SIR May 12th 400 km - Flat and Pretty Fast

I've ridden a few 400 km and they are somehow my most difficult distance. I don't really know why, except that they often treat me to unforseen circumstances, whether physical, mental or otherwise, that test my mettle. This year, having so few miles in my legs, I felt I might face another big challenge.

At the last minute, thinking I may want whatever comfort I could glean in the few hours between leaving work in Port Townsend and making it to Arlington, I opted for a room at Smokey Point Motel just south of the start. A nice room, pleasant front desk woman, not bad I thought. Had a late dinner at 9PM at the Buzz Inn and watched people buying pull tabs. Wasn't really sleepy but hit the sack at 10PM. Drunks next door kept me awake till midnight...

Woke up without the alarm at 3:15AM and started to get ready. The handy coffee maker unfortuately had a old used, wet coffee bag still in it, yuck. I used to clean hotel rooms, so this is not a fact I overlook lightly. I rinse it all out and put in a new one, assuming the mold will just be more calories for the day. By 4AM I'm out the door and on my way to the start.

Arlington Start

Holy smokes, there are a lot of riders. I park the bus and sign in at the Denny's with Bob, Tom and Rick doing some sophisticated paper management that I didn't need to deal with thankfully. They were fast and efficient, that's for sure.

Met up with more friends while Ken Carter and I had a good chat outside, then Bob sent us off. I'd ridden a whole 50 miles since the end of NW Crank, so I figured I'd better take it easy. Oddles of riders poured past me as I just lopped along. Matt rode up and had a good conversation as the morning bursts through the fog to a gorgeous day.

I brought four burritos, some nuts and dried mangoes, knowing that I was going to try and keep the pace steady and the control stops short. Riding less means I can't be off the bike long before I get stiff and I don't want my butt to think it's on holiday. I enjoy a good talk with Peg on the way to Marblemount, where she tells me of her current exploit of 4 brevet series this season. Yikes. She pulls into the control and I ride past it briefly for no reason, whoops...five minutes in and out, a quick apple danish and chocolate milk. 09:00. One burrito gone already.

Marbelmount to Sedro Woolley

Noticing the roads are quiet, I take out my iPod and listen to some tunes on the way to Sedro Woolley. The riding is fantastic so far, perfect temperatures, good friends, nice roads. 12:12PM at the Food Pavillion, Peter and Max pull in and there's already a steady stream of riders coming and going. I figure I'm somewhere near the back of the pack, so in about eight minutes I'm back on the road. I catch up briefly with Paul Johnson, and then up a few rollers north to Sumas. Would've been a good day to bring a camera, but it's one of those things I never think of before I leave...

The roads just get better and I meet up with John Vincent who's a math teacher and is feeling a bit sore. I pull him for a bit to help out in the wind and soon Sumas arrives at 3:19PM. Slowly I've caught up more riders as this 100 km is faster than the one before. Still feeling good, I see Shan and others taking a longer break, but I don't want to dilly-dally and head out in 5 minutes. The Nussbaum tandem arrives and I imagine they're enjoying this route.

Off to the Bay

More tunes as I head to Birch Bay, a collection of tunes a friend made from a jukebox at a place we used to hang-out at in Moorhead, MN called Ralph's Bar. I reminisce about those days enjoying Johnny Cash and the Stones "Sympathy for the Devil". Soon Don Harklerod and his wife and another tandem come flying past and let me latch on like a limpet. That increases my speed and though I'd like to help pull once and awhile, it's no use as this course is perfect for tandems and singles just get in the way. We sweep up a few more riders and all come roaring into Birch Bay at 5:19PM where Kent signs cards and Mike makes sandwiches.

Everyone except me decides to take advantage of the hospitality, but I gone again in 3 minutes. Another burrito gone and I'm anxious to ride as much in the daylight as possible, the day is just too pretty to miss. A very nice spin down into Ferndale and the awesome houses along the way and just as I pull onto 11th, Peter Leikio shows up and we ride into Bellingham. He decides to stop but I want to keep riding so I head to Swervin' Sams to get some night gear on before heading onto Chuckanut.

Chuckanut to Skagit Flats

The guy at the counter was not happy with all the trash around the store, especially water containers and said it reflected badly on him and the business. I apologized and told him I would take it up with the club. He was appreciative enough of that attention to give me my Coke gratis. A word of warning to other riders, never forget we are just guests in these places and we can do better at policing our refuse. Maybe the days of leaving partly-full jugs of water on the sidewalk are over. We'll work on a solution, but it's good to keep in mind.

South on Chuckanut is the easier direction, so I am treated to some spectacular views of the sun setting for a long time; blazing deep bands of red orange interspersed between the islands in Samish Bay. Wow.

Drunk Story

I'm riding down Bayview-Edison Road, enjoying the last rays of what was a gorgeous sunset over the Skagit Flats and Padilla Bay. Very little traffic and I have full lights and reflective gear on since heading out on Chuckanut in the fading light. As I get closer to Whitney, I see two pickup trucks, one white and one blue, in my mirror who slow up and give me a good wide berth on the quiet road as they pass. This, I think, is a good thing and much appreciated.

A few minutes later, I see the white pickup pulled over on the side of the road. This, I think, may be a bad thing. Too often have I had to deal with irate drivers waiting to tell me how difficult I made their trip, or how I know nothing of traffic law. (One guy tried to put me under "citizen arrest" as a dangerous threat to drivers). So, with caution I ease out into the lane a bit to give him room.

As I get closer, a younger fella with his dog motions me over and says he wants to tell me something. In a drawling drunk voice he says "Ya know...I drink and drive a lot" (this makes me feel comfortable), "and I have to tell ya...I see you guys out there with those tiny little lights and I can barely figure out what they are" (now I am not so comfortable). Then, out of the haze, he states, "I just had to pull over and tell you, you've got the best lights ever and I could see you for a mile and I just wanted to let you know." So, in my ever-polite Minnesota-born manner, I tell him how much I appreciate him letting me know. He goes on with "I know I shouldn't drink and drive, but that's what I do, so have a good night."

I wish him the same, share a sympathetic look with the dog, and hope for the best. Then I let him leave before me.

The Final Stretch

Whitney at 9:16PM and only another 50 km to go. What a great day. Peter and Vic pull n and we chat breifly before I head out after eating my last burrito and putting on some leg warmers and fleece cap. This is my lngest stop of the day, under 15 minutes. Peter catches me up in around Fir Island Road and I can't stay on his recumbent wheel on these perfect roads, so off he flies.

I come upon the accident of Mike Huber, who's just been taken to hospital with a possible broken colarbone, and ride along with Bob, the fellow he was riding with at the time. This is Bob's first season, but he doesn't seem overly affected by the event. We enjoy a chat and ride along until the double tandem train comes roaring up again and we get swept into Arlington at 12:03AM, a nice end to a perfect day of riding!

A shower, pizza, beer and sleep by 2:30AM - Thai, Matt, Kent and I meet up for breakfast at Denny's at 6AM while Jan and Mark are just heading out to ride home. Of all, I'm the only one driving back to Port Townsend, but as I listen to more jukebox tunes, I don't mind.

19:03 hours for the day, 254 miles (400k).

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