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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.

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

WTS #2

Sunday, January 24th, 2016
WTS #2 - Riding Dirty
Riding Dirty

Saturday January 16th I left my place on Beacon Hill a bit after 8am and rode across Mercer Island and south on Lake Washington to Newcastle Beach Park. I was meeting an ad hoc group of SIR and CBC members engaged in the second of six Winter Training Rides.  Most of these rides are a bit too far away for me to ride to, thus I’m only dipping into the series.  I wasn’t able to do last weeks ride (though ironically due to ice it was shifted to noon which I could have easily made, but by then other plans had been made).

WTS #2 - Riders AssemblingRiders assembled

When I got up this morning it was pouring rain, but I was committed and pressed on with my morning routine. But the time I left my apt it was just a heavy mist.  It was mist and very light drizzle all the way to Newcastle Beach Park. I arrived about fifteen minutes before roll out – just about right. I’d registered online, so they just had to check my name off a list.  The drizzle increased a bit at this point.  There was maybe sixteen riders or so a mix of rando’s and club riders predominately wearing Showers Pass jackets. We rolled out right at nine and as we climbed out of the park a couple of riders were coming down the hill. They simple swung around and joined the pack.

WTS #2 Route

WTS #2 Route

I rather pushed myself to get to the park before the start of the ride, so I tried to pace myself for this ride. Thus I pretty quickly fell toward the back of the pack, riding in the back quarter for most of the early part of the ride.  When I’d first glanced at the route (see above) I felt that it was mostly on roads that I was familiar with. Well while I was familiar with most of the regions we were riding in, I was familiar with probably only half or two-thirds or so of the roads. So within fifty miles of Seattle there was a lot of new riding!  It began on the Lake Washington Loop but at Renton it forewent the typical route through town to the Cedar River Trail and instead cut through the east side of town and up to the Renton Hills.  This stiff climb separated out some of those riders for whom the WTS was their first ride of the winter.  Not being in great riding shape myself at this point at least my bicycle is geared for these hills. I’d fallen behind the pack due to hitting a series of red lights in Renton – I was riding with just one other rider on a Disc Trucker – but now I was back in the back third of the pack.

WTS #2 - Cedar River
Crossing the Cedar River

We entered a park and at the end of the park there was a really unclear jog on the map and I ended up going the wrong way. I figured this out after about a km and climbed back up the hill and was back on track.  But I would never catch up to the main pack again.  The route now descended down to the valley and I crossed 109 and onto the Cedar River Trail for just a couple of kms. Then left the trail, crossed the Cedar River and followed the excellent Jone Rd along the river for a spell. This was great country riding, not to far from the Renton-Maple Valley freeway, but with the Cedar River between you and the highway you could barely sense it. Steep, wooded valley walls to the north and the little farms and the river to the south. The route wound around the river with ups and downs and was just nice riding.

I crossed the highway again and then the route climbed the southern valley walls. This was a good stiff climb and part the way up I encountered another rider checking his cell phone.  He said he though he was the back of the back and I said I’d taken a wrong turn. He asked if we were supposed to turn at the next road and I replied that it looked like we were on this road for a while. I continued up this hill for a while and it was a tough climb and I was feeling my lack of riding.  At the top I had to stop and eat an apple I’d brought. The roadie continued on, but not long after I set out again I encountered him again checking his phone. He said he just was unsure where we were. So he followed me for a while occasionally pulling ahead and then double checking his phone. Finally we entered Covington and he said “Now I know where we are. I’m back on track again, thanks to you” and he took off. I stopped at the AM/PM to refill my water bottles and to eat some lunch I’d brought.

WTS #2 - Trestle on the Cedar River
Trestle on the Cedar River

After this stop for lunch I knew I was pretty much never going to catch back up to the pack, so I pretty much switched into solo riding mode.  The route skirted the rest of Covington and then climbed up to a plateau.  The riding was in that kind of forested exurban neighborhoods you find around here. Fairly busy roads, a decent amount of houses, most of them with pretty big yards. Not much density. I was on a pretty busy arterial when I heard that sound you hear when a pebble shoots out from your tired. But it sounded more like a puncture. A couple of blocks further on it was clear it was a puncture.  Well that’s the price of these lightweight, “supple” tires.  I pulled over and made the change.  I have to say their is definitely an advantage in disc brakes for the tire change.  I had some trouble with this new small pump I’d brought but hadn’t really used. Eventually though everything was back and I was about ready to head off. At that point a rider stopped checking on me and he, and two others, turned out to be later joiners to the ride.  They rode on and I never saw them again either.

Not much further on from the tire change the route descended into Maple Valley and was in territory I was familiar with, but on a different route. It crossed the Green To Cedar Rivers trail, a soft surface trail that connects to the Cedar River Trail that I’ve ridden on a few times and then ran on back roads to the actual junction of those two trails. It was kind of neat to be on this side road I’ve seen many times from the Cedar River Trail. Eventually though the road joined up with the Renton-Maple Valley highway and ran on it for a short time.  I missed a turn that was almost immediately off the highway so I rode on it a little further and took the next exit and doubled back a bit. It began to rain at this point.

