Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Five Trails Ride--It's Like Sight-Seeing Seattle By Bike

For my last ride I would lead before taking on the "Ride For Impact" Cross-Country tour across the United States, I chose to lead my favorite ride, "The Five Trails Ride." This ride is so-named because it takes riders on five regional trails in King County: I-90 Trail, Alki Trail, Duwamish Trail, Elliott Bay Trail, and the Burke-Gilman Trail. It's like spending a day sight-seeing Greater Seattle on your bike.

We gathered as we usually do at Eastside Foursquare Church for a brief devotional and prayer. Today, however, I was the focus of much of that prayer as my friends and fellow riders prayed for my safety, protection, and health on my upcoming cross-country ride. We departed and headed south. When we reached Carillon Point in Kirkland, we turned right up a good warm-up hill that takes us to Yarrow Bay Point and Clyde Hill. The regulars among us didn't grown quite as much as they usually do. I really like this route through the nicer neighborhoods of Bellevue. We chatted as we rode through Medina and then into Old Town Bellevue. A man hollering to advertise a community car wash outside the Chevron barked at us to get our bikes washed. "It's not dirty!" I exclaimed. "If it's not dirty, you aren't riding it enough!" he replied. Hmmm... Good point, I smiled to myself. I think it will be plenty dirty in a few weeks when I'm halfway across Colorado.

We turned south and I took my group to our second hard climb, but one that dwarfs the first one. Mike commented that last time I took him up this hill, he had to walk his bike. No walking today. We all got to the summit, breathing hard, but at the summit nonetheless. The fast descent takes us down and back up and down again through Beaux Arts. If you've lived near Bellevue but have never driven or biked through Beaux Arts, I highly recommend it. It's a beautifully wooded community overlooking Lake Washington and the East Channel. We exited Beaux Arts and got on our first regional trail, the I-90 trail (#1).

The I-90 trail takes you across Mercer Island and then into Seattle. The weather was warm and sunny as we rode on the floating bridge and then up to the I-90 Bike Tunnel. This tunnel runs directly above the I-90 car traffic but you would never know by how quiet it is. Halfway through the tunnel, Tenille slipped and fell. No reason really. She just brought down the bike and then got back up again. "Good thing that's done," I commented. "Now you won't have to fall for the rest of the day!"

Our route now took us through South Seattle and SODO (South of Downtown) near Safeco Field and the Starbucks headquarters. We turned west and got on the Alki Trail (#2) past men fishing on the pier near the Port of Seattle and then up and over the West Seattle bridge ( the lower one... that other one is way too high!). As we neared our turn into Alki, Dale got a flat. We positioned our bikes where he would be out of the way and he quickly went about changing his tire. Then we were off again.

West Seattle and Alki is an amazing place. It's the closest thing Seattle has to an honest beach. Today, plenty of families were out walking their dogs, riding their bikes or jogging along the waterfront. The Alki Beach Volleyball Association was in full force with bikinied players setting, digging, and spiking. We stopped at our traditional Tully's for coffee, pastries, and relaxation. What a great place to rest in the sunlight and enjoy good conversation.

As we left Tully's, we headed west around Alki Point and then turned south towards the Fauntleroy Ferry terminal. Our route now included a few hills as we climbed up and over West Seattle and White Center. Rob explained how years ago this area gained the nickname "Rat City." It had to do with the abundance of rats. Hmmm. You think?

We droppped down a screaming descent onto the Duwamish Trail (#3). At the bottom, Mike remarked how his brakes were smoking. Jim commented on how much he loves that downhill. I believe in the biblical principle Paul taught in 2 Cor. 9:6 about "sowing and reaping." Downhills are what we reap after climbing all those uphills. We reaped good on this one!

The Duwamish Trail takes us back north to the Alki Trail where we retrace our path back to Elliott Bay. As we rode along the Elliott Bay trail (#4), we passed a guy playing electric guitar. He was next to the train tracks, standing near some bushes. As we got closer, we could hear him clearly and then I saw why. He didn't have one amp. He had four. He was performing for no one but himself and whoever drove by, including the trains. He made me consider how many parents probably wished their electric-guitar-playing-kids would go outside and play guitar by the railroad tracks. Maybe that's how he got here.

We rode along the Seattle waterfront and saw tourists checking out Seattle, probably disembarked from one of the many cruise ships in port today. When we stopped at a restroom along the Elliott Bay trail, I could see a few more cruise ships at the newer cruise terminal north of us. I decided then and there that if I could combine my love for cycling with my (and my wife's) passion for cruising, I'd really have something. Keep your eyes open for any cycling-cruising tours for me, will ya?

Our route took us towards Discovery Park where I slipped through a neighborhood to one of the best surprises along this ride. Through this neighborhood, there's a hidden trail in the woods with a bridge that crosses railroad tracks. It's bumpy, but charming. When you exit, you are directly south of the Ballard Locks.

We then walked through the Ballard Locks, taking great attention to the posted sign informing us that riding our bikes through the Locks would result in a $75 fine. After crossing the waterways loaded with pleasure crafts and small boats, we remounted our bikes and rode through Ballard and onto our fifth and final trail, the Burke-Gilman (#5).

Our remaining miles back to the Eastside were a bit faster but just as pleasant as those leading up to them. The B-G was filled with other cyclists, some families with kids, but few pedestrians. Soon we were at the north end of Lake Washington riding through Lake Forest Park and then Kenmore where we took our final climb back up to Eastside Foursquare Church. Our ride ended and I said farewell to my fellow riders. The next time I would be cycling with them would be in August. But first, I had a 3800 mile adventure ahead of me. And that adventure was going to include far more than five trails!

Riders: Bob H., Mike, Rob, Cary, Brenda, Dale, Tenille, Jay

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