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A Rainy, Winter Ride

Sunday, December 28th, 2014

Rainy Winter Ride - Rain

As I noted in my Solstice Ride post, I’d set out with the thought of walking along the shore and making some coffee (or tea) in the out of doors.  That did’t end up happening as my wandering nature got the best of me and the lure of exploring new territory proved stronger.  With the weather predicted to turn clear and much colder over the next week, plus frankly I’ve been feeling a bit sedentary these days, I set out yesterday amidst heavy clouds, wind and threatened rain on a second attempt at making coffee out of doors.

Rainy Winter Ride - Looking back at Seattle from Mercer Island

I’ve been contemplating taking part in an organized ride (!) next year that begins in the AM in Redmond so I thought I’d ride there and gauge the miles and and time that would require. But the straight shot there isn’t super scenic so I decided I’d ride to and around the east side of Lake Sammamish. There I’d be able to stop at the park and make my coffee.

Rainy Winter Ride - North Fork of Issaquah Creek

There were gashes of blue sky amidst the layers of grey clouds and low black clouds blowing in on the wind. This rainy weather coming in was warmer, if not warm, and the hilly route over Mercer Island kept me warm enough. Exiting Mercer Island I continued on the I-90 Trail to Issaquah. Here I encountered Lake Sammamish State Park, but decided I’d stop a bit further on, on the east side of the lake. From Issaquah I was able to hop on the East Lake Sammamish Trail which pretty quickly took me to the Lake Sammamish State Park and boat launch where I’d planned to stop. But there were no picnic tables there so I decided to press on to Marymoor park.

Rainy Winter Ride - North Fork of Issaquah Creek, detail

Back on the trail, which is newly paved inside Issaquah city limits, but the moment you cross into the city of Sammamish it reverts to the old hard packed gravel. At which point I returned to the road. I hadn’t been on the road long when I saw a cyclist pushing his ride up from the trail and he yelled out to me. I looped around a turned out he had a flat and had neglected to bring 5mm allen wrench to remove his front wheel. I of course had my multi-tool and helped him out. He was a pretty fast tire changer so it wasn’t that long before I was back on the road.

Rainy Winter Ride - Waiting out the rain in Marymoor Park

Following the edge of a lake the road has it’s ups and downs. The wind had shifted too, so what had been a cross/tail wind was now more of a head wind. But I was in trees enough that the wind wasn’t much of a problem, but it had blown in low, dark grey clouds and as I pulled into Marymoor Park, it was quite dark, though still an hour and half before sunset. I wanted to make my coffee on the lake so I made an executive decision that I’d ride a loop around Lake Sammamish and make my coffee at Idylwood Park just on the west side of lake. But as I pulled into the main parking area of Marymoor park the skies open up and a real downpour began. I rode to the park concession building which had large eves. There were two other cyclists sheltering there along with a couple arguing in Russian. We all waited out the worst of the downpour but set off one by one as it slackened.

Rainy Winter Ride - Sunset over Lake Washington

At this point I abandoned my plans to ride around the lake – not a bad road but in twilight and pouring rain I figured a more direct route was advisable. Plus I ended up taking that direct route I had wanted to judge the timing of. This route follows the 520 Trail to the outskirts of Bellevue and then takes more out of the way roads to where it intersects with the Lake Washington Loop route which then connects to the I-90 trail. During this ride the rain slowed and there was just showers on and off for most of the rest of the way. I was about to cross onto Mercer Island the sun set and through gaps in the clouds at the horizon I could see the orange, purple and yellow glow.

Rainy Winter Ride - Atlantis on Lake Washington

I was back on the I-90 trail and simply reversed my earlier route across Mercer Island and then onto the Beacon Hill Greenway. It was after five pm, just fully dark and my odometer ticked over to 41 miles as I rolled to my front door. Once again I failed in my making coffee out of doors, but it was a satisfying ride on a gloomy winter day.

Check out my photos from this ride on Flickr.

Saving Daylight Ride

Saturday, March 15th, 2014

Ragged lines on grey canvas

Ragged lines on grey canvas

While I don’t much dig the whole “spring forward” part, I’m always happier when we are on Daylight Savings Time. It means more light after work allowing for these more meandering commutes home. It means that my typically late starts for weekend rides can still be a solid ride before dark. The mornings of course return to darkness for the time being, but it’s already lightening up by 7am and by the time I head into work it’s full daylight. Commuting both ways in the light is, in my mind, where it’s at.

