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January Picnic

Sunday, January 31st, 2016
January Picnic - NFE at Colman Park

NFE at Colman Park

Sunday January 24th was a splendid winter day. The sun was out, chased around the sky by big fluffy cloud ridges. In the sun I was overdressed and hot but when the sun was behind a cloud it was definitely winter.

January Picnic - Bellevue across the lake and under the clouds

Bellevue across the lake and under the clouds

I wanted to outside, but I didn’t have much of a plan. I left around 11am so I knew that I’d been need lunch. I also wanted to get over to the Eastisde but I wasn’t sure where exactly over there.  Heading to the eastside means the Mountain to Sound Trail so I headed straight there.  At the Mount Baker Tunnel, my plans crystallized and I rode down to Leschi at picked up provisions at the Leschi Market.

January Picnic - Riding up from Lake Washington to the Mountains To Sound trail

Riding up from Lake Washington to the Mountains To Sound trail

I had to get back to the Mountain to Sound trail but I didn’t want to just backtrack. So I road along Lake Washington until I went under the I-90 Floating Bridges and then up the great winding road through Coleman Park. There is a huge P-Patch at Coleman Park and it is a testament to the warmth of this January that there was plenty of work going on there. Getting ready for spring.  This route takes you above the Mount Baker Tunnel and after a short stop for photos, I descended onto the bridge. 

January Picnic - A winter picnic

A Winter Picnic

January Picnic - Coffee Outside

It has become such a routine ride now: across the floating bridge, leave the trail and ride the perimeter road around Mercer Island. Then it’s the second floating bridge and you are on the Eastside. But today I stopped at Luther Burbank Park for a picnic lunch.  I rode down into the park on it’s dirt paths winding around the earthwork The Source to a picnic spot right on Lake Washington. It was warm enough here in the sunlight that I took off my sweater as I unpacked my picnic supplies.

I had planned on making coffee as well on this trip and I brought my Cafflano – an integrated burr grinder, drip filter and drinking vessel.  Instead of boiling my own water I brought a thermos of hot with me. I have to say this worked out well and I had the best cup of coffee I’ve maid out-of-doors.  Lunch was a baguette with smoked cheddar, avocado and an organic honey crisp apple.  Really enjoyable.   The park, like all of the parks I’d go by/through on this day, was quite active as us PNW’ers don’t pass up a warm winter Sunday to get out. Sitting here on the edge of the park I can see out to the Cascades which look tantalizing as if brushed with snow.  I began to feel the stirring in me, drawing me to the mountains.  But I couldn’t go them on this day.

River Snow
-Liu Tsung-yüan
A thousand parks: no more birds in flight.
Ten thousand paths: all trace of people gone.
In a lone boat, rain cloak and hat of reeds,
an old man’s fishing the cold river snow
Translated by David Hinton
from Mountain Home: The Wilderness Poetry of Ancient China, p. 154

January Picnic - Seattle across Lake Washington

Seattle across Lake Washington

I’d decided now that I’d ride the north end of the Lake Washington Loop which provides for a nice ride along the lake with some hills and would take me through Bellevue, Kirkland, Lake Forest Park, Kenmore and back into Seattle via the University of Washington. This is a familiar route, but I don’t do it so often these days. It was a great day for this ride and I did take a few jogs off the route for better sights and around more parks. In Bellevue stopped at Cafe Cesura and had them put loose leaf green tea into a tea bag and refill my thermos with hot water.  In Kirkland I turned off the loop to ride up Waverly Way past Heritage Park and on a bluff above the lake. Then it was hill climbs up Market Street in Kirkland and then up Big Finn Hill from Juanita.

January Picnic - Looking South Lake Washington from O.O. Denny Park

Looking South along Lake Washington from O.O. Denny Park

Once again I dropped off the route, dropping all of the elevation I’d just gained back to the lakeside at Holmes Pt.  Down there among all of the McMansions is O.O. Denny Park, a nice big stretch of open space right on the lake with expansive views north and south.  I stopped here and made my tea and did a bit more reading.  After lingering a bit I reached that time where I’d have to leave if I wanted to be home before dark.  I had to climb up from Holmes point but then it was the long descent down Finn Hill.  This take you to Kenmore and the intersection with the Burke Gillman trail at Logboom Park.  I tend to avoid the trail on sunny weekend days, but I the alternatives are a lot hilly and longer, so I decided to just cruise back into the city.  Well it wasn’t so bad — people were definitely out, just like at all the other parks, but it wasn’t packed.

