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Winter Solstice 2014

Friday, December 26th, 2014

Winter Solstice Ride 2014 - Clouding up over the Sound

 Winter Solstice on Puget Sound

I was inclined to take a ride in the short amount of sunlight available on the Winter Solstice and thought I’d head to the beach at West Seattle and bile up some coffee.  I loaded up my trusty Atlantis with my camp stove, alcohol, some coffee (also tea, in case I decided I was done with coffee for the day by the time I pulled over), put on my winter ride togs and set off just a bit before noon.  I decided that I should get lunch in West Seattle before any other activities so I took the most direct route there. I exited Beacon Hill on Columbia which is pretty much a direct I-5 and West Seattle Bridge entrance.  I thought there was an exit that wouldn’t put me on either of those highways but as I descended past the point of no return I became less sure.  I decided to just press on figuring I could get off the first exit on the West Seattle Bridge if I had to. It being Sunday, noon-ish, there wasn’t a lot of traffic which made these decisions easier.  I always think one needs to take a certain amount of chances when on is riding, especially on routes.  This one worked out okay as before I was on the West Seattle Bridge proper I was able to exit onto Spokane Street.  From there it was a straight shot (with a short jaunt around a stationary train blocking the way) to the Alki Trail.

Winter Solstice Ride 2014 - Atlantis in front of West Seattle's most distinctive building

 Atlantis in front of West Seattle’s most distinctive building


Winter Solstice Ride 2014 - Lunch at Zeeks PizzaOver the Duwamish and onto another trail to Avalon and then the long slow climb up to downtown West Seattle. I rode down California street, past the Sunday Farmers Market, to where it intersects with Fauntlaroy where I stopped at Zeeks Pizza for lunch.  While I’m mostly a Neapolitan Pizza kind of guy Zeeks makes this Thai Pizza, that barely counts as a pizza, but I find myself needing to have every so often.  Being out of their delivery radius in my current dwelling this seemed like a good opportunity to avail myself of this fine item.  The Thai “pizza” is a pizza crust with peanut sauce, cheese and then Thai approrpriate veggies: broccoli, red onions, green peppers, bean sprouts, julienned carrots, cilantro and so on.  Such a great thing. Since pizza – even if it’s basically Thai-fusion flatbread – requires beer so I paired it with a Reubens Brews Roasted Rye IPA, which had distinctive rye notes and was appropriately winterly robust.

I didn’t linger overly long at Zeeks and was soon enough back on the road and heading down Fauntleroy toward Lincoln Park where I’d initially thought I’d get back on the Alki Trail and find a beach to bile up my coffee. But it was only a mile or two away from where I’d just had lunch so I thought I’d keep heading south on the coast and stop at a convenient park when I felt moved for coffee. I passed the ferry terminal and then there was a pretty good climb up from sea-level. Trying to stay on the coast I stair stepped through little residential streets until I was on Marine Drive.  There were plenty of big houses on the bluffs above the water but not much by way of parks or access to the beach. But it was nice riding with the occasional great views of the sound.  At one point way up ahead I could see a point sticking way out into the sound. It looked too far away to ride to on this short day, but I filed it away for future explorations.

The road curved inland to make it’s way around a cove and I noticed that I was on a route used for some bicycle ride with an ‘R’ symbol in it’s Dan Henry’s. As I’ve related many times in these pages, following random Dan Henry’s is a favorite pastime of mine so once again I set off on unknown routes.  I was in suburbia now with the occasional busier arterial, but clearly this route was working it’s way toward that point I saw. There was several good climbs on this route but it flattened out as I came into Burien.  Old Town Burien, which I can’t ever recall having visited, looks pretty nice. A brewpub of the Elliot Bay Brewery, numerous good looking coffee shops, several books and a big brand of the Seattle Public Library all along the main drag.  I kept following the Dan Henry’s even though the sun was waning and it had really clouded up from the days earlier partial cloudiness.  I even felt a few drops of rain.

