Labor Day weekend, the Coeur d’Alene edition

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Sorry it’s been a while since I posted, but the last few weeks have been pretty much non-stop work with the occasional training thrown in. Not terribly exiting stuff. But thankfully, I had a nice long holiday weekend to look forward to. (And since I made us take the Friday and Tuesday off, it’s really closer to a week than a weekend. Woo hoo!) M had a photography workshop last week in Missoula, so she thought it would be fun to do a weekend in Coeur D’Alene. Since I’ve only driven past it a few times, I was in. (Besides, we’ve got to get as much many fun adventures in before that baby comes along and ruins everything! j/k… )

Since M was coming from the opposite direction, we were also transporting J out there. The drive out was pretty uneventful. We had great weather and left early enough to avoid all of the holiday weekend traffic. We stopped briefly in Spokane to pick up some sports nutrition and get a delicious smoothie from a new juice bar. (Juicing is apparently so hot right now, it’s even reached Spokane!) Then before we knew it, we were arriving at our dump of a vacation rental:

(We’re on the top floor of this dump.) 😉 The little “barn” is next to the owner’s ginormous house, but they were away for the weekend, so we had it pretty much to ourselves:

Here’s our crappy view:

And we’re super far away from the lake:

And then we had to look at a deer grazing on our lawn.

M really can’t pick a vacation rental. It’s sad, really. I went out and ran on the ridiculously lovely Centennial trail that runs along the lake and was across the street from our rental. It was so nice out and the trail wasn’t terribly crowded, save for the occasional smiling family out on their bikes. By the time I’d finished running and cleaned up, M had showed up and we were ready to eat!

Here’s T rocking some serious fashion in his compression sleeves and sandals. (I also like that M’s pregnant belly is in the corner of this shot. Paprazzi style, yo!)

But as T correctly pointed out, this town hosts an Ironman. It’s nothing they haven’t seen before.

The pizza place was pretty decent (it was no Delancey, but much better than I was expecting in a resort town.) We had some delicious adult beverages to set the weekend off right. Except for M, who had some bubble water instead. (When she ordered it, the waitress looked confused and said she didn’t think they had that, except for club soda from the bar or San Pellegrino. Um… ) Artsy picture of aforementioned beverages:

I think this weekend is off to an excellent start!

 

 

 

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Dog-cation

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While we were off partying in Vancouver, the boys were having a nice vacation of their own. M & J had to drop something by the house on the first day of our ride and they were nice enough to let the boys out of their boxes and play with them for a little while. I was so appreciative of this, since the pet-sitter wasn’t due to come until evening and we’d had to leave so early. And as an extra bonus, M sent me super cute pictures:

This is Smokey Joe’s favorite new toy, can you tell?

And here’s the cutest picture of Wally being naughty and jumping:

And then later in the weekend, we got these cute pictures from the pet-sitter. Georgie on the prowl:

And the boys sharing an apple from the tree in our yard.

Awwww, aren’t they so adorable?

 

 

Out and about in Vancouver BC

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The next morning, we were able to lounge about a little bit before we had to go drop our bikes off. We got some coffee and watched a little bad tv before we got ready to drop the bikes off. We arranged for a late check-out to allow ourselves time to have a nice breakfast then walk back to the hotel in a leisurely fashion. After two days of riding, even a mile of riding is about the last thing you want to do. But we survived and made it to the drop-off point without incident. It was weird to drop off the bikes and be on foot after having them as our primary mode of transport.

There was a Whole Foods nearby, which T wanted to see, so we stopped there first. Afterward, we passed a diner that I’d read good Yelp reviews about so we decided to give it a try for breakfast. It wasn’t terribly crowded and there was a sign to seat ourselves, so we did. We waited for a little while, watching the two waitresses doing various tasks. None of which included greeting us or bringing us menus. So, we waited some more. Still no acknowledgement. Or menus. One of the waitresses came over to windex the empty table next to us, ignoring us the whole time. I caught the eye of the other waitress, who was carrying menus, and smiled. Her expression didn’t change at all. By this point, it had been ten minutes that we’d been sitting in a nearly empty diner with no service. Finally, T asked the waitress nearest to us if we could have some menus. She stared at us blankly. At this point, I’d had enough and I started to gather my things, so T grabbed his and we walked out.