Atlantis under flowering trees

Atlantis under flowering trees

It had poured rain all day on Saturday and not PNW drizzle either – a strong, steady continuous rain. I’d had some activities planned for early Sunday morning but what with it still pouring when I went to bed I wrote it off. But at some point during the early morning hours the rain petered out and Sunday turned out to a rather nice day – partially cloudy and warmish – I just had to get out for a bit of a ride. Of course having sprung forward meant that my usual late start was an hour later than normal, but as noted I still had many hours of light available. I headed out around 2pm with thoughts of heading to the Seattle waterfront.

Even just riding down 12th Ave into the ID it became apparent that there were throngs of people out. It’s been an odd winter with drought conditions in January/early February and then just weeks of heavy rain, pushing us into flood territory (and the snow pack going from well below average to above average). People clearly were hungering to get out of doors and a relatively nice day brought them out in droves. The thought of the waterfront crowded with light-starved Seattle-ites lost it’s appeal and I made a spur of the moment decision to head east.

Looking Northwest from Mercer Island

Looking Northwest from Mercer Island

I was on the very familiar I-90 Trail/Mountains to Sound Greenway which follows I-90 and crosses the floating bridge over to Mercer Island. As I climbed up to the I-90 tunnel I was everywhere reminded that dates notwithstanding the flora considers it spring. The cherry trees have been flowering since late January and many are almost done with that, while others are at their peak. The dogwoods are blooming, daffodils are everywhere, green shoots on every branch – with the warmer weather today and a bit of sun peaking out of the layers of clouds it definitely felt like spring.  There was of course plenty of other bicyclers out in this weather and while not the crowds the waterfront would have been, I was certainly not alone.

Flowering Trees on Mercer Island

Flowering trees on Mercer Island

Just across the first section of the floating bridge, on the western edge of Mercer Island is a little park, which I’ve stopped at now and again. But I’ve wondered for some time of the road heading north from there would hook up with the primary Mercer Island Loop route or just dead-end among the mansions. A vigorously flowering tree also attracted my eye and settled the issue – I’d head that way. I pulled over and took a break and some photos down at the little park. I’d brought a book of  poerty by Ryōkan with me and just randomly turned to a poem while I sat on the edge of Mercer Island:

The three realms are like a guesthouse.
Human life resembles a dewdrop.
Time for practice easily evaporates;
true dharma is rare to encounter.
One must sustain vigorous effort.
Do not wait for encouragement
from one another.

an excerpt from Monks by Ryōkan

 

Lean-to

Could you live here?

Continuing on I rode around the northern edge of Mercer Island to the second part of the I-90 floating bridge.  Once you cross the bridge on the edge of the mainland the highway stays elevated over the marshes, estuaries and swampland. The trail wends it’s way through these mere’s before eventually intersecting with East Lake Washington Blvd. I had been hearing the call of nature and right at the intersection point with the E. Lk WA Blvd is a closed parking lot wooded toward the back. I headed back there to answer the call and found the pictured lean to. I used the “facilities” and then sat in this lean-to for some time. Clearly someone had lived here for a spell – there was evidence of a fire and a framework that with a tarp over it would have provided some escape from the elements.  I asked myself could I live here?

Untitled

View from the Lean-to

These out of the way and often more hidden encampments of the homeless are generally in these interstitial areas, areas that the rapacious developers have no interest in and the NIMBY’s won’t go to the mat for. Next to highways, on the edge of wetlands, in-between places where one can be out of sight and out of mind. Under this lean-to the rain would be diverted but the roar of I-90 would be a constant companion and in the summer the wetland is sure to produce an endless supply of mosquitoes.  I felt I could live here, but it is my privilege that I don’t have to.  Once again I turned to Ryōkan:

If someone asks
where I live,
say,
“The farthest end of
the heavenly river shore.”

Untitled

View from the tower at Gene Coulon Park

I headed south on East Lake Washington Blvd. following the Lake Wa Loop. It had fully clouded over while I was under the lean-to and as I rode there was the occasional spatter of rain.  Nothing too serious but as I approached Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park in Renton I pulled over to put my tweed cardigan back on (yes I’d been able to ride sans sweater for the first time in ’14). I locked up my bicycle on the edge of the pier and spent some time up in the tower that climbed from the pier enjoying the view. I refilled my water bottle in the bathroom – they turn off the water fountains in the winter, which I understand the reasoning behind, but I think is an unfortunate practice. I sat at one of the picnic tables and read a bit more Ryōkan.