Winter Solstice Ride 2014 - Dwindling sun over the sound on this, the shortest day of the year

 Dwindling sun over the sound on this, the shortest day of the year

The Dan Henry’s led me into the woods and down a real steep winding road, that I was hoping I wouldn’t have to climb out of.  It opened up, right at sea level on the sound. I rounded that point I saw earlier and snapped the above pictures.  Wind was blowing from the south, it was pretty cloudy now and much cooler.  But I’d soon heat up as I climbed back up to Burien. Thankfully it wasn’t a there-and-back and the road and the Dan Henry’s hugged the water before climbing back up.  At last I reached a point where the marked route was heading back down to the water and further south where I felt I had to start making my way back home. I pulled up Google Maps and found that I could return to 4th Ave which I’d ridden into Burien and follow it almost all the way up the Duwamish Valley.  So this I did.

4th went up and down and there was definitely some traffic on this route but it had either bicycle lanes, or a mostly empty parking strip most of the way, so on a Sunday afternoon it was fine enough.  It more or less ended at Westcrest Park where you could either head east into South Park or West into White Center.  I rode through the park on dirt trails – which was good fun – and then through residential neighborhoods until I dove down into the valley and onto the Duwamish Trail.  From there it was an easy jaunt over the 1st Ave Bridge and into Georgetown.  Pretty deep into dusk now, I made my way toward I-5 where I had previously scouted a signed bicycle route up to Beacon Hill.  This worked out well and I soon crossed I-5 and was up onto the Beacon Hill Greenway.  I made it back to my pad right as the sun was sinking below the horizon, lighting up the clouds a dark orange.

This rather aimless route turned out to be really great, with certainly a few sections I would tweak for a longer ride. Those Dan Henry’s I was following I ended up seeing again when I was on the Duwamish Trail. I figure that route followed to coast perhaps as far as Dash Point State Park and then cut east to the Green River Trail where it would eventually connect with the Duwamish Trail where I encounter those symbols. That would be a pretty great ride and I want to get back out there and do the whole thing. But that would certainly require more daylight than I allowed on this day, but could very well be a good winter ride.

I put the route up on to RideWithGPS as you can see below. My odo stated 31.1 miles for the ride and the below route is as well, so I think I recalled the route pretty well.

Beacon Hill/West Seattle Ramble

Riding the Interurban

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Riding the Interurban - Public Art

Watch out for that train!

It’s been a rainy week in Seattle (and all around the PNW), with strong wind, sleet and even wet snow on a few days.  And it was just starting to seem like spring was around the corner. Of course it is, less than two weeks away, and this wetter chillier weather isn’t stopping the plants from sprouting and the trees from budding. It’s typical Western Washington March weather really.  We can get into periods like this throughout March and April with it just slowly warming up.  Anyway I was working on this post during some serious periods of rain today when I looked out the window and saw blue sky. I hurriedly changed into my cycling togs and set out for a bit of a rid. It was rather windy, but there was blue sky and sun and not even quite as cold as I was expecting. It wouldn’t last though and the last 3-4 miles were in a torrential downpour with serious gusting winds.  Still pretty fun and nice to be back on the bicycle even for just a 10 mile jaunt.

Waiting for the Interurban

Since moving into the city I’ve found myself often riding on the southern end of the Interurban North trail.  The northern end  I’ve often ridden as I had a loop I’d do from Woodiniville toward Everett and then south on the Interurban to Shoreline and back toward Woodinville. Every so often I’d ride it all the way into Seattle and then make my way on city streets to Greenwood where my sister lived or further on into Fremont or Ballard.  Roughly the route I took on these city streets has been signed as part of the Interurban North and bits of it where they can has been made into a dedicated rail-trail. When I need to head from the city toward Woodinville (where I have some stuff in storage) I’ll often take the Interurban to Shoreline and cut over and I’ve found this an enjoyable route. I’ve long meant to do a post talking about the history of the Interuban beyond as a rail trail and this rainy week is a good opportunity to do so.


