Monday, November 12, 2012

Coffeeneuring Challenge, Part 7: Monroe, WA

Sunday, 11/11/2012

For the final ride this Coffeeneuring Challenge, I felt like cranking the weird-o-meter up a notch or two.

Yesterday's (Saturday's) weather was much better -- clear and cold -- but unfortunately the conditions were ripe for black ice, especially along the heavily wooded roads I intended to ride. Given the choice between Saturday's black ice and Sunday's warmer (but much wetter) conditions, I chose Sunday.

The plan:

  • Bike from home
  • Ride towards Monroe, with a detour along Ben Howard Road to Sultan
  • Stop just outside Monroe for coffee & snakes at The Reptile Zoo

The ride went pretty much as planned.

Ben Howard is a nice, scenic, bikable road -- not much shoulder, but not much traffic, either. I've ridden it once or twice before, but it's been a couple of years. It was good to ride again. The road's western end starts at State Route 203 just south of Monroe, then heads east along the Skykomish River towards Sultan. The beginning is mostly flat until it reaches the infamous "Ben Howard Bump", a steep but mercifully short hill. Continuing eastward, the road is mostly rollies.

Ben Howard Road

The road is lined with farms and ranches, some with beautiful views of the Cascades. At one point the clouds raised enough that I could see the fresh snow in the peaks above Stevens Pass; by the time I stopped & readied my camera, the clouds and lowered again. Mother Nature can be such a tease.

View towards Stevens Pass

Once in Sultan, I somehow managed to avoid a side-trip to the Sultan Bakery. If I had not resisted, I knew I would end up with one of their "Big Foot Maple Bars", an NBA-foot-sized-and-shaped maple-frosted pastry from heaven. Damn this primal/paleo diet! At US Highway 2 I resisted the gravitational attraction pulling me further east towards the bakery, and I pointed my bike west towards Monroe.

I consoled myself with a low-carb protein bar. I tried to convince myself that it was much better for me. Myself wasn't interested in such nonsense.

Just east of Monroe I arrived at the day's destination: the holy trinity of snakes, espresso, and BBQ.

Keeping it weird in Monroe

My first priority was COFFEE! I was cold (the temperatures were in the low 40's), wet (it and been raining off-and-on all day) and generally cranky from the missed Big Foot Maple Bar. Coffee makes me happy, coffee cures all, coffee is my friend.

First priority: COFFEE

I planned to just sit outside the zoo, drink my coffee, and relax a bit before going in. The zoo has some nice picnic tables out front, with large picture windows looking into some of the animal enclosures. It's hard to see in the following photo, but there are two very large monitor lizards in the second window from the right.

My bike, my coffee, and my new buddies

After sitting a bit, I started to get cold, despite the heating effects of my giant-sized triple Americano. I didn't realize how sweaty I had gotten during the ride, and now that became a liability. Sweaty clothes + cold ambient air + sitting idly = instant chills. Time to go in and see the animals.

Up close and personal
Looks like a rubber bath toy

Despite the "Reptile Zoo" name, there are other animals as well, including Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches that look like a scene from Men in Black:


And a Goliath Bird-Eating Tarantula. This beauty's leg span was about the size of my hand (and I generally wear size XL-XXL gloves):

Birds fear me

Many more photos from the zoo are in my "2012-10 Coffeeneuring" photo set on Flickr.

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