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

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Coffeeneuring #4: All City Coffee

bike parking outside
Space Odyssey Beacon Hill

It started off as a fine adventure, riding downtown and snubbing the bike lanes on 2nd Avenue that seem like an accident waiting to happen. I took a car lane, flew through downtown faster than bikes, buses and cars, green lights all the way to Royal Brougham at the Link Light Rail's Stadium Station. Just say "light rail" or "train" – it's easier. OK, so I was tired and I wanted a break, a little bump to get me up to Beacon Hill. Some might call it cheating; I call it an adventure.

in the wilderness of the Duwamish
Just a couple of stops and a few minutes later, I emerged into the tube-like, futuristic station at Beacon Hill where the only way out is via the elevator. From there, I followed the signed bike route to Georgetown. I was dubious as I merged onto 15th Ave with cars exiting from I-5, but there was a wide shoulder and in a block, I turned to a quiet street and rolled down toward Lucille Street and on into Georgetown, finding bike parking right in front of All City Coffee.

the industry of the Duwamish
My fellow coffee drinkers from the Seattle Coffee Club all groaned about finding parking and the fact that there was a 2-hour limit. When I motioned toward my bike, one woman expressed an interest in riding, but only if she could be mostly on the trails. She could have ridden there on all flat trails, as I would demonstrate on my way home. After a latte at All City and lunch across the street at Hitchcock Deli (their other location is Bainbridge Island), I was off on my second half of the day's adventure.

along the waterfront trail
I stopped a bunch of times to wait for bridge decks to open, to take photos, enjoy the view, try to find a bathroom, find a bathroom and walk my bike across the Ballard Locks. By then, I was wiped out, out of water and out of snacks, only a credit card left for payment. So I didn't stop; I kept plugging away uphill from Ballard to get home and eat and drink and take a nap. It was not a pretty sight. So much for my fine adventure.

Distance ridden: 27 (28.5 minus the light rail trip)

All City Coffee
1205 Vale St

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Coffeeneuring #3: Cafe Lulu

Cafe Lulu in tile
I suppose you could say it started out as an errandonnee. I needed a few things from Trader Joe's… bananas, bars, bathroom tissue (that's what proper people call toilet paper). I had a taste of their coffee of the day and had to have more of that taste. I picked up some crackers which can't be found anywhere else – raisin and rosemary, fig and oh, who cares, it's figs. Then, some white bean and basil hummus to go with the crackers and frozen mango to make smoothies with. I packed it up in my awesome Detours bike bag and though it was bursting at the zipper, I was still able to close it.
soy latte and chocolate coconut bar

On the way back from TJ's, I turned to 65th Street and then Latona. Next to the Latona Pub is Cafe Lulu. The bike parking is outside the pub because it's more essential to bike after drinking beer than after drinking coffee, I guess. I ordered a Soy Latte and a chocolate coconut bar (the same ones I get at Pioneer Coffee in North Bend when going hiking) from the friendly barista in the small cafe and took a seat by the window. Outside, across Latona was a restaurant I had heard mention on, The Butcher and the Baker, but didn't know where it was. A quick search told me that it's an excellent spot for brunch – I am filing that tidbit away somewhere.
It's in the bag!

After quaffing my coffee, I quickly packed up to head home for the sake of my frozen fruit.

Distance ridden: 5.5 miles

Cafe Lulu
6417 Latona Ave NE