Sunday by 7:30 A.M., the ferry staging area on the Seattle waterfront was a sea of high-vis yellow and multi-colored bike jerseys. Thousands of bicyclists were converging at the Colman Dock Ferry Terminal for the 7:55 A.M. sailing of the Seattle-Bainbridge Ferry to ride the annual Chilly Hilly. For those unfamiliar with the Chilly Hilly, the name is derived from the early occurrence in the season and Bainbridge Island’s terrain. Neither of those aspects dampen the ride’s popularity for the 33 mile course around the island.
Once the bicyclists were on the ferry, the boat took on a festive atmosphere. While many riders lined up in galley for a hearty breakfast, others congregated in groups finding bench seats or tables. Conversations varied from stories of past rides and jersey comparisons to plans for the party after this Chilly Hilly. Among those storied jerseys were those worn by two cyclists from Langley, BC Depicting a large black crow-like bird on a yellow background, when asked to explain the significance of “Blacka Chicken,” they responded that there wasn’t time for the very long story. All they would share was that it had something to do with too many beers. A relocated Californian wore his 2008 “California Death ride” jersey. Officially, the Tour of the California Alps is a one-day ride consisting of summiting five passes with an altitude gain of 15,000 feet. One couple wore their Lavaman Triathlon jerseys, an event in Hawaii that they ride every summer.
After docking, the riders paraded off the ferry up Olympic Drive on road bikes, recumbents, tandems and even at least one uni-cycle turning either right onto Winslow Way away from the city center or to the left into the little village. Cascade’s registration was in the parking lot of Bainbridge Island Cycle Shop. Gabriel Chrisman, all-around employee of B.I. Cycle Shop, said that the shop has supported the Chilly Hilly for sixteen years. He had ridden the course before opening up at 7 AM. B.I. Cycle Shop provided free repairs for riders as well as outfitting riders who arrived leaving some vital necessities behind, such as gloves, helmets, shoes and even wheels.
Variety is the Chilly Hilly, in the jerseys, bicycles, age groups and even costumes. One eight year-old boy when asked if he’s done this before, replied matter-of-factly that this was his third Chilly Hilly. It was a first Chilly Hilly for a 15 year-old Cycle University racer who was riding with his dad. Taking the prize for a group theme was from IslandWood Outdoor Education School. The group composed of staff, grad Students and friends and spouses were all outfitted with green helmet covers. Riding behind Clancy Wolf, Senior Faculty for Science and Educational Technology, on a tag-along was the school’s tree frog mascot, WaqWaq. That variety is no less composed of all the volunteers who made this year’s Chilly Hilly an incredible experience.