A Quick (beam) Update

Written by robert on April 3rd, 2014
A Sunday Ramble - Quickbeam
 A Quickbeam in the grass, alas

It’s been some time since I’ve done much riding on the Quickbeam. The winter months were much more suited toward the Atlantis what with it’s generator light, fat durable tires and ability to carry multiple extra layers of clothes.  Also while I’ve done the commute on the Quickbeam, climbing Capitol Hill isn’t really a good time on the single speed. Doable, but not going to make my top ten rides.  Also I feel I gave the drop bars a shot and while they were fine they didn’t blow my skirt up.  After ages of hearing Albatross handlebars talked up I decided that I was going to switch the ‘beam over to them.  I’d gotten the h’bars, stem, grips, brakes from Riv months ago and was just slacking on doing the work.  Well last weekend I finally did it.

A Sunday Ramble - Quickbeam in front of pool
 Quickbeam at Volunteer Park

Along with the the Handlebar changes I also put on a Nitto R-12 saddlebag support which you can sort of see in the above photo. You can see a bit of the rubber coated clamps on the frame and a bit of the stainless steel hoop. Follow the link if you want to see what this actually looks like.  I have to say it does the job – the pictured saddlebag was brushing the fender when I loaded it up and clearly it is kept away from that now.  After putting on these items, adjusting the brakes I headed out for a test ride.

A Sunday Ramble - Glorious cherry tree
 Glorious cherry tree

I road across Capitol Hill, to Volunteer Park which I rambled around taking pictures. I started off with the bars quite high on the ‘beam and stopped to adjust them several times. I’ll probably lower them a bit more and maybe experiment with the angle on them. I have to say the Albatross bars and the super upright position took some getting used to. I already prefer it to the drops I had on there, but so far mustache bars remain my favorite. I’ll give the Alba’s a good long shot though and see if I can’t get the perfect rambling bicycle going.

A Sunday Ramble - Carved whale fin sculpture with Quickbeam
Carved whale fin sculpture with Quickbeam

It really was a nice sunny, warm sunday afternoon, nice enough that after rambling around the park, I went out for Gellato. Then I headed back toward my apartment with a stop at a little (unnamed afaik) corner park near the Capitol Hill Juvenile Detention Center. At this park, which seems to be mostly a dog walkers park, there is the pictured carved whale fin sculpture rising out of the ground like an Orca just below the ocean surface. I live just a few blocks from here and as it was already cooling down as the sun sank below the cityscape I returned home.

More pictures from today’s ramble: A Sunday Ramble
More pictures of my Quickbeam: Quickbeam Set

Posted from Seattle, Washington, United States.

 

Saving Daylight Ride

Written by robert on March 15th, 2014

Ragged lines on grey canvas

Ragged lines on grey canvas

While I don’t much dig the whole “spring forward” part, I’m always happier when we are on Daylight Savings Time. It means more light after work allowing for these more meandering commutes home. It means that my typically late starts for weekend rides can still be a solid ride before dark. The mornings of course return to darkness for the time being, but it’s already lightening up by 7am and by the time I head into work it’s full daylight. Commuting both ways in the light is, in my mind, where it’s at.

Atlantis under flowering trees

Atlantis under flowering trees

It had poured rain all day on Saturday and not PNW drizzle either – a strong, steady continuous rain. I’d had some activities planned for early Sunday morning but what with it still pouring when I went to bed I wrote it off. But at some point during the early morning hours the rain petered out and Sunday turned out to a rather nice day – partially cloudy and warmish – I just had to get out for a bit of a ride. Of course having sprung forward meant that my usual late start was an hour later than normal, but as noted I still had many hours of light available. I headed out around 2pm with thoughts of heading to the Seattle waterfront.

Even just riding down 12th Ave into the ID it became apparent that there were throngs of people out. It’s been an odd winter with drought conditions in January/early February and then just weeks of heavy rain, pushing us into flood territory (and the snow pack going from well below average to above average). People clearly were hungering to get out of doors and a relatively nice day brought them out in droves. The thought of the waterfront crowded with light-starved Seattle-ites lost it’s appeal and I made a spur of the moment decision to head east.

