The Raleigh and I scoff at your warnings!
And version number two!
Nothing bike related, but just designed to make everyone feel a bit happier.
There’s just a springtime plethora of bike rides happening here at rideblog! After the long winter of our discontent, spring has sprung, and the grass is ris. This is where the flowers (or birdies, depending on your version of the poem) is.
Actually, spring break happened for many of my tutoring students this week, so I had a day off after most of them cancelled. What to do with so much glorious, unadulterated time? Why, ride one of the local trails I can’t usually be bothered to drive to, of course!
Now, there is no conceivable reason not to drive out to the Foothills Trail. It is no further from my house than the Sammamish River Trail, or the Burke Gilman Trail. But the truth is: it’s in the wrong direction. All of my life seems to involve driving north, or west, or east, but never south. Since there’s nothing remotely relevant to my child or to my job down in the Great Southern Wilds of Washington, I have a hard time justifying a twenty minute commute to the trail head. Yes, I realize this is stupid, as the Burke Gilman is at least an hour’s drive from my house, due to the hideous nature of Seattle traffic, and the Sammamish River Trail is not one jot geographically closer than Foothills is. It’s funny how the brain works, isn’t it?
But with a whole day off, no justification was really needed. I just wanted to ride somewhere I hadn’t ridden much before. I have only been out to this trail twice. The first time was almost exactly a year ago, and I rode the second half of it. I made an attempt to ride the first half at some point, but was cut short by rain. So on the scale of newness, the Foothills Trail was about an eight. I could live with that.
This time I drove only as far as the most northern trail head, which is in Puyallup, right next to a bulb farm. This is a good time of year to visit a bulb farm, as you might imagine, though the sky was a bit too overcast for truly spectacular photography:
The Foothills Trail runs from Puyallup through Orting and into Buckley, eventually extending all the way to Carbonado. If these names mean nothing to you, it’s okay. They mean next to nothing to many Washingtonians, too. Aside from Puyallup, which is known for its yearly fair (the best in the state, I think), the others are pretty small towns.
I grew up not far from Buckley and Carbonado, and they were even more rural Back in the Day, Kids, When I Rode My Bike Uphill Both Ways to Get Candy, Which We Called “Candeh,” and Which Cost a Quarter, the Same Amount as a Game of Ms Pacman. I have no real desire to live in such a rural, isolated area anymore. I have no illusions about the political and social bent of most of my state’s small town residents. Living in the Legalized Abortion/Pot/Gay Marriage/Euthanasia Belt has ruined me for small town life. For now, I like to ride in rural areas and just enjoy the scenery. Country living resembles other people’s dogs for me: I like them, but I’m always glad they’re not mine to deal with at the end of the day.
I meant to get a picture of the Lahar warnings along the trail, but forgot. Lahars are Giant Volcanic Mudslides of Death that move at hundreds of miles per hour and are as high as four-story buildings. How does one acquire a Lahar warning, you may ask? One starts by being close to this:
And what does one do if one hears a Lahar warning siren? Besides kiss one’s ass goodbye, you mean? According to the signs, one hightails it to somewhere at least 50 feet off the valley floor. Take a good look at how wide that valley is, and imagine trying to outrun a giant wall of boiling mud travelling faster than a car. Riiiight. I particularly liked the exhortation to “assist other trail users as best you can.” Translation: YOU’RE ON YOUR OWN, PEOPLE. RUN FOR THE HILLS!
Fortunately, Mt. Rainier did not actually erupt while I was there, so I didn’t have to abandon my Slow Biking cause this time.
The first portion of the ride was mainly through flat farmland, still lying mostly fallow from the winter. As I approached Orting, whose town planners have apparently decided to fill the possible Lahar path with as many boxy suburban developments as is physically possible, things became less rural and more industrial.
The sign starts off so promisingly, doesn’t it? It reads like this to me: MCMILLIN PARK!!! (of industry).
The trail makes its way through those endless cookie-cutter treeless suburbs until one reaches the town of Orting, which, frankly, doesn’t seem to justify the massive number of households it has acquired. It still has a fairly laid-back, small-town atmosphere.
