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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.

Posted from Medina, Washington, United States.

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.

Posted from Issaquah, Washington, United States.

Solstice Eve (Last Ride)

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

Last Ride 2011 - 1

Today, the shortest day of the year, is also the last day I’ll be riding in 2011.  Tomorrow I set off to visit family for the holidays and won’t return until 2012.   Once a week I ride (mostly; I’ve taken the bus a couple of times) over to Bellevue, which is just across Lake Washington, to have lunch with an old friend. Due to not being able to ride on the 520 bridge I have to take the much less direct route riding to the I-90 Bridge.  This makes for a nice bracing ~15 mile ride, along Lake Washington, then on the floating bridges, followed by a route across Mercer Island and finally through downtown Bellevue.  It’s made for a nice weekly ride through in this period of unemployment where I don’t have the daily commute to keep me riding.

Last Ride 2011 - 3

Anyway that’s it for the year. It’s been a roller coaster ride this year: serious overwork in the early months, jury duty, moving out of the house I’ve lived in for years, loss of my job of 12 years, spending a month with friends and on the road, moved into Seattle and on and on.  But overall I’d say this has been a pretty decent year for riding, though it started off pretty weak due to that excess of work early in the year. But I ended up doing a good tour, rode some new routes, rode a bunch of old favorites and on moving into Seattle a lot more urban and a lot more utility rides.  I ended up riding 3358 miles (5404 km) on my Atlantis this year (with some unknown amount on my Safari before I sold it), which puts it as about an average year for me.  But considering what a topsy turvy year it has been that’s not so bad.

Last Ride 2011 - 2

So here’s to the returning of the light and even more riding next year.

Memorial Day Ramble

Saturday, June 4th, 2011

Memorial Day Ride - 13

I wasn’t sure where I was going to go, just that I needed to go.

The paucity of cycling for this year was exacerbated by my Jury Duty for which I ended up taking the bus into Seattle for 7 days out of 10.  Thus I was not even getting in my typical commute ride.  Jury Duty was pretty interesting though and I did quite enjoy being able to walk around the city during our breaks, so while I missed the cyclo-commuting it was overall a valuable experience..  The trial ended the Thursday before Memorial Day Weekend and I was finally able to get back on the bicycle.

Memorial Day Ride - 01

Trails at Viewpoint Park

The weekend had been sort of mixed weatherwise and I’d planned to get out on Sunday which was supposed to be the nicest day. However it turned out to be pretty windy and rainy and I busied myself with other activities. By Monday, Memorial Day itself, I just had to get out there and while the day was initially cloudy, it cleared up as my ride went on. I’ve pointed out in the past that there are limited directions that one can head out from my house, so I chose the easterly option up Rose Hill. I’d left around lunch time so I had grabbed a sandwich and wanting to eat it rather soon-ish I went to Viewpoint Park which is on the plateau of Rose Hill and overlooks I-520. I’ve ridden past this park many times and even poked my nose into it, but as it’s so close to my house (about 5 miles) it was always too close to stop so I’ve never really explored it. Thus this was a bit of new territory practically within walking distance of my house. It is a nice bit of woods with well laid out trails, though clearly orientated toward walking. The trails are covered with bark, which is rideable but discourages any “bombing” of. I rode down to the overlook and had my lunch.

Memorial Day Ride - 04

Turned into a mountain of new green, into a mountain path
-Hōsai Ozaki

The downside of having done as little riding this year as I’ve had is that one’s endurance is lower and thus ones options decline.  Of course frequent rides that push beyond your current endurance is the only way to build it up, but for any given ride you have to keep that in consideration.  I wasn’t particularly interested in any of the standard local rides and a lot of my favorites I thought might be a little ambitious at this point. So I kept riding with only vague ideas where I’d go. I ended up riding on West Lake Sammamish Parkway (which actually I have yet to do this year, though I’ve ridden on the East side at least once) but bailed off it on a road I’d not take before just about as it arrives at Issaquah. This “new” road led almost directly to a road that I had been on before on that intersected with the I-90 trail.

