Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Bloated Fish & Butt Raisins

It was a perfect, autumnal weekend for a rectangular ride with spectacular company.

The company, enjoying the autumnal spectacularness.
From left to right: Whitney, Phil, Me, Rich, Jason, and Claudia.

The ride, in all of its rectangular glory.

"The Rectangle Ride" is a 110-mile route that starts in Arlington, WA, heads east to Darrington, north to Rockport, west to Sedro-Wooley, and then loops back south to Arlington.

This is the fourth time I've done this route, and only now has it earned the name "The Rectangle Ride." It's safe to say that this is my favorite local overnight route, and so I was super-duper happy to share the route with five friends.

I've done a number of bike tours with just one other friend. But earlier this year, I decided it'd be fun to extend my overnight trips to a larger group of friends. This spring was the first time I organized a larger group tour; eight of us went on an overnight trip to Scenic Beach State Park, in Seabeck, WA. For two of the riders, the Seabeck trip was their first foray into bike touring.

The Seabeck crew, minus two.

I'd like for this to become a regular thing.
A spring fling.
And then a later ride;
a fling with autumal bling.

Autumnal. Autumnal. Autumnal. Isn't that a lovely word!

We had attempted to ride The Rectangle Ride two weekends prior. But, due to massive storms, we postponed the trip to this last weekend. There were ten riders committed to the original weekend.

Although we lost five riders due to the rescheduling, we picked up an extra one on the rescheduled weekend. In my mind, all was well. Especially since the coolness of our additional rider (Whitney) made up for more than five cyclists combined!

Let's introduce The Rectangle Riders.

First, there was me, Silly Sarah, the fearless trip leader.

(Photo: Jason.)

Then there was Pensive Phil, my adventure buddy who helps me memorialize great weekends with banged up knees. (Surprisingly, my knees were pristine after this weekend).

Pensive Phil.

There was Cordial Claudia, who's enjoys tiny houses and slug sex.

Cordial Claudia.
(Photo: Jason.)

There was Jocular Jason (aka "Peacock"), who is notorious for sprouting a kale tail and who served as the designated tour guide photographer.

Jocular Jason.
(Photo: Jason.)

There was Rhapsodic Rich, Claudia's friend, a stranger to me as of the beginning of the trip, and one helluva strong cyclist.

Rhapsodic Rich.
(Photo: Jason.)

And, last, but not least, there was Whimsically Woolly Whitney, another friend of Claudias, a stranger to me as of the beginning of the trip, and one who deserves credit for this blog entry's title and for her brilliant use of the word "autumnal." Autumnal. Oh, I just love that word!

Whimsically Woolly Whitney.
(Photo: Jason.)

Whimsically Woolly Whitney gets two introduction photos, because *I* took the below of her, and I'm really proud of myself for taking such a great photo!

Whimsically Woolly Whitney. Again.
Oh yeah, and *I* took this great photo!

The plan was to meet in Arlington at 9:30am Saturday morning. Rich and Claudia pooled in one car, and the rest of us carpooled with Phil.

Positioning my Saris Bones rack on Phil's car so he could carry four bikes.
(Photo: Jason.)

The morning rainfall in Seattle seemed to have us all operating in slo-mo. Both cars arrived fashionably late in Arlington, within just a few minutes of each other.

We took the bikes off the racks, packed up the bikes with our panniers, took one final pee, and then we were on our way!

As we biked the few blocks through downtown Arlington to reach Highway 530, an older gentleman yelled out, "You all need to be riding single file." Bah humbug! Let's just say that we mentioned this gentleman numerous times throughout the weekend.

We're an intimidating gang of bikers, aren't we?
(Photo: Jason.)

It was foggy as we biked east towards Darrington. Typically, Whitehorse Mountain is visible off to the south as one rides along this stretch. I was excited to show the others the beautiful mountain, which stands at 6,840 feet. But it didn't seem as though this was the weekend to do so.

Fortunately, as we neared Darrington, the sun broke, and bits of Whitehorse were visible in the distance.

Me, pulling over to fully take in the beauty of Whitehorse.
(Photo: Jason.)

Snow atop Whitehorse Mountain.
(Photo: Jason.)

As Jason and I pulled off to the side of the road to photograph Whitehorse, a familiar red vehicle also pulled off to the side of the road, just in front of us. Out walked Master Birder Eric, with whom I searched for the green-tailed towhee on my Portland, OR to Portland, ME ride earlier this summer.