January Picnic - NFE in the distance

NFE in the distance

I made good time one the trail and the times were the lake was visible there was very tantalizing views of the mountains in the distance. The dwindling sun was coloring the sky with soft pinks and purples. Everyone once in a while I could glimpse Mount Rainier which was obscured by clouds when I was in my prime viewing spots.  No good place to stop for pictures when I could see it, so Mount Rainier amidst torn up purple clouds will only remain recorded in my memories. Once I arrived at the U-Distrct it was back on the Lake Washington Loop through city neighborhoods. I left it on my old commute route along the backside of Capital hill, which let me make my way back to the Mountain to Sound Greenway which I could connect to the Beacon Hill Greenway and then back home.

A lovely day of riding with a mix of winter scenery, tea, snow dappled mountainscapes, blue skies, good coffee, mountain poetry, food out doors and 75km of riding.

Full album on Flickr: January Picnic

Pictures from First Rides 2015

Saturday, January 10th, 2015
First Rides 2015 - Atlantis Framing Mount Rainier
Atlantis framing Mount Rainier

The beginning of 2015 found me waylaid by a cold and thus I didn’t get out on my bicycle until January 5th 2015. As per my wont I didn’t get out of the house until late and I ended up doing a fairly standard ride here in the Puget Sound area: South Lake Washington Loop. I rode the anti-clockwise on the loop from the I-90 trail on the west side to the I-90 trail on the Eastside. Then I rode the south half of the loop around Mercer Island before return to the westside.  Two days later I did the North Lake Washington Loop again in between the I-90 trail and this time the north half of the Mercer Island Loop. It has been clear and cold with an inversion layer keeping in fog and smog, which presented some pretty views which I’ll present some photos of here with captions. For more pictures check out my First Rides 2015 photoset on Flickr.

First Rides 2015 - Looking down on SeattleLooking down at Beacon Hill, Seattle and in the distance the Olympics

First Rides 2015 - Atlantis on Lake WashingtonAtlantis on Lake Washington looking at the I-90 Floating bridge
First Rides 2015 - Clouds, Mountain, Lake, BeachAt Seward Park looking at Mount Rainier across Lake Washington
First Rides 2015 - Reflections in the SloughMercer Slough reflecting an overpass
First Rides 2015 - Atlantis above I-90 Floating BridgeAtlantis Above I-90 floating bridge
First Rides 2015 - Looking toward the 520 Floating bridgeAbove Lake Washington with the 520 floating bridge to the left
First Rides 2015 - Smog over BellevueSmog over Bellevue
First Rides 2015 - Finger paintingFinger paint the sky

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.

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.

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 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 August Evening Ride

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

Jack BrownAs I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m doing the a ride to Vancouver with my cycling club this year. Well the ride is this Friday, August 15th, so this past weekend was the last weekend prior.  I took this opportunity to get my bicycle ship shape and ready for the ride.

I had noticed the signs of a sidewall failure on my front tire so a couple of weeks back ordered a new pair.  I’ve really liked the Panaracer Pasalas that I’ve used on the Atlantis since I’ve gotten it but there is not denying the large number of sidewall failures I and others have had. So I’ve decided to adopt a dual tire strategy where I’m going to use the Rivendell designed (though still Panaracer produced) Jack Brown tires for normal use and Schwalbe Marathon tires for touring use.  The Jack Browns come in a lighter and heavier version of which I chose the later for the increased puncture resistance. They have a sweet checkered tread and a funky logo such as a tire named Jack Brown deserves. They fit a lot tighter on my rims and inflated to around 60psi have a nice rounded look. These tires at 33.33333 are the narrowest tires I’ve used since I was a teenager. When I installed my Silver Shifters earlier this year I also replaced the shifter cables. Well I cut the front cable a bit short and I paid the price for that – it had frayed and no was only a few strands short of breaking. So I replaced that as well doing a better job on the length this time.  These being the major repairs I then adjusted my brakes to a nice level of stopping power and gave my drivetrain a complete cleaning from the cassette to the chain.  A wipe down of the whole bicycle completed my working on the bicycle.


