Remembering the 2011 Winter Solstice Ride

In anticipation of Joe Platzner’s 5th Annual Winter Solstice Ride here is Kevin Brightbill’s report on the 2011 edition. This year’s ride starts at 8:00 PM on Saturday the 21st of December. Find out about it on the SIR Web Site. Kevin’s report originally appeared on his blog,

Darkness and cold
By Kevin Brightbill

Or: Seattle International Randonneurs’ Winter Solstice 200K.
But I like my title more.

Unfortunately, the boreal forces of late December were none too kind to my crappy (but feisty) little point-and-shoot ride companion, so this recap will be short on images and long on text. Because sometimes you don’t want to watch A New Hope, you’d prefer to read some crappy novelization about the inner workings of the Mos Eisley cantina. Right?

Anyway, the setting for this little jaunt is, of course, its main allure. To my surprise, SIR was able to snag about 40 pre-registered riders; and, even better, most if not all of them were at that IHOP parking lot in Issaquah shortly before seven p.m. on a December Wednesday night.

The first few miles of the day — sorry, night — moved along briskly. I knocked my shifters down into a way-too-easy gear, willing to sacrifice ideal pedaling efficiency in exchange for the benefit of pumping blood into my legs at a quicker pace. Thanks to a small wardrobe of clothing I wore on my person and a relatively tepid 35-degree starting temperature, I actually started to overheat; I thought of taking off a poly/wool midlayer, but at that point I was slowly being dropped by most SIR folks and I did not want to completely lose sight of those comforting tail lights.

I rolled along Lake Sammamish Parkway for a good while, and at a “T” in the road I saw a rare brevet sight: a young female randonneuse. Anne from [some part of the greater Seattle area whose name I forget], who works for a recycling company and is an experienced cyclotouriste and had crossed paths with SIR by chance in Eastern Washington earlier this year (I believe her quotation was “a small army of riders with reflective sashes”). After a little researching, she picked the Solstice ride as her first brevet.

We teamed up, got very slightly lost, pulled into a Shell station, reversed our course, then cut into Marymoor Park. Anne and I chatted through a few miles of multi-use path, but apparently the topic of brevet formatting never came up; when I pulled over at the first info control, she zoomed onward without a word, and I would not see her again that night. So it goes.

Not entirely sure if I was then solely in possession of the lantern rouge honor, I left the info control at a brisk pace and cut through the small town of Woodinville. Gentle rolling hills took me through god-knows-where (my sense of Seattle geography is terrible), and I was briefly excited at the idea of taking a turn onto Spaghetti Street, only to be disappointed when the sign actually read “Springhetti”.

I saw some fellow randonneurs at the Snohomish 7-11 and was grateful for a little bit of social interaction. However, the small pack of four or five which had arrived before me was held up by one rider’s flat tire; I grabbed a donut and chugged some slushy Powerade, then decided to ride off alone and let them catch up rather than linger outside with the temperature now in the high 20s.

The next four-ish hours were almost comically simple: 20 miles north on the Centennial bike trail into Arlington, a control stop at a Safeway, then a u-turn and 20 miles south back into Snohomish. Perhaps in a daytime, warm-weather ride that stretch of a ride would be boring; that night, however, it was welcomingly simple.

And sure enough, the 7-11 party did catch up to me maybe five miles after the convenience store; and, at just the right time, as I was starting to physically and mentally tire of those cold (by then, 25 degrees) and solitary miles. Companionship and a little bit of a slipstream made the rest of the stretch into Arlington a relative breeze, even as my little computer dropped down two more degrees to its night’s low of 23. The Centennial path glistened dangerously with little crystals, but our pack made it out of and back into Snohomish without incident.

Our return route took us southeast out of Snohomish, towards Monroe and later Carnation. The “23” digits in front of me refused to move in either direction, and I kept up with the pack at a steady fifteen-ish miles per hour. My body remained mostly happy, though; as icicles accumulated in my beard, and frost gathered on every forward-facing surface of my bicycle, only my toes were complaining about the temperature.

The small pack was pulled apart by the ride’s only notable climb, heading due west out of Fall City to get back into Issaquah. Eight of us finished with times between 11:15 and 11:35, and mediocre but delightfully warm IHOP breakfast fare was our reward.

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