September 24 2011 Ride: In the Flats

Isn’t it strange: one week you’re bombing up and down hills as fast as you can, feeling uber-fit and strong… and just two weeks later riding a long, flat stretch feels like the best you can possibly manage. I guess this is the beautiful thing about life: there are ups and downs, but mostly, you can also choose the flats.

In one week, My Beloved Man and I are heading up to Skagit County to spend three days riding, car-camping, romancing and enjoying the small town atmosphere. In preparation for this epic journey,  I decided I needed to do a long ride, with real time in the saddle. I expect where we’re headed to be mostly flat (and am planning rides with that very feature!), so I wasn’t interested in my ability to hammer up a hill so much as my butt’s ability to withstand my Brooks for 30 miles.

If you’re a serious roady, you’re laughing. Thirty miles? Really? That’s nothing!

Dude, you are not riding a vintage 3-speed.

The Raleigh is a comfortable bike, but it’s not designed to be ridden for long distances. It’s slow, so any distance becomes more time on the saddle. And by “on the saddle,” I mean ON the saddle. There is no hovering over that thing when one’s rear end becomes sore: your butt is perched, and you don’t move it much, if at all. So rear end comfort becomes a real concern.

And I’m suffering a disease flare-up right now (in fact, just typing this is excruciating and has to be done in bursts). Stress from work, friendships gone south (mostly my son’s, not my own, actually), and other minor health issues have cost me sleep and massage time, and boy… I’m feeling it. My hands are a disaster, and never mind my feet.

So I needed to be sure I could ride this distance without pooping out, on a day where I felt somewhat poopy to begin with. Off I went to Marymoor Park, to ride the Sammamish River Trail over to the Burke Gilman. Theoretically I can put in well over fifty miles this way, but I was aiming for that thirty mile mark. I didn’t take many photos on the way out, as I was riding early and the sun was still quite low, making the light less-than-optimal. My son’s soccer game was at 8:30am (dear god, why?), so I was out on the trail by 10:30. This photo is from the way back, but who’s telling? Not me.

That’s one pretty river! Though the day started out sunny, it finished over-cast and muggy. So you’ll see a bit of that progression in the photographs. I tried to capture the moody skies when I could, as I really like the dramatic cloud formations that occur this time of year.

The Sammamish River Trail is very flat, wide and generally well-utilized, but not crowded like the south-western end of the Burke. Therefore I was surprised, as I approached a small underpass, to be told there was an accident ahead, and that I needed to dismount. A second rider told me paramedics had been called. In retrospect, I should have just waited, but I was so surprised by these rather vague directions, that I just did as suggested, dismounted, and walked my bike past the accident.

This was my second bike accident this week. When I was heading to work earlier this week, I passed a serious bike-car collision just a block from my school. I didn’t see the cyclist, but I did see the bike: it was absolute toast. The front wheel was taco-ed and the frame was destroyed. The ambulance had already left. As I’ve not been able to find anything on the news about it, I assume the cyclist survived, but it was pretty grim.

Walking into the short tunnel created by the street overpass with my bike, I found a rider down on the ground in front of a concrete pillar. Another person was on her knees, comforting the fallen rider, and a third was waving over the paramedics, who had just arrived (I suppose if you have to get hurt on a trail, right under a street with easy access is the best spot). I’m not sure if the downed rider was male or female. I didn’t want to gawk, and the person was clearly badly hurt. What I do remember was the blank stare from the person’s open eyes. This seemed either like the person was unconscious or in shock. I suspect that the rider lost control and hit one of the concrete pillars. Whatever happened, it was upsetting.

I pedaled a bit more warily on toward Bothell, which is the 10 mile marker.

Map not to scale!

Bothell is a small town with a quaint older section and a lot of freeway surrounding it. I’ve ridden this far before, but always turned around at Bothell Landing, a park filled with relocated vintage homes and buildings. Today, I decided I would eat lunch in the older portion of town. I stopped first at this bakery, thinking they might have sandwiches:

It had a sweetly all-American air, but no sandwiches, only pastries. I love a good pastry, but what I wanted here was lunch. I kept searching. Downtown Bothell is in the midst of a resurgence (or at least they’d like to be in the midst of a resurgence), and they seem to have decided that resurging involves murals.

The only strange thing about this mural is that the zoo is in Seattle, and about 20 miles from this spot. I think this one, while not as pretty as the zoo mural, was more fitting to the area:

The Bothellians (Bothellites?) have also scattered strange life-size cut-outs of the city fathers around the downtown area. They’re a bit creepy, I think, but charming anyway:

I like this guy’s cat. What’s up with that? He was both pharmacist and uh… into cats? Anyway, I found this rather cool bike rack there as well. Nice job sprucing-up, Bothell.

After a hearty, but mediocre lunch featuring half a BLT and some (clearly Costco) potato salad, I was ready to get back on the road. But first, of course, there’s the…

Obligatory Bathroom Photo.

Back to the Sammamish River Trail! I’ve been trying to photograph the rather awesome little bridge over the Sammamish River at Bothell Landing, but I’ve been unable to fully capture it’s charming steepness. Ah well. Some bridge shots:

All wonderful shots (though what’s up with the aqua-colored sky in some shots, and washed out gray in others? I’m clearly still learning), but none quite work for me in terms of capturing the actual experience. I do like this pretty shot of the river from the top:

The Sammamish River is part of what makes this ride bearable, as it’s so flat. That’s the thing: the hills are a great challenge, and sometimes I appreciate that, but it’s also nice to be able to enjoy the scenery on its own, you know?