I lived in New York, so my benchmark for rude service is pretty bad, but this place blew all of that away. We really couldn’t believe what had happened or why they would act that way. But I’m glad we didn’t give them our money. We ended up at a Dutch place and I’m really glad we did. We ended up giving a business our money that actually wanted it. Plus, I got to have the most interesting breakfast. It was a huge pancake that had everything baked into it (ham, potatoes and whatnot) then you rolled it up and ate it in slices:

It was delicious and not like anything I’d ever had before. Take that Joes Diner. You can look forward to my bitchy Yelp review!

Then we walked back to the hotel in a nice leisurely fashion. The sun was starting to come out and it was turning out to be a beautiful day. After packing up and checking out of the hotel, we left our bags and headed out for our big adventure of the day, a swim at Kits Pool. I’d heard about this pool years ago and had always wanted to swim in it. It did not disappoint:

It’s 137 meters lengthwise (following the black line in the middle). They had a great system for swimming laps. That black lane in the middle is basically a passing lane and you swim with it to your left. There was plenty of space to swim and the water was super clear and lovely. My arms were tired from all of the riding but it was kind of the perfect recovery activity. I am very jealous of my Vancouver friends who get to swim in such a gorgeous place.

Afterward, I noticed this cool windmill driven mechanical swimmer. I loved it:

Afterward, we walked a few blocks up a hill to get some food for the train at another Whole Foods. (Big day for T, he got to see two different stores!) We went a little crazy, but got lots of good food for the train, plus some immediate snacks, including one of the juiciest peaches I’ve had in a while. Delicious.

Then it was a bus ride back to the hotel and time to head to the train station for the trip home. I think 80% of the train was RSVPers. I was glad we’d sprung for Business Class and had assigned seats. So, our check-in process was pretty smooth and before long we were on our way home.

The train had wi-fi, so I entertained myself on T’s iPad while he read his book. We ate our delicious Whole Foods dinner and relaxed. After we passed the border, we decided to check out the dining car and get a drink. (They’d been nice enough to give us some coupons, so our little half-bottle of wine was very reasonably priced.) We grabbed a table and enjoyed a nice Merlot:

There were a bunch of other cyclists around us telling various war stories about the ride. Before long, we joined the conversation and were having a lively time. So lively, in fact that one of the train employees had to tell us to keep it down. Twice. (Poor man had no idea what he was in for… ) A nice couple bought us some more wine and we had a really good time. Apparently, the real Party in RSVP is on the train ride home! But the ride sure flew by and we were in Seattle before we knew it. We were off the train quickly and early into the cab line and scored a cab pretty quickly.

We had such a great time in Vancouver and I definitely want to visit again. It would be nice to be able to visit folks that I know up there and have more than 12 hours to spend. It was a really great weekend and I’m very happy that we did it. I’d definitely do it again, especially knowing some of the things I know now.

 

 

RSVP Day Two: new territory

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Thanks to an early bedtime, we got a full night’s sleep before our 6 am wake-up call. After a lackluster, but complimentary, hotel breakfast filled with other cyclists, we packed up our bags and dropped them off at the truck. There were a number of folks also getting ready to head out, so we would have some company.

