Newsletter - 2005 Archive

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You Pack Your Own Chute
by Sarah Gallazin

The full moon beamed her clear light on farm fields all around us. Fog hugged the fields and shrouded them in ghostly glowing "dry ice". We were riding to Monroe, WA on day 1 of the August 600 km Lower Mainland Brevet. I will remember this night as one of Mother Nature's most memorable shows! I was thrilled when earlier, just outside of Granite Falls, the moon popped up over the mountains' black silhouettes. The roads had become quiet, the air cool, and our spirits buoyed as the moon watched over us. We dreamed of a McDonald's hamburger waiting for us only minutes away.

My day had started with difficulty. I could not keep up the pace. My riding was sluggish, and I had to push and strain with every pedal stroke. My knees and back began to complain. I was sure I must be sick. I struggled for 50 km and finally John rode behind me and noticed my wheel was jammed up against my frame! My new tires had been replaced by a bike shop, so I could not be faulted (this time) for replacing the wheels incorrectly. However, as everyone knows "you pack your own chute" so I was guilty of not checking my wheels before I left.

Once the wheel was straightened in the drop, I could fly! John had a hard time catching up to me for a change.

I mentioned my mechanical problem to "Jim" who confided that he had traveled from Montana to ride his first 600 km brevet.

The day was fair, the roads were as good as chip seal can be, and my patient riding partner did most of the pulling. What more can a girl want? We played leap-frog with Melissa, Scott, Jim, Laura and Ron P. and Ron H. for a while.

The upper Skagit near Marblemount was spectacular. The forests and the river were quiet and abundant with fishing holes which begged to be explored. No time. Wheels gotta spin.

My second flat of the day cost us valuable time, as it happened just outside of Granite Falls in the dark. By the time we reached McDonalds it was closed! Have you ever seen a grown woman cry over food?! No hamburger. But John, always striving to show me a good time, suggested we get our dinner from the heated food case at the Shell Station in Granite Falls. An excellent suggestion, as nothing else was open.

We ate, what I think was cheese-covered potatoes, sitting on two milk crates on the dusty cement of a gas station watching the locals come and go. I'll bet not too many gals have spent their Saturday nights like that! It was fun. Another nice date, John.

We had booked into what reminded me of the Bates Motel in Alfred Hitchcock's movie. It was the only hotel in Monroe, WA, whose proprietor agreed to accept a bag before the ride and keep it for us until after the ride. It was actually "closed" but the fellow doing the"renovations" rents out newly completed rooms. Nothing wrong with the room - bed, windows, running water, electricity -- and then we heard it…..deafening thunder which shook the walls, the bed, the spokes in our wheels, and all the filings in our teeth. A bloody train. We were 10 feet from the track!

It's amazing what you can sleep through if you cycle for 18 hours. We got 3 ½ hours of sleep and headed out on the road for a couple of hours of night riding.

The fields in the distance looked like an ocean. We could not tell what lay under the mist. The high points of the land looked like floating islands. Eerie and beautiful. Fog on your glasses, however, is not eerie or beautiful. It made route finding and navigating rumble strips on the road challenging.

In Stanwood we met Dave and Nina for a hearty breakfast at a local restaurant. It was so good, and the conversation so pleasant, we spent 2 hours there!

Now I was feeling tired and was worried we wouldn't make the control in Ferndale. Three nosebleeds later we arrived at Denny's. The staff there has seen it all before. They didn't bat an eye on two stinky, dirty, blood spotted cyclists with enormous appetites.

We continued riding in the afternoon heat of day 2. Outside of Lynden our bikes attracted the interest of several local canines. One little feller wanted to run as hard as he could under John's front wheel. Luckily his legs were too short and John rode too fast! There seemed to be "packs" of little 'dogs gone wild' out there.

When we got to the Sumas border crossing and told the Guard what we were doing he congratulated us and asked "how do you feel?" When I muttered "Horrible, sick, tired…" he retorted "You look good, congratulations".

The last part of the ride was my least favourite. Mission to Haney at supper time. No hecklers or erratic drivers this time. A delicious A & W frosty mug of root beer and several hamburgers were our rewards at the finish.

As we waited, our other riders arrived. Melissa, Laura, and Jim having completed their first 600. Congratulations and root beers all around! Jim told me he was thinking of me on the ride. He told us about a fall he had riding in a pack over railroad tracks. It turns out he was having a heck of a time keeping up. Straining, pushing, and not able to attain any speed. (Sound familiar?) Finally he looked at his wheel, remembering our earlier conversation. Since his railroad track fall, his brake had been rubbing his wheel for most of the ride and the brake rubber was shredded!

This is my second 600 and both have been a challenge. I enjoyed this ride, especially several days later. After, I always reflect on what I saw, things I did, and the funny and frustrating events that happened. Life is simpler on the road. Riding long distances makes you appreciate the small things in life, a quiet bed, a hamburger, a well-tuned and free-spinning wheel…right, Jim?!


August 26, 2005