Riding to the Concours d'Elegance

Posted by: Jan Heine Category: Rides

Riding to the Concours d'Elegance

When my friend David Cooper from Chicago mentioned that he was a judge at the Pacific Northwest Concours d’Elégance in Tacoma, I decided to go and join him there. I don’t get to see him often, and attending the Concours as his guest was sure to be fun. The ride to Tacoma promised a change in scenery from other routes I take.
“For the evening dinner reception, cocktail attire is required,” David mentioned as we finalized our plans. That added a layer of complication, since a jacket and pants don’t easily fit into a handlebar bag.
So I decided to take the Urban Bike instead of my randonneur bike. My clothes were packed neatly into a messenger bag that went onto the front rack. The photo above is at the ferry dock: instead of riding through the congested industrial corridor that extends from Seattle to Tacoma, I decided to take the ferry to Vashon Island. I would ride across the rural island from north to south, where another ferry would take me straight into Tacoma.
I made it to the ferry terminal in West Seattle with time to spare, but I knew that on the Vashon side, my schedule was tight. The road across Vashon Island measures 22.3 km (13.9 mile) from north to south. The time between the Seattle ferry’s scheduled docking and the Tacoma ferry’s scheduled leaving is 50 minutes.
Riding an average speed of 26.8 km/h (16.7 mph) for a little under an hour doesn’t sound too hard, but Vashon Island is relentlessly hilly. According to RideWithGPS, there are 303 m (1000 ft) of elevation gain in that short distance. My outlook: it would be good training!
I don’t have any photos from the ride, because I didn’t have time to stop or even sit up to snap a shot. When the ferry docked – fortunately on schedule – I was the first one off the boat. I sprinted up the ramp, and then attacked the long climb from the ferry. That was perhaps the hardest part of the ride. Without a proper warm-up, my legs hurt, and this hill always is steeper than it seems at first. The rolling roads toward the town center brought a welcome respite, but my favorite part is where the road drops back down to the water and runs alongside the bay that separates Vashon and Maury Islands.
From there, the remaining 5 km are a roller-coaster of hills. I glanced at my watch, and I realized I had to keep my speed up if I wanted to make the ferry. Many years ago, on a similar ride to Tacoma for an important meeting, I missed the boat by less than a minute: The ferry was just a few meters from shore when I came racing down the hill to the dock. I wanted to avoid a repeat of this today. Fortunately, my legs were properly warmed-through now, and the last hills were fun. I arrived at the ferry dock after 48 minutes of all-out riding. The ferry was still there – I made it!
With the bike securely parked, I got to rest and enjoy the ferry ride on this gorgeous late summer day.
The views from the ferry were magnificent. Mount Rainier is so much closer to Tacoma than to Seattle – it looked only a few miles away.
A short ride through Tacoma brought me to our hotel. I love the old city with its great architecture, its distinctive drawbridge, and its laid-back feel.
After a shower and a quick ironing of my shirt, we were ready for the dinner reception in the LeMay car museum. It was fun to explore the museum after hours, and to catch up with David. The food and company at dinner were great, too. Many car people love bicycles, and when I told them that I had ridden to the event, the older gentleman next to me said he was envious, especially since traffic on the Interstate had not been much fun. (On the other hand, his beautiful 1930s Alvis would have been hard to tow behind my bike!)
The main event started the next morning. As a guest of a concours judge, I was able to get in before the public, and watch as all the cars arrived and were parked on the lawn in front of the museum. The cars were gleaming in the morning sun, and hearing their engines purr (as on this Rolls Royce) or roar (as on a racing Mustang) added a layer to the experience that the static displays cannot convey.
Participants used the time for a last bit of polish, but most were happy to be distracted and talk about their cars.
The cars were lovely, with many fascinating details. The lap counter under the dashboard of this 1914 Grand Prix Mercedes was really neat.
There was a wonderful variety of cars at the concours, and I could have spent many more hours looking at the details.
The horn on this more-than-a-century-old Peugeot still worked!
I loved the interior of this 1930s BMW 327…
… and the outrageous wings and flares (and paint!) of this 1970s BMW racer.
All too soon, it was time to go home, and I returned to Seattle by train at the end of an enjoyable weekend. Riding my bike to the concours doubled the fun, and put me in the mood for the event. Now David has invited me to a similar event in Chicago. I would love to see his wonderful workshop again, but that would be a very long bike ride!

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