September 29-31 2011 Trip: Skagit County — Part 1

The Viva Kilo is still for sale. See post here for details. Buy my pretty white bike!

Lest you think I only go to exotic climes for bike Trips (okay, no one thinks that, considering that half of my exactly two trips have involved Canada), I just finished an exciting three days in beautiful Skagit County, Washington.

Yes, it involved some biking. Skagit County is north of Seattle and is prime farm land. It is most famous for the Tulip Festival in the spring, but having attended that nightmare of gridlocked cars and elderly tourists buying fake Dutch crap, I’m sooooo over the tulips. Fall seemed like a much better bet, though I’m not sure I was entirely right, given the weather. We also nipped over to lovely Whidbey Island, which is technically in Island County, so that’s the shout out to my peeps over there.

Like Ireland, this rideblog will be sort of half-riding, half-sight seeing. Unlike Ireland, it won’t feature my crabby co-worker, but instead features the very patient and delightfully game Guy Who Loves Me. In recent days, I have been appreciating his good qualities more and more. Being with someone who is capable of loving me fully without a jot of jealousy or control freakishness is a true gift. He never pushes me to be someone I’m not, and is genuinely happy with who I am. Once, shortly after we met, I purchased a puffy, grape-colored down jacket that I was pretty sure made me look like a purple version of the Michelin Man. “This jacket isn’t exactly sexy, is it?” I said. “I think you look warm,” he said, “and since you’re always too cold, I think it looks great.”

Top that!

Our plan originally included riding around the town of La Conner on our first afternoon there.

Unfortunately, I had to take The Boy to a doctor’s appointment at Children’s Hospital in Seattle. Over a month ago, he managed to sustain a serious concussion while playing in a totally forbidden manner out in the garage (wrestling with your step-sister while she is on the swing and can therefore kick you in the head and knock you backwards onto the concrete is Against The Rules). This was his follow-up to ensure he was all done healing up his brain. But any trip into Seattle is a logistical nightmare, involving freeways and back streets and endless driving about. Children’s Hospital is about seventeen miles from my house. It took us an hour and a half to get there. By the time we returned via the other side of the lake and The Boy had been dropped off at school, it was nearly 2pm. Since La Conner is about an hour and a half away, our plan for an afternoon ride evaporated in travel time and check-in at our campground.

Dinner seemed like the way to go instead. But first we set up camp. We stayed at Bay View National Park, which is north of La Conner in, naturally enough, Bay View. The campground is almost certainly a hoppin’ spot in spring and summer, but of the 76 available spots, only about 10 were taken when we got there. The Guy Who Likes Camping and I set up my tent, hid the bikes behind a tree, and headed back into La Conner. Our spot in the campground featured a conveniently long drive-way area, so the bikes were completely invisible from the road. Yes, I also used a U-lock and a cable lock on them. I mean, they are rather irresistible!

In La Connor, we had a nice dinner of happy hour small plates at a local bar, and The Man With Me was only slightly distracted by the big screen showing college football. We walked back to the car along the main street, noting all the kitschy tourist shops featuring the sort of brightly-colored boiled-wool jackets that older artsy ladies like to wear. I informed My Sweetie that if I ever came home wearing one, he was allowed to leave me on the spot.

More La Conner:

By the time we’d built a campfire, made hot chocolate and just settled in, the sun was down and the evening was nippy. I was hoping for a nice day for our longest ride, but the weather wasn’t looking promising.

Now, a note on camping: I like it. Mostly. I’ve had a very sore back and arms lately, possibly due to a wicked fall I took on the overnight trip with my Juniors earlier in September. When you have a back like mine, camping is something that you have to do with care and real consideration. Having a good sleep system is crucial. So I have one!

I know, I know… it just looks like a normal sleeping bag, but how looks can deceive! That, my friends, is a Big Agnes Roxy Anne bag, which has no insulation on the bottom. Wha, you say? How can that be good? Well… instead of insulation, it has a sleeve for a sleeping pad. I use a Thermarest Base Camp, which is several inches thick when fully inflated, and has the highest warmth rating of all their traditional pads without too much extra weight. Just slip it into the sleeve, and the bag is now well-insulated from the ground without being extra heavy. But here’s the best thing: the bag isn’t a mummy. Look closely: that’s a nice, wide footbed. I can sleep on my side, I can roll over, I can rummage around in there looking for the socks I stuffed at the bottom… and I can do it all without the bag ever sliding off the pad, because they are attached! The bag doesn’t end up wrapped around my waist in the night like a tourniquet. I don’t slip off the pad and wake up freezing on the ground. I never lose the padding I need to keep my joints comfortable. It’s genius, I tell you. Genius!

