Freeway Cruising on the Cascade Bicycle Club’s Emerald Bike Ride

If you’ve never participated in Cascade Bicycle Club’s Emerald Bike Ride, I highly recommend doing it at least once. It’s a once a year opportunity to ride on the I-5 express lane, SR 520, and I-90 bridges in Seattle and Bellevue, Washington–exclusively with other cyclists. The full route is about 25 miles long and does a complete loop back to downtown Seattle. This year, it was a beautiful sunny day and a perfect setting to host thousands of riders of all ages and riding abilities. You can see the complete route here:

The ride begins at Safeco Field and routes through downtown to the I-5 express lane on ramp. Initially, the express lanes are in the center of the standard I-5 lanes, so you have rushing freeway traffic on either side of you. Once you reach the Ship Canal Bridge, you are underneath the standard lanes which is a bit more peaceful. At the midpoint of the bridge, you have a great view of Lake Union and the University of Washington.

Crossing the bridge, the route leads you down the first exit and loops over to Pacific St. NE. This takes you through the University District down to Montlake Blvd. and then on to the 520 bridge eastbound. It’s an amazing feeling to ride in completely open lanes with only fellow cyclists on this highly transited bridge. The views of Lake Washington and Mt. Rainier were stunning throughout the crossing.

The first exit at the end of the bridge takes you south through Medina, following the water, most of the way. This is a beautiful area that would be enjoyable to ride through any time of the year.  We end up on Bellevue Way SE, which takes us directly to the I-90 westbound back towards Seattle.

On the I-90, we use the express lanes, so we were in the center of freeway traffic again, which is an interesting sensation. It makes you reflect on the speed of vehicle traffic and sheer energy that goes into point-A-to-point-B travel on a daily basis. However, there were stretches in which we were actually moving faster than the vehicle traffic! I-90 has several tunnels, and once you enter each one, the noise decibel level relative to being next to the freeway traffic goes to practically zero, another very fascinating sensory effect.

 

 

 

At the end of the I-90, you are rewarded with one of a kind views of downtown Seattle, most notably the skyscrapers, port, and stadiums.  For the home stretch, you wind back down onto 4th Ave. S.  and work your way back to the Safeco Field starting point.

The Cascade Bicycle Club Emerald Ride is held every year in May, so definitely put it on your calendar for next year. You can see complete details on the Emerald Ride here.

Simply Propelled

If you have any interest in family biking, bikepacking, adventure travel, or all of the above, be sure to check out and follow Simply Propelled.

The Clark family has taken some amazing long distance adventure travel journeys with their two kids, and Dan Clark does a fantastic job of documenting them with high quality video, photos, and narrative. Their next sojourn is a family bikepacking trip from the Canadian Arctic to Baja California. They are launching on July 1st, so make sure to follow their trek and say hello to them!

RIDING OVER THE TACOMA NARROWS BRIDGE & CUSHAM TRAIL

Last weekend the Kid and I did a ride we’ve been wanting to do for a while: crossing the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and continuing on to the Cushman trail through Gig Harbor. Starting at the the War Memorial Park in Tacoma, WA, we road over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, an iconic circa 1940 Puget Sound area structure that crosses the Tacoma Narrows straight between Tacoma and the Kitsap Peninsula.

Crossing the bridge by bike in and of itself is a wonderful experience. The bridge offers one-of-a-kind views of the Puget Sound that can’t be experienced in a car at 60 mph. On bike or foot you can stop and soak in the imagery or just let the wind rush through your hair with the sweeping panorama in the background.

The bridge has it’s own two-way bike/pedestrian path, and crossing it is about two miles each way. We wanted to continue on to the Cushman trail which begins about a mile farther north after crossing the bridge. The total distance from War Memorial Park to the end of the Cushman trail is nearly 10 miles. The route looked like this:

To get to the Cushman trail, you simply cross the first overpass after crossing the bridge and head north on 14th Ave. NW for about a mile to where the Cushman trail starts. The trail is very wide and has great surface conditions. It winds through mostly wooded surroundings and has some ups and downs along the way, but all of the climbs are relatively short.

 

About two miles down the trail, you cut back through the streets for a couple of blocks on Olympic Drive NW. You’re back on the trail in no time, which continues for another half-mile until you are back on the streets again. This is a perfect time to stop by and say hi to the folks at Old Town Bicycle (www.oldtownbicycle.com). Old Town is a great shop that offers everything you would want and has a friendly and knowledgeable staff. They even offered to fill our water bottles and let us use their bathroom before setting back out on the ride.

From there, you weave through town for a few more blocks and then are back on the trail again. This portion of the trail is mostly an elevated path above reed-filled marshland below. There are also a couple of climbs through this portion of the trail at 8-10% grade, however, they are relatively short climbs. The scenery is very green, natural, and enjoyable and there are built in stopping points with benches all along the way.

 

The trail ends at Borgen Blvd. where there is a large business park. We decided to duck into the Costco there for a quick lunch before heading back. Much to our surprise, there was no bike parking on the premises, so we improvised with one of their shopping cart corrals.

