The 1st hurdle was getting tickets, since they sold out the 2nd week of 2008. Quick visit to the Cascade forum, sent out five emails, grabbed the first -- done.
The 2nd hurdle was lodging. The RSVP is a little more less of a hand-hold than STP, you need to secure motels in both Bellingham and BC. I tried for hours with Bellingham motels to find a single room that was going for the gouging price of almost $200 that night. Apparently they jack up the rates just for this weekend, and it's legal! I also looked into campgrounds, which looked really bleak right from the start. So my last approach was to private message the one man who I knew might hold the keys-- birdman from the Fish. And the magic continued... Thank you dude!! I figured if I could get a place in Bellingham, BC would be a cake walk and I was right -- lucky enough to score a $35/room night at a hostel somewhat near the Finish party. So hopefully I'll have good tales to tell about that later.
The 3rd hurdle (which should actually have been the first hurdle, but I was pretty confident about this) was to get permission from cascade.org to longboard this all-bike event. Since I had waited this late to get signed up, I wanted to see if it was even feasible, and once things started falling into place quickly, I shot off the note to the organizers with a little "resume" to get their blessing. Got it!
Actually I should clarify, their blessing is worded as: "We don't have any restrictions against riding a longboard" so I know my place here. That's a pretty key point on these rides. It communicates the subtle message that you don't carve into the path of a bike, or it's game over. And if you're going to eat #### at any time, try your best to only take yourself out. I've seen pileups of bikes on the STP, usually at railroad crossings, but I think the tolerance for that kind of stupidity is much lower on this ride.
The 4th hurdle will be the hills of the RSVP!
This ride is 183 miles in two days, 103 miles the first, 80 the second, as the website states.
There are several significant differences from the STP:
This ride is reportedly far more scenic, and a lot less crowded than the STP. There's something around 1,500 bikers, instead of 9,500.
There's more of a festive and relaxed atmosphere. I'm counting on that -- in fact, I'm hoping there are some bikers who are SO relaxed that they'll go 10 mph and stop for 1 hour restaurant breaks. One thing that really kept us on the right track of the STP was the fact you really didn't need to consult the map, ever, because the sheer number of bikers served as your directional beacon. On the RSVP I'm definitely going to study the roads more, keep an eye out for the road markings, and have the map close at hand during the trip -- I'm going into this somewhat convinced that I'll be in the "straggler" category, if not dead last!
This is also a far more hilly ride. Meaning UPhill. Not nearly the flat smooth "coaster" ride of the STP. I've been looking into some blogs for as much detail on this as possible -- and come to realize that even among the bikers, there are those who call certain hill climbs easy, where others will regard the same hills as a huge personal challenge. So I'm going to assume it's tough, and get mentally prepared for the aerobics to come.
Here are some GPS profiles from Jim Carson's RSVP blog, from his 2003 ride, which rained buckets:
Left Seattle 6 a.m.
Arrived Bellingham 6:45 p.m.
Total time 12:45
Left Bellingham 6 a.m.
Arrived Vanc BC 4:45
1 hour waiting for ferry, 2 hours rest total
Total time 10:45
183 miles total
6,200 foot vertical
Skateboarding the Seattle to Vancouver BC bike ride was all about committing, then just doing it. There's no magic of getting over the peaks and across the rough, fresh chipsealed roads, other than tenaciousness, and more fitness required than on a more flat trip like the STP. The camaraderie and support from roughly 1,300 bikers played a huge part in getting over the hills in 95-degree temps.
Both these days were the hottest, in fact record breaking, of the entire Northwest summer, and the overall vertical climb was estimated at 6,200 feet. The toughest part of the entire ride was mid-day Friday, climbing over the highest peak, on a 10-mile stretch of chipseal, with the sun baking us. I stopped to the side frequently and continued to push the entire hill, as I'd committed to pushing rather than hiking any of the hills.
The overnight in Bellingham was great! This ride plan all came together last minute and it would have been a lot more nerve-wracking without Birdman setting that part up. Ben and Brandon, thank you again for the couch crash!
