In an effort to prepare myself for a week in Ireland cycling with kids around the coast, I’ve been looking for new challenges and riding every day that I can (right now, that makes six days in a row… I’m a bit behind, blog-wise. I actually have a rideblog backlog!). The weather has been beautifully cooperative and summer has given me the free time to try trails I’m usually too far away from to do after work, when traffic here becomes prohibitive. One of those trails is the Sammamish River Trail, which runs between Redmond and Bothell.
Redmond is most famous for containing the headquarters for Microsoft. Bothell isn’t really famous for much of anything, but is just under ten miles from Redmond. Tuesday afternoon was all my own, at least until five, when I had to journey north of my house to pick up The Boy from day camp. Since I was driving anyway, I thought… why not nip over to Redmond and check out the new trail? It turned out to be a great spot to ride and gave me the opportunity to put The Raleigh through a longer, but easy ride without visiting the much-travelled Cedar River Trail again.
The Sammamish River Trail starts at Marymoor Park, which is a huge behemoth of a park, encompassing so many parky-activities that it’s quite overwhelming. At Marymoor, you can take your dog to the 40 acre off-leash area (that’s right: 4-0 acres. Forty. Seriously), memorialize your pet with a stone at the Pet Garden, race your bike at the Velodrome (probably not your Raleigh Sports, however. Sorry, Raleigh), get married at the gorgeous Clise Mansion with its Olmstead-designed gardens, borrow a bike for free to ride on the trails through the Dasani Blue Bikes program, attend a summer concert at the 5,000-seat outdoor venue, farm at the Community Garden, fly model planes at the R/C field, play soccer or baseball at the ball fields, go rowing on the Sammamish River, walk around the Reflexology path, rock climb on the 35-foot climbing structure, or just stroll the 640 acres of park. Seriously, it’s a glorious, mammoth, overwhelming Area of Goodness! The dog park alone is bigger than many small towns.
Upon our arrival, I discovered that parking at Marymoor costs a dollar. Interestingly enough, in this digital age, I had zero cash money in my car. None. Okay, maybe 28 cents in my purse. So after a long ride around Redmond trying to find a grocery store, I settled for my bank and went in to get ten bucks in ones (“Parking at Marymoor, huh?” the teller said knowingly). Back I went and finally got underway. The bike trail is clearly marked, so we hopped on the Marymoor Connector Trail (Marymoor is big enough to need this, apparently) and started off on our ride.
The Sammamish River Trail was very busy, for a Tuesday afternoon. Everyone from walkers in work clothes to kids with training wheels were out in the sunshine enjoying the wide, paved path and the views of the mountain and river. The Raleigh and I liked the various pieces of public art that grace the more commercial points in the trail. This statue cracked us up.
I kept waiting for those people to leave so I could get a clear shot with The Raleigh giggling, but they were really camped out, unfortunately!
The Raleigh and I really liked the Parisian nature of these two bridges together.
The temperature was in the high seventies, which was pleasant at first, but soon very warm indeed. The trail, paralleling the river, was free of any serious breezes, so I was soon quite sweaty. I was cruising along, pondering the Mysteries of the Universe, as I often do, when I was suddenly struck by the jersey of someone cycling past me… it was my school’s logo! I knew we made a few jerseys a couple years ago for parents and kids to buy, so that wasn’t as unlikely as it sounds. The jersey was being worn by the leading rider on a tandem, and as they breezed by me, I knew immediately who it was. The mother’s voice was unmistakable, since I’ve taught both her kids for years. I quickly texted my Co-Worker who will be with me in Ireland: “On the Sammamish River Trail and So-and-So just breezed by me on a Tandem, wearing a school jersey! I knew her voice immediately!” He was unimpressed (and in New Orleans, where it’s hard to be impressed, apparently, in the heat). “I take it you aren’t riding with the Ireland kids,” he responded. Uh no. That’s coming this weekend, as I’ve organized some practice rides. “It’s just me, sunny skies and 19 miles of paved, flat trail: heaven! I’m taking a break, and no, NOT at Redhook.” No response. Not exactly rideblog-ready, is he? I’ll get him prepped, don’t worry. He didn’t even see the humor in me recognizing this woman’s voice as she rode past me at 20 miles an hour. Anyone who teaches should know exactly why that’s funny, don’t you think? Hmmph.
Hey, aren’t you on my chainring?