The Tacoma Narrows bridge and Cushman trail are very fun and scenic rides that can be done independently, but work very well as a continuous route. I highly recommend you put this ride high on your list if you haven’t experienced it yet.

Please share your comments below along with any other bridge crossing stories or recommendations.

COURAGE CLASSIC, GRAVEL TRAIL TO THE SNOQUALMIE SUMMIT

The weekend of August 6th was the Courage Classic ride, a cycling event in Washington that is a significant fundraiser for the Rotary Endowment for the Intervention & Prevention of Child Abuse & Neglect. This year it has raised over $500k (www.multicare.org/courage-classic).

The Kid and I decided to take on the Courage Classic Lite ride, which launched from the main starting point in North Bend and followed the Snoqualmie Valley and Iron Horse trails to the Snoqualmie summit. We were to ride up and back down again on the same day for a total of 60 miles.

The trails are rail-to-trail conversions, so they are “rail grade” which is gradual, but a constant grade nonetheless. The trail is packed gravel the whole way. We followed the Snoqualmie Valley trail from North Bend for about nine miles where it ends at Rattle Snake Lake. The Iron Horse trail begins here and continues on for approximately 20 miles until you reach the Hyak Trailhead at the Snoqualmie pass.

The ride was a great opportunity for us to experience this route as well as test ourselves, as 60 miles is the longest continuous ride we’ve done together.  The is our actual ascent as recorded by GPS (I know, we’re not breaking any speed records…)

Rattle Snake Lake State Park is the first major stopping point along the route. It has bathrooms and water available, so it’s a good time to use them, particularly for filling up on water. There are bathrooms on the trail along the way, but the park is the last place to get water directly on the trail until you reach the summit.

There are many interesting features along the trail such as the several trestle crossings that float above creeks and ravines deep below and offer tremendous exposed views of the Cascades and river valley below. About five miles up the Iron Horse trail, you pass many popular rock climbing walls that are likely to be in full use by climbers. There are several hiking trail crossings along the Iron Horse, including the the popular Twin Falls state park trail. If you want a break for riding, you can stop and explore one of these, or simply take a break at one of the many picnic areas with tables and bathrooms. Most of the rest areas are located at nice view points.

 

 

The climax of the ride up is reaching the historic converted train tunnel that takes you though the mountain to the Hyak trail head. It is three miles long and void of light, other than what you bring with you. Riding a bike through for the first time is quite the experience. You really lose the sense of distance, speed, and time and with the constant draft, it almost feels like you’re flying through it. It is virtually isolated from any outside noise, which is another sensory experience since you can only hear your wheels on the smooth packed-soil surface or the occasional water drips. The air is much cooler inside the tunnel, so an extra layer is nice to have when riding through.

The Hyak trail head has a nice bathroom facility that even features a shower, so if you’re so inclined, or if you’re travelling on a multi-day trip, this might be one of your best opportunities for a shower. If you continue east, there are several camp sites along the trail that have received good reviews. We plan on doing an overnight there in the near future.

After a nice lunch and a short break, we mounted back up, and headed right back through the tunnel. Riding back through the tunnel wasn’t as mysterious as the first time, but still feels like an adventure. The view from the west side of the tunnel is breathtaking and there are several picnic benches making it a great spot to take a break and soak it all in.

Although the ride back down is technically downhill, you’re not exactly coasting all of the way down. Nonetheless, it feels fairly easy after the ascent, and of course you can move much faster. We pretty much cruised through all the way down, just stopping for bathroom breaks or to take in the view.

 

After reaching Rattle Snake Lake again, we decided we’d had enough vibrations for the day, and instead of the trail, we took the road down to North Bend. After being on the trail, the road felt so smooth and fast, and we were really flying around some of the hairpin curves. As you reach the bottom, close to the I-5 crossing, it gets pretty straight and flat the rest of the way into town.

We were pretty worn out by the time we finished the ride, but we had a great day, and one that we’ll never forget. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to go back with the camping gear and spend a couple of nights out on the trail. We are very fortunate to have this great terrain and beautiful landscape right in our “backyard” and I recommend to anyone to get up there and experience any portion of the trail you are able to.

Please leave any comments about this blog post or riding rail-trails below!

NORTHWEST TANDEM RALLY 2016: KLAMATH FALLS, OREGON

The Kid and I had the opportunity to ride at this year’s Northwest Tandem Rally (http://nwtr.org), held in Klamath Falls, Oregon. Klamath Falls is in southern central Oregon near the California border. It sits at about 4000 ft. and has an arid, sunny climate. During the day, it would get into the 90s, but it was nice to get some sun since we were having spells of rain back in Seattle. It was really great weather for camping.

The event was held at the Steen Sports Park, which is a pretty amazing facility. It has a lot of really nice soccer fields, and we camped out on one of them. Coincidentally, I had brought a ball along, so we were able to kick it around in the afternoons. There were also some really nice playgrounds there that the Kid really enjoyed.

