“I am losing precious days. I am degenerating into a machine for making money. I am learning nothing in this trivial world of men. I must break away and get out into the mountains to learn the news”
― John Muir
See more Quickbeam glamour shots in my Flickr Gallery: Quickbeam
For various reasons this year I’m going to have extremely limited options for bicycle touring, most likely limited to overnights and three day weekends. For me what I really love about touring is the mindset that you get into, a form of mindfulness where you are in harmony with your surroundings, bicycle and body. After all my touring I’ve found that I’ve been able to slip into this mindset on longer day rides, where I just let go of the thoughts and concerns of everyday life and just ride. I tend to have no problem coming up with rides that I like to do, but motivating to get up early and do really long rides can be lacking. This is one of the reasons why I really like the PNW summers where you can start late and still be rolling in the twilight well after 9pm. But it isn’t summer year round and so I’ve finally decided that this is the year to dabble with randonneuring.
Almost every time I return from tour, I say to myself that this year I’ll start randonneuring in order to keep my tour fitness. Hasn’t happened. But for the reasons listed above I finally made a start of it with the SIR 2015 populaire. Not a brevet, so not quite randonneuring proper, but a good start. A 200k will certainly be in the cards for this spring, but I was happy to do my first organized ride in years. Another stumbling block for me and randonneuring has been the early starts, but in the last year I’ve completely switched from being a night owl to being an early riser. Now most rando events start pretty much well after my normal rising time.
March 7th was the SIR/RUSA 100k Spring Populaire and it was a beautiful warm late winter day. It was no problem for me to ride to the start at Woodland Park about 8 miles away, arriving a good 30 minutes early. It proved to be a well attended ride with over a 100 riders pre-registered and plenty more day of registrations. I wandered around drinking the free coffee and checking out the diverse bicycles. As with any organized event, you are going to see all kinds of ‘cycles from classic 70s steel bicycles, to the au currant low-trail, big boxy bag, 650b machine, to the latest carbon fibre racing machine. Some lovely bicycles there for sure. As for myself I was riding my venerable Atlantis, but stripped down about as much as I ever had. While a populaire is not what I’d consider “big deal” distance, even with the ride to and from the start, I knew it’d be much faster than my usual “spacing out” pace.
The big group set off right at 9am riding along Green Lake in the morning sun. The day was already beginning to warm up and not too long from now I’d have to stop to remove my wool cardigan and switch to short fingered gloves. The route took us east from Greenlake – including a short gravel stretch through Cowen Park – to the U-District and onto the Lake Washington Loop. Then it was up to the I-90 Bridge Trail across to Mercer Island. By this point things had sorted themselves out, with the fast riders jackrabbiting off and the rest of us settling into little groups of similar pace. I ended up riding with a group of guys from Olympia and Seattle who were perhaps just a bit faster than I would ride, pushing me nicely the whole way.
I’ve ridden all the parts of the ride many times and had even ridden the reverse of this one last autumn (modified to start and end at home of course) so it was familiar territory. But out on this sunny winter day, pushed on by 100+ riders it was definitely a different experience. Of course there was also the controls which I’ve not had to contend with before. No big deal; you just have a card with a series of locations that you either get signed by a SIR volunteer or you answer a question proving you were at the spot. It does require you to be self-policing for the most part, but really any cheating on the routes or anything is just cheating yourself. There’s nothing to win, so no real point.
The route worked it’s way around Issaquah (where I’ve rarely ridden to without a stop at the Issaquah Brew House!) then out on some more country roads as it worked it’s way to the Cedar River Trail. We had the first Info Control just outside of the (always) quite crowded Tiger Mountain Trailhead, where had to note what was written on a particular sign. Then it was back on the road to take nice wooded roads to the Cedar River Trail. There was a short stretch here where I was riding alone and of course this was the one place where the sign for a turn was obscured and easy to miss. But I only rode fifty feet or so past it before feeling I should check it out looking back saw the sign. Glad I did as it was above to do a long steep downhill dive that I wouldn’t have appreciated backtracking on.
