We awoke to the sun illuminating the snowy peaks of the Olympic Mountains. I've had the Chilly Hilly penciled onto my calendar for four years now; looks like I picked a banner year to actually participate in the event. My husband, Shawn, was getting on his bike for the first time in a couple of months, but he gamely rose early, as he always does, made coffee for us both and loaded the bikes onto our van. I'm not sure he knows this, but above actions are a direct pipeline to my heart.
The ride, which is put on every year by the Cascade Bicycle Club, starts in Winslow for those of us on the west side of the water. For those to the east, the ride starts at the Seattle Ferry terminal, with a ferry ride (a gorgeous one this year) across. I missed seeing the cyclists roll off the ferry, but have heard it is awesome to watch. Now, why would I pay money to ride a course that I can travel any day I want, for free? If you've ever done an organized ride, you know the answer. It feels great to be riding along with thousands of other cycling enthusiasts! Cars can barely muscle their way through as cyclists claim the road on this truly scenic 33 mile loop along the rolling hills of Bainbridge Island. And the islanders love it. Bainbridge Island is very bicycle friendly. Signs are posted all over the island claiming, "Bainbridge Shares the Road", with a picture of a cyclist and an equestrian below it.
My husband and I are both signed up to ride the STP (Seattle to Portland bike ride) this year and this event was great training for that. Riding in a crowd with some car traffic mixed in can take some getting used to, as well as the added challenge of knowing which gear to be in on the quickly changing gradients of the course. I confess to letting out a couple of loud whoops on the uphills. I just love hills, what can I say? After letting loose a loud "Wooooohoooo!" on the steep hill approaching Battle Point Park, the guy I was passing looked at me sideways, with a half smile, and panted, "Yeah, fun stuff." I'd like to think I cheered him to the top and that he didn't bail and walk. I heard some responding whoops behind me, but I didn't look back, as my heart was hammering away and I myself was quite focused on getting to the top while avoiding contact with the numerous bicyclists about me.
Battle Point Park is about half way through the ride and serves as a rest stop for participants, with food booths, vendors and the ever important port-o-potties. We stopped briefly and chatted a bit with a gal at the REI booth there, who offered us some merchandise coupons and kindly took our photo.
There is a chili feed at the finish of the ride, but we opted to get back home to our kids. We both enjoyed our "cycling date" though, and I got the feeling our kids were happy about it too. We celebrated our accomplishment by plopping on the couch to watch the Olympic Gold Medal match between the U.S. men's hockey team and Canada, which was a very exciting overtime game in which Canada won 3-2 and about which all Canadians will likely remember exactly where they were and what they were doing on that particular day for years to come. I'm pretty sure it's going to stick in my mind as well.