 

We arrived to Klamath Falls on Friday afternoon, and after setting up camp, we had enough time to go on a short ride. There is a significantly large circuit of paved bike paths in Klamath Falls, which is pretty remarkable for a small town of 21k. One path passes right by Steen Sports Park and links into a paved bike trail the follows the A Canal through town. This was a fun ride to get loosened up and introduced to the layout of the town.

Saturday morning was the official launch of the rally, and it was some sight to see hundreds of tandem cyclists depart together from the park. There were even police escorts all through town and locals cheering us on as we rode through downtown Klamath Falls.

Once out of town, we were on country roads with very light traffic. There were two routes to choose from, and we opted for the shorter 28 mile route, which is actually the farthest continuous route we’ve done together. The route was as follows:

The riding was extremely enjoyable and the scenes out in the countryside were very beautiful. Fields with a variety of crops, cattle pastures, and small lakes and canals were in the foreground with the distant snow capped mountain peaks in the background. There were some gradual climbs, but the route was relatively flat and steady and the traffic was minimal.

We made the loop back into town, and finished off our ride. We spent the afternoon hanging out with the guys and test riding bikes from Bike Friday (bikefriday.com) and Co-Motion Cycles (co-motion.com), playing on the playgrounds, and even went for a swim. We did a little tour of Klamath Falls and ended up at Klamath Basin Brewing (kbbrewing.com) for dinner, which I highly recommend.

The second day ride was a less dramatic start as start times were staggered and there wasn’t the police escort or fanfare. The ride was a 22 mile route and another scenic tour of country roads outside of Klamath Falls.

A large portion of the route was on the OC&E Woods Line State Trail, a rail-to-trail conversion. It is apparently Oregon’s longest linear park at 109 miles! Klamath Falls to Olene is completely paved which was our leg of the trail, and passed through scenic wetlands and over wood plank bridges. Coming back to take the trail as a bike-packing excursion beyond Olene is now high on my list.

The route continued over the Lost River and up a small climb that offered beautiful views of the valley. We linked back up to the OC&E trail and then back through town. One last climb brought us up to Foothills Blvd. for a final descent back to Steen Sports Park.

After the ride, we had a great lunch, then broke down our camp, packed up our gear, and said goodbye to Steen Sports Park, which was our home for the last two days, and the NWTR, which was a really fun event. Next year, the rally will be held in our hometown of Seattle, so I’m really looking forward to that event and the routes planned for it.

We had enough time that afternoon to stop at Crater Lake National Park, which is only about an hour from Klamath Falls. Crater Lake is definitely a place everyone must go at some point, because there is nothing else like it, and you really have to be there to experience it. Our brief stop planted a seed to plan out a bike-camping trip there sometime soon, which would be an amazing experience. I’m sure the sunrises there are spectacular.

The Northwest Tandem Rally was a really well organized and extremely enjoyable event. I would recommend anyone to participate in future NWTRs as you are guaranteed to have a great time. I would also recommend putting Klamath Falls on your list of riding destinations, as it has a lot of great routes to offer, great weather, and is an inviting and bike friendly community.

Please comment below and share any stories on tandem cycling or riding around Klamath Falls, Oregon.

 

5 DAYS, 4 NIGHTS: BIKING AND CAMPING WITH THE KID IN RURAL WILLAMETTE VALLEY, OREGON

It was finally here: Memorial Day weekend. We had scrambled through the week to get everything prepared and we were even taking Friday off to extend our holiday weekend. I pulled the Kid out of school early on Thursday, and we hit the road. We were heading south.

The plan was to camp every night and bike as much as possible, but the rest of the details were not laid in stone, leaving us open to possibilities. My brother, an Oregon native, was the third member of this ensemble. He lives on acreage in the Kings Valley, Oregon area, which is a mix of rural homesteads, open pastures, and small vineyards at the base of large tracts of douglas fir and mixed deciduous forested hills. The idea was to base ourselves out of Kings Valley and take day trips to different locations rather than traverse a continuous route. The overall goal was to disconnect from the busy urban ambiance and simply enjoy the local surroundings. We still managed to log about 80 miles of total riding over the course of the trip.

On the way down, we stopped at Seven Corner Cycles (www.7-corners.com) in SE Portland, which is a fantastic shop, and the owner, Cory is a genuine, helpful, and down-to-earth guy. There, I picked up a vital piece of equipment that I needed: a Banjo Brothers Waterproof Convertible Pannier Backpack. He also was kind enough to loan me one of his own personal Relevate Designs Sweetroll handle bar roll bag and Mountain Feedbag. I didn’t end up getting a chance to use the Relevate items on this trip, however, I will definitely keep their products in mind for the future. While in Portland, we had a deliciously satisfying meal of chicken and rice at Nong’s and then got back on the road.

