12 September 2011

Herding Cats On Pacific Rose

When life gets interesting, it pays to get interested in living it. September 3 was that kind of a day. It really wasn’t supposed to be like this. It was supposed to be something really simple; something easy something uncomplicated. Boothby always has a plan. Not always a good one, but a plan, nonetheless. And the plan today was to make sure that he could get a couple other folks out for an easy 100k so that he could be certain that the lovely and talented Mimi could be sure of getting her “P-9” ride in.

Now, this all goes back to sometime in December. Boothby was sitting around the house one rainy afternoon pining away the day and feeling sorry for himself because it was raining hard, had been raining hard for some time and he’d only been able to get a 35 mile ride in. Poor baby! Well, here he was wandering aimlessly about the house when out of the blue, Mimi says to him, “You know, this new RUSA thing comes at a really interesting time. I was thinking of doing more 100k rides next year.” Well, let me tell you, the first thing ol’ Boothby thought was that this stranger who looked like his wife was either a stunt double hired by his pals or she was some evil long-lost twin who had killed the real Mimi and hidden the body. This was just NOT what he would expect to hear. Of course, after a couple of very carefully placed questions, he found out she was really interested in getting a P-12, completing a ride of somewhere between 100 and 199 kilometers every month for 12 consecutive months. No easy feat, that.

So, in early January we started out. We amassed a gang of 8 or 9 riders to go out and brave the ice and sub-freezing temperatures and did this flat route that I’d helped to design for Seattle Randonneurs called Pacific Rose. A very simple, pretty straightforward course that is almost half ridden on bike trails, with a majority of the rest being on fairly low traffic streets and much of them with bike lanes or sharrows. The only climbing is about 500’ or so during the last 5 miles. After a little more than 6 hours, there we were with our first month out of the way, and we’ve continued along ever since, finding some other really nice rides including one of Susan France’s permanents called the “Snoozeville Populair.” Of course, I couldn’t be satisfied with that. I had to also do a 300 kilometer or more ride every month for the whole year.

Everything was going swimmingly until the last month when life suddenly became very interesting and challenging for us. First I had to abandon my quest for that 300k every month, then I needed to abandon my quest for 100 consecutive months of at least 200 kilometers or better at least once a month. But, when Mimi told me that this goal for the P-12 just wasn’t the most important thing for her right now, it shook me up a little. I discovered that, for some unexplainable reason, it was even more important for me. Suddenly, it became a sort of must do goal, and I really wanted to see her complete this for herself. After all, this is the woman I love more than life itself, the single most important person to ever influence my walk through every hardship of life and it was important to me, even if she was willing to let go. So I organized a ride. Same course, different day.

Then people started to respond. I started to count heads of those who said they might like to come out and play and before I was done, I was printing up almost 20 control cards. Of course, I knew Dr. Codfish was coming up from Olympia because we’d ridden together a few weeks ago and he said he might just want to do this. And I knew Amy was coming, though we ended up changing from Saturday to Sunday and I feared she might have other commitments. Then Lyn told me she was coming. And the emails just kept coming in. I was thrilled when I got an email from Pam saying that she and Will would join in on their tandem. Thrilled because he’d just come back from Paris-Brest-Paris and I wanted to hear about his 1200 kilometer adventure. After I got that email, I sent a note to Chris Heg asking him if he was back, hoping he might be able to join me, too. “Nope. Still in Norway.” Darn! I was surprised to see him at the start. He didn’t exactly lie to me, just told me a very, very simple truth, planning the whole time to be on that ride. He arrived back home sometime around bedtime the night before and was here for a 100k today. These randonneurs are very interesting folks, indeed.

One guy showed up who had never ridden a rando event before, and another guy showed up who had done a couple of permanents, but always by himself. Both got to meet a bunch of the finest folks in the area and ride the day with them. Peg and Kris came up from Olympia. And then, just before we were about to leave, Robin showed up. When he rolled up, he said, “Hey, Boothby. I’ve got something for you.” He reached down and started fiddling around with his shoe. I couldn’t figure out what he was doing. Digging for some toejam? Hiding donuts in his socks? WHAT??? Nope. He took off a little white and red disk and handed it to me. “That’s your timing chip for PBP. You’re going to need it in 4 years.” I just about lost it.

Ralph and Carol also showed up on their tandem, leading us off right at 9:00 for a rocket ship descent down Holgate with Will and Pam right on their heels on their tandem. I easily hit 42 mph going down this hill and the tandems were leaving me far behind.

We were all hanging out together in the mid-morning sun with everything going just fine until we got to Harbor Island where the salmon enter the Duwamish River from Elliott Bay and the fisherfolks were lined up elbow to elbow reeling them in as fast as they possibly could. We were joking about why we quit fishing and all was right with the world until all of a sudden, my pedals would not turn around. I looked down. I couldn’t see anything. I back pedaled and the chain came off. NOW WHAT? I pulled off and discovered I had sucked up a spool of jumbled up fishing line discarded by one of the fisherpeople.

