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NYE 2017

Saturday, January 13th, 2018
NYE 2017 Ride - NFE In Medina

NFE with Mt. Rainier in the distance

 

New Years Eve in Seattle was clear and cool and as I had returned just the day before from a week of visiting family I was itching for a ride. With the limited sunlight and not being able to start until after lunch time I knew I had to do something short and sweet.  A loop over the new trail over the new 520 Bridge and back on the “classic” I-90 trail was just the thing.

NYE 2017 Ride - Volunteer Park Conservatory

Volunteer Park Conservatory

I’d had lunch in Capitol Hill and then worked my way up to Volunteer Park.  A sunny Sunday is always a recipe for Seattle-ites getting out and there were plenty of people in the Park. Including the SCA engaging in some swordplay. From the park I worked my way to the Lake Washington Loop which now has an offshoot onto the 520 trail.

NYE 2017 Ride - Looking east alongside the bridge

Looking east alongside the bridge toward the Cascade Mountains

On this clear winter day the Olympic Mountains were prominent to the West and the Cascade’s standing tall to the West.  My beloved Mt. Baker was standing guard over the north end of Lake Washington and the always magnificent Mt. Rainier dominating the south end of the lake.  Views like this is why I love the PNW so much.

NYE 2017 Ride - Mount Baker across the lake

Mount Baker across Lake Washington

The new trail is really excellent and shows you want updated standards and regulations will bring. About twice as wide as the I-90 Trail, it easily accommodated both pedestrians and bicyclers heading both directions.  There are nice pullouts with benches to allow you to soak in the views to the north.  At the east end once you climb up off the floating segment is a nice new overlook mini-park.

NYE 2017 Ride - New Eastside overlook over 520 Bridge

New Eastside overlook over 520 Bridge

From the trail I made my way through Medina to old Bellevue and then hooked back on the Lake Washington Loop to the I-90 trail.  All familiar territory though I don’t get out to the Eastside like I once did. I stopped in Medina at the waterfront park near the city hall to take in the fantastic view of Mount Rainier.

NYE 2017 Ride - Mount Rainier from Medina

Mount Rainier from Medina

By the time I reached Mercer Island and was crossing the last stretch of bridge the sun was behind Beacon Hill and Mt. Rainier had the backlit carved appearance that was even more stunning. Too bad my camera was packed away at that point! But I wanted to get home before dark anyway so I pressed on making it in deep gloaming.  A really nice quick loop that adds a middle option to the previous North and South Lake Washington Loops. It’s about 23 miles total from Beacon Hill in the route I took, which on this day was just right.

Check out my NYE 2017 photo album on Flickr.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 5

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 5 - Olympic Mountains Reflections

The last day of this all too short tour was another perfect summer day.  Blue skies, streak with thin white clouds, the temperatures warm but not too hot.  It was going to be a pretty short day, so there wasn’t much of a need to rush. However I wanted to be in Bremerton for lunch so while I didn’t rush I didn’t linger too long either. My companion in the hiker-biker site hadn’t caused any trouble and we only exchanged pleasantries before he rode off for the day. He had told the ranger yesterday that he’d pay for another night after returning from town today.  I never asked but I can’t deny some curiosity as to what this guys story was.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 5 - Looking back up Hood Canal

I’ve certainly noted in these page how much I enjoy riding on Hwy 106, especially on a weekday morning when there is little traffic. Well today was one of those ideal days on this canal side highway.  Beautiful views of Hood Canal, the Tahuya hills across the water and in the distance the Olympic Mountains.  The blue sky was streaked with thin white clouds.    Things were still, there wasn’t much wind and the canal was calm, allowing for the reflections to have a high degree of fidelity to the original. Which is the original anyway?

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 5 - Seattle Ahoy!

Highway 106 ends at Belfair, of which there is nothing to write home about.  However the Old Belfair Hwy, is a nice route rolling gently through farmland and woodland all the way to Bremerton.  I was on track to get to the city by 12:30 or so, so it was able to really enjoy this ride.  Old Belfair turns into West Belfair Valley road at a certain point and then there is along descent where it is near highway 3, which is the direct route between Belfair and Bremmerton. I’ve ridden 3 as well and while there is a huge shoulder and it’s relatively flat, it is just punishing with all the traffic.  West Belfair valley is much more preferable and while I oft hit 3 for the final segment into Bremerton this time I took the Adventure Cycling route which has a punishing climb up the valley walls and into hills west of Bremerton.  From there you descend into town just past the Navy Shipyard turnoff.   I arrived in town a bit before 1pm stopped for lunch and then rode that last hill into downtown Bremerton and the ferry terminal. I caught the 1:45 ferry to Seattle.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 5 - NFE on the Ferry