My Atlantis post tune up in a park in Mill Creek

As always it took a bit longer then I had hoped and I needed to get in a decent ride to keep my fitness up.  Also I needed lunch, so I set out as soon as I had cleaned up for my old friend the Celtic Bayou. As I crossed Rose Hill it began to rain on me in clearly some sort of cosmic vengeance for having so thoroughly cleaned my drive-train. But I have to say everything was so smooth and so quiet and the new tires felt great. The hugged the curves on the fast descent and seemed to have a bit less rolling resistance (though of course that’s nearly impossible to actually tell from a ride). It was mid afternoon on a cloudy/drizzly Saturday and the Celtic Bayou was packed. Ended up spending more time there then anticipated but I enjoyed my grilled cheese and a couple of beers. It rained pretty steadily most of the time I was there so it was nice timing all things considered. It was around 4:30 when I set out from there, planning to get a good 40-50 mile ride in.

gravel road

I had to try out the new tires on some gravel.

I knew I didn’t have enough daylight for a truly adventurous ride but I also didn’t want to just do one of my typical routes. So I decided to do a semi urban ride putting together a number of area routes.  I began by taking the Woodinville-Redmond road which while rather heavily trafficked has a good shoulder and rolling hills. As I neared the Hollywood Hills I passed NE 144th Street, a residential dead-end street that has about the steepest hill I’ve ever seen. I’ve passed this many times and on the spur of the moment I decided to ride up it for once. Not too long a hill, maybe a 1/3 of a mile, but it is about the steepest thing I’ve ridden up. My front wheel was often just about leaving the ground which I’ve noticed only happens when the slope is great then about 15%. It maintains its steepness for the duration too, only at the actual top does it slack of and have a flat round about. A fun little addition to what wouldn’t be a too hilly day of riding.  From here I returned to the Redmond-Woodinville road now taking a part the skirts the traffic and rides through some light industrial areas.

Urban rainy roads

Bothell-Everett Highway: urban, rainy, traffic. What not to love?

I continue on these back roads ’til I get to Bothell and then wend my way through that little town (I-5 from the new pedestrian overpasstaking a nice long hill) then some unincorporated areas and finally I get onto the Bothell-Everett Highway. Pretty much as unpleasant as it sounds, but it has a good shoulder and is pretty flat.  It began raining as I descended that hill in Bothell so at this juncture I was riding on a fairly busy road in a light rain.  Just past Mill Creek one can turn off the highway go past a park and then intersect with the Interurban trail. This point is just past the mid-point of that trail and when I’ve done similar rides in the past I’ve ridden to the northern end of the trail before returning south. Not having much daylight left I forgo this option but I did go just enough north to check out the new overpass they have built for the trail. Previously you had to ride on the sidewalk over I-5 with entry and exit ramps everywhere and it was not a real good time. It still forces a bad sidewalk riding chunk but hopefully they’ll route it through a little cul-de-sac and eliminate that.

Drive in Movie Theater along the Interurban Trail.

Entering the Interurban trail at this point you ride up a little residential street past one of the last Interurbandrive-in movie theaters in the region. There was a couple of cars lined up, waiting to catch the double feature of  Journey to the Center of the Earth and The Dark Night. There was a drive-in on Whidbey Island that used to be a favorite activity for me as a late teen.  A couple of buddies and myself would borrow the ‘rents van and abuse various substances as we watched cheesy movies. Good times. I’m always happy to see this drive-in still hanging on. Past the drive-in the interurban runs straight with very gentle rolling hills. There was a stiff headwind at this point but the clouds were tearing away and it was the magic hour light-wise. Even with the headwind I made good time up the trail. The trail crosses from one side of the I-5 to the other three or four times over its length and I had do one of these at the Alderwood mall. From there the trail continues on through Montlake Terrance a finally coming to an end in Shoreline (though it is supposed to continue on nearly to Seattle). I bailed out at its old ending on the edge of Shoreline and took a route around a golf course and Ballinger Lake and then crossed the I-5 at a nice low traffic spot.

Interurban in the magic hour
The interurban at the magic hour.

From there was was wandering downhill to Lake Forest Park and the Burke Gillman trail. As I rRainbowode up a short section of the BGT there was a fantastic double rainbow. Riding in the rain isn’t a preferred activity(especially after just cleaning the bicycle) but if you refuse to do so you deny yourself beautiful experiences like this.  Additionally the smell of the road on a hot summer day just after the rain, the level of green on plants washed of their dust, and a general feeling of freshness all of these are glorious experiences lost on those who only ride in dry weather. Things are fairly automatic at this point – well trod roads for the last ten miles home. Of course Big Finn Hill is one of those well trod roads and it always is a bit of effort. Following that is a screaming descent into Juanita and then yet another climb up the again oft traveled Market Street. After that its the last mile home which I reached around 9:30 and another great day of bicycling comes to a close. I put in 55 miles total which isn’t too bad considering the late start and the weather conditions.

