There are certain days of the year people look forward to every single year. Christmas, birthdays, 4th of July, and REI dividend day are just a few of the these. There is also the last Sunday in February!
What happens then you ask? The Cascade Bike Club’s Chilly Hilly!
For us cyclists in the Pacific Northwest, the Chilly Hilly is the official start of cycling season. It is 33 miles of hills and cold, and normally rain, sometimes even snow, while riding around Bainbridge Island
I have been told they allow up to 5000 riders, but each year, the weather on the day of the event determines how many of us are stupid enough, I mean HARDY enough to show up. The colder and wetter it is, the fewer arrive…
This week was NOT looking promising. The entire week leading up the ride, we had wind, rain, hail, snow, freeze and just plain bizarre weather. The forecast for the Sunday of the ride looked just as bad.
OK, I needed to be ready! Recently, after 18000 miles, my rear fender gave up the ghost, I had to take it off. When I did, I saw this.
The maker of these tires designed them to let you know when they were wearing out. When you first see red, it time to get new ones…. I might have waited a bit too long… These guys gave me 9000 miles! Come to think of it, I shoulda replaced them back in September of 2016 at the end of the Oregon coast…
But I digress! It was preparation time! The bike went into the shop for new fender, new tires, and a tune up. If the weather was going to be dicey, I was gonna be ready.
Saturday it came out of the shop loaded for bear!
Ok the bike was prepped! I just needed a bit of prep myself! Woodinville Wine tasting took care of that!
While there I had to sneak a picture of this guy, he just very much reminded me of a mountain man! It has nothing to do with the story, but I thought he was pretty darn cool!
Well Sunday dawned, and it was dry, but damn it was blustery. I was up, loaded and out the door, heading to Seattle to catch the ferry.
As I drove, I had the news on listening to the weather, and keep a look out as the sun came up. Even though it snowed the morning before, and the roads were wet, it hadn’t frozen over night. This is a good sign. There were clouds, but no rain. Also a good sign. It was possible, but too early to tell for sure, that the weather and cycling gods MIGHT smile..,
I parked a mile north of the ferry, and started riding to the loading dock. I hit a WALL of wind. Now it hadn’t frozen, but it wasn’t warm and the wind did NOT help. I had to work to go 10 mph into the wind…
I got to the dock early, parked the bike in line and walked around to keep warm. There weren’t that many people there yet.
I took the customary ferry shot, which showed the waves.
But then I noticed something, the Olympic mountains were peeking through!
This is a classic sign that the weather might hold! But I was skeptical.
Soon our boat was there, and bunch of my nutty friends were ready to ride!
Once they load us up, you see bikes all over the car deck!
One of the things I love about this ride is that the ferry is the starting line. As soon as you leave the boat you are on the course. While watching a video of the bikes leaving, I spotted myself! Right at the bottom of the photo, yellow helmet cover, yellow coat and yellow saddle bags! I was heading off to whatever the gods threw at me!
Remember the snow I told you about? Well In our area, when it snows, they put down gravel and sand for traction. This works fine for cars. But when the snow melts, it leaves this stuff ALL over the road. This is NOT good for bikes. One of my first crashes ever was on this stuff…
As soon as I saw it on the roads three things went through my head. 1) OK pal, take it slow and easy on the downhills, 2) NO cat-like reflex turns! (that’s what did me in years gone by, and 3) DAMN good thing I got new tires!
Now normally I don’t rush on this ride. I keep a steady pace, but I stop for photos, buy some snacks at bake sales, take a break at the halfway point, and just enjoy the ride. This year I did none of these, ok except enjoy the ride!
On the boat I was kicked back resting and the riders behind me were looking at the weather app on the phone.
First rider, “According to this, the rain will hold off till 10:45 or so (The boat would dock about 8:30) after that it could get ugly!”
Second Rider, “WE BETTER PUSH IT!’
I decided I should do the same. The hills are tough, but its only 33 miles. I do this distance non stop ALL the time! I’ve seen the sights and gotten the pictures. It was time to ride it and NOT stop!
OK, OK, if something new woulda popped up, you KNOW I woulda stopped for the photo. But honestly, nothing jumped out at me! As I approached the end, I could see squalls out on Puget Sound. It made me pedal a BIT faster!
It was a good ride! It was one of those times that I layered perfectly! Going up hill, I would unzip the rain coat to cool off, then zip before the down hill. The sun even peeked out enough that I had to take of the stocking cap, and switch to lighter gloves! And, the weather gods truly smiled, the winds were NOT blowing on the island.
It was some of the best weather, and therefore an excellent ride…
But the gods of weather and bikes were not done smiling.
Last year, waiting in line for the return boat was wet miserable and LONG! I was sure these kids were going to catch hypothermia.
This year, for the first time in the 10 years I have ridden, I pulled up JUST as they were loading the cyclists! I didn’t have time to get cold! We were heading back to Seattle soon, but the weather looked a bit menacing!
In fact, the coldest I was the entire day, was waiting with the bike to unload in Seattle!
But, unload I did, and home I drove. The bike and I came into a nice warm house with a fire in the woodturning stove.
No lie, a half hour later, the skies opened up! It started POURING down rain!
Then rain then turned to HEAVY hail
It hailed hard enough to cover the road, making the next day a solid sheet of ice! Sometimes you just get lucky!
As always its a great event! People were happy, the volunteers did a great job, and I just love the ride. Some people think I am nuts to leave a warm bed and lovely wife on a cold winters day and ride UP hill in rain and wind. But as we all know, that is just who I am!