Eric had been invited on The Rectangle Ride. He declined; instead he was on his way up to the pass on Highway 20 to photograph the larches in all of their golden glory.

As we were within a mile or two of our lunch stop at Squire Creek Park, Eric decided to join us for lunch. As the sun had just broken through the clouds, we basked in the rays as we munched on our lunch.

Peacock, lounging in the lunchtime rays.

Jason certainly deserved his rest. After all, he did the ride on a single-speed bike. Yup, folks, he had no gears with which to climb the inclines!

Jason had a most interesting setup. I've never seen aerobars on a touring bike!

On the downhills, Jason used his aerobars.
He referred to his relaxed riding position as "sitting in the couch."
(Photo: Jason.)

Before we left our lunch spot, we discussed our campground options for the evening.

Reviewing the route -- I love how Claudia is scratching her head!
(Photo: Jason.)

Originally we were going to stay at Rasar State Park. And we held to this choice after our lunch meeting. But, later in the afternoon, we made a democratic decision to stay at Henry Miller Steelhead Campground instead. Steelhead was a bit closer and would allow us more of the afternoon to soak up the sunshine and to enjoy each other's company.

After we caloried up, we continued on our route, heading north along the mostly flat, but windy and picturesque road into Rockport. As we dodged the big, fuzzy, brown-striped caterpillars as they crossed the road, we were showered on by golden leaves as they slowly floated down from the trees above. Ah, fall!

Phil rides through the leaves.

About a mile before we arrived at the campground in Rockport, the sun disappeared behind some clouds and stayed there for the remainder of the day. Go figure! Sun or no sun, we were determined to enjoy the afternoon!

We chose two tent sites just feet away from the Skagit River.

The beautiful (but stinky) Skagit River, right aside our campsites.
(Photo: Jason.)

Having just spawned, there were many salmon carcasses along the side of the river. We could smell 'em before we could see 'em.

We took turns taking a good look at the bloated fish along the riverside. It was quite interesting, not in a morose way, though. Some of the fish had been dead for a while, their eyeballs gone and their bodies covered in sand and growing fuzzy with time. Other fish were fighting for their last breaths as their bodies turned upside-down, fins strangely floating above the water.

The bloated fish carcasses along the river's edge.
(Photo: Jason.)

We set up camp. Claudia and Rich had their own tents, Whitney slept in her bivy, and Jason, Phil, and I shared Jason's four-person GoLite tent.

Phil and I trying to figure out how to put together Jason's tent.
(Photo: Jason.)

Me, discovering the tent would make a great bee suit.
(Photo: Jason.)

Our tent set-up reminded me how I love the colors of outdoor gear!

Our tent, sleep bags, and sleep pads. So colorful!

We changed into warmer, more comfortable clothes, and then we all took turns deriding Jason for his outfit. Over. And over. And over again.

Jason would make a great Hanna Andersson model!

Ok. I did just say that I love the colors of outdoor gear.

A little later, Claudia showed us some yoga moves to stretch our weary legs.

Rich illustrates perfect form. (Hehe.)

And we all took turns playing with Molly, the Rockport kitty kat, who had no qualms making herself at home in our camp.

Phil, Molly, and Whimsically Woolly Whitney.

We're a colorful bunch!
(Photo: Claudia, visible in the shadow.)

We waited as long as we possibly could to start dinner. Just minutes before 5pm, we migrated over to the covered picnic area to chow down.

We marveled at Rich's porcelain bowl and mug; it is indeed unusual to see cyclists tote porcelein along on their rides. I'm telling you, Rich is nothing but muscles.

And we marveled at Whimsically Woolly Whitney's ingeniousness, which was displayed in oh-so-many ways -- from her handmade punch stove to the pot she used to amplify the music from her phone.

Whitney's handmade punch stove.
(Photo: Jason.)

After dinner, we settled in for the night. Our proverbial lights were out not too long after 7pm. No late night campfires or imbibing for this group of tired cyclists! No siree!

Jason warned us that he snored. He was even so polite as to bring along a bag of ear plugs. While I can't speak for the others, I can say that I spent many a minute laying awake at night listening to Jason snore as he peacefully enjoyed his dreams. I felt I needed to take one for the team, and so I jabbed Jason; he rolled over and kept his trap shut for the remainder of the evening. What a responsive snorer!