For all of my pictures from this ride, check out my flickr set: An August Evening Ride.

Rainbow closup
Double Rainbow. Nice payoff for the rainy ride.

Hills, seven of ’em

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

AtlantisA couple of Sunday’s back after a drought of non commuting rides I set out from my house wending through the Kirkland Suburbia.  I wasn’t sure where I was going exactly, but there really are only three directions to go from my house due to Lake Washington and I’d been concentrated more on the eastern and southern directions. As I rode up and down the hills that paralleled the main northern street, I recalled that I had started to ride the 7 Hills of Kirkland ride a month or so back and had cut it short due to breaking a spoke. I was paralleling the start of that ride at this point so after cresting the last hill I turned onto what would be the first descent of the ride. The 7 Hills ride is a classic charity ride that goes one every year.  It packs 3000 feet of climbing into the basic 40 mile (64 kilometer) route with a metric and full century options.  I had no cue sheet, I was just following the Dan Henrys that were still visible. Following old rides via Dan Henry’s is an activity I greatly enjoy, the wayfinding aspects add a lot of pleasure.

I’d of course waited to about 1:30 in the afternoon to start this ride, part of the reason why I hadn’t done the official one (7am start time). It was a great temperature this afternoon, in the mid 60s, with threatening clouds but the promise of sun behind them. The first hill (that I was doing) was Juanita Hill and it is one I’ve done pretty often.  Kirkland’s location between Bothell and Bellevue with Lake Washington on the western side means that to go west you either need to go north and cross via Juanita Hill or South and cross at the I-90 Bridge (or go all the way around via the Lake Washington Loop).  So this was a pretty familiar hill and while it goes on for a couple of miles, it is pretty stair-stepy with no real significant grades.  Before completing the full series of climbs the route takes a sharp left and a really nice wooded descent down to the waterfront.
Juanita Hill
Hill No. 2: Juanita Hill

At the base of the hill is O.O. Denny park which I stopped at for lunch. I had brought a sandwich and a cookie acquired from a convenient Starbucks and I spent a bit of time at the park eating and walking around.  It was pretty empty this day, but with theO.O. Denny Park big threatening clouds that wasn’t too surprising. There were a couple of families there but apart from a little girl playing in the water near where I was eating I didn’t really encounter many people.  After giving the park a nice check-out (I hadn’t stopped here before)  I climbing back on my bicycle and set off for the next hill. The route wends along the shoreline for a mile or so, offering tantalizing glimpses of the water in-between the luxury houses that line the shore. Its nice riding for the most part, as only residents and (the clearly few) visitors to the park using the road.  As the shoulder is pretty minimal at this point the lack of traffic is nice.  Eventually the road turns north and there is a little bit of an ascent.  This levels off for a few hundred feet and then the climb back up begins in earnest.

Seminary Hill
Hill No 3 – Seminary Hill

This is the Hill on the route that I’ve ridden the least.  Before my aborted attempt at this ride a month back I’d never actually taken this route.  Well this is a pretty good hill, last for over a mile and with several sections of pretty descent grades – of course one of these is right at the end.  Its not a killer hill though, totally manageable with just steady grinding. I was glad for the cloud cover as I worked my way to the top which ends with a traffic signal. As I brought it to a stop a roadie came up behind me and as I waited for the light, he checked the traffic and then blew through the light. It changed just as he was finishing the turn so I set off right behind him.  After taking two climbs on pretty much one hill the route now rewards you with a nice long descent. The route goes back down the backside of Big Finn Hill in about a two mile descent.  It bottoms out in Kenmore at the end of Lake Washington where it meets the Sammamish river.  The route turns northeast taking back roads through an industrial till it meets up with the Burke-Gillman Trail.  The route takes the trail for a mile or two turning off the trail at a trestle that crosses the Sammamish River.