Looking Northwest from Mercer Island

Looking Northwest from Mercer Island

I was on the very familiar I-90 Trail/Mountains to Sound Greenway which follows I-90 and crosses the floating bridge over to Mercer Island. As I climbed up to the I-90 tunnel I was everywhere reminded that dates notwithstanding the flora considers it spring. The cherry trees have been flowering since late January and many are almost done with that, while others are at their peak. The dogwoods are blooming, daffodils are everywhere, green shoots on every branch – with the warmer weather today and a bit of sun peaking out of the layers of clouds it definitely felt like spring.  There was of course plenty of other bicyclers out in this weather and while not the crowds the waterfront would have been, I was certainly not alone.

Flowering Trees on Mercer Island

Flowering trees on Mercer Island

Just across the first section of the floating bridge, on the western edge of Mercer Island is a little park, which I’ve stopped at now and again. But I’ve wondered for some time of the road heading north from there would hook up with the primary Mercer Island Loop route or just dead-end among the mansions. A vigorously flowering tree also attracted my eye and settled the issue – I’d head that way. I pulled over and took a break and some photos down at the little park. I’d brought a book of  poerty by Ryōkan with me and just randomly turned to a poem while I sat on the edge of Mercer Island:

The three realms are like a guesthouse.
Human life resembles a dewdrop.
Time for practice easily evaporates;
true dharma is rare to encounter.
One must sustain vigorous effort.
Do not wait for encouragement
from one another.

an excerpt from Monks by Ryōkan

 

Lean-to

Could you live here?

Continuing on I rode around the northern edge of Mercer Island to the second part of the I-90 floating bridge.  Once you cross the bridge on the edge of the mainland the highway stays elevated over the marshes, estuaries and swampland. The trail wends it’s way through these mere’s before eventually intersecting with East Lake Washington Blvd. I had been hearing the call of nature and right at the intersection point with the E. Lk WA Blvd is a closed parking lot wooded toward the back. I headed back there to answer the call and found the pictured lean to. I used the “facilities” and then sat in this lean-to for some time. Clearly someone had lived here for a spell – there was evidence of a fire and a framework that with a tarp over it would have provided some escape from the elements.  I asked myself could I live here?

Untitled

View from the Lean-to

These out of the way and often more hidden encampments of the homeless are generally in these interstitial areas, areas that the rapacious developers have no interest in and the NIMBY’s won’t go to the mat for. Next to highways, on the edge of wetlands, in-between places where one can be out of sight and out of mind. Under this lean-to the rain would be diverted but the roar of I-90 would be a constant companion and in the summer the wetland is sure to produce an endless supply of mosquitoes.  I felt I could live here, but it is my privilege that I don’t have to.  Once again I turned to Ryōkan:

If someone asks
where I live,
say,
“The farthest end of
the heavenly river shore.”

Untitled

View from the tower at Gene Coulon Park

I headed south on East Lake Washington Blvd. following the Lake Wa Loop. It had fully clouded over while I was under the lean-to and as I rode there was the occasional spatter of rain.  Nothing too serious but as I approached Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park in Renton I pulled over to put my tweed cardigan back on (yes I’d been able to ride sans sweater for the first time in ’14). I locked up my bicycle on the edge of the pier and spent some time up in the tower that climbed from the pier enjoying the view. I refilled my water bottle in the bathroom – they turn off the water fountains in the winter, which I understand the reasoning behind, but I think is an unfortunate practice. I sat at one of the picnic tables and read a bit more Ryōkan.

How can I
sustain my life?
So far,
winter this year
has been brutal.

Winter has indeed been brutal all over this year, but less so here in the PNW than elsewhere.  We were in drought conditions until February and since then above average rain for weeks on end. The snow-pack went from well below average to above average and now the talk is of flooded. But this is no polar vortex or the snows in the Middle East, or flooding in London…

Untitled

Humble Pie

From Gene Coulon I pretty much just stuck with the Lake Washington Loop. Crossing over the Cedar River I noted that it was definitely in flood stage, covering the path as it ducked under the bridge and encroaching well on to the lawn at the edges.  The route skirts around the Renton Airport – which has relatively newly repaved roads which made for some smooth riding – and then you are up onto Rainier Ave for a good few miles.  Rainier Ave is pretty much the main non highway corridor from Seattle to Renton and it is a fairly busy, fairly fast road, but with a decent width and a bicycle lane it is also a major cycling route.  At Rainier Beach the Lk. Wa. Lp. heads north to stay along the Lake and to head to Seward Park. But I decided to ride Rainier Ave all the way to the ID which is pretty much where I live.