This crossing was less eventful then the one that began this trip.  I mostly stayed inside and journaled, but as many times as I’ve been on the ferries I have to go outside and take in the views.  It remained a lovely day with just enough clouds to keep things interesting.  It was the end of my trip and it felt to me like it was just getting started.  I’d like to spend more time in Olympic National Park, but riding the forest roads and hiking the many trails.  This trip was a good survey of at least one part of the park. I’ve ridden all around the peninsula on several occasions and I have a good sense of the ride out to all corners.  It is past time that I begin to make forays into the interior.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 5 - Farewell to the Olympics

Photos from this day: Olympic Mountain Dreams day 5
All photos from this tour: Olympic Mountain Dreams

WTS #6 – a Rainy Ramble

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016
WTS #6 - NFE at Brown Point

NFE at Brown Point

I missed out on three of the Winter Training Series rides since the last one I did, but made it to Number Six last weekend. I can only make it to the rides that I can ride to, or conveniently take public transit and for this years WTS quite a few of the rides do not fall within that criteria. That included this one, but when I mentioned that to some friends they suggested I use their car while they were in Europe.  I took them up on this offer and on a cloudy Saturday morning found myself driving to Kent. It was predicted to be overcast in the AM and cloudy in the afternoon but as I drove out there, Mount Rainier peeked out beneath the clouds. It is in it’s great late winter cloak, all soft and white with fresh snow. It was obscured but the cloud by the time I reached the starting point at the Soos Creek trailhead so I never was able to capture a photograph.

WTS #6

WTS #6 route on RideWithGPS

It was recommended that you park at a school about a half mile away as the trailhead had only a tiny parking lot. I did so and rode down to the trailhead where there turned out to be plenty of parking. There was probably fifteen or so people there, all bedecked out in their Showers Pass Jackets. As per the last time it was a mix of the Rando and Roadie crowd.  I’d arrived just a few minutes before the roll out so I checked in, used the facilities returning as the ride leader was giving the route overview. Minutes later we left right at 9:01.

WTS #6 - At the start

Sign in

The route wended it’s way through suburban Kent, working it’s way over I-5 and then to the coast just below Des Moines.   Once again not being much of a group rider I kept toward the back. After a couple of unfortunate red lights I’d lost sight of most of the group.  Of course since I use these rides as motivation to get out early and do a pre-planned route I don’t tend to worry much about. Also stopping to take photos doesn’t help you keep up with the never-leave-the-saddle crowd. So it pretty quickly was a solo ride for me and I was really pleased to do this one as it pretty much continued on with a route I’ve followed a few times from West Seattle to Des Moines.  That route I always figured continued to follow the coast to Dash Point and then turned eastward to cross the I-5 and hook up with the Green River Trail to SoDo.  Well this route more or less interested that route just a bit south of where I’ve ended it. And indeed the Dan Henry’s were on the ground and we often were following that route.

WTS #6 - Redondo Beach coastline

Redondo Beach coastline

So this route had a bunch of new territory for me which is always a major selling point.  Once we hit the coast of the Puget Sound it was a screaming descent down winding roads to Redondo Beach. Here I began stopping to take more photographs thus insuring I’d never catch up with the group.  I’d last seem them a ways ahead of me just before this descent. I also passed a roadie changing a tire, but he didn’t require any assistance so I rode on.  It was pretty much all clouded up now and one could see darker rain clouds rolling in from the south.  The route hugged the coast and there was several really stiff climbs followed by curvy descents. Great riding.

WTS #6 - Lighthouse

Brown Point Lighthouse

I took a slight detour off the route, caused by a rather unclear direction, but it actually was a better choice as it stayed on the coast and intersected the busy road that the route used a bit further on. This busy road took me to Dash Point and while it was pretty trafficked there was a terrific section that was all winding and mostly down hill.  Back in the woods, with peekaboo views of the coast I passed Dash Point State Park. I stopped for a photo and while I did so the roadie who’d had the flat passed me by. Taking my time!  Anyway I didn’t really check out the State Park but noted it had camping – I’ll have to do an overnighter here sometime. From Dash Point it was more ups and downs to Browns Point where I again had to leave the route to check out the Browns Point Lighthouse.