Norway Hill
Hill No 4- Norway Hill, lower section

The route then takes these nicely wooded back roads that are mostly flat but with a couple tiny bumps till at last it runs south onto the longest climb of the ride – Norway Hill. This hill is in two parts with a very short flat segment (and a stop sign) in between the two segments.  I’ve ridden both segments before, but mainly the lower section as yTop of Norway Hillou can continue up from there into Kirkland. The lower section gently rises then takes a series of right angle turns, climbing all the while. There are a couple of steep segments here but nothing off the hook.  It is a deeply shaded route through a gap up the valley wall.  The steepest part is right at the final switchback and then it is a gently rising straight segment to the stop sign.  A sharp right and you begin climbing again immediately up the second segment.  This part also twists its way up, up, up with the steepest sections of the whole climb at one point.  It comes to the end with some nice scenic views over the Sammamish valley and out towards Seattle. The descent from Norway Hill is akin to the climb in that it is completely shaded, steep and with several sharp curves. It t-bones into a fairly busy road at the bottom sapping an otherwise screaming descent.  A circuitous roue through suburbia with a mixture of flat easy riding
and some straightforward ups and downs follows this big hill. On a fairly major arterial the road dips down, under I-405 and then begins the climb up Kingsgate Hill.

Kingsgate Hill
Hill No 5 – Kingsgate Hill

This hill is a ruler straight, steady climb with the steepest section right at the beginning and end. Right after you dip down below the interstate there is a fairly steep, short bit to a traffic signal which luckily I made.  Then its pretty steady, fairly gentle climbing for a pace, flatting out almost completely for a short segment then a longer, steeper section to another traffic signal.  After this signal there is a final not too hard of a grade to yet another signal. A left at this signal takes you past a church where, if you were on the real ride, there would be a mid ride refreshments.  I took a swig of water and rode on.  The route follows the top of the valley wall through several neighborhoods and with two major descents back down into the valley.  The second of these is a long, gently curving, well paved road that I hit the max speed of this ride at over 36mph.  The base of this hill is actually only about a mile up from the turn off to Norway Hill  – this route is super compact riding up and down the Sammamish valley wall over and over again.  At a convenience store on this road I bought bottled water and a Key Lime Almond Joy. I love key lime pie and was tempted by this candy bar. It was horrific, not recommended.

Winery Hill
Hill No 6 – Winery Hill

The road is now the Woodinville-Redmond road, a nice flat route through light industrial and the Woodinville Wine region.  At the point where the road curves north, this route turns south and up Winery Hill.  This is by far the toughest hill of the whole route, fairly long but easily the steepest.  It begins with a short, very steep section on beat up asphalt with a railway crossing at the top. The hill then regains its grade curving up and up with a long run-out at the end. But if you take a hard right directly after the railroad tracks you can take a steeper, longer route up. That was the way the 7 Hills planners chose to go.  The section right Redmondafter the tracks crossing is the steepest, something like an 18% grade. There are several hard turns and the roads are really the private roads of a housing development. Eventually you reach the top of the valley walls and there is the climb out in the picture above. On the real ride there is a piper at the top of this section playing you to the top of this tough climb.  The route then parallels the portion of the ride from the top of Kingsgate Hill, past the food stop at the church and then a back hill descent back into the valley.  A nice couple of mile long flat section on Willows Road then follows.  This ends with a bit of a climb to an intersection with Redmond Way. You turn onto this road then a quick right, followed by another right and you are on the start of the Rose Hill climb.

The last section of Rose Hill
Hill No 7 – Rose Hill

The final hill of the official route is Rose Hill, the longest of all the hills. This one goes on for over two miles with three stop lights breaking up the climb.  The first section is the steepest, climbing quickly up from the valley with an S curve at the steepest section.  I ride this hill all the time as it is one of the most direct routes from where I live in Kirkland to points east. So I know every jot and jiggle of this hill and pace myself accordingly.  It was now early evening and the big bad clouds had mostly rolled away without dropping any rain.  I was feeling about ready to pack it in for dinner but I knew I had to ride the one hill I’d sort of bypassed before I’d settled on doing this route.  But I had to get back to the start first and I stuck with the route to see how it’d get there. It turned south before the absolute final gentle climb to the summit of Rose Hill (all the hard parts were done though) and took the nicely wooded roads through the Bridle Trails neighborhood of Kirkland.  These roads take you into the edge of Bellevue and from here the route took a quick jaunt to Lake Washington Blvd and back into Kirkland. Following this waterfront road, the route takes you through downtown Kirkland finally turning into Waverly Park.

