RSVP1 2013 Ride Report

Auðunn and I did the RSVP1. It was my first time and his second, but he’s a Seattle Randonneur, so this ride was nothing compared to the 200K, 300K, 400K, and 600K rides he does regularly. I had decided to do RSVP after Auðunn finished last year and raved about the ride. I only started cycling in February 2012, but I’ve slowly been increasing my miles, so I’d be strong enough to do the ride this summer. 

Day 1

On Friday morning we didn’t get to UW until about 6:15am. We missed the big rollout at 6, so the Burke-Gilman wasn’t too crowded when we started around 6:20. 

At the UW Montlake Parking Lot before starting the Ride

It was cool enough to require arm warmers and a vest at the start, but we warmed up quickly enough, especially once we got to the hills in Woodinville. Once we’d passed the hills it was nice to ride through the farmlands around Snohomish and finally get on the Centennial Trail. We bumped into friends, Jim and Jeff, at the first food stop at Machias Station. Of course, they're my husband's ride buddies and much stronger riders like him; they typically complete the STP in about 12-12.5 hours with stops. Auðunn explained that we wanted to go at a leisurely pace, so to them that meant averaging 16-18 mph on the Centennial Trail until we got to Arlington, where we had to stop at Moe’s Espresso Stand for smoothies. 

Moe’s Espresso Stand in Arlington: The guys stop there for smoothies each year they do the RSVP. 

Afterwards, we told the guys to go ahead, and we took our sweet time, especially going up Finn Settlement/Lake Cavanaugh Rd. I actually think that climb was harder than the climb in Woodinville, maybe because it was getting hotter, and I don’t do too well in the heat. Fortunately, there were a lot of trees, so it was mostly shaded. The route was nice and flat around Mt. Vernon, but we had to take a detour through Burlington since West Whitmarsh Road was closed. It was getting really hot out in the open at the start of the Chuckanut, so it was nice to finally get into the trees and shade and get peeks of Samish Bay and Bellingham Bay, even if it meant climbing a few hills. 

I was actually dreading the Chuckanut, but it wasn’t too bad. There were a few rollers, so we could pick up speed on the descents to get halfway up the next hill, and there’s a beautiful lookout near Larrabee State Park.

Auðunn and me at the Bellingham Bay Viewpoint near Larrabee State Park along Chuckanut Drive

Still, it was definitely challenging climbing hills after 100 miles of riding, and I almost wept with relief when we got to the RSVP Lemonade Stand at the end of the Chuckanut. I don’t know if I was delirious, but I swear that’s the best ice-cold lemonade I’ve ever tasted!

Ice-cold lemonade at the RSVP Lemonade Stand at 100.7 miles at the end of the Chuckanut

We got lost trying to find our hotel in Bellingham and ended up taking the scenic route. We finally got to the hotel around 5:30pm, took long, hot showers, then went to meet our friends at the Boundary Bay Brewery. We stayed a few hours then went back to our hotel to crash. 

Day 1 Total Distance: 109.6 miles
Day 1 Total Time: 11 hours and 15 minutes
Day 1 Moving Time: 8 hours and 17 minutes
Day 1 Average speed: 13.2 mph

Day 2

On Day 2 we got up at 5:45am, checked out of the hotel, rode to the Best Western Heritage Inn with our drop bags, then rode to the IHOP for a hearty breakfast. At the IHOP we bumped into Jake, a Cascade Bike Club ride leader, with about a dozen riders. We left just before them around 7:15, but they quickly overtook us before we started the 12+ miles of rough chipseal roads between Bellingham and Lynden. Since it felt like my fillings were about to fall out, I was praying for smooth roads even if it meant climbing some hills. Thankfully, the roads got smoother a few miles before Lynden where we bumped into Jim and Jeff at the Lynden Mini food stop. Afterwards, the four of us rode up to the Canadian Border, where we had to wait an hour to cross the border. 