The ride confirmed a couple thoughts I have on setting up for any distance trek.
First, surface is everything. The bikers all thought that the seven hills of Chuckanut Drive at the end of the first day were going to be "the Gauntlet", and wipe me out. That section was actually one of the most pleasurable of the entire trip. I would honestly rather push uphill for 10 miles on surface like Chuckanut Drive, than to free-roll down one mile of chipseal. The smooth, flat Canadian roads on the 2nd day allowed a lot more pumping and energy conservation. Overall I probably pumped 30% of the time and pushed 70%. The development of Washington's road surfaces is disconcerting - it seems that chipseal is the cheapest way to extend the life of rural roads, but considering how much roll resistance it adds even to the large wheels on a bike, I'd guess that it detracts from fuel efficiency on every single automobile that drives the many miles across it as well. If the state could ever study and quantify these effects, they might seek alternatives to this nasty surfacing job that's making a lot of once smooth roads practically unrideable for human-powered vehicles, and fuel-inefficient for the gas guzzlers. But I guess that's something to take up with the state later.
I was riding the Roe Mermaid with 76mm Pink Gumballs which made for a fairly soft yet fast ride. Next time for RSVP I might opt for 74a Avilas (softest on the market) or if going with the dropped deck like the Fathom prototype / Mark G-bomb Cambiar, possibly 85mm Vents or even 97mm Abec11's - but that's only if I give up on the topmounted strategy.
Second, a topmounted board can be efficient on uphill treks. My Roe Mermaid is 5" off the ground at the front truck. In the center of board there's flex, so when pushing, the board dips to around 4" before it springs back upward. I believe there's a lot more to varying the technique of pushing, than simply adhering to the idea that a lowered deck is always more efficient. I used a crouched stance on some of the steepest hills, like "The Wall" in Canada, keeping the knees bent and quickly sweeping across the board when changing push foot. I plan to keep training on hills and eventually compare the exertion differences between a topmount and a drop. The payoff of course is when you're finally back on flats and declines where you can pump the speed and keep both feet happily on the board.
Huge gratitude to the organizers and all the riders who chatted alongside or else provided brief encouragement along the way -- I am horrible with names, but hoping to catch up on photos soon. Thank you Mitch and Shelley, David, Janice, John, Donald, Bill, Mark, and many many others.
More to come ... nutrition, hydration, recouperation, emancipation ... but gotta get to work!
Congrats on conquering yet another ride. You'll have to tell me a little more about the terrain next time we get together.
What you found about the flex of the Mermaid, is actually what Adam found about the flex on his Dervish as well. That the spring back seemed to almost help add a bit of energy into the push, and that it lowered enough that height was not an issue. I'm up to go out for some hill climbs.
I'll be in the area Saturday and Sunday, lets get out for a cruise
I sold my highly coveted 2009 RSVP ticket this year to a very happy biker - for various reasons.
One being that my wife and daughter were going to meet me in BC this time, and spend an extra day goofing around, but stuff came up and they couldn't. That was a big incentive, and this ride requires a bit more incentive, because...
...the main reason I reconsidered is surface. The uphills were nothing, total cake, counter to my original trepidations about the ride. But RSVP puts you through a lot of miles of chipsealed hell. Not only chipseal, but gravel-covered chipseal.
I still thoroughly enjoyed the majority of the ride last year, the awesome support and reception from bikers and the organizers, and the overall adventure. However, life is full of choices + short weekends, and my pleasure principle just kicked in.
Registration for RSVP 2010 opens at 9 a.m. today, and it will probably be sold out within a couple days. 1,300 tickets total. I'm going to renew as cascade.org member again (you get event ticket discounts plus deals from bike shops around Seattle) and hopefully get a seat today.
According to their new registration rules, they can no longer be sold-off / transferred, but refunded if within 30 days you know you can't make it and cancel the ride.
