Friday, September 12, 2014

Ride Around Washington - Day 1 - LaConner to Coupeville

Here is our itinerary for the Africa trip.

This year I decided to do the “Ride Around Washington” (RAW) bicycle trip instead of Cycle Oregon. The decision wasn’t really difficult since Cycle Oregon ends on September 14 and we leave for South Africa on the 16th. That timing is just a bit close for travel plans. Moreover, this year RAW begins a special four-year cycle that really will circumnavigate the state. This year we will ride from La Conner to Ilwaco. Over the next three years, the ride will continue on to Walla Walla, somewhere north of Spokane, and then across Highway 20 and back to La Conner in 2017. I expect to be among those who completes the full circuit.
This must be the place to start
After a great couple of days with my sister Kristie and her husband Roy in Bellingham that included a day of unsuccessful salmon fishing on Puget Sound, Kristie and Linda took me to the starting point in La Conner. We stopped at a small bakery so I could get a couple of breakfast sandwiches which turned out to be completely made to order. I was surprised they didn’t bake the bread special given the multitude of choices I had for bread, cheese, meats and condiments. They were an excellent way to start the day.
Penn Cove - Home of some of the best mussels
After check-in, I changed into my bicycle clothes and took off for Coupeville along with the 250 other riders. Because of the later start on the first day, we would only travel 43 miles, but they included three of the biggest hills we would encounter on the ride. Two of them were about ¾ of a mile at at least a 10% grade. The third was just as steep but less than ¼ mile. Two riders whose electronic gear includes something that calculates grade said they had readings of 19% and 24% on part of those hills.  For comparison, the old Columbia Gorge highway seldom has a grade of over 6%. Several riders walked portions of each of these hills. I managed to stay on the bike for all of the hills, but I do have to admit that on the third one, I followed a walker and never gained an inch as we both sped up the hill.
Deception Pass
The scenery is incredible as we passed along several beaches including Penn Cove, home of the famous mussels and crossed over the Deception Pass Bridge and enjoyed the tidal action below. Boats must take care as they navigate the narrow passageway when the tide is tearing through. I got off my bike to walk over the bridge and take some photographs. That is when I discovered that in spite of all my careful planning I had left the bike bag in the car. Since it contained a spare tub and tools along with the camera and binoculars, I immediately tried to call Linda who was still having breakfast or shopping in La Conner. Unfortunately, my phone said, “No service,” a situation that did not change for another hour after a hurried lunch break. Of course, Linda did not answer the phone or respond to the text. Neither did Kristie, so I was left to hope they would catch it before they got back to Bellingham. They did catch the message just before turning away from the road to Coupeville and we finally met up about a mile before I got to camp. They took advantage of the opportunity to have a nice dinner in Coupeville before heading home while I set up my tent and waited in the dinner line for pot roast, mashed potatoes, carrots and salad with many, many cherry tomatoes.

The final rest stop of the day
After Cycle Oregon last summer with its 2200 riders, this ride seems tiny in comparison. Instead of six shower trucks, we only need one and meals are served from a single station which makes the lines a bit longer for food, but still bearable since there really isn’t much to do besides enjoy conversations about the day’s ride. We do have a meeting each evening to provide a bit of information about the next day’s ride and some entertainment from the local community. That usually lasts about 30 minutes so we have the rest of the evening free to entertain ourselves.

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