I’ve ridden on quite a bit of Rainier and certainly drove the length of it back in the day, but this was the first time I’ve ridden the length of it and it is an interesting study in contrasts. It has several striations of gentrification running the gamut from looking like a chunk of a more desolate part of Detroit to one of the condo-fied bits of Fremont. It wasn’t great bicycling with the lane having ended when the Lk Wa Lp branched off, the surface being of variable quality and the traffic, but in the main it was fine.  Eventually I hit the CD and at the edge of the ID I remembered there was this Wood Fired Pizza place that looked like a shack built around a food truck and I decided to check it out.

Saving Daylight Ride - Margherita at Humble Pie

Margherita at Humble Pie

Humble Pie, pretty much is a shack built around a real stone wood fired oven. The oven itself is just enclosed by heavy duty chicken wire and only the bathrooms and the kitchen were full (and fully code compliant I image) structures. But they have a few taps of beer and make a pretty great wood fired pizza. It was the end of the day and while the ride wasn’t epic, it was enough to work up a good appetite.  A pint of IPA and the pictured pizza were an ideal end to good days ride and one I was grateful to be able to indulge in.

You can view all my pictures from this ride here: Saving Daylight Ride.

 

I like this

Written by robert on February 28th, 2014

The River Hardcover by Alessandro Sanna

 

from The River by Alessandro Sanna
 

Rainy February Ride

Written by robert on February 25th, 2014

Rainy Ride - Trees

Trees on Lake Washington

It’s been quite some time since my last point and while there is a backlog of things I should have put some work into there hasn’t been much of interest going on.  The winter doldrums perhaps, hindering rides and blogging past glories.  There are a couple of events that happened at the tail end of 2013 that I should revisit: we shall see.  Anyway the weather this winter has been pretty… variable, running from sub-freezing, clear days in January, to a couple of days of light snow to the more recent couple of weeks of rain and wind. The general malaise and this weather has kept me indoors even when I’ve been aching for ride.  So this weekend I finally just bit bullet and headed out on Sunday a bit after noon (happy that the days are getting long enough that one can leave 12:30-ish, put in a 4-5 hour ride and be home before dark). Since it was close to lunch time I’d packed a lunch and rode to Luther-Burbank Park on Mercer Island for a winter picnic.

Rainy Ride - Luther Burbank Park

View from my picnic table

It had rained a bit early, but when I set out it was just a fine mist. That didn’t last and by the time I reached the park it was drizzling. I found a picnic table with one end under a tree and had my lunch. I then took pictures of the lake and my bicycle before I set out. These pictures were the only ones I took on this ride.  I had decided that I wanted to ride on May Valley Road which heads east through suburbia and then farmland around Cougar Mountain. It intersects with the Issaquah-Hobart Road which rides between Cougar and Tiger Mountain into Issaquah. From there it is the I-90 “trail” (mostly on roads at this juncture) back to the I-90 Bridge where it returns to being a trail and I close my loop. This map is pretty much my route except that I started/ended a a couple miles west of Leschi.

Leschi-May Valley-Issaquah Loop

More or less my route

It was raining pretty steadily when I left the park and it pretty much rained for the rest of my ride. It increased and decreased in intensity but it was pretty much steady rain the whole time.  I got pretty soaked due to waiting overly long before putting on my rain gear.  May Valley Road is really beautiful in the summer as it descends out of the Newport hills into farmland but was pretty bleak in the winter.  It was really flooded in the farmland in the valley center and while there are signs of spring everywhere (cherry trees, bulbs sprouting up and so on) it was pretty dreary. Interestingly all the various parks and trailheads I passed were packed with people – it’s reached that part of winter when people long to be out of doors.  The roads were a lot more trafficked than I expected. I guess it’s used as a way to get from around Issaquah to around Renton bypassing I-90. But kind of unfortunate.  Anyway what with the rain and such I pretty much only stopped once post-lunch and I never did take out my camera again.

