A Long, Slow Winter RideJan Heine
Winter is a great time for riding in the Cascade Mountains. The high passes are covered in snow, but our favorite roads in the foothills spear far into the deep valleys of the mountains. These are long, cold, hilly rides. Rides that are about getting in a rhythm without stopping, about getting our bodies used again to the long hours in the saddle after some time off around the solstice. And yet on a recent ride, I couldn’t resist to snap some photos from the saddle, as the low winter sun illuminated the mountains covered in fresh snow. I got a late start from Seattle, but that didn’t detract from the joys of this ride.
On these solo rides, even familiar courses look new. On this day, I noticed all the road signs. I smiled at this ‘re-purposed’ sign – I still recall when it was just a faded ‘Steep Grade Next 2 Miles’ road sign. There’s not need for a sign to warn of the grade – you see it when you reach it, and it’s one of the most fun, challenging descents on this ride.
This sign needs no explanation… and it’s not like Old Pipeline Road (named after the huge wooden pipe that used to carry water from the mountains to Seattle) is excessively wide to begin with!
Even though this course heads toward Stevens Pass, I rode less than a mile on the highway. Over the years, we’ve scouted a network of roads that go through the hills, parallel the highway, or even follow a levee, such as this connection between Startup and Gold Bar.
I don’t think I’ll ever tire of riding on Reiter Road. It never disappoints…
…especially when the sun comes out and paints the asphalt in a Komorebi pattern of light and shade. (Only the Japanese seem to have a special word for ‘light filtering through trees.’)
When I traversed the mainline to Chicago, a 100-car freight train rumbled by. As the air horns of the locomotives echoed across the valley, I realized that I’d been passed by more train cars than automobiles in the 70 miles (110 km) I’d ridden so far.
Index was my destination on this day. It’s a cute town deep in the mountains.
I ate the picnic I’d carried in my handlebar bag outside the old town hall…
…as the sun set over the snow-covered peaks. On the way out of town, I said ‘Hi’ to a photographer who was waiting for the perfect moment to capture the old railroad bridge. I turned around and took the photo at the top of this post as I rode past him. Just at that moment, I heard the click of his shutter. It’s nice to think that we both have the same photo – and memory.
On the way home, I was treated to a second gorgeous sunset as I climbed the hills. Then I turned on my lights and headed back toward the city on small country roads, before arriving home in time for a late dinner. It was a day well spent!