But first, a quick self portrait:

Awwww…

We had a little trouble getting onto the route initially, but a nice paramedic saw us by the side of the road looking at our phone, pulled over and told us how to get back on course. (Thanks, man!) And then it was remarkably simple. You basically stay on a single road for about 10 miles, winding through farmland early on an overcast morning. It was nice not to have to worry about looking for markers or missing turns. Initially, my legs and butt weren’t terribly thrilled to be back on the bike, but after a few miles everything got back into the groove again. I also discovered that growing up in dairy country has given me an immunity to the inevitable smells of dairy country. T, not so much…

We passed through the town of Lynden and we were hoping that there would be a coffee shop or some place that we could supplement our hotel breakfast/coffee, but alas that was not to be. As we rode along, I realized that we were at the part of the cue sheet that had said “DO NOT CROSS THE DITCH INTO CANADA” and sure enough, we turned and there was a little patch of grass between our road and an identical road except for it’s road signs were in kilometers and houses were flying the Canadian flag. I couldn’t get a good picture, but it was awesome. I love the idea that you could stand with one foot in each country, like Ramona Quimby. (Childhood literati, rejoice!)

I was expecting we’d be at the big border crossing, but apparently there’s a smaller one near Lynden. There was a very cross border patrol woman that was having none of our tomfoolery. I’m sure she’d already had to yell at a number of overly-exuberant cyclists already today and was having none of our crap. So much for that Canadian friendliness, eh. (j/k!) We were lucky to get there a little ahead of a big group, so we didn’t have too long to wait. But after we got through, there was a huge line of cyclists:

We waited our turn to take the obligatory photos in front of the Welcome to British Columbia sign:

We opted out of having someone take a couple shot of us, since there were a lot of folks still waiting. Yet again, there wasn’t anyplace to stop for coffee/food, so we hit the road. We were still in farmland, but now it was international farmland. 😉 We made it to the first food stop and got the scoop on potential places for lunch. (Yes, it is all about the eating on these rides… ) We hit a short steep climb (which we later learned was called “The Wall”.) It didn’t seem like that big a deal to me, but to hear people talking about it later, you’d think we’d climbed Alpe d’Huez or something. We also passed a big equestrian center that had a full event going on. It was amazing to see the horses warming up and all of the jumps set up. Very cool.

We left farmland behind and started getting into more developed terrain. I saw a pretty bridge ahead and was pleased that we were going to cross over it. (I learned later that this was the Golden Ears bridge) I love these modern bridges:

It had these golden eagle statues at the top which were so cool:

The crossing went on for a little over a mile and ended in a fairly scary descent. I was very happy that we weren’t around other cyclists at the time because it also ended at a very sharp corner and I can only imagine the carnage that would have resulted. Afterward, we found ourselves in an actual town where we stopped at a McDonalds. Sometimes salt and fat really hits the spot. Combine it with some Diet Coke and it’s the perfect fuel for a long ride.

The next section was through a series of suburbs and some fairly traffic-filled strip malls. We ate some heavenly watermelon at the next food stop before tackling the next section of climbing in Burnaby. This also turned out to be not that big a deal climbing wise. It was longish, but not steep and on a nice wide shoulder. We caught up with a group as we started into the city limits, which was great because this section was very confusing. But we could just follow the pack and not worry about the lack of course markers. And if we got lost, well, at least we’d have company!

The last bit of the ride felt like a roundabout tour of downtown Vancouver. There were tons of people out and it was actually pretty fun. I was feeling so proud that we’d ridden all this way and I was still feeling solid. I wasn’t suffering through it, I was actually enjoying it. When we got to the hotel finish line, we had to go down a fairly steep driveway into a parking garage (that wasn’t fun.) Then we went upstairs to the “party” (RSVP stands for Ride from Seattle to Vancouver and Party, after all.)

The party turned out to be spectacularly lame. Overpriced beer and burgers and very loud Top 40 music. (I find it more than a little obnoxious that there wasn’t complimentary food/drinks afterward. T joked that they should change the P in the name to “Pay”.) So, we grabbed our bags and headed over to our hotel. It was about a mile away, and included a not inconsiderable hill at the beginning. But once we got over that sucker, we were on a nice downhill slope in a straight shot to our hotel. As we got closer, we saw a TON of people about a block before we were to turn onto the street where our hotel was. And the road was closed. We dismounted our bikes and walked them through the crowd of what turned out to be a football game. In the stadium across the street from our hotel.