Where we entered the Cedar River Trail there was another control, this one stocked with snacks and water and such. I got my card signed, refilled my bottles and ate a few snacks. It was about noon at this point and I realized that not bringing some real food with me was a mistake. Snacks are fine for some quick energy but I’ve found on any decent length ride I need to eat some actual food. I compensated as best I could with peanuts and other snacks with some protein content, but pretty much figured getting to the pizza place at the finish was my best bet. So back on the bicycle and on the Cedar River Trail.
I figured the Cedar River Trail was an opportunity for some easy, fast riding to eat up some of the remaining miles before returning to the city and the several climbs to the finish point. It did begin that way, but due to a constant headwind, it slowly wore me down. That and the aforementioned lack of food made for the last few miles on the trail to be kind of a slog. Once I was in Renton though things perked up a bit. We wound through side roads until we reached the Renton Airfield and were back on the Lake WA Loop route. It’s a pretty fast ride from here into Seattle Neighborhoods though Rainier Ave is a pretty trafficked and loud route.
As we made it to the Rainier Beach portion of town there was a blocked off chunk of road, for some utility work it looked like. I hopped on the sidewalk and through a parking lot of a park to bypass it staying on route. Past that it was a bit of a climb and then a descent down to Seward Park and we were back on the edge of Lake Washington. A lot more cyclists on this stretch of road, which is certainly on of the more popular Seattle Riding destinations. It leaves the lake with a classic winding climb up in the Washington Park neighborhood and then across the arboretum. This route through the arboretum is not one I’d done before (I just typically stay on the main road through) and it was I much nicer option, though a wide paved trail across the park.
Once out of the arboretum we cross the I-520 and were back in the U-District. The route took us on a short stretch of the Burke Gillman Trail to Fremont, up Stone Way and then Fremont Ave until we had climbed up Phinney Ridge – always nice to end your ride with a good climb! Phony Ridge featured the Zeeks Pizza where the ride ended. I had completed my first SIR event at 5’20” – about middle of the pack it appears from the results.
I got into Zeeks and immediate ordered a Veggie Thai Pizza (my favorite thing from them) and a beer. Ended up hanging out with a few of the riders I’d ridden with for some of the time, plus several others. Everybody was really nice telling many a story of brevets past and speculating on those of the future. The 200k was just the next weekend, but alas I had a prior commitment. But I will be back for the next one!
Feeling really well recovered I took a different, slightly longer, route home along the Seattle Waterfront. It was packed with people of course, so I set a nice leisurely pace. The sun was going down and everything was lit with the rich light of magic hour. I was feeling pretty good after this ride, which as I suspected I did at much faster pace than normal. But of course I did have to climb Beacon Hill to get back home – as noted always good to end your ride with a good climb.
Check out all of my pictures from this ride on Flickr: Spring Populaire 2015.
Posted from Seattle, Washington, United States.
February 2005 my Rivendell Atlantis that I had ordered late 2004 arrived at my apartment in Woodinville, making it ten years old today. In the intervening years I have ridden this bicycle nearly 40,000 miles on many hundreds of commute trips, hundreds of errands, all over Washington State, across the country, into Canada, over the entirety of the Cascade Mountain range and most of the Sierra’s, in Seattle, San Francisco, Portland, Vancouver, Victoria, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Cleveland, across the Continental Divide, nearly two dozen states and provinces, countless county, state and national parks and on and on. Never has a bicycle fit me so well, or ridden so well. I’ve had other bicycles, even another Rivendell but I just ride this one. So happy birthday dear Atlantis and as promised soon I’ll be sending it back to Riv to be repainted and some minor repair.
