For the last six years I’ve been commuting from Woodinville to Kirkland via the Sammamish River Trail. When I started I was woefully out of shape and riding my younger brothers old late 80s Specialized Rockhopper. I put a lot of miles on that old ill fitting mountain bike but as I began to ride more regularly and get into better shape I began to desire a better fitting bicycle. Touring had always been a passion of mine since my youth, something that I kind of just thought up – hey I can go backpacking on my bike! I had never actually gone though with that through, but when I had received my brothers bicycle I had a rack fitted and bought a pair of Jandd panniers (which have served me well, I still have one of them). Anyway after quite a bit of researching I ended up buying a Novara Safari from REI and that year I began year round commuting. This was an important development in my riding, for as the temperatures got colder I began buying more and more winter cycling gear and was pretty unhappy with most of it. The commuting/winter riding and touring boards over on Bike Forums were regular haunts back then (the character of this site completely changed as it got real popular and I eventually drifted away) and from there I got turned on to wool, BOBs and finally Rivendell. As a Thoreau devotee the simplicity and functionality of Rivendell’s philosophy really appealed to me. Some may decry the expense of these items but ameliorated over time most of the items they create and sell pay for themselves. A lesson I had long learned from technology – spending more for quality always pays off. From these discoveries and from lessons learned from my first self supported tour I became increasingly “BOB-ish” and also increasingly aware that the Safari just really didn’t fit me. In 2005 I finally pulled the trigger and bought myself a 58cm Rivendell Atlantis that fits me like a glove. I ride this bicycle year round on my commute, but also on organized rides, tours and what my mom used to call “bombing around”.
Now after six years of riding the SRT to work I have moved to Kirkland and am on a new commute. More on that in a later post, this one is a memorial for my old commute. The SRT was a great route for an overweight newbie commuter – flat, scenic and easy to ride at night with minimal lights. Over the course of my commuting the entire trail was resurfaced along my route and two bridges were rebuilt forcing detours and other hassles. On nice summer evenings riding home after work the trail would be clogged with “amateurs” who would use up too much of the path, not signal when passing, ride the wrong direction and so on. On rainy days I would only see dog walkers, joggers and the occasional other commuter. After daylight savings time the trail was almost exclusively occupied by these dedicated users. Wind was often a feature of the SRT and as it runs down the center of a valley it would always funnel that wind into either a headwind or a tailwind. Often the wind would switch directions in the afternoon giving you a headwind (or seemingly rarer a tailwind) both directions. I work closer to a swing shift and often long hours so riding home at night in the winter I’d rarely see another rider but it was always a pleasure when I did. Covering our lights (even the minimal lights I’d use for this route I had memorized) as we’d pass was like nodding to a fellow rider in a daytime ride.
And the wildlife I saw was really a great pleasure that never faded. Great Blue Heron I would see nearly every day, poised spear like in the Sammamish River, flying low over the river or hunched up gargoyle in the trees along the edges. Red Wing Blackbirds with their distinctive cry indicates that winters grip is ending, first heard in the first week of February this year. Geese, migrating through in spring and fall, see both in their dramatic Vs across the sky and gathering food in the fields and stream. Ducks and cormorants year round and hawks, eagles and owls as well. Bunnies eating the grass on the side of the trail, scattering as I came near and bats enjoying the rich variety of insects would sweep around me their squeaking increasing in tempo as they flew near. One year I was paced by a coyote on several days and then I saw its car struck body on the side of the road a few days later. The increasing roar of the frogs as I’d pass the wetland areas they favoring, rising in chorus out of the night and continuing on into the dawn. But my favorite of all my animal encounters is “my” owl. I first saw the owl dart across my headlights one night to hunt on the fields bordering the trail. I usually would see him in the spring and fall as my usual commute time coincided with the twilight, but sometimes late at night as I’d ride home from some crunch time. Several times I’d speed up and pace him as he;d fly along the grass at the edge of the trail one memorable time dropping down to strike at a field mouse or rabbit. Another time he was sitting on a sign post just under the 124th bridge underpass and startled flew over me as I rode through. On my next to last ride home on the trail ten days ago, I left work early and in the twilight I saw him sleeping in a tree just off of 116th Ave. I stopped and he noticed me and flew around in circles trying to find a spot just far enough from me as not to be nervous. A wonderful farewell to my old commute.