Sunday, October 23, 2011


Roanne and I have made a tradition of going on a short trip to mark our wedding anniversary every year (which falls on Oct. 14), and since this year she was going to be in San Francisco running the Nike Women's Half Marathon over the weekend closest to our anniversary, for the following weekend we decided to head to Victoria. We had both been in the past, but not since we had moved to Seattle and we were excited to try out the Clipper which is a fast passenger ferry that goes from downtown Seattle right to downtown Victoria. You can take bikes on for a small fee, so bright and early on Friday morning we found ourselves rolling down from Capitol Hill to Pier 30 on our touring bikes.

It was a rainy morning, and as the ferry started our journey we could just barely make out the Seattle sky line receding in the fog:

The trip took around 2.5 hours, and after passing customs in Victoria we hopped on our bikes and rode to our hotel, which was near the waterfront and called "Swan's Hotel" or something like that (details become fuzzy when I write blog entries months after the events). We then set out on foot to explore Victoria, with the first stop being at the Fairmont Empress for their famous afternoon tea:

High tea seems to be a big deal in Victoria, and the Empress is apparently the prime spot for it. I cringed a bit a the price ($50 each, yikes!) but told myself that high tea is high tea so we needed to just suck it up. It is actually more than just tea, they bring a tiered platter of various sandwiches and pastries, which were really good. Here we are doing our best to blend in with high society:

I was not overly impressed with the service, but overall it was fun and also interesting to explore the rest of the Empress a bit afterward. We passed the rest of the afternoon walking around downtown and exploring the sights, finishing off with a delicious dinner at a brewpub called "Canoe".

It had rained throughout Friday, but Saturday morning dawned with some breaks of sunshine so I managed to convince Roanne that we should ride our bikes on a scenic tour toward Butchard Gardens, which are about 20km from Victoria. I neglected to mention that the scenic tour started by heading in the opposite direction from the garden and would end up being a lot more than the 20km direct route to the garden. Unfortunately it started to rain about 15 minutes into the ride and continued to do so for the next hour or two as we toured along the coast. Neither of us was particularly dressed for the rain (with Roanne being the worst off), so by the time we were about 10 km from the garden we were getting really cold and decided to turn back. We made it back to Victoria cold and wet, and not having reached our objective of Butchart Gardens we decided to postpone that to the next day and chalk this day up to rainy touring. After drying off and warming up we headed out to walk around the town some more, finishing up with an amazing dinner at the famous ReBar Cafe (so good!).

The next morning dawned with legitimately nice weather and we decided to give it another go for reaching Butchart Gardens by bike, and were more successful this time with taking the direct route and having the weather cooperate. We spent a few hours looking around the gardens which were really nice, though maybe not quite as good as in the spring when all the flowers would be blooming. Here is Roanne making her way along a board walk:

Here is the renowned sunken garden:

And here is Roanne in front of some of flowers that were still blooming at this time of year (dahlias):

After touring the gardens we decided to finish off with high tea for lunch, and it was pretty good by comparison with the Fairmont Empress (better pastries, worse sandwiches, better service):

We then rode back to Victoria where Roanne made a beeline for a store called "She-She Shoes" that she had discovered the previous day, and promptly purchased as many shoes as could be comfortably loaded onto our bikes with their boxes (this turned out to be 3 pairs). We then boarded the ferry for the ride back to Seattle, where we faced a steep and wet ride back up to Capitol Hill.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

King Ridge Gran Fondo

At the start of the summer I had signed Roanne and myself up for the King Ridge Gran Fondo, put on by Levi Leipheimer in his hometown of Santa Rosa, California. The event offers a choice of distances ranging from 40km to 165km, but needless to say I signed both of us up for the long one. It would be a bit of a stretch for Roanne since she had never ridden over 100km on her bike, but I was confident that she could handle it.

Roanne had a work trip to Asia come up in mid September that almost kiboshed her participation, but she was able to arrange her travel so that she flew directly from Tokyo to San Francisco on Friday where I met her with our bikes (Ritchey Breakaway travel bikes, with Roanne's having been built up just a few days prior). We headed north toward Santa Rosa, and after some hotel problems (not worth going into, but low marks on customer service for Holiday Inn Express) we finally landed at a really nice place called the Vintner's Inn that was about 8km outside of Santa Rosa. Highly recommended if anyone is going to be in Santa Rosa! After building the bikes up and a short test ride we headed into town to register and pick up our race packets:

We then grabbed some dinner and headed back to the hotel for an early night. We rose bright and early the next morning and pedaled the 8km to the race start where we saw large numbers (7,500 to be exact) of cyclists lined up and ready to go:

We rolled back down the line and did our best to slot ourselves in, here is a shot of us getting excited for the start:

And here is the view looking forward, that is a lot of people!

The gun fired and people started to roll out, though it wasn't until a minute or two had passed that we started moving. We started easy since it was going to be a long day in the saddle, and before long we were at the first food station where they had a lot of delicious snacks. Soon after some of the climbing started (with almost 9,000 feet of climbing in total for the day), and though I had commited to being Roanne's domestique for the day (after all, I was the one who had convinced her she should do it) I would roll ahead on the climbs and then wait at the top.

Santa Rosa is generally a sunny place, but apparently the one day of rain per year had been scheduled for the Gran Fondo because as we started to climb up to King Ridge it became quite cold and rainy. I moved ahead on the climb as usual, and then paused to wait at a rest stop. Roanne was taking a long time to arrive so I began to get worried but soon after she rolled in, having flatted on the climb and not had a tube since I was carrying them. Bad domestique! From this point on we decided we had better ride together.

The rest of the ride went well, with it warming up a bit as we descended from King Ridge though still being on and off rain. Here is Roanne dancing on the pedals up the last significant climb of the day:

We finally rolled across the finish line at around 5:45, just short of 10 hours from when the gun had gone off at 8am that morning. We had spent a fair bit of time stopped at the feed stations so we were probably on the bikes for about 8 hours. Here we are happy to be done:

After some delicious dinner we rolled the 8km back to the hotel for a total of 181km ridden on the day. Not bad!

Here is a link to our GPS track:

After a well-earned sleep we spent the next day exploring Santa Rosa, including the local history museum which happened to have a bicycle exhibit going on:

It was a great event, I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to ride some really fun roads and eat some great food with a lot of fellow cyclists.