March 24, 2012 Ride: Not What I Expected

The Wee Boy has begun Little League again, and the dreaded loss of every Saturday for the next three months is here. You see, The Wee Boy’s dad and I are divorced, and through a series of ridiculous cosmic circumstances both within and outside of our control, we live nearly 40 minutes away from each other. That’s on a good day, with no traffic. Fortunately, we work within a mile of one another, so usually, sports team activities involve mutual sacrifice. But not Little League. That happens up by his house.

The first game of the season was late in the afternoon, so rather than try to ride around here and then inevitably take longer than I’d hoped and end up “rushing” through traffic moving at exactly 6 miles an hour for 35 miles, I thought I’d throw The Raleigh on the rack and head up north well ahead of the game. It would be nice, I figured, to try out a new trail. On my mind was the Interurban’s northern stretch, which runs from the border of Seattle up to Everett.

Here’s the description of the section where I would start out, from the City of Lynnwood’s website: “The trail begins in North Seattle and continues north through Shoreline, Edmonds, Mountlake Terrace, Lynnwood, unincorporated Snohomish County, and Everett. Lynnwood’s portion of the trail is 3.8 miles long and is mostly separated from motorized traffic.”

“Mostly” being the operative word there.

I started my Interurban adventure about mid-way through the trail’s span, from the Lynnwood Transit Center’s parking lot.  I decided, for no particular reason, to head south. At first, the trail was exactly what the City’s website advertised: it was a 12 foot-wide paved trail running beneath the power right-of way on an old rail line. Gotcha. Been down that sort of thing before. But very quickly, it wasn’t like that at all:

Yep, that’s a street. Within just a mile or so, I was confronted with a street crossing, but the other side of the street clearly wasn’t the continuation of the trail. After a few moments of standing there idling my engine, so to speak, I remembered my recent purchase of… an iPhone. Out came the iPhone, and up came a map. Voila! Turn left.

Then I noticed the trail’s signage, which is designed to look a bit like a compass. Once I realized that the arrow shifted direction to point riders toward each turn, I had no more trouble with the navigational aspect of riding this “trail.” I just found it funny that such a cobbled-together patchwork of paved trail stretches and bike lanes was considered a trail. After all, I’ve ridden the Lake Washington Loop several times, but I wouldn’t think of it as a “trail.” To me, a trail should mainly stay separated from traffic. This one doesn’t.

This section has a scenic view of the garbage truck depot!

The main surprise for me in riding this trail was how dull the scenery was. It’s not like I expected stunning beauty. After all, I ride the Interurban’s southern stretch all the time, and it’s dull as can be. But this held a special dullness.

I realized, very quickly, that I was actually on an urban thoroughfare, so to speak, for bikes. This wasn’t the sort of multi-purpose, joggers-walkers-strollers path I was used to: this was actually designed to help cyclists move quickly from one city to the next. So I guess I can forgive it for being confusing and somewhat boring.

Except for this section, where it was totally closed and there was no detour marked.

Fortunately, a woman walking her dog stopped and advised me on what to do next. Ride on, she declared, so I did! They were paving a short connector section, but after the half block or so, I was back on the “trail” again.

This portion parallels a small lake as it runs through neighborhoods and past a golf course. The only really scenic portion of the ride. Then once again, I was dumped out on the street without much idea of where to go next. I wasn’t even sure that the trail continued officially, or if I was just looking at more bike lanes for the remainder of the ride.

Once again, the iPhone proved invaluable. The trail did start again, just a few blocks away. It was clearly marked, once I looked for the signs, but I didn’t know this because technically, I was the one who had taken the detour (by riding down the unfinished portion).

Really, it’s hard to get clearer than that!

In Shoreline, the Interurban took a brief, but steep foray into a nicely wooded park. I was hoping it would stay this way for a while, but no… just a few blocks. I’m so out of shape, what with a winter of essentially not riding, that this stretch really made me huff and puff in a way that would have embarrassed the relatively-buff pre-Ireland me of last summer!

Now, isn’t that better than the garbage truck depot?