Memorial Day Ride - 05

On West Lake Sammamish Parkway

I had a choice then – take the I-90 trail which leads to several options (Lake Washington Loop, Mercer Island, Seattle), or strike out through Newport which also has its options ( it also intersects Lake Washington Loop, you can head east to May Valley, continue south to Renton &c).  I was uncertain so I rode the trail figure that gave the most options (and I’d done May Valley just last month).  The clouds were burning off by this time and it was now really pleasant  riding.  The trail, while somewhat urban, still allows one to contemplate ones upcoming choices and by the time I arrived at it’s intersection with the Lake Washington Loop, I’d decided to press on to Mercer Island.

Memorial Day Ride - 06

On the I-90 trail

Of course from Mercer Island one can do the loop around the island, cross into Seattle and go Clockwise or Counter-clockwise on the Lake Washington Loop and so on. But I’d decided to do the Mercer Island Loop. Now I feel I should digress a little and talk about this particular choice. For such a close ride ( a bit over 8 miles from home) you’d think I’d have done it frequently, especially as I ramp up in a new year.  But the fact is I’ve rarely done it – twice that I can recall. The reason for this is that I think of it as one of the frequent “roadie rides” and thus is a bit more trafficked than I prefer. While I have nothing against roadies – to each their own! – I consider my ride style pretty far from them. Roadies are always “training” for something, whether it be longer club rides, Cat n+1 races or whatever.  I’m usually out looking for new places, seeing how things change at different times of the year, in short I soak in the scenery and am glad that I get some exercise whilst I do so.  On every ride I try to keep in a touring mindset – the bicycle is the best way to experience place not the end in and of itself.

Memorial Day Ride - 08

On Mercer Island

When one is touring you have to be completely self-suffecient and I maintain that one all my rides. I can repair about anything beyond a frame failure, wheel taco or other catastrophic failure.  Roadies on the other hand barely seem to carry gear to fix a flat. Maybe a spare tube and a pump stuck in their jersey back pocket. This I think limits most of them to sticking to routes that aren’t too far that they can find a shop or get picked up by someone without really putting them out. If you are a Seattle area roadie then, once you move on from trails, the Lake Washington,  Loop and the Mercer Island Loops are the closest and easiest to get right on to. So you see a lot of roadies there, which again more power to ’em, I just enjoy riding where I see few cars and fewer cyclists.

Memorial Day Ride - 09

Classic twisty Mercer Island road

Anyway I went pretty far afield there, but that is why I’ve done Mercer Island so little. Now Mercer Island is a little island in Lake Washington that being right on the edge of Seattle and being mostly lakefront is pretty tony.  But the road around the south side of the island is really enjoyable to ride on – all twisty roads with its ups and downs, but no real killer hills. Since my previous two rides here had been counter-clockwise for this one I chose to go clockwise.  Going this direction gets you into the good stuff right off.  There are this switchbacks that go around coves and bays as you can see in the above picture that are just tons of fun to ride around. I noticed for the first time that while in the counter-clockwise rout there is no shoulder (which isn’t much of a problem) there is in the clockwise direction. Nice. I really had a good time riding this part of the island.

Memorial Day Ride - 11

Seattle across the lake

You are mostly in the woods on the southern half of the ride and it is only as you approach the west side of the Island does it open up a bit. Of course every inch (barring a park or two) along the waterfront is occupied by high end housing so there really aren’t a lot of amazing views. Still it opens up now and again and you can see some of the neighborhoods of Seattle on the east side of Capitol Hill. Of course once the views open up a bit the south (and most interesting) part of the ride is about over. The only really hills, and even these aren’t tough at all, are then the climb to the point where you cross I-90. After that point you are on the north side of the island which is only about a four mile ride.  I often ride these roads for as I’ve intimated before I tend to get off the I-90 trail even when I’m just crossing the island.  I was due for a break at this point and I rode into Luther Burbank Park to take it.

Memorial Day Ride - 14

For a hollow mind two eyes are open
-Hōsai Ozaki

I parked my ride at my favorite part of Luther Burbank Park: John Hoge’s earthwork, The Source and hung out for a while. This whole ride, like many of my rides, I tried to treat like a day on tour – stopping at interesting looking places, taking breaks at places with things to see and generally enjoying being outside and not just ride, ride, ride. I hadn’t really ridden to any places I hadn’t been aware of, but  I mixed it up by finally fully exploring Viewpoint Park, doing the Mercer Island Loop clockwise and stringing together a varied and mixed ride. There was a bit of offroad, a bit of trail, a bit of city riding, an island loop and two separate lakes visited. My legs were feeling it around forty miles, which is pretty sad, but I pushed on for another five which I always feel is a good thing to do to increase ones endurance.  The next ride I can push it to further and hopefully soon enough I’ll be riding further afield.

