Tuesday, June 3, 2008
The Five Trails... and Three Rain Squalls
"The Five Trails Ride" is one of my favorite routes. It takes you on five King County Regional Trails and through at least ten different communities. It's the one ride we do that covers more of Seattle and more touristy spots than any other.
Our group of nine started at Eastside Foursquare Church in Bothell and headed south through Kirkland, and Bellevue. Our first hill was just south of Carillon Point where a narrow pathway through a line of landscape trees leads you out of a cul-de-sac. It was just barely wide enough for Don on his tricycle recumbent.
As we rode through Medina and Clyde Hill, we hit our first rain squall. The rain shower was cold and fell heavy as we rolled onto Main Street. It lingered only briefly as we turned west on the I-90 Bike Trail (trail #1) and crossed Mercer Island stopping at the restrooms across from some ballfields where several little league teams were warming up. As we crossed the I-90 span into Seattle and were met by rain squall number two, I saw a kayaker paddling along with a swimmer in a wetsuit. Looked to me like another long-distance athlete on a morning workout. As I thought about my 2009 bike ride across America, it occurred to me that you can't swim across the U.S.
Upon reaching the other side of the bridge, we stopped to enjoy the view and then entered the I-90 bike tunnel. This tunnel is a treat for the first-timer. It's brightly decorated with children's murals and well lit. You can't tell that hundred of cars are hurtling along at 70 mph just over your head.
As we turned west along Dearborn toward SoDo, we passed MC Electric cars. This dealership has probably seen quite an uptick in business with gas costing more than $4.20 a gallon. I've thought about trading my car for an electric. But, then again... I could also make a strong case to trade it for a new bike!
Once in the Rainier Valley, we turned south along Airport Way and then east through SoDo to make our way towards Alki. One of the things I really enjoy about cycling is the ability to smell the environment around me. Sometimes that's a disadvantage. But today, our olfactory senses caught a whiff of a nearby barbecue restaurant. It got me thinking... what if I planned a "progressive dinner" on bike?! Pedal from restaurant to restaurant. Might be good to purchase an extra large pair of cycling shorts for the occasion.
We successfully made it to bike trail #2: Alki Bike Trail. This was not only a great day for cycling but apparently an equally good day for diving. Scores of divers waited along the waterfront for their turn to raise the red and white diagonalled flag and submerge in the cold dark waters of Elliott Bay. The view of Seattle from Alki makes a great backdrop for a cyclist's action photo as we cruised along the trail avoiding dogwalkers, rollerbladers, and families on bikes. We didn't spot Warren's favorite scene on this route--female volleyball players.
All of us rolled into Tullys' along Alki to enjoy some refreshments and coffee. The sun was shining amid a blue sky dappled with white clouds. Our coffee and conversation ended in time for us to remount our bikes and head west and then south along Fauntleroy past the ferry terminal and then uphill through White Center. Our favorite wild-haired descent was just ahead. We flew down Highland Park and dropped down to the Duwamish River Trail (trail #3 if you're keeping track).
We turned north along Elliott Bay and passed a couple of cruise ships heading for Alaska as well as carload after carload of cruise ship passengers making their way to the terminal. We rode trail number four on the Elliott Bay Trail taking us along Alaskan Way, the Seattle waterfront, and past the Olympic Sculpture Park as we pressed toward the Ballard Locks. My favorite part of this ride is the hidden pedestrian bridge crossing the railroad that is tucked between W. Government Way and W. Commodore Way. It's a little-known gem that surprised several of our riders that were new to this route. After bumping across it, we rolled out into the Ballard Locks. Stopped for a photo or two and then walked across the Locks amid the out-of-towners and their Seattle hosts showing them the sights.
Our return route along the Burke-Gilman trail--fifth and final trail--was greeted by our third, and fortunately final, rain squall. We dried out as we reached the University of Washington and then hit our stride and stepped on the gas keeping a fast pace through University Village, Sandpoint, Sheridan Beach, Lake Forest Park, and Kenmore. As our group returned to EFC, Ken commented that this ride was like a vacation around Seattle. He had seen more of Seattle today by bike than he had over most of his years living in the area! Hey, every day on a bike is a vacation for me!
Riders: Jim, Brenda, Warren, David, Ken, Don, Bob, Bryant, Cary
Total Ascent: 3318 ft
Max Elev: 411