Tupper's 2 Cents

Feet on the path and eyes wide open...

Tag: Lessons from the bike

Back on the Bike!

Trees were calling me to ride…

I told myself this year I would wait until I was ready.  Normally, I pull my bike out of storage sometime in March, regardless of physical health or weather or anything else. But this year, March came and went, and my bike sat in the garage, still waiting patiently for that first ride of the season.

I came close a month ago. It looked like a friend and I were going to form a woman’s Ski to Sea team, and I would do the bike leg. With that race at the end of May, I started feeling anxious and pressured to get on the bike. After recent knee replacement in November and foot and ankle surgery in December, I was still feeling cautious, and that added to my anxiety. I’d been on the stationary bike a handful of times at the gym, but it’s definitely not the same as getting out on the road.

Then, several things happened that made me stop and re-think everything.

Second Thoughts

No Ski to Sea

Come late March, it became evident that Ski to Sea was not destined to happen this year. I absolutely love the Ski to Sea race and all the festivities associated with it,  and I have been involved dozens of times — as participant, support crew, and spectator. However, after losing several team members, and not finding replacements, my co-captain and I made the decision that it was not going to happen this year. Frankly, I was relieved! I was still not feeling ready to ride.

The Fatal Bike Accident in Fairhaven

Right about the time we were debating Ski to Sea plans, a cyclist died in a collision with a car a mile from my work. Not only did this hit close to home proximity-wise, but it was also at an intersection that I have ridden through more times than I can count.  I used to live at the top of the hills that the biker was coming down, trying to make the light, just as a left hand turning car was also trying to make the light. They collided, and the 51-year old biker died on impact. He left six kids behind. I have done that exact same thing at that exact same intersection, pushed the light from yellow to red, carrying a lot of speed coming down those hills. But I have never been hit by a car. There or anywhere else.

Bike at Memorial Site “Bicyclist and Vehicle Collided here – March 23, 2017”

To make matters worse, the cyclist that was killed was a huge proponent of bike safety, teaching classes and such. How much more tragic can this story get? I did not know him, but I can totally imagine the mindset that caused this to happen. As a fellow biker, I admit that I have pushed lights, not wanting to stop at intersections, especially when speed was in my favor. But one mistake can be ever so costly. And now, the cyclist leaves behind a confusing legacy, as he was such a proponent of safety, yet met his end with a seemingly innocent misjudgment.

This accident gave me huge pause. I decided to wait on getting on the bike…

My Ex-Husbands Shoulder Surgery

Also right at this time, my ex-husband, the father of my kids, had shoulder surgery for injuries related to two serious bike accidents in the last year. A committed bike commuter, from Bellingham to his job in Ferndale, the first incident occurred when he was struck by a car last Spring. He broke his leg and injured his shoulder in that incident. After much rehab, the leg healed, and it seemed he might be able to resume activities (including riding) without surgery on his still-iffy shoulder.

Then last winter, during a cold snap, he was again riding to work, when he hit some ice. Another fall on that same shoulder, and surgery became necessary for a torn rotator cuff. He had this surgery a couple of weeks ago. These two were just the most recent in a series of bike accidents for him. Each time the kids report to me “Dad had another bike accident…”, I wonder if I should stop riding.

I know people who ride regularly increase their odds of getting in an accident. I have been riding regularly for 15 years, and thankfully, have never had an accident with a car. But still I had to wonder, was my number coming up?

Bike Accident of Other Family Members

My brother, also a bike commuter in Seattle, has been in many serious bike accidents over the last 15 years. Four of those accidents involved collisions with cars, one involved a slip on ice, and one involved him hitting a pedestrian in a cross-walk. He has suffered multiple injuries, including a broken hand and arm, and still has the litigation pending from that most recent accident with the pedestrian. That incident involved him coming down a hill fast, trying to make a light, and not seeing a pedestrian who started walking just as the light was getting ready to turn. My brother collided with him, flew off his bike, and the kid suffered a major head injury. Terrible all the way around. Brad will admit that in some of his multiple bike accidents he shared fault, but some were clearly cars not paying attention to what bikers are up to.

My niece’s long-time boyfriend was also in a bike accident last June, while riding his bike to work on quiet Bainbridge Island. He was broad-sided by a left turning car who did not see him, and was thrown 20 feet. He hurt his foot badly, and incurred $5000 in medical bills which the driver’s insurance still has not paid. He finally had to borrow the money to pay the bills, and to hire a lawyer to try to recover his medical costs. A huge price to pay for an accident where he was clearly not at fault, and there is still no resolution.

