Cycling the Skagit Tulip Festival

Sunday was a perfect day. It was in the mid-60s, with a light breeze and bluebird skies, conditions that are almost unheard of in mid-April in the Pacific Northwest. And the perfect weather coincided with the height of blooms in the Skagit Valley tulip fields. For a few weeks in April or May, Skagit farmlands are abloom with hundreds of acres of tulips in every color. Skagit Valley Tulip FestivalConditions were so perfect, in fact, that the entire state of Washington and most of British Columbia decided that Sunday was the day to tour the tulip fields. Country roads that see little traffic for 11 months of the year were suddenly congested with cars lined up bumper-to-bumper, creeping along stop and go, for stretches up to 6 miles long. Maybe not the perfect way to spend the day, after all.

In lieu of the autocar, we opted for our trusty two-wheelers. We parked our vehicle just off the freeway, right before traffic came to a standstill, and cycled a nice 20+ mile loop through the fields. We zipped past nearly a thousand cars idling, waiting to turn at country road intersections. Traffic was so slow that we didn’t feel any danger about collisions; the greatest risk was riding into a car door that might suddenly be opened by a bored passenger who realized he could walk faster than he was moving in a car.

The thrill of passing so many people in cars was enough to make it fun for me, but even better was the fact that we didn’t have to worry about parking. Parked cars lined the shoulders of these backcountry roads for miles, requiring tulip enthusiasts to walk up to a mile from their car back to the fields in bloom. Our bikes gave us the freedom and compactness to park ourselves wherever we chose.

Cycling the tulips

We paid the $5 admission to tour the 3.5 acre Roozengaarde gardens, where dozens of varieties are planted every year to showcase the myriad of colors and forms. While we locked our bikes to some shrubs amidst a sea of people, one woman said, “Bikes! What a great idea. I used to own a bike…” Without missing a beat, Joshua whispered, “They still make them, you know.”

Roozengaarde

One of the many displays at Roozengaarde.

Touring by bike also gave us the opportunity to move at our own pace. We were riding on the shoulder of the road, moving slowly when we chose, which gave us time to notice beautiful surprises. These red tulips in a sea of yellow would have been missed by any cars passing by.

Surprise!

 

We lingered long enough to catch the evening light, which filtered through the petals, making them radiant.

Red tulips

 

Yellow tulips

For the thousandth time, I felt grateful that I live in northwest Washington and that I’m physically healthy.Mt. Shuksan

Cycling the Tulip FieldsWhether you’re a seasoned cyclist, or only occasional, I highly recommend cycling through the Skagit tulip fields. And the time is NOW. The fields probably have 1-2 weeks of bloom left. You can do routes as short as 13 miles, up to 30 or more, and the roads are entirely flat, so the cycling is easy. Plan for a weekday evening to enjoy the best light and avoid the worst traffic.

Photos by Charis Weathers, Gwen Weerts, and Josh Eastlund.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Balance the Rain

In the mid-90’s Tom Robbins wrote “You Moist Remember This,” a little essay that waxes poetic about all things Pacific Northwest. He says:

“I’m here for the rust and the mildew, for webbed feet and twin peaks, spotted owls and obscene clams (my consort says I suffer from geoduck envy), blackberries and public art (including that big bad mural the authorities had to chase out of Olympia), for the ritual of the potlatch and the espresso cart…”

I’m with you Tom. I’m here for the grilled salmon, the high alpine lakes, the unofficial dog parks, the bike lanes that infuriate drivers who believe that roads are for cars… I’m here because I went to grad school here, and this was the first place I’d lived that seemed indifferent to whether I stayed–people far smarter and more talented than me arrive every day–so I stayed out of spite, so it would learn that it couldn’t live without me.

“I’m here for the forests (what’s left of them), for the world’s best bookstores and movie theaters; for the informality, anonymity, general lack of hidebound tradition and the fact that here and nowhere else grunge rubs shoulders in the half-mean streets with a pervasive yet subtle mysticism.”

I’m here for the dungeness crab, which I fish from an ancient aluminum canoe on the bay just a mile from my house; I’m here for the microbrews and the stitch ‘n bitch meet-ups, and the explosion of spring, which lasts most of the summer. I’m here for food co-ops and farmer’s markets and dreadlocked college kids walking a slack  line strapped between two trees in the public park.

“But mostly, finally, ultimately, I’m here for the weather.”

Ok, stop right there, Tom. I’M NOT HERE FOR THAT.

It's soooo saaaad...

A post shared by @gwenakinyi on

Inspired by this view out my living room window, I just wrote a 250 word rant about rain. But then I realized that blogging about the weather is about as awesome as a business lunch with a total stranger (unless you’re Cliff Mass, who somehow blogs about the weather and is still awesome), so I deleted it. You’re welcome. I’ll summarize it like this: we have long wet springs in Bellingham. LONG. Josh and I got married on July 1, our first summer here, and when we invited our new Bellingham friends to the outdoor wedding, they all said, “Oh dear.”

Learning to deal with the soggy darkness requires a spiritual practice. Josh meditates almost daily, and he manages to be a pretty content person, so there’s a testament to meditation…I, however, have trouble making a space in my life for so much stillness and quiet. Most days, knitting in front of a Downton Abbey episode is about all I manage, and even then, I’m still doing two things at once.

So it’s no wonder that the rain is a mental slog, especially when we have 21 consecutive days of it, as we did last March. Knowing how much I miss the Midwest spring–which includes reasonably warm days starting in April, and dramatic spring thunderstorms–my mom bought me this little painting on burlap called “Balance the Rain,” by Bethany Hadden. It’s mounted right next to my front door, where I’m forced to visually trip over it every time I head out into the weather, or hang up a sopping wet raincoat on the wardrobe door.

Balance the Rain

I can’t say that it’s turned my rainy world around, or that I have suddenly found a deep-seated contentment with the drizzle, but it does make me stop and take a breath–a deliberate breath–which sometimes is all the meditation I need.