Tour de Whidbey 2013 was predicted to be a soggy event, and in the days leading up to September 21st, I could find little enthusiasm for the ride among those who had been planning to attend. I was prepared to take my rain bike and associated gear so I could show my support for the event, but wasn’t prepared to enjoy it. That morning, however, the roads were relatively dry and the clouds were not very threatening.
The weather report still promised misery and woe, but I began to think otherwise. I was going to be driving Brian and Ron down to the ride start and they showed up in full rain gear. I, however, had retooled. I wore bib shorts and my light, long sleeve WIBC jersey. I also left the rain bike at home and brought out a much more spritely singlespeed rig. We loaded the bikes and drove down to Greenbank to find a bustling ride ops center under promising looking skies. Brad, Courtney and Matt were manning the WIBC tent, where riders could learn about the club and get some expert wrench work compliments of Brad. The sun peaked out now and then and our bright WIBC jerseys caught everyone’s attention.
Brian, Ron and I went in to barn to get our numbers, t-shirts and pancake breakfast. The food was great and I washed it down with complementary Whidbey Coffee. Everything was well organized, and we were disappointed that the weather centers had chased away many would-be Whidbey riders. As we prepared to depart on our chosen South 50 route, we began to see several other WIBC members showing up. Nick was there too, and ready for a serious attack on the course. Nick had his carbon wheels and was intent on a sub 5 hour century. Unfortunately, none of the rest of us were as eager as nick that day and so he embarked on the challenge solo, though we were all root’n for him.
The South 50 course starts out climbing up highway 525, past the Greenbank Store and on up to Resort road where it turns off the highway and winds along the water. There were several riders ahead of us as we climbed along that highway, and when we approached the turn onto Resort road, I heard Matt call out a hearty “Car back! Four cars back”. There was one in rider in front of me and I began to slow so as not to overshoot the turn, while the cars passed. But, that rider in front had other plans as he suddenly made a hearty left turn signal and turned his wheel into traffic the moment he raised his arm, with nary a glance behind him. I think I began wincing a split second before the tires of a full sized passenger van began screeching as the driver tried to slow from 45 mph to 0 in just yards. I think the cyclist could have actually turned back out of the road as the screech began, but he just kept going and somehow those breaks grabbed their drums and the tires grabbed the supposed-to-be-wet pavement and the universe aligned just right so as to allow that rider to live one more day. It was all anyone could think or talk about for the next half hour and the story probably continued to be repeated two days later.
The rest of the ride went smoothly and we greedily ate up sandwiches, fruit, cookies and other goodies at the rest stops and basked in the increasingly sunny weather. At one point we passed WIBC member Jennifer who was taking a first time Tour rider out for the challenge. Jennifer said her friend made it 42 miles, which given the hills, is plenty for any novice rider. We also met a man who was celebrating his 70th birthday by riding 70 miles of the Tour course. The rider was from Friday Harbor and he was an inspiration for all of us. There was plenty to see with all the views of the water, landscape and the many one-off sights like this crocodile eating an unfortunate duck: Our group of four split after Langley, with Brian and I staying on the 50 mile route, while Matt and Ron took the 40. After stopping at the French road rest stop, we wondered if the next tour could find a way to place that stop at the end of Swede Hill road since the riders would have really earned their calories by that point and the Maxwelton Park would have bathrooms readily available.
Brian and I took a detour onto Sunlight Beach Road when we reached it, dropping down to the entrance to a dike trail across Useless Bay. The trail brought us to a posh neighborhood on Soundview Drive, which we followed to the entrance of a second dike trail that recrossed Useless Bay. We found ourselves on the very scenic, Shore Avenue. The views along the whole detour proved fantastic, though they required a very leisurely pace. Shore Avenue brought us to Double Bluff road, which quickly returned us to our Tour de Whidbey route.
After Doublebluff, it was just a few more steep climbs and a nice rolling course along Smuggler’s Cove road before we were back at the farm and ready for chili! And that vegetarian chili, made by Whidbey Pies & Cafe, was really good stuff.