Way back on the 8th, in this abnormally warm February, I took advantage of a Sunday afternoon to ride to West Seattle for a picnic. Not much of note to really report on the ride – it was all pretty familiar territory I’ve ridden (and written about) before. But I did end up riding behind the Macrina Bakery and was drawn in by the smell of fresh baked bread and thus acquired a baguette. Later on in West Seattle I rode up a super steep winding hill up the shopping area where i went to a Metropolitan Market. There I got some nice soft cheeses and a bit of noodle salad. I descended back to where I had climbed up on an even stepper road down. Possible the longest, steepest climb I’ve experienced in the city proper. I rode around Alki, whose trail was packed with Seattle-ites enjoying the warm winter weather, until I was to Lincoln Park. There I secured a picnic table and boiled water for tea and ate my lunch. I continued through the park and across West Seattle until I was down by the Duwamish from whence I made my way back to Beacon Hill via Georgetown. Here are a few pictures from this enjoyable Sunday afternoon. As always all my pictures can be found on Flickr: A Winter Picnic photoset.
The beginning of 2015 found me waylaid by a cold and thus I didn’t get out on my bicycle until January 5th 2015. As per my wont I didn’t get out of the house until late and I ended up doing a fairly standard ride here in the Puget Sound area: South Lake Washington Loop. I rode the anti-clockwise on the loop from the I-90 trail on the west side to the I-90 trail on the Eastside. Then I rode the south half of the loop around Mercer Island before return to the westside. Two days later I did the North Lake Washington Loop again in between the I-90 trail and this time the north half of the Mercer Island Loop. It has been clear and cold with an inversion layer keeping in fog and smog, which presented some pretty views which I’ll present some photos of here with captions. For more pictures check out my First Rides 2015 photoset on Flickr.
Looking down at Beacon Hill, Seattle and in the distance the Olympics
At Seward Park looking at Mount Rainier across Lake Washington
The end of the 2014 has been marked by unusually wet and warm weather (pineapple express!) interspersed with unusually dry, clear and cold. Sure it’s not the approaching absolute zero of the midwest or what have you, but it’s been cold. However I wanted to get in one last ride for 2014, plus I needed to get some ingredients for a New Years potluck and I’ve had those coffee outside plans hanging fire so on NYE’s I set out for a little jaunt around the city.
As always I set out late, so I rode across Beacon Hill, stopping only once at a stairway that gave me the above view of snow speckled Cascade Mountains. It’s only been four months since my summer tour in the mountains, and I have to say I’ve been pining for them a bit. Both the Cascades and the Olympics, snow covered, but well below average, are really looking lovely on these crisp, icy blue days.
After this brief photoshoot I rode down the hill into the ID where I picked up Spicy Tofu Bánh mì for lunch at the always great Chu Minh Tofu & Vegetarian Deli. From the ID it was a short jaunt though Pioneer Square and the interminable construction to the waterfront where I had a wintery picnic.
On the water there was stunning views of the Olympic Mountains across the Sound and Mount Rainier to the South, somewhat obscured by the Port and haze. While I was eating a train that was just five engines steamed up the nearby tracks. After lunch I took some pictures on the beach, but the cold air and fell winds soon pushed me back onto the bicycle. It was one of those days where you long for the climbs to warm you up and dread those icy descents.
I rode up the Elliot Bay Trail and then did the a clockwise loop around the Magnolia neighborhood. This begins with a good climb up to Magnolia Avenue which hugs the bluffs above the sound. Some nice views south and west of the Sound, West Seattle, the Peninsula and the Olympics. I kept moving though and when the road turned inward a bit I took a residential road that dived down right to sea level and then pretty quickly followed was a steep climb out. This brought me to Discovery Park which I pretty much just rode across and through until I was back on the scenic loop route.
I cut over to the Ballard Locks and as I was about to descend down to the locks proper I noticed a little secluded picnic area. I decided to pull off over there and finally have make my coffee out of doors. Third time is the charm! It was much cooler in the shade (and it wasn’t that warm to begin with in the sun!) so I was pretty happy when the coffee was bile’d and I sat for a spell enjoying it in the company of Ryōkan.
Even though this was a pretty isolated part of the park a few people did come through. A homeless guy came through and I chatted with him a bit. Mainly about the cold weather, but he was also curious if I’d seen his buddy on a ten-speed. I had not. He wandered off and I read this poem:
In town I finish begging for food.
Content, I carry the cloth bag,
wondering which place to call home.