Riding the Interurban

Electric interurban railways played a major part in defining early twentieth century transportation routes and growth patterns in King County. Early roads were primitive and before the development of the first inter-city rail service in 1899, most shippers and commuters on Puget Sound relied on water transport and “Mosquito Fleet” steamers for mobility. By 1912, private interurban lines connected Tacoma, Seattle, and Everett, but modern highways would soon offer fatal competition. Seattle-Tacoma service ended in 1928 with the opening of Highway 99, and Seattle-Everett service ended 11 years later (Seattle ripped up its streetcar lines in 1941). After the rejection of previous rail rapid transit proposals, regional voters approved a Sound Transit system in 1996. In September 2000, Sound Transit inaugurated commuter rail service between Seattle and Tacoma. (1)

The above single paragraph summary, from HistoryLink.org, of the history of commuter transit in the Puget Sound also nicely illustrates the short-sided thinking of the the age of oil.  For the last hundred odd years cheap energy has allowed massive changes in how human societies have operated and no-where has this been more dramatic then here in the United States. By the early 20th century in here in the Puget Sound we had a pollution free transit system that utilized hydro-electric power (which is not without its issues, but carbon emissions is not one of them) with city-wide trolleys and interurban networks that connected the major cities. The rise of the automobile and the shift of our society toward individual personal transportation among all the other devastation this led to (suburbia, strip malls, massive highway systems, an automobile focused culture, etc) rapidly ended both the trolley networks and the interurbans.  One hundred years later we are attempting to recreate this public network (now called light rail) at massive cost and dogged at every step by vicious struggle with those invested in the existing car culture.

An old passenger car in a farmers field on Fidalgo Island

This shift has occurred because the era of cheap energy is coming to a close.  During this era we have cast away a vast amount of resources and set ourselves up to be massively impacted by the change. Fully exploring the decline of cheap energy is beyond the scope of this post but for some good straightforward reading on the topic read this post: Oil Demand Shift. For a more numbers orientated perspective that deals with some of the outcomes check out this post: Peak Oil Perspective. So now we have here in the Puget Sound a very late effort to replicate the network of the Interurban and citywide transit. With our hilly terrain, many lakes and the Puget Sound itself this presents many challenges but also makes it more necessary. Bicycling is of course a primary way of getting around for myself but public transit is a major component as well. Sound Transit has now added a heavy rail commuter line that basically replicates the Interurban. Not quite like a bus or light rail in that it only runs during commute times but at least city connections have been made. Likewise its light rail network runs from downtown Seattle to SeaTac (the airport) and is being extended to the University District to the north, Federal Way to the South and across Lake Washington to Bellevue.  While way behind fellow West Coast cities of Portland, San Francisco, Vancouver et al along with a well used bus system it seems like we are finally heading toward a region-wide system. A return to the past as it were.


The start of the Interurban

Riding the Interurban - A Signed route at first

The right of way of the Interurban has thankfully not been lost: along with the rail it has always been a corridor used by Seattle City Light to run power lines into the city (and previously power the trains).  The land beneath these lines was a candidate for rail-trailing and it has been over many years turned into a 29 mile route that includes paved trail and signed route through neighborhoods and city streets. During that brief window of sun today I set out into the city to find the start of the Interurban North. I rode along Lake Union until I intersected it on Dexter and then rode south until I encountered the Interurban End sign. Crossing the street was the above sign and I rode up a few blocks without seeing anymore so I guess the start of the route goes unremarked. From here the route heads north on Dexter all the way to the Fremont bridge, which crosses and then heads up Fremont Way to Phinney Ridge, skirting Greenlake then mostly staying west of I-99/Aurora all the way through Shoreline (for a whole map of the route check out this great pdf).