How can I
sustain my life?
So far,
winter this year
has been brutal.

Winter has indeed been brutal all over this year, but less so here in the PNW than elsewhere.  We were in drought conditions until February and since then above average rain for weeks on end. The snow-pack went from well below average to above average and now the talk is of flooded. But this is no polar vortex or the snows in the Middle East, or flooding in London…

Untitled

Humble Pie

From Gene Coulon I pretty much just stuck with the Lake Washington Loop. Crossing over the Cedar River I noted that it was definitely in flood stage, covering the path as it ducked under the bridge and encroaching well on to the lawn at the edges.  The route skirts around the Renton Airport – which has relatively newly repaved roads which made for some smooth riding – and then you are up onto Rainier Ave for a good few miles.  Rainier Ave is pretty much the main non highway corridor from Seattle to Renton and it is a fairly busy, fairly fast road, but with a decent width and a bicycle lane it is also a major cycling route.  At Rainier Beach the Lk. Wa. Lp. heads north to stay along the Lake and to head to Seward Park. But I decided to ride Rainier Ave all the way to the ID which is pretty much where I live.

I’ve ridden on quite a bit of Rainier and certainly drove the length of it back in the day, but this was the first time I’ve ridden the length of it and it is an interesting study in contrasts. It has several striations of gentrification running the gamut from looking like a chunk of a more desolate part of Detroit to one of the condo-fied bits of Fremont. It wasn’t great bicycling with the lane having ended when the Lk Wa Lp branched off, the surface being of variable quality and the traffic, but in the main it was fine.  Eventually I hit the CD and at the edge of the ID I remembered there was this Wood Fired Pizza place that looked like a shack built around a food truck and I decided to check it out.

Saving Daylight Ride - Margherita at Humble Pie

Margherita at Humble Pie

Humble Pie, pretty much is a shack built around a real stone wood fired oven. The oven itself is just enclosed by heavy duty chicken wire and only the bathrooms and the kitchen were full (and fully code compliant I image) structures. But they have a few taps of beer and make a pretty great wood fired pizza. It was the end of the day and while the ride wasn’t epic, it was enough to work up a good appetite.  A pint of IPA and the pictured pizza were an ideal end to good days ride and one I was grateful to be able to indulge in.

You can view all my pictures from this ride here: Saving Daylight Ride.

An Autumn Mixed-Terrain Ride

Sunday, October 27th, 2013

An Autumn Mixed-Terrain Ride - Atlantis in the Leaves

Atlantis in the Leaves

It’s been one of those weeks and as so often is the case there is no better therapy than a nice bicycle ride. I’ve been pining to get back to the mountains and while I set out too late to really get into the Cascades I did make it to the foothills.  I ended up  following the Mountain to Sound Greenway which is a sequence of trails interspersed with road riding: I-90 Trail -> Issaquah-Preston Trail -> Preston-Snoqualmie Trail with a brief sojourn on the East Lake Sammamish Trail. While separating one from traffic (and I-90 which this route parallels most of the time) these trails are usually wedged in where they can and are thus a lot hillier than one might expect. The Preston-Snoqulamie tail is a genuine rail-trail which runs nice and flat except where bridges are gone (such as over the Raging River Valley).

 
An Autumn Mixed-Terrain Ride - Looking back down the leaf strewn Issaquah-Preston Trail

reaching out my hand
I catch
a single falling leaf

I wanted to get to the Issaquah-Preston Trail which is one of my favorite mixed-terrain routes.  This trail is a rocky dirt path paralleling I-90 that ends (appropriately enough) at Preston.  From there you an take one of the best paved trails in the state The Preston-Snoqualmie trail which is a rare paved trail in the woods. These are all routes I’ve ridden many times and have reported on more than once in these pages but I think this was the latest autumn ride I’ve done on this route. The paths, especially the more wooded sections were deeply buried in multi-colored leaves which was beautiful but rather buried the many large rocks on these trails.  Still it was great to be in the cool mountain air, with the fog shrouded foothills looming above. I wish I’d set out early enough to ride further into the mountains – the dwindling light always a factor this time of year.

