Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Riding the Interurban

The Interurban Trail is a rail trail in Snohomish County. It is a hard-surfaced, non-motorized trail located on the Pacific Northwest Traction right-of-way, a route used until 1939 by the Interurban Railroad between Seattle and Bellingham. The trail in Snohomish County runs over 16 miles (26 km). In 1910, The Seattle-Everett Interurban Railway began electric passenger service. After the railway was abandoned in 1939, it was converted to a power line corridor. In the 1990s, the right-of-way was opened to pedestrian and bicycle traffic. Today, we were that bicycle traffic and our route covered most of it.

We left Eastside Foursquare Church and headed through Kenmore where another ride group three times our size merged with us. We followed them through Briar until we had to stop to regroup and reconnect with David who had pulled a sanican quickstop a mile or two back. Once regrouped, we rode into Lynnwood and found the Interurban Trail access point paralleling I-5.

Marlene had never ridden the Interurban and was pleasantly surprised when she realized where we were, "Hey, this is Lynnwood, isn't it?" Probably exactly what the original explorers said when they settled this area years ago. We rode north along the Interurban through Martha Lake and South Everett. We had to search for awhile to locate the access to the new I-5 pedestrian bridge. After spinning through a nearby neighborhood searching high and low, we found the trail entrance right on the I-5 on ramp, with a partition between us and the freeway. We crossed I-5 and continued north into Everett.

As we pedaled along the trail through Everett, our ride became a bit of a scavenger hunt. Locating the next Interurban Trail sign became the game. Some were hidden behind parked trucks. Others were on opposite sides of the street or at odd angles. But we found them all and made our way to the northern terminus of the trail.

We turned west just as the sprinkles began to turn to light rain and rode along Possession Sound on W. Mukilteo Blvd. The ride along the waterfront provided peek-a-boo views of Everett and the Whidbey Island as we swept up short climbs and fun downhills. Our destination was drawing closer, but first, we had to stop for the requisite group photo at Harborview Park. The gray sky overhead didn't damper our enthusiasm. But I was grateful we weren't standing in the rain for our photo.

Just a few miles more and we reached Red Cup Café. This café is warm and inviting with zany artwork, sculpture and photos all around. The food and beverages hit the spot. My half sandwich was exactly what I needed. When Warren ordered the "Orcas" sandwich, David was sure he had said "Oinkin'" and assumed it was a fairly large sandwich—appropriate for Warren. We laughed until David sat down with a cinnamon roll as big as his head. Who's the oinker now?

We enjoyed our coffee, baked goods, and sandwiches—as well as a warm place to dry out—almost as much as our animated conversation. Then we took to the rode and routed our return trip. We rode along a different route through Mukilteo past light industrial areas and even StockPot Soups.

When we crossed back over I-5, I took the group over to McCollum Park and then we followed the Mill Creek North Creek Trail. The ten foot wide hard surface trail is approximately 2.5 miles long running between McCollum County Park and 164th St. SE. But we called it our "Wonderland Trail." It sweeps up and down and around corners all in a wooded setting behind apartments and homes. We encountered a road hazard when a downed tree gave us the option of either bunny-hopping over or stopping and carrying the bike over. No one bunny-hopped, but we all wished we could.

We exited the trail at Mill Creek Town Center and then continued south on Bothell-Everett Highway until we reached Bothell. Even with a bit of light rain, this ride proved once again to be a day of great regional trails, hidden surprises, great fellowship, and—of course—good coffee. And a lot of it on the Interurban.

More photos here.

Riders: Bob, Jim, Marlene, Warren, Don, David
Distance: 51.15
Time: 3:53:44
Avg: 13.2
Max: 30.7

Friday, April 16, 2010

Riding Past the Restaurants

Our midweek ride tonight took the seven of us along more of the 7 Hills of Kirkland route up to Kingsgate. The evening was pleasant and the conversation was likewise. As we turned into the Kingsgate neighborhood, we passed Pizza Bank. The aroma of freshly baked pizza and pasta wafted through the evening air. Everyone of us groaned slightly as we imagined pulling into the parking lot, ditching our ride, and carbo-loading on a family-size with Italian sausage, pepperoni, and extra cheese. Tenille explained she hadn't yet had dinner and this was killing her.