WTS #6 - Port of Tacoma across the sound

Port of Tacoma across the Sound

Browns Point is in Tacoma, the first time I’ve ridden into that city (though only on the margins here). However at this point the route climbed up from this coast and turned eastward into Federal Way. The highlight here was riding on the BPA Trail which I hadn’t been on before. This was no flat rail trail; no it is a power line trail that cut due east following whatever the terrain did. Unlike most power line trails it was fully paved, though there were lots of dirt and gravel “cut-offs” throughout. 

WTS #6 - On the BPA trail

On the BPA trail

At the end of the trail it was just a little bit though edge city until I made my way under I-5.  Here I was right by the old Weyerhaeuser Headquarters which is a famously green building (even if the company isn’t) and is another place I’ve seen only from the road and have long been curious about. It had began to drizzle around the time I exited the BPA trail and at this point was a fairly steady rain. Pretty good gusts of wind from the Southeast too as that flag demonstrates.

WTS #6 - Old Weyerhouse building

Old Weyerhouse building

After working my way around the Weyerhaeuser campus and there was some bits through far exurbia and then a long descent back down to the Rainier Valley and shortly into Auburn. I stopped at the Auburn transit center and ate some lunch that I had brought with me.  Now I was back into rather familiar territory. The Interurban (South) trail runs through Auburn and you turn off here for many rides in Southeast King County. WTS #6 followed the route to Flaming Geyser State Park which I’ve ridden to two or three times. The bulk of this time is spent on Green Valley Road and it was steady rain and wind that whole time.  Out here in the valleys and foothills there is a lot of signs of spring’s imminent arrival. The Green River (and later Soos Creek) was swollen and pushing outside it’s banks, there was standing water in many a farmers fields. Today’s rain wasn’t slowing that process down.

Exiting the Green River valley involves some quality climbing, the last real climbing of this ride.  Once I finally crested the valley walls it was a pretty short stint to Black Diamond where I stopped at the bakery. I ingested some calories, changed to a dry pair of socks and pretty shortly continued on my way. From Black Diamond it pretty much is all down hill / rolling hills to Kent. This was mostly on the Kent-Black Diamond road, which has a good should but is pretty busy.  But it was fast riding, though again raining the while time.  Finally I popped onto the Soos Creek Trail which I rode back to the trailhead where it all started. Another first time on a trail for me, this one is a real gem. In wooded green space the whole route, with the (flooding) Soos Creek and wetlands among the trees and fields it went through.  Not a really long trail but a great one. Still I was happy to reach the end and ride the short distance to where I was parked.

Total distance ridden: 109km
All my photos from this ride are here: WTS #6 Album.

WTS #2

Sunday, January 24th, 2016
WTS #2 - Riding Dirty
Riding Dirty

Saturday January 16th I left my place on Beacon Hill a bit after 8am and rode across Mercer Island and south on Lake Washington to Newcastle Beach Park. I was meeting an ad hoc group of SIR and CBC members engaged in the second of six Winter Training Rides.  Most of these rides are a bit too far away for me to ride to, thus I’m only dipping into the series.  I wasn’t able to do last weeks ride (though ironically due to ice it was shifted to noon which I could have easily made, but by then other plans had been made).

WTS #2 - Riders AssemblingRiders assembled

When I got up this morning it was pouring rain, but I was committed and pressed on with my morning routine. But the time I left my apt it was just a heavy mist.  It was mist and very light drizzle all the way to Newcastle Beach Park. I arrived about fifteen minutes before roll out – just about right. I’d registered online, so they just had to check my name off a list.  The drizzle increased a bit at this point.  There was maybe sixteen riders or so a mix of rando’s and club riders predominately wearing Showers Pass jackets. We rolled out right at nine and as we climbed out of the park a couple of riders were coming down the hill. They simple swung around and joined the pack.

WTS #2 Route

WTS #2 Route

I rather pushed myself to get to the park before the start of the ride, so I tried to pace myself for this ride. Thus I pretty quickly fell toward the back of the pack, riding in the back quarter for most of the early part of the ride.  When I’d first glanced at the route (see above) I felt that it was mostly on roads that I was familiar with. Well while I was familiar with most of the regions we were riding in, I was familiar with probably only half or two-thirds or so of the roads. So within fifty miles of Seattle there was a lot of new riding!  It began on the Lake Washington Loop but at Renton it forewent the typical route through town to the Cedar River Trail and instead cut through the east side of town and up to the Renton Hills.  This stiff climb separated out some of those riders for whom the WTS was their first ride of the winter.  Not being in great riding shape myself at this point at least my bicycle is geared for these hills. I’d fallen behind the pack due to hitting a series of red lights in Renton – I was riding with just one other rider on a Disc Trucker – but now I was back in the back third of the pack.