See all my photos from this ride in my Memorial Day 2011 Flickr set.

RSVP and Back Again – day 4

Saturday, September 13th, 2008
Sidney by the Sea
Sidney by the sea.

The final day of my short little trip dawn mostly clear and windy.  After completing my morning routine in pretty short order I set out for coffee and breakfast.  I walked down the street checking out my options but the place that immediately appealed was a bakery that had doughnuts mounded up in the window.  I got a sugar cake doughnut and a blueberry scone to go as they had no coffee. I picked a small cafe a couple of blocks away and got a cup and a bagel.  The coffee was pretty meh but the pastries were fantastic.  There were a couple of other cyclotourists parked in front the cafe, a younger hippy looking pair and a much older couple. They set off before I had a chance to find out their destination.

Sidney waterfront
Sidney waterfront walk

sailboatAfter breakfast I checked out of the hotel and rode around Sidney for a time.  It really is a quaint little seaside town, with classic Victorian architecture, tons of cafes and a beautiful marina. I cruised the streets, checked out some of the neighborhoods and then began to make my way toward where I’d intersect with the Lochside Trail again.  As I mentioned yesterday I’ve done this route before and I knew that it wasn’t very far to Victoria, about 18 miles, and I didn’t have to catch my boat to Seattle ’til 4:30.  So I had a low stress day and I took the opportunity to see Sidney, cruise the trail and check out Victoria.

On the way out of town you pass the ferry Ferry to WAterminal that takes you to San Juan Island and Fidalgo Island. At one point I’d thought of taking this ferry to Fidalgo and then riding up Fidalgo and Whidbey Islands to the mainland and then home.  Not a trivial ride and I was a bit concerned that on the fourth day of riding after already doing near back to back centuries another 80 mile day would be too much.  I was feeling quite good at this point and I think I could have pulled it off. It would have been a day of hard riding though and I rather enjoyed slipping back into the touring mindset instead.

Sometimes the Lochside is on the road
Sometimes the Lochside is on the road

I really had falling right into my typical tour patterns, pretty much as soon as I was off the RSVP.  I slowed down, spent more time looking at things and noticeably relaxed.  I love touring and as iIve said in these pages a lot of it is a mindset. I can get into that mindset on rambling country day trips sometimes. As I’d riden this route before I really had little to think about w/r/t path finding and I was able to really enjoy this stretch of Vancouver Island.  The Lochside Trail, is a signed route that is partly on roads, partly on trail, sometimes on dirt roads between farmers fields sometimes on its own gravel path. It runs from the Ferry terminal at Swartz Bay. where I was yesterday, all the way to  Victoria where is joins the Galloping Goose Trail which runs to downtown and many miles outside Victoria.


My Atlantis on the Lochside

Coffee MessiahThere was a pretty brutal headwind on the Lochside, especially at the beginning as I rode parallel to the coast on pretty open roads. The sky was densely textured with overlaid clouds, though they didn’t look like rain.  Only a few miles on the coast before the trail turns inland a bit and follows the highway for a bit. Its hard packed gravel for most of this bit and is smooth sailing. I passed a few other riders here and I noticed a whole bunch parked at the McDonalds (why?) and more understandably at that Canadian institution Tim Hortons.  The trail leaves the highway after only a couple of miles and then spends the bulk of the remaining miles to Victoria cutting through and around farmland.  There are several points where you are on gravel paths that cut through trees, where I’d see dog walkers and horseback riders and as I got closer the the Victoria exurbs increasing amount of recreational users.

wetland
Crossing the wetland. (haven’t I seen this before?)

a paved section of trailA nice wooden bridge that cross a wetland signals that Victoria is near.  I was getting ready for lunch at this point so I made pretty steady progress. The trail tended toward being paved at this point and there were increasing number of parks and other riders along it.  Additionally street crossings occasionally popped up and the off trail parts were often through suburban areas.  The last little area before the route winds through industrial areas was a little bay that I ended up riding a leg of a race last time I was here. It has a fantastic large trestle crossing that was incorporated into the race (since I had full touring kit I didn’t do all that well in the race, FWIW).  After crossing that the route cuts behind business, outskirts of town and then crosses a bridge into Victoria.

