For a group of intrepid Northwesterners in Woodinville, WA, the dire warnings last week of rain, floods, and wind were auspicious news. On Saturday at the 4th annual Stinky Spoke Poker Run, 952 Northwest Male Action Figures embraced a fetid forecast and turned out for an 18-mile, foul weather off-road bicycle romp that exemplifies what it means to be "a little different" in the Northwest.
Outfits ranged from wild, tropical print shirts to dapper business attire as riders each gathered a hand of playing cards at stations along the course. But it wasn't just the outfits that made this a standout crowd. At the WALLY1 van where Brian and I were snapping photos with the NW Profiles Photo Program, mud speckled cheeks set off smiles so brilliant we had to know what it was that made this event such a bright spot in such a dark month. So, we chatted with the man behind the Stinky Spoke, its founder and director, Todd Cowles.
How did this crazy race get started?
A couple guys and I had made it a regular thing to get out after the holidays and ride our bikes in the cold and mud. Four years ago, while warming up post-ride at the Redhook Brewery, we decided we enjoyed it so much we wanted to make it a more formal thing.
How has an outdoor event held in the worst weather of the year become so popular?
It's the pure novelty of the rotten weather. That and we don't compete against any other events. I wish we could say we were so smart to have planned this from the get-go, but it just happened that way. No one else wants to get filthy enough to come out on a day like this.
Could it be a__Northwest thing?
It's definitely got the Northwest flavor on it. The average guy is someone like me who does a lot of biking no matter what the weather. And, yeah, some of them are a little different. There is a group from Seattle's Wedgewood Neighborhood that calls themselves "The Wedgies". They ride with tighty-whities stretched across their helmets.
Sounds like ideal conditions for for streak marks. What sort of weather were you hoping for this weekend?
You know, we have a few people feeling a little let down right now because it's not snowing and awful. But we've had five straight days of rain so we're doing pretty good.
When did you introduce the charity aspect?
The Little Bit Theraputic Riding Center is a group that helps people with disabilities learn to walk by building their core-strength through horseback riding. They have offices right on the Tolt Pipeline Trail. Four years ago I stopped in there during a bike ride, covered head to toe in mud, and asked if they wanted to be our beneficiary. One of the gals there gave me a big hug and got mud all over herself.
Has it been successful?
Absolutely! The first year we raised a $500, then $2,500 in the second, and finally last year we brought in about $7,000. This year we're hoping to hit the $10,000-$15,000 mark.
Plans for next year?
We're always hoping for worse weather.
A__Pineapple Express is a cause for celebration!
Stinky Spokes Director Todd Cowles and his son Aidan. Like father, like son!
Which way to the beach?
Well, there you have it. Just another example of how the people in the Northwest are colorful, even when the sky isn't.