Well, I did it. As promised, I did the Ride from Seattle to Vancouver and Party (RSVP) last weekend with my friends Eric, Jason, Chris, Clint, Whitney, and Gregg. We had excellent ride support from Chris' wife Leslie and son Zack, Eric's girlfriend Sam, and our friends Kellie, Barbi, and Juli; they kept us well hydrated and fed the whole time.
To be honest, I didn't feel great the first day. Even twenty miles into the ride, my legs were bothering me. We separated into two groups for most of the ride: the "varsity" fast riders (Whitney, Clint, Gregg, and Eric) and the "JV" slower riders (me, Jason, and Chris). After a hot, thirsty start, a long climb to Lake Stevens, and then a brutal push into a heavy wind in the Skagit Valley, I wanted to quit, wondering why I was doing it. I rested a bit in Bow and then pushed on for the final ten miles or so -- a big climb up Chuckanut Drive in Bellingham. This turned out to be a highlight of the first day -- a great view and not nearly as punishing as I had heard (certainly better than windy flats) plus I rode by my favorite oyster farm -- Taylor Shellfish. At the end of the 105 mile/7:20 riding time first day, Michelle and the kids met me in Bellingham where we stayed at the very lovely Chrysalis Inn and had a nice pasta (gotta get more carbs!) meal at D'Anna's. I slept very well indeed.
I felt much stronger the next day for the next eighty miles. Jason and I caught a long line going through the countryside at a good pace for us with four pretty girls and a guy rotating the job of leading, so we just drafted along for the first twenty miles (drafting in a line cuts about 30% off your effort). We stopped in Lynden at the Dutch Bakery for a late breakfast. Jason has had a long, passionate affair with banana cream pies from this bakery. Apparently, they don't always have them so he ordered one ahead. We picked it up and bought another chocolate caramel pie, eating them both on the street in front of the store -- way better than Gatorade and Gu! (The whole crew at the pies, not just me and Jason...)
Shortly after Lynden, we rode to the Canadian border. At one point we were separated from Canada by a little ditch; there was a road running on each side (the Canadian side looked like it had much nice roads) and telephone/power poles on each side with the lines facing into the appropriate country. Odd. We had a painless border crossing at Aldergrove and then proceeded on our ride.
About twenty-five miles into the ride (just after the border), while I was drafting behind Chris, I bumped up against his back tire and went down. Fortunately, no bikes or cars were behind me. I got unclipped from my pedals pretty well and managed to roll a bit, so the damage was contained to two skinned knees, a frayed glove, torn up bar tape, and a smashed rear flasher. This was the first time I had really crashed; I feel lucky it went down as well as it did and that I didn't take Chris down with me. I brushed off my bike and ego, and we continued on.
As we rode, Chris' bike started acting up, dropping his chain and making a lot of noise. At a stop in Port Moody with about twenty miles left, a ride mechanic proclaimed Chris' bike dead and told him he was done. Jason and I rode on while Chris threw his bike onto his car and drove on. With the end near, Jason and I picked up the pace the powered along the Barnet Highway and into Vancouver. We climbed up and down through the residential neighborhoods in Burnaby (really? more hills?!) and then sprinted light-to-light in downtown Vancouver. Unfortunately, the finish line was a bit anti-climactic at the Coast Hotel; you sort of just pulled into the garage. The finish at STP was much nicer and more fun. Still it was great to finish. I felt really strong the whole second day. (I don't have accurate data for the second day, but I think the riding time was about 5:30 -- I forgot to turn my GPS back on for a little while.)
We had a nice group dinner at Glowbal Grill in Yaletown that evening -- lots of sangria and stories. I turned in after dinner to recoup and spend time with the family. The next day, I felt fine except for my knees which were bugging me after the crash (they're still giving me trouble as the skinned parts heal.)
RSVP was definitely a harder ride than STP despite being short; there's just tons more climbing. I liked that it was way less crowded (I think there were 1000 riders vs. the 10000 for STP); at times it felt like just another weekend ride with my friends (albeit a really, really long ride...).
I'm glad I did it. Time to find my next goal event...
(Check out Chris' account of the ride.)