WTS #2 - Cedar River
Crossing the Cedar River

We entered a park and at the end of the park there was a really unclear jog on the map and I ended up going the wrong way. I figured this out after about a km and climbed back up the hill and was back on track.  But I would never catch up to the main pack again.  The route now descended down to the valley and I crossed 109 and onto the Cedar River Trail for just a couple of kms. Then left the trail, crossed the Cedar River and followed the excellent Jone Rd along the river for a spell. This was great country riding, not to far from the Renton-Maple Valley freeway, but with the Cedar River between you and the highway you could barely sense it. Steep, wooded valley walls to the north and the little farms and the river to the south. The route wound around the river with ups and downs and was just nice riding.

I crossed the highway again and then the route climbed the southern valley walls. This was a good stiff climb and part the way up I encountered another rider checking his cell phone.  He said he though he was the back of the back and I said I’d taken a wrong turn. He asked if we were supposed to turn at the next road and I replied that it looked like we were on this road for a while. I continued up this hill for a while and it was a tough climb and I was feeling my lack of riding.  At the top I had to stop and eat an apple I’d brought. The roadie continued on, but not long after I set out again I encountered him again checking his phone. He said he just was unsure where we were. So he followed me for a while occasionally pulling ahead and then double checking his phone. Finally we entered Covington and he said “Now I know where we are. I’m back on track again, thanks to you” and he took off. I stopped at the AM/PM to refill my water bottles and to eat some lunch I’d brought.

WTS #2 - Trestle on the Cedar River
Trestle on the Cedar River

After this stop for lunch I knew I was pretty much never going to catch back up to the pack, so I pretty much switched into solo riding mode.  The route skirted the rest of Covington and then climbed up to a plateau.  The riding was in that kind of forested exurban neighborhoods you find around here. Fairly busy roads, a decent amount of houses, most of them with pretty big yards. Not much density. I was on a pretty busy arterial when I heard that sound you hear when a pebble shoots out from your tired. But it sounded more like a puncture. A couple of blocks further on it was clear it was a puncture.  Well that’s the price of these lightweight, “supple” tires.  I pulled over and made the change.  I have to say their is definitely an advantage in disc brakes for the tire change.  I had some trouble with this new small pump I’d brought but hadn’t really used. Eventually though everything was back and I was about ready to head off. At that point a rider stopped checking on me and he, and two others, turned out to be later joiners to the ride.  They rode on and I never saw them again either.

Not much further on from the tire change the route descended into Maple Valley and was in territory I was familiar with, but on a different route. It crossed the Green To Cedar Rivers trail, a soft surface trail that connects to the Cedar River Trail that I’ve ridden on a few times and then ran on back roads to the actual junction of those two trails. It was kind of neat to be on this side road I’ve seen many times from the Cedar River Trail. Eventually though the road joined up with the Renton-Maple Valley highway and ran on it for a short time.  I missed a turn that was almost immediately off the highway so I rode on it a little further and took the next exit and doubled back a bit. It began to rain at this point.

I was now on very familiar roads as this is a route I’ve done many times connected Issaquah to the Cedar River trail. It climbs up over the valley wall and then onto high farmland. You take the Issaquah-Hobart road the bulk of the way. This road is pretty busy as drivers have figured out this nice back way between Renton and Issaquah but it makes for okay riding. Hobart literally has one store and a church and is about the most quintessential small country town around. Before reaching Issaquah the route turned west on May Valley Road. This is another great riding road that alas is a bit overly trafficked. I tend to enjoy it more coming west to east (and in the summer!) which is a bit more downhill, but more because you are on the open side of the valley which is all fields and farmland. These lowlands were all quite flooded on this day and in the now pretty strong rain it wasn’t abetted.