Riding the Interurban - A signed route in these North Seattle Neighborhoods

After the city streets the first part of the interurban is all nice neighborhood riding

Riding the Interurban - Nice signage Aurora is a major route north, though it itself is overshadowed by I-5 to the east.  99 more or less killed the Interurban Railway back in the day and while one can ride on it (and sort of have to at times depending where you are going) it never is a good time.  The Interurban route is a nice alternative and shows off these northern Seattle neighborhoods nicely. Eventually there begin a few sections of separated trail and once the city of Shoreline is reached it is more on trail then not. There are always bits and pieces of trail connected by streets on this route and really adds to its character. A lot of riders complain about finding their way on the trail and getting lost, but I always found that part of its charm. I really have never gotten that lost on it at all though the first few times I rode it I often inadvertently skipped sections and I though it ended a mile or so before it really does.


Riding the Interurban - One of the newer bits

Park at the start of the Shoreline section

The trail has taken years (decades even) to get to where it is now and it is always been worked on. I encountered a new section in progress that bypass some street riding in Shoreline just a week or two ago.  The first part of the actual rail-trail to be built was the  Northern Shoreline to Everett sections and the South Shoreline to Seattle bits are newer and have a lot more surface street sections.  This new bit connects these older and newer sections better then the surface street option and it is nice to see. Another part of this new construction was to pave what was basically an a dirt surfaced alleyway and to repave a narrow, beat-down road that bordered Lake Ballinger with a demarcated bicycle path. Both of these I always used to take but it’s a lot easier and nicer now.


Riding the Interurban - New section in progress

New section in progress

Riding the Interurban - Interurban markers After this new chunk you get onto the start of the old Interurban which is a lot more trail based but still of course has it’s share of surface street riding. One thing that is notable about the Interurban is the amount of infrastructure it has. It has more overpasses, underpasses, parks and signage then any rail trail in the Seattle area. A lot of the latest construction has been overpasses that cross Aurora and I-5 and bypass around parking lots and malls.  The trail lives up to its name in that you encounter two major cities, Seattle and Everett and ride through outskirts of numerous smaller cities: Shoreline, Edmonds,  Montlake as well as several Seattle neighborhoods: Fremont, Phinney Ridege and Greenwood. There are several suburban lakes that you pass by that the motorist may never know lies on the route: Bitter Lake, Echo Lake, Lake Ballinger and Hall Lake.



A section in the woods, but it's just east of I-5

The route eventually cross Interstate 5 and after wandering through some interstitial boundary woods it returns to the separated trail which features some the longest straightest sections along the freeway. At times it pops into the trees that border the interstate and one surface street section seems to be almost rural land. It is always interstitial though, the route is almost always in-between a major road and and urban area that is just a ways from it.  Toward the end, in Everett, though the route is now west of the 5 to the east it descends into valley land and if you can get over there and get out of the suburbs you truly can do some rural riding. But at the same time you can continue into Everett and by heading north and a bit west end up downtown in one of the larger cities in Washington State.


Riding the Interurban - Interurban Park

Not quite the end of the Interurban, but nearly.

In the end the Interurban returns to how it begins: more surface streets connect short cantons of path.  These are the suburbs of Everett and in the end you either ride into that city, cross over the Five and head into Snoqualmie Valley or turn around and ride back.  I’ve never seen the trail as busy as the Burke-Gilman Trail but it gets used by commuters, dog walkers, cyclists and other recreational users.  It has a different character then most regional trails and it used differently. It requires more attention and navigation then some and that seems to keep the racer cyclists down. Its urban character is certainly different and far different then the ruler straight, flat Interurban South that goes through mostly light industrial. It’s history and preservation of this once vital transportation route has always fascinated me.


