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Saturday morning, we once again got up at the crack of dawn, then ate delicious burritos and drank delicious coffee, and convinced ourselves to plop our posteriors back onto our bicycles.

Oh, with a slight modification. The infernal squishy seat on the Opus IV had to go. On the first morning, [personal profile] scrottie had asked if we could try out an old saddle off of one of my mom's bikes, so I tried one out for the ride from my parents' house to the starting line. That one felt like someone was putting a fist into an inappropriate part of my anatomy, so it wouldn't do, at all. Back to the squishy Respiro saddle.

By the end of Day 1, S and I were both suffering the consequences of riding on a bike saddle that was too wide and too squishy. The width of the thing made it difficult to sit back far enough, which forced more of my weight onto my arms and reduced my pedaling leverage. My arms were already having a difficult time of things because the Opus IV has a 20-inch front wheel and squishy padded handlebars that function, altogether, as a big, wiggling console. It's hard to take a hand off the bars for any length of time because steering can quickly go awry. Meanwhile, squishy saddles are terrible for S's posterior, and he was feeling the consequences too. So I got the idea to ask M if he might possibly have a spare saddle lying around somewhere, figuring that the worst of M's spare saddles would be far, far better than either of our current options.

M obliged, for he is the sort who never throws anything away. Blessed, blessed relief. The saddle he gave us was worn out, but it was a vast improvement.

On we went.

We traveled along pleasant Washington country roads all the way to Lynden, where it appeared that most of the remaining riders had just descended to eat breakfast. Calories chased with even more calories were sounding really good by then, so I pushed for a stop. Eventually we found ourselves outside of a Dutch bakery that had a reasonably short line, so we resupplied with an abundance of baked goods and drank a bit more coffee. Incidentally, I appreciated all of the beautiful floral displays in Lynden, reminiscent of the flowers I've seen in many European countryside towns.

Fabulous Dutch Bakery in Lynden, WA

We carried on, and quite soon came upon the small Canadian border crossing, which went incredibly quickly and smoothly. Bravo to all who facilitated that part!

So, Canada! We were in Canada for under three minutes before [personal profile] sytharin spotted a maple tree. Somewhere in the next stretch, S and my dad mashed the tandem up the steepest hill of the ride, and we reached the North Otter Rest Stop. I'd started noticing that at least one of the tandem's three chains was making extra noise, so it was time to seek out a mechanic again for some chain lube.

View of the triple chain setup on the Opus IV
Not one, not two, but THREE chains for the Opus IV!

The North Otter Stop was bustling, and the line for the mechanic was several people deep. Eventually, I noticed a second workstand, off to the side, and found a separate operation that was willing to loan me a bottle of chain lube.

Applying the chain lube took a long time, which meant I didn't eat enough. Fearing a repeat episode with El Crampo, I insisted on a lunch stop in a small settlement along the Fraser River. While we rode from North Otter to the Fraser River, we had noticed [personal profile] slydevil falling behind, so eventually [personal profile] sytharin said she'd drop back to hang out with L and we'd regroup at the next rest stop.

My lunch stop along the Fraser River was impromptu, and in the hubbub, we failed to catch L and R as they rode past. On the other hand, my egg salad sandwich served on a croissant was HEAVENLY and I don't regret it.

Onward. I was back in the saddle on the tandem. At mile 153, we reached an incredible bridge crossing up and over a branch of the Fraser River. Bicyclists and pedestrians could access the bridge via a spiral corkscrew ramp that spiraled around and around and around, for more than three turns, altogether. It was a hilarious affair.

As we continued to zig and zag towards Vancouver, the fatigue from the ride started to really catch up with me, so I traded off the tandem and back onto the Jolly Roger for a break. Then, time for another bridge crossing. Wanting to commemorate these lovely British Columbia bridges and beautiful views, I hung back for a photo:

Bridge crossing towards Vancouver, BC

Can you blame me, with scenery like this?


But when I caught up with S and my dad at the far end, a tragedy: there were no warnings anywhere about the hairpin turn at the far end of the bridge. Coming upon it, S had attempted to take the turn slowly and smoothly, but my dad lost confidence partway through and decided to bail out, which sent enough mass in the wrong direction that the Opus IV completely spilled.

It seemed that no one was seriously injured, so they dusted themselves off and walked a short ways ahead to start up again. Here I should also note that getting the Opus IV rolling is not a simple task: we devised a starting system where my dad braces the bike on both sides while the Captain prepares for takeoff, then the Captain says, "Ready, Steady, GO!", then my dad lifts his feet while the Captain hops off the ground and onto the saddle, whilst steering and starting to pedal. Remember that this all happens while managing the jiggling handlebar console, too.