We woke up in the morning and packed up our tents. Peacock was moving quite efficiently, as he shared his motivation with the group: "I have to poo, and I don't want to have to come back after I go to the bathroom." Claudia verbalized what the rest of us were all thinking: "TMI."

A mess of bikes and gear at our camp.
(Photo: Jason.)

It was dang cold in the morning. Although I understand that thick fog is helpful for trapping in "warm" air, the moisture in the air always makes it seem far colder than the true temperature.

We had breakfast in the picnic pavilion and then took off for our ride. I'm not sure about the rest of the gang, but the gentle uphill slog after the campground did very little to warm up my frozen toes and fingers. It was only when we crossed over the Skagit River, about 15 miles later, when I was able to finally shed a layer.

The fog begins to burn off as we cross the Skagit River.
(Photo: Jason.)

We were in awe at the beauty of our surroundings. The river. The beautiful autumnal leaves. The mystical fog giving way to the blue skies.

Did I mention the gorgeous autumnal leaves?

We decided this would make a great spot for a group photo.

Peacock, in all his vulnerability, adjusting the camera.

Gosh darn it, we are a dang good looking group!
(Photo: Jason.)

Around noon, we pulled off into a gravel clearing to have lunch, before joining up with Highway 9 to head south back into Arlington.

The three other times I've done this route, I've always missed the turnoff for the traffic-free and scenic, partial-circumnavigation of Big Lake. With twelve eyeballs on the lookout for the turnoff this time, we *did not* miss the turnoff. What a gorgeous side route!

A fun, little bus stop along West Big Lake Rd.

The final miles of our ride were along the Centennial Trail. The far northern tip of the Centennial Trail was only completed and dedicated last fall, and so the northern portion of the trail was new for The Rectangle Ride.

Claudia was familiar with the turnoff and so she told all of us to keep our eyes open for the big red barn on the side of the road. Sure enough, the big red barn we saw!

We took advantage of the sunshine and a few benches at the trailhead to rest for a bit.

And to laugh.

Our break along the Centennial Trail.
(Photo: Jason.)

We all had a good roar when Phil went to sit down on the bench next to Claudia. Claudia yelled out, "No, don't sit there," and then firmly grabbed Phil's ass, as Phil remained suspended in mid-sitting position for what seemed like eternity. Phil was about to sit on a raisin (god forbid!), and Claudia didn't want for him to end up with a raisin smooshed to his butt.

Claudia and Phil, both seeming to enjoy the butt raisin reenactment.
Well, actually, we all enjoyed the reenactment.
(Photo: Jason.)

A little later, Jason was telling us about his work on Amazon Cloud. He was sounding all prim'n'proper and intelligible in his explanation, and then Claudia busted out into laughter, pointing to Jason while saying, "You know how funny this is? You're talking all authoritatively and you look like this!"

It's true. It's kind of hard to take this buffoon seriously.
(Photo: Claudia.)

Yes, bikers can look funny. Particularly Jason-types, wearing bibs, helmet, and neon "turn signal" gloves.

Judging by the amount of laughter, it was quite obvious that we were enjoying each other's company. We rode the final few miles back into Arlington, where a few of us celebrated the end of the ride by posing on the big steel bike sculpture.

Phil, posing.
(Photo: Jason.)

Jason was a poser, too.

We enjoyed each other's company a bit longer while we satisfied our hungers at Blue Bird Cafe. And then we parted our ways.

Bloated fish and butt raisins were certainly highlights of the weekend. But I will fondly remember a great ride on a beautiful fall weekend with fabulous friends. Indeed, it was a perfect autumnal weekend for a rectangular ride with spectacular company.

Update 1/21/2014: This ride was included as one of eight trips in the 2013 Bike Overnights Roundup. Woohoo!


  1. Sounds sublime! I like the group photo!

    1. Thanks, MaryJo! I like the group photo, too!

  2. Looks like a great ride! any chance of route directions? Or is it like my rides and all in someone's head? :)

    1. Hello MountainStroh~

      'Tis a great ride indeed!

      The route is neither a secret nor a ride that I can take credit for developing. The route is listed in "Bicycling the Backroads Around Puget Sound," by Erin and Bill Woods. The route is #35 in the book and is called "Arlington-Rockport."

      Happy pedaling~

  3. What are the odds I run into the word "autumnal" here and on an unrelated website within 5 minutes and in springtime no less. Scroll down a few photos... Thought I'd share the website by the way. One of my favorites.


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