Orting has an annual Daffodil Festival, which explains the daffodil patterns in the crosswalks, or at least I think it does…
From there, the trail follows the Carbon River. It’s wider and flatter than my more familiar river companions, with nice wide sand/rock bars in the middle. One could raft it, I suppose. There were two folks in full rafting gear sitting in the middle of one sandbar, not a raft in sight. I was a bit worried for them, but as hundreds of people were passing and they weren’t signalling any of us, I figured that they must just be waiting for their “ride.” Which is weird, really.
Speaking of weird, people out in the country keep odd animals. First, I rode by a small field with four large mules. I realize that mules are useful animals in many contexts, but this farm was tiny, sandwiched in between the road, the trail and two other properties. What are those people doing with those mules? Why are there four of them? How much Borax does that family use in a year?
I had this poster on my wall as a child. Why? I don’t know. But I now find mules somewhat disturbing. Coincidence?
A bit further on someone had an emu. Now, I understand why one might have an ostrich. I have even eaten ostrich, and it tastes, not surprisingly, like gamey chicken. But an emu? Why? What could possibly be the long-term appeal of an enormous, face-kicking dinosaur throw-back?
It was at that point, deeply into my philosophical musings on the nature of the modern farm animal, that I decided my two-hour excursion was stretching me thin. I turned around, anticipating a long journey back to my car. Turns out the Foothills Trail is an uphill grade most of the way to Orting, and there was also a headwind. I made it back in just over an hour.
Which is not to say this was a fast ride, as it was really about 20 miles total, so I was clearly toodling along rather slowly, even for me. That distance would normally take me just over two hours total on The Raleigh, which is not The Gazelle, and can obtain speeds over ten mph with only a little effort. I guess I’m still too out of shape to go fast.
The Raleigh may be faster than The Gazelle (that should be its slogan!), but it’s still not up for this:
I kept vacillating between the amusing mental image of The Raleigh on those jumps, and the tempting image of my son trying out his soon-to-be-new-birthday-bike on them in a month or so. Think I’ll go with the latter.
And yes, I bought him a new bike just two summers ago, but he’s grown about 150,000 inches since then.
Finally, it wouldn’t be a small-town rideblog entry without one of these:
Seems to me that what we need is a revolution… yeah, a revolution! With slogans and stuff!
The rest of you are riding around at high speeds, tearing by me with your lycra and (mostly) cute butts, and I appreciate the love of fastness, I do. But really, we all need to slow down and smell the spring flowers some time, right? Now’s the time, men (and women)! Let’s appreciate, for a moment, the six benefits of the Slow Cycling Movement.
Brought to you by The Gazelle Trimsport.
1. You can hear stuff.
Riding along the Samamish River Trail on a gloriously sunny afternoon, one can hear the screech of an osprey, about to dive for his dinner. Or the squawking, honking cacophony of hundreds of Canada geese, landing in a freshly-plowed field. Or the sweet tones of a five year-old announcing “Take a biking break, mommy and daddy!” Or the rattling, hissing sound of that bike you’ve been meaning to get tuned up for the last year. Bikes are supposed to be quiet modes of transportation, dude. Get on that. Or the moaning, Streisand-esque howls of that woman who thinks that the trail is her personal concert hall, as I peddled by as quickly as I could while she screamed out “YOU ARE SO BEAUTIFUL… TO MEEEEEEE” out of key. This, my dear lady, is why God invented cars and showers. Restrain yourself, for the love of all that is holy.
2. You can see stuff.
The glory of a great blue heron, drying his wings in the sunshine of a tulip field. Rows of golden daffodils planted for the Easter market. The sleek blue-and-chrome beauty of a vintage Peugeot touring bike as it streaks past. The fine, fine butt of that tall guy in the “Ireland” jersey and green shorts who passed me going way too fast and then popped his chain and didn’t know how to get it back on the bike. Not so cool, now, eh Ireland Boy? And the eye-popping spectacle of all the middle aged women who have not yet heard the news reports that Lululemon’s yoga pants are, in fact, see-through. Especially in strong sunlight. Oh, and those bike shorts you bought last year at REI? Probably also see-through, guys. Ask me how I know.