trestle
Crossing the trestle

Parliment Building in the distanceI could see the Parliament Building in the distance but I wasn’t exactly sure how to proceed from this point. I oscillated across this drawbridge a couple of times before just going for it. My hunch worked out and pretty shortly I was downtown. Now I needed to find a pub.  I cruised the downtown for a bit checking out menus and such and eventually settled on the Irish Times Pub. I needed beer of course, but also vegetarian options and they had a number of items. I ended up having another Lighthouse IPA and then a Kilkenny.  I’ve had KilkennyKilkenny at the source so I’m always inclined to get it when I see it.  I alsow had a little four cheese pizza which was very good – it used an interesting blend of Irish cheddars and a smoked cheese for a rich flavor.  I read a bit more of the Murakami while I was here, but soon set out to see a bit of Victoria while I had the chance. I was pretty much in the heart of the touristy shopping zone past the Empress Hotel so I spent a while just walking the streets checking things out. It was kind of cool now so I checked out a couple of the Scottish shops to see if I could find a cheap flannel shirt but they seemed to still be stocked for summer wear.  I gelato joint called Oh! Gelato caught my eye and feeling the need got a very tasty Blueberry-Cheesecake flavored cone.

Swans
Swans pub

I ended up walking almost back to the drawbridge and near there I found  Swans brewpub that made very British style beers. I tried their Oatmeal Stout which wasn’t bad if a bit on the watery side for that style.  These two other guys that were taking up the other two stools of the three stool bar were talking of expat adventures the whole time. As I was paying up to leave one of them informed me that the Scotch Ale they had was one of the rare treasures of Victoria.  I declined another beer and the man offered to buy me one. I thanked him but said I had to go.  Which was sort of true, mainly I was worried about my bicycle which I’d locked up at the outdoor deck of the Irish Times pub – not exactly a kosher local. Also I was very full of beer and not that inclined for another.  I do kind of regret not trying that beer though. Oh Well I’ll be back.

The Empress Hotel
The Empress

I quickly walked back to where my bicycle was locked and it all seemed okay. It was still too cool for most people to want to eat outside though it was starting to clear up. I decided I do one more bit of shopping before I moved on.  You can get Cuban Cigars in Canada, which you can’t in the US due to our ridiculous embargo.  I rarely smoked cigars, but every once in a while I enjoy one and I’ve only had Cubans a couple of times. There was a smoke shop just up the block from the Irish Times so I headed there. The shopkeep asked me what I was after and described a variety of different smokes. I settled on a Bolivar Habana which he described as a spicier smoke (I smoked this the weekend after I returned, it was fantastic).  After that purchase I unlocked my bicycle and rode down to where the Victoria Clipper is. I still had about 45 minutes so I locked up down there and strolled the waterfront for a bit.

The Parliament Building
Parliament Building.

buskerI bought a fresh squeezed limeade from a street vendor to enjoy as I walked along the waterfront and up by the parliament building.  I was committed to spending the remainder of my Canadian money as I never remember to bring it back when I end up with leftover.  The waterfront marina is a boardwalk style park with buskers, street vendors and out on a pier a bunch of shops.  I did a cruise all the way around and with check in time approaching eventually called it a day.  I deposited my last Canadian two dollar coin with a girl playing the Irish fiddle (quite competently) and headed to the Victoria Clipper port.

The Victoria Clipper
The Victoria Clipper

Checking in was pretty straightforward but they wanted me to remove all the bags from my bicycle. Said it would be outside!  I wasn’t happy about this, but I pulled off my rear bag and removing my little carry on from it, filled it up with stuff for the ride and put the contents of my front bag into the saddlebag. My front bag is pretty permanently attached so I left it on, but empty. I checked my saddlebag and after a quick passport check I was on board.  There isn’t much to say about the Victoria Clipper. It is a high speed catamaran that is pretty akin to taking the bus or an airplane. I’d done it before when I was a lad and recall being pretty bored. So I read the whole time finishing the Murakami book as it pulled into Seattle. They did have small deck in the back that you could go outside on, which I’m pretty sure they didn’t have the last time I rode it. It was so incredibly windy that I only stepped out long enough to snap a couple of pictures.  As it was dark when I got into Seattle this is the last picture I took.

heading home
Just to say the word
home, that one word alone,
So pleasently cool – Kobayashi Issa