Anyway. Along this stretch of the ride, while we were all feeling the effects of pedaling the Opus IV over 140 miles already, we encountered a new sort of trouble. All through Washington, the route was very clearly marked via a series of apple-shaped pavement blazes, which provided advance notice of turns and maneuvers, and then confirmed that we were on the correct route via extra blazes on the far side of each and every intersection.

Those excellent markings lulled us into complacency, for just after the second Fraser River bridge we hit a period of extreme confusion along the Lougheed Highway, where there were no helpful blazes to confirm and guide us on extremely busy suburban highway roads. We finally had to resort to relying upon the provided map and cue sheet for directions.

Managing the map and cue sheet while attempting to spot the poor road labels and pedaling up hills became one thing too many, while riding tired on a challenging bicycle and dodging other extremely tired zombie riders. From the Jolly Roger, I could tell that things were coming to a head between my two tandem-riding companions, but there really wasn't much I could do to smooth things out for the duo on the tandem. Eventually, we ground to a halt at an intersection, and my father requested a change-out in captains.

Tired, with fatigued wrists, I acquiesced. We were all tired, I could tell, and the only other thing I could tell was that I was probably the only person at that moment with enough extra cope to keep us all going. Also, have I mentioned that riding through suburbs is the worst?

We carried on. Finally, we reached the Port Moody Stop at the edge of Burrard Inlet. Everyone needed a break. S headed towards the bay for a dip in the ocean, while my father found some shade where he could rest and eat a snack. I tried to think of ways to locate L and R that didn't involve using cell phones. Eventually it occurred to me to check with the guy who was vigorously ringing the cowbell at the rest stop entrance: had he seen a rider with an octopus on her helmet?

Octopus atop basket
RAC's helmet

He had! She had just left, minutes before.

I concluded that it was too late to try and catch up with L and R. We were close enough to the end and it was still early enough in the day that I figured we'd be able to finish the ride, but it might not feel as much like a victorious conclusion as we might have liked, and we wouldn't have the extra moral support that L and R could lend.

S eventually returned from wading in the mud, we gathered up my father, and positioned the infernal Opus IV back onto the route. By this point, the only cyclists left at the stop were a small handful of battered-looking stragglers.

Riding a tandem can make a person acutely aware of certain unconscious cycling habits. Grinding up and down the hills along the Barnet Highway, I learned that when I am very tired and sore, I need to coast now and then for just a few seconds so I can shift my weight around and reposition my hands. Riding a tandem, these simple acts necessitate communication so that one's riding partner will stop the infernal pedaling already and allow the bike to coast.

Kind of like rowing a double.

At last, we survived the Barnet Highway, and at the end, started to encounter groups of stopped riders who were patiently waiting for struggling teammates. Good on you, teams. Those groups were a godsend; they helped sniff out the route ahead, and they also pushed all the beg buttons at the crossings so we could hang back and not have to go through the whole rigamarole of stopping and restarting the Opus IV.

The whole system worked well up until the very last hill. The last hill was just a little too much. My father was having a hard time reading the map to figure out how much further we needed to go. I was starting to seriously run out of gas, and on that last hill, the traffic light changed and brought us to a stop with an uphill start.

I proposed crossing the intersection on foot, so we did. Then I proposed that S dig around in the Jolly Roger's basket for a certain food item, an almond cake from the Dutch bakery in Lynden. So he did.

The almond cake wasn't quite as good as that rhubarb galette from the Sizun bakery during the Paris-Brest-Paris, but overall I'd say it came pretty darned close. I only regret that I didn't get two cakes instead of just one, so as to be able to enjoy one under at least slightly less duress. Note to self for future occasions.

Onward, along the neverending Adnac Bikeway. At least it was more pleasant than the traversal through the suburbs. Eventually, finally, we reached the upper end of False Creek, and the Waterfront Bike Path.

Can I just say that nothing is more harrowing than trying to operate an Opus IV tandem, heavily fatigued, on a bike path where small children are zooming to and fro on some sort of insane suicide mission?

Okay, maybe operating in a war zone.

At least the path designers had the foresight to separate the cyclists and the pedestrians, for the most part. The separation was successful up until the ultimate corner of the ride, where all of a sudden my mom leaped out of nowhere, ninja-Paparazzi-like, holding a tablet up in front of her, ready to capture a snap of that pivotal moment, my most supreme grumpy face.

We had made it to Vancouver. To party.

This entry was originally posted at http://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1174861.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


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