MENTAL HEALTH DAY
when the weather forecast unexpectedly called for a 30 degree increase in temperature for a few days -- from the mid 50s to mid to upper 80s with ZERO chance of rain -- the natural thing to do is to take the day off. that's exactly what i did and i targeted the warmest day of the week, thursday, for a mental health day on the bike. and when it came to figuring out where i was going to ride, only one place would do -- my favorite place to ride in Seattle, Vashon Island.
MILES 0-13 | Downtown Seattle to West Seattle
i eased out the door on thursday after enjoying a lazy morning of coffee, searching for the end of the interwebs, and playing with the girl. as i powered on my garmin and swung my leg over the bike, i was immediately enveloped in a blanket of warmth from the sun. i may have even lingered in that spot for a little longer than normal, sunning myself like a lizard on a rock. but as much as i was enjoying the warmth, i was also eager to get moving.
i cruised along the waterfront, and the pedals turned over easy, the product of an easy gear and a nice tailwind. as I enjoyed the easy spin, i made a promise to myself for the day: 1) i would not turn a single pedal over in anger, 2) i would not be bound to a schedule or external distractions like email, 3) the only that mattered today was having fun, preferably lots of it, and 4) PRs and Strava be damned, i would just ride to ride.
i continued winding my way south through downtown, tracing the waterfront until it abruptly spits you out in an industrial area bustling with always-in-a-hurry short haul truckers and their cargo. senses heightened i picked up the pace a bit; this section always made me nervous. as soon as I reached the trail entrance that connects to West Seattle, the relaxed pedal stroke resumed.
i wound around West Seattle, tracing its shoreline, past early beach goers trying to get a good parking spot and good spot on Alki beach and past joggers and people walking their dogs. surprisingly, car traffic was scarce this morning but maybe everyone was starting the day later or taking the day off like me. whatever the reason, i wasn’t going to complain.
in no time at all, i rolled into the Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal just as the last cars were loading on the ferry bound for Vashon. i quickly bought a ticket and waited with a couple of cyclists who had the same idea as me, only they were trying to get in some miles for the Tour of the Unknown Coast ride in CA.
MILES 13-40 | Vashon Island
DID YOU KNOW: The Seattle area is home to the largest ferry fleet in the U.S.?
over the years, Vashon has remained my favorite place to ride in Seattle for several reasons. one, you get to hop on a ferry, and the ferry system is part of what defines Seattle. the Fauntleroy to Vashon route is a short one, but there is still enough time to take in the views of the sound, the Seattle skyline, and Mt. Rainier to the southwest.
another reason i love Vashon is because -- in my experience at least -- drivers are respectful of cyslists. drivers generally will give you lots of room when passing and today i had a driver who actually sat behind me until i made it around a corner when it was safe to pass. contrast that with other areas of Seattle (cough, cough: Mercer Island, Seward Park), where many drivers have no qualms about passing on a blind corner. let's just say, it was a nice change.
while Vashon has a lot going for it, there are some "features" that some cyclists may not appreciate as much as me. i'm talking about the vertical. much of Vashon is up and down. while it's possible to find a more rolling route around the island, it's hard to escape the ride without encountering at least one or two steep pitches. one of those is right when you get off the ferry where you have two options: A) high traffic and steep or B) low traffic and really steep. to give you an idea of the vertical i'm talking about, in the late summer, there is a legendary ride called passport to pain and one of the options is a 70 mile route with 10,000 ft of vertical. not bad for an island that is 13 miles long and 8 miles wide at its widest point. on the flipside, if you like short, punchy hills, Vashon is a paradise.
today i opted for the low traffic and really steep option and as i climbed away from the ferry, i was immediately alone with my thoughts. or lack of thoughts. my usually busy mind was actually at peace. i could hear a lawnmower somewhere in the distance and chirps from various birds overhead. i could hear my breath become more irregular as the hill's gradient tried to break me down. my newish tires were still giving off that tacky sound as they rolled over the asphalt. i eventually made my way to the top of the hill, took a couple of deep breaths and shifted into the big ring as i merged onto the highway.
as i pedaled along the wide shoulder of the highway that takes you into town, my mind came to life with the task of trying to figure out some semblance of a route. i had really only planned as far as getting to Vashon but now that i was here, my mind wanted to know the plan. another great thing about Vashon is that there are seemingly endless arteries off the main roads ripe for exploration. and because the island is small, it's easy to connect back to the main roads to either extend the ride or cut out sections, depending on how you're feeling. my mind was busy trying to decide which artery i should take off the highway. I could ride into the middle of the town and use that as a jumping off point, i could ride all the way through town to the opposite end of the island , or i could branch off...right here, closer to the ferry terminal.