We made it down to my brother’s place in time to set up camp and hunker down for the night. The next morning, we woke up to blue skies and had breakfast cooked over the campfire. We broke down our camp site, organized our gear, and laid out our route for the ride that day. The plan was to ride from Philomath, through Corvallis, and just out of town to the east of Corvallis on Hwy 34. We caught a ride from Kings Valley to Philomath to avoid riding on the shoulder-less Hwy 223 and the very busy Hwy 20.

          

On the way, we stopped at Gathering Together Farm (www.gatheringtogetherfarm.com) in Philomath. It is a local, organic farm that also features a small restaurant with an amazing menu based on mostly what is raised and harvested on the farm. It features a massive wood fired pizza oven and their pizza is some of the best I’ve had, with very eclectic topping combinations.

  

We made our way to the launching point, fitted up the bikes with all of our camping gear, and were on our way. We were taking the very beginning of a bike trail network that begins in Philomath and routes through Corvallis branching into multiple legs through town. In our case, we were routing through downtown and back out to the countryside off of Hwy 34 to our camp spot. The route was about 10 miles in total and looked something like this:

We made a quick stop at one of the local bike shops in downtown Corvallis, Corvallis Cyclery (corvalliscycleryinc.com) to pick up a couple more parts and accessories. This is a complete shop that carries just about everything you could want and has an experienced staff of mechanics.

   

We were invited to camp on a friend’s property, which is on a couple of acres off of Colorado Lake Dr. just off of Hwy. 34. The property is on a small lake, so we were able to go on a little canoe ride, do some fishing, feed the ducks, and even a bit a tree climbing!

     

After some good, old-fashioned country fun, we set up camp and started a nice camp fire. We roasted everything from sausages, to fresh oysters, to whole Walla Walla onions. The next day, we packed up our gear and rode back through the route we had taken there. We picked up an extra riding companion, our gracious host, who escorted us almost the whole way back. We stopped off at the Corvallis farmers market, which rivals any other market I have been to and draws a great crowd. We rode a little bit farther into Philomath this time and then got a ride back to our home base camp site in Kings Valley.

That afternoon, we took a ride up a logging rode into the woods which was about a 7 mile loop. The first half was pretty much steady climbing, but the second half was all descent and made the ride up all worth it. The views from the clearings at the top were breathtaking.

 

We were invited to a fantastic home cooked meal that night, so not exactly roughing it, but very welcomed nonetheless. We followed that with another camp fire and then to bed. The next morning, we had another camp fire breakfast and then prepped our bikes for a day drip.

We drove back into the Philomath area and launched from the intersection of Hwy 20 and 53rd. This is a relatively busy intersection, but we were heading south on 53rd, and after the first mile or two, we only saw a handful of cars in either direction until meeting up with Bellfountain Rd. The loop we ended up doing was about 18 miles and the route is as follows:

These roads are surrounded by beautiful scenes of grass farm fields and the occasional patch of trees. The traffic is very sparse and there are some gradual hill climbs, but overall a very flat ride. There are countless variations of this type of ride branching out from Philomath and Corvallis, and you could even make a great day of riding from Corvallis to Eugene, with plenty to see along the way.

We drove back to our camp and decided to pack up and head up by car into the Alsea Falls area. This is also a very scenic road and would be one to follow completely by bike at some point in the future. It’s a much longer ride with some pretty steady climbing. There are plenty of camping spots off the beaten path throughout this area and it is all mostly BLM land which doesn’t require any type of permit. We did some exploring and a little bit of fishing around the Alsea Falls, which is a fairly touristy area, but a lovely set of falls and fun spot to hike around.

Down the road from the falls, we found a BLM road that took us up a mountain. There were a couple of camp sites at the road entrance, but we kept going farther up the mountain and didn’t see anyone at all a short while after that. We turned up a short branch in the road and found a perfect camp site at the end of it with a flat clearing, but protected by trees. We didn’t see or hear another person the whole time we were at the site. It was a perfectly clear night with not a hint of wind, so we left the rain fly off to watch the stars throughout the night.

After the regular camp side breakfast routine and breaking down camp, the Kid and I took the opportunity to bomb back down the hill on our bikes. The Kid has really taken to downhill mountain biking because he took off like a rocket, and I couldn’t catch him until we hit the flats at the bottom of the hill!

We drove back to Kings Valley, got cleaned up, and then got our bikes prepped for the ride that day. This was to be the longest ride of the trip at about 24 miles. We were riding from my brother’s house in Kings Valley to my Dad’s house in Corvallis via Kings Valley Hwy, Tampico Rd., and Hwy 99W. We didn’t have to haul any of the camping on this ride since it was just a day trip. We fitted up my brother’s bike with a Bicyclebungee for a three bike tandem with him at the lead, myself in the middle, and the Kid in his usual position at the back. This was the route:

This route sees very little traffic, particularly once on Tampico Rd. The entire Kings Valley Hwy to 99W portion of the route follows beautiful scenic open country that is a mix of pasture land, vineyards, grass seed fields, and clusters of woods. Our three-bike tandem worked really well, and distributed the pulling between the two lead riders. On the flats and down hills, the drafting and natural momentum kept the train cruising very smoothly. There are a set of climbs since you are travelling through rolling hill country, but nothing too extreme, and we were able to power up these in tandem.