Waverly Park
Waverly Park – the Start/Finish line

It was now mostly sunny and the park was filled with people taking in the sun, having a picnic dinner and enjoying the waterfront.  The official ride begins and ends at this park and would be packed with cyclists, food, merchandise and well wishers.  That being a month ago it was just filled with people out enjoying this summer day.  I didn’t linger long but headed out to the beginning of the official ride but the final hill of my version: Market Hill.  Market street is just off the main street of Kirkland and is a long straight not too tough a hill. It goes on for a while and there is often a decent amount of traffic but over all not too hard.  Its a good enough way to start and/or end a hill oriented route. Just past the summit was where I’d joined the route so I took at right at that point and took my circuitous route home.

Market Hill
Hill No 1 – Market Hill

I arrived home at 6:30pm having done just over 44 miles (71km) total.  Overall I have to say this is a great ride and one I didn’t find that tough. Perhaps it’s because I ride in this area all the time, doing some of these hills in my daily commute.  I’ll have to actually do the official ride some year, perhaps doing one of the longer options.

Click here to see my all the pictures from this ride on Flickr.
The official 7 Hills of Kirkland homepage
Bikely map of the 7 Hills route.

Vernal Equinox

Thursday, March 20th, 2008

At last it is spring. Not that today was much different then yesterday but lets face it – there is a level in which its all mental. The real big change as far as I’m concerned was the shift to daylight savings time a couple weeks back.  I commute year round and a certain percentage of my rides home are in the darkness. I’ve gone to great lengths to be able to ride comfortably and safely in the dark and there are aspects of it I enjoy a lot. But I can’t deny that I prefer to ride in the light.  Things had been lightening up, there was a trace of dusk if I left work at a normal time, a bit of light if I left a bit early. But the daylight savings time switch kicked it into pretty much full light on my ride home.

In the last week or two the flora has burst into brilliant life. Only the most reticent trees still raise unadorned limbs to the sky. everything else has woken from their winter slumber.  Of course the cherry trees and the dogwoods have been blooming for nearly a month now and many of the cherries are heading toward dropping their flowers as the leaves are pretty dominant now. The flowers are coming up,  pretty little blue wildflowers ion the side of the highway,  various flowering shrubs. The colors are stunning and the frequent rains only serve to wash away the dust and put a brilliant sheen on things.

Speaking of the rains, the persistent drizzle of winter has begun to transmute into the showers of spring. The morning will be partially cloudy, maybe a bit breezy, and then a series of showers will come and go throughout the day making any sort of anticipation of the conditions for the ride home impossible. Sprinkles come and go on those ride and sure even a full evening of rain. Dressing is always tricky this time of year and as the temperatures warm this increases. One might need to wear a wool stocking hat on the ride in and a cycle cap on the ride home. Fingerless gloves on direction, full gloves the other. A sweater when it’s dry, but just a shirt under a rain jacket when its raining.  Of course with the wool I primarily wear I can almost always just go for it and change clothes at either end.

The clothing thing is always toughest in the transition months and I find that it it overheating that is my biggest challenge. This year I’m more on the ball I picked up some wool arm warmers and knee warmers. I run through a pattern every year from t-shirt, shorts and bare feet in sandals in the summer to wool, tights, two layers of wool socks, a wool undershirt, a wool sweater and a wool hat in the winter.  As I move from winter to summer, I replace the sweater with a light tweed cardigan and then the tights with leg warmers.  The next step is always the hard one, from there to t-shirt and shorts.  So I’m hoping that the arm warmers and knee warmers will fill that gap. I’ve been trying to get these for years but every year Rivendell sells out of them right when I decide I need them. So I got them this week probably a month before I need them. Trying to think ahead.

I keep riding all winter but there is not denying that it is mostly commuting miles. And even those reach a low point in the winter as I missed days for severely inclement weather, sickness and general malaise. What really suffers are the longer recreational rides. Sure I got some in this winter, a couple a month, but it definitely a lesser affair.  The longer days really help, especially as I’m not much of a morning person.  Riding has already picked up a bit and should only continue. So here’s to spring!

