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The Current Commute

Sunday, November 10th, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

Commute 2013: On 11th east of Cal Anderson Park

On 11th east of Cal Anderson Park

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

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

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

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

Commute 2013: On 10th, staying east of Broadway

On 10th, staying east of Broadway

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

Commute 2013: Heading down Capitol Hill

Heading down Capitol Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Commute 2013:  University Bridge

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

 
Commute 2013: Looking east from the University Bridge

Looking east from the University Bridge

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

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

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

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

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