Mummies are theoretically warmer, but if you’re constantly sliding off onto the ground, you sort of negate that benefit. With a liner, this bag and pad system has seen little ol’ neurologically impaired me through 17 degree nights. I also carry an inflatable pillow, for which the bag has a convenient built-in case, and I like the little puffy things right up near one’s ears (you can see them in the picture) that help to seal out drafts on cool nights when I don’t quite want to close the hood up over my head. Anyway, all this equipment is available online through REI and other folks. It rocks. I wouldn’t camp without it. And yes, I’ve carried it all on 20 mile-a-day, 5-day hikes in the wilderness in my pack. I see it this way: I’ve probably added an extra pound with this stuff, but if I’m rested and not aching, the extra pound is more than made up for by my energy level the next morning. Try it!

So, after a shower where I had to rescue a small tree frog from my stall, I was rested and ready to ride. Our ride started right from our campground, so we headed out toward Samish Island. The road was relatively smooth, but my bike was incredibly rattle-y. Within a few miles, I knew something was wrong. I stopped, and sure enough: the bolt holding my rack and fenders on one side of the wheel was gone. We rode back to the campground, where My Resourceful Partner fixed it:

Worked like a charm! In fact, I’m writing this on October 8th, and the wire is still there. I figure it will stay there until I have to take the bike in for some other reason. It’s sort of charming, actually.

The Shogun was looking lovely, and the metal fenders only rattled a wee bit.

I will leave off here, and cover the ride itself in my next entry. Since my hands hurt, this has taken days and days to write. I think it’s time to put it up and then I can slowly work on the next one.

Next on the agenda: Samish Island!

About rideblog

Love to ride my bikes!
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6 Responses to September 29-31 2011 Trip: Skagit County — Part 1

  1. monk says:

    Thanks for sharing your “sleep system”. I have the same problems you mentioned with my “mummy” bag and have been looking for something better.

  2. CJ says:

    This recommendation is entirely self-serving because I enjoy reading these rideblogs and want to read more of them. I’m on the Assistive Technology Committee in my school district. We review, recommend, and help to implement various types of adaptive technology that students need. Many of our students who have difficulty typing use Dragon Naturally Speaking, a software that translates speech into text. There is also now a free ipad/iphone app available called Dragon Dictation. There are various brands of software like this, but Dragon is pretty much our tried-and-true go-to choice. Anyway, you may already be aware of these, but I couldn’t resist mentioning because, as I said, I’m really enjoying your blog!

  3. rideblog says:

    Monk, you should invest. Big Agnes make the bags in men’s and women’s varieties, down and synthetic, for all temperature ratings. I LOVE mine. I couldn’t camp without it and the Thermarest.

  4. rideblog says:

    Hi CJ, my tech guys are going to teach me to use a voice recognition program next week. I normally type 120 words per minute, so typing has never been an issue for me, but with recent hand pain… I’m going to start with them on Monday, to see how I like the programs. Hopefully it will lead to more rideblogs, and not just more work :).

    As for The Viva… yeah, it’s not good for really hilly areas, though I think it would handle most hills better than a true Dutch bike. To me the issue is lifting it onto the car rack, and that’s it rather redundant to The Raleigh. If I still lived in downtown Renton, with it’s flatter terrain, I’d ride it more, I think. So it depends on the neighborhood.

  5. Lynn says:

    Can’t fine a regular contact email anywhere – really don’t want to leave a public message… just wanting to know what camera/lens you are using – your pictures are lovely.

  6. rideblog says:

    Hi Lynn! I think I need to post my contact info more clearly somewhere (I just added it to the bottom of the “about rideblog” page).

    I have a Canon digital camera, a PowerShot SX130 IS. It’s not a fancy camera, and doesn’t have any extra lenses. I use only the manual settings now, so the pictures are sort of “for better or worse” my own. I do use Photoshop and am unapologetically happy to remove an occasional pimple (no permanent facial features get changed!), the tip of the chimney that was growing out of My Lovely Guy’s head in a shot I haven’t posted yet, etc, but I don’t do any serious changing of things. I do adjust the lighting and color digitally once I “develop” the pictures, like almost anyone these days, and of course, I crop them if necessary.

    I try not to publish pictures that really don’t work. If I have to do more than very minimal editing, they just don’t go here.

    My camera allows me to control everything, and right now I adjust the F-stop and shutter speed. I generally leave the ISO at 80, as I’m super fussy about “noise.”

    Eventually, I want to get a digital SLR, but in the meantime, this camera is super awesome and was under $250. Can’t beat that!

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