Right after getting on Hwy 99W heading south, we stopped at the Adair Village market to refill on water and have some snacks. We bypassed a portion of Hwy 99W by getting on Arboretum Rd. which eventually connects back with 99. The ride between Adair Village and Corvallis is very flat and there is a large shoulder on the highway, so it is pretty straight forward riding. Even though this was the last portion of the ride, it felt very easy because of how flat and steady it is.

We made it to our destination and had a nice relaxing time catching up with relatives who were also in town for the weekend. Later on, we rode into downtown which is about 3 miles away (and nearly all bike path) to a classic Corvallis pizza spot, American Dream Pizza
(www.adpizza.com). We had some delicious pizza and then strolled around the laid back and pleasant riverfront area of downtown. For a spectacular view of the city and dinner or a beer, also check out Sky High Brewing (www.skyhighbrewing.com), which has a rooftop lounge with a 360 degree view of the city.

A ride back to the house was the last riding we did for the day and the trip. We loaded everything up, said our farewells and were on our way back to our regular routine in Seattle. After about a half hour of driving, the Kid was fast asleep and slept the whole way through! He certainly had his fill of riding, and we exceeded each other’s expectations on how much tandem riding and camping we could do in a weekend. This trip would set the bar even higher for the next trip!

The Corvallis/Philomath area is truly a biker’s haven with 18 miles of multi-use paths and 46 miles of bike lanes in a town of just over 50k residents. See the Benton County bike route map here. It also has a very flat landscape, an extremely bike-friendly and conscious culture, and there are plenty of scenic country roads to ride just outside of town. Whether touring or just passing through, I recommend a stop there, and you’re guaranteed to have a nice visit, eat some good food, and meet some friendly folk.

Please comment below with your thoughts and any stories on bike-camping or biking in Oregon.

BIKE CAMPING ON BAINBRIDGE ISLAND

The kid and I are gearing up for the summer, and the destination for our first bike-camping trip was Fay Bainbridge Park on Bainbridge Island, Washington. Up to this point, most of our riding has been urban and strictly day trips, so this was the first run out to a relatively comfortable location to test the logistics, equipment, and feasibility of bike camping on a more regular basis, for longer distances, and to more remote locations.

The first step was to set up the bike to handle the extra cargo we’d need. I added a Topeak Super Tourist DX rear rack that I picked up from Angle Lake Cyclery (anglelakecycle.com). The goal was to mount everything to the rear rack and allow enough clearance for the Bicyclebungee.

Before investing in panniers, I wanted to make use of some bags I had around to get a feel for weight distribution and volume needed for the gear we were carrying. The net result was I mounted the tent to the top of the rack, which left just enough clearance for the Bicyclebungee. Then I adapted two mini-duffle bags to the sides, which contained clothes, gear, etc. I strapped one sleeping bag to the handle bar and the other off the rear rack. Overall, it worked pretty well, however, I was very tail heavy, so I will look into some front racks to get more of the weight up front. Also, panniers designed to mount to a rack will be a lot more practical, but this setup was good enough to get us going.

The equipment we brought was the following: a three-man tent, two sleeping bags, extra change of clothes, extra layers, toiletries, travel towel, Goal Zero solar charger, book (for reading), misc. camping gear (flashlight, knife, leatherman, matches, extra straps), and some snacks and light breakfast items. There were going to be plenty of eating options along the way, so I didn’t want the extra weight and hassle of packing cooking gear and food, however it would have also fit in our bags. The regular biking equipment goes in the frame bag or directly on the frame and includes: locks, tools, spare tube, pump, and water bottle.

The route we planned from downtown was the following:

The distance from the ferry dock on Bainbridge to Fay Bainbridge park is about 7 miles. We biked to the light rail station at Seatac, which is about 4.5 miles from our house. From there we rode the light rail to the Pioneer Square station. We decided to go up the new 2nd Ave. protected bike lane (for just one block), just to say we did. We turned down Columbia Way, which was a little complicated on a Friday afternoon during rush hour with a cargo-laden bike, and the wee-man to watch out for. We mostly walked down the sidewalk until just beyond 1st Ave. and then biked from there. Perhaps a better option is using Yesler instead.

Getting on the ferry by bike is simple. There is a bike staging lane, and the WA State Ferry staff are very helpful. Once on, you can park your bike anywhere on the side. One trick I learned observing other commuters is it’s helpful to have a bungee cord to strap your bike off to the railing. We left all of our gear on the bikes and went upstairs for most of the ride. That’s a good time to use the bathroom, fill up with water, etc.

 

On arrival, we just followed all of the other cyclists out. It was about time for dinner, so we decided to grab a quick bite at That’s A Some Pizza. To get there, you just take left on Winslow, and it is one block up. There’s no bike parking per se, but you can see your bikes from just about any part of the small establishment. We opted for the outdoor seating. The pizza was really good, and they also sell it by the slice so it was a quick and delicious meal. The kid certainly loved it.