Luckily, we couldn’t hear any of the noise from the game in our room. We cleaned up and relaxed for a little bit (thank god this room had a tub) and then headed out in search of dinner. One of the hotel staff was in the elevator as we were going down and T asked him for suggestions. He pointed us toward two different adjacent neighborhoods, Yaletown to the right and Gastown to the left. With no real idea, we opted for Gastown. It turned out to be a very cool neighborhood with a ton of interesting shops and restaurants.

We wandered around inventorying our options and realized that we’d ridden by on our route earlier. We passed by a store named after me:

I know the name is spelled correctly, but it sure doesn’t seem like my kind of place…

We also passed the Steam Clock, which was going off as we walked by it:

We settled on a place called Lamplighter Pub, which had outdoor seating and a decent looking menu. I ordered a cocktail with a mind-boggling list of ingredients but turned out to be quite delicious:

We had a lovely decadent dinner (Poutine! Fried chicken and waffles! Second cocktail! Woo!) Then we walked back to the hotel and had a nice relaxing evening of bad television, bath and general relaxation. The nighttime view of the stadium was very pretty:

I can’t say it was a very late evening. I think I may have made it as late as 10, but I doubt it. We were pretty pooped! But we didn’t have to get up too early and we only had to ride our bikes a mile back to the bike drop-off in the morning, so it was all good. Even with the disappointing party at the end, I declare RSVP to be a rousing success!

RSVP Day One: let the riding begin!

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So, finally the big day has arrived and our weekend of bike riding is about to begin. The previous week was an unintentional taper as we had a number of work/personal commitments that interfered with our planned workouts. It also made our preparations for the ride a little rushed and last-minute and had us leaving the house a little too late the morning of the ride and hurrying for the start line to drop off our bags. I hate running late and the stress of potentially missing the drop off had me in tears. (Not the way you want to start off nearly two hundred miles of bike riding… )

It turned out that the baggage truck deadline was half an hour after the start line “closed”, which hurts my brain with it’s craziness. We took a quick self portrait as they dismantled the start line behind us. (The phrase WTF popped in my head more than once this morning… )

Because we got a late-ish start (keep in mind, it’s 7:10 in the morning… ) we didn’t see a lot of other riders and had no idea how many people were doing the ride at all. We had the trail to ourselves and were generally a little bit annoyed with our ride experience thus far. It felt like we were in the back of the pack and would be lucky to hit the aide stations before they were closed. But, little by little, we started to reel in other riders and realized we were going to be just fine. By the time we got to Snohomish, there was  a decent sized group in town. We opted to stop at Snohomish Bakery for some food/caffeine. They snazzed up their sign since last we’d been there:

Snohomish is such a cute little town:

I went with a pastry/Diet Coke combo:

While T went with a giant cookie. (Gotta love these rides, you get to eat all kinds of junk food!):

The next section of the ride was on a multi-use path that we don’t have much occasion to ride, called the Centennial Trail. It goes for a long way and has hardly anybody on it. It’s a little slice of cycling heaven:

While I was stopped to take this picture, T took the following picture of me (meta!) And I’m not sunburned, the phone on his camera just sucks:

Naturally, I had to take a picture of him (even more meta!)

We were on the trail for quite a ways and it was really nice to just cruise along, not having to watch out for traffic or other bikes. It was just T and I, chit-chatting along. Very nice and relaxing. Definitely one of the ride highlights. We pulled into Arlington and started a hilly section of the ride. I have to say, doing these organized stage rides has really given me a confidence boost with my climbing. I may not be the speediest climber ever, but I pass a ton of people on these rides. Whether that’s because they don’t climb enough in training or I’ve just improved that much, I can’t say. But it’s really fun to be the one passing folks, I must say.