We docked around 8pm and it took 30-45 minutes to get our bags and get through customs.  I successfully smuggled my cigar through and then I had to put my bicycle all back together.  Finally I was ready and I set off at night in the Seattle Streets. I of course was prepared for this with my Schmidt Hub and E6 light, plus an additional Cateye light on my handlebars I use as a front standlight.  I noticed a bit into the ride that my Odometer wasn’t registering and I pulled over and reseated it.  Probably less then half a mile unrecorded I figure.  That done I rode through Seattle and up to the I-90 trail.  This is the fourth time I’ve done this route and while it’s become fairly routine it always is a bit stressful. First off its a pretty stiff climb up from the waterfront, there is always traffic and this time it was night. I made it okay and once on the trail it was a mechanical ride home. I felt great though I have to say, no where near as beat as I usually am when I do this final bit. The hills on Mercer Island and later on the Lake Washington loop portion of the ride were no problem at all.  Of course I really hadn’t ridden much this day, but still with four days of riding, I was feeling that I was in pretty decent condition.

I pulled in at home at 10:20pm and unloaded the bicycle. And then even though it was after 10:30 at night I hosed down my beloved Atlantis and wiped it dry. It had just been exposed to seawater after all.  After that I had a shower, a beer and some food and after an hour or two went to bed.

See all my pictures from this day, in my RSVP day 4 gallery.
Total distance this day: 40.6m/65.3km over 3’50” of ride time
Total distance for the whole trip: 286.7m/461.4km

An epic journey through Snoqualmie Pass – part 1

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

My Atlantis as I set outOn Saturday I did the ride that I meant to do a couple of weeks ago when I discovered that cracked rim.  This was a ride to Issaquah, taking the trails up to Snoqualmie and then to Rattlesnake Lake and finally ride the Iron Horse trail through the tunnel that goes through Snoqualmie Pass.  This is one of my favorite rides and one that I worked out for myself a couple of years back. It involves four different trails, mixed terrain a lot of gradual climbing and spectacular scenery.  However before this day I had never put all the parts completely together and had never ridden through the tunnel. I had done the ride up to Rattlesnake Lake earlier this summer, but on that ride it was quite late when I reached the lake and I would have gotten back quite late. Of course as it turns out that is what happened this time as well…

As I reported earlier my chain broke the day before this ride so the day began with a ride down to the Kirkland branch of Montlake Bicycle Shop on my Safari. I picked up a new chain and some spare powerlinks and returned home to put these on. As I’ve reported before I’m rather adverse to the early start but for some reason I’ve been waking up early on Saturdays. Must be the excitement of not working. Anyway I had gotten up made breakfast did some web surfing, listened to some NPR and replaced my chain before heading out at 10 am. Still late by most cyclists standards, but leaving home before noon is early for me. It was fully overcast and somewhat cool with a chance of showers predicted so I put on wool socks and packed my rain jacket as I set out. This turned out to be a fortuitous choice.

Lake WA Loop signI knew from my earlier ride to Rattlesnake Lake that it would have been over 70 miles to the end of the tunnel (less for the return trip, hooray for loop rides) so I took what I knew was the shortest route there. Pretty much I took the Lake Washington Loop to the I-90 trail, to Issaquah.  This route is pretty suburban, especially the I-90 trail. You have to go through Bellevue on the Loop and then there is a nice section through a wooded area and at the I-90 bridge you turn onto the I-90 trail. This goes through Factoria, which is pretty much suburban hell.  The trail pretty much isn’t a trail through most of Factoria and you ride on the bike lanes in the road and if you followed the signage, sidewalks. Otherwise you make your way through the car dealers, strip malls and parking lots. Eventually you get on a section of actual trail that runs  parallel to the I-90. When going to Issaquah I don’t stay on it long and at a pedestrian overpass I cross over to Newport way. This is a nice downhill from this point which goes past the Zoo Hill climb turnoff, right into Issaquah. It’s about 17 miles total to Front Street about 4-5 miles less then the other route I take (Kirkland->Redmond->East Lake Sammamish Pkwy->Issaquah). It was during my time on the I-90 trail that I discovered that I hadn’t returned my SD card to my digital camera rendering it an expensive paperweight for this trip. Also I saw that I hadn’t recharged the iPhone for a number of days and it was only about half charged. There was not going to be much documentation of this trip. So some of these pictures are from my cameraphone but most of the ones of the trails are from that earlier trip.

