Monday, June 11, 2018

Flower Geeking in the Teanaway

It's that time of year, late spring, when flowers are busting out everywhere around the city, but also in the Central Cascades where the snow melts sooner. There's no better way to see these beauties than to hike in the Teanaway, north of Cle Elum, with a group of Mountaineer flower geeks. The trail was 6 miles round trip with 1,200' of gain, but we were taking it easy and making lots of gawking stops and photo opps.

Balsamroot and Lichen
The Demon Butterfly - no, but that's what it looks like up close

Mt Stuart and me
There were species like Trillium and Arrowleaf Balsamroot that were on their way out, but  also making an appearance was Scarlet Gilia blooming early. Further up on the ridge was a great view of Mt Stuart and I couldn't help but position myself in front of the range. And Bitterroot (Native Americans must have eaten a lot of these roots and named them aptly, though I didn't do any nibbling), the close-to-the-ground showstopper that is often so hard to find. We were in a veritable field of them, relatively speaking, and had to be careful not to trod on one. They were glowing in the midday sun.

We all made the summit and had views out to the Enchantments, the Stuart Range, Mt Rainier and a lot of local peaks that, between us, we had all collectively summitted. 

Monday, May 28, 2018

Lopez Island, May

I had been meaning to return to Lopez Island for quite some time but never had the time or enough motivation to overcome some obstacles to travel. The first obstacle, like a hoop to jump through, was the ferry. The WA State Ferries are pretty amazing in that they provide consistent service to islands and to peninsulas all over the Puget Sound. But they can get very busy during times of good weather. Luckily, when I booked my place on Lopez, the proprietor suggested I make a ferry reservation even though it was only May, a month when the weather is very changeable. 
along the beach walk by the Anacortes ferry
view from the ferry

I got through the ferry tollbooth an hour early, as instructed, and had time to walk the beach trail for a while before boarding the boat. The boat was full of bikes, most of them bound for Lopez, as it's relatively flat as far as islands go, though it's not flat. But there's another reason why cyclists flock to Lopez, the "Friendly Island". The drivers all wave to cyclists; in fact, they don't stop at waving to cyclists, they wave at other drivers and at pedestrians, too. For all I know, the drivers may as well wave to the bunnies and deer that hop and lope, respectively, about the island as well. Because they are really good at waving.

I had to remind myself of that as I disembarked and headed for Lopez Village. Whoops, I forgot to wave. Well, I guess the islanders figure out pretty quickly who lives there and who doesn't. Once at the village, I had lunch, then headed for the beach. I was at the top of the stairs that lead down to the beach when I saw a golden retriever waiting to retrieve. He looked at me and took a couple of steps backwards, anticipating running after whatever I was going to throw. I had nothing to throw so I pretended to throw something. The dog was too smart for that and didn't move from his spot. I went down to the beach and the dog became more excited, backing up so that he was in the water. His eyes were saying, "THROW IT!". So I picked up a rock and threw it into the water and, predictably, the dog went after it, however, unlike all other dogs I've played this trick with, this retriever was programmed to bring something to me. He poked his snout around under the water and eventually appeared with a rock in his mouth. It wasn't the same rock that I had thrown in, but it was a rock. This went on for some time, until I was tired and it was time to check in to my lodging.

made friends quickly

sunset on Fisherman Bay

I was staying right on Fisherman Bay, with boats going by outside and incredible sunsets happening each evening. Pretty. Special.

The next day was my birthday and the plan was to not act my age, so I started the day by renting a kayak and paddling to Canoe Island, off the north end of Lopez Island. The guy who set me up with the rental cautioned me about the waves from the ferry and I made it my goal to beach on the island before the wake reached me.
beached on Canoe Island

Olympics off the bow

I wasn't able to go ashore beyond the beach due to all the "No Trespassing" signs, but later learned that there is a French language immersion camp on the island, "ah, oui". I appreciated the solitude on the beach, had a snack and was back on my way to return to Lopez, cruising in on the flood tide.