We rode through the neighborhoods, passed quiet homes, and then dropped down Brickyard Road—a screaming descent that thrilled everyone. At the bottom, we headed into downtown Bothell along Main Street. I realized this might be torturous for Tenille. We passed Pen Thai Restaurant and all the exotic smells hit us as we rode by. We turned another corner and passed The Ranch Drive-In where burgers and dogs greeted us. Tenille was in agony now.

The agony would continue, but it would be a different kind. I warned our group that we were headed for a hard hill—the route up to Bothell High School. The long challenge was capably met by all six riders. Now we could enjoy a flat section and another downhill as we pointed our bikes to Kenmore. I thought we were well past the evening restaurant smells. But then we passed a home with... a backyard barbecue! The grill beckoned to us and everyone moaned out again. Cries of mercy came from Tenille.

One last hill for the evening. We climbed up Norway Hill. The view of the setting sun at the top was a sweet reward for the hard climb. We gathered around the Norway Hill sign for a quick pic and then we rocketed down the backside and turned back into Eastside Foursquare Church. Our ride was complete, but I suspect that at least one of us was making a beeline for dinner.

Riders: Bob, Tenille, Jim, Mike, Randy, Glenn, Don
Dist: 17.69
Time: 1:25:19
Max: 41.
Avg: 12.4

Saturday, April 10, 2010

They Don't Miss Turns on the Paris-Roubaix

Today's ride is our own version of the professional cycling spring classic race Paris-Roubaix. It's one of cycling's oldest one-day races and it's noted foremost for it's rough sections of cobblestones, or "pavé", that give the riders a bone-jarring, teeth-chattering ride. Coupled with unpredictable springtime weather that produces rain, sleet, mud—this race becomes one of the most hazardous replete with crashes and pile-ups. All of which has earned it the nickname "The Hell of the North" and the "Queen of the Classics."

To honor this ride, we rode our own version on one mile of red brick highway, the Red Brick Road, in Redmond. This historical road contains the longest stretch of exposed historic red brick highway in King County. To reach this one-mile stretch, we left Eastside Foursquare Church and headed out to Woodinville and then south to downtown Redmond. We turned east and climbed Union Hill. The climb is steep and long, but scenic with tall evergreens on either side of the roadway.

Our group of seven was currently being led out by Johnny and Mark. I was doing my best to lead the ride from third place. Johnny and Mark are both strong riders so I wasn't surprised that they wanted to stretch out their legs and put the hammer down. Mark is an experienced triathlete and Johnny is just an all-around "like to go fast" kind of road rider. As we pressed further east along Union Hill Road, they both made the right choice to stop at intersections and allow our gang to regroup.

On one of the earlier regroupings, I called back to Marlene who was riding with us for the first time. "How's the pace?" I asked her. She gave me a thumbs-up and called back, "Great!" "Would you tell me if it wasn't?" I asked. She smiled. So our pace was good and those in the back weren't too spread out. Mark, Johnny, and I realized the advantage to riding fast and then stopping to regroup gave us more time to catch our breath and chat at the stop sign while we waited for the others.

At NE Ames Lake Rd., I turned to our group and gave them our next two turns. We'd be turning right onto Route 202-Redmond Fall City Rd. and then they had to keep an eye out for 196th Ave. NE where we would turn right again and be on the Red Brick Road. Mark looked back and said something to the effect of, "That's why I'm here, to ride the Red Brick Road! I'm following you!" A sense of doubt crept over me. He hadn't followed anyone this morning. But, fair warning was given. They knew where to turn if they got out in front again. And that's where Mark and Johnny went—out in front.