An Autumn Mixed-Terrain Ride - Issaquah Creek

Issaquah Creek

I only rode a couple of miles on the Preston-Snoqulamie Trail and decided to stop at a section of the trail that crosses a gorge above a stream. Of all the times I’ve ridden the trail I’ve never gone down to this stream which I rectified on this trip. It was pleasant here; this part of the trail has turned away from I-90 and I was down far enough that the few other users of the trail were mostly unnoticeable.  After a bit of a break by the pools of water I backtracked down to Issaquah and had a couple of beers and some onion rings at the Issaquah Brewhouse. While I was there, a ‘Thriller’ “flash mob” broke out right in front of the pub which lasted the length of the song and as I returned to my bicycle broke up.  On my ride east I was on the north side of the I-90 following the Mountain to Sound route, for my return west I stuck to the south side on the hillier route on the edge of Newport. But I had to back track on the I-90-Mercer Island-et al bit back home.

An Autumn Mixed-Terrain Ride - Pools on a feeder creek to the Raging River

 Pools on a feeder creek to the Raging River

I made it it home in the dark around 7:30 having done around 50 miles on this day. An even dozen photos from the ride can be found in my An Autumn Mixed-Terrain Ride on Flickrset on Flickr.

Winter Picnic (and beyond)

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

Circumnavigating Capitol Forest - Shadow Rider

Shadow Rider

January was pretty bleak this year with some quite cold weather here in Olympia. I can’t deny the impulse to hunker down and hibernate in these conditions. The rains came back and it warmed up a bit but while I’m always game to ride in the rain it doesn’t really inspire one to all day rides. As the month waned I began to do a few more lengthy rides including a near all day ride in the rain. But word that Groundhog Day would be dry, partially sunny and in the low fifties got me itching for a more ambitious ride. What I wanted to do was ride into the woods and have a picnic.

Circumnavigating Capitol Forest - The State Capitol Dome in the distance

Capitol Dome in the distance

I cobbled together a route using a SIR permanent with some tweaks and alternates and I managed to get myself on the road before noon (always the big hurdle for me in the winter – the days just aren’t long enough). I took one of my typical routes through Olympia, Tumwater and around Black Lake. From there it was nice backroad riding to Capitol Forest. Not too far along I encountered Waddell Creek Road and with some quick consultation with Google Maps I decided to abandon the rando route.  This was a good choice as Waddell Creek road takes you into the eastern edge of capitol forest and while more hilly is a lot more scenic then the section of Delphi Road on the route.  It also took me by Mima Mounds Natural Area where since it was already after 1pm I decided to have my picnic lunch.

Circumnavigating Capitol Forest - Lunch

Picnic at Mima Mounds

The Mima Mounds are an interesting natural feature – prairie land with irregularly spaced and sized mounds. The theories behind their development are varied; check out the linked Wikipedia article for a survey of them. The natural area preserve has a paved trail through a section of mounds plus a picnic area. It was at the latter where I took a break, ate my lunch and read some Chinese poetry.

To be shown to the monks at a certain temple
 
Not yet to the shore of non-doing
it’s silly to be sad you’re not moored yet…
Eastmount’s white clouds say
to keep on moving, even
if it’s evening, even if its fall.
 
– Chiao Jan

Keep on moving I would have to do if I wished to make it around Capitol Forest before night fell.  So while I had a nice picnic I did not linger overly long. Back on the road I wended in and out of the Capitol Forest until I reached Bordeaux road. There I entered the forest and cut across it’s southern extent. This would turn out to be one of the best rides I’ve done in Thurston county – a narrow one lane road with minimal traffic, entirely in the forest mostly following streams.

Circumnavigating Capitol Forest - Atlantis in Bordeaux

My Atlantis at the Bordeaux entrance to the Capitol Forest

This route into the woods began on Bordeaux Road which then splits to head more southernly toward Cedar Creek Corrections Center or Northwesterly. I chose the latter route which then continued on to about two miles of climbing. There was a decent amount of clear cutting in this section (this is sort of what Capitol Forest is for; it’s not just recreation its a “working forest”) but still mostly wood and alongside little cricks.  Eventually I came to the top of this climb and while roads went off in several directions I stuck to this paved road.  I do want to get back here soon and ride on the various hardpacked gravel roads, but it’s been very wet and the days are still a bit short for that kind of wandering.

Circumnavigating Capitol Forest - Clearing

A clearing in Capitol Forest on this beautiful winter day

The day had been foggy and grey but it had began to break up not long after lunch. Now it was completely clear and sunny and the sun would shine through the trees and fully open up in the clearings. The road then preceded to descend and this was some mighty fine riding. The road was single lane and not much wider than some of the rail-trails I’ve been on and at least this time of year almost deserted; I think I encountered three cars total the entire time I was here. It followed Cedar Creek for a good piece and there were several campgrounds (closed this time of year) right on the river. Definitely a place to come into for an S24O as they open up.