Was I ready to get back on the bike after all of this??

All this presented a serious dilemma, as March turned into April and I continued to feel uneasy. I asked myself, over and over, To what degree do I let fear interfere with things that I am passionate about?  I had asked myself that question all last spring and early summer in preparation for my solo JMT hike last August. There, I methodically went about naming and confronting those fears — then went out and had a fantastic three-week trip!  But on the bike, the fear is more widespread, as the variables and possibilities of accident or incident are only so much in my control. I look at all these people I know, and those I don’t but feel like I do now, who have been in serious bike accidents, and I have to ask myself is it worth it to keep riding? Is it just a matter of time before it’s me, or can I continue on in my safety bubble if I continue to be as vigilant as I can when I ride?

Deciding to ride.

Daffodils bring promise of sunshine

I’d be lying if I said weather wasn’t also a factor in my procrastination getting back on the bike. It’s been a cold, wet spring, and I don’t like to ride in wet and windy conditions, or below 50 degrees. But last weekend the forecast provided a favorable weather window, and I decided it was time to get over myself and all my fears and just do it! I brought clothes and food to work on Friday, in preparation to ride to work Saturday. I brought my bike in from the garage Friday night, and we had a stare down as I went about my evening. Who would win? My fear, or the bike’s desire to be ridden? The bike of course, because I wanted what it wanted. Just before bed, I confirmed my decision by pumping up my tires in readiness for the following morning.

I live up such steep hills, that I can’t make it back up if I ride from my house. Instead, I drive my bike down all the Sudden Valley hills and start my ride on Lake Louise Road. It’s still an iffy ride no matter how you dice it, as the roads to and from Sudden Valley are not bike friendly. When I first moved here, my landlady told me she strongly recommended that I not ride at all, as there have been many documented accidents on these roads in which the biker did not come out well. I made my decision to ride anyway, and did so last spring, summer, and early fall without incident.

But with all the bike accidents and the fatality so fresh on my mind, the nervous anticipation of the first ride was higher this year than ever. Plus I was worried about my knee, which still does not feel like a part of me, and does not bend well without pain.

The First Ride Happened!

I threw my bike in the car, dressed in warm clothes, and headed out Saturday morning. It was cool, and still drizzling. But the weather promised clearing later in the day, which would be good for the longer anticipated ride home.

A Biker’s Memorial

There are many ways to get to and from my house to work, but I chose the most direct one to get there. It’s about ten miles, give or take, and it’s mostly downhill. The ride went smoothly enough, although my knee felt like it was completely not mine for the first several miles. But with persistence, patience, and paying attention to what was really going on, the knee became less of a nuisance as I rode. Instead, I focused on the rain stopping mid-way, the clouds lifting, and the freshness of the morning air. I arrived at work, without incident, under partly sunny skies. A good omen, I figured. I’d purposefully ridden a different way so as to not pass the biker’s memorial. But he was on my mind, and I said a silent thanks to the biking gods for keeping me safe.

The Longer Ride Home

Lake Samish

Like some hikes, there are some places to ride that I am very drawn to. One of those is Lake Samish, about 7 miles from my place of work. For years I’ve combined a ride to or from work with a ride around Samish, as it makes me ecstatically happy for some reason. Now that I live farther away, to bring Samish into the bike commute makes it about a 22 mile ride. Not an easy task at the end of a long work day, and as part two of the first day’s ride.

Ready for the ride home

But I was committed and ready. I got out of my office by 5:45, with what I hoped was enough time to make it back to my car before sunset. The sun was out with conviction, although temps were still cool.  I’ve done this ride dozens of times, but I still never know exactly how long it will take.  I wanted to stop for pictures of the inevitable spring flowers and trees I would see along the way. In early spring, I just can’t get enough of the progression of blooms that takes place — from the earliest flowering plums and daffodils,  to the later tulips,  rhododendrons, and  flowering cherry and apple trees that line the route. It’s a flower-lovers paradise for sure!

First Rhodies on my favorite stretch of Samish

Lots of stops and starts, but the ride went smoothly enough. Over the course of the ride, I passed five lakes, including Samish. All were glittering with late afternoon sun, their very presence implying peace and serenity. My only troubles were that I was freezing in the shade, and had to pull out my hand-warmers six miles from home. My knee admittedly struggled with all the uphills, and my back made me feel 100 years old!  With two previous back surgeries, it takes time each year for my back to acclimate to riding.


