The plan today was to park in Clear Lake, ride the S Skagit Valley Highway to Concrete and then from there head into the hills to cross over the dam at Lake Shannon/Baker Lake. And within a few hundred yards I knew we were not gonna stick to the script! The SurlyLady wasn’t feeling the narrow/no shoulder. It didn’t help the skies were threatening to dump a ton of water on us and we were shivering. In the middle of August. At 10:30 am.
Then the relentless chipseal got to us. We scooted along Old Day Creek Road (I love that stretch, some good climbing!) then about midway to Concrete the ‘Lady asked if there was any way we could get off the chipseal. That road is pretty darn rough. I realized it in full today, as I was on the Vaya with the Marathon tires. On the century ride with JamisLad I’d been on the Poprad and Grand Bois Cypres tires, and whoa big difference. Running 32s (and running some of the air out) helps, but still it was pretty choppy today. My answer to the SurlyLady was that we could take some side roads along Hwy 20 back to Sedro Woolley and avoid having to come back on the S Skagit Valley Hwy. So, plans were made.
As were we, in the shade of a gas station in Concrete a little while later, scarfing down cashews and jerky and a big fountain Pepsi. The sun had come out! Happy day. We enjoyed watching all the Harley riders going by, pulling up, leaving, coming back to get their cigarette packs they’d left behind, nodding to each other with their secret Harley head nods. Truly we are screwed as a nation. All the boomers are driving RVs, and the kids of the Boomers are riding Harleys and all the freeways is jacked up as a result. From ‘downtown’ Concrete we headed for Burpee Hill Road, which would lead us to the Baker Lake Road. OMG what a hill! Anything named after a grueling Army-bootcamp style pushup/jumping jack should come as a warning. Do you know the Holmes Point Drive hill in Juanita, that’s part of the 7 Hills of Kirkland? Imagine that, but steeper, and three times as long and even more winding. I loved it! At one point I looked around and then stopped and waited for the SL. I waited some more. Then about 5 minutes went by and I finally called her. She had basically said no way to the hill, and was going to meet me at the bottom. So this meant we weren’t going to circumnavigate the lakes… oh well. She did text me (how electronic we are on our rides!) saying take your time, climb to the top if you like… so I did just that. It was a blast. I won’t soon forget that hill. I went all the way up to the T-intersection with the Baker Lake Road, near that charming looking Camp Tyee area and then turned around, with a quick pit stop at Vogler Lake (there’s a porta-pottie there). Very soon I was flying back down Burpee Hill. That was some good training for the High Pass. Which, BTW, I think I’m completely going to stink at, given how slow I was today.
Then the ‘Lady and I took off on the Cascade Trail, the gravelly dirt rails-to-trail that runs between Concrete and Sedro Woolley. Her Casseroll was doing just fine, and of course on the Vaya I was having a ball. Then we jumped off onto Challenger Road for some swoopy hill work, then back onto the Trail for some more shady dirt roading, then back to Challenger. As you can probably tell, it was so much fun! Farmland, alpacas, horsies, fields of flowers, plain ordinary but gorgeous fields, a ring of green mountains, puffy clouds, blue sky… ah, just about perfect. I couldn’t have imagined a better day. That is, until we got some killer chocolate milkshakes at Birdsview Burgers on Hwy 20!
From there we left the Cascade Trail and stayed on the South side of Hwy 20, lingering along river roads, barely traveled country lanes, through the sleepy wide spots of Hamilton and Lyman. At one point, right next to that cerulean blue Skagit River we spotted a table with homegrown zucchini – nice! We made a donation, and I put the honking zucchini in my Carradice. How’s that for a versatile bike rig?
That sucker must have weighed 5 pounds! SurlyLady’s gonna make some zucchini bread. She also makes a killer black bean, fresh corn (shaved off the cob) and zucchini stir fry… oh so nummy!
We continued West, working toward Sedro Woolley and playing tag with the Cascade Trail. We had to jump onto Hwy 20 for a short bit until we lefted onto Minker Road. Soon enough we were back in Clear Lake, tired, happy, sated, and, within minutes of getting everything packed up, eating ice cream. Yes sir, life is good up in Skagit county!