Rainy Ride - Atlantis

Atlantis in the rain

One last thing worth noting is the updates to the Atlantis since I last posted. At the front of the bicycle you can see my new Busch & Muller Luxus-U LED light.  I completely redid the wiring when I put this on, running the heavy duty Schmidt cable to my rear light.  I have to say the light lives up to the hype and while I haven’t tested out the recharging aspect I expect that to work well. Thus this will be the third and hopefully the last charging system I’ve set up. The light is nice and bright and it’s integrated battery really is a nice feature. The light and taillight turn right on with even minimal movement and the stand light is of course appreciated. The only downside is that the wire on the attached switch/USB port is too short to reach from the front of the rack to the h’bars. I’ve got it mounted on my front basket which is okay, but really that should have been something one could get in different lengths.

On the rear of the bicycle is a new saddlebag courtesy of Rivendell: a medium Sackville SaddleSack. My previous saddlebag is in need of some repair and since I need it for commuting I picked up this one.  This is the third saddlebag I’ve gotten from Rivendell in this size range and I have to say it’s gotten better each time.  Their bags are improved in every iteration based on the usage of a group of riders who use them daily.  I’ve only had this a couple of weeks now but I’m pretty pleased with it.

A few more pics from this ride can be found here: Rainy Ride

Posted from Mercer Island, Washington, United States.

 

The Current Commute

Written by robert on November 10th, 2013

Commute 2013: Murals on the Capitol Hill light rail station project

Mural on the walls surrounding the Capitol Hill light rail station project

Since I’m back in the workforce and commuting daily it seems apropos to document my current commute. This will differ significantly from my previous commutes in Woodinville and Kirkland in that I am now right in the heart of the major city of city. A completely urban commute in contrast to my previous suburban routes.  It is the shortest of the commute routes I’ve had at around 4.5 miles but is certainly the most hilly with a big climb up Capitol Hill on my ride home every day.

Commute 2013: On 12th Ave in front of my Apt.

 On 12th Ave in front of my Apt, across from Seattle University

My route begins on 12th Ave, right across from Seattle University. From my dwelling place on the First Hill/Central District/Capitol Hill boundary it’s just a few blocks north to the Pike/Pine corridor in the core of Capitol Hill. I stuck with 12th for a few more blocks when I first started this commute, but construction that has extended beyond the sidewalk and into the road has led to my taking a short jog on Pine and continuing north on 11th.

Commute 2013: On 11th east of Cal Anderson Park

On 11th east of Cal Anderson Park

This change takes me around the east and norther edges of Cal Anderson Park which in the summer was filled with people camping – both genuine and the recreationally homeless. Now it is only the genuinely homeless and people in transition living out of their cars. This is city life but it is a daily reminder of the true economic realities we live in.

Commute 2013: On 10th next to the future Capitol Hill light rail station

On 10th next to the future Capitol Hill light rail stationt

On the northern edge of the park there is an entire block behind a temporary wooden wall covered with quaint murals from local artists. This is the future site of the Capitol Hill light rail station; a project which can’t get wrapped up soon enough in my opinion.  I’m commuting from Capitol Hill to the U-District and the light rail will cover the route.  This will be a nice option for icy days (typically the only weather I won’t commute in) but with a 2016 completion date who knows where I’ll be living and what job I’ll be working.

Commute 2013: On 10th, staying east of Broadway

On 10th, staying east of Broadway

I wend through Capitol Hill neighborhoods basically paralleling the more heavily trafficked route on Broadway  Mostly uncontrolled intersections in these areas with roundabouts. I have seen shocking amounts of poor round-about usage, sometimes clearly deliberately but much more often deriving from confusion.  This only makes one less confident in the drivers around you.

Commute 2013: Heading down Capitol Hill

Heading down Capitol Hill

Eventually the road quality becomes so poor that it is preferable to jump onto the more busy 10th for a spell including the epic descent from Capitol Hill.  No actual pictures from the descent as this is a busy route with plenty of parked cars, intersections and traffic to keep an eye on.  This will certainly be a major hazard on any potentially icy/snowy days – it is already a bit sketchy on just rainy days.

Commute 2013: A brief respite from the busy roads on the now side road of Broadway

A brief respite from the busy roads on the now side road of Broadway

The Hill is descended in two steps with a brief jog on Roanoak which is even briefer for the bicycler and one can turn off at Broadway next to Roanoak Park and cut through residential streets. Eventually though it’s back to major streets for the descent down to the University Bridge. I do take another jog here to cut out some lights and the traffic but it’s pretty much all major roads from here on out.

