Category Archives: Family Ride

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.

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!

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!