Could that be my home near the white cloud?
My coffee drained I was rapidly cooling down, so I packed up and headed down to the locks. There were people out at all the parks I visited on this day. It may be cold, but it is sunny and many people are off – I’m not the only one wanting to get outside. The locks were active as I was down there, a series of boats cruising into one of the locks and then slowly rising up as they are brought to the level the lake. A series of announcements from the Lock commander gave everything a bureaucratic edge.
I walked my bicycle across the locks and through the park grounds and I was back on my bicycle. I rode through town and onto the Burke-Gillman Trail, which has a new separated bikeway in one of the previously more dangerous spots in Ballard. I took the trail to Fremont, where I stopped at the PCC and took care of that shopping I had to do. I loaded my groceries into my front basket – my saddlebag had my cooking kit and daybag in it – and in the now setting sun I began to make my way home. I took a mix of the BGT, waterfront roads to the U-District where I was able to take my old commute route.
The sun had set as I climbed up Capitol Hill but there was this layered yellow-orange-red glow outlining the Olympic Mountains deep in shadow above the Space Needle and the Seattle skyline. Glorious. Since the traffic seemed fairly low on this NYE’s I rode on broadway and the entire length of the newish cycle track. There was still a glow in the sky behind Sodo and the distant mountains as I crossed the Jose Rizal Bridge and began my climb up to Beacon Hill. I arrived home around 5:25 in nearly total darkness after having ridden just over 25 miles on this cold, New Years Eve. A fitting end to 2014.
See and realize
that this world
is not permanent.
Neither late nor early flowers
As I noted in my Solstice Ride post, I’d set out with the thought of walking along the shore and making some coffee (or tea) in the out of doors. That did’t end up happening as my wandering nature got the best of me and the lure of exploring new territory proved stronger. With the weather predicted to turn clear and much colder over the next week, plus frankly I’ve been feeling a bit sedentary these days, I set out yesterday amidst heavy clouds, wind and threatened rain on a second attempt at making coffee out of doors.
I’ve been contemplating taking part in an organized ride (!) next year that begins in the AM in Redmond so I thought I’d ride there and gauge the miles and and time that would require. But the straight shot there isn’t super scenic so I decided I’d ride to and around the east side of Lake Sammamish. There I’d be able to stop at the park and make my coffee.
There were gashes of blue sky amidst the layers of grey clouds and low black clouds blowing in on the wind. This rainy weather coming in was warmer, if not warm, and the hilly route over Mercer Island kept me warm enough. Exiting Mercer Island I continued on the I-90 Trail to Issaquah. Here I encountered Lake Sammamish State Park, but decided I’d stop a bit further on, on the east side of the lake. From Issaquah I was able to hop on the East Lake Sammamish Trail which pretty quickly took me to the Lake Sammamish State Park and boat launch where I’d planned to stop. But there were no picnic tables there so I decided to press on to Marymoor park.
Back on the trail, which is newly paved inside Issaquah city limits, but the moment you cross into the city of Sammamish it reverts to the old hard packed gravel. At which point I returned to the road. I hadn’t been on the road long when I saw a cyclist pushing his ride up from the trail and he yelled out to me. I looped around a turned out he had a flat and had neglected to bring 5mm allen wrench to remove his front wheel. I of course had my multi-tool and helped him out. He was a pretty fast tire changer so it wasn’t that long before I was back on the road.
Following the edge of a lake the road has it’s ups and downs. The wind had shifted too, so what had been a cross/tail wind was now more of a head wind. But I was in trees enough that the wind wasn’t much of a problem, but it had blown in low, dark grey clouds and as I pulled into Marymoor Park, it was quite dark, though still an hour and half before sunset. I wanted to make my coffee on the lake so I made an executive decision that I’d ride a loop around Lake Sammamish and make my coffee at Idylwood Park just on the west side of lake. But as I pulled into the main parking area of Marymoor park the skies open up and a real downpour began. I rode to the park concession building which had large eves. There were two other cyclists sheltering there along with a couple arguing in Russian. We all waited out the worst of the downpour but set off one by one as it slackened.