Riding the Interurban - nice day

Fantastic winter riding

I tend to use the regional trails as connectors – I prefer to ride on the streets and find the trails often too crowded or too flat or otherwise not interesting. There are sections of streets you want to skip and they come into their own then and of course riding on them on the way back from a long tiring ride is often a better choice (or at night in some places). But the interurban, with its length, its mix of trail and surface streets and its unique character has made it a trail I tend to ride a bit more early in the season. Since moving to Seattle the signed route has been more utilitarian but on a beautiful late February day I rode nearly the whole thing and enjoyed it as ever. Since I’ve ridden on this numerous times this year, I’ve included pictures in the set from several different rides (including today even) but mostly I picked from that unseasonably sunny and warm day.

Check out more pictures in my Riding the Interurban photoset on Flickr

Further Reading
(1) Interurban Rail Transit in King County and the Puget Sound Region on HistoryLink.org
(2) Interurban article on WikiPedia
(3) Puget Sound Electric Railway article on WikiPedia
(4) Interurban North page at the City of Lynnwood site
(5)  Interurban page on King County website
(6) City of Shoreline’s Interurban Page
(7) Interurban Trail page on Wikipedia
(8) Interurban Map (pdf)

First real ride this spring

Monday, April 25th, 2011

First real spring ride 09

Can’t help whistling, the morning, the woods, how blue. -Hōsai Ozaki

As I’ve noted earlier this has been a long, cold, wet winter in which I’ve been extremely busy with a project at work.  All of these conditions have added up to the slowest cycling spring I’ve had in years.  Well things have finally slowed down a bit at work and I’ve begun working on the bicycle a bit and taking a few rides. Last weekend the temperatures got into the mid 60s(f) and I was free from work so I took a opportunity to get in a real ride; the first real ride of this spring.  I’d had no set plans; I just wanted to try to get out in the nice weather for a good long meander. Well that and I knew I wanted to stop at the Issaquah Brewhouse at some point. First thing though I needed to do a bit of work on the Atlantis.

IRD Derailleur

A new front derailleur

After a winter of commuting there always is a certain amount of work that needs to be done on the bicycle, at the very least some cleanup. I’d adjusted my brakes and done a basic cleaning two weekends ago, but my derailleur was no longer shifting to the inner ring, no matter how I adjusted it.  A lot of the components on the Atlantis are approaching 20,000 miles which seems like a good long run so I’ve been just replacing them as need and opportunity arises.  I’d ordered an IRD Front derailleur from Rivendell Bicycle Works, which came in this cute little bag (pictured above).  I imagine this little bag is great for hanging on store racks and provided me with a little bag so I’m all for it. Replacing this part was trivial: I mounted it on a front derailler clamp that I’d also bought from Riv, attached the shifter cable, made a couple of adjustments and was done. I’d say I spent 15 minutes tops on this repair and now front shifting is super smooth across the full range of gears.   It was after noon at this point and starting to get warm. I packed some extra clothes as I knew it’d cool down after the sun set but set off in shorts, a seersucker and fingerless gloves – the first ride in shorts and short gloves this year.

First real spring ride 01

Looking down on Lake Washington

Now the first part of any ride from my place puts me either heading north or south on Lake Washington Loop or striking east across Rose Hill to Redmond.  These routes have become so familiar I can do them in my sleep.  I set out on south Lake Washington Loop, for as I stated in the intro I meant to hit Issaquah at some point and heading south would give me several options to get over to Issaquah. I wanted multiple options regarding the length of the ride as while keeping up the commuting has helped keep my endurance from not completely disappearing over the winter, the lack of longer rides and the toll of too many late nights at work meant I wasn’t sure how I’d last.  Anyway Lake Washington Loop was super busy – its a popular ride, especially among those  just making their first forays beyond trail riding, and as I’ve said, this was the first real nice day of the year. Everyone seemed so happy to be out on such a nice day, even the roadies kitted out for le Tour would smile and wave as I  (an unapologetic phred) rode past. I wanted off the Loop though so after about 10 miles I headed east into the small town of Newcastle which begins with a steep climb to a nice lookout above the lake. It was really nice and warm now so I stopped to remove my socks, a sign of the temps being in the mid to upper 60s – my favorite riding weather.