A Pomme LambicIt was almost noon now and due to the early breakfast and riding I was ready for lunch. So back to my old friend, the Issaquah Brewhouse. This time I was early enough that there was no crowd. I got an Imperial Porter and ordered Fish Tacos right off.  I followed this up with a Lindemans Pomme Lambic for desert 🙂 Still I ended up spending way too much time here. Service was slow and while I enjoyed the food and beer very much I spent too long here. Especially as I then wandered around Issaquah looking for a place to buy an SD card. I didn’t succeed as I didn’t want to backtrack to the shopping malls. I figured I’d be able to find one in Snoqualmie, or North Bend or maybe the outlet mall up there. So after eating a strange ice cream cone that they squeezed out of a tube, I hit the road.

Wending through the Issaquah streets I made my way to the beginning of the Issaquah-HighpointStart of the Issaquah Highpoint trail trail. This trail starts at an I-90 freeway ramp that they basically have separated the shoulder from the street. It then turns into a very nice pedestrian overpass and a nice trailhead on the northern side. Then the trail proper begins, which is a hard packed dirt and gravel trail that runs through the woods along I-90. As with all of these old railways these constantly climb at a gentle rate. Not sure if I was just tired or what at this point but I found I was not making very good time on this trail. This was to repeat itself on all the trails I would ride this day. This trail runs by a stream and through the woods its short length (about 4 miles) and then ends at a little parking area just off a freeway ramp. From here you ride for another four miles or so on frontage roads until you reach the Preston-Snoqualamie trail. This frontage road opens with a short steep climb and then is rolling hills through some nice countryside, it curves away from I-90 so the freeway isn’t so dominating.

A typical scene on the Preston-Snoqualmie TrailThe Preston-Snoqualmie trail is maybe my all time favorite trail. It is paved, it runs through woods away from the highway and is pretty lightly traveled. It has two distinct sections with a little bit on the shoulder of a road then a single-tracked switchback climb then another paved section through deep woods. The trail ends abruptly near a scenic overlook of Snoqualmie Falls. If one skits around the fence that blocks the end of the trail there is a path that continues for a ways then ends at an old train trestle over a serious gorge. The trestle seems very strong, and stable and I’ve walked a bit of a ways out on it. I’m not a big fan of heights but it did seem like you could walk all the way across it. If only they would continue the trail it would go right to Snoqualmie and would really improve the trip up the pass. As it is one has several options from this point. You can go back on the trail to the last road crossing and head down to Fall City. From their you can get on the Snoqualmie Valley trail up to Snoqualmie or take the Snoqualmie-Fall City road. Either way its quite a bit out of the way. The other option, which I did on this trip (and the previous for that matter) is to take a little hike up to Snoqualmie Ridge.

A trail up to Snoqualmie RidgeSnoqualmie Ridge is this rather horrific housing community built up on a ridge outside of the (much more working class and quaint) city of Snoqualmie. It is centered around a golf course (don’t get me started) and the houses are all of that cookie cutter, same floorplan, different color, exact same sculpted lawn, housing association disaster. Kamazotz was supposed to be a warning not a model! Anyway on the far side of this monstrosity is a small park and a wood area. This is above the Preston-Snoqualmie trail and a number of trails run down through the woods connect the park to the regional trail. These trails are loosely packed dirt and beauty bark and seem to always be wet, heavy and pretty much a steep climb the whole way. So I tend to push my bicycle the bulk of the way which as it’s only a bit over a mile is perfectly fine. Still tough though, it’s amazing how much easier it iWhitaker Parks to ride scores of miles, but pushing you bicycle uphill for a mile is a real corker. The path ends at Whitaker park which is open to Kamazotz on one side but an power line route to the north opens an amazing vista into Snoqualmie Valley. A real stunning view and after that hill a nice place for a break.