Commute 2013: Descending to the University Bridge. I-5 to the left

Descending to the University Bridge. I-5 to the left

Crossing the University Bridge one is now in the University District dominated by the University of Washington. The bridge dumps you right on to Roosevelt which is one way in each direction separated by a block. An exit off of Roosevelt to two separate feeder streets almost right off the bridge is one of the more dangerous bits of the commute. Otherwise from here it is a gentle climb up into the District Proper.

Commute 2013:  University Bridge

Descending to the University Bridge. I-5 to the left

 
Commute 2013: Looking east from the University Bridge

Looking east from the University Bridge

My place of work is actually on University Ave so I make my way north and east as I go. At first I’m riding through neighborhoods of student housing and apartments that cater to students. This gives away to merchants and other community services.  This is an older area of the city but with plenty of recent and in-progress construction. Crowded with students from all over the world it has  a very cosmopolitain yet transitory character.  A nice location to work as it is packed with places to eat and drink and such resources that students may find valuable such as book and records stores.

Commute 2013 - The end of my route. Just past the light on the right is my building.

The end of my route. Just past the light on the right is my building.

So that’s my current commute; highly urban but with some really nice stretches.  If interested I’ve got a few more photos from the commute in this Flickr Set: 2013 Commute.

Posted from Seattle, Washington, United States.

 

An Autumn Mixed-Terrain Ride

Written by robert on October 27th, 2013

An Autumn Mixed-Terrain Ride - Atlantis in the Leaves

Atlantis in the Leaves

It’s been one of those weeks and as so often is the case there is no better therapy than a nice bicycle ride. I’ve been pining to get back to the mountains and while I set out too late to really get into the Cascades I did make it to the foothills.  I ended up  following the Mountain to Sound Greenway which is a sequence of trails interspersed with road riding: I-90 Trail -> Issaquah-Preston Trail -> Preston-Snoqualmie Trail with a brief sojourn on the East Lake Sammamish Trail. While separating one from traffic (and I-90 which this route parallels most of the time) these trails are usually wedged in where they can and are thus a lot hillier than one might expect. The Preston-Snoqulamie tail is a genuine rail-trail which runs nice and flat except where bridges are gone (such as over the Raging River Valley).

 
An Autumn Mixed-Terrain Ride - Looking back down the leaf strewn Issaquah-Preston Trail

reaching out my hand
I catch
a single falling leaf

I wanted to get to the Issaquah-Preston Trail which is one of my favorite mixed-terrain routes.  This trail is a rocky dirt path paralleling I-90 that ends (appropriately enough) at Preston.  From there you an take one of the best paved trails in the state The Preston-Snoqualmie trail which is a rare paved trail in the woods. These are all routes I’ve ridden many times and have reported on more than once in these pages but I think this was the latest autumn ride I’ve done on this route. The paths, especially the more wooded sections were deeply buried in multi-colored leaves which was beautiful but rather buried the many large rocks on these trails.  Still it was great to be in the cool mountain air, with the fog shrouded foothills looming above. I wish I’d set out early enough to ride further into the mountains – the dwindling light always a factor this time of year.

An Autumn Mixed-Terrain Ride - Issaquah Creek

Issaquah Creek

I only rode a couple of miles on the Preston-Snoqulamie Trail and decided to stop at a section of the trail that crosses a gorge above a stream. Of all the times I’ve ridden the trail I’ve never gone down to this stream which I rectified on this trip. It was pleasant here; this part of the trail has turned away from I-90 and I was down far enough that the few other users of the trail were mostly unnoticeable.  After a bit of a break by the pools of water I backtracked down to Issaquah and had a couple of beers and some onion rings at the Issaquah Brewhouse. While I was there, a ‘Thriller’ “flash mob” broke out right in front of the pub which lasted the length of the song and as I returned to my bicycle broke up.  On my ride east I was on the north side of the I-90 following the Mountain to Sound route, for my return west I stuck to the south side on the hillier route on the edge of Newport. But I had to back track on the I-90-Mercer Island-et al bit back home.

An Autumn Mixed-Terrain Ride - Pools on a feeder creek to the Raging River

 Pools on a feeder creek to the Raging River

I made it it home in the dark around 7:30 having done around 50 miles on this day. An even dozen photos from the ride can be found in my An Autumn Mixed-Terrain Ride on Flickrset on Flickr.

Posted from Issaquah, Washington, United States.