(see all my Vernal Equinox pictures here)

Tour 2007 – day 10

Sunday, September 9th, 2007

I woke as if I was still in the tent but I had slept reasonably well. This was the final day, the ride home and I did have a few concerns. First the knee, did my ministrations of the evening before help? What about the rear tire? And of course I’d kind of cobbled together this route and wasn’t really sure how long it was going to take. I wanted to have as much time as possible so I got up and moving pretty fast. The tire had held it turned out though had lost some air. I gave the knee another session of icing and elevation and then hit the showers.  I popped a couple of Advil and hopped that would suffice. I got out of the motel a bit after 9am and did a quick circuit of Shelton and then headed out a back road to 101.

The knee felt all right so far and the back road began with a pretty long decent climb and I weathered that fine as well. The road then continued through a kind of outskirts/strip mall part of town then joined 101. This section of 101 was one of the nicer of the whole route- at least 9:30 on a Sunday morning. It went through woods, had a good shoulder and not much traffic. It also had a long descent and not too much ascending which was good. After one really long descent, maybe around a mile it flattened out a bit then I turned onto 106. I’d follow 106 for the next 18 miles it truly was one my favorite, if not my actual favorite bit of riding this trip.

The knee was doing fine, just the occasional twinge so I was able to fully enjoy this road. It began in the woods which then opened up to a valley with farmland on one side and a wooded hillside on the other. The road wound along assiduously avoiding that hillside and though it was mostly chipseal the shoulder often was not. The shoulder was pretty small and sometimes disappeared or was overrun with overhanging weeds but the traffic was very low. I forgot to mention but again it was totally clear and sunny and it was getting warm already. This turned out to be another saving grace of this route in that it  wended in and out of the trees and I never got hot even as the temps headed up to 80 degrees (f). Eventually the farmland became salt marsh and then opened up to the coast. A short time on the coast and I was at the little town of Union.

I stopped at the Union Country Store for water and ended up finding that it was a deli and bakery as well. I got a fantastic cinnamon roll that was still warm and not over iced (a common failing in cinnamon rolls) and a cup of coffee. I sat in the window eating this and resting a bit. Shortly I set off and found the rear tire a bit low on air. Ah the proverbial slow leak. Not too shocking with a patched tire or it could have been the mysterious object that poked through the last two tubes. I pumped it back up and rode on. The road went up and down hugging the coast, but never to big of climbs or descents. The cool sea air and stunning vistas of Hood Canal made for this incredible ride. I’m sure it wouldn’t be as much fun 6 hours from now when endless traffic returns from the coast but in the morning with little traffic this was a fantastic ride. The tire wasn’t holding for long enough though so at Happy Hollow where I had stopped for some more Advil, I changed it to my other patched tired. I’ve gotten a lot of practice, it only took me about 10 minutes.

Only a few miles after Happy Hollow 106 ended and I joined with Highway 3 at Belfair. Now I had been skipping this highway, not being interest in fast traffic right in the beating sun. The route I had worked out was to take the old Belfair highway that paralleled 3 and was supposed to be much quieter and scenic. Well I never saw the turnoff and I wasn’t willing to risk the time to explore for it so I just ended up doing 3. It was the usual no fun: hot, dusty, fast traffic and so on. But the worst of this was miles of climbing right out of Belfair. It kept going up and then a bit of down then further up for maybe 5 miles of this route. The headwind at this time was fierce and as I’d crest this hills I’d take it full in the face. This sustained climbing was not good on the knee and it began to ache again. At last this climbing ended and there was a couple of miles of plateau (with headwind natch) but then a long, long descent maybe 2-3 miles. At the bottom of this I had to do a flyway bridge on the route to Bremerton.

This part of 3 was along the coast, very flat but packed with fast traffic. It wasn’t too long till the navy shipyard came into view with multiple ships and an aircraft carrier in the water at the yard. The route to the ferry wended through Bremerton and included two horrifically steep climbs that pretty much wrapped it up for the knee doing alright thankfully after these it was over I was at the ferry dock. No charge for eastbound walk ons so I parked the bicycle and when I got a massive fish burrito. This thing was unbelievably huge, but I just wolfed it down waiting for the ferry. It was almost 3 in the afternoon and I hadn’t been eating enough. Just after I finished it they signaled to board the bicycles and I rode onto the ferry.

