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All Summer in a Day

All Summer in a Day

This spring and summer has been unusually cool and cloudy in Seattle. (You don’t believe me? Cliff Mass has scientifically proven it!). Finally, Thursday was sunny and warm, making it a perfect day to take photos of my summer commute for the LGRAB Summer Games.

I cross Salmon Bay at the Ballard Locks. Cyclists have to dismount and walk across, but it’s worth it. It’s the best route across the water on the west side of Seattle. Early in the morning, it’s quiet and serene.

The light industrial area of Magnolia and Interbay is better for cycling than one would expect, as the roads and bike lanes are wide, but the traffic volume is relatively low. Plus, you can see trains! On sunny summer days, the number of cyclists increases dramatically.

Down the road, I pass the place where school buses go to sleep. During the school year, they’d already be on the road. In the summer, you can see them lined up by the dozen.
Finally, I reach the waterfront. This is the prettiest part of my commute. I even take a small detour, just to spend a little more time here.
The wild roses remind me of my time in Edmonton. Their scent mixes with the salty, fishy air in a way that is strangely familiar yet different from Edmonton’s background of trees and grasses. You don’t have to stop to smell the roses, but it’s probably a good idea if you want to take a picture of them.

On a clear day, Mt. Ranier appears to float above the horizon. We’ll need to have a lot more sunny days before I can take that view for granted.

By the time I am on my way home, the city has woken up and is outside playing. The Locks aren’t so serene now – cyclists and tourists continually thread past each other on the narrow walk way. I’ve said “excuse me” to people from many countries, given directions to the fish ladder, and explained that “yes, cyclist ARE allowed here. It’s actually an important route”. Being patient doesn’t take much work – after all, we all want to be outside a little longer when the weather’s so nice.

And that is my summer commute at its best!

Bicycle Sunday

Bicycle Sunday

On Sunday, Spencer and I set out on the trail-a-bike for a bicycle adventure. Bicycle Sunday is a program run by Seattle Parks, where Lake Washington Boulevard is closed to car traffic on summer Sundays. The weather was good and our schedule was clear, so we decided to try it out for the first time.

Technically, this is not a panda shot since we are beside our bikes, not on them.
Lake Washington Boulevard winds gently along Lake Washington with parks on one side and attractive houses on the other. It was a fun, family crowd, with trail-a-bikes, trailers, training wheels, and wobbly new-to-two-wheelers.

Friendly people from the Cascade Bicycle Club were out, selling and fitting helmets for new riders.
Neighbourhood kids had a lemonade stand. I don’t know how much business they did that day, but it was certainly a hit with my kid.

Now, Spencer wants to set up his own stand, so he can earn money to buy more toys.
Spencer: I could ask people for $5 for a glass of lemonade.
Me: No one is going to pay that much for lemonade.
Spencer: Well….what if I gave them lemonade AND let them play with one of my toys?
The protected road ends at Seward Park, home to a very nice playground.
Bicycle parking was at a premium!
And, of course, we had to end the day with ice cream. Hey! I just asked you to HOLD my ice cream while I took a picture!

I’d never gone to a Bicycle Sunday before, so I was curious to see how the experience compared to riding in the neighborhood or on the nearby trails. The combination of wide roads and the complete absence of cars created a remarkably relaxed and fun atmosphere. In comparison, the Burke-Gilman trail is quite narrow and, on a busy day, requires a lot of attention, especially when passing or being passed. Spencer is just learning to ride a two-wheeler (sans training wheels) right now. Once he gets a little steadier, he’ll want to move beyond the school playground, but won’t really be ready for streets or even the BG Trail for some time. Bicycle Sunday will be the perfect opportunity for him to spread his wings.
All in all, it was a lot of fun and we’ll certainly go again. However, it will never be an every weekend activity – I’m not a big fan of driving 12 miles in order to ride for 3. Now, if only we could convince Seattle Parks to do a similar event in north Seattle….
Riding with Dan

Riding with Dan

A couple of weekends ago, our friend Dan came to Seattle for a visit. In between talking, eating, and drinking, we also fit in a couple of bike rides. We were very intrepid.

We rode to Gas Works Park, the former site of a gasification plant. When the city bought the site to convert into a park, much of the former plant was preserved. It’s a gothic, rusting hulk that makes a fascinating contrast to the lush greenery of the park. Saturday was overcast, but the views of downtown and of the boats on Lake Union are always worth the trip.

We then took the Burke-Gilman Trail to nearby Fremont, and off-beat little neighbourhood that a bit self-consciously artsy, but is a great deal of fun. We checked out a second-hand book store, Theo’s Chocolate factory, and paid homage to the troll, who lives under a bridge and is clutching a real, full-size VW Beetle in one hand.

Then it was time for lunch at El Camino. The plantain chips with guacamole and pico de gallo were delicious. As were the margaritas.

At some point in the midst of all this, we had fancy coffees and cake at Simply Desserts. It was delicious, as always. Unfortunately, I was distracted by the chocolate and forgot to take a picture.

The next day, we rode up the Interurban Trail to Carkeek Park. After making your way down a steep hill and crossing a pedestrian bridge over the railway tracks, you reach the beach. It was a bit lonely and windswept that day, but still pretty. At low tides, it’s a great place to investigate the tidal pools and sea creatures.

All in all, our bikes were a great way to visit and see some of the city. We kept a fairly relaxed pace, which allowed us to visit and sight see along the way. I didn’t want to use my road bike for these trips, because it’s quite a bit faster than the other bikes, making it hard to keep together. Plus it’s less comfortable with street clothes. However, we only have two other bikes, so we couldn’t all go out together. Luckily for me, Andrew took the parenting shift, so that Dan and I could go out. I may look into renting a bike next time we have visitors so that all of us can go out at the same time.