my body was already leaning into the turn and my hands went to the drops before my mind formally acknowledged the action. i navigated a nice twisty downhill section and embraced the decision. it was a welcome reprieve after the nasty hill i was climbing five minutes ago. my mind, approving of the decision, went quiet again and i took in the sun peaking through the overhead canopy of tall trees and lush greenery surrounding me. and there was that silence again. i could hear the whirl of my deep section wheels as they cut through the air and the distinctive sound of chris king hubs buzzing like a bee as i freewheeled to the bottom of the hill.
i wound my way around the island, my particular route taking on more of a rolling route than the sharp ascents and descents that were plentiful throughout. not that i wasn't tempted. the side roads were taunting me with their abusive grades. another day perhaps, but today was about easy pedal strokes and i know myself too well that i can't approach a hill section without being tempted to turn the pedals in anger.
as i continued rolling along, i found myself still aware of my breathing, the buzzing of my wheels, and the sounds of nature. it was that quiet. i was becoming entranced in my own personal symphony and the cadence i was stamping out felt like i was tapping my foot to the beat.
in what felt like no time i found myself at a landmark that always brings a smile to my face -- the Vashon exercise bikes. i don't care how many times you ride Vashon, you absolutely must stop, get off your bike and ride them.
After my own personal mini session on the exercise bike, i reluctantly got back on my bike and resumed my ride. i didn't have too much time to be sad though because in a mile or so i was ascending the last hill of the day, which included a section with a gradient in the solid teens. i nearly forgot my mantra and attacked the hill but at the last second just as i was lifting out of the saddle, i remembered and instead of jumping out of the saddle, i sat my butt back down and shifted into an easier gear to spin up the hill. i crested the hill and soft pedaled to the stop sign. I was back in the center of Vashon.
TIP: Bring cash when you ride on Vashon - there are several places that don't accept plastic.
i couldn't be happier to see the vashon island coffee roasterie across the street, which as the name indicates, houses a coffee roaster and minglement, which sells loose leaf tea. stopping here is also on my list of must-dos. you'll find lots of locals here. if it's a nice day, you'll want to step out back for a visit to ZuZu's ice cream shop. refreshed from a quick me pick me up, i kept going as i had another stop in mind.
i made my way back toward the ferry along the vashon highway and in a few minutes i was in the "new" center of town (the area where the coffee roasterie was the original "center" of town). and on my left was my destination - The Hardware Store.
Another one of my must dos, i was eager to properly refuel with some good food. for those that live in seattle, you can get a taste of the hardware store by visiting 50 North. after i stuffed myself with a pancake breakfast (hey, it's my day off and breakfast is my favorite meal!), i remounted my bike and began my journey towards home. an uneventful cruise down to the ferry and a few minutes spent relaxing in the sunshine capped off a wonderful Vashon ride.
MILES 40-53 | West Seattle to Downtown Seattle
this section is going to be short...because i don't remember much. i was on cloud nine from the Vashon section and i literally zoned out for these last miles. i do remember Alki being packed with beach goers and people cruising in their cars, a stark contrast to the morning.
the next thing i know, i'm downtown along the waterfront, where this wonderful journey started and climbing the last bump towards home. what a day. and i was proud that i kept all my promises to myself, especially promise #3: the only that mattered today was having fun, preferably lots of it. oh i had fun alright. i must do it again soon because all work no play is no way to go through life. today reinforced that.
ABOUT THIS POST
All the pictures in this post were captured via Google Glass. I've been lucky to have had the opportunity to play with Google Glass this past month and one of the use cases that has emerged during my time involves the bike. I've used it on a few prior rides but the whole time i had been wanting to use Glass for a bigger ride -- something i could write about. Today was the perfect opportunity to put Glass to work, and it performed wonderfully.
For me, using Glass on the bike has proven to be a great way to stay connected (important when you have a young child at home), it has helped me document my rides (something i rarely did before), and it can serve as a great heads up display via Strava integration (no need to look down). I no longer have to worry about missed text messages because my phone was in my jersey pocket and i didn't check my phone for 2-3 hours. I don't have to fumble to get my phone out of the same pocket to snap a picture on a ride (or capture a video). and honestly, the thought of dropping my iphone and watching it skip across the pavement in traffic makes me wince. and while it is a bit of a nice to have vs. must have, it is nice not to have to look down at my garmin.
i realize opinions on Glass are polarizing but when i step back and look at Glass's potential, i believe it does and will have a place in consumers' lives.