3. You can smell stuff.
That slightly sour hops-laden scent of the Red Hook Brewery on a sunny spring day. The thick smell of the freshly cut grass on the verge along the river. The gently wafting odor of the porta-potties on the side of the trail. The phantom pungency of your own body’s musk, drifting up occasionally through the armpits of your lycra jersey. Or better yet, all this combined on the slow-brew setting without the breeze to blow it away from your tender nostrils.
4. You’re not sweaty.
At least, I’m not sweaty. Or not much, anyway. Until I tried to drag The Gazelle up the hill to the bridge crossing the river. Then maybe a little. But the rest of you greasy bastards? Wipe that goo from your eyebrows, people, that’s nasty.
5. You can wear normal clothes.
Assuming that anyone considers my rainbow plaid jacket “normal.” But hey, at least it’s opaque!
6. You can’t pretend, even for a moment, that you’re in the peloton of the Tour de France.
Honestly, even without the steroids and sociopathic lack of empathy, Lance would totally kick your rear end. So please, stop trying to muscle your way past me without any warning while forcing me to the side of the trail. You’re not going to get a yellow jersey, so you can politely let me know you want to go around, and I’ll move over . And the huffing when you’re stuck behind me for a few moments? You can knock that crap off too. I can totally hear you, Mr. Fussy (see-through) Pants.
… in your photos, I mean. I assume that there can be way too many nuclear power plants in reality, you know? Besides, this one doesn’t work anyway. It’s an office park.
Wait, you say… what am I talking about?
Readers, I’m talkin’ bout a ride. Yes, you read that correctly. A RIDE. ON A BIKE! My bike! No really!
This weekend, we packed up two of the three kids (the third has reached Level: Teenager and had Things To Do, as teenagers suddenly do) and headed out to Elma to utilize the Giant Moldering Electric-Powered Tent With a TV Inside, known as the RV. Elma is our go-to RV destination in this economy, since the kids like it there, the RV park is safe, there are grocery stores and a bowling alley within walking distance, and there is the Elma Variety Store, which is so good it gets its own entry on the highway exit “tourist attractions” sign. Remember the old five-and-dimes of times past? Well, this is one (but with fewer “fives” and more dimes required). So rather than drive the RV anywhere anymore, we park it in Elma and drive it the one mile to the RV park once a month, or we take it to the beach, which is less than an hour’s drive further on. Makes sense, right?
Well, sort of. Anyway, I checked the weather on Saturday and saw that it wasn’t going to rain on Sunday, so the bike went on the back of the car and rode with us to Elma. I have done this many times before, and sometimes it’s meant the bike sits neglected and shivering, chained to the rear ladder for the duration of the stay (rather like the dog used to do… kidding, kidding). Sometimes, when the bike was The Panasonic, it spent the whole weekend inside out of the rain, wedged between the captain’s chairs. And sometimes, very rarely, it means I take a ride around Elma. Today was such a day.
The skies were overcast, but in that low, monotonously gray way that doesn’t really forecast rain so much as blah. I went out before lunch, thinking: “I’ll go for an hour or so.”
An hour and a half later I texted The Babysitting Man and said: “If they’re hungry, feed ‘em. I may be here a while.” The skies were slowly brightening and the scenery was glorious.
First, I headed through town, puffing up hills like a pathetic fat wiener dog on a stroll. Boy, am I out of shape! I stopped mid-way in to take the first photo of my ride.
As soon as I was through town, I crossed the highway overpass, and cruised past the local lake-front park to head out into the countryside. But first…
A nuclear power plant photo. For those who don’t remember the last time I rode out here, that’s the abandoned power project known as “Whoops” for the Washington Public Power Supply System. It isn’t actually a working power plant.
I’ve ridden a bit on this road before, but never been able to stay out very long. The day was perfect for riding: a bit cool, with a breeze, though it wasn’t ideal for photography due to that flat, gray sky. I cruised past the local small airport…
Is that my space-age cruiser you’re referring to? No?
