ENDING SUMMER ON A HIGH NOTE
it's been a most SPECTACULAR summer here in seattle. if you've spent time in seattle during the summer, you know what i mean. however, if you, studious reader, observed that opening sentence, you'll notice i used the word "most" and i capitalized "spectacular," for this summer has been one to remember and deserving of the superlative and the emphasis. the days have been long, sunny, and dry, while daily temperatures have been warm without being sweltering.
my friend jose and i had been talking over the summer about wanting to ride mt. baker, but we had been having trouble lining up schedules and now the summer season was winding down. soon the snow would return to one of the snowiest places in north america and we'd have to wait another year. however, on a sunny and clear thursday morning, our schedules magically aligned and we left the urban jungle behind, just for a day. we headed out of town while commuters ground their way to work in traffic, grumpy, stressed, and distracted by their devices. as we zoomed along, tall buildings, brake lights, and the buzz of a metropolis soon gave way to farms and fields and eventually tall trees and quiet roads. all the while, mt. baker's snowcapped peak served as a beacon.
in what felt like no time we arrived at our launch point, the glacier public service center. as we stepped out and stretched our legs, a gentle nip in the morning air reminded us of where we were headed. the chilly air caused us to pause and ponder the pros and cons of a short sleeve jersey and warmers combo vs. a long sleeve jersey. in the end, the long sleeve jersey won and it proved (for me at least) to be the right choice, but also an odd one for me to process considering it was mid september and supposed to be near 80 degrees back in the city. dressed and gear assembled, we made one final check before setting out.
as we turned over those first few pedal strokes, we both wore huge smiles as we took in our surroundings. for me, cycling adventures such as today's ride had always alluded me, so i was in a bit of disbelief that i was actually getting my first opportunity to do a ride that didn't start from my front door. my excitement got the better of us and we found ourselves stamping out a brisk pace until the first roller reminded us of what was ahead. while we still had goofy smiles on our faces, we settled into a comfortable pace and those initial miles ticked by easily.
as the road tilted up and the real climbing began, we both chose not to attack the road but to enjoy each pedal stroke. we both became lost in our own little world, tackling the ascent at our own pace. i found myself alone with my thoughts, the sound of my breath, and the industrial hum of man and machine working together to tackle the slope. as i rounded each bend in the road, i was blown away by the natural beauty of this mountain and the road. i was torn between wanting to capture each panorama and not wanting to disrupt the comfortable cadence i had established. romantic thoughts weaved in and out of my mind as i contemplated what a bike race on this mountain might look like or how this mountain would make an amazing backdrop for a photo shoot. the views made the two hour ascent fly by and in no time i saw signs for artist point, our destination today.
as the road became more exposed towards the summit, i could see jose on the switchback below. we waved at each other as if to acknowledge, can you believe this ride?! while he looked like a small dot below, i knew he had a huge smile on his face, just as i did. i carried onwards to artist point and when we finally arrived, we were rewarded with an amazing 360 degree view.
we relaxed in the sunshine, took in the view, and struggled for adequate words to describe the ride up. in the end, i think we both acknowledged silently that the right words would be elusive. as we got ready for the descent, i took one more look around and filed the image away in my head with a note, "must come back."
we made final adjustments to vests/jackets and gloves and then we were off. we pointed our wheels down the mountain and picked up speed immediately. the first bend surprised us both and snapped us out of our dream and back to reality. just as we did on the ride up, we each settled into our own rhythm as we descended and i watched as jose opened up the throttle and railed the bends and switchbacks. soon he was out of sight and i was left to work on my cornering and descending (lack of) skills. i couldn't think of a better road to practice on. swooping bends, good road conditions, and few cars helped me push my mental limits. but then just as i was starting to feel it, we were at the bottom. jose had a big grin on his face and i think we both commented at the same time that whomever designed this road had to have been a cyclist.
we still had a few miles to ride before we could call it a day and fatigue was setting in. the last few rollers and then a headwind to cap things off zapped any remaining energy i had. we pushed on and tackled those last few miles and made it back to the car just as my tank was hitting empty.
tired, but still smiling, this ride was unquestionably the best day i had ever had on the bike and i couldn't imagine a better way to cap off a most SPECTACULAR summer.
a couple of other pictures from the ride. wish i would have taken more, but that just means, i'll have to go back! and you should too!