I was now on very familiar roads as this is a route I’ve done many times connected Issaquah to the Cedar River trail. It climbs up over the valley wall and then onto high farmland. You take the Issaquah-Hobart road the bulk of the way. This road is pretty busy as drivers have figured out this nice back way between Renton and Issaquah but it makes for okay riding. Hobart literally has one store and a church and is about the most quintessential small country town around. Before reaching Issaquah the route turned west on May Valley Road. This is another great riding road that alas is a bit overly trafficked. I tend to enjoy it more coming west to east (and in the summer!) which is a bit more downhill, but more because you are on the open side of the valley which is all fields and farmland. These lowlands were all quite flooded on this day and in the now pretty strong rain it wasn’t abetted.

WTS #2 - NFE at Squak Mountain
Taking a break at Squak Mt. St. Park

As I made my way up May Valley, the rain which had been pretty heavy for the last hour or so petered out and there was even some gaps of blue and bright sun. There would be a pattern of sun, clouds and rain for the rest of the ride.  I pulled over a Squak Mountain State Park for a short break and to use the facilities but from there it was pretty much a straight shot home.  My left knee was hurting a bit and I wasn’t sure if it was just being out of shape, or that the still relatively new NFE was precisely adjusted or an old injury to it flaring up. Probably all three.  The pain would come and go but made this last stage a bit unpleasant.  There was one last new bit of riding for me and that was into the Newcastle Hills.   The route seemed to inexplicably turn off the standard way back to Lake Washington and up a super steep hill right into a gated community.  But once up that hill the route wended it’s way through suburbia eventually onto a narrow one way road that skirted a greenspace and then joined Lake Washington Blvd. A very clever backroad route back to the Lake WA. Loop!

I didn’t bother riding back down into Newcastle Beach Park, certain that the ride was long done. I continued on and backtracked my route there: Lake Washington Loop, I-90 Trail, cross Mercer Island, Mountain to Sound trail then the Beacon Hill Greenway back home.  I made it back a bit after 4pm in dwindling light.

I ended up riding 126km (~78.4mi) total of which 93.5km (~58mi)  was the WTS route plus my off-route additions

A few pictures from this ride (iPhone pics alas) can be found in my WTS #2 album on flickr.

National Forest Explorer

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015
Elephant NFE - Mural

Elephant National Forest Explorer

Last autumn I was at Free Range Cycles in Fremont, checking out their various Rando bicycles. I’d been interested for a while in a 650b, low trail bicycle and after that previous summers tour in the mountains I was more interested in forest roads, fire trails and other routes off the beaten paths. Talking about this with the fine folks at Free Range on of them mentioned the forthcoming stock National Forest Explorer being pre-sold for a very reasonable price from Elephant Bikes in Spokane WA. It sounded like exactly what I was interested in. I went and checked them out but I’d missed that first pre-sale. But I had myself added to the list of those who wanted in on the second batch.

Elephant NFE - Frame, unboxed

NFE Frame

Eventually deposits were collected and I was added to the mailing list and then began a long period of updates, shop shots and work status along with tantalizing posts and pictures from owners of batch 1.  My frame arrived June 26th and lingered in my living room for some time before I finally had a chance to build it up.  That of course took longer then I’d have anticipated (the biggest holdup being finding a 1 1/8″ needle bearing headset) but I finally wrapped it up last week and finally got in a decent ride this last weekend.  I’m still getting everything dialed in, but so far it’s a lot of fun to ride.  I can’t wait to get it out in the woods!

Elephant NFE - Drive Side

Elephant stock NFE

Build list

Frame: Elephant stock National Forest Explorer medium
Headset: Token Threadless Headset 1 1/8″ silver
Stem:  Nitto threadless Lugged Stem 26.0, 90mm
Handlebars: Rivendell Nitto Albastache
Bar tape: Newbaums Grey
Shifters: Rivendell bar end Silver Shifters
Brake Levers: Shimano Tiagra Road Brake Levers
Wheels:
– Velocity A23 650b rims
– spokes: DT Swiss double butted
– front hub: SON 28 disc
– rear hub: Suzue Classica Disc hub
– Cassette: 8 speed Cassette 12-32t
-Tires: Compass Babyshoe Pass 650bx42
Brakes: TRP Spyre 160 mm rotor
Rear Derailleur: Sun XFD34M
Front Derailleur: Sun SXRD34m
Cranks: Sugino XD2 36/24 165mm w/ Sugino Chainguard
Pedals: Thin Gripster
Saddle: Brooks Cambium C17 Slate
Seat Post: Nitto s83
Front Rack: Nitto Mark’s Rack M1
Lowrider Rack: Tubus Nova
Fenders: Velo Orange Zeppelin 52mm Fenders 650b
Decaleur: Velo Orange Decaleur kit
Front Bag: Ostrich F-104 Rando Bag
Saddlebag: Ostrich S-2 Saddlebag
Waterbottle Cages: King Cage IRIS Stainless
Bell: Hammer Headset Spacer bell

The beautiful wheelset was built by Kathleen at Free Range Cycles and I had the headset installed by my LBS (truly local, about two blocks from me) Hello Bicycle here on Beacon Hill. I’m to blame for everything else. There are still a few things to do, mainly getting the lighting wrapped up. I put my old E6 front light on it so that the generator has a load, but I’ll probably move my Luxos U from my Atlantis over when I disassemble it for repainting. I need a rear light of some sort as well, perhaps something fender mounted.

More pictures can be seen in my NFE Gallery on Flickr.