Last weekend I rode RAPSODY (“Ride Around Puget Sound in twO DaYs,” though some say it’s One DaY), an 166-mile loop around the southern part of Puget Sound. I had heard good reviews of its inaugural year, but the last two years, its schedule overlapped with RAWs 2005 (around the peninsula) and 2006 (down the center of the state).
RAPSODY began at Tacoma Community College, heading north towards the Point Defiance ferry dock. From there, we took the Hiyu to Tahlequah, on the southern part of Vashon Island. I think the ferries are cool as a concept, but I hate being on the “just missed the boat” end of the schedule. I had twenty minutes to kill until it arrived.
During the brief trip across, I calculated that I’d have only an hour to trek across the 15-mile length of the island. The hilly island. Missing the ferry would be tantamount to a forty minute time penalty. (Or, I could ride back up the steep hill and find something to do/eat in town.) As anxious as I was to zip off the ferry, I have also seen enough raw chaos as bikers of different abilities coalesce into a narrow lane as they try to do too much at once. I pushed my bike until I was clear.
I went full-throttle (for me) up Vashon Island. I didn’t stop for food, bio-breaks, or pictures. It helped being able to pace behind several other riders with similar motivation. I made it to the ferry with six minutes to spare; however, I wondered if I had pushed too hard, using up all of my “gas” for the day.
The Southworth ferry was even shorter. After the cars, the Flight of the Cycling Bumblebees ensued. Ahead of me, rider #78 had mounted her bike, clipping into one pedal. She missed the second-clip in on the downstroke, doing the cyclist equivalent of the Picard Maneuver, falling a random direction – in this case, onto the rider to her aft, starboard side. Like anyone, she was initially more embarrassed. Later, I heard she suffered a chain ring puncture wound. I don’t recall seeing her the rest of the trip.
The first rest stop was at Manchester State Park, a few miles past the ferry dock (or mile 27). The table up front had an assortment of cookies and brownies and other foods to undo any inadvertent health benefits of riding 27 miles. Further past this was the jackpot: nonfat yogurt, granola and fresh blueberries. This would prove to be as popular as grits were on CROC. Since the next stop, at Allyn, was another thirty miles away, I loaded up my pockets with non-sticky foodstuffs.
There was a long grade before the second rest stop at Allyn. Two of the sag volunteers had rolled in and were chatting:
Even my [beautiful Honda Goldwing] has a hard time going up some of these hills, yet look at these guys.
Take a look at the thighs on some of them.
As a band (!) warmed up, I grazed on fresh fruit and calzones. The nutritional density of the calzones’ cheese, tomato sauce, and veggies hit the spot. Unfortunately, several miles later, the toxic mixture of caffeinated sports drink and the calzones’ onion component wasn’t agreeing with me. Let’s just say both tasted better the first time.
The last third of the day was rollers, broken up by a couple of insanely steep (17% grade), short hills. A recumbent, tandem and I took turns demonstrating the various performance aspects of our bikes. I’d pass the tandem on the longer uphill grades; they’d take the lead on the downhill; and the recumbent owned the flats. As we were getting close to the end, my energy level picked up, letting the recumbent and I play cat and mouse as we got doused by bands of showers. I was soooooo glad I wore my wool jersey and rain booties: I was wet and smelled like a sheep, but I was also warm.
Shelton High School was the end of the first day’s ride: 89.2 miles, 6:13 on the bike. Once I found my bags, I set up camp on the edge of the baseball field, out of porta-potty door slamming range. The shower facilities were inside the locker rooms of “The Dome.”
Some people were setting up their sleeping bags around the internal periphery of The Dome. The wrestling room was also opened up for people who hadn’t brought their own pad. When I was done taking an ice cold shower, I rolled my bike inside (to protect the leather seat from any rain), and found an outlet where I could recharge my GPS.
I had a lot of time to kill before dinner was served, so I went through my backlog of physics and earth sciences magazines. (Note for anyone reading this far: the Aurigids meteor shower is estimated to occur at 4:36 a.m. PST on September 1st, +/- 20 minutes. Peak rate could be as high as 200 per hour.)
Both Saturday’s dinner (with fantastic, locally-grown corn) and Sunday’s breakfast were fund raisers for uniforms for the Shelton High School dance team. After the meal, they performed an abbreviated set of their hip-hop routines.