WTS #2 - NFE at Squak Mountain
Taking a break at Squak Mt. St. Park

As I made my way up May Valley, the rain which had been pretty heavy for the last hour or so petered out and there was even some gaps of blue and bright sun. There would be a pattern of sun, clouds and rain for the rest of the ride.  I pulled over a Squak Mountain State Park for a short break and to use the facilities but from there it was pretty much a straight shot home.  My left knee was hurting a bit and I wasn’t sure if it was just being out of shape, or that the still relatively new NFE was precisely adjusted or an old injury to it flaring up. Probably all three.  The pain would come and go but made this last stage a bit unpleasant.  There was one last new bit of riding for me and that was into the Newcastle Hills.   The route seemed to inexplicably turn off the standard way back to Lake Washington and up a super steep hill right into a gated community.  But once up that hill the route wended it’s way through suburbia eventually onto a narrow one way road that skirted a greenspace and then joined Lake Washington Blvd. A very clever backroad route back to the Lake WA. Loop!

I didn’t bother riding back down into Newcastle Beach Park, certain that the ride was long done. I continued on and backtracked my route there: Lake Washington Loop, I-90 Trail, cross Mercer Island, Mountain to Sound trail then the Beacon Hill Greenway back home.  I made it back a bit after 4pm in dwindling light.

I ended up riding 126km (~78.4mi) total of which 93.5km (~58mi)  was the WTS route plus my off-route additions

A few pictures from this ride (iPhone pics alas) can be found in my WTS #2 album on flickr.

420/Easter Ramble

Friday, April 25th, 2014

4-20 Easter Ride - Atlantis at the Locks

Atlantis at the Ballard Locks

It’s rare that these two significant holidays occur on the same day but instead of celebrating either I went for a rambling ride along Seattle waterways. The weekend had been rather grey and rainy and Sunday was expected to be similar but with that spring like character of occasional sun breaks. I’d been hankering for a ride as I’d spent the last weekend (which, of course, had been the nicest of the year to date) sick and was still feeling a bit weak and tired from that. When I got out of doors it was warmer than expected and while grey it was those high thin clouds the sun burned through.

4-20 Easter Ride - Looking west

On the Seattle Waterfront looking West

I rode through the ID and down to the Seattle Waterfront. The waterfront is under a huge amount of development with the former viaduct being torn down, a tunnel built under, the seawall being replaced and a park built downtown. Considering it’s a massive tourist zone makes for fairly chaotic riding. I stuck with riding on Alaskan Way except for a few bits where I was directed onto new Bicycle/Walkways.  It being Sunday morning and Easter/420 it wasn’t all that bad. So I headed to Elliot Bay Trail at the entrance by the Olympic Sculpture Park.

4-20 Easter Ride - rocks

Seaside rocks on the Seattle Waterfront

I’ve ridden this trail many times but this time as I neared the end, where I was going to begin a loop around Magnolia, I decided to do a clockwise loop instead of the usual anti-clockwise.  So I hung a left on a spur on the trail and noted that it had an extension to Smith Cove Park. Well I’ve never ridden this section before! This turned out to be a fairly short stretch (less than a mile for sure) that wended around the rail yard on the east and a bluff on the right to this little park tucked in-between the industrial waterfront and a marina. I hung out at the park for a bit taking photos, reading and relaxing. The little park was empty when I arrived but three other bicyclers arrived whilst I was there.

4-20 Easter Ride - Atlantis at Smith Cove

Atlantis at Smith Cove

Feeling slightly well when autumn comes

Not yet disappeared
like a dewdrop
on a blade of grass,
I am still in this floating world,
moon in the morning.
-Ryōkan

4-20 Easter Ride - The tide is out

The tide is out

From Smith Cove Park, I rode down to the marina which also had a little park there and then I rode back on the Elliot Bay Trail spur and then took the exit for a clockwise loop around Magnolia. This begins with a nice climb up that bluff I’d just been under and then it was gentle ups and downs most of the way around to Discovery Park.

4-20 Easter Ride - Lighthouse side view

Lighthouse at Discovery Park

I rode through Discovery Park and then made my way down to the Lighthouse. This is down a narrow, steep road which always promises a nice slog up from the shore. Down at the beach there was more people than I’d seen so far, but the holidays I think kept it from being too packed. I spent a good bit of time on the shore, enjoying the pleasant weather and being on the water. I walked around the lighthouse and then sat on a log and read and watched for a spell.

