Ride to the TulipsNatsuko
by Natsuko Hirose, Bicycle Quarterly.
On a rainy Sunday, I visited a farmers’ market in Seattle, instead of going cyclotouring. I saw many tulips for sale. Often, I forget about the seasons, because I am so busy. I wondered why there were so many tulips. Jan explained: “It’s the season of tulips.”
Later that day, I researched places to go cyclotouring near Seattle. I asked Jan: “Where is the Skagit Valley?” – “Not too far from here.” Jan explained that it was a popular tourist attraction, so he had never seen the tulips, because cyclotourists often try to avoid the crowds. But I am a tourist, so I wanted to visit!
The next Sunday, we were greeted by sunny weather as we started our ride in Mount Vernon. I was surprised how much traffic there was, and tulip symbols were everywhere. I was excited – it was a clear sign that there would be many tulips to see. And we hoped to avoid the traffic by staying off the main highways.
We rode on back roads and even atop a levee, and we had the roads to ourselves. Cycling here was fun. And it was sunny! Finally, after all the rain in Seattle, it felt like spring had arrived.
We passed Jackpot Lane, and saw a classic car for sale. “Comes with spare engine” said the sign on the windshield. In Japan, cars usually are sold at dealers, so this was an interesting discovery.
The fields were colorful with yellow flowers: dandelions. Spring really had come. But where were the tulips?
We joined a road that was marked as part of the Tulip Route. But still no tulips!
Our hearts beat faster when we saw yellow blossoms in the distance, but they turned out to be daffodils. Beautiful, but no tulips!
Finally we saw a long line of parked cars in the distance. And to the side were colorful fields. We had found the tulips!
For me, it was an amazing sight. After the gray winter in Seattle, seeing so many vivid blossoms reminded me that life can be full of color and joy!
The tourists all gathered in one place where the tulips were in full bloom. We explored dirt paths and found the fields where workers were picking the tulips that we had seen at the farmers’ market. The blossoms had not yet opened. They looked so fresh and crisp. We realized that the other tulips were planted for the tourists, to show how beautiful tulips can be. These ones were going to bring joy to people’s lives all over.
We left the tulip fields behind and continued to the fishing town of La Conner, where we ate lunch on the bank of the Swinomish Channel.
The Skagit Flats are really flat and criss-crossed by the many arms of the Skagit River. Around Tokyo, the flat areas are densely populated and not so good for cycling. But here, we could find small roads that had no traffic. It reminded me of Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan. It was very romantic.
The sun was almost setting when we returned to Mount Vernon. It had been fun to meander through the fields, cross the rivers and channels on high bridges, and cycle on quiet backroads.
We had bought postcards from a local artist at a small store in the countryside, so the tulips continued to ride with us.
Now I remember the tulips we bought on that rainy Sunday, which led us to explore the Skagit Valley. It was a fun ride, and of course, we bought more tulips. They continue to brighten our dining room. Tulip season continues. Enjoy the spring!