The 1,300 tickets sold out in just 3 hours, from 9 a.m. to noon that day. Got mine! So I'll probably be skatin this one solo again, with the family meeting me at the finish line in BC this time around. I might try to get better at taking pictures this year :-p
Wow, didn't even know there was an event for this. Shame it's long sold out, because a friend and I were thinking of doing the exact same thing (skating either to or from vancouver, taking the bus the other way)
We'd likely do it over 3 days, taking bike trails and back roads. a bit of googling has turned up a couple of possible routes, but some more scouting on google street view will probably required.
Carrying a 20lb+ backpack doesn't really appeal to me, so i'd likely take a small pack just for food/water and arrange to crash with somebody.
Jon, I'll chat with you about the RSVP route's details offline if you're interested. You can download cascade's map online in PDF as well. There are some pretty long portions of gnarly surface where we might be able to find some alternative routes. I'm thinking about biking up to Bellingham some time just to see the difference now, and maybe test out some other roads. Larrabee State Park just south of Bellingham seems like it would be a killer place to set up an overnight camp if you went the tent route. Otherwise staying in town is a great way to go, with all the creature comforts and good food. First year I stayed with a buddy, this year in the WWU dorms.
Work's been pretty nuts this week, so I'm just going to paste my post on Facebook about RSVP 2010, and hopefully come back and elaborate later.
Great time, good company, and good beers!
"1st day 106.3 miles, temps in the high 80's, strong headwind and long stretches of craggy Skagit county chipseal made for a very special foot massage. Departed 5:45 a.m. (thank you Kai!!) arrived Bellingham around 8 p.m. Avocado burger and BEER. Chuckanut Drive is a BREEZE and a high speed blast, compared with the long flat haul across Skagit Valley. Met Doug and Carol, Heidi Plum and her parents, and Dave McAlister along the way, among many other familiar faces both days. Stayed at WWU dorms, cheap and functional.
2nd day 83.5 miles, temps in the 90s, wind conditions and surface far better in Canada. Took a little more time to take in the scenery and cool off. Departed 6 a.m., arrived the BC hotel around 5:30. Burgers and BEER. Stayed in Granville Hostel, $35 for the night. Walked all over Vancouver the next morning, breakfast with Doug and Carol then off to Amtrak for the 5-hour ride home -- the border crossing took 2 hours.
The massive miles of chipseal on day one should really keep me away from skating this again, but the screaming hills in between and the scenery all along the way makes it totally worth it."
My good friends the Plum family, at the Seattle Start line.
Friends Doug and Carol, in Snohomish.
Friend Dave McAlister on the Centennial Trail. He rode with me quite a while on both days, even though he had to pedal like crazy to catch up with his other biking buddies afterward.
There's a 35-40mph screaming hill just before this town of Arlington. What's gnarly about it is just as you reach top speed, the asphalt goes from kinda rough to sloppy nasty burnt hard hamburger...I had to grab my cheeks and take up religion on the spot, but nailed it.
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Pushing across Skagit valley against headwind and on this asphalt was the most trying part of the whole trip. There were moments I just sat on the board and did a mind-meld with the cows to achieve their inner peace, then got back up and knocked out a few more miles at a time.
Bikers often talk about how tough this last stretch before Bellingham is going to be -- the famed Chuckanut Drive. My take on this always gives them a profoundly new perspective on things. Chuckanut is absolute paradise compared with the flatland that precedes it. The uphills aren't all that steep, and the downhills are curvy and fast. But most importantly, the surface is incredibly smooth. Just have to stay really aware of the traffic coming around corners. Amazing scenery of the waterfront, it's a total blast and a great rush just before reaching town.
The famous Lemonade stand at the end of Chuckanut Drive, she had been doing this for 13 years of RSVP, to raise money for college (which she now attends.) Going forward the proceeds will go toward her younger sister's education. I made it just before they closed up!
Western Washington Univ Dorm room.
"The Wall" -- a short and amazingly steep hill. Hard to capture in a photo.
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That looks like an amazing experience and tough too. I love the photographs! I like the pretty cow, the cute squirrel, all the smiling faces and the pretty lemonade lady and the night time street scene is wonderful. The mention of mind meld with the cows made me smile, as I could so easily imagine it! Was there a huge party at the finish? It looks like such an amazing event.
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