Last weekend I went around the south half of Lake Washington; I started from my home in Kirkland going south through Bellevue, which is always an urban challenge. I have to cross the busiest eight lane main street right by I-405 and then shift over to the left lane to turn left onto the freeway entrance at 6th. There is a tiny opening between two barrier posts that I flash through to enter the hidden bicycle trail. It is most "De Lint" experience. The ride went nicely, traveling mostly through hidden bike trails that lie parallel to 405 with spectacular views of Mt. Rainier looming above the horizon, then dropped off an almost empty road that winds it way to Coulon beach park - a brief stop off to top off my water bottle - thence out of the woods directly popping back into the World That Is through another hidden opening into the Fry's store parking lot. The ride through the Renton airport is always fun, though this time no jets were there to knock me off the bike. The rest of the ride went smoothly across Rainier Avenue, a heavy traffic road with very wide bike safe shoulders. I went up the west side of the lake taking in the views of beautiful lake front hones and green park lands with the I-90 bridge seeming to hover over the lake, then I turned onto Harrison instead of taking my usual route through the tea garden which leads to UW. This time I went west to meet Selene at the Seattle REI mothership store. Unfortunately, the map depicted the 20 block straight run without mentioning the steep hills between me and it. The street got so steep that in the lowest gear, standing on the pedals pushing with all my might, the bike simply would not go up. I ended up having to walk the bike three blocks to be greeted up there by a "Welcome to Capital Hill" sign. The ride down was totally nuts. This was my first time going down busy Denny, a 20% grade multilane street with an equally steep bridge flying across I-5 with cars darting in from cross streets oblivious of my existence. I made it to REI unscathed and got a chance to do a little bit of shopping with Selene.
This weekend I went for a 50 mile ride, south again from Kirkland, but this time turning west at the I-90 trail. That trail also pops into the borderlands, a wide fen full of the odors of swamp life combined with intense green, crossed by the massive bridges and columns that make up the spine of I-90. The bike trail is a pontoon bridge made up of concrete segments each not quite level with each other. It's a great way to adjust one's own spine. I met a few riders going in the opposite direction. They seemed lost. Riding underneath the bridges, weaving between the columns and growing rushes, the trail meets up with a high arched bridge which requires a fast approach to ensure I top it without stalling partway. Going across Mercer Island is always fun, the first part of the I-90 bridge is the short one but it tends to have the strongest breeze; today it was 90 degrees to the travel route, a bit of a challenge to ride with a constant windward lean. The trans-island trail tends up be used by the local pedestrians who consider off-islander bicyclists (actually all bicyclists) as low class vermin. They have tried to close off the trail to all but locals but since it was built with state and federal funds as a public bicycle trail, they lose every time. Mercer is composed of extremely wealthy people with isolationist tendencies, well, except for their own shit - literally. Indeed, there is a massive floating sewer pipe that rings the island and carries their effluent *across* the lake to a processing plant in Renton! Ah well, life is strange. There are two steep hills to traverse across the island. The last one has a nice park complete with Morlock towers and a nice restroom and water fountain with which to lure the Eloi.
I love crossing the floating I-90 bridge. Both sides start very high and descend quickly to the floating portion. The gravity boost and power pedaling gets me up to 45 miles per hour, though today the stiff west wind cut that trilling speed down to 2/3rds. The flat part is right on the water, blue waves to the right and four lanes of high speed traffic to the left with a nice concrete barrier between us. The climb up was a bit slower; with several other riders ahead, we all gently paced ourselves to the upper shelf which leads to another high grade street, thankfully only half a block, then onto old Lake Washington road, through a lovely wooded park with a serpentine road that eventually descends back onto the lake road. I ran into and passed a cadre of riders on their spring training ride. This time I ascended to Madison Street then raced down into the Arboretum. This is a narrow twisty road with a 25 MPH speed limit which means I can easily keep up with the traffic. Near the end of the park I take a left turn to avoid the dangerous congestion that always forms there, switching to low traffic neighborhood streets, cross the canal at Fremont Draw Bridge, past the Huskies stadium to join the Burke Gilman trail. Sometimes, I turn west to Gas Works Park to catch a bite to eat at Essential Bakery, but this time I wanted to do an uninterrupted ride. I passed another huge group of riders, some 40 of them, also doing their Cascade spring training ride, and I joined a small group of faster riders. It is easy to go 22 MPH on this part of the trail, though after a while I waved goodbye to them and slowed down to my endurance pace of 18 MPH. Those guys were the younger seriously muscled racers - I am not in their league. I had a wonderful 40 minutes of nonstop riding through the beautiful woods of this trail, occasionally breaking back to the urban streets at a few major road crossings. Otherwise, the trail has its own bridges and stays hidden almost to the top of the lake (log boom park) where I stopped for five minutes to fuel up with food and top off the water bottle again. The day was holding up well - partly cloudy with sun breaks.
From there, I headed southeast along the Sammamish River, crossing under 202 and I-405. The trail curves southward after passing through Bothell, a lovely park with ducks roosters and other well fed fowl. Another 12 miles later took me to Redmond where the trail tees off onto a main road by another hidden entrance/exit. A short ride on sidewalk to the entrance to the I-520 bike trail, and then the hell ride; this is a 10% grade that goes on for about a mile. Oh my! First gear for a while, then second, then fourth, then back to second... on an on... The grade drops to a few percent, crossing 51st, 40th, another rise to 148th Ave. then a wonderful descent heading west again to Bellevue north. At this point it gets steep again. This is my usual route to/from the office but having placing almost 50 miles of road behind me, the ascent goes much slower than the week day jaunts. The nice part of this area is the 270 degree view of the Cascades to the east, Mt. Rainier to the south, and the Olympics to the west. One steep descent onto Northup Way, then another long 2%-5% ascent along 405 leads me to the home stretch; the final descent through the neighborhood and then the final ascent up the driveway to my home. This is a very steep road; I walk the bike when the grade climbs to 20%, get back on the flattish part, do the final 10% and glide to the house, off the bike, stagger inside, drink a gallon of water, collapse.
That was Saturday. After putting the bike away, I slept from 4PM to about 7PM. Sunday, Selene and I went to Camlann to a class titled "Constructing 14th Century Clothing". More on that tomorrow.