Riding Around Olympia

Written by robert on August 12th, 2011

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Parking my Atlantis in a little neighborhood park in West Olympia.

I moved out of the house I’ve been living in, in Kirkland, WA at the end of July and didn’t have a new place to move into until September 1st.  So I’ve been spending the last couple of weeks with a friend in Olympia, WA and I’ve managed to get in a few good rides.  I went to college in Olympia and used to know the town well, but it has definitely changed in the decade plus since I was here. In these years I’ve visited a few times but never rode around the city and as I’ve often said riding around an area is the best way to get to know it. So on a couple of rides I rode on trails I never knew were here, visited my old college to see the extensive (and ongoing) changes and enjoyed the quite extensive bicycle facilities here.
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On the Watershed Trail

The first day I set out to check out this trail I’d seen often but never ridding. It started by the I-5 highway onramp and pretty quickly went into woods.  The clearly signed Watershed Park and Trail is a real nice and clearly fairly new trail, that wound through woods with side routes back to the parts of the city. Eventually it became increasing urban, eventually running right along some thoroughfares. It ended in a clearly ridable gravel trail with a sign indicated the trail would be extended further at some point in the future.

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The end of the road (but I'd like to explore onto the gravel parts sometime)

Apart from just riding around town my ostensible goal on that ride was to go to the Olympia Food Co-op to pick up some supplies.  The Co-op had beautiful covered bicycle parking and was easily accessible even though it was on a main route.  I took the main drag into town and rode around the waterfront and up by the capitol building to where my friends place is.  I was really impressed by how much of the road had bicycle lanes, clear signage and there were bicycle racks everywhere. I’d only brought my iPhone with me so not a lot of pics, but it was a fun easy route that brought me back to some of the old stomping grounds as well as introducing me to some new places.

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Quality covered bicycle racks at the Olympia Food Co-op

My parents had come up to visit so I spent a few days with them up in the Seattle area before returning to Olympia.  This time I wanted to ride out to the college which is about 6-7 miles west from where I was staying. From my friends place I rode through these beautiful classic neighborhoods, some of the oldest in Olympia. Lined with big old oaks and other trees, these wide, low traffic roads were pleasant and scenic riding. Laving the neighborhoods for the downtown  I took a pretty wandering route, following a clearly marked bicycle route, but also checking out things of interest as I noticed them. I ended up straying from the signed route after a point and riding by some of the places I used to live in and back routes I used to ride back then.
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Typical neighborhood street around the capitol area.

 

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A bit of a greenbelt with hiking trails in West Oly

Finally I made it to the college which after 15 years I’d have expected some changes, but I was pretty impressed with some of the ones they had made.  There are now little pea-patches scattered throughout the housing complex. Housing at Evergreen is a mix of dorms and apartment like buildings and in the later there is a lot of space in between them that are now filled with these little gardens. There was composting everywhere and facilities scattered about to collect rain water, store equipment and other support for this initiate. There was a new community center-ish looking building with an extensive garden out in the old modular housing are as well.

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Typical riding outside of town, with clearly marked bicycle lanes

Riding Around Olympia - 12 Evergreen is a good campus for riding on, with lots of wide boulevards and paths for riding around all of the majors stairs of which there are several as you ride up to main campus from the housing area. The main campus was the most extensively changed and plenty of work was in-prgoress. Most dramatic was the clock tower which was completely ensconced in scaffolding and workers were hard at work doing something (I never could figure out what was being done to it). The College Activivities building was completely reworked and there was a massive new building to the east of it.  The paths all around that area had been re-routed but it was still as easy as ever to ride all around campus. The interior of the updated CAB was completely different with the 2nd floor cafe gone (now an addendum to the primary cafeteria), with the main floor now more organized around student use with a quiet room and more open areas. The library building also had been reworked with the main lobby now featuring a single entrance to the computer lab and the library proper and the art gallery being on the opposite side.
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My Atlantis in front of one of the new buildings at Evergreen

I only poked around campus so much, but was impressed to see all the changes. It is good that this innovative college isn’t standing still.  From there I rode to a trail that was there back when I was and was now rather bumpy from roots. It begins in a really wooded section that apart from the roots is quite fantastic riding. It then moves to more open areas riding close to Evergreen Parkway. I rode it to the end where it dumped you out on Harrison which had been extensively developed since I was last here.

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The trail leading out from Evergreen

This was now a wide boulevard with lots of new housing and strip mall type shopping. Not my kind of development but at leas they greatly improved the cycling infrastructure along with it. Harrison used to be a nearly shoulder-less road and now there is bicycle lanes along at least the renovated section I was riding on.  From here I more or less looped back to a bit I’d been on before so I could visit the west side co-op for more supplies. Then it was back to East Olympia by the state capitol to the place I was staying.

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The extensively developed Harrison Street

It was good to be back in Oly and ride these great roads and see places I’d been before. There is always a danger of nostalgia in a trip like this but I have to admit it didn’t strike too hard. All of these stuff just felt really in the past for me and even if it was a really good part of my past, I never felt much inclination to return to it.  I could definitely see living in a town like Oly, it has a nice mix of culture and out of the city living that is close enough to major cities to fill any gaps it has, but I’d have to have a real reason for it. Just its amenities and the connections I have from the college days doesn’t seem quite enough for me. See all my pictures from my rides around Olympia in my Olympia 2011 Flickr set.

 

 

 

 

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