   

With pizza in our bellies, it was time to make the 7 mile trek to Fay Bainbridge with enough daylight to set up camp. We followed Ferncliff Ave. Which has a bike lane leaving town and minimal traffic. The bike lane goes away after a while, but the traffic is light, and I never felt unsafe along the way. There is an inherent biking culture on Bainbridge, as this is one of the best ways to commute to Seattle.

From Ferncliff, the route jogs down Lofgren to meet up with Moran, which ends at Hwy. 305. There you could take Madison all the way through, but we took the more scenic Manitou Beach Dr. This is a beautiful route, as it follows the beach around the point with amazing views of Seattle.

At the end of the point, there’s a neat little bike lane that puts you up the hill and around the curve. Manitou takes a bend and runs into Sunrise Dr. which takes you north all the way to Fay Bainbridge. There is a convenience store and cafe at this intersection which is the last place to get any supplies before the park if you need them.

The stretch down Sunrise Dr. to the park is straight but is a series of climbs and descents. It’s nothing too extreme, but with all of the gear on board and towing a bike, I was panting at the top of each climb. Fortunately, each descent was enough to catch my breath for the next one. The traffic is very light through here, but taillights are recommended, even during the day. The towering trees that border the road and occasional wildlife create an ethereal backdrop to bike through.

The last stretch to Fay Bainbridge is downhill, so it’s a pleasant way to end the ride and catch your breath. We made it there just before 8 pm, and we were rewarded with a stunning sunset. We threw the tent up and then went straight down to the beach to witness the best entertainment available. It was a clear and still night, the city far in the backdrop, sailboats drifting in the distance, and the golden, orange light of the setting sun was all we needed.

We lit a little camp fire as it was getting dark and hung out below the stars for a bit before hunkering down for the night. We woke up to overcast skies, and shortly thereafter a light drizzle came down. We weren’t that compelled to hang out on the beach in the rain, so we got everything packed up and ready to make the trek back. Just as we were setting out, the rain fortunately let up for us. The ride back down Sunrise was smooth. We stopped at the Rolling Bay Cafe for some really good breakfast sandwiches, coffee, and conversation with the locals there.

 

Just after setting out again, the rain caught up with us and came down relentlessly the whole way back to the ferry. We muscled through the weather and finally made it to town. We stopped at Classic Cycle, the local bike shop, to see what they had to offer (and dry off a bit). What I discovered was a truly amazing bike shop! The selection was great and the staff was even better. I was perusing the pannier selection and was quickly approached by Jaime who was extremely helpful and friendly. As it turns out, along with general cyclery, she had a lot of experience with family biking.
The topic eventually turned to the mechanics and physiology of my kid on his bike, how he’d grown so much in the last six months, and why his current 20″ bike was both problematic and dangerous. It all made sense, the way she explained it, and I quickly realized that he needed to move up to a bigger bike sooner than later. They just happened to have a used 26″ Trek mountain bike with a 13″ frame that was in excellent condition and a very sleek “big-boy” bike. At first glance, I thought it would be too much bike, but he took it for a test ride and looked perfectly natural on it. He immediately had more stability and power, and everything Jaime had taken the time to explain to me was spot on.

I knew that we had to make this change for him to improve his biking, and a used bike like this isn’t very common. Classic Cycle took the old bike on a trade, which solved the issue of getting home with an extra bike. They mounted a kick stand, a new bell, and all of his other accessories while we went for another round of pizza.

Our experience at Classic Cycle was so great, that I would recommend stopping by there sometime soon, if anything, just to talk to the nice folks there and look at their collection of classic bicycles, but you won’t be disappointed with their offerings either.

The kid adjusted very quickly to his new ride, and we went on our merry way to the ferry terminal. We were two of three bicycles on the way back, surprisingly.

For the way back, I planned a different route from the ferry terminal to the light rail station. Instead of taking the short but precarious route up the steep downtown climbs, we went south on Alaska Way for a few blocks and then got on the Elliot Bay bike trail. The Elliot Bay trail was great, and worked out really well. It took us down to Atlantic near Safeco Field, and from there we went south on 1st, then jogged over to Occidental all the way to Lander and on to the Sodo light rail station. We pulled up just as the train was arriving, loaded up, and we were heading south again. There was another biker in our car who was super friendly and we were able to exchange stories on the way down.

  

We take the train to the end of the line, Seatac airport, but I’ll be happy when they finally finish the new Angle Lake station. It shaves about 1.5 miles off of the route, but more importantly it eliminates the need to ride through the sketchy International Blvd. area. There is a new road along the station that puts you out on 204th. From there, you can ride the sidewalk just to the next intersection which is 208th, and then cut down to 24th, which parallels Pacific Hwy., has a bike lane, minimal traffic, and is a very easy ride.

Overall, we rode about 15 miles on the first day and about 17 on the second. This was a great weekend getaway, and a great warm up to future longer bike camping trips. I now have a better idea of what I can pack and fine tune for the next trip. Also, the Fay Bainbridge outing is now something we can do at the spur of the moment. I highly recommend this trip when you have the opportunity. Of course, the kid was pretty happy with his reward!