The back road runs alongside a local river, with farms and a nature preserve on the other side. The tarmac is pretty raggedy, and I felt at moments like I was in one of those videos of people riding around on Raleighs and such in the 1940′s backroads in Britain: I was vibrating, but smiling.
My only problem was a vicious, neglected cocker spaniel at one of the poorer farms. So matted he was more like a ball of teeth and fur than a dog, he flew at the bike when I passed, snapping wildly at me and frothing like Old Yeller near the end of the film. Now, I like dogs well enough, but I can firmly state that had he gotten too close (perhaps his epic filth slowed him down), I wouldn’t have hesitated to kick him in his bitey mouth. Someone really ought to turn him in to animal control, for both the welfare of the occasional passer-by and for his own good. He needs to be shaved bald at this point. To be honest, I’m normally a bit of a do-gooder on stuff like this, but I didn’t even know the address of the house, and I wasn’t about to stop and find out. Since he was there the last time I rode by, two years-ago, and was just as disgusting and foul-tempered at the time, he’ll probably outlive me, snarling and biting Satan as he’s taken away to where he belongs.
Otherwise, the local dogs were curious, but passive. Horses and cattle looked interested as I cruised past. I find cows are particularly excited by folks on the road nearby. When I used to go for long country walks (god forbid I meet that damned spaniel on foot), cows would often follow me the length of their fields, and I had a few English ones attempt to climb over the hedgerow to reach me. This should make me feel bad about eating them later, but it doesn’t. The only animals that didn’t seem to want to get closer to me and my bike were the local goats, who ran wildly around their pens and gave me particularly terrified goaty eye-rolling looks of fear. Perhaps The Raleigh and I resembled an enormous, angry He-Goat of Destruction. Who knows what goes through the minds of goats, really. They’re enigmatic.
Having never ridden this area before, I had no sense of how far I was going in terms of actual miles, but in terms of butt-miles, I think I’m getting pretty good with my predictions.
“Hmm…” Shifting around. “Starting to get a bit sore back there. Think I’m hitting the 10 mile mark.”
Sitting up and feeling a stabbing pain in the tailbone. “Feels like we’ve hit about 15-18!”
“Oh no, it’s numb. I’ve passed 25.”
In terms of butt-miles, I’d guess I rode about 22 miles. My legs were absolutely fried by the effort. On the way back, I tried to stand up to pump over the overpass, and my thighs cramped so badly I had to sit back down or fall over. Clearly, I need to ride more. That was a pretty routine distance Back in the Day (six months ago) for me, and with a lot more hills.
On the way back, I sped way up to pass the damnable barking monster and zoomed past him so fast he really never had a chance to catch me. I did have my kickin’ foot ready, but there was no need. As I left him in the dust, I turned back and gave him a delighted raspberry. Little asshole. I know, I know, if my hair was that matted, I’d be crabby too. But trust me, this was well beyond mere matting issues. This was into soul-deep paranoid delusions of doggy grandeur.
I arrived back at the RV two and a half hours after I started, having hit a bit of a headwind on the way home. The kids had built forts in the woods behind the motor home and The Patient Guy had taken a nap in the briefly-appearing sunshine. No one had eaten, so we all had chili and I regaled them with tales about the dog.
My last shot is a mural in Elma. It’s not the same dog, but the implication is clear… Just look at the horses’ faces. He’s one kick away from oblivion!
Ps: I’m not really advocating kicking any dogs, people. Unless they are actively biting you at the time.
More shark-jumping, considering it’s been raining for the last seven years. It will never stop. This is the reality of global warming in Washington: we finally live up to our reputation.
The Gazelle, anyone? Does anyone remember when I rode bikes? No? Neither do I.
But the good news is… the infamous “other” bike that I’ve been supposed to pick up from the lady who gifted me with the fabulous Gazelle Trimsport, may soon be in my future. The bad news? I have no money to get it tuned up. Perhaps for my birthday. Or to celebrate the new job I’m about to get, right? RIGHT?