Last weekend, we took our children and their friends on a trip. Our car is too small to hold all of them, so my son and I decided to use a combination of train and bike to get to the destination, while the others drove. For us, it turned into a splendid adventure.
We started by riding to the station. The renovated King Street Station in Seattle is truly magnificent and uplifting. It really adds a sense of occasion to the trip. And on the regional Cascades trains, you can just roll on your bike (after making a reservation). If they could give you the seat assignement online as well, rather than making you stand in line, it would be perfect.
Our destination was just six miles from the train station at the other end, but those six miles were on a busy highway. So instead we had mapped a longer ride on small backroads. En route we added a few sidetrips exploring gravel roads.
After a week of cold weather, the puddles on this road were frozen. My son is relatively lightweight, but I later broke through the ice on one of the puddles and splashed myself with muddy water. Even fenders can’t help you much when you suddenly crash into a deep puddle!
You never know what you’ll find at the end of a small gravel road. My son had envisioned an abandoned farmhouse with an overgrown orchard, but instead, we ended up in some sort of guerrilla warfare playground.
It was a surreal maze of tires, wooden walls and stacked bricks. BBs littered the ground. The place was deserted and rather spooky. We did a few laps of “guerrilla cross” before heading on to our destination.
We had seen steely gray skies to the south that portended snow, and just minutes after we arrived at our destination, huge flakes started to fall in dense flurries. It snowed most of the night.
When it was time to head back in the morning, snow covered the fields and laced the evergreen trees with white. Unfortunately, salt had been spread on many roads, making the ride wet and slushy.
On roads where we found pristine snow, the riding was wonderful. On the uphills, we had to stay in the saddle and pedal smoothly, otherwise, our rear tires just spun. Braking on the downhills, our tires tended to lock up for a moment until we reduced the pressure on the brake levers. On snow, the bike’s reactions are slower, so there isn’t much risk of crashing even when your tires lock up.
My son was riding a bike without fenders, whereas I was on my fully equipped Urban Bike. Which is better? On the slushy roads, my son suffered a bit, as spray attacked him from all sides. It sprayed up from the front wheel into his face, it bounced off the down tube onto his legs and feet, and it sprayed up his back to run down his neck. He was enjoying the ride nonetheless.
I was glad about my fenders until we reached a stretch of road with particularly soft, sticky snow. It accumulated inside my fenders, and it soon became harder and harder to pedal, as the snow packed in tightly. I was afraid that if I stopped, the snow might freeze to the tires and lock my wheels. Even though my fenders have adequate clearances for most riding, I realized that if I were to ride frequently in snow, I might want to get a bike with even more generous fender clearances.
All these inconveniences were only a minor distraction as we admired the beautiful landscape and marveled at unexpected discoveries along the way. We found this cute car museum with an evocative collection of signs and other automobilia in a little hamlet of a dozen houses. A phone number indicated that one could visit the museum by appointment, but we had a train to catch and could not investigate further.
The trip was a splendid adventure. It certainly beat renting a second car or a van to carry everybody on the Interstate.