Last sunlight…

But with sun glinting through the budding and occasional flowering trees, I had plenty of things to distract me from pain. A curvy road high above Lake Whatcom finishes off the ride. It’s somewhat risky, with little shoulder and so many wild turns. But, what views! Mossy trees, huge gullies, spectacular lake views from high bridges. My turn off came at Lake Louise, with one very steep hill to master, then I was back to my car. I arrived at 7:55, five minutes before sunset. Relieved to be safe, happy to be done.

Driving home, I again asked myself the question, How can I experience these types of things if I stay home from fear? I don’t have the complete answer. I only know I am drawn to do it again and again. I love being on the bike, and I especially love the long ride home, even with it’s rough, curvy roads with high speed limits and little shoulder.  Many say I am crazy to do it. But I always feel safe. Enough. So far…

Did the ride help me to solve my dilemma?

Yes. And no. There is no definitive resolution when the question of personal safety is involved. I never go on a ride without proper clothing, a helmet, and extreme vigilance. It’s the only way I know to do it, and, so far, it has worked. It was a hard decision this year, and one that I chose to think on for a month before I acted. Now, my bike is ready for action, and I am too. I will keep riding.

When I ride, I will do everything I can to be careful and cautious. It’s the best I can do. And I will remember all those who have not been so lucky — and hope my luck holds. With that in mind, I look forward to six great months of being on the bike!

 Ride Happy and Ride Safe!



Tour de Whatcom Century Ride is Complete…and (almost) a complete success!


I signed up on a bit of a whim to ride the Tour de Whatcom Century bike ride. As I’ve said, I have never ridden more than 65 miles in any given day before, and I knew 100 would be a stretch. But I wanted to do it, to see how it was, and to have the accomplishment under my belt. It wasn’t a bucket list sort of thing…it was something that I felt a desire to try, my conditioning is pretty solid, and I have been on the bike quite a lot this summer. So why not give it a go?

Ready to roll!

Ready to roll!

The ride was Saturday. Having done only one organized ride before (the same ride, only the 62-miler two years earlier), I was excited and a bit nervous when I arrived at the registration booth at 7:10. The ride started at 7:30, and I was pleased to be through registration and with my bike in the shoot by 7:27,  with three minutes to spare! Since it’s not a “race”, but simply an “event”, the starting fanfare was minor. But excitement was in the air, and I was ready to go!

The Course

Bellingham to Alger and back to Bellingham

I had mistakenly thought the course took off north from Boundary Bay in downtown Bellingham. But it actually headed south, down to Fairhaven, right past my office and down and around Lake Samish.  After Lake Samish, it wound down to Alger, then back to Sudden Valley. Since I live in Sudden Valley, and ride to work regularly, I am intimately familiar with all those roads. It was a good way to start the course, as I was in my comfort zone in terms of road familiarity. I also knew it was the most hilly section of the ride, and it was good to get that out of the way early.

Almost immediately after taking off,  I encountered my friend and fellow massage therapist, Lisa. I didn’t know Lisa was doing the ride, as she and her husband Dave had just signed up two days prior. Lisa and I have ridden quite a lot over the years…she is one of only a handful of people I ride with even at all. As I have said in previous posts, I almost always ride alone and I am very used to that. It was an unexpected bonus to have a bit of time to chat and catch up with Lisa as we made our way to the first rest stop in Alger.

My friend Carrie, who has ridden multiple century rides, told me to eat and drink at every stop, but not linger too long as “time can get away from you”. At the first stop, I could see how that could happen. By the time I got through the bathroom line-up, reconfigured my clothing and belongings, and refueled, a good 20 minutes had gone by! But soon I was back on the bike, and headed along Lake Whatcom Boulevard. More familiar roads with hills, and in no time I was at the second rest stop, at a park right along Lake Whatcom. Those two rest stops were very close together, but I did as Carrie had suggested, and ate and drank more anyway at the second stop.  I was feeling good, and I wanted it to stay that way!