Part of defying my age meant being able to do many activities in one day, so after a refreshing nap, I set out on my bicycle for a little of my own Tour de Lopez. 
St Joseph Catholic Church

Shark Reef

the view from View Rd

Yeah, that was nice, then it was time for a quick dinner and back into the kayak for the sunset. I forgot my camera but then decided it would be better if I just paddled and stayed in the moment, sans documentation. The water was very still in Fisherman Bay and the sky was preparing for some drama, wispy clouds lining up in feathery patterns. My paddles dipped rhythmically, left and right, and I felt one with the water. I gazed down into the water and saw the sky, a flock of birds flying by, in the water, the sky. They became one and I was part of the scenery, floating in the sky, on water.

I came across a napping seal, his body swelling and breaching the surface as he inhaled, then dropping down below the water as he exhaled. Inhale, exhale, up, down until I nearly fell asleep myself.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

A Funny Thing Happened...

Lewis River Falls
A funny thing happened on my way down to Hood River, Oregon last week. I went for a bike ride along the way. No, that's not the funny part; I'll get to that in a bit. I had found a route on Ride with GPS that followed the Lewis River from Battle Ground, then went up the hill to Yacolt and some very remote areas, looping back to the start. Then I searched for a place to have something to eat and change my clothes before and after. The spot was called Old Town Battle Grounds, a Stumptown – serving coffee shop inside a converted church – perfect for a Sunday rider who worships good coffee and bicycles.

After fueling up and changing into my pink jersey, I set out to the first section along the river. I was on the river side of the road, following the Lewis River eastward, feeling like a salmon swimming upstream. I was one woman on a bicycle in the midst of hundreds of cars – that is, hundreds of courteous drivers and one jerk. The jerk was in a big red truck, most likely American-made and had a noisy engine. Unlike everyone who passed by easily and quickly, this guy (I'm assuming) roared by and then had his truck "fart" thick black smoke in my general direction. I had to laugh (yes, this is the funny thing) just thinking of what his dashboard might look like. I pictured a button that read, "Cyclist" that he pushed when passing a lowlife two-wheeler like me to let me know who was boss. He passed by me soon enough and after the smoke cleared, I kept on my route, enjoying the rollercoaster-like hills up and down and around we go, through beautiful countryside.

As often happens when I am following a cue sheet created by someone else, I begin to feel like I can trust the author who had, up to that point, steered me in the right direction. But when I turned right into a church parking lot with signs saying "No Outlet", I was a little skeptical. At the far end of the lot was a locked car-sized gate, but to the right of it was an unlocked person-sized gate. How I love secret passageways! An entry into another world, an exclusive path just for me. On the other side of the gate was a neighborhood and some kids on bikes who looked like they might be hoodlums and perhaps were going to give me a hard time for entering their private world. I soon realized that I had nothing to fear, as these kids looked up at me like an apparition had just materialized. They each had a "Where did you come from?" kind of a look on their faces as they waved and said hello. I responded in kind as if my presence there were just an everyday occurrence and kept on rolling down the street.

I continued on the rollercoaster back toward town, noting that there was a lot of car traffic on just about every road. The cue sheet told me to go to Parkway which evoked images of the Parkways I have known: Bronx River Parkway, Saw Mill Parkway, etc. Though they are park-like with an abundance of trees, they are not a place for a bicycle. But once again, I trusted my cue sheet and turned down Parkway to find that it was a 25 mph-posted street with no cars on it.

I ended the ride much like I had started it; I headed for the coffee shop to change and grab a bit to eat. But this time, the smile on my face was from the accumulated experiences and scenery gained on the route.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Bike and Bus Ride

biking on the bus

I love an adventure and two modes I use for exploring is bicycle and bus. I set off from North Seattle on my bike heading north and east on a route I found using google (who would have ever thought it would come to this – computers telling us where to go). I rode through Hamlin Park which I had heard of but had never been to. It was beautiful forest and the park road becomes a paved trail at the eastern end. Well, it may be paved, but it is full of bumps and lumps, narrowing as it goes. I managed to get out of there just as I was thinking it wasn't such a good idea after all. But then came the descent toward Lake Washington and the smile came back to my face.