We turned onto Rt. 202 and Mark asked me if this road led straight to 196th. I assured him it did. He took off. Johnny followed suit. By the time I reached 196th Ave. NE and stopped, I could see them about a quarter mile ahead in the distance. They had missed the turn. I shook my head. Not in disbelief, but in quiet acceptance of a fact I've come to respect—"If you're in front, you better know where you're going." As the rest of the group soon joined me, I explained that our fast riders had missed the turn. I called Johnny's cell phone and left him a message. Then I shared with the rest of the riders my homily, "If you're riding in the front, you better know where you're going. We've seen this before, haven't we?" And then the litany of cyclists that have made similar bad calls rolled off our lips—Bob T., Warren, Cary. Someone added, "Yeah, but Cary would turn around, come back and say 'Hey guys, what's going on?!' "

The five of us who remained turned down the Red Brick Road and enjoyed the rapid bump-bump-bump of the cobbled pavement. Marlene and David J. both admitted that the bricks really could shake up your bladder. Nearby restroom, anyone? About halfway down the bricks, my cell rang. It was Johnny. "How's the Red Brick Road?", he sheepishly asked. "Where are you guys?!" They were already at our coffee stop in downtown Redmond, Peet's Coffee & Tea. I busted him a little for missing the turn but it sounded like he was just following Mark. I told them we'd join them in a few minutes. We concluded our red brick bumpy ride and headed into Redmond. We found Peet's Coffee and spotted Mark and Johnny reclining in chairs outside the front entrance with coffee already in hand.

I pulled up to Mark and chuckled. "You're a great leader. Just gotta work on following!" I handed him my camera so he could see photos of all he had missed while I went inside and got my coffee and pastry. Interesting side note about Peet's. They can't warm your pastries. That's right. No microwaves or toasters on the premises. The guy behind the counter explained that this required an additional food service permit. You've got to be kidding. When David and I were chatting about this later, he commented on a book he recently read called Outstanding: 47 Ways to Make Your Organization Exceptional. Apparently, not being able to microwave pastries violates about 23 of those ways.

After our coffee, baked goods, and conversation was concluded, we headed back to EFC. Our route along the Sammamish River Trail was busy for an early spring Saturday. In fact, I was amazed to see not just one or two, but no less than five Cascade Bicycle Club group rides each with at least 40 cyclists. Everyone was out today. What had started as a cold morning was now turning into a warm afternoon. It was a refreshing alternative to the wet and muddy Paris-Roubaix. But to its credit, on that ride no one misses their turns...

Riders: Bob, Mike, Johnny, Mark, Marlene, David J., David Z.
Dist: 42.0

More photos here.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Tonight, we began our midweek rides. Tenille, Randy, and Glenn showed up. Randy is a longtime friend of mine and new to cycling this year. I was excited to finally get to ride with RL. He brought along his co-worker and friend, Glenn. The rain had finally abated, and the only wet was going to come from the road spray. Otherwise, I was calling this a dry ride. We set out to do 16 miles along the Seven Hills of Kirkland. We warmed up on the Juanita Drive Hill and then enjoyed the sweet descent down Holmes Point Drive.

As we reached the bottom, I turned back to Randy and asked him if he enjoyed that downhill. It was the fastest he'd ever ridden. I was pleased for him. But then I shared the bad news. I said, "In the parlance of Financial Peace University, you now have an 'elevation debt' and as you know, you have to pay off your debt." In other words, we had a serious hill ahead of us to climb. But I let Randy know he was fully permitted, once he reached the summit, to shout at the top of his lungs, "I'M HILL FREEEEEE!"

Glenn jokingly shouted back, "Hey, I didn't know there were going to be hills on this ride!" I replied, "Glenn, when I said we're going to do a portion of the 'Seven Hills of Kirkland', that might have been an indicator to you that there were going to be hills on this ride!"

We pressed on, climbed and climbed. I chatted with Tenille for a bit as we chugged upwards. (I learned later from Randy that my casual talking while his chest is heaving to get air into his lungs is somewhat discouraging. So sorry, friend!) At the top of the hill, Randy let it out right on cue...


