RSVP1 2014 Ride Report

Auðunn and I did the RSVP1 again, my second time and his third. Having much cooler weather and another year of riding experience on a bike that fits perfectly, not to mention having done the ride once before, made it much more fun this year.

Day 1

On Friday morning we met our friends (Dan, Jim, Jeff, and Carolyn) at the UW Montlake parking lot at 6am, and we started off at 6:20am, right when it started sprinkling. The Burke-Gilman was pretty crowded, and we rode with a big group of 15-20 riders, averaging about 12-14 mph. It continued to rain for the first few hours, so I was glad I had a really light jacket at the start. However, we warmed up quickly enough, and my jacket was off before we reached the climb up Woodinville-Duvall Road. The climb was still challenging for me, but the cooler weather definitely made it easier, and this year I only had to stop once during the climb.

Once we’d passed Maltby it was much nicer riding along Broadway, through quieter roads and scenic farmlands around Snohomish. Since I was much slower on the climbs, our friends had gone ahead, but they waited for us at the Machias Station food stop. After Machias I could easily keep up when we averaged 16-18 mph along the flat Centennial Trail, and it was fun just chatting and catching up with everyone on the ride to Arlington. Of course, we had to do our annual stop at Moe’s Espresso Stand for peach smoothies, and once again, the owner's daughter recognized Jim and Jeff.


Moe’s Espresso Stand where we stop for peach smoothies every year we do the RSVP

Afterwards, we told the group we were bypassing the climb up Finn Settlement/Lake Cavanaugh Rd., and instead we'd continue on the Centennial Trail and ride up to the Lake McMurray store to get lunch. At the store we chatted with the owner who knows Auðunn pretty well since the store is a regular Seattle International Randonneur (SIR) control. We got drinks and microwaved some burritos, and she even came out a few times to refill Auðunn's coffee cup while we sat on the porch and directed about a half dozen RSVPers who missed a turn and ended up at the store. Afterwards, we continued on Highway 9 which had a few fun rollers and only a few short climbs. I was worried that Highway 9 would have heavy traffic, but we only encountered a few cars and one logging truck. It was definitely much easier than the climb up Finn Settlement/Lake Cavanaugh Road, and we got back on the RSVP route just before Big Lake.

This year West Whitmarsh Road was open, so it was a straight shot along Avon Allen Road and the rest of the way to the Chuckanut. Fortunately, it had stayed overcast during most of the ride, but it was nice to get into the trees and shade while we had to do the climbs along the Chuckanut. This year I knew that on the Chuckanut rollers we could pick up enough speed on the descents to get up the next hill, and there would only be a few hard climbs. Again, we stopped to take a break and admire the beautiful views at the Larrabee State Park lookout. This year I only had to stop 3-4 times along the Chuckanut, but I still almost wept with relief when we got to the RSVP Lemonade Stand at the 100 mile mark. I still believe that is the most amazing ice-cold lemonade! We also bumped into one of Auðunn's Cascade friends, Elizabeth, at the lemonade stand, and we hadn't seen her since the last RSVP, so it was fun to catch up.

Last year we got lost trying to find our hotel in Bellingham, so I mapped our route to end at the Spring Hill Suites, which was an additional 8 miles north of Bellingham. We finally got to the hotel around 4pm, and fortunately, a friend's wife had dropped off our bags at the hotel earlier. We took nice refreshing showers, then took the hotel shuttle to the Boundary Bay Brewery for our annual dinner celebration.  

Day 1 Total Distance: 107.9 miles
Day 1 Total Time: 9 hours and 42 minutes
Day 1 Moving Time: 7 hours and 40 minutes
Day 1 Average speed: 14.1 mph


Day 2

Since our hotel was much closer to the IHOP, we slept in until 6am on Day 2. We checked out of the hotel, dropped off our bags at the Best Western Heritage Inn, and had a big hearty breakfast at the IHOP. Just like last year we bumped into Jake, a Cascade Bike Club ride leader, with a small group of riders at the IHOP. After breakfast we met Dan and Carolyn at Northwest Drive at 7:30am, and we started the ride with them pulling us and a whole train of other riders, going about 16-18 mph for about 10 miles. At one point I had to stop to take off my jacket, and everyone behind us was so disappointed that we were pulling over. Once we started up again, Dan and Carolyn pulled us and a much smaller group of riders, maintaining the same high speed to Lynden. Our pace was so fast that I could barely feel the 5+ miles of rough chipseal roads between Bellingham and Lynden, and I couldn't believe how quickly they were over. We stopped at the Lynden Mini food stop, where we met up with Jim and Jeff, who decided to sleep in longer but still arrived just shortly after us.


