In the last two posts, I described what constitutes a Soul Restoration Day Hike, and listed the Top Five that fit the bill for me. The soul restoration exploration would not be complete without a similar list of road bike rides. During the “biking season,” I spend close to as much time biking as hiking, and I have much the same “zen type” of experience on the bike as on the trails.
What makes for a “soul restoration” bike ride?
Similar to the hikes (SRH), the bike rides (SRR) that qualify also must meet specific criteria:
- Like the day hikes, I need to have done the ride at least five times to determine if it consistently generates feelings of positivity and rejuvenation each time I do it. No fabulous one-off’s can make the cut on the first try!
- Also similar to the day hikes, the ride must contain a variety of overwhelming positive associations. Because most of my riding is done alone, the variety is more often in the experience itself and less often about the other people with whom I may have done this ride. Some of these rides I have done with others and those experiences are uniformly good. The reality, though, is that I ride alone much more often than with people…and more often than I hike alone.
- As with the SRHs, to be considered an SRR, a ride must inspire a high level of confidence that I will experience a positive state of mind, both on the ride itself and at the destination and the feeling must last beyond the ride itself.
- That being said, the ride must have a worthy destination of some sort. Usually it’s a park, with a real bathroom and a scenic place to have a snack and rest before the return ride. It’s a place I genuinely enjoy being and feel at peace.
- The distance is less important than the route there. Most of these rides are in the 20-45 mile range and at least 50% of the ride must be on country roads. I am fine with busy roads to GET to the quiet roads, but there does need to be a substantial break from the traffic and higher speeds in order for a ride to quality as a SRR.
Kathie’s Top Five Soul Restoration Bike Rides
- Birch Bay State Park. This ride can be done by a multitude of routes. There are seemingly endless roads that lead to Birch Bay in Blaine. I like to come in at the South end of the park, off of Point Whitehorn Road. Then I can ride part or all of Birch Bay drive and select from a multitude of different ways home. The destination is beautiful and peaceful and the route can be looped in so many ways such that no road needs to be ridden twice. One can also continue the ride further north to Semiahmoo and extend the loop. Round Trip Distance from Bellingham: 35-60 miles…or more.
- Riverside Park. This park in Everson is on the banks of the Nooksack River and is a great turn around for any ride involving that part of Whatcom County. Quiet roads can be taken through the back roads to Everson, winding around past apple farms, berry fields, nurseries, and a lumber mill. Some accesses to this park involve time on the Mt. Baker Highway and Highway 9…both of these are busy roads with high speed limits. I have found that mid-day is usually a good time to do this portion of the ride if I so choose. Often I will incorporate Squalicum Lake Road, off the Mt. Baker Highway, and North Shore Drive (which curves around Lake Whatcom) for a scenic addition to this ride. RT distance from Bellingham: 35-50 miles.
Ski to Sea Route! This ride also ends at Riverside Park in Everson, but starts at the Shuksan DOT off the Mt. Baker Highway. The Ski to Sea route is 41 miles one way, with a net loss of elevation but plenty of ups and downs. While I have only done the biking leg IN the actual Ski to Sea race once, I love this ride so much that I seek it out just to do it. I have done it in training for Ski to Sea, in years when I was not in the race and wanted to do my own Ski to Sea ride and even all the way down from Artist Point…which added an incredible 8 miles of fast downhill to the route. The moss-laden trees high up on the Mt. Baker Highway are simply breathtaking and the entire route is incredibly scenic and varied. You leave the Mt. Baker highway at Maple Falls, and get to experience South Pass Road, which is stellar for a fall ride with it’s fall color. Distance: One-way, 41 miles (or 49 if you do it from Artist Point). Get someone to drop you off at the beginning and pick you up at the park if you can!
“Down to and around” Lake Samish. I have done this loop as part of more bike rides than I can ever count. Lake Samish is close to my work, about six miles, and I can incorporate a loop around it into riding to and/or from work with ease. There is something about Lake Samish that I found absolutely stunning and calming. It’s some combination of the early morning sun glinting off the water, the abundance of early rhododendrons in spring and foxgloves in early summer, the musical bird calls that I love so much, and even some of the beautiful houses surrounding the lake. I grew up with a summer home on a lake and early morning lake time is filled with positive associations for me. I am drawn “down to and around Samish” on a regular basis. My destination snack and bathroom stop is Samish Park. Distance around Lake Samish is only 6.5 miles.
Rides in and around Lake Goodwin. Lake Goodwin, in Snohomish County, is the lake my family summer home is on. The house is still there, 75 years and some 15 expansions later. I have spent countless positive time at Lake Goodwin, and it’s chock full of great childhood and adult memories. Some of my profoundly memorable experiences involve bike rides from the house, on and around roads in Stanwood and Arlington. For one period of my life, I lived at Lake Goodwin during a stressful two month transition between houses. It was early spring, and on my regular rides I discovered multiple SRRs. Those times on the bike absolutely helped me get through that difficult period of life. I am not sure I could have made it without the rides! And yes, there was some “soul desperation” there…but so much healing and “soul restoration” as well. I still take my bike down to Lake Goodwin when I can just to do those rides… RT Distance: 20-45 miles RT, depending on route.
So those are my favorite rides to restore my soul. What are yours? Are you a mountain biker instead of a road biker? Please share your thoughts and favorites in the comments section or send me an email…I would love to hear from you!
One further note. The Tour de Whatcom, which is this Saturday July 23rd, covers two of those areas. I am doing the Century ride (which is actually 102.76 miles, I discovered!), and it hits Birch Bay and Lake Samish. Of all the roads contained on the route, it is comforting to know that I have ridden ALL of them at some point during my bike rides. But never all at once and certainly not all in one day! You can be rest assured that I will be calling up moments of positivity and good associations of past rides throughout Saturday’s long ordeal. As noted before, I have never ridden more than 65 miles in a day, so this is quite a stretch. I’ll let you know how it goes!
Wishing you Happy Rides to go with your Happy Trails!
For more information on these rides (and so many more!), check out these websites:
Lake Samish and Birch Bay — Mount Baker Bicycle Club/Local Rides
Ski to Sea Bike Leg — Ski to Sea Race Bike leg
Snohomish County Biking (Including Lake Goodwin) — Wabikes.org Snohomish County RidesFeel free to share!