Suburban Summer Critical Lass

Suburban Summer Critical Lass

It’s past time that we started planning the Critical Lass Summer 2010 style ride, so, let’s get to it!

As we’ve said in our previous CL posts, we love that simply by riding with our friends in fashionable clothes we can promote cycling as an approachable, fun, everyday activity. It’s August, so think breezy and easy when you’re choosing your outfit: linen, hemp, seersucker, polka dots, madras plaid, that great artisan jewelry you bought at Folk Fest, sunscreen. We’ll be providing pins again, this time in the red-violet that’s all over the fashions for this summer and fall:

We thought this time we’d make the ride more family-friendly and suburban, just to show that we can. I’m going to propose two possible routes through the Riverbend-Terwillegar neighborhood below, and get you to vote on which sounds like more fun to you in the comments. Both routes will be fairly level, take some combination of paved multiuse trails and suburban roads, and form a loop (to make it easier for those who need to take another form of transportation here). If you have kids, please feel free to bring them along in a bike trailer or on a trailer-bike (or a box-bike like the Madsen – yes, Sarah, I am looking in your direction *nudgenudgewinkwink*).

Oh, about helmets: Yes, we will be riding slowly on multiuse paths and suburban roads, and since you are likely over 18 years old, you can weigh the actual risk of head injury and legally choose not to wear one. Whatever. However, anyone under 18 in Alberta *is* legally obligated to wear a helmet, which may be a hypocritical double standard, ignored by the vast majority of teenagers, and left unenforced, but… there it is. It’s the law here. Whatever your opinion about helmet laws, our choices send a message and set an example for any kids in attendance (including mine) and kids who see us ride past. There’s also a tonne of anecdotal evidence that North American cyclists who do not wear helmets can run up against harsh prejudices that undercut the truth of cycling (safe, fun, easy) that we’re trying to demonstrate. Let’s show them how awesome a helmet can look, yeah?

Here are the deets:

Date: Sunday, August 15th or 22nd, 2010
Time: 1:00pm gather time, depart at 1:30pm (giving ourselves more time so our kids can play and we can do casual pre-ride photos – no press will be invited this time)
Starting Point: the Tomlinson Park playground in Terwillegar Towne
Route to include:  TBA* update: see Proposed Route 1
End Point: BBQ at Deborah’s home
For contact info (if you might be late, wanting to meet up with us at a later point, etc) send a DM to me (@ecoDomestica) or Angel (@angelzilla) on twitter so we can exchange cell numbers.

*Proposed route 1: from Tomlinson Park playground to Riverbend Square shopping/cafe area via Haddow Drive, Riverbend Road and Rabbit Hill Road (primarily on residential roads); back to Deborah’s via Falconer Road, the east-west multiuse trail over Terwillegar Drive, and Towne Centre Boulevard. See this walking map (PDF) for reference. This is the longer of the two routes, spends more time on quiet residential streets, and possible midpoint destinations include shopping at indie toy store Laugh N Learn, a visit to the library, smoothies at Booster Juice, and snacks from a couple of different bakeries. (Not to mention the frozen food aisle of the grocery store.) It also passes two additional playgrounds that will make good stopping points if we are bringing children along. Update: this will be our route.

*Proposed route 2: from Tomlinson Park playground to the cluster of shops and restaurants at the corner of Rabbit Hill Road and 23rd Ave, via the multiuse path through the big park beside Tory Road (like the reverse of the last part of this ride), then back to Deborah’s via Rabbit Hill Road, the east-west multiuse trail, and Towne Centre Boulevard. This is the shorter of the two routes, spends more time on multiuse trails (but includes crossing a very busy intersection, probably on foot), and possible midpoint destinations include shopping at Jilly’s Home & Lifestyle, gelato at Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria, and iced coffees or lemonades at Second Cup or Tim Horton’s. (Not to mention the frozen food aisle of the grocery store.) It has fewer child-friendly stopping points.

A third possibility would be to head for the east-west trail and take it, with picnic supplies, down into the river valley – but that route is not as flat as some have requested, so will not be used. 😉

To get here from downtown or the university area: take the LRT all the way south to Century Park LRT Station. Then either cycle west on 23rd Ave (the bike route map dates to 2007, and there is now a wide sidewalk on the north side of the road the entire way which is treated as a multiuse trail by almost every cyclist I see on busy 23rd Ave), or take route 334 bus (or route 336 from Southgate LRT Station – but there is no bike rack on either, booooo), to Leger Transit Centre – and then cross 23rd at the lights to get on Towne Centre Boulevard. Your second right is Tomlinson Way, and at the bottom of that (not steep) hill is Tomlinson Park playground. 
Route 30 has bus bike racks and goes from Century Park LRT station to Leger Transit Centre – but does not run on Sundays. Hmmm. Maybe we need to move from a Sunday (15th or 22nd) to a Saturday (14th or 21st)?

*Ok, we need your votes: which date works best for you? Which route do you prefer? If you’re bringing your kids, how old are they and how will they ride? And: go!

Aug 12th Update: As you see from the italicized edits above, voting is now closed and our date is set for this coming Sunday. The forecast is currently sunny and a high of 24C, so dress accordingly & bring sunscreen! For those of you staying for the barbeque, please let me know if you can bring some food – both so I can ensure there isn’t too much duplication and to make sure everything planned is okay for our peanut-free household. 

Looking ahead: we hope to arrange for another Critical Lass ride and possibly a vintage-bike-appreciation ride in the next couple of months. We also hope there will soon be news from EBC about an Autumn 2010 Edmonton Tweed Ride… so much to look forward to!