It was in my pedals. It was in my chain. It was in the cassette. It was in the rear derailleur. It was a fine mess. As cyclist passed me one by one, each with their own smart alecky comments about my nice bird’s nest, Mimi, Geoff and I tried to extract it. Lyn took pictures. After 15 minutes, we had it cleared enough to ride on. I reflected that it took just about as long as to clean out a fishing reel when I had a “real” birds nest years ago out fishing for trout in the streams of Western Washington, thinking to myself it is not a darned wonder I quit fishing. Sheesh!

I would like to report that after that it was a very uneventful ride.

It wasn’t.

With two construction detours and several people not knowing the area well, we had folks heading every which way. Mimi, Robin, Amy and I were riding along together south of the Post Office facility in Tukwila. Robin asked me if I liked funny stories. Well, of course I do. He started to tell me of his PBP adventures.

All of a sudden, there was no Mimi and no Amy.

We waited for them, then we all took off together. Suddenly, there was no Amy.

We waited. I told Mimi to go on ahead and try to catch up to the gang, making sure to turn off the trail at 196th. She did very well and even called me from 212th to tell me she had missed the turn. . But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Robin and I rode back to find Amy. When we didn’t find her, I called about a half hour later. “I’m lost,” she said

“Well, where are you?”

“I’m near the Tukwila Park and Ride.” Great. That’s just back a ways. We rode there and waited. I called her in my little voice. I even whistled. No Amy. Finally, I see her riding toward us. From the wrong direction. She’d turned back north.

So I ask Robin if he can “jet ahead” and try to reel Mimi in and I’ll ride along with Amy.

“Hey, I’m done jetting,” he said. That was when I found out he’d only been off the airplane since 5 pm yesterday. He did take off a little bit faster though.

Amy and I rode on. Just about the time we were approaching 196th, Mimi called. To avoid undue delays we rode down to 212th to pick her up so the three of us could at least ride together. Once we got back on course everything went off without a hitch. Well, almost.

We knew we were well off the pace and when we hit the second detour, I just took us over to the Interurban Trail, figuring we might see some of the earlier riders as they’d be making their way north by now. We had to go almost 5 miles south yet. I found it a bit odd that we never saw one of them. Then as we rolled into the control a Giu’s Market, there were the tandems and a couple other singles. I figured we could ride out with them and went to get an ice cream. Mimi came out of the store and looked like she was a race horse headed for the barn as she said, “You don’t mind if I ride out with Sue, do you?” I knew she really wanted to finish and do it with time to spare. “Naw, go on.”

So I thought I’d ride out with Dr. Codfish and Amy and we would be able to ramble our way back. Just as they, Kris, Peg and I were rolling out, my phone rang. It was Chris. They were at a different place and wanted to know what to do. Now this posed an interesting dilemma. Lucky for us all, the Permanents Coordinator was with that gang (who had been the lead pack earlier – still don’t know what happened there) and he was able to make the executive decision to use that as an alternate control since the mileage of the detours had made up the distance. I rode over to meet up with them, since Dr. Codfish, Amy, Peg and Kris were well ahead of me now. FINE! Be that way.

I found Geoff who told me Robin had gone off in search of me. Now I was really confused, so I rode back to the store, but never found him. On the way back, I did find Chris and eventually we had a gang of about 6 or so headed north together. Lord, almighty! I can’t think of a day or a ride when I’ve seen so much cat herding. We eventually caught up with Amy. Seems Dr. Codfish had dropped her like a hot potato somewhere. So I let the rest of the gang go and rode with her, then Chris dropped back and we chatted a while. I was really glad to have the slower pace, since I’d been working pretty hard to keep up with Geoff’s gang at 18 mph. 12-13 felt a lot better to me, especially as it was warming up pretty good.

Chris took off after a while and Amy and I chatted our way along until we arrive in Tukwila and stopped for a few minutes to let Peg and Kris show up so we would be able to ride the stretch through Renton together and not have anybody getting lost. I really enjoyed this part of the ride, ambling our way through Renton, onto the Cedar River Trail and chatting pretty much constantly. I think that was what I needed more than anything, just a nice easy day with lots of conversation.

Somehow, we managed to catch up to a lot of other folks and we ended up with 7 or 8 of us heading out together from the last info control, with Geoff, Amy, Kris, Peg and me finishing the last several miles together until we got to the one big climb of the day, at which point everybody just sorta rode off into the distance as Amy and I continued to work our way to the finish line.

Arriving at The Station, we found that most of the riders had either come and gone or were still hanging about, feasting on tamales and beer....

...or sipping lemonade or iced coffee. For almost an hour, we hung out in the shade enjoying the company of the day, listening to a couple of Robin’s adventures from PBP and savoring the late summer warmth of a beautiful Seattle afternoon. Finally, it was time to head for home.

Life just doesn’t get much better than this.


Mimi Torchia Boothby Watercolors said...

You do know how to show a girl a good time!

mwhitme said...

Criminy sakes you all needed GPS chips so someone could track you. Or Harry Potters map would have been good. Herding cats is easy compared to that ride!

salsabike said...

Randos are some pretty excellent folks, aren't they??