Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Instigators and the Opening Day of Biking Season

Photos by Mark Canizaro and Brad Hawkins.

One of my great fortunes in this world is that I know Instigators. Instigators are folks who pick a point on a map, a day on a calendar or something else random and not only say "hey, let's do this thing", they show up and do it.

The first of the year is a good excuse to shut down the usual business that fills the day. The Seattle Cargo Crew refer to this day as the Opening Day of Biking Season and my own gang of instigators use riding to their ride as an excuse to ride. It's a wonderful thing.

I live 17 miles east of Seattle but Brad, Mark and Michael, who all live in Seattle, ride out to meet up with me in my icy part of the world. I'd managed to convince them via email that despite Seattle's relatively clear streets, it was still icy as hell in the Issaquah convergence zone. These are times when tires are chosen for maximum traction, not minimal rolling resistance.

After a brief, strategic stop at our local purveyor of warm, caffeinated beverages, we roll south out of town toward the May Valley Road. Michael's theory that the May Valley Road, being on the southern, sun-exposed side of Squak Mountain, will be fairly ice-free proves to be mostly true. The same can't be said for exposed water bottles, which quickly ice up in the sub-freezing air.

We loop northward on Coal Creek Parkway, pause for pictures on the icy trail at the Bellevue Slough. Crossing Mercer Island on my old, highly optimized commute route, we calculate that I've ridden these roads and crossed these bridges thousands of times. There are always new sites, overlaid with old memories. One of the things I miss from this commute is the smell of breakfast bacon that used to come from one of the houses along North Mercer Way. A few years ago either the owner moved or made some healthy resolution because the bacon aroma went away. But the memory, that lingers.

Our cautious pace is not up to Brad's optimistic time-table so we head not to the start, but to the destination of the Cargo Crew. We are the first riders at the park and Brad informs us of his generous and welcome plan to buy us all Phở. Warm soup on a brisk day is very welcome and while the three of us stake our claim to one of the park's sunnier picnic tables and split up our stash of little muchie bars, Brad pedals off to the one of International District's many fine delis for the soup.

Brad and the Cargo folks converge on the park at about the same time. Like last year, the Cargo people bring more than most people would ever think you could carry on a bicycle. Cast iron frying pans, a wood stove, wood, several axes, charcoal, and vast variety food and drinks are quickly and skillfully deployed. One woman passes me an insulated mug the size of my head. "It's hot chocolate with some whiskey in it," she tells me. It's actually hot whiskey with a bit of chocolate in it, but I don't bother to correct her.

Aaron, Val, Megan, Carl and all the rest put on a hell of an annual party. I'm glad to know such instigators, fine folks who know that pretty much any day can be a good day to ride.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah WA USA
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