Saturday, April 3, 2010

It's All About the Coffee Shop

My theme for 2010's cycling club rides is, in a word, coffee. Specifically, coffee shops. A few riders are on to me. They've noticed my trend. That's alright by me. You have to have a goal for the end of the ride. A reward. Something to look forward to. So, this year, it's all about the coffee shop.

Today's ride was actually led by Kristin. Although, I helped her determine the route and I selected the coffee shop. But, I made sure she was out in front (which isn't hard to do as she likes to ride in front... hard-core roadie that she is.) We left Eastside Foursquare Church and headed on the Samammish River Trail into Woodinville past the wineries and then continued south on Rt. 202 to English Hill. The nice climb up and over English Hill warmed us up on this unseasonably cold Spring day. The temperature never climbed above 45 degrees today.

Once over English Hill, we continued west on NE 133rd St. and turned north on 232nd Ave NE. This route is a familiar one we use to get to Duvall. It avoids some of the higher traffic roads and is a more secluded route with stately homes mixed in with older ramblers on heavily treed lots and a road with plenty of rollers. The route Ts with NE Old Woodinville Duvall Rd. which is a nice decent into the Snoqualmie River Valley.

We rode into Duvall and stopped at a corner where we encountered a dozen or more members of the ByrneInvent Cycling Team. They were relaxing on their bikes waiting on a couple other riders. They took off about the same time we did. I knew it would be wiser to follow them rather than try to leave before them and watch 18 cyclists pass me in the first half mile. We began our loop around Cherry Valley Rd. and at the bottom of the first hill, I was surprised to see the ByrneInvent team stopped on the shoulder. Flat. One team member had flatted and now everyone had pulled aside to wait on him. I resisted the temptation to shout out to them something like, "Hey guys, a little early for another rest stop, huh?" I knew I wouldn't be able to outrun any of them if they gave chase to beat on me...

Our loop around Cherry Valley included a regroup stop at Valley Foursquare Church as they were getting ready for Easter services. This church is of interest to me because they are one of my graphic design clients. The two A-boards we passed as well as the signage outside the church were designed and printed by me. Fun to see my work while out on the road. If you're looking for a good church out in Duvall, check them out.

After our loop, we descended down Stillwater Hill and turned north on Rt. 203 back into downtown Duvall. It was at this moment that I began to really look forward to the upcoming coffee stop. I even began fantasizing about my pastry of choice. Despite making better food choices these days, I knew I wasn't going to be able to resist the urge... A P P L E F R I T T E R. I could hear it calling. I nicknamed it the Gut Bomb. And as we pulled into Tressa's Bakery, dismounted our bikes and walked into the warm and cozy café, I saw the object of my desire. One left. I'll take it. Plus a white chocolate mocha. (Adding up calories burned minus calories about to be consumed... I might just break even.) After cycling nearly 40 miles in temperatures of about the same number, we needed this warm-up. It felt good to kick back, relax, converse with friends, and enjoy the ambience. Until we all noticed the CD playing in the background was skipping. Kristin kindly informed our barista and she took care of it. Didn't need that song skipping in my head for the remaining 20 miles.

Our return route to Bothell was direct and uneventful. No it wasn't. As we climbed back up NE Woodinville Duvall Road, a woman in an SUV pulled alongside of me with her passenger window down. "Excuse me sir! One of your riders in the back has fallen over!" Fallen over? She made him sound like he was a fence post. I turned around to check on David, our recumbent rider who was in the back. When I found him, he was fully upright, but smiling sheepishly. Apparently, his rear wheel had caught the road edge and he tumbled. Nothing hurt but his pride. We pressed on, back into Woodinville and toward an old standby, Norway Hill.

Norway Hill is like the exclamation mark to many of our rides. If you just didn't get enough climbing in, tack on Norway. It's a hard, steep hill that ends a block from Eastside Foursquare. I used to resist it, but not today. I am powered by Apple Fritter. I am fueled by white mocha. I have calories to burn. See, there's a reason why it's always all about the coffee shop.

Riders: Kristin, Bob, David, Jim
Distance: 49.52
Time: 3:47:25
Average: 13.0
Max: 32.0