I continued along the lake, then turned north on a route toward Mill Creek that I had only just learned earlier in the week on a Cascade ride. Of course, I added a scenic interlude to make things more interesting, but soon was rolling into Main Street Mill Creek. Somehow, I resisted stopping at Spotted Cow Coffee, the best coffee north of Seattle, instead continuing east. It was a consolation gift to be on the smooth, low-traffic roads of Mill Creek that encircle the golf club.

Next, I worked my way down toward Broadway to head south. On the way, I was honked at (what year is this – I thought drivers got over that in the 90s) and passed very closely. I kept my hands and fingers to myself, but made a mental note to change the route to avoid that section. When I got to Broadway, there was construction to repair the road surface which meant that the surface was currently far from ideal. However, because of the work, traffic was stopped some distance behind me and so I had the road to myself. I rode up to a flagger while the traffic ahead of me was stopped and he reported that I was the nth cyclist he'd seen that day. He asked me how far I had ridden and when I told him (at that point it was 30), he confessed that he had a strong desire to ride more but for now he would have to be happy with rides with his kids on bmx bikes. I was sent on my way with wishes for a safe ride, which would come in handy in not too long.
Doggy Haven Resort

It was on Paradise Lake Road, normally a serene rolling road in the country that I redeemed those good wishes. All of them. I may have used them for double their face value. While it may be a lightly traveled road on the weekend, during the week it was transformed into a terrifying torrent of trucks. Between the good wishes and my pink jersey which screams "I'm a Girl!", I was somehow granted safe passage, making it to Bear Creek Road without a scratch, though definitely shaken.

Luckily, the worst of the ride was over and then the only worry was finding my way to downtown Redmond. My cue sheet told me to turn on an avenue that didn't seem to exist. Yes, I still use cue sheets. Normally, in this part of the cycling universe, I am with a group known as Goosebumps which has very skilled leaders who know all the secret passageways, allowing me to just follow along blindly. Maybe I have been a bit too blind because I went through Tuscany (neighborhood with huge homes, manicured lawns and 2-car garages), came out the other end at The Hedges (even larger homes with 3 or 4-car garages) and knew I was in the wrong place. I consulted my phone's map and headed back, still with no conclusion. Just as I thought I would never get out of that suburban maze, I decided to go for it and roll down a trail in the forest. Voila! I had escaped to ride in the country once more and was on my way, making it to Redmond's quaint downtown in no time.
secret passageway

I rolled up to the Transit station, checked the schedule and saw that I had about ten minutes until my coach came. Yes, a fancy coach; the eastside gets a better transit option with cush seats for a cyclist's tush, luggage rack and even overhead reading lights. Not bad for paying a mere $3.00. In no time, I had loaded my bike and was enjoying another kind of ride.


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Coffeeneuring Challenge #7

I had a grand plan for my final Coffeeneuring Challenge outing: a hybrid of going out for coffee and coffee outside. I would ride to the Ballard Sunday Market where Convoy Coffee slow brews coffee from their bicycle-driven cart. Perfect – I get to drink a hot cup of coffee outside after someone else does all the hard work. No packing up my Pocket Rocket, fuel, kettle, water, Aeropress, etc for a little cup of coffee.

I arrived at the Market a bit later than I had planned (hey, if you're going to get a flat, let it be in the warmth and dryness of your home) and there were scores of people ambling about, looking at cheeses, meats, pastries, but where oh where was the coffee cart? I walked my bike down and then up the street, with no sight of those guys. But then I saw Anchored Ship Coffee in a tiny storefront and thought maybe it was time for a change in plan.

coffee fits in the bottle cage
I parked my bike inside using the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, then ordered a Cafe au Lait. After I shelled out $3 (ok, so it was with soymilk – maybe they make it in-house), they filled up my personal cup (yes, I was prepared) with drip from a carafe that had been sitting out there who knows how long and some soymilk. Ouch! Well, this is Ballard, my friends, and they gotta pay their rent. I took a few sips and it tasted like plain ol' drip with some unsweetened soymilk added. I could have gone on that group ride after all and had that big box corporate coffee they were planning on stopping at (it starts with a "T") because that way, I would at least be deliriously happy from the bike ride itself.