At this point I abandoned my plans to ride around the lake – not a bad road but in twilight and pouring rain I figured a more direct route was advisable. Plus I ended up taking that direct route I had wanted to judge the timing of. This route follows the 520 Trail to the outskirts of Bellevue and then takes more out of the way roads to where it intersects with the Lake Washington Loop route which then connects to the I-90 trail. During this ride the rain slowed and there was just showers on and off for most of the rest of the way. I was about to cross onto Mercer Island the sun set and through gaps in the clouds at the horizon I could see the orange, purple and yellow glow.
I was back on the I-90 trail and simply reversed my earlier route across Mercer Island and then onto the Beacon Hill Greenway. It was after five pm, just fully dark and my odometer ticked over to 41 miles as I rolled to my front door. Once again I failed in my making coffee out of doors, but it was a satisfying ride on a gloomy winter day.
Winter Solstice on Puget Sound
I was inclined to take a ride in the short amount of sunlight available on the Winter Solstice and thought I’d head to the beach at West Seattle and bile up some coffee. I loaded up my trusty Atlantis with my camp stove, alcohol, some coffee (also tea, in case I decided I was done with coffee for the day by the time I pulled over), put on my winter ride togs and set off just a bit before noon. I decided that I should get lunch in West Seattle before any other activities so I took the most direct route there. I exited Beacon Hill on Columbia which is pretty much a direct I-5 and West Seattle Bridge entrance. I thought there was an exit that wouldn’t put me on either of those highways but as I descended past the point of no return I became less sure. I decided to just press on figuring I could get off the first exit on the West Seattle Bridge if I had to. It being Sunday, noon-ish, there wasn’t a lot of traffic which made these decisions easier. I always think one needs to take a certain amount of chances when on is riding, especially on routes. This one worked out okay as before I was on the West Seattle Bridge proper I was able to exit onto Spokane Street. From there it was a straight shot (with a short jaunt around a stationary train blocking the way) to the Alki Trail.
Atlantis in front of West Seattle’s most distinctive building
Over the Duwamish and onto another trail to Avalon and then the long slow climb up to downtown West Seattle. I rode down California street, past the Sunday Farmers Market, to where it intersects with Fauntlaroy where I stopped at Zeeks Pizza for lunch. While I’m mostly a Neapolitan Pizza kind of guy Zeeks makes this Thai Pizza, that barely counts as a pizza, but I find myself needing to have every so often. Being out of their delivery radius in my current dwelling this seemed like a good opportunity to avail myself of this fine item. The Thai “pizza” is a pizza crust with peanut sauce, cheese and then Thai approrpriate veggies: broccoli, red onions, green peppers, bean sprouts, julienned carrots, cilantro and so on. Such a great thing. Since pizza – even if it’s basically Thai-fusion flatbread – requires beer so I paired it with a Reubens Brews Roasted Rye IPA, which had distinctive rye notes and was appropriately winterly robust.
I didn’t linger overly long at Zeeks and was soon enough back on the road and heading down Fauntleroy toward Lincoln Park where I’d initially thought I’d get back on the Alki Trail and find a beach to bile up my coffee. But it was only a mile or two away from where I’d just had lunch so I thought I’d keep heading south on the coast and stop at a convenient park when I felt moved for coffee. I passed the ferry terminal and then there was a pretty good climb up from sea-level. Trying to stay on the coast I stair stepped through little residential streets until I was on Marine Drive. There were plenty of big houses on the bluffs above the water but not much by way of parks or access to the beach. But it was nice riding with the occasional great views of the sound. At one point way up ahead I could see a point sticking way out into the sound. It looked too far away to ride to on this short day, but I filed it away for future explorations.
