Willy-nilly to Chilly Hilly

Amid hundreds of bicycles, Mike Faloon of Maple Valley takes in the view from the 7:50 a.m. ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge. More than 3,000 cyclists participated in this year’s Chilly Hilly ride. - RYAN SCHIERLING/Staff Photo
Amid hundreds of bicycles, Mike Faloon of Maple Valley takes in the view from the 7:50 a.m. ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge. More than 3,000 cyclists participated in this year’s Chilly Hilly ride.
— image credit: RYAN SCHIERLING/Staff Photo

In one respect, David and Sachiko Williams of Renton were like many of the more than 3,000 cyclists who enjoyed sunny but cold weather in Sunday’s 30th Chilly Hilly – they hadn’t ridden in months.

In another respect, they were unique – they were on the same bike as their two children, six-year-old Ken and five-year-old Emi. The parents rode a standard tandem, while the youngsters were on a two-seater Adams Manufacturing Co. Trail-a-Bike, which attached to the rear seat post of the tandem.

For Ken, this is becoming standard procedure; he’s completed three Chilly Hillys. “My favorite part was the downhills,” he said.

With good reason. Estimating that the total weight of the rig is at least 120 pounds, David said that “we were really fast in the downhills, but we slowed down real fast on the uphills.”

Not enough, however, to keep them from covering the course in about three hours.

“The kids have a really good time,” Williams continued. “We’ve been taking them riding since they were little.”

But if the Williams were riding the longest rig, Jack Hughes of Shelton surely had the shortest. For the second time, he covered the course on his unicycle.

“I make pretty good time for a unicycle,” he said, adding that he occasionally did the downhills with both feet off the pedals.

Much more mainstream were Jim Starrs, a Sakai sixth grade teacher, and Jackie Finckler, who teaches at Suquamish Elementary.

A regular bike commuter for several years until his recent move to the island, Starrs estimates that he’s done Chilly Hilly about ten times, with Finckler on her fifth or sixth.

For the pair, Chilly Hilly is a two-wheeled tasting trip.

“How long it takes us depends on how many times we stop to eat,” Finckler said.

Starrs added, “I tell the kids at Sakai that I stop and buy everything they have for sale.”

Even if it means rousting them from a sound sleep.

“In the past, Rick Moore (another Sakai teacher) always sold waffles,” Starrs explained. But no one was in sight this year as they arrived. No problem.

“His son Nick got up and made waffles for us,” Starrs laughed. “He even threw in an espresso.”

Factor in a leisurely lunch at Battle Point, followed by another stop at the American Legion Hall – “I drop a lot of quarters there,” Starrs said. “It’s worse than Las Vegas” – and a bagel up Baker Hill, and it’s no surprise that Starrs concluded that “I was well-fed by the end of the day.”

Of course, Chez Moore wasn’t the only eating establishment. Hannah Crichton, 11, and Morgan Molinari, 10, were typical of dozens of enterprising youngsters who set up shop along the way. Unfortunately, the two made only $1.50 at their “freshly homemade coffee and hot cocoa stand,” as Crichton described their Sunrise Drive business. After sitting in the shade for an hour and becoming very chilled, the youngsters gave it up and headed home.

Cold remedies

But the Bainbridge Island Ropeskippers refreshment area at the picnic shelter at Battle Point Park did a booming business, earning over $2,000 as lines of up to 20 people waited patiently for chili, hot and cold beverages and an assortment of baked goods

Alice Tawresey thought that it might have been a record for the group, which has maintained the lucrative concession for at least eight years.

“It was so cold that people probably craved hot food,” she said, as the chili quickly sold out. So did 90 dozen varieties of baked goods, primarily cookies.

“We’re very appreciative of people’s support,” she said. “It helps us pay our coaches and tournament expenses.”

One of their satisfied customers, Leslie Duffy, reciprocated the sentiment.

“I want to thank the residents of the island for putting up with us while we’re here,” she said. “And this is a very positive thing. We support local businesses.”

An eight-time veteran of Chilly Hilly, Duffy estimated about three hours to complete the circuit. Unlike many of her fellow riders, she was well-prepared, having completed a 65-miler a couple of weekends prior to Chilly Hilly.

While Starrs, Finckler and Duffy were experienced veterans of the ride, islanders Dia Armenta, her daughter Ariel Hujar, 11, and Hayley Baker, 10, were all doing it for the first time. The girls, both members of the age 9-10 island all-star softball team that placed third in the state last summer, were operating on natural ability.

“I haven’t ridden for a long time,” said Baker.

“She’s a real trouper,” Armenta said. “That’s what they get for being such good athletes.”

Armenta paused to use her cell phone to check on the progress of son Jake, 10, who was already several miles ahead with family friend and triathlete Ron Erickson, then expressed a common sentiment: “This is a wonderful day, but my feet are like ice.”

The trio, not even breathing hard – though they had had to push up Arrow Point – arrived at Battle Point not long after another group of Chilly Hilly rookies. The quintet of experienced and well-organized cyclists from Woodinville’s Soundair Repair Group, which fixes commercial airplane components, were doing a bit of company bonding in addition to their regular noontime rides.

While Travis Dykstra and Jeff Hartshorn waited nearby, B.J. Fausey was on his walkie talkie with Fred Zimbelman, the firm’s president, and quality control supervisor Lee Kinnaman, both of whom were still struggling up Arrow Point.

“I love it,” said Fausey. “Even the hills are fun.”

Dykstra disagreed. “The hills aren’t so much fun.”

When Zimbelman pulled in a few minutes later, he sided with Dykstra.

“This course is awesome, but those hills – I’ve never used first gear so many times.”

But at least one equally avid rider missed the ride.

“This was the 15th year I’ve been around for Chilly Hilly and the 15th year I’ve missed it,” said Tom Clune, the owner of Bainbridge Island Cycle Shop.

Clune had a good excuse: he volunteered to help out, meeting the cyclists as they came off the ferry.

“I didn’t keep track, but I pumped up a lot of tires,” he said. “This year was deceptively cold, so in addition to minor repairs people needed extra clothing.”

The Bainbridge Fire Department reported one serious injury. A 49-year-old man from Kenmore lost control of his bike and flipped over his handlebars near Phelps and Spargur Loop about 9:30 a.m., sustaining head injuries and a fractured jaw. He was airlifted to Harborview.

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