Three-quarters into the ride, we wound through farmland and rattled our poor bodies on chip seal roads. Our energy ebbed and flowed. When we felt good, we rode hard, when we didn’t feel good we took it easier. (When I say “we”, I mean myself. T always seemed to feel fine… ) We passed more people (mostly on the “feel good” parts, but occasionally on the cruising parts) and were solidly in the middle of the pack.

We approached the section of the ride I’d been most concerned about, the hills around mile 90. Just their placement in the ride was concerning to me. I had not idea how steep they’d be or how my legs would hold out. But as we started climbing, I found myself thinking “Hey, this isn’t that bad!” and in fact, I was feeling pretty great. I passed tons of people and met up with T at a lookout point at the top. (No matter how well I’m climbing, I’m not match for that boy!) It was still overcast, but the blue sky was starting to shine through:

Then we just had a little bit more ground (and a few more hills) to cover. I was ready to be done for the day, so I pushed myself to go a little bit harder. We got a bit lost getting to our hotel. (This would be because for whatever reason, the ride organizers didn’t feel it was necessary to provide route markers to our hotel, despite it being a baggage drop-off point/official hotel on their ride. Assholes!) But after a small tour of downtown Bellingham and a few consultations with our phone maps, we made it there.

The hotel continued the tradition of disappointment/irritation by giving us the first American hotel room I’ve ever been in with no bathtub. After riding 110 miles, I was counting on getting to soak my poor legs in hot water. I’m pretty sure I spent a good portion of the days riding daydreaming about it, in fact. Needless to say, I was not pleased. But the hotel was full so switching rooms was not an option. This, combined with the fact that the very loud smoke detector went off after we took a shower, (and could only be turned off by a member of the hotel staff, who arrived ten minutes later and ripped it out of the ceiling.) makes Best Western Regency Inn in Bellingham my official “Worst Hotel Stay in Recent Memory” award.

After all of that drama, we walked over the the Red Robin across the street (far and away the most enticing of our limited dining options within walking distance… ) You’ll never do bottomless fries justice like you will after a 110 miles of riding:

I was surprised that one can get a decent glass of wine at the Red Robin, as T was at the Mac & Jacks on tap. And I thoroughly enjoyed my fried chicken “salad”:

After consuming an obscene amount of calories, we headed back to the room to veg out on the bed and watch tv. Tomorrow we enter into the big unknown, how will 80-something miles feel after so many miles in my legs today. We shall see…

 

 

 

 

 

The dog days of summer

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I can’t believe in one week’s time, I’ll be riding my bike to Canada. Correction, I’ll be on day two of riding my bike to Canada. That seems completely insane. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit nervous about it. That’s a lot of miles to cover in two days and a loooooooonnnnnnngggg time to spend on a bike! Originally, we were thinking we’d do a good long ride to prepare on the first part of the actual course, but as our desire to watch the Olympics outweighed our desire to get out and ride, it got downgraded until we opted to just do some hill repeats in town.

I think it’s a sign when you go to load your dogs into their crates (which is normally a nice peaceful process) and when they see you take your bikes out, they start the saddest chorus of howling and mournful noises that you’ve ever heard. As we put on our shoes and helmets in the yard, all we could hear was Wally’s pitiful crying. We might have had some long rides this summer, poor boys. Since next weekend is going to be all about the bike riding, I figure the boys could use a post about them and their antics.

When we got back from our ride, we let them into the backyard. In between sips of ice water, I played a little ball with them. We got this big orange ball for them after Wally went crazy for the one that Jenn & Bryan had up in Winthrop. I expected that Smokey Joe would pretty much ignore it like he has every other ball we’ve ever given him, but I think he loves it even more than Wally. It leads to some spirited chases:

 

Followed by some growly tug of war:

But Smokey Joe is the king of mind games and usually intimidates Wally into giving him the ball:

I hope y’all are having as enjoyable a summer as the boys are!