Circumnavigating Capitol Forest - brook

Forest brook

Since I was once again off the map (the rando route didn’t go through the forest at all) and I wasn’t really getting data on my smartphone I didn’t really where I was going to exit the forest. It turned out to be on Hwy 12 about 13 miles from the tiny town of Porter. I’d ridden a bit on hwy 12 and frontage roads on my ride to the ocean last autumn and while fairly trafficked it’s not a a bad road. It has a large shoulder and is along the Chehalis River and the river valley.   I was able to make good time on this road which I took advantage of as the the sun was dipping toward the horizon and I had many miles to go.

Circumnavigating Capitol Forest - Randos!

Rando's at the Porter Grocery

When I reached the tiny burg of Porter, where I’d turn northward on more country roads, I stopped at the first store I’d seen since Black Lake. There I found a pair of SIR riders taking a break from a permanent that they were riding. They asked if I was riding with SIR and I said I was just riding. We talked about their ride a bit and at one point a commented that I found randonneuring too organized. And thinking about it I think that is true. I great respect the randos and I use their routes all the time. But just think about this ride – I deviated from the permanent route three or four times where the road was more interesting, the scenery more compelling; in short I followed the inexorable exhortations of my soul. Not to mention that I set out at 11:30 in morning and so much randoneuring starts at the crack of dawn. I definitely can see the value of it all and I can see myself getting involved with it, but my mindset is that of a cyclotourist and of “bombing around” like I did as a kid.

Circumnavigating Capitol Forest - pasture land

Magic Hour: pasture land and Capitol Forest in the distance

It was now magic hour with the sun casting long shadows as it prepared to bid farewell to these parts. I still had a ways to go though I wasn’t really sure how many. Google Maps steadfastly would not let me use the bicycle routing with Hwy 8 in the mix. But that bit was on the permanent route and I’d ridden this section heading the other direction on my 2012 tour. So I’d just let my route end at that point as I didn’t need directions. But before I arrived at the highway there was about 8 miles in a valley alongside Capital Forest. Another excellent section of country riding in this valley, studded with farms. The road was chipseal and less of a good time but the traffic wasn’t too high and the scenery was very fine.  But soon I was on a frontage road along why 8 and then 8 itself.

Circumnavigating Capitol Forest - Frontage Road

Frontage road on hwy 8

The sun was setting now and after a few miles of twilight I spent the rest of the ride in the dark. Luckily I have a good set of lights, there was a wide shoulder and I was nearing the end of the ride. At one point I looked back in my helmet mirror and saw a set of headlights clearly on the shoulder and slowly gaining on me. I picked up the pace slightly and kept looking back and checking the bailing out options. But it wasn’t really gaining on me anymore. Then the lights jogged into single file and I realized it was those two rando’s I’d encountered earlier.  As it became fully light their lights were a constant rearward pressure pushing me on and then after they pulled off no doubt at a control I was again on my own.  But now it was just a scary merge with hwy 101 and then the exit onto Mud Bay road and I was done with highway riding.

cold winter air –
keep on moving
keep on moving

It had been fully dark for a while and riding at night reminded one quickly that it is still deep in the winter. I was well protected with my wool and my rain coat but as the temps dropped I definitely felt it. The big hill up Mud Bay Road warmed me up and then I was in West Olympia. From there it was simply a matter of riding through west Oly, descending into downtown and then climbing up toward the Capitol where I live. I arrived home right around 7pm after riding a hair over 68 miles (109km). A great winter ride with everything I enjoy in a ride. It’s good to do rides that push you this time of year as one begins to emerge from hibernation.

Check out all my photos from this ride.

Map of the Ride

 

A Beautiful November Ride

Friday, November 11th, 2011

The Atlantis in Autumn

November is historically the peak of storm season in Western Washington but it doesn’t really kick in until mid-month. This year appears to be no exception with storm season beginning today, but yesterday was a perfect autumn day.  We are at the point where the trees have fully changed colors, but most of the leaves have yet to fall, leaving them looking like huge smokeless fires.  With daylight savings time having ended this week the sun sets “earlier” and the shadows are longer mid-afternoon.

As seen from the Ship Canal Trail

Riding along the Ship Canal.