4-20 Easter Ride - mud

The beach

If I had known
how sorrowful this world is,
I would have become
grass or a tree
in a deep mountain!
-Ryōkan

4-20 Easter Ride - Ballard Locks

Balard Locks

I made my way up the steep hill back into the park and rode some of the parks trail and closed roads to the northeast entrance from which it was a quick jog through the neighborhoods and along the Ship Canal to the Ballard Locks. You have to walk your bicycle across the locks and on summer days the narrow walkways can be tough to get through – especially if there are people pushing bicycles through both ways. Today though, once again, it wasn’t too crowded even though now the clouds had burned off and it was sunny and warm.

4-20 Easter Ride - Ballard Locks spillway

Ballard Locks spillway

I lingered going through the locks, stopping at each of the sections to look into the water or take some pictures. But soon enough I pushed my bicycle through the park and reaching NW 54th Street I saddled up and begin to ride toward home. I cut though the industrial bits of Ballard to the Burke Gillman Trail, which was as busy as ever on a nice weekend day. I rode the trail into the U-District and there dropped off it and stuck with streets that were on the Ship Canal to the Montlake Bridge. I then followed the Lake Washington Loop along Lake Washington until I rode up the hill to the I-90 Trail which I rode to the ID and then it was back home.

Check out all the pictures I’ve posted from this ride: 420/Easter Ride.
The poetry of Ryōkan is from Sky Above, Great Wind, translated Kazuaki Tanahashi

Saving Daylight Ride

Saturday, 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…

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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.

Rainy February Ride

Tuesday, 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

An Autumn Mixed-Terrain Ride

Sunday, 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.

Autumn ride around the sound

Tuesday, 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

Winter Picnic (and beyond)

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

Circumnavigating Capitol Forest - Shadow Rider

Shadow Rider

January was pretty bleak this year with some quite cold weather here in Olympia. I can’t deny the impulse to hunker down and hibernate in these conditions. The rains came back and it warmed up a bit but while I’m always game to ride in the rain it doesn’t really inspire one to all day rides. As the month waned I began to do a few more lengthy rides including a near all day ride in the rain. But word that Groundhog Day would be dry, partially sunny and in the low fifties got me itching for a more ambitious ride. What I wanted to do was ride into the woods and have a picnic.

Circumnavigating Capitol Forest - The State Capitol Dome in the distance

Capitol Dome in the distance

I cobbled together a route using a SIR permanent with some tweaks and alternates and I managed to get myself on the road before noon (always the big hurdle for me in the winter – the days just aren’t long enough). I took one of my typical routes through Olympia, Tumwater and around Black Lake. From there it was nice backroad riding to Capitol Forest. Not too far along I encountered Waddell Creek Road and with some quick consultation with Google Maps I decided to abandon the rando route.  This was a good choice as Waddell Creek road takes you into the eastern edge of capitol forest and while more hilly is a lot more scenic then the section of Delphi Road on the route.  It also took me by Mima Mounds Natural Area where since it was already after 1pm I decided to have my picnic lunch.

Circumnavigating Capitol Forest - Lunch

Picnic at Mima Mounds

The Mima Mounds are an interesting natural feature – prairie land with irregularly spaced and sized mounds. The theories behind their development are varied; check out the linked Wikipedia article for a survey of them. The natural area preserve has a paved trail through a section of mounds plus a picnic area. It was at the latter where I took a break, ate my lunch and read some Chinese poetry.

To be shown to the monks at a certain temple
 
Not yet to the shore of non-doing
it’s silly to be sad you’re not moored yet…
Eastmount’s white clouds say
to keep on moving, even
if it’s evening, even if its fall.
 
– Chiao Jan

Keep on moving I would have to do if I wished to make it around Capitol Forest before night fell.  So while I had a nice picnic I did not linger overly long. Back on the road I wended in and out of the Capitol Forest until I reached Bordeaux road. There I entered the forest and cut across it’s southern extent. This would turn out to be one of the best rides I’ve done in Thurston county – a narrow one lane road with minimal traffic, entirely in the forest mostly following streams.

Circumnavigating Capitol Forest - Atlantis in Bordeaux

My Atlantis at the Bordeaux entrance to the Capitol Forest

This route into the woods began on Bordeaux Road which then splits to head more southernly toward Cedar Creek Corrections Center or Northwesterly. I chose the latter route which then continued on to about two miles of climbing. There was a decent amount of clear cutting in this section (this is sort of what Capitol Forest is for; it’s not just recreation its a “working forest”) but still mostly wood and alongside little cricks.  Eventually I came to the top of this climb and while roads went off in several directions I stuck to this paved road.  I do want to get back here soon and ride on the various hardpacked gravel roads, but it’s been very wet and the days are still a bit short for that kind of wandering.

