked the hills. So it might be encouraging to enter the course earlier and share the road with more riders and walkers, but it was also nice to have the road mostly to ourselves. I was able to slalom a dozen feet up the killer hill before I gave up and walked. That was my first time having to walk the Big Dummy up a hill and I’ve concluded it’s much to heavy to push on an incline.
We got to the finish line at 2:56–just before course closing time. They ran out of chili (yes, Chilly Hilly is also chili hilly) just after we got ours and the corn bread was long gone. The chili was terrific and we met the mayor of Bainbridge. But most exciting was hearing about the Squeaky Wheels annual Bike for Pie ride in the summer. This year’s will be on August 19th with a 32-mile challenge ride and 12-mile family ride. Here’s last year’s map. I think we’ll be back.
The ferry home was packed, both with Chilly Hilly and FHR riders. I was a little scared to share space with the pirates, but I’d seen them patiently lined up for the 9:35am ferry (after supposedly having been drinking since 8am) and they were well behaved now, too. One big guy had a lot of fun shouting “On your right!…On your left!” as we were riding off the ferry, but that was it for belligerence.
Like always, I hadn’t put a lot of thought into the route home. A lovely group of cyclists from Portland took an elevator up from the waterfront, which is exactly what I would have done on my smaller bike. I considered my options as I rode along Alaskan Way (flattest and longest route through the locks, quickest route along Lake Union, or Ship Canal Trail), but I looked up Broad Street and knew I didn’t have another big hill in me. I caught up to Cascade’s Robin Randels at a red light and she slowed to my pace so we could ride the Elliott Bay and Ship Canal Trails together. I mentioned we nearly got lost a couple times and she taught me a new term: Dan Henry. Apparently there were these cool little markings all over the course.
We parted ways in Fremont and I took Stone Way home. This shouldn’t have surprised me, but a jogger passed me. He started walking a block later, but I was too far back to shout “Suck it, jogger!”…which turned out to be a good thing because he’d only stopped to enter his building.
I hadn’t planned to start my Bike for Pie training quite so early, but I left my bike lock key at home this morning (in the open garage door–doh!) so instead of going in search of new sunglasses and groceries, the little guy and I stopped at Irwin’s Bakery where we could watch the unlocked bike through the window. I would have taken a steeper hill than Meridian if I’d planned in advance, but any hill qualifies as Bike for Pie training. And the marionberry pie was terrific.
A couple blocks from Irwin’s a woman walking her dog recognized my bike from the ferry. I told her about Bike for Pie, too. I hear it’s normally a locals event, but I plan to bring a fleet of Seattleites over with me.
I haven’t taken the ride number off my bike yet and I think I’ll leave it on for the week. I saw a guy in Ballard this afternoon with his still on, too. And at the grocery store a guy said it looked just like the number he got at a stage race in Vancouver decades ago.