From Bothell, the Sammamish River Trail continues only about a mile before it intercepts the Granddaddy of Seattle Trails: The Burke Gilman. This intersection happens at the edge of a glorious old trestle bridge, reminding me of the trails’ original usage.

I turned and followed the new trail, leaving the last few hundred feet of the River Trail behind. I can’t say I was exactly having fun at this point. Sometimes when I’m in a certain mood, I attain a state that approaches grim determination more than enjoyment. I was definitely on a quest: mile 30 or bust!

This end of the Burke Gilman runs through a decidedly industrial area of northern Seattle. Still, there are charms to be found there, too:

The mini-airport below is actually the headquarters for one of the seaplane tour companies.

I discovered the power of a well-funded large city to build obscenely opulent bicycle underpasses:

Seriously? It’s like rounding the corner from a rural road in Arkansas to a tunnel on the Autobahn. Exactly how wide does a bike tunnel actually need to be? We could run aTour de Northern Seattle here and the entire pelaton could ride through at once!

Not that I’m complaining, you understand. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with all that smooth, white pavement and the bright tunnel lights. I kept waiting for the catch: you know, that’s it actually a busy arterial that only resembles a bike tunnel, or something, and here comes a semi pulling a trailer full of hogs. But no, it was actually a bike tunnel.

The Burke Gilman circles the eastern side of Lake Washington and arrives eventually back at the top of Lake Union, tracking the ship canal and finally stopping in Ballard, where I often ride the far end due to its proximity to Dutch Bike Co. The Lakes are one of the trail’s many attractions.

Though I admit, it was actually the strange light and beautiful clouds that drew me to this photo. The horizon was a strange pinky color, probably due to some evil layer of left-over summer smog, but I didn’t mind. It was almost like a sunset at mid-day. Perhaps it was a fall thing?

At any rate, I was now approaching mile 13.5. Almost there! But no… it was not to be. There are days when setting a goal is just pointless, you know? I should have felt it in my soul!

Now, there was a detour, it’s true. But to reach it, I would have had to carry The Raleigh down this very steep set of wooden steps (there is a bike ramp on the side, but I don’t really have faith in my ability to control a 40lb bike on a slope that is two inches wide and made of slick plywood):

Besides, while The Raleigh might go down those stairs… this is not a loop for me. I have to come back the way I went out. There was no way in hell I could get the bike back UP the ramp! I watched a couple roady-types wrestle their 17lb carbon fiber beasties up the ramp and decided that Fate, in whose existence I tenuously believe, was trying to tell me something.

And that something was that I wasn’t riding no 30 miles today. Nope. Twenty-seven is a nice number, don’t you think? My mother used to claim that the family motto should be: “It ain’t perfect, but it’s DONE.”

So I turned around. The ride back provided a few interesting opportunities to get in colorful shots. How about some very autumnal ivy?

What the heck? You’d think it was September or something… Oh wait.

Ah well, a transition to Fall is just part of that magical progression of life that happens while we’re busy worrying about all those hills and valleys that, in the grand scheme of things, don’t really matter anyway. Challenges, schmallenges. Sometimes you just have to stop and smell the flowers, right? You can’t do that if you’re huffing and puffing up a hill! Viva Le Flats!

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9 Responses to September 24 2011 Ride: In the Flats

  1. Pingback: Diabetes Articles» September 24 2011 Ride: In the Flats | rideblog

  2. Auchen says:

    Boy, Ride Blog girl, I never cease to be amazed by the bike routes in/around Seattle. We have pot-holes here as wide as your bike underpass, and if you’re going to lunch, you had better not be squeamish, as you’ll have to circumnavigate all the road-kill along the way. ( If it’s in one piece, (and it’s not a skunk) I pick it up by the tail and put it off to the side of the road, so I won’t have to look at it all spread out in front of me later. ) – But on the upside, you’ll never see a bike accident (unless it’s your own). There are few other riders.

    PS – What’s that cable lock for? That wouldn’t ward off a kindergartner.

  3. Erin B says:

    I know your last attempt to get a road bike went bad and morphed into the Viva, but, you might need to get a road bike. I love my Raleigh for leisurely rides, but it is so nice to have something a bit more peppy for when I I have time to just go.

    On the other hand, I think I can still see the bronchitis weight loss in your face. Maybe it’s just as well you aren’t going flat out in the drop bars.

  4. Sue says:

    Lovely photos…my favorite is the last one. Sorry to read about the bike accident though – those always get me down :(.

  5. rideblog says:

    Auchen, I know the lock will do nothing but make it obvious that someone’s taking the bike. That said, I don’t think anyone’s going to steal The Raleigh. To most folks, it looks like a piece of crap :). Only those of us who like vintage bikes think it’s attractive!

  6. rideblog says:

    Erin, you are reading my mind! Stay tuned… I think The Viva may be on its way out, and… you’ll see.

  7. Pingback: September 29-31 2011 Trip: Skagit County — Part 2 | rideblog

  8. Pingback: March 18 2012 Ride: Small Town Musings | rideblog

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