January 31, 2011 Ride

I just want to announce it now: I have located the ugliest trail in Puget Sound. Don’t try to argue with me about how your trail is uglier, because you’re wrong on so many levels. There’s simply no escaping my conclusion, and I shall now endeavor to prove it.

 Today was a beautiful day, which in Seattle means that there is no possibility of something known as “drizzle.” We get drizzle a lot. Drizzle can be soft and gentle, like a fog. Drizzle can be icy and penetrating, like tiny needles. The thing that is always true about drizzle, is that it lingers. It doesn’t pass swiftly, like those glorious southern rains that sweep the landscape clean in a few moments. It hangs around, hands in its pocket, kicking rocks and whistling. You glare at it, you intimate that you’d like time alone, you suggest other activities… but drizzle is tone-deaf and socially inept. It just stands there, leaking. When drizzle finally clears off to go bother the coastal rain forests for a day or two, I will admit that I get excited. Finally, I’m free to be outside! And when I realized last night that the weekly Monday afternoon staff meeting was limited to only the Curriculum Committee (of which I am not, nor have I ever been, a member), I bordered on ecstatic.

I checked the weather forecast and did a happy dance of joy. This morning, I loaded the Panasonic onto my car, sans plastic bag – I was that confident – and took it to work with me. The Panasonic enjoys hanging out at work. Students admire it. One young lady even asked to examine it, confessed a fondness for vintage steel, and then said she’d like to acquire a frame herself and build it up to be a <gasp> fixie. “What’s a fixed-gear?” asked the kid flopped on the couch in my office. And the young lady proceeded to provide a detailed, mechanically brilliant explanation of how a fixed gear bicycle differs from a coaster hub bicycle differs from a freehub bicycle. Kids today!

But I digress… for 1.5 normally work-filled hours, the day was mine: Boy-free, student-free, colleagues-free. I decided to try out the 520 Trail. For those of you who do not inhabit the drizzly northern climes, no, this is not some weird coded police drug reference. The 520 Trail parallels Highway 520 (you see where this is going already, don’t you?), running from Kirkland to Redmond (also known as Microsoftville). I chose it because I had limited time before I needed to be back in Kirkland’s neighboring town, Bellevue, to pick The Boy up from school. The 520 Trail starts a mere three miles from my place of business. I didn’t ride to the trailhead, as I knew the route was up a very busy, very steep hill, and I’d had enough of that yesterday. I drove to the neighborhood bordering the trail and left my car there.

The light was fading quickly, and the sky was doing interesting things. Long grey streamers of cloud converged and swirled over downtown Bellevue. The sunset was turning out to be outstanding.

The trail… not so much. When I say it parallels the highway, I’m really not kidding. I should have known, as my massage therapist refers to this trail as “the dog run.” Indeed, you know how people put the dog run in the most barren part of the yard, up against a fence? Well… just stick a few hundred thousand commuters next to your concrete RV pad, and you’ve got the 520 Trail.

 

The Panasonic and I were disconcerted by the volume of the traffic noise, as well. Who knew that all those cars would be so loud? I mean, in my car with NPR blasting out of my thumping stock speakers, it’s nothing but a dull roar. At first, I was just annoyed, but eventually I realized I was screaming my thoughts to myself in my head. This is not a good sign, I’m sure, though I guess it beats actually screaming them aloud. Also, the trail is very hilly. Did I mention the ride the day before? Did I mention the skiing? Did I mention the non-competition-strength thighs?

We ended our journey, puffing and totally deaf, near the Microsoft campus, after temporarily losing the trail among the road crossings and ridiculously vague bike trail signs that told me only that I was in the vicinity of a trail. In fact, had a commuter not peddled out of the trailhead, I might not have realized that the narrow track of pavement behind the Azteca Mexican Restaurant kitty-corner across the busy road from the previous trailhead, was in any way related to my present route.

On the way back, I noticed that God was blessing downtown Bellevue with a giant vortex of sunlight.

Perhaps this is because I put The Boy in Catholic school there, but frankly, anyone who lives in this area will tell you that the residents of that fair city consider this sort of thing to be their natural state of existence. Anyway, I gave up and retreated to the car. The buzzing in my ears took at least fifteen minutes to subside, curiously vanishing the second I entered downtown Bellevue.

See, I told you it was an ugly trail! A mere 6.2 miles, round-trip.

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9 Responses to January 31, 2011 Ride

  1. Auchen says:

    My! If it isn’t that awful drizzle, it’s those pesky commuters and noisy roads!

    Riding the “trails” around here, you can be near center-city, and still enjoy perfect solitude – especially after dark.

    (- If anyone comes up behind you though, you had better pedal faster!)

  2. adventure! says:

    That 520 trail reminds me of the I-84 trail here in the outskirts of Portland. The only thing separating it from oncoming traffic is a jersey barrier and a fence. It goes from nowhere to nowhere. And if you happen to have a headwind on it, gawd, the miserable experience magnifies tenfold. Makes the I-205 path look like something straight outta Copenhagen by comparison.

  3. rideblog says:

    I forgot to write about the blowback from cars passing, which involved fine grit being launched into my eyes :).

  4. rideblog says:

    Auchen: Are these “trails” actually streets? Because I get nervous about those. I have this tendency to suddenly think: oh, I wonder if my shirt is riding up in back so I look like a plumber out between jobs? And then I reach back to check, and then I drift and wobble. Drivers don’t like the drift-and-wobble. It makes them nervous. Then I get nervous. Then we’re all nervous. That seems bad.

  5. Auchen says:

    rideblog says: “Auchen: Are these “trails” actually streets? ”
    Yes, they’re streets.
    It does get unpleasant when there’s a high curb (fear pedal strike), storm sewer grates, and/or potholes, in a two-lane road, with no shoulder and busy traffic.

  6. rideblog says:

    Auchen, that sounds terrifying actually. I find it fun to ride around the neighborhood, but you’re right, the storm drains etc are too much for me when I have to think about traffic, too. I realized early on that bike commuting was not going to be my thing.

  7. While your bid for Ugliest Trail is impressive, I am relieved that you were prudent enough to limit your claims to the Puget Sound region. I hope that I do not devastate you with the news that there exists a far more hideous bit of trail along the Danube Canal in the South end of Vienna, Austria, which was part of my daily work commute while I lived there. Stretching not only along a particularly dreary portion of the Autobahn heading for Eastern Europe – from which the trail is separated here by a rusty chainlink fence and thither by a crumpling concrete wall covered with aged adverts for mobile phones and cleaning supplies – it also passes through numerous leaking underpasses fouled by the urinations of countless drunkards. Flanked by the murky, brown waters of the canal, it is truly the most revolting of bicycle trails.

  8. rideblog says:

    Veloria, that sounds… truly yucky. I found the Europeans are particularly good at creating beautiful post-card villages and at the same time allowing areas to develop that are as disgustingly neglected and filthy as almost anywhere. Isn’t that weird? I remember some parts of Belfast that were particularly horrid.

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