But alas, I was soon out on the street again, riding in a bike lane toward yet another sign. These were quite fancy. Seems someone (SHORELINE) is trying to outdo its neighbors!


This stretch led me to a very pretty little park, next to Echo Lake. Of course, at this point I was pooped. I hadn’t ridden very far, but being out of shape and having to find every turn of the trail had meant a longer ride than normal. Just 5.5 miles into things, I was feeling ready to turn around, and the deadline I’d set for myself in terms of the time, was drawing close as well. There was just enough time to hang out at the lake for a minute and look at the ducks.

The Raleigh and I, feeling somewhat refreshed, looked around for the bathroom. Now, I am not normally offended by dirty bathrooms. I’ve been in restrooms around the world, I’ve squatted over pit toilets, I’ve been camping and carried out my own waste. It’s pretty hard to gross me out. But the toilet at Echo Lake Park was absolutely one of the filthiest I’ve ever seen. It was pure grossness. I managed to get in and out without touching anything, really, then emerged back into the sunshine sort of stunned. Such a pretty little park… it was like finding filthy porno mags in your great aunt’s house.

But they also had this rockin’ statue of cattails, which I like enough to forgive and forget on the bathroom:

Doesn’t The Raleigh look fetching in front of it? I think so.

Did I mention that Shoreline’s a bit obsessive with the cool signage?

So as you’ve probably noticed by now, I haven’t even ranted about the weather. There wasn’t much to rant about. It was a bit cool and overcast when I took off, and lovely and warm by the time I finished, with brilliant blue skies.

Of course, this weekend it rained most of the time (until about 5pm each evening, right when I’m home with kids and too enmeshed in family activities to take off for a bike ride). It was definitely taunting me.

But last Saturday wasn’t so bad after all. I knew my way home, so the ride back was easier (and also contained more downhills, admittedly).

We finished in record time. Would I ride this “trail” again? Well, not out of intense desire, certainly. But I was jealous, as I rode, that the cities along this corridor made it so easy to get from one to the next for cyclists. Once I knew the route, it wasn’t difficult to follow all the twists and turns.

Not beautiful, exactly, but at least I was out and getting myself moving.

I arrived at the baseball field to find out that I’d had the time wrong, so I’d missed the first half of the game. Still, I was there in time to catch this guy batting, so it was all okay in the end. Rather like the ride…

And yes, his team is in fushia. I don’t know how it happened, but he’s thrilled! At last, a manly excuse to wear pink: sports. Who knew?

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Love to ride my bikes!
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8 Responses to March 24, 2012 Ride: Not What I Expected

  1. Hopeful Romantic says:

    Glad your iPhone is paying dividends already but now you’ve got me wondering about my great aunt. 😉

  2. LuckyChow99 says:

    And I thought Atlanta had the patent on “trails that dump you on streets”. Who knew?? Well, at least you got in a ride!

  3. John h says:

    The dreaded Baseball phase, hopefully you all survive without being scarred for life. It really is a complex game for young children, complicated by adult intervention. Fortunately it would appear that your sons coach is willing to accept fuscia jerseys, that says alot about his approach to the game, in a good way. Lucky you.
    Our towns soccer program was cited in a book about youth league sports, “Why Johnny hates sports” It predates our entry into these trying times but is still relevant. Good luck.

  4. John h says:

    ps. maybe the title of the book was “Just let the kids play”. I dont remember but either book was enlightening.

  5. rideblog says:

    I wouldn’t trust any great aunts. Those old ladies are wild.

  6. rideblog says:

    I have honestly never seen a less traily trail here, but I’ve heard horror stories from elsewhere. Guess I thought we were immune.

  7. rideblog says:

    Fortunately, The Wee Boy’s team has always been pretty laid back with no crazy parents or coaches. We would have left if there had been.

  8. adventurepdx says:

    Ah yes, the Interurban North. We used this to get out of Seattle on the Big Tour. Yeah, it was a bit weird, especially with all the on-street sections and having to use all the wayfinder signs. At least you didn’t go north, which went around the lands of strip malls and freeways.

    Robert has a good write up on the trail:

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