First real spring ride 05

Early section of May Valley Road

This route, which I believe I modified from a Randonneuring route (Rando routes are a great resource; check out your local Rando group for tons of route ideas), wends through some back routes of Newcastle, has a brief section on Coal Creek Parkway and then turns onto May Valley Road. This was where I wanted to ride on this day: beautiful country roads, through May Valley which is mostly farmland and horse pasture and is one of my favorite place to ride on sunny warm days.  Usually you just see the occasional cyclist, or motorcyclist out enjoying these roads with only the occasional car. There was a bit more traffic today and definitely a few more cyclists than normal – again I lay this all on the fact that its the first nice day and everybody wants to get out. Further evidence for this mounted as everywhere I went it was packed with people, since after a good long string of nice days these places become a lot less frequently visited as people either stay home, do something else or look further afield. Anyway May Valley Road is a nice road to ride and with its mix of sun and shade, fantastic on a sunny days.


First real spring ride 06

Atlantis post chain repair

About half way down the road I was flagged down at a section where Comcast was doing was work on a telephone pole. As I was allowed to pass I stood on the pedals and my chain broke. Not sure exactly what caused this breakage, it could have just been my chain was worn from a winters worth of commuting, or I’d weakened it when I broke it to put the new derailleur in, but whatever the cause it was time for some roadside repair. I always use SRAM chains and I always have quicklinks on hand, so this was a quick and painless fix.  I even had a small section of chain in my tool bag so with that and a couple of quicklinks, I was back on the road with my chain not shortened a bit. The farm and pasture land continues for a bit longer and then becomes increasingly wooded. Toward the end you pass the Squak Mountain State Park and then the route finally ends when it intersects with the Issaquah Hobart Road which runs inbetween Squak and Tiger Mountains.

First real spring ride 08

May Valley Road

The Issaquah-Hobart Road is always busy with cars, from those out enjoying all the hiking and other activities along the road plus those just cutting between Issaquah and parts south. This day was no exception, again most likely abetted by the nice weather. At Tiger Mountain, the para-gliders were out in force and the cars overflowed all of the parking lots and lined the roads. I stopped at the Tiger Mountain parking lots and took a few pictures of the para-gliders but my digital camera, which I had thought had died actually, suddenly no longer would zoom. It seems the issue the camera is having is with the motorized lens and it would go into an error state whenever I’d zoom, or often just turn it on.  With the camera giving me such grief I mostly stopped taking pictures of the ride at this point.

First real spring ride 18

Parasail landing below Tiger Mountain


Eleven Year FrogIt was only a couple of miles into Issaquah and as intended I made my way to the Issaquah Brewhouse, which, as with everything this day, was packed. Now it is often packed at lunchtime, especially on nice days, but here it was 3:30-ish and they were taking names at the door. Luckily I squeezed in at the bar and had a nice cold, Juniper Pale Ale to wash down the road dust. I spent about an hour and a half there and had a plate of onion rings and a couple more beers: Issaquah Brewhouse’s own 11 Year Frog (pictured at left) and a New Belgium Trip IV, which was really chocolaty. The sun was a bit lower in the sky, but it was still nice and warm as I left and took the eastern side of Lake Sammamish Drive.  This is another super frequent route for myself, (one which I’ve written about before), but on a sunny day, along the lake, its always a nice ride, with its gently rolling hills. Its about ten miles from Issaquah to Redmond and the miles just swiftly rolled by. In Redmond I stopped at the Malt & Vine (about which more later) for some reinforcements and post-ride refreshment and then took a rather circuitous route home through Woodinville where I ran some errands. I finally made it home after dark, around 9:30pm after full on day of riding and pubcrawling. It’s good to be back and even though the temps have dropped ten degrees and its back to raining, it finally feels like spring.

Total miles ridden:  57.00
See more pictures from this ride in my First Ride of Spring Flickr set.