 

Autumn ride around the sound

Written by robert on October 8th, 2013
An autumn ride around the Sound - The Mountain
The Mountain as seen from Fay Bainbridge State Park

After an unseasonable cool and rainy September the first weekend in October was one of those perfect PNW Autumn days. I’d recently gotten a new camera (a Nikon 1 J2 for you trainspotters out there) and I went out for rides on both Saturday and Sunday with picture taking as a goal but taking advantage of the beautiful weather as my primary motivation.  I’ve been wanting a bit more of a “prosumer” camera for a while with a goal of note only being able to take better photos but being somewhat forced into greater deliberation. That is I’ve done a lot of shooting “from the saddle” and I’d like to think I have a certain proficiency at it. While this allows one to easily document one’s travels it tends to generate a lot of photos and frankly I think this style of documentation just isn’t all that interesting. I’ve moved away from this style of photos in the last couple of years but I felt that having a camera where I’d have to get off the bicycle and spend time on each photo would further facilitate this.

An autumn ride around the Sound - Ferris Wheel on the Seattle Waterfront
Seattle Waterfront

I initially planned to ride down to the Seattle Waterfront and meander along Elliot Bay, perhaps into Magnolia and along the Ship Canal. But as I rode down (heavily under construction) Jackson Street and then up Alaskan Way I decided instead I’d ride around Bainbridge Island.  I turned off at the Ferry Terminal and caught the ferry ten minutes later – good timing!

An autumn ride around the Sound - Seattle from the Needle to the Smith Tower
Seattle from Space Needle to Smith Tower

It was a fantastic day out on the waters and as Seattle receded in the distance our ferry was amidst countless sailboats and other recreational watercraft.  Mount Rainer, of which I would take many pictures throughout this day, was commanding to the Southeast, particularly towering above the West Seattle Bridge. Arriving at Bainbridge Island, I quickly disembarked (always nice that bicycles are first on first off) and riding into town I quickly got onto the Chilly Hilly route which circumnavigates the island anti-clockwise.  But as I was riding I began to think that I’ve done this loop plenty of times and it would actually be more fun to strike out on a more unfamiliar routes.  I began to think that I could pretty easy cross the bridge to the mainland and ride up to Kingston and take the ferry across to Edmonds and then make my way back to Seattle.

An autumn ride around the Sound - Kite
Good kite flying weather

So I pulled over at a little store and sitting on their porch consulted Google Maps and worked out a route.  It turned out to be only 15-16 miles to Kingston from here, which seemed like a perfectly reasonable Sunday afternoon ride.  That settled I continued on to Fay Bainbridge State Park where I sat on the beach, ate a sandwich and watched the sailboats, kites and beachcombers. I didn’t linger too long as there was riding to done, but it was a pleasent break on the beach.

An autumn ride around the Sound - Sailing around Bainbridge
Sailing around Bainbridge

From Fay Bainbridge I was able to stay on nice, country roads usually deep in the woods with occasional open fields of glimpses of the water, but eventually I had to take Hwy 305 off the island.  Not a bad road as hwy’s go – big shoulder and at least on a sunday afternoon, not heavily trafficked. It crosses a nice bridge over Agate Pass after which I took an immediate right and headed north. This was a pretty busy road but again with a good shoulder and among the trees.  This road brought me to Suquamish which was right on the water. I made brief stop here primarily to take pictures and consult the map, before hitting the road again.

An autumn ride around the Sound - Totem Pole
Totem Pole in Suquamish

From here the roads became particularly fine riding. Mostly in the woods a bit away from the coast, it was just ideal riding. Winding roads, a bit of up and down, brilliant colored trees amidst the evergreens all lit by the westering sun. I left the Google Maps route , following a red Dan Henry, at Indianola Road which took me a bit in the opposite direction of Kingston for a spell but was more scenic. Once again it was just perfect riding, especially once I turned onto South Kingston Road where the climbing I’d been doing turned to descending. This route descended down Appletree Cove on twisty roads through the trees. Very nice! After Appletree Cove, there was a slight climb and I turned on West Kingston road which heads straight to the ferry terminal.

An autumn ride around the Sound - Kingston
Autumn in Kingston

However I didn’t ride straight to the ferry – it being 5pm I felt a stop at the Front Street Ale house was in order. I checked on the ferry schedule and resolved to catch the 6:10 sailing and thus spent a nice hour drinking a couple of beers and eating a couple of appetizers. Fully sated I left the pub a bit before 6 and pretty much rode right onto the ferry just before the cars began loading. It was again a beautiful trip with the sun setting behind the Olympic Mountains and Mount Rainier, Seattle and Edmonds all glowing in magic hour light.