On Day 2 there was an hour-long wait for cyclists at the US-Canadian Border. 

Everyone who had done the ride last year was irritated by the ridiculous line since it had only taken 10-15 minutes to cross the year before. We saw a Cascade Bike Club support car pull into the parking lot about 30 minutes into our wait, and we heard rumors that there had been a problem with the original rider list that Cascade had given border agents. 

Jim, Auðunn, Jeff, and me at the Welcome to British Columbia sign just across the border 

After the wait, we took our requisite photo at the Welcome to British Columbia sign then headed north. The first 25 miles into Canada were nice and easy, through a lot of picturesque country roads and neighborhoods. The guys were joking that Jim should take a call on his cell while climbing “The Wall”, like he’d done during a previous RSVP while other riders were hyperventilating or walking their bikes up. We were surprised and a little disappointed that Cascade had removed “The Wall” from the route since we’d all been preparing for it. 

The next part of the ride was relatively easy until the Golden Ears Bridge. The spiral ramp up to the bridge was fun, but for me that bridge was probably the most nerve-wracking portion of the two-day ride. First, I’m always nervous about crossing huge bridges with loud, heavy car traffic, and it didn’t help that we had to climb for most of it. However, the worst part was having groups of cyclists passing me on such a narrow strip when there were oncoming cyclists, so I was trying not to panic while clusters of cyclists were passing and calling, “On your left!” then almost immediately, “Rider up!” Fortunately, the Pitt River Bridge was a lot shorter and not as steep. 

Our next stop was at Cap’s Westwood Cycle in Coquitlam, where the Skateboarder Guy almost passed us! He was amazing! He did the whole RSVP route on his skateboard and even got a round of applause when he got to the Coast Plaza Hotel reception area at the finish. 

The Skateboarder Guy did the entire RSVP route and got a round of applause when he got to the Coast Plaza Hotel reception area. 

My next least favorite section was along the Barnet Highway, where we had some climbing on a narrow bike lane beside really heavy high-speed car traffic. It was later in the day and starting to warm up, but fortunately, that stretch along the highway wasn’t too long. Next, we rode into Burnaby and the outskirts of Vancouver. There we encountered rollers where we could pick up enough speed on the descents to crest the next hill. 

Riding through downtown Vancouver was a little scary, especially with the heavy car traffic, tour buses, and pedestrians. There’s a really nice bike lane on Richards St. and cycle tracks along Dunsmuir St. and Hornby St., so I don’t know why the route went along W. Cordova St., which had a lot more car traffic and no dedicated lane for cyclists. After winding through downtown Vancouver, we made it to the finish at the Coast Plaza Hotel and joined our friends for drinks on the patio. 

When I sat down, our friends asked me how I felt and whether I’d do the ride next year. Of course, I just wanted to drink and dunk my body into ice-cold water then take a long hot bath and not even think about riding. For a beginner like me, a long ride like this is a lot like childbirth, definitely rewarding but still traumatic. 

Enjoying drinks at the Finish at the Coast Plaza Hotel

Day 2 Total Distance: 83.3 miles
Day 2 Total Time: 11 hours and 38 minutes
Day 2 Moving Time: 6 hours and 16 minutes
Day 2 Average speed: 13.3 mph

Now, a few weeks later, I realize it wasn’t too bad. Right after the ride I had some right knee pain—probably due to tight hip flexors, and my legs were sore but not anymore than I would get with a really hard work-out. Luckily, no sore butt—I guess going through four kinds of saddles, finally finding the right shorts for long rides, and our trusty tube of Chamois Butt’r did the trick. It really helped that we’ve done enough long rides that we know what kind of food to bring and that Auðunn is slightly OCD about cleaning and maintaining our bikes, so we had no flats or mechanical problems. We also could not have gotten any luckier with the mostly cool weather and wind conditions.

Would I do the ride next year? Definitely, but I really need to work on my hill climbing.