The road curved inland to make it’s way around a cove and I noticed that I was on a route used for some bicycle ride with an ‘R’ symbol in it’s Dan Henry’s. As I’ve related many times in these pages, following random Dan Henry’s is a favorite pastime of mine so once again I set off on unknown routes. I was in suburbia now with the occasional busier arterial, but clearly this route was working it’s way toward that point I saw. There was several good climbs on this route but it flattened out as I came into Burien. Old Town Burien, which I can’t ever recall having visited, looks pretty nice. A brewpub of the Elliot Bay Brewery, numerous good looking coffee shops, several books and a big brand of the Seattle Public Library all along the main drag. I kept following the Dan Henry’s even though the sun was waning and it had really clouded up from the days earlier partial cloudiness. I even felt a few drops of rain.
Dwindling sun over the sound on this, the shortest day of the year
The Dan Henry’s led me into the woods and down a real steep winding road, that I was hoping I wouldn’t have to climb out of. It opened up, right at sea level on the sound. I rounded that point I saw earlier and snapped the above pictures. Wind was blowing from the south, it was pretty cloudy now and much cooler. But I’d soon heat up as I climbed back up to Burien. Thankfully it wasn’t a there-and-back and the road and the Dan Henry’s hugged the water before climbing back up. At last I reached a point where the marked route was heading back down to the water and further south where I felt I had to start making my way back home. I pulled up Google Maps and found that I could return to 4th Ave which I’d ridden into Burien and follow it almost all the way up the Duwamish Valley. So this I did.
4th went up and down and there was definitely some traffic on this route but it had either bicycle lanes, or a mostly empty parking strip most of the way, so on a Sunday afternoon it was fine enough. It more or less ended at Westcrest Park where you could either head east into South Park or West into White Center. I rode through the park on dirt trails – which was good fun – and then through residential neighborhoods until I dove down into the valley and onto the Duwamish Trail. From there it was an easy jaunt over the 1st Ave Bridge and into Georgetown. Pretty deep into dusk now, I made my way toward I-5 where I had previously scouted a signed bicycle route up to Beacon Hill. This worked out well and I soon crossed I-5 and was up onto the Beacon Hill Greenway. I made it back to my pad right as the sun was sinking below the horizon, lighting up the clouds a dark orange.
This rather aimless route turned out to be really great, with certainly a few sections I would tweak for a longer ride. Those Dan Henry’s I was following I ended up seeing again when I was on the Duwamish Trail. I figure that route followed to coast perhaps as far as Dash Point State Park and then cut east to the Green River Trail where it would eventually connect with the Duwamish Trail where I encounter those symbols. That would be a pretty great ride and I want to get back out there and do the whole thing. But that would certainly require more daylight than I allowed on this day, but could very well be a good winter ride.
I put the route up on to RideWithGPS as you can see below. My odo stated 31.1 miles for the ride and the below route is as well, so I think I recalled the route pretty well.
As the days get shorter and the temperatures lower I’ve found that I’ve been enjoying taking little short rides on my Quickbeam. I’m generally more of long exploratory ramble kind of guy, but I often set out late as the mood strikes. In the winter that leads to my riding being a lot more utility based, or the occasional pre-planned more “epic” outing. But since I’ve moved to the Beacon Hill neighborhood in South Seattle, I find short rambles in this still fairly new to me region to be a nice way to squeeze some riding into the minimal daylight.
The city as seen from Jefferson Park on Beacon Hill
Riding around Seattle, which is plenty hilly, on the Quickbeam I found doable but wasn’t loving it. So last spring right before I set out on tour I converted it to a three speed. I had a wheel built with a Sturmey-Archer S3x fixed three speed hub, to which I put on a freewheel cog. Then it was simply a matter of running cable up to a bar end shifter. I did take some care with this, using nice brackets where I could as this is a “permanent” change as far as I’m concerned. With the tour looming I abandoned the project, nearly complete but needing a lot of fine tuning. Well I’ve mostly got it dialed in now and I really love it as a three-speed. It’s still a bit of effort to get up some hills and of course some of the steepest require the “fourth gear” (i.e. pushing) but that’s all part of the charm. The Albatross bars have taking some getting used to, but I love just rambling around the neighborhood, perched up high checking things out. Perfect right for running errands, or like on this day, just head out for a couple of hours in the dwindling late autumn sun.