 

 

Two days of summer

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Each year, Seattle (usually) has a couple of days of actual hot weather. These are always accompanied by a great deal of complaining, followed by justifications of “But we don’t have air conditioning” when called on it by people living in places that get over 100 degree weather for more than two days a year. It’s a tradition I personally look forward to every year because I get to wear my shorts and not have to put on a sweatshirt. Completely coincidentally, we’d invited friends over for BBQ dinner in the backyard. (I’d hoped that the weather would cooperate, but you never know about Seattle… )

It’s also Seafair weekend which is a big crazy festival on Lake Washington that includes performances from the Blue Angels. Naturally, every beach anywhere near Lake Washington is crazy talk. I thought the ones further north wouldn’t be too bad when I planned where I’d run, but was quite wrong and had to park much further away from my start point than usual. My run was terrible, but since I started it at 12:30, that was not exactly a mystery or a surprise. I did get to see a glimpse of Blue Angels in formation which was fun. After a restorative Big Gulp, I made the customary last trip to Whole Foods for things we’d forgotten/run out of/didn’t realize we’d need and headed home to help T with the last bits of prep. (To the patrons of WF, I’m sorry. You proabably weren’t prepared to interact with that sweaty, grumpy girl clutching a Diet Coke… )

Luckily, we’d made salads in advance and only had minor amounts of actual cooking and set up to do. It was pretty toasty outside, but we’d made sure to have plenty of icy beverages:

(In my cute little beverage tub from Target, no less! Martha Stewart, eat your heart out… ) It was fun to actually set the outdoor table for a change:

We were joined by Bryan, Jenn, M & J. It was a lovely evening (especially as the heat came down) filled with entertaining conversation and summery food and drink. It was a perfect summer evening.

The next morning, T & I were supposed to do a long ride in preparation for RSVP which is coming up FAST. (Gulp!) We were going to get up early and ride 80-something miles and be good little athletes. But when I woke up that morning, all I wanted to do was watch some Olympics and go out for a nice leisurely breakfast. From the way T was stalling, I could tell he didn’t want to ride either. So, we walked over to Beth’s for breakfast with the resolution that we’d figure out a shorter ride or alternate plan.

I always giggle when I see these giant metal chickens, thanks to this epic blog post:

T’s hip has been bugging him lately and it was already hurting on the relatively short walk to breakfast. We decided he should probably rest it rather than riding. (Missing a ride isn’t going to impact his RSVP experience at all, given how strong he is on the bike… ) That left me to decide if I was going to be responsible or lay on the couch and watch more Olympics. (I think we all know how that ended up!) But honestly, even though I felt a bit guilty about not riding, it was nice to enjoy a lazy summer day during the brief days of actual summer.

After reading my book and napping (!!) for a little while, we got a call from M asking if we wanted to go find a beach and cool off in some water somewhere. We did and decided to check out a place she called “secret beach” near their place. I’d heard her talk about “secret beach” but hadn’t been. To get to the beach, you walk down this sandy pathway between two big apartment buildings:

You’d never even know there was a public beach there, which was why it wasn’t terribly crowded:

Except for when the stand-up paddleboard class took off, then it was pretty congested: 😉

After a nice afternoon of basking in the sun interspersed with wading into FREEZING COLD WATER, we were feeling far too lazy to cook. M proposed Delancey, which sounded perfect to us. We lucked out that there wasn’t even a crazy long wait time and we got a table by the window. Everyone was in full on relaxed summer mode, so I couldn’t resist snapping a pic of M & J. (I call this one “Are you taking my picture?”)

This kicked off a bit of photo taking:

(I like the added rear view reflection in this shot)

Maybe in two weeks when I’m grinding up some crazy hill, I’ll be sad that I didn’t spend this weekend training, but somehow I don’t think so.