As I was riding off toward home, I saw Convoy Coffee at the corner where I had passed just 10 minutes earlier. Had I missed them, or had they just shown up. No matter, I had already gotten a full cup of coffee and spent my allotted funds, so off I went. About one long light and five blocks later, I stopped, emptied my cup out onto an already-saturated plot of grass and headed back down the street to get some decent coffee made by two guys with an Aeropress on a cart pulled with a bicycle. But they were no longer at the corner; I didn't have the patience or time or energy to get through that crowd-filled market one more time to search for them. I switched out coffee for my water bottle and rode home.

I am sure I will be continuing my own Coffeeneuring adventures after the challenge is officially over, so I will get another chance to catch up with those bicycle-riding coffee-making guys. Plus, I will be sporting my spiffy Coffeeneuring Challenge patch.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Coffeeneuring Challenge #6: Spotted Cow Cream & Bean

While I am not a veteran (of a war, that is; I am definitely a cycling veteran, but that is not what we're talking about today), I had requested to take this Wednesday off to honor my sanity which has been dwindling. Between being an introvert and having a patient at work who has had her meds reduced, rendering her a question station, I really needed s break.

that's Maxwell, head roaster/manager
And today,  I was lucky – the sun came out! I even got to ride on a brand-new patch of asphalt while the cars had to stay on the gravel. Woo! Woo!

I had been meaning to ride up to Mill Creek's cute downtown area to go to Spotted Cow for quite a while. I believe they are the only coffee shop in the area that roasts their single origin beans on-site. Although their bike parking was not directly in front of or even beside their store (I locked my bike to outside seating so I could keep an eye on it), they were very friendly to me and gave me kudos for having ridden my bike there.

everything to make a ride great

After getting my soy latte and a chocolate macaroon cookie, I couldn't find anywhere to sit, so I asked a gentleman if I could share his table. He was on his laptop and I was trying not to disturb him as a laid out my accoutrements for a photo. But he was curious as to where I had ridden from, how many miles total, do I ride with other people, am I training for an event. It turns out he used to ride a little and he recounted for me a trip he took from Spokane to Lake Chelan on a Schwinn with four working gears that his butt will never let him forget. Aside from his backside, his other reason for not riding is due to lack of time. Of course, he has time to hang out at the local coffee shop chatting with a woman who is trying to rekindle his cycling flame. I mentioned this to him and he smiled. I have planted the seed; with time and interest, it may grow;  I will have to return here to see if there is another bike parked outside.
words to live by

Spotted Cow Coffee
15118 Main Street
Mill Creek, WA

Total Miles: 25

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Coffeeneuring Challenge #5: Ballard Coffee Works

November is the season of the blob
Look out – the blob is coming! November in Seattle is all about rain and since I ride a lot for transportation, I spend a fair amount of time analyzing the local radar for storms. Green is light rain, yellow is hard rain and red is cats and dogs (or fish, in my case). Like the time I was riding home from work and I thought I heard the sound of a fish flopping... on the road. It was the beginning of a heavy rainstorm, no doubt colored red on the radar.

I waited patiently for the blob to pass through and that was followed by more rain, but just green rain. It looked like a lot of drops when I looked outside, but I decided to take a chance on the rain in order to get a good cup of coffee.

The rain was pretty light, what I like to think of as a refreshing mist, like an outdoor spa treatment. A few minutes into the ride, I was reminded of how much I love to ride in light rain. It wasn't too long ago that my ideal weather for a good ride was "58 degrees and light rain", as my mantra went. My preferences have changed a little since then, but a nice misting is certainly welcome, especially when it is followed by warming up at a spacious yet cozy cafe serving a smooth espresso.

Not the only bike out there
Ballard Coffee Works is on Market Street at 22nd Ave, smack in the middle of Ballard. The building used to be a Tully's and there is currently a Starbucks across the street. But the cafe was packed! Lucky for me there were no kids inside because I found a small table near the kiddie play area where I could look outside toward my bike. A special day for the Surly, she sported her green shopping bag which was velcroed onto the saddle to protect it from rain (thus protecting my rear).

I enjoyed a smooth Soy Latte and then purchased a bag of coffee to take to my lucky workmates.

Ballard Coffee Works
2060 NW Market St
Seattle, WA 98107