RIDING THE INTERURBAN TRAIL

On Thursday night, we took a ride up the Interurban Trail from central Kent to downtown Renton. Because I wanted junior to last all of the way to the end point, we opted to hop on the bus from Marine View Dr. in Des Moines and get off on the James and Lincoln stop, which is right next to the trail. The ride from this point into Renton worked out to a little over eight miles.

The Interurban Trail is as straight as an arrow and completely flat all the way into Tukwila, which made for a steady ride. The weather was fantastic, apart from a steady head wind. We saw about a dozen wild rabbits along the way–I guess it’s that time of year. We stopped to admire a nice Prince piece on a car parked on one of the sidetracks.

The trail takes you right by the Tukwila Amtrak/Sounder station, so this is another way to link up with it. After going under the 405 overpass in Tukwila, we took Grady up to Oakesdale Ave. (the Springbrook trail is also right there), and then onto SW 7th. 7th is a nice route for biking as there isn’t much traffic, it’s straight and flat, and is a much better option than staying on Grady. You do have to cross Rainier, but we opted to walk our bikes across the crosswalks there, which was safer.

From there, we cut down Shattuck for two blocks, than down Houser Way (both quiet side streets) and onto Burnett. Two blocks down Burnett and we were at the Renton Transit center. Because it was getting late and he was feeling tired, we jumped on the F Line Rapid Ride at the Renton Transit Center and took it back to the Tukwila station and then onto the A, which was a quick connection. We got off farther south on Pacific Hwy and the ride from there is always quick and fun because it’s all down hill.

If you are not familiar with Renton, it is actually a very easy city to get around on bike. It’s practically completely flat everywhere, and as long as you avoid the busier streets like Rainier, Grady, and Sunset, it is relatively safe riding. The downtown area is quaint and has the original town feel. There are spots to pop into to eat and the Renton Farmers Market on Tuesday evenings during the summer is very active. The Renton transit center can connect you to just about anywhere. Renton Landing is just around the corner if shopping and chain restaurants is your thing. There is also a great trail that follows the cedar river along side Boeing and leads all the way to the lake’s edge. Perimeter Road takes you around the airport and is also a nice little detour. Although Renton isn’t usually the first place that comes to mind when you think of touring, you could quite easily make a day out of it and see some nice sites throughout your ride.

The Interurban Trail is a great “bike highway.” It is straight and flat, however, not what I would describe as the most scenic route since you are mostly on the backside of warehouses and industrial areas. The REI headquarters is only a couple blocks off of the trail in Kent in case you are interested. The trail is the best route to connect from Kent to Tukwila and is worth a ride if you don’t go there regularly and are looking for something different. You can use it for point A to point B purposes or link up with more scenic trails in that area such as the Green River Trail. The Green River Trail follows the Green River from Kent, past Tukwila, and all the way up until it puts you out onto W. Marginal around the Glendale area. It’s very nice ride, and you’re on the trail nearly the whole time.

The south King County valley areas offer some scenic and interesting bike routes, and it’s mostly flat everywhere you go there, so there is not as much route planning involved. I’ll make some future posts on specific legs of the Green River trail and bonus spots to look out for along the way.

Please post any comments, and in particular, your experiences riding on the Interurban trail or any other trail you like or recommend.

WEEKEND RIDE REPORT: SOJOURN TO UW

The Wee-Man and I took a nice little bike tour of the University of Washington campus last weekend, an outing that I highly recommend. Since we come from Des Moines in the south end, we biked up to the Seatac Airport Sound Transit light rail station (app. 4 miles) and rode it to the end of the line to arrive at the campus.

I must say that the city of Des Moines has done a reasonable job of building in bike lanes on most every street. Pacific Highway/Intl. Blvd. leaves a lot to be desired, however. There is plenty of real estate available to at least paint in a lane, and with 45+ mph driving, it’s quite nerve-racking staying on the road, particularly with a kid. However, once the new Angle Lake light rail station is completed (end of this summer?), there will be a much better route to do this. Unless they build in a trail, we’ll still have to jog up Pac. Hwy. from 208th to about a block before 200th where a road is being built that leads right to the south platform, but this is better than navigating all of Pac. Hwy to the airport station. I imagine the new road will be for transit to enter, so we’ll see what it’s like when it’s actually opened.

We got on at Seatac and rode to the end of the line and had a chance to admire the new UW light rail station. It is particularly bike friendly with a plethora of bike parking and a nice ramp to the foot/bike bridge that crosses Montlake Blvd. and links right into the Burke Gilman Trail.

Riding around UW campus and on the Burke Gilman Trail is a lot of fun, particularly on a weekend when there is not a lot of foot or automobile traffic. It is a great way to tour the campus if you don’t frequent it very often. There are fewer places more cycling friendly than here, and there is even a bike parking station that features a built in pump and a variety of tools! It is just on the NW side of Kane Hall. I have never seen a station like this before, but hopefully other campuses and cities will follow this example.