As far as I can recall I have never been to Bremerton before and this was my first time on this ferry. It is the usual scenic Puget Sound ferry crossing the water with the various nooks and crannies of the Sound for scenery. Not to mention in this perfectly clear day, Mount Rainier, Mount Baker and soon the Seattle cityscape were all there for the eyes. I got a Widmir Hefeweizen and enjoyed the scenery and putting my leg up for a while. The ferry is about an hour to Seattle and I needed that rest. On landed in Seattle I had to ride through the city including about 8 blocks uphill to the I-90 trail. An added complication was the Seahawks game had recently ended (I heard them setting off fireworks at the stadium a few blocks south – guess they won) so there was throngs of pedestrians and cars jamming the routes to the freeways.

Finally I hit the I-90 trail and took this now familiar route. I was doing okay, the rest on the ferry seemed to have helped for the knee. I did the first bridge, and then the Mercer crossing, both of which have their hills and then I stopped as I felt the rear tire was a bit low. Well it wasn’t, which was nice, but after that point my knee was screaming out in pain. I nursed myself the next 8 or so miles home, stopped and walking now and again but mainly just manning my way there through the pain. I was never so happy as to see my place. Piled on my porch were three packages of items I’d bought for the tour but hadn’t arrived in time. Ah well, next tour.  I washed my bicycle (it deserved it) took a shower (I deserved it) ran out for beer and ordered a pizza. And that’s it, tour 2007 over and done with.

Total miles today: 63
Total miles for the tour: 564.4

On the longest day of the year

Friday, June 22nd, 2007
Sunset at the Kirkland Waterfront

Dawn: 4:29am
I got up significantly later then this and found the rear tire on my Atlantis to be flat. Same with my “backup” bicycle. D’oh! So it was the automobile which making the best of a bad situation I took the opportunity to run some errands. Arriving home that evening after dinner I changed the tire. I then decided that as this was the longest day I was going to ride until dark. I headed out about a quarter to nine with plenty of light in the sky.

Sunset: 9:10pm
I rode through my neighborhood down to Lake Washington Way and the Kirkland waterfront. The sun was dipping down into a layer of clouds at the horizon painting the sky with its vibrant colors. I rode out onto a public pier, where I snapped the above photo, and spent some time enjoying the setting sun on the water. Twilight now I ride through Kirkland’s downtown which is thronging with people in cars and on foot. The sounds of people dining and drinking on patios an the smells of grills set the scene as I ride through town. People genuinely use the Kirkland waterfront on nice days and it is nice to actually see people out and about. I rode through town and up Market Street pulling off to wander the neighborhoods along the waterfront. I was riding till dark which I knew was over an hour away and as I had no specific destination beyond returning home I let myself freely wander. As I began to loop back to Market St. I took a left that went downhill back down toward the water. This road looped around and I found a back entrance to Juanita Bay Park which was a nice discovery. I rode through its paths and parking my bicycle walked out on a board walk into the lilly pad covered bay. At the lookout there was a pair of giggling teenagers so I wasn’t that compelled to spend much time. Plus I was riding into the darkness. So I soon set out, crossing the park and heading up Forbes Creek Drive. This is a really nice route with rolling hills through the valley carved out by the creek though at times I was riding through thick clouds of gnats. Some interesting looking areas of woods along the creek that merit further exploration. Reaching the end of the drive I wandered through the light industrial above it seeing if there was a path that connected to the Kirkland Highlands, which I’ve always felt there should be. Now pretty dark I didn’t see any promising leads and I rode on.

Dusk: 9:51pm
I’d turned on my Schmidt Hub much earlier as I like having the taillights bring glow adding to my blinkies in the twilight. Riding through the dusk that I love so much it would illuminate my way as I went into shaded areas, disappearing as I returned into the dwindling light. Now though in the thick gloaming the light was essential to show my way. Leaving the industrial area I rode under the 405 on 116th (a route I would not do during the day with the insane traffic and freeway ramps)  and into the Rose Hill neighborhoods. Pretty much totally dark now, clouds were rolling in as well diminishing the light from the quarter moon. I rode through the neighborhood until I crossed over to the Bridle Trails neighborhood heading toward a pedestrian overpass across the 405. Riding past a school I see a couple of young adults one of them on a bike. His buddy shouts out to me “Front brakes rule, right?” to which I replied in the affirmative. He used this to chide  hid buddy who informed him he had no front brake, or a rear brake either for the matter. Must be a fixed gear rider. Shortly thereafter I crossed the 405 and wended my way through suburban streets until I made my way home.

Back home: 10:15pm
Back home after about an hour and a half, now the sky is mostly cloudy with a hint of light to the west but stars overhead in between the clouds. The solstice is about done and from here on out it will be darker every night.