After a short time I head out riding through the identical houses of Snoqualmie Ridge, that flank yet another stiff climb. Today it was packed with cars and it turned out that there was some sort of golf tournament going on and as I rode through the development I was flanked by tourists, SUVs and golfers. Horrific. I got out as soon as I could and enjoyed the mile long or so descent into the city of Snoqualmie. Again I tried to find some SD cards and again I failed. Yet more time was lost. Snoqualmie is a cute little town with a train museum and touristy shops but it still contains a lot of its working class flavor. I did see the Snoqualmie Brewing Taproom which I sense will be an upcoming destination…

Between Snoqualmie and the equally quaint town of North Bend is some road riding. You can of course find your way to theThe Mar T Upper Snoqualmie Valley Trail (head toward the falls and turn onto Tokul road) but I find the road route to be quicker, easier and a bit of a break from the trails. Plus I like to ride through Snoqualmie and North Bend. North Bend is where Twin Peaks was filmed and you ride right past the diner that was used for the exterior shots of the Mar T. You ride right through downtown North Bend taking a left at the light kittycorner from the Mar T. The road continues till it eventually intersects with the I-90. However after a bit a paved bicycle path appears on the right and if you follow that it turns onto a much less traveled suburban road. Following this route you end up at the same point as the road you were previously on but with a lot less travel. At the road where turning right takes you to the I-90 you go left and you’ll come right to an entrance of the Upper Snoqualmie Valley trail. It also turns out you can go right cross the freeway and with some stiff clinbing end up at the same place. Better route for the return trip, so it was the trail to me.

The SVTThe Snoqualmie Valley Trail is a gravel surfaced trail that begins in Monroe way at the western end of the valley and slowly climbs all the way up to Snoqualmie. Then you do a bit of road and can get on the Upper Snoqualmie Valley trail, which runs through North Bend and ends at the state park at Rattlesnake Lake completing the trails 29 miles. When I hopped on the trail it was about 4-5 miles to Rattlesnake Lake. Again I was making pretty slow progress, the gravel and slight incline working against me. Also what with the long delay in Issaquah and the hunt for the SD card in Snoqualmie and North Bend I was pushing it for time. Finally I arrived at Rattlesnake Lake at around 4pm. The Iron Horse State Park begins here with the John Wayne Memorial Trail. This park is basically a gravel path along the old Chicago-Milwaukee-St. Paul-Pacific Railroad route that stretches over a hundred miles all the way to the Columbia River. This parallels in part I-90 as it crosses Snoqualmie Pass. The Iron Horse Trail does that whole climb and then culminates in a two mile long tunnel through the mountain. Once through you have crossed the mountains and are in Eastern Washington.

Stay tuned for the exciting trip through the tunnel and back. Until then check out my Flickr gallery from this ride and my gallery of this route on my cycling site.

Todays Adventure: Crack, beer and the Zoo

Wednesday, August 15th, 2007

The titular zooI had decided to ride up to Snoqualmie pass on the Iron Horse Trail and riding through the tunnel this weekend. I set out (late as usual, but not so later for me) but this interminable noise from my bicycle forced me to pull over and give it a once over to see if I could figure it out. After much examination I discovered a crack in my rear rim right at a spoke nipple. Well this more or less killed those plans, but then I thought what if I could get a new wheel made? So I called up Sammamish Valley Cycles on my cell and told them I was out and about and found a crack in my rim. They agreed to see me so I rode over to their shop in Redmond. They examined my rim and informed me that my conclusion was correct – I needed a new wheel. Then they told me they’d have it by Thursday and I could leave the bicycle there. I informed them that I was out riding right now and so they asked me to bring it back. Concerned over it’s eminent failure they assured me it would be fine, if I avoid doing any technical off-roading anyway. So I decided to revise my plans, not wanting to be as far away and riding so much on graveled trails as my initial plan called for. So I decided to ride to Issaquah for lunch and see how things would go from there.

Issaquah Brewhouse SignIt was a really nice day today, sunny a bit of a breeze but not too hot. August is usually the hottest month of the year and many times won’t rain all month. This was not the case this year as it had rained plenty and had been downright cold for many of the days. Most days were reaching only the low to mid 70s (f) which let me tell you is fine by me. Perfect riding for me is mid to upper 60s so it wasn’t too far from that. I rode through Redmond and on to East Lake Sammamish Way which is a familiar and easy route to Issaquah. I saw quite a few riders going the other direction, many seemed to have some sort of number on their bicycle – some sort of organized ride must have been going on. Reaching the point where E. Lake Samm way intersects with I-90 I jumped onto the East Lk. Sammamish trail and took that gravel route under the freeway. Wandering through the side streets of Issaquah I made my way to the Issaquah Brewhouse which is a Rogue Brewing outlet. Finding this in Issaquah was one of my great discoveries from my early days of getting back into cycling. I found it the first time I did the Lk. Samm Loop in which I had swung into Issaquah. Great beers and good food at a convenient location for many of my cycling adventures.  They were alas really busy and I ended up just having a couple of beers and then getting lunch elsewhere. But more on them in another post.

