There comes a point on some organized bicycle rides when I wonder what I'm doing there.
That point came very early on the 2010 Chilly Hilly bike ride on Sunday as I stood in line with several thousand other cyclists and wondered if I was ever going to make the ferry to Bainbridge Island for the start of the ride.
But I came to understand what I was doing there — to enjoy the camaraderie of thousands of fellow cyclists — later on down the road.
The promise of partly sunny skies had organizers expecting record numbers for the 37th annual bike ride sponsored by the Cascade Bicycle Club. The 33-mile tour marking the end of winter is a rite of passage for bicyclists in the Seattle area, and more tend to take those rites when the temperature is in the 50s.
In fact, Sunday was such a great day that Cascade reported 6,028 riders participated this year, an all-time record for the ride.
In spite of arriving early, we missed the first first ferry because we weren't allowed onto the already overloaded ferry parking apron. Then, approaching the gangway to load the next ferry about 45 minutes later, a groan went up from hundreds of cyclists when the ferry operators briefly stopped their progress to judge how much space was left on board.
The ferry was jammed with bikes and bicyclists, and the congestion didn't let up when the ride started over on Bainbridge Island. Even though the ride fees went to charities of the host community, I was among the folks discussing why we hadn't just planned to take the ferry over the following weekend for an uncrowded ride around the island.
But we're not used to riding with 6,000 close and personal friends. As the crowding lessened a bit as everyone found their comfortable paces, I had a chance to look around the enjoy my surroundings.
Thrill of victory…
I'm talking about:
– Riding with bicyclists of every age, from kids in trailers or 3rd wheelers to grisled oldsters cranking along on old 10-speeds;
– Getting passed by lean athletes on the newest, lightest bikes;
– Watching some folks struggle as far up a hill as they could get, then getting off the bike and hoofing it;
– Hearing cheers from families at street corners and the ends of driveways;
– Tasting the delicious homemade baked goods at the food stops.
I'd forgotten how fun this could be, although I was glad when I returned to the finish after 2,675-some feet of climbing.
And I'll probably find myself back on that ferry across the Puget Sound next February when we celebrate the 38th annual Chilly Hilly bike ride.
This might be a good time to steer you toward dozens up recreational bike rides in Washington this summer. Go to the Washington bicycle calendar and choose the month that interests you.