Bellingham to Lynden

The stretch from Bellingham to Lynden was longer, and mostly calm and quiet. After a short stint on the Mt. Baker Highway, I found myself on quiet county roads, slowly progressing north to Lynden. I was feeling good and strong, and my energy was great.  Midway this stretch, the ride splits, and the 62-mile riders return to Bellingham, and the Century riders head north to Lynden.  I had taken up conversation with a female rider from Vancouver, who was riding a similar pace. We’d been passing each other, she passing me on the uphills, me passing her on the downhills, for quite some time. It was nice to find out about what draws other people to a ride like this, and it helped the miles go along to chat a bit with her. We split ways at the junction, as she and her friend were riding the 62- miler, or “metric” in bike event speak.

Lynden rest stop...half way there!

Lynden rest stop…half way there!

I was back to riding alone, in my comfort zone and on familiar roads. Inevitably, I reflected on times of past rides along these same roads, and where I was in my life at the time. I enjoyed my contemplative mindset tremendously, and had a big smile on my face as I rode. I felt happy and content when I arrived at Lynden, even after a short time of losing the route when I inadvertently followed some bikers who were NOT on the tour.  I quickly self-corrected, and found my way to the rest stop in Lynden. Dave, Lisa’s husband, gave me a big high-five when I arrived. Lisa had turned for the 62-miler back to Bellingham, but it gave me deep satisfaction to be more or less keeping up with Dave, as he is in my book a much stronger rider than me. This rest stop signified 50% completion of the ride, and I was starting to believe I could do it.

Lynden to Blaine, then Birch Bay

This 23-mile stretch was easily the hardest, the most tedious…and also the most nostalgic for me.  After leaving Lynden, I found myself on long, mostly flat county roads that went right up to the border in Blaine, before dropping south to Birch Bay. I rode this entire stretch alone, and saw only a handful of other riders. It was a bit lonely and I became increasingly aware of pain and discomfort settling into my body. I must curl my toes when I ride, because I could tell they were getting sores on the tops of two of them, and this bothered and distracted me. I kept trying to alter position and foot stance, which is always hard on the bike. I was acutely aware that pain had settled into my left side lower back, a vulnerable area following two previous back surgeries. I know from experience that once that type of pain settles in, it won’t abate until I am off of the bike.

I fluctuated during this time between trying to manage pain, enjoying the ride, and heavy introspection. For one six-month period of my life, I lived in Blaine. It was a mixed time of life, full of some positive but also many difficult events. Riding the roads in and around Blaine, I passed multiple ball fields where my son had played baseball, and my heart felt full with good memories. I also passed by the turn off to our old house, with all the desperation walks and beach explorations I had done so often to try to get through the hard times. It was interesting to encounter these memorable places while I was struggling with increasing back pain on the ride. The time I lived in Blaine was also one of intense back pain,  and it was an odd sort of deja-va.

Birch Bay

Birch Bay

I have to say, I was relieved to come into Birch Bay after all of that. Birch Bay drive was crazy, with cars, people, a street fair of some kind, and multitudes of activity along the strip. I thought I would never reach the rest area…but eventually, I arrived. This rest area was at 78 miles, and I felt moderately confident. I pulled in to the rest area just as Dave was getting ready to pull out. Again, he high-fived me, and I felt great to connect with him even though we weren’t riding together. He had offered for me to join them, but I was feeling fatigued and too insecure to commit to trying to keep up with people who were even a bit faster than me.

And I was definitely hurting. I got bandaids for my two sore toes, and ate and drank. I love Birch Bay, so it was nice to be here. But honestly, I was ready at this point for the ride to be over.

Birch Bay back to Bellingham

Once again, I was back on very familiar roads when I left Birch Bay. I have done the ride to and from Birch Bay so many times, I could do it with my eyes closed (well, maybe not..) I knew that the end was near, and I got a bit of a second wind. There was a strong head wind all the way from Birch Bay back to Bellingham, which I knew would be the case. I ducked down and hit my low-riding stance when I could…a help for the wind, but killer on the back. I hunkered down and did what I had to do, as I knew I’d be hurting no matter what. Simply put, I could tell that my body was into a zone of not having been there before, in terms of hours on the bike, and I was feeling it intensely.

Well-earned finisher medal

Well-earned finisher medal

One mile at a time, lots of self-talk, and a constant reminder to enjoy the process, and soon I was back downtown and at the Finish Line at Boundary Bay. I felt relief, happiness, and a great sense of accomplishment to be done. They gave me my finisher medal, and I took it with gratitude. I didn’t hang around Boundary Bay for post-race festivities…that’s not really my style, and I wanted to get home for a shower and real food. I finished the ride about 3:45, just over eight hours after I started.

The Highlights

There were many positive aspects to this ride, and like I said I am very glad I did it. Here’s a sampling of highlights:

Physically speaking…

I felt on the whole much better than expected. I had taken two full days off before the ride, with no activity. I don’t usually “taper” for an event, but life dictated that I had no time for exercise in the days prior. So my legs felt rested and strong, and that was a huge bonus. Of the things I noticed and felt hindered by on the ride, leg fatigue was NOT one of them.

I had received a cortisone injection in my severely arthritic right knee two days prior to the event. I can’t say enough about this…I had so little knee pain compared to usual, and this was HUGE for me on the ride. Usually, knee pain is a constant and severe hindrance, especially on hills. On this day, my slowness on hills was more about energy conservation and habit than pain management, for which I was extremely grateful.

Overall, my fitness for and ability to do this ride made me feel good. I had put in some miles, but I didn’t really train for it. I am happy that I was strong and fit enough to do it, and that I felt relatively OK throughout.

Walk down memory lane…

As mentioned, this was a highlight for me as well. I literally travelled roads I have been on before…both on the bike, and simply at past points in my life. To be alone in my head while I revisited those roads brought about an incredible perspective on how life has changed and come together so nicely. As I came and went on roads of past significance, I felt very grateful for all the positive changes and turns my life has taken. The stressful Blaine days are behind me now…in more ways than one. I have moved on past many roadblocks in life, and it’s a much easier ride now.

A part of something bigger, and yet…

Doing this ride, as an individual within a group, gave me a perspective on life as well. I loved being a part of something big and organized, the ride in it’s greater sense. There was some camaraderie and moments of interactions with others, and I loved that. Then there was also a lot of time alone, with just me and my bike and my thoughts. I realized that this IS my comfort zone…I like being aware and a part of something bigger than myself, and I also really like and enjoy my alone time. I could have sought out more interaction and conversation, or taken Dave up on his offer at the rest stops to “ride along with them”. But I actually like being in my own company, and best of all,  I am very comfortable with that.

I am not such a slouch after all!

I always think of myself as a lame bike rider. That changed a bit on the ride, as I realized that I am not really all that slow. I feel slow, but It’s all a matter of perception. Many people wouldn’t even try to do something like ride 100 miles in a day. So while I wasn’t the fastest rider out there, that I persisted and did it gave me a great sense of accomplishment.I actually felt a bit like a “real” biker!

The main lesson learned?

I am a better hiker than biker!

Simply stated, my body did not like being bent over on the bike for that amount of time. I realize now why I like to hike and backpack for long days much more so than to be on the bike all day. I felt it in my back at 50 miles, and it was a constant battle after that. While I didn’t let the back pain get to me to such a degree that I lost all enjoyment of the process, it did affect me. And it will take awhile to settle it’s way out as well. I am grateful that with hiking and backpacking I can move around and I am not stuck in one position.

And the really cool thing is that I get to choose these things!  As much as the ride was hard, no one had a gun to my back saying, “Kathie, you have to do this!” I took it on, reveled in it, and made it through, I completely got what there was to get out of the experience. I loved the organization of the event, and the Tour aspect of it was unparalleled. To see that much of our beautiful county on mostly quiet roads all in one day was extremely rewarding. I don’t know if I will do another, but the experience was overall very nearly a complete success!


“Soul Restoration” Bike Rides

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:

  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. As with the SRH’s, 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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
    Ready to ride Ski to Sea route from Artist Point

    Ready to ride Ski to Sea route from Artist Point

    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!

  4. “Down to and around” Lake Samish.  I have done this loop as part of more bike rides than I can ever count. Lake
    Morning clouds over Lake Samish

    Morning clouds over Lake Samish

    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.

  5. Rides in and around Lake Goodwin.  Lake Goodwin, in Snohomish County, is the lake my family summer home is on.
    After 40 mile Ride from Lake Goodwin on my 50th Birthday with great friends!

    After 40 mile Ride from Lake Goodwin on my 50th Birthday with great friends!

    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 SRR’s. 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 Rides







Rules for Biking

Why I bike

I am as passionate about biking as I am about hiking and backpacking. I have been a road biker for many years, a pursuit that gradually infiltrated my life when I finally accepted that I could no longer run effectively.  While I still miss running,  I can honestly say that I have developed a similar “feel good, happy place, introspective mindset” on my bike as I previously had when I ran.