PogachaSo after a couple of beers I headed over to Pogacha which is a Croation pizza place. They have a restaurant in Bellevue that a friend had introduced me to years ago. Pogachas are a potato based flatbread that they cook in a wood fired oven. They make very simple and flavorful pizzas with them. The Croatian spices and the style which seems to owe a lot to traditional Italian cooking makes for wonderful food. The Issaquah branch is right at the end of the Lk. Sammamish trail (convenient) and while I have ridden by it many times, this was the first time I actually stopped there. It turned out to be happy hour so into the bar I went and got yet more beer. Along with that I had a  Tomato & Fresh Basil pogacha which was priced right and filled me up. After all this excess of beer and food I felt the need to work it off. So I decided to ride the infamous “Zoo” hill.

At the base of Couger Mountain there is a small zoo and the sign with that single wordZoo on it gave this ride it’s name. Three miles of climbing, with 1243 feet of climbing with an average grade of 9%. Sections of this climb approach a 20% grade and there are few flat or downhill segments on it (though there are a few). I rode through Issaquah and let me tell you I was feeling those beers. I easily found the route, as I had seen those zoo signs on other trips. Riding up Newport way the route already begins to climb, but this is the sort of gentle incline that one can maintain a fine pace up. Shortly I came across the turnoff and the sign for the zoo. The climb pulls no punches and starts right off with a good steep section (see the whole elevation profile over at Bicycle Climbs). The road curves around, gets a bit steeper and then you pass the titular zoo. Then the real climbing begins as you dive into thick woods and sharp switchbacks. These switchbacks go around deeply cut canyons and the occasional car keeps you from drifting around these. There are no breaks on this climb. Luckily the traffic is occasional and I had no issues with cars. After a couple more of these switchbacks there is a ninety degree turn and then a long straight section. Straight but not flat. In this section there are a couple of flatter bits and one short downhill. But then just as one approaches the two mile mark, as if one needed any further proof that there is no god, are some of the steepest sections. It is worth noting at this time that I was under the impression that this climb was just over two miles long . Cresting what I thought was the last hill (and at around 2.4 miles) I approached a stop sign before which was a spray painted note “final ascent”.

The beginning of Zoo hill 

So I turned left onto SE Cougar Mt road and continued to ascend. Once again there is not letup at the end as several segments at this point were among the steepest. And one segment was among the steepest – a near 20% grade for a short time at nearly three miles of continuous climbing. Then things flatten out and even a bit of a descent. Then the road turns to gravel. Not much of a marker for the end, but I figured this must be it. There was a trailhead for a cougar mountain hike so a chained my bicycle to it and collapsed on a log. I have to say that I have never felt closer to simply expiring on the spot as I had at this moment. Dizzy, weak and thoroughly exhausted I was totally destroyed. My head kept spinning so I grabbed a bottle of lukewarm Gatorade (the blue flavor) and walked up the trail for a .6 mile hike. I was given the option of the Nike missile site or a “Million Dollar View”, well not being a fan of the military industrial complex I chose the view. Not really sure if I ever encountered this but not too long I came to the top of the hill where a former army base had been. I walked around a bit then just laid in the grass for a while. Eventually I felt recovered and hiked back to my bicycle.

My Atlantis at the the trailhead 

I was feeling okay, but just completely sapped. Instead of trying to work out a connector I  rode down the route I had just ridden up. For one I wanted to be certain of the length, that the climb hadn’t forced the numbers out of my head. I was correct it was almost exactly three miles. The other thing was after doing that climb I need to just ride down it – like counting coup. Anyway I knew that Newport way was below and from there the I-90 trail – probably the easiest route back. And I needed an easy route, sapped as I was – even the merest hint of an incline reduced my to a pathetic pace. Basically from this point I slowly made my way home – I-90 trail, Lk. WA loop then Kirkland. I stopped at a convenience store for water then Whole Foods in Bellevue for dinner. The sad aftermath of the whole affair was that something I ate, most likely the take away from Whole Foods, gave me food poisoning rendering my evening a loss. But it was an epic day and it certainly made me pine for when I was in better shape then I am now.

This entire ride was 42 miles (67.6km).