Once we saw all of the campus, we rode up University Way to find a place to eat dinner, of which there are many options. Riding the Ave was refreshingly straight forward for a relatively busy street. There are bike traffic markings and speeds are relatively slow with the many intersections. Several bike parking stations are available along the way. 45th is a completely different story, and not a route I necessarily recommend, particularly with the availability of the trail just blocks to the south.

For dinner, we settled on Cedars Restaurant, and the staff was very accommodating and welcomed us to park our bikes on the covered patio at the entrance.

The ride back down University was nice and we linked up again with the Burke Gilman Trail. Having a protected bike lane in an urban setting at your disposal is truly a breath of fresh air compared to most of the terrain I ride. I look forward to as many more of these that are put in, as it takes a lot of the stress out of riding along with car traffic. We took the trail back across campus to the light rail station for the ride home.

Getting bikes on board the light rail is a breeze, however my one minor complaint is that the bike hanging areas only have a hook for one bike, whereas the pocket can easily fit two. This means that if two people are riding together, you have to hang your bikes in separate areas, which requires a little more coordination when getting off the train. Since we went to the end of the line both ways, it wasn’t a big deal for us, however, for in-between stops, plan your exit strategy in advance so that you’re not scrambling at the last minute.

We made it back to Seatac just as the sun was going down, so we raced home before it got too dark. The ride back from Seatac is more of a cruise since it is mostly down hill, and a great way to end the ride.

I highly recommend the UW bicycle tour if you don’t already spend a lot of time there, and there are many ways to access it whether it be by biking directly there or hitching a train ride. We’ll plan future rides to the Capitol Hill area and other destinations that we can access via light rail, which I will report on in the near future.

Please comment, and I look forward to hearing your experiences riding around UW as well as if you are combining the use of light rail with any bicycle outings!

THE ORIGIN OF BICYCLEBUNGEE USA

Bicyclebungee USA was born out of a deep desire to spend more meaningful time with my kid by way of cycling together. I discovered Bicyclebungee while searching for a system to effectively tow another bicycle and rider. Bicyclebungee provided the best means to ride together while independently practicing cycling at our own levels. We could take longer routes and steeper hills without needing to worry about him getting too tired, straying behind, or simply limiting my riding style or route so that he could keep up.

Bicyclebungee is distinct to other towing products since the towed rider is always freely cycling and not stiffly pulled along. It is also a very smooth ride due to the high elasticity of the bungee and nothing like the jerkiness of pulling with a rope, strap, or cable.  Unlike tandem bicycles, you just use your existing bike that already fits to your needs and liking instead of investing in another expensive bicycle specifically for tandem cycling. These distinctions were obvious to me from the very beginning and the product certainly lived up to its expectations.

Before using the Bicyclebungee, our riding distance was very limited to a just a couple of miles and approaching any kind of hill meant getting off the bike and walking. We’re now able to ride up hills together, and being from Western Washington state, it’s hard go anywhere without encountering a hill. With the Bicyclebungee, we quickly became used to riding 5-10 miles regularly and are continuously increasing these distances. We’ve become much more liberated to ride just about any route and as a result are discovering so many more areas together via bicycle. Above all, although cycling is an individual sport, it is so much more enjoyable as a companion activity!

Bicyclebungee is also an effective method of resistance training and is what the accessory was originally designed for. Although for me personally, this purpose is secondary, using it has been a very welcomed workout!

As a Bicyclebungee user, I was so impressed with the quality, engineering, and refined simplicity of the product, that I felt compelled to take on the role of promoting it and making it more available to other cyclists in my situation, who are otherwise missing out on many opportunities to regularly ride with his/her riding companion. After the tremendous success I had with the product, I knew I could stand behind it 100%.

Bicyclebungee was developed in New Zealand (the land of bungee!), by competitive mountain biker, Patrick Meffan. Patrick initially wanted to develop a resistance training accessory that could be used on the road and trail, and then quickly realized he also needed a solution to enjoy bike rides with his wife and kids while getting the workout and keeping the pace he is used to. The end product was very unique and formidably addressed both of these goals, while robust enough to hold up to miles and miles of all-terrain riding.

Until now, the Bicyclebungee has only been available directly from its native New Zealand. Bicyclebungee USA was founded to become the official distributor of Bicyclebungee for North America. Bicyclebungee USA’s mission is to make the Bicyclebungee readily available to anyone in the Americas and to raise awareness of the benefit of it for the many people who desire to have the same experience with their riding companion as I did. Bicyclebungee USA also adds value by being a direct point of contact for customer and technical support for the Bicyclebungee. Bicyclebungee USA provides demos, training, and presentations to dealers and end-users alike. Furthermore, Bicyclebungee USA works directly with customers on any adaptations or custom installations that are required to use the Bicyclebungee outside of the normal design parameters.

Bicyclebungee USA is very active in the Pacific NW cycling and parenting community.