I like to think the idea for the Tour de Dick's emerged in a fashion similar to other great epiphanies of the past, but instead of a Middle Eastern teahouse or a Renaissance period cafe as the point of illumination, it was Rooftop Brewing Company's deck on a cold night.
My friends had just been debating which Dick's Drive-In is the best in town. There are five in Seattle and one in Edmonds. "Has anyone ever put together a race from Dick's to Dick's?" I asked.
A friend who does regular bike races with treasure hunts and action items (ingest this weed edible here, take this Fireball shot there) agreed to help organize the race. It ended up being a stupidly fun time—and you need stupidly fun things to do if you are in college. You probably can't legally ingest edibles or take shots, but you can eat as much Dick's as you want.
Dick's is not a perfect company—they fought hard against an employee tax that would have raised money for homeless services—but they're local, they offer their employees better benefits than other fast-food places, and, Jesus, their fries are good.
On the day of the race, we met in Gas Works Park. I handed out flyers with the rules my friend and I had made up for Tour de Dick's:
1. Riders are required to bike to a minimum of four Dick's locations, one of which must be Lake City, in any order they prefer.
2. Riders are required to eat at minimum one menu item (e.g., a cheeseburger, an order of fries, a milkshake) at three of the locations.
3. Riders must take a selfie at each stop, with them eating food (if applicable).
4. Riders cannot eat the same item twice.
5. The first rider to return to Gas Works Park wins.
Because of Gas Works' eerily central location vis-à-vis the six Dick's restaurants, what my friend and I hoped would happen did: Each contestant had a different idea about the winning route. Riders huddled around phones, google-mapping routes while discussing hills, bridges, and bike lanes. Someone said Capitol Hill's location was not worth the steep, stoplight-riddled hills. Someone else said the Edmonds location, way up north, was definitely a fool's errand.
I asked the friend I'd planned this with, who was riding solo, what his route was going to be. "You know I can't tell you that," was his smug reply.
I've done endurance competitions where in the heat of battle you're all alone, yet you have to continue to push yourself against invisible enemies. The Tour de Dick's shared some of those same sensations, but with an urban twist. Plus, I had company. I rode with a few friends. We set out for the Lower Queen Anne Dick's first.
We burned across the Fremont Bridge and down the much improved Westlake Avenue bike lane. We navigated to westbound Mercer Street, and I put an early push into the small hill leading up to the QFC to see how my leg muscles would react. They didn't react well. This would be tougher than I thought.
A few blocks later, we were at Dick's, where we executed a strategy we'd keep the rest of the day: Two riders wait in separate lines while the third watches the bikes. Whoever reaches the cashier first orders all the food for the group. Soon enough, we were crushing juicy cheeseburgers and tossing the waxy wrappers in the garbage. Life was good.
The closest Dick's to Lower Queen Anne is Capitol Hill, so we'd be hitting those hills after all. Stupid Google Maps told us to go through Seattle Center. It wouldn't be the last time we would be cursing our tech overlords.
Our quads burning, we eventually made it up to the very busy Capitol Hill Dick's, where my riding partners did the most savage thing I saw all day: ate their salty fries with no condiments. What?! I thought I knew these men. You have to pay for your ketchup or tartar sauce, but it's only five cents. I was trading water swigs with equal parts tartar sauce to wash down the golden brown, super salty fries. Just delicious.
Then we were off to Lake City—the longest stretch we'd have all day. Eight miles of ups, downs, and plenty of construction to keep us on our pedals. It was hell, frankly. One hundred and fifteen blocks later, we were at the Lake City Dick's doorstep.
Fearing what a Dick's Deluxe (two patties plus fixings) might do to me, I opted for a mint-chocolate-chip ice-cream cone to cool me down—dairy be damned. We ate standing in a circle, our bikes propped up against the garbage cans. And then we cruised down toward Wallingford, the same neighborhood as our final destination.
The climb up Lake City Way and into Maple Leaf wasn't terrible. Then we rode downhill on Roosevelt Way, hung a right at 45th Street, and were in the home stretch. As we coasted into the Wallingford Dick's parking lot, I noticed a new ordering window had just opened for business. We gave it some. Although by rule we could have skipped eating here (we'd eaten at three previous Dick's) and just snapped a pic and rode on to the finish, we wanted more food. We'd been burning calories like crazy. Now it was time for my Dick's Deluxe while my partners enjoyed ice cream and fries. More. Fries.
We snapped a few last photos and rejoiced, knowing that we were only a few blocks from Gas Works Park. We could win this.
The Wallingford roundabouts proved to be a huge pain as usual, but soon enough we were back on the Burke-Gilman Trail. We crossed the street onto the gravel trail, and after cutting through the grass, could see... three other friends lounging around their bikes, happy and resting. Goddamn it! Our blip of optimism dripped away like moisture off a milkshake.
My planning partner, the inside man, claimed victory. He'd arrived "about 10 minutes ago, and these guys were five behind me," he said, gesturing toward everyone else.
Oh well. To lose by 10 minutes was a respectable loss in my mind. "So what was your route?"
"Holman Road, Edmonds, Lake City... where I saw you. Check your phone. Then Wallingford."
Sure enough, I had four new messages on my phone from him. "You went to Edmonds!?" I asked.
Edmonds is nine miles past the other farthest north Dick's location, and then you have to come back! It had seemed like a dead end to me—a suicide mission for anyone who wanted to win.
"Yup. Took the Interurban Trail most of the way. I only had to deal with a couple of lights."
This threw everything I thought I knew back up in the air. All the nonwinning rides were around 21 miles—no matter the locations. The winning ride was 24 miles. He trusted his gut instead of Google, he lucked out with less-congested streets, and the longest stretch of his ride (from the Holman Road Dick's north of Ballard to the Edmond's location) was a peaceful, smooth journey.
All I could think was this: I can't wait to beat him next year.