Jim, me, Auðunn, Dan, Jeff, and Carolyn at the Lynden food stop

Afterwards, the six of us rode up to the US-Canada Border, and fortunately, this year there was essentially no wait. After the crossing, we took our requisite group photo at the Welcome to British Columbia sign.


The group at the Welcome to British Columbia sign just across the border 

The route Cascade posted for Day 2 was supposed to go along the border, but the road was closed. Instead, we rode along the highway and turned left on 16th Ave. The revised route meant we had to ride up "The Wall".


Now I know why everyone calls it "The Wall"!


The 1/4 mile climb up The Wall has a 10% grade at its steepest

I could only ride halfway up The Wall, then I had to walk up the rest, like a few other riders. Just past The Wall and after another short climb, I had to stop again, so we were chatting with a homeowner who was asking us if we made it up The Wall without stopping. He was so sweet and so Canadian!

The next part of the ride was nice and easy, mostly through quiet country roads. It started raining, which I didn't mind, but I knew we were approaching the Golden Ears Bridge, which I was dreading. We stopped to take shelter under the Lougheed Highway, and I ate a Clif Shot energy gel to prepare for the climb on the bridge. When we started again, we saw several dozen riders had also stopped under the highway to get out of the rain and warm up. It was only drizzling, albeit continuously, but I definitely preferred the cool, rainy weather to really hot, sunny weather.

Like most parts of the ride this year, the climb up Golden Ears Bridge wasn't as bad as last year because of the cooler weather. Also, the bridge was less crowded when we crossed, and I could maintain a fast enough speed that only 2-3 riders had to pass me. When we approached the Pitt River Bridge, we had to stop at a traffic island with about a dozen other riders. A few were new RSVPers who were struggling and complaining about having to cross the bridge again. I remember having the exact same reaction last year, so I assured them that it was actually a different bridge, the Pitt River Bridge, which was, fortunately, much shorter. Once over the bridge, we decided to stop at the Starbucks to get out of the rain for a bit.

Afterwards, the short 2-mile stretch along the Lougheed Highway was probably the worst part of this year's ride for me. At one point we had to ride around a bus, which was kind of scary given the heavy traffic. I wish Cascade would use a safer route through quieter roads rather than having us ride along the main highway. Our next stop was Cap’s Westwood Cycle in Coquitlam, where the staff hosed down our bikes since it had stopped raining. Last year we bumped into the Skateboarder Guy at Cap's, but this year we passed him at the railroad tracks just before Pitt River Bridge. We saw him again on the Barnett Highway. My goal was to beat the Skateboarder Guy to the Coast Plaza Hotel, so we could be there if everyone gave him a round of applause, just like last year.

This year because of the much cooler weather, riding the Barnet Highway was actually fun. Last year I was so hot and tired and miserable, I just wanted to get it over with. This year I actually noticed the beautiful views across the water. I didn't have to stop once along the highway, and I was surprised how quickly we got to the last climb. We decided to take a detour on Bayview Drive, so we could avoid the last part of Inlet Drive and do the last climb on Drummond's Walk Urban Trail. There was actually a bit more climbing on the detour we took, but it was on a quiet road with almost no cars, which was a lot nicer than riding along the busy highway. Going along the trail also allowed us to cross Hastings using the bike/pedestrian overpass.

After that, it was clear sailing into Vancouver. We rode quickly along the rollers in Burnaby and the outskirts of Vancouver, and the sun finally came out. We were definitely warming up, and the whole while I was thinking how much I was going to enjoy some gelato. Just before we reached downtown, we turned off on Glen Drive to go to La Casa Gelato, another RSVP tradition.


Another one of our RSVP traditions is getting gelato at La Casa Gelato

This year riding through downtown Vancouver was so much easier since the route had us go along the Seaside bike path, rather than making us ride along Water St. and Cordova St., which were crazy busy with tourists, buses, cars, etc., last year. We started the bike path right before a group of 10-12 riders with a few Cascade ride leaders. The bike path was really crowded with tourists and families, so we spent most of the ride along the path calling out "bike up", "slow", or "post" every other minute. We turned off when we got to Cardero Street, and we made our way to the finish at the Coast Plaza Hotel where crowds cheered us on.

Afterwards, we joined our friends for drinks on the grass, and there were high fives and beer and wine all around. We were all commenting on how much easier it was with the cooler weather. A few had hated having to ride along the crowded Seaside bike path and preferred riding through the busy tourist areas, so we debated which way was better.

This time when everyone asked if I'd do the ride next year, my answer was, "Absolutely!" My only regret was forgetting to take a group photo at the finish.

Day 2 Total Distance: 80.5 miles
Day 2 Total Time: 7 hours and 33 minutes
Day 2 Moving Time: 5 hours and 27 minutes
Day 2 Average speed: 14.8 mph