An autumn ride around the Sound - Mt. Rainier in the setting sun
Mount Rainier in the gloaming

It was deep twilight as I arrived in Edmonds and I had a good 20 miles or so to get home. I’d jotted down a Google Maps route from Edmonds to the Interurban Trail while on the ferry and in the dwindling light I set out on it. There was a pretty stiff headwind now and it was definitely chillier – I wish I’d brought some socks along! Google kept me mostly on the signed bicycle route and by the time I reached Shoreline I pretty much knew my way home. I took the Interurban trail – which has a nice new cycle track along Bitter lake – and then the signed Interurban route to Fremont. From there it was a short jog on the Burke Gillman Trail to the University district and then my commute route home.

An autumn ride around the Sound - Setting sun
Sun setting behind the Olympic Mountains

I made it home by 8:45 after having ridden about 48 miles all told. It was a great Sunday afternoon ride with two ferry trips and a nice loop around a good chunk of the Puget Sound.

Check out more photos in my Flickr photoset of this ride: An autumn ride around the Sound

Posted from Bainbridge Island, Washington, United States.

 

Bombing around Beacon Hill

Written by robert on August 25th, 2013

Quickbeam on Cheif Sealth trail

Quickbeam at the southern end of the Chief Sealth Trail

I haven’t been riding the Quickbeam too much since moving back to Seattle. Seattle is a hilly city for a single speed, but I’ve been thinking I want to use it for commuting instead of my Atlantis and toward that end I’ve been waiting for some new gear. Primarily the small olive Sackville saddlebag you can see in the above picture.  I’ve mounted that with the Nitto Saddlebag Grip so that I can just grab the whole bag when off the bicycle. Other upgrades include Velo Orange hammered fenders that I put on a couple months ago, new waterbottle cages and dedicated front and rear lights.

After putting on the new bag today I thought I’d see how I’d do on the Seattle hills. So I took a rambling route up Beacon Hill and while wandering around up there saw a sign for the Chief Sealth Trail. Now I’d ridden at least a chunk of this trail not long after opened, but it was a diversion from a Lake Washington Loop and on finding it pretty hilly and in the wrong direction I only did a mile or so. It is indeed a hilly trail and is a good workout on a single speed. Overcast and grey today with light spitting rain, it was rather comfortable riding really. Only when I came home did the rain become steady if not very heavy.  Anyway I failed to bring my camera so only took a couple cellphone pics as seen above. A nice day of bombing around Beacon Hill and I look forward to riding the Quickbeam more.

Posted from Burien, Washington, United States.

 

The BioLite Campstove considered

Written by robert on August 18th, 2013

Biolite Stove - making tea

Making tea on the Biolite Campstove

I picked up a BioLite Campstove this spring and have taken it on two short tours around Washington State: 4 day tour around SW Washington and a week+ trip to Victoria BC. I wouldn’t consider this extensive testing by any means but I can certainly offer my impressions so far.  Let me set the stage first: so far I always tour solo, self-contained and do fairly ambitious cooking. That is to say I’m not just boiling water, I’ll actually cook things where it may take a long time (like rice say), you are pretty active in the minding the cooking (like a stir fry) or you need temperature control (something like oatmeal, or the rice, etc).  I’ve been using alcohol stoves since I’ve been touring and I’m a pretty diehard Trangia fan since picking one of those up a couple years back. I also have been experimenting with electronics and charging systems for most of my tours. These experiments I’ve pretty well documented in these two posts on my blog: charging systems and charging systems revisited.

One of my recent touring goals has been one reducing overall dependency on services. Two aspects of that IMO are buying fuel and charging devices. So the BioLite seemed to offer solutions to those problems. Now as always I’ve done my research and knew that the BioLite is not going to offer much charging unless you just sat there feeding the fire for hours. However in my experience if you are serious about charging stuff what you want is an external battery and you should always keep that charged. You also should keep your devices charged as well instead of running it all the way down. The goal should be to be able to only drain your batteries in a give day as much as you can recharge in a typical day. That is if you use 10% of your smartphone battery per day you should be able to charge it 10%. So anything that offers additional charging along with its primary function is an advantage – if and only if it does the primary function well.

