Monday, August 27, 2012

RSVP 2012 - Day 1

Its been a while since I wanted to do the RSVP ride. RSVP stands for Ride from Seattle to Vancouver and Party! Its a scenic bike ride through 188 miles of scenic Pacific Northwest back roads. After having done STP twice, I felt ready for the more challenging ride :-)

This ride had only about 1500 bikers and I felt the smaller crowd at the start line itself - no long lines anywhere (compared to STP which has 10,000 bikers) and not much fan-fare either. After checking in our bags for night in the Western Washington University truck, picking up our RSVP gift, we were on the road at morning 6:25am!

The first 12miles was on the flat Burke Gilman trail, beside Lake Washington. As the first rays of the sun fell on Lake Washington, everything around lit up in the golden hue. Srijan, Aravind, Gunny and I chatted while we biked at a leisurely pace. We stopped at Log Boom park (mile 9.6) to use the restrooms but they were locked! The bushes beside the lake came to our rescue and that's were we bikers relieved ourselves:-)

Very soon I came to the first big hill on Woodinville. The up-hill didn't seem bad at all - small wonder, because I was fresh with loads of energy! Once that hill was done, the down hill was a pleasant surprise. The entire Snohomish valley suddenly opened up in front with acres of farmland bathed in the morning sun. I simply  loved whizzing down that hill :-) After a brief stop at the Snohomish downtown/bakery, we were on to the Centennial trail.

Soon I reached the first food stop at mile 36. Food options were Dave's killer bread with PBJ, bagel, bars, chips, plums, grapes, oranges and delicious muffins. I stuffed myself and my bag too, since there were only 2 official food stops along the route. The easiest 1/3rd of first day ride was done. I applied tons of sunscreen and was up on the bike again.

The ride through the Centennial trail was a breeze, with a cool breeze blowing literally. The trail goes beside state highway 9 and is nicely shaded in the trees for long stretches. The heat and the next big hill arrived almost together around 11:30pm after taking the right turn on to Lake Cavanaugh Rd. Today there was a heat wave warning with temperatures in the 90s. Keeping the motivation, beating the heat, and staying hydrated, I climbed the hill. I was so glad to see  the next water and port-o-pottie stop at mile 63! I doused my head completely with cold water and it worked wonders in giving me a boost for the next stretch.

The next part of the ride was on highway 9. Mt Baker showed up on right in all its magesty. I still look at it in awe and some disbelieve that I was on its peak 2 years ago. Many bikers stopped and took pictures, and I stopped and admired its beauty.

I reached the Mt Vernon food stop at mile 75 around 1:00pm. The heat was scorching to say the least. The others were already resting under the trees. I dropped my bike, had good lunch with Dave's killer bread and fruits, and laid down for an hour long nap! The sleep really helped in beating the heat :-)

The valley before the Chuckanut hill felt long, especially since we were biking when the sun was in its peak fury. Chuckanut hill is the last major hill of day 1. I was looking forward to because that stretch was under the shade of trees. The view on this drive is amazing, the entire Puget Sound opens up in the West while the road curves and climbs through several view points. However, this hill keeps going on and on, rolling down hills and more up hills. There was a lemonade stand on top of the last hill, and they had placed "think pink" signs for a couple of miles leading to the stand.

I reached Western Washington University, Bellingham, (where we'd spend the night) before 5pm. WWU is one of the major mid-route halts for many bikers and I really liked their dorm facilities. After showering, we took the bus to Bellingham downtown for dinner before retiring for the night. I was glad that the first day of RSVP, inspite of the hills and the heat wave warnings, wasn't that bad after all!

RSVP 2012 - Day 2

We were done with 105miles of biking on the first day, so I knew the second day to be easier with approx. 83miles to reach Vancouver BC, Canada. Here we are ready to roll around morning 6:30am in front of Western Washington University!

We stopped at Bellingham downtown Starbucks for breakfast of bagel, cream cheese and coffee cake. It is extremely hard to sit on the bike the second day. But soon one gets used to it. I was looking forward to riding in Canada today.

We rode through picturesque farms and small towns in Samish Bay area. Contrary to the rest of United States, the corn corps were flourishing here in Pacific North West. The breakfast stop at Lynden at mile 20 was hosted by the community and they served delicious fresh fruit parfait! So we stopped to have breakfast 2 :-)

We started biking towards the Canada border at mile 27. The border road is like any other road going through a town. Two roads running parallel to a ditch, one in USA, another in Canada, with no visible fence in between. Funnily enough, the organizers had warned us not to cross the ditch! Resisting the temptation to walk over to Canada ;), I stood in the immigration line for bikers. The immigration officer took one look at the passport and we entered Canada!

The Golden Ears bridge at mile 50 turned out to be the highlight of today's ride. I could see the bridge from some distance and it looked very pretty. Especially, the ramp looked very exciting from far and it turned out to be so; the gradient wasn't too bad and it was fun biking up in circles to get onto the bridge. The view from the top of the bridge was exhilarating!

We passed through towns of Fort Langley, Pitt Meadows, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody and Burnaby. In many of the towns, the local community had set up food/water stops for us. Near Burnaby we starting riding on the Canadian highway 7A with max speed limit for cars 80Km/hr (50miles/hr). There is a long uphill on this highway which is deceptive, and it wasn't too great biking there with cars zooming by.

Around mile 74, we start entering the suburbs of Vancouver. There were some more hills and a lot of navigation through the streets, but the dan-henrys made the route finding easy. A lot of the riding was on Vancouver's urban biking trail, the Adanac Bikeway. We entered Vancouver downtown through its historic Chinatown, and then into Gastown. Some streets in downtown were cobbled and along with the water view, it felt so much like Seattle downtown to me!

Before I knew it, a fellow RSVP biker yelled 'last hill' and I cruised into the finish line in Coast Plaza Hotel in Vancouver :-)

Srijan & I did this ride to raise funds for partners of Asha For Education in India. Please support our cause: