Words and photos by Robert Grunau
Late in the afternoon the group had gone quiet. The coffee and the last three doughnuts—cut into pieces for the six of us to share—at the Issaquah Top Pot would never take hold, or at least weren’t enough to make up for the lack of base in most of our legs, and so we rode stretched out single file because the shoulder was narrow, we were tired, and it just wasn’t worth fighting the cars rushing toward I-90, but also, because after more than five hours we had already said everything that needed to be said between us, and so we just pedaled, some of us still smooth, others long since gone to squares.
Days like this have this way of being both eventful, and uneventful at the same time. We ride, mostly in pairs that get shuffled by stop signs, red lights, the occasional dropped bottle, or mechanicals—either mental or with one’s bike. Aside from the pedaling, not much happens. You end up doing a lot of one thing, making a bike go forward.
What do you report when you get back home? The events of a ride, are for the most part, mundane to the people at home who have gone about their day in your absence. Besides, what happens on these rides is something that cannot be reported, at least not in a traditional sense. Short weekly rides connect us with each other and breed familiarity, and these long days out deepen those connections. Something we never speak about. How do you talk about the metaphysics of a ride, or series of rides without using a rarified tone reserved for Sunday services—we happen to be out on a Sunday—or a philosophy class? Perhaps because in the end, these things are simply not worth talking about; they are just part of the process of living our lives.
Does that come off as pretentious? Maybe, but it is all something we have access to; it is a process we cannot stop, and so it must be acknowledged, even if we are unable to put words to it. So here is what happened.
We meet at a bakery on Sunday morning near the stadiums. We had coffee, and filled our stomachs with half eaten pastries, pushing the remainders into our jersey pockets for later. After miles of city riding we took a gravel trail that ran along the noise of the highway, until it climbed up into a quieter wood. In Seattle, it can take some time for the city to fall away. Paved roads to, or near tourist attractions are busy, and populated with drivers who may not be used to cyclist, and carry habits we may not be accustom to, and so these gravel ways—former rail grades—not only lend to the solitude of a ride, but help lower one’s overall stress levels.
After that there was a hard, paved climb, steep and twisty, where at first we talked, till the breathing became heavier, and three of us popped off the front, preferring to end the difficulties sooner rather than later. The plus side to hard climbs is that the descents almost always pay off. This one does. It drops us down to the river, moving toward Snoqualmie Falls where we hope to connect with another long stretch of gravel that climbs to Rattle Snake Lake, our turn around point.
The stairs that we could climb to the next rail grade are out. Instead, we pedaled down the road a way and entered through a golf course that is divided in two by this former rail line. Here is our first, and only mechanical. A tricky problem that is fixed with the use of the right multi-tool and a quick, but careful scan of the trail. From there we climbed in pairs. Though two of us had a hint of summer legs and went off ahead, the remaining six kept a pace that was acceptable to the rest.
At the lake there were people enjoying a spring day in what should be the waning days of winter. We chatted for a bit, some took pictures until we started to chill. We zipped up or jerseys or donned vests, and took the paved roads back toward home. Past the falls where a girl cheered us on, then down into town, and along to Fall City, past Grand Ridge, and on some back roads rollers till we stopped for, what we hopped would be a doughnut for each of us. Perhaps that is the biggest thing to report in all of this. On Sunday 22, February, 2015, the Issaquah Top Pot ran out of donuts. Shortly after, they started giving out free cups of coffee. We had already paid for ours, but we also got to split the last three doughnuts.
Robert Grunau lives in Seattle, Wa, a city he has grown to love and now believes superior to his former home of Portland, Or. His work as been published in ROAD Magazine, Conquista Cycling Quarterly, The Ride Journal, as well as other places on the web. He has a tendency to post too many pictures of his cat, but you can find out for yourself on Twitter: @RJGrunau