This week had become rather unseasonably warm as it progressed and it peaked yesterday with a temps in the upper 50s (f) and clear blue skies.  I sort of dithered around in the morning and early afternoon but finally set out to ramble around the city.  I avoided the Burke-Gillman Trail, opting instead to ride from my place in the U-District to the Fremont Bridge via Wallingford but after crossing the bridge dropped on to the Ship Canal Trail. I think I’ve only ever ridden the SCT once before, typically just sticking with the roads that parallel it, but I wanted to check out the new section they were adding to it.  There is one bit of hazardous street riding you have to do right now to get between the SCT and the Elliot Bay Trail (or the street equivalents thereof) which takes you to the downtown Seattle Waterfront. They’ve been working on a new section of the SCT that’d bypass this little jog on an interchange and I was curious to see that in action.  It wasn’t open for riding on it, but I did take a look at it and it seems to be done with just finishing work going on. When this is in place it’ll definitely make it a lot easier to ride into the city or to West Seattle.

Riding in Discovery Park

Riding the unused roads in Discovery Park.

Magnolia LoopSince I was now in Magnolia I decided to ride around this neighborhood and through Discovery Park. I’d ridden through this area for the first time every about a month ago on a beautiful October day and with the sun already sinking toward the ocean seemed like an ideal route to return to. The signed Magnolia Loop takes you around the neighborhood that sticks out Northwest into the sound from downtown Seattle. The route takes you to Discovery Park, the former site of Fort Lawton. A sort of odd park in that it has a still active federal Radar Station, a selection of old historic buildings and a rather Levittown-esque block of private homes roughly in the middle of the park. The northern portion of the park has a water treatment plant and a lighthouse.  Most of the roads through the park are closed off and make for some nice cycling.

Autumn Leaves

Like a tree of fire.

After you ride through the park the route mostly hugs the coast, much of which is a narrow park with just a few benches but no houses between the edge of the land and the water. This is some nice, easy riding – you have to climb to get to the center of Discovery Park but it’s pretty much all downhill from there. On this route  allowing unobstructed views to the south and west and with the sun heading downwards there is just amazing views over the Olympic Peninsula to the west and Mount Rainier and West Seattle to the South with the Seattle Skyline popping up as you look south eastwards.  Hard to beat.

Mount Rainier and West Seattle

The view to the south of Mount Rainier and West Seattle.

Having made my way around most of Magnolia the route is now inland, through residential and commercial propers that parallels the working train yard and then back on the edge of the ship canal as you head toward the locks. From here the sun is behind the hill of Magnolia and while only twilight wasn’t enough light for my remaining iPhone pictures to come out. Sadly the last time I rode this ride I dropped my camera (the perils of shooting from the saddle) which survived except for the button that allows you to take pictures which was lost. All I’ve got left now for picture taking is my iPhone which alas has too small a sensor for good lowlight pictures.

...and the last light of the setting sun

The Sun Setting Over the Olympic Peninsula.

My ride was nearly over though; I overlapped with a bit of the start of the Magnolia Loop as I headed to the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, where you can walk your bicycle across to Ballard. I’ve taken this route a few times but this was the first time that I’ve been there when one of the locks was empty. Alas no picture of that. I then rode through industrial parts of Ballard to Fremont where I visited my favorite end of ride destination: Brouwers Cafe. Here I had a few pints of beer (as I posted on Google+) and what may have been about the best non-pizza post-ride food I’ve had: Porter infused Mac-n-Cheese made with with Fusilli pasta, sharp cheddar and chanterelle mushrooms.  I’m getting hungry just typing that in. It’s looking like we’ll be hunkering down for the late November storms for some time, so I’m glad to have gotten out for this day. It was a good ‘un.

Reach skyward

See all my pictures from this ride, in my Beautiful November Ride set on Flickr.

Memorial Day Ramble

Saturday, June 4th, 2011

Memorial Day Ride - 13

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

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

Memorial Day Ride - 01

Trails at Viewpoint Park

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

Memorial Day Ride - 04

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

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

Memorial Day Ride - 05

On West Lake Sammamish Parkway

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

Memorial Day Ride - 06

On the I-90 trail

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

Memorial Day Ride - 08

On Mercer Island

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

Memorial Day Ride - 09

Classic twisty Mercer Island road

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

Memorial Day Ride - 11

Seattle across the lake

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

Memorial Day Ride - 14

For a hollow mind two eyes are open
-Hōsai Ozaki

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

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