The Sammamish River is definitely a thriving riparian area. I saw two bald eagles, muskrats galore, red wing blackbirds and of course, this guy. There’s just something about a Great Blue Heron. When The Boy was about four, he got briefly really into birds. “I want to see The Great Blue Heron!” he told me one day. “Sure,” I said, “I can take you to a river and we can look for herons.” “No, Mama. I want to see The Great Blue Heron!” Like The Great Pumpkin, I suppose. It took me forever to convince him there was actually more than one.
Then he became obsessed with the idea that The Great Blue Heron was The Biggest Bird on Earth (that’s what “Great” means, right? Big!). He once described the bird hierarchy in his head to me like this: “So there’s The Great Blue Heron on the bottom, then there’s a Bald Eagle on his head, then there’s a Robin on his head, and then there’s a hummingbird on top!” “Like a big tower of birds?” I asked, incredulous. “Yep!” he said happily. “Just like that!” I so want to Photoshop that image, but it’s better left to my imagination, I think.
The mountain played peek-a-boo with us, rising over the river like a pale mirage on the horizon. The enormous poplars planted as a windscreen on the other side of the trail rustled appealingly as we rode beneath them. Everyone I passed was smiling.
There are days when I think the Pacific Northwest really is Utopia. Then I drive on the freeway, and am quickly disabused of that notion.
No traffic problems here!
Finally, very overheated, The Raleigh and I pulled into a small park midway up the trail. This smiling moon in boots greeted us as we rode in.
But as we rode past him, we realized he was a cleverly disguised wild salmon leaping!
We took a break under the pergola that ran the length of the park, and I attempted another series of self-portraits. As usual, they stank. The first one was beautifully shaded and nuanced. Except that I managed to sit in just the right spot to put a handlebar in my face. This one, the best of the bunch, is overly sunny and washed out, but I think it conveys well how hot I was (not hawt, you know. Just hot).
The Raleigh stayed in the shade. We then rode down the length of the pergola to the public restroom, which was unusually clean and had water fountains and a bike rack right up in front. Woodinville, we like you. The Raleigh and I give this suburb a thumbs-up!
We were soon approaching Bothell. I know this area well, having lived just north of there for eleven years. In fact, I have driven over this tangle of freeway thousands of times, but never gone under it before. I can’t tell you how many times, stuck in traffic again, I have longingly looked down at the river and the bike path…
It wasn’t quite as inviting there as it looks from a car, being rather overwhelmed by overpasses.
After a ride over a really brutally-bumpy section of the trail, where the city had clearly let the roots of trees nearly take out the path (I’m talking to you, Bothell), I finished at one of my favorite parks: The Park at Bothell Landing.
This sounds much more exciting than the park actually is, sort of high-end and pretentious. Nevertheless, I like this place for various reasons. This really, really archy bridge is one of the best features.
It’s crazy steep on both sides, but gives lovely views of the river (you can’t see how steep it is in the photo. Next time!). The park itself is laid out around a series of old houses moved to the site. And if there’s one thing I love, it’s old houses. I come by it honestly, as my mom was an old house fanatic who dragged me all over the state to drive slowly past Victorians dripping in gingerbread and period-correct colors, mock-Tudors and of course, a zillion Bungalows. House shopping with me is a total pain for every real estate agent I’ve met: “Isn’t this a lovely Bungalow?” “This isn’t a Bungalow, this is a Cape Cod.”
The park has a couple pretty, but unexceptional old homes, and then this:
… a real, red one-room schoolhouse. The interior is charmingly done up with old desks, slate chalkboards, a pot-belly stove, and a department store mannequin “teacher.” The Raleigh looks quite fetching, I think, though not period-correct.
We also enjoy the Andrew and Augusta Beckstrom log cabin, built in 1884. This one housed the family of mom, dad and their 16 children. Yep, 1-6. Sixteen. Like those 40 acres, it’s sort of mind-boggling, isn’t it? Especially as you’re pretty much looking at the entire cabin in this photo. Those were some serious pioneers, I tell ya.
It was time to head back. I’d ridden somewhere over 10 miles, and I still needed to negotiate the rush-hour commute to fetch The Boy. Feeling pressed, I put the hammer down on The Raleigh and shifted into 3rd gear for most of the ride. You laugh, but I was like the wind! Timing myself between mile posts, I was riding sub-four minute miles. That’s… think about this… close to 17 miles an hour on a 1969 Raleigh Sports. That’s the equivalent of doing 50 in a model T. I was literally passing roadies!
Tomorrow, I’m riding 10 miles with a few of the kids from the Ireland trip on this same trail. I happen to know one of them rides a Specialized Ruby, which is a hellova fast bike. I intend to kick her butt. Wanna bet if I can do it?