Sunday, September 11, 2005

The perfect ride

Between my commuter bike and my racing bike, I have logged more than 10,000 km of riding in the past three years. Some of those rides have been amazing. Some have been horrible. But nothing compares to yesterday.

I have finally experienced the perfect ride. I found it along the ribbon of highway that winds its way up to the base of Mount Baker in Washington State.

The newly paved road was buttery soft and almost car free. The sun was warm without being hot. The scenery -- forbidding mountains and glaciers -- was the most spectacular I have ever seen from the seat of a bicycle. The company was pretty good too.

It didn’t start out smoothly though. The plan was to drive to Abbotsford and ride our bikes across the border. We thought it would be faster to get into the U.S. that way. But it turns out that spandex-clad cyclists are now a potential terrorist threat.

We were detained for an hour because the American border guards didn’t like Jonathan’s British passport. He was fingerprinted, interviewed, subjected to a background search and forced to fork over $65. Once we got the warm welcome over with, we were on our way (that’s me in the middle).

The goal was to ride to the base of Mt. Baker, about 75 km away, within three and a half hours. As the only girl in the group, I knew I would get dropped once the real hill climbing began. But only four of us made it all the way to the top and I was one of them.

I spent most of the long ascent alone feeling completely dwarfed by the mountains. I realized this -- the open road, the stunning mountains, a day spent with friends -- was about as good as it gets. Who needs a boyfriend when you have a bike?

The return trip wasn’t as fun. The descent was long, cold and full of hairpin turns. John and I rode back together and we were both nearly hypothermic by the time we hit flat ground. And then once our legs thawed out, our quads started cramping.

So we just put our heads down and rode back to Sumas, knowing beer and burgers were waiting for us. It was the perfect end to the perfect ride.

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