Snoqualmie Falls

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We lay about on the green, grassy mound between the shaded valet stand and a parking lot packed with fast sports cars and European SUVs. On the counter inside the valet stand are two Igloo coolers, one full of ice water, the other ice-cold lemonade. A polite teenage attendant happily fills our cups repeatedly, until we relieve the Newcastle Golf Course Resort of their supply of refreshments. You can see from the attendant’s expression that he has no idea who we are, why we’re in spandex and, most pressingly, whether we have any legitimate reason at all, generally speaking, to be on the large patch of grass behind him. Were we here to crash the large, outdoor wedding taking place at the resort? Will we be playing golf? Are we bored, lost or what?

This is the morning after, now the afternoon after, Stevens Pass, the ride that attacked. Yesterday, we got lost for hours in a suburban labyrinth, forded a river several times and got shipwrecked on a mountain top for three hours in the dark and cold without food or shelter. So far, day two is off to a similar though less dramatic start. This, now an hour-and-a-half long delay, is our second major unscheduled stop of the day. And we’re only 20 miles into a century and it’s four in the afternoon. It would appear this weekend is jinxed or cursed. It would appear that we are either woefully underprepared or inadequate. It would appear all sorts of things.

Dear Valet Attendant,

Thank you for your concern. I’d like to take this moment to acknowledge your insightful questions and answer them one by one, if I may. Let’s start with your last question first. Are we lost? Yes and no. We aren’t lost but some members of our endeavor are and have been for quite some time. I won’t go into details but Seattle is a confusing place and thus, so is our cue sheet. More on that later if you wish but for now, suffice is to say that we are ‘parked’ until the others show or it gets dark. Whichever comes first.

We will not, under any circumstances, be golfing today and in some, or maybe most cases, will not be on any other day.

Yes, the wedding reception is entertaining but no, we won’t be crashing it. We’re happy to drink our ice-cold lemonade and watch as pastel taffeta, chiffon and Prada-clad guests eat miniature seafood things wrapped in bacon, drink prosecco and flirt with each other.

As for the patch of grass in question, it offers magnificent views to the west of Seattle, a city with its toes in the Sound and its skyline backlit by the sinking sun. Where else should we hang out and talk non-stop about nothing and everything while our chance to ride one of the best rides in Washington State, a state with a lot of best rides, quickly fades?

While we sat around imagining what the passing golfers and wedding guests thought of our situation we became increasingly angrier with each other and more and more frustrated with how our day was unfolding. One or other of us was on the phone every five minutes to Dan Sharp or Trystan Cobbett, our photographer and driver respectively, in an effort to guide them in to our hilltop ‘members-only’ hideout. And the nature of perception started to nag.

Forget for a moment our big plan, ride a 100-mile round trip to Snoqualmie Falls and back, hitting, along the way, carriage roads, climbs, summits, vistas and a series of small and interesting towns. Amazing as that sounds – and it was what we had been planning to do on this day for the last four months – it wasn’t looking good. It just wasn’t going to happen.

What did happen was this. We rode a 45-mile round trip, to the top of the biggest hill on the edge of town, where we stopped to watch an outdoor wedding and numerous games of golf. We drank lemonade and laid in the grass, until some friends finally showed up, lost and late, but thankfully safe. We bailed on our all-day century due to time constraints and instead made plans to have our first dinner at the Roanoke Inn on Mercer Island. While Trystan and Dan drove, we rode.

First, we bombed down a hill like neighborhood kids. Then, we crossed a beautiful bridge across half of Lake Washington, to Mercer Island and a popular Seattle loop known for rolling hills, driving corners and a generous shoulder. We rode flat out for just under 40 minutes almost all the way around the island. We pace-lined, attacked, counter attacked and exploded over and again at an average of 26 miles per hour. At the Roanoke, we had burgers and drinks. Next, we rode over another bridge, this one nearly flat and almost flush to the surface of the water, across the second half of Lake Washington. Under a sunset. On the other side, we raced back to Hahn’s house, again like little boys, elbows out and smiles wide. We showered and changed and drove to our second dinner, this one at Maneki, Seattle’s freshest and fishiest sushi restaurant. We ate and talked for hours on end about the weekend of riding we just had. Or hadn’t.
In retrospect it’s hard to see the day as anything but a success. Briefly, when the lemonade ran out, when Dan and Trystan were missing for nearly an hour, or when the disapproving stares of the golfers were at their most harsh, we almost started to feel sorry for ourselves. We almost started to pick fights, to lay blame. It almost got ugly.

Hahn and Aaron have ridden Snoqualmie Falls several times. They highly, highly recommend it. They say the cue sheet is accurate and the ride is yours, if you want it. They might also say, looking up from the ground with a smile, that if you’re off to a late start, that if you get seven flats in the first 25 miles, or if you only have three or four hours and you’re in the mood for two dinners, this golf course out-and-back thing isn’t a horrible alternative. You know, just in case.

Sometimes you just have to roll with it, whatever it is. And who knows, maybe ‘it’ entails an impromptu crit and a spicy tuna roll?

Snoqualmie is a 97-mile figure-eight. It climbs out of the city and over the hills to the east on a mix of paved roads, lanes, fire roads and single – very tame, very rideable – track. To Snoqualmie falls and back. The ride delivers views, distance, hardman climbs and a scenic journey through Snoqualmie Valley and rural northwest.

It starts in Leschi at Pert’s where the coffee is infinitely better (than anywhere else in the neighborhood) and the ancient owner will talk to you about the Vuelta while you eat their ridiculously good baked goods! Next door at Il Vecchio, a must for the bicycle connoisseur, you can talk to George, the owner, about his stunning collection of vintage bicycles and the latest from Dario Peggoretti. Once extracted, feel free to visit the small market across the street where they have better food and hydration options than just about anything for the next 100-miles.

Roll south on the original Olmstead bicycle thoroughfare now called Lake Washington Blvd, past Seward park and the airport. Roll over several large hills and climb deeper into Rainer Valley past orthodox Jews on the way to temple and low-riders bumping Mexican polka and eventually the King County Airport where lovingly restored float planes rest in their period correct glory.

Over the highway and east into May Valley where, depending on the time of year, the tree frogs are deafening. Here enjoy and embrace what little is left of rural King County on your way around Squak Mountain. In Issaquah pick-up the trail to Preston where you pick-up a gravel road to Fall city and Duvall.

On your way through Marymoor Park feel free to take a lap or two in the velodrome. After or instead, head down the west edge of Lake Sammamish, race around the south-end of Mercer Island, cross the floating bridge back to Leschi, and have a slice of the Budapest Coffee Cake at Pert’s, you definitely earned it.

Click for cue sheet

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