Biolite Stove - cooking soba

Cooking soba noodles with tofu and veg

So how does the BioLite work for cooking? I have to say not bad.  I made soba noodles the both times I used it, which is a pretty go to dish for me. However it’s not one that demands a lot of temperature control. I mean its nice to turn down your stuff once the water is boiling so it doesn’t boil over but you can deal.  You can control the fan speed on the BioLite between high and low and that gives you a rough temperature control. You also as you use it build up coals inside and you actually can have a nice lower temp burn up going.  But it’s hard to keep it at that. This is because you need to constantly feed the stove. It’s small – which is good cause otherwise you wouldn’t tour with it – but that means it doesn’t hold much wood.  For pure boiling of water from my kettle it pretty much kicked ass, at least as fast as my Trangia with kettle.

I have a style where I tend to either setup or take down my camp while cooking (if the food prep isn’t too demanding). This is true in the morning especially where I always make oat bran and coffee and can pretty much have all my gear beyond the cooking gear packed by the time breakfast is ready. This is much more difficult with the BioLite.  Since I used my Trangia cookset with the BioLite I carried it packed with the alcohol burner me and used it for breakfast cooking.

Biolite Stove - getting the water boiling

Getting the water boiling water for my Soba noodles

So my thoughts on this is that the best way to use the BioLite is to carry another stove, one that ideally fits in your cookset and thus isn’t much more bulk. One could carry less fuel in this case –  basically one bottle of HEET being the typical minimal amount I can buy. One would want to use the BioLite as much as you could but in the cases where you find no twigs – say in grassland type camping – or where you don’t want to feed the fire, or are in a rush you use your other stove.  This does bring up the last point worth mentioning. The BioLite is pretty heavy and bulky as far as it goes. Since you have to carry at least some sort of cookset along with it, your space for your cooking gear is a lot bigger. If you could use it exclusively the weight savings on carrying fuel would I think be pretty close but the bulk is unavailable. In multi-person groups I think a lot of these problems would be alleviated – the bulk is less of an issue, someone needing to constantly mind the stove is less of an issue, carrying a backup is less of an issue.

Biolite Stove - charging an external battery

Using the Biolite to charge an external battery pack

I did use it to charge my external battery on my first time using it and it worked fine. But I’d need to do a lot more experimenting with it to say how much I’d count on charging in a typical cook session. Unless you just barely use your devices I wouldn’t count on it to keep your stuff charged. But if you have another system (generator, solar or frequent mains access) it certainly will help. I did not end up using it to charge on it’s second outing as I’d forgotten my iPhone USB cable (D’oh!) and that was the only device I’d really run down. It can’t charge the iPad, hence the external battery which it CAN charge, but I think it’d be perfect for “topping off” a smartphone which I’ve come to realize the trick to self-charging devices on tour.

Biolite Stove - getting the fire going

Getting the fire going

I suppose it’s also worth noting that this is a fire you are cooking over. So there is smoke, soot and flames.  I rarely made campfires in camp myself but I do enjoy them. The BioLite does give you a nice, easy to make fire for that purposes. But you do smell like smoke and your cookgear gets a lot more dirty. As noted you also really go through the little sticks and it’s worth trying to get larger ones going after the fire is well and truly burning. I gathered a much larger supply on my second use of the stove and still found myself running through them by the time I was done.  For me I’d have to gather a pretty good stash the night before if I wanted to cook breakfast with the stove.

Anyway as I use it more I’ll post some more experiences.  In the end I think it works as advertised but there are a lot of things to consider. But this is the case with any cooking gear so everyone will have to decide what the tradeoff and benefits they are willing to make.

 

Note: I always intended to review the Biolite Stove here, but I ended up writing a long post over on the Adventure Cycling forums after my first use of the stove which I’ve based this post on.

 

Back on the road

Written by robert on June 4th, 2013

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I’m back on tour again, another shortish jaunt; this time a bit over a week. I’m heading up to Victoria, B.C. In Canada to see some experimental classical music concerts. I don’t plan to “live blog” this one but I’m thinking I’ll use Track My Tour. So if interested follow along here: Tour into Silence. I will post pics and write-up as per usual upon my return. If you are curious about the concerts I’ll be writing about them on my music blog: Wandelweiser Concert series.

Posted from Shelton, Washington, United States.