Circumnavigating Capitol Forest - Clearing

A clearing in Capitol Forest on this beautiful winter day

The day had been foggy and grey but it had began to break up not long after lunch. Now it was completely clear and sunny and the sun would shine through the trees and fully open up in the clearings. The road then preceded to descend and this was some mighty fine riding. The road was single lane and not much wider than some of the rail-trails I’ve been on and at least this time of year almost deserted; I think I encountered three cars total the entire time I was here. It followed Cedar Creek for a good piece and there were several campgrounds (closed this time of year) right on the river. Definitely a place to come into for an S24O as they open up.

Circumnavigating Capitol Forest - brook

Forest brook

Since I was once again off the map (the rando route didn’t go through the forest at all) and I wasn’t really getting data on my smartphone I didn’t really where I was going to exit the forest. It turned out to be on Hwy 12 about 13 miles from the tiny town of Porter. I’d ridden a bit on hwy 12 and frontage roads on my ride to the ocean last autumn and while fairly trafficked it’s not a a bad road. It has a large shoulder and is along the Chehalis River and the river valley.   I was able to make good time on this road which I took advantage of as the the sun was dipping toward the horizon and I had many miles to go.

Circumnavigating Capitol Forest - Randos!

Rando's at the Porter Grocery

When I reached the tiny burg of Porter, where I’d turn northward on more country roads, I stopped at the first store I’d seen since Black Lake. There I found a pair of SIR riders taking a break from a permanent that they were riding. They asked if I was riding with SIR and I said I was just riding. We talked about their ride a bit and at one point a commented that I found randonneuring too organized. And thinking about it I think that is true. I great respect the randos and I use their routes all the time. But just think about this ride – I deviated from the permanent route three or four times where the road was more interesting, the scenery more compelling; in short I followed the inexorable exhortations of my soul. Not to mention that I set out at 11:30 in morning and so much randoneuring starts at the crack of dawn. I definitely can see the value of it all and I can see myself getting involved with it, but my mindset is that of a cyclotourist and of “bombing around” like I did as a kid.

Circumnavigating Capitol Forest - pasture land

Magic Hour: pasture land and Capitol Forest in the distance

It was now magic hour with the sun casting long shadows as it prepared to bid farewell to these parts. I still had a ways to go though I wasn’t really sure how many. Google Maps steadfastly would not let me use the bicycle routing with Hwy 8 in the mix. But that bit was on the permanent route and I’d ridden this section heading the other direction on my 2012 tour. So I’d just let my route end at that point as I didn’t need directions. But before I arrived at the highway there was about 8 miles in a valley alongside Capital Forest. Another excellent section of country riding in this valley, studded with farms. The road was chipseal and less of a good time but the traffic wasn’t too high and the scenery was very fine.  But soon I was on a frontage road along why 8 and then 8 itself.

Circumnavigating Capitol Forest - Frontage Road

Frontage road on hwy 8

The sun was setting now and after a few miles of twilight I spent the rest of the ride in the dark. Luckily I have a good set of lights, there was a wide shoulder and I was nearing the end of the ride. At one point I looked back in my helmet mirror and saw a set of headlights clearly on the shoulder and slowly gaining on me. I picked up the pace slightly and kept looking back and checking the bailing out options. But it wasn’t really gaining on me anymore. Then the lights jogged into single file and I realized it was those two rando’s I’d encountered earlier.  As it became fully light their lights were a constant rearward pressure pushing me on and then after they pulled off no doubt at a control I was again on my own.  But now it was just a scary merge with hwy 101 and then the exit onto Mud Bay road and I was done with highway riding.

cold winter air –
keep on moving
keep on moving

It had been fully dark for a while and riding at night reminded one quickly that it is still deep in the winter. I was well protected with my wool and my rain coat but as the temps dropped I definitely felt it. The big hill up Mud Bay Road warmed me up and then I was in West Olympia. From there it was simply a matter of riding through west Oly, descending into downtown and then climbing up toward the Capitol where I live. I arrived home right around 7pm after riding a hair over 68 miles (109km). A great winter ride with everything I enjoy in a ride. It’s good to do rides that push you this time of year as one begins to emerge from hibernation.

Check out all my photos from this ride.

Map of the Ride