So just this past weekend a friend invited a bunch of us to go mountain biking on Orcas Island, and being that I have never been in the 8 years I’ve lived here I figured now was the time to go. It turned out only myself and Alex the ring leader in this adventure wanted to go. The reason for going was that Moran State Park closed a good portion of the mountain bike trails for the summer. Of course we’re talking about all the good ones. Alex and I made last minute plans around 11:30 pm on Saturday night. This was probably the fatal mistake in our plan.
Sunday morning came all too fast. Knowing I had to be up in mere hours I wanted to get as much packed as possible. I know all too well I do not function in the morning, especially on very little sleep. I paced my tiny apartment going between it’s two small rooms talking out loud reciting my packing list. “Helmet, shoes, license. NO! Craig you’re not racing. AGAIN!” Then I’d start the process again. I packed as much as I could that night and then attempted to fall asleep. Of course as I drifted off I realized I didn’t turn the alarms, yes alarms, plural.
I was still half awake when my journey began. Starbucks was my first stop for some hot chocolate and a breakfast sandwich. I was supposed to meet Alex at Lighthouse coffee in Fremont. I got there 10 minutes early and looked around for Alex, no seeing him I just went outside and sat on the curb. Oddly enough there was a blue bike out front that my gut said was his. I shook it off and waited. The sun was warm and you could tell it was going to be a wonderful day. Around 9:20 am, 20 minutes after our planned departure time Alex texted me to say there was another ferry at 11:55 am as we had now missed the one we planned on getting. After a handful of texts I figured out Alex was indeed there and I had just not seen him inside. My gut was right. No big deal, there was plenty of time to catch the next ferry, so we thought.
Alex and I drove up the street to his parent’s house to collect his bike. When we arrived I found Alex’s bike to contain every last piece of mud from the prior weekends Taint Tuff ride in Bellingham. His bike was more brown than white. It was covered in a dry flaky mud. It was the type that gets into every hard to clean place kind of mud. As Alex gathered his gear I cleaned his bike, not out of pity for him or his bike but my car. There was no way in hell his bike was being stuffed in the back of my car looking like that! Alex found his last pieces of gear, oiled his chain, and we were once again the move.
The drive was longer than thought and dragged on. Alex proceeded to fall asleep multiple times during the drive. I know I can ramble but he fall asleep as I talked to him, he was that tired (and hungover). I on the other hand, was anxious to get the ride started. I knew it was going to be a long long day in the saddle and just wanted to get to the ferry to get rolling. As if my car knew this, it forced us to stop to fill it up. I took the stop in stride and used it as an opportunity to get some lunch. We missed one turn on the way to the ferry delaying us further. By the time we got parked in the overflow parking, paid, and got out bikes going we only had less than 10 minutes to grab the ferry. Oddly the ferry was nowhere to be seen. We raced over to the ticket window and Alex asked for a ticket for the 11:55 ferry to Orcas. The woman behind the counter said “You mean the 1:45 pm ferry.” Alex was like “NOOO, the 11:55 am!” We got a look that said “Who does this for a living? Do I look stupid!” and her response to Alex was “I don’t know what you’re looking at but the next ferry is at 1:45 pm”
Accepting we had no other options we bailed on going to Orcas. Alex had read the ferry schedule wrong and us not connecting at the coffee shop sealed our fate. We headed back to the car to repack our bikes and gear. It would have been too long to wait for the ferry so we decided riding right there at Anacortes was the better option. I must back up and mention during our first unpacking Alex came to realize he only had one glove and myself, well, I had a very noisy bike. Something was making a racket and it was quite worrying. It was a sound that said “Hey, I’m on my last legs and might fail you at any time!” I had already completely taken my headset apart before this ride since it didn’t want to move after the Taint Tuff. I was worried I should have taken more things apart.
We drove off to some secret trail head Alex had been to once and could barely remember where it was. Like most of our day so far the situation was less than optimal. By sheer dumb luck we found the correct road, in the correct housing development and the secret trail head, in one try. Maybe things were turning around for the two of us. The car was unloaded again and with efficiency as we were becoming experts by now. We were rolling and on dirt in not time. Sure enough my bike squeaked and creaked away. All I could think was “It’s going to be a long day if I have to listen to that the whole time.”
Since we changed plans mid trip we had one small problem, no map of the trails we were now at. The trails at Whistle Lake are many and there are trails connecting you to Heart Lake and Cranberry Lake as well. We were relying on Alex’s memory, which to this point was only batting .500 and my usually good sense of direction and map reading skills. Lucky for us the area has maps at various points and ever trail has a number. Now I know you’re thinking, “Did they get lost?” Of course we did, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
The mystery noise in my bike faded as did the memory of all the setbacks up to this point. The trails were fast and had amazing flow. We blasted through turns and churned up hills and before we knew it we were leaving Heart Lake area and entering into the Whistle Lake area. Alex pointed us up the summit road of Mt. Erie. He was under the impression there would be more and a few trails off it we could choose from. I was under the impression he knew more than he did. In the end it worked out. We ground our way to the top and after a very steep grind of a climb we were rewarded with amazing views of lakes, islands, and mountains. We could see the Olympics and all the way to Mt. Baker and beyond. It was impressive. We explored the top of the mountain some before blasting back down the road the way we came up.
This is where the fun began, but it was apparent at first. The trail started as simple nondescript double track. Once we made our first turn off the double track my spirit and speed went way up! Alex and I found some awesome single track, super technical up and down stuff, all the way to climbs where it was hard to keep the front wheel on the ground. It was in this maze of sweetness that we managed to get turned around. I blasted down, it always has to be down, a trail to come upon an intersections that looked way to familiar and it was. We were at it about an hour before. Lucky for us a maintenance work was driving out and had a map. He gave us directions and off we went.
By this point Alex who had fallen on some rocks was feeling the pain of the fall and had what he called “Terrible Sugar Stomach”. We were both getting hungry for something besides energy bars and gels, plus Alex’s stomach knotted up with each bite. As we ripped down a double track that appeared to be completely void of anything sharp or large enough to give one a flat, I got just that, a puncture. I fixed the flat as the couple we had just passed walked back past us and made some small talk. Once the new tube was in we resumed our ripping. Of course it was now our turn to pass the same people again. Alex went wide to give them maximum room and unannounced to me he nailed a rock. I flew by him and noticed his rear wheel going all over. Yup, that’s right, flat number two in less than five minutes.
I used the time I had as Alex repaired his tire to shoot some pictures. I got some great ones of him fixing the tire. Photographic evidence for the next time he gives me grief about the time I had 5 flats in one ride. That is a story for another time, which would be never, since I hear about it all the time.
We would pass the same people one final time on our way back. As we got nearer to the car I secretly wished we could just keep going. I was still feeling good and wanted to rip. Little did I know Alex would fall asleep after getting burgers and I had to fight hard not to join him as I drove us home. The warm weather, all the riding, and probably some dehydration all caught up to me and I was barely keeping my eyes open. Add to my tiredness the fact that my contacts were old, dirty, and sticking to my eyes and it was not much fun.
Lots of things went wrong and we did get lost but despite all the mishaps, delays, and other hiccups on this day it was a great ride! We were riding bikes and in good company and that is all that matters. What else can you ask for. On a whim I suggested we play hooky on Tuesday so we could ride the trails on Orcas before they closed for the summer. It just turns out Tuesday is Alex’s day off. The plan was set in motion…