Over the years, I have developed and refined some “rules” for myself about biking, to keep me getting out and about on a regular basis.

My rules for biking

If it isn’t fun, don’t do it…but as long as it’s fun, do it regularly!   

With that in mind, most of my biking takes place from March through October. I don’t ride when it is cold, wet, or super windy out. During that eight month period, however, I ride regularly if conditions are favorable. Generally I commute to and from work on two of my four work days, and also ride on one of my days off. I aim for 100 miles a week…sometimes I make that, sometimes I don’t. I am not rigid or attached to outcomes with biking. I do it because I love to be outside and traveling at a pace slower than a car but faster than on foot. I am a “zen” biker. Which leads to my second rule…

Go for the mindset.

I usually ride alone, as the solitude brings about a particular state of mind  that I don’t get when riding with others. When I get on the bike, I can and do ponder life, problem solve, and effectively let things go. A solo bike ride is a meditative and therapeutic experience for me.  When I am feeling particularly challenged by life, I will get on my bike and ride until I feel calmer and have regained a clearer perspective on whatever problem or situation I set out with. I DO at times ride with others. While I enjoy companion rides just as much, they are for a different purpose and call for and create a different mindset altogether. I find myself riding alone, most often and in part, because of my next rule…

Ride at a comfortable pace.  

I am not a fast rider, and I get passed often. Riding with others (especially people I don’t know…) creates a worry that I am too slow, or holding them up. While I can and do sometimes “turn it on”, I generally ride with the motto “slow and steady wins the race”…or at least gets me from point A to point B. I take it slowly, especially on hills. You can’t ride in and around Bellingham without encountering hills, and hills hurt my arthritic knees. Instead of letting that keep me from riding, I gear way down, and ride slowly. I have discovered that I can ride up a steep hill as slowly as 3.6 mph…and still stay on the bike! Knowing that, I can and do make it up and over each and every hill I encounter. Riding at a comfortable pace also allows me to to take careful notice of my surroundings, leading right into my next rule…

Be hyper-vigilant!   

When I ride,  I pay very close attention to traffic patterns and individual cars, and anticipate what drivers may do. I sometimes ride busy roads and roads with no shoulder and fast speed limits. I have never been hit by a car or even been in a bike accident (aside from two incidents of hitting the edge of the road incorrectly and taking a spill).  I attribute this to riding “defensively”, not obnoxiously so, but to “taking my rightful place on the road”. Bikers have a right to be there, and to assert that without being overbearing seems to bring about a respect from drivers. I adopt a safety mindset when I ride…I assume I will be safe when I ride, AND I always anticipate and plan for driver’s unpredictable actions. Taking careful notice also allows for my final and favorite rule of biking…

Take notice of the beautiful surroundings.  

My favorite "biking flower" -- Foxglove

My favorite “biking flower” — Foxglove

Bellingham is a beautiful place, and consequently riding in and around is a feast for the senses. Some of my favorite rides are out to Birch Bay, down Chuckanut Drive onto the flat roads of Skagit County, down and around Lake Samish and home through Alger, out to Riverside Park in Everson…the list is long, and it is impossible for me to pick a true favorite. I ride based on practicality (am I going somewhere or just out for a ride?), my mood, and what type of environment I want to be in. One thing is for certain…I ALWAYS notice the scenery, whether it’s the first foxgloves in May, the first trees budding in early spring, the moss-laden trees hanging down over shady roads, the turning colors of Autumn, the streams and flowing water I pass as I go. I am absolutely enamored by bird calls in spring and summer, and I sometimes feel as if the birds are singing just for me!  I thank the birds for singing and the flowers for showing up. Frequently,  I am completely overtaken by the sense of peace, comfort, and the knowing that all is well and right with the world when I am out on my bike.

As I ride, I open my mind…and as my mind opens, insights come. Some of my best insights about life come on the bike.

In the next biking post, I will pass on a few gems that have come about on my rides. Until then, you can click here to listen to my favorite bird call heard on the bike  🙂  Swainson’s Thrush

Sunset at Bayfront Park; Chula Vista; California; USA. Taken 20 January 2016.


Post Script:  After writing and finishing this post, I got an email notification about the Tour de Whatcom bike ride coming up on July 23, 2016. On a whim, I decided to sign up for the Century Ride! I have done the 62-miler, but never the Century.  Check out the ride and registration info. HERE.

I would love to have company on this ride. If you are riding it, or thinking about it, please send me an email and let me know!



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