Monday, December 28, 2009

Vashon Island Cycling Tree Huggers

"It's a bike in a tree? No, I'm not going. You and your hippie friends are just going to totally hug it." My son Eric declined my offer to join in the fun of cycling on Vashon Island on the day after Christmas but his dismissal did give a focus to the day. My hippie friends and I would be sure we totally hugged the Bike Tree.

I've written previously about the Vashon Bike Tree and those wishing to follow in our icy tire tracks can find the directions here. On this particular Boxing Day I leave the house before dawn, note that the temperature is a couple of degrees below freezing as I bomb down the Factoria Hill and spin the rear tire on frost a couple of times on the steepish hill right before the turn onto the floating bridge connecting Mercer Island to Seattle. On the Seattle side of the lake I meet up with Mark and Mark (Vande Kamp and Canizaro) and we roll through the tunnel and down the trail. The sun is rising as we roll along Alaska Way, a road we all agree is one of the crappiest commonly cycled roads in Seattle. But traffic is light and it's a good day to ride.

In west Seattle the Genessee hill is white with frost and our tires can't get traction. We walk the steep block, remount our steeds and head to Fauntleroy ferry terminal.

The Marks and I board the ferry and settle in for the trip to Vashon. Liam Moriarty and his brother Tom make the ferry with seconds to spare. Tom moved to Seattle a couple of weeks ago from Kansas and this is his first trip to Vashon Island. Kansas is flat, Vashon is not.

When the ferry docks in Vashon, we meet up with Brad Hawkins and Jon Muellner. Brad had taken the ferry up from Tacoma, where he'd been spending time with family, while Jon had driven down from his home in Port Townsend and come across on the Southworth ferry. A ferry worker warns us about the icy roads, but Brad, who'd just come across the island including the infamous Burma road assures us that "it's not too bad." Some people might hesitate before taking routing advice from a man whose helmet looks like a fistful of M&Ms and bears the proud label "NUTCASE" but those are the people who lack a certain sense of adventure.

While people of extreme sense are still at home asleep and people of moderate sense would stick to the relatively clear Vashon Highway and take the most direct route to the bike tree, my hippie friends and I follow Brad down and up and up and down the many cardiac spikes that comprise Burma Road. Burma Road must have originally been mapped by a drunken Sherpa and in these modern times the road continues to exist mostly because it serves as such a convenient hazing ritual for those cyclists who have recently moved to the Pacific Northwest from Kansas. The only thing more exciting than riding Burma road is riding it on a frosty morning, a fact we are reminded of at every frosty blind turn.

Remarkably, as these words and photos attest, we all lived to laugh about this and tell the tale. We rejoin the main road, find the famous, hidden bike tree and hug the heck out of it. Then it's back into the fog and frost and hills. We roll and chat and separate and regroup. We roll onto Maury Island and snack at the lighthouse. Liam's rattly rack and fender doesn't seem to bother him but they are driving me crazy so I donate two unused M5 bolts from my second set of bottle bosses to the cause of silence and security.

After the huge climb away from the park, the Fellowship of the Chainring splits into two groups with Liam and Tom deciding to take the more direct route north, while the rest of us follow Brad south, to the southern ferry terminal. Tom is now convinced, beyond any doubt, that he is "not in Kansas anymore!"

Brad catches his ferry to Tacoma and the Marks, Jon and I work our way back north. In the town of Vashon Jon spots a sign on Perry's Vashon Burgers "Come in -N- eat or we'll both starve." It's the kind of logic you don't argue with, so we stop -N- eat. It's wonderful.

We catch up with Liam and Tom at the ferry terminal. They also stopped to eat.

It was a wonderful day on the bike, 36 miles of hilly riding on the island with another 56 miles of riding in the there and back again part. And we totally hugged the heck out of that tree.

Keep 'em rolling,



Jon Muellner said...

Truly a sweet day in the saddle. How is it that I missed the exercise bikes??

Unknown said...

"Cardiac spokes" is right... But I sure had a blast! Very nice to meet you all, and I'm looking forward to our next bike ride in the clouds. ;~)

Tom Moriarty