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.
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 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:
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!