Iron Horse Trail with family bikes 2014

It’s been nearly three years since our Snoqualmie Tunnel ride with Brad and a lot has changed since then. I have a Big Dummy now, too! And all four kids have since traded balance bikes for pedal bikes. Also in the interim, The Path Less Pedaled has come Bikefishing on the Iron Horse Trail and many more people know how cool it is here.

If you want even more photos than those in the post, see my Iron Horse Trail Flickr album.

Most exciting: this was my cargo bike’s FIRST TIME ON A CAR!

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Brad says his rack is a Thule van rack, but I don’t see that they make one, so I think it’s a regular little trunk rack like mine. Eek. My bike weighs 76.4 pounds before I take the Yepp seat off (which was stowed inside the van) and Brad’s must be about the same. He removed his Xtracycle rack, bags, and deck, but the BionX motor must add back some of that weight. And his frame is the biggest 22″ to my smallest 16″–more steel, more real. Last year we had three adult bikes back there and it was a tight squeeze. These two fit pretty well and it would have been even easier if one of us didn’t have a big front basket and wide Rolling Jackass centerstand.

Here’s what it looked like with just Brad’s bike on the rack:

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Brad picked us up at 8:00 a.m.–two cargo bikes on the back of the van, four kid bikes (and their kids) inside. We stopped for breakfast in Eastgate where we met up with Mark and his daughter. They ride a Counterpoint Opus semi-recumbent tandem. These make great family bikes. Find this bike now as the Bilenky Viewpoint tandem and find a similar setup in the Hase Pino.

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After the people fueled up, the cars needed to do so, too, so we drove separately to nearby Issaquah where we were drawn to Bicycle Center of Issaquah when we realized it was almost 10:00 a.m. opening time and we could visit with Kent Peterson. Brad and Kent talked kid mountain bikes while the kids biked around the store and played with Dillon the shop dog.

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And eventually we made it to Hyak parking lot and were ready to go!

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…but after a bit of fun: we posed Brad’s BionX battery on my frame. He’s pretty much killed his e-assist system so he didn’t have much of an advantage. Sadly, I didn’t get to hear the weird, animal-like noises he says it makes when he asks too much of it.

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After a string of clear and sunny days, today was foggy and though Hyak had cleared by the time we arrived, fog belched out of the tunnel towards us. Inside was dark and creepy, like last time, but having dynamo lights meant I could light my own way this time. My kids’ Knog Blinders probably didn’t do much, but they stayed alongside the big bikes and Brad’s kids had bright headlamps and charged on ahead.

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I’m not sure if the kids had more fun traversing the tunnel or closing the gate on us after they made it through. Ha ha. Don’t come with us next time if you’re claustrophobic.

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We spent a lot of time on the south side of the tunnel. The kids hiked down the ravine and then up and over the tunnel. Where mine fell into a creek. Of. Course.

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I climbed up to the tunnel’s lid, but didn’t explore with the kids. I did, however, take my new favorite picture:

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These two decided they are best friends who stop for one another as needed, be it to skid to fish-tail-y stops (over and over and over again) or to stop and pick edible (I hope) flowers.

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And this guy is riding in his spare pants and my sweater with wet, sockless shoes (saving the dry socks for later). The 30% chance of rain meant I brought his jacket, but that went in the creek, too. Next time I bring spare shoes. Even the biggest bike will not always carry enough in the way of spare clothing or snacks for a day trip with kids. And this big bike was kept to minimal load so I could bag and drag both bikes if need be.

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We saw a few other riders in both directions. I forgot to ask Brad what this guy’s story was. I was worried one of the kids would demonstrate a skidding stop right in front of him…but he made it past us unscathed after a five-minute rolling chat.

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Then we broke for lunch on the bridge over Hansen Creek.

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Mark and his daughter turned back to Hyak at this point. I think it was after 4:00 p.m., so he knew they would miss rush hour traffic by the time they got in the car.

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The other six of us continued on in search of “the next bridge”. Brad had left his extra water at home. And then left his replacement extra water in the car (so glad I’m not the only one who forgets important things!), so he filled his camping stove with water from the river and boiled it alongside the trail while the kids frolicked on the hillside. And then: hot chocolate!

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As well as some parental frolicking. I did most of my riding with butt on saddle and feet on pedals, but Brad is more, uh, creative.

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We continued our search for “the next bridge” for a while, but eventually decided we should turn back. Our original plan was to ride 20 miles downhill to a waiting car, but I’m not sad that didn’t work out because it would have been a shame to miss the uphill climb back–we’re Seattleites after all, we eat hills for breakfast! Of course I was only carrying my five-year old and the grade is 2% so “uphill” might not be the best word for it. As it was, we were probably 10 miles past the tunnel when we declared it was turn-back time.

Brad’s uphill ride started with his five-year old and her bike and my seven-year old and his bike, but that wasn’t enough so I gave him my cargo strap to use as a tow rope for his seven-year old. Behold our photo and video series “What could possibly go wrong?” [Spoiler alert: nothing goes wrong.]

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I took my kid bike (but not my kid) back after the videos for better side-to-side “water skier” action and I’m sad I missed filming the first stop because it was hilarious: the tow-ee stopped a second before the tow-er and was dragged into the funniest lurch forward.

It was slow going much of the way–my seven-year old was determined to ride the whole thing for a while and Brad’s BionX display helpfully let us know we were crawling along at 3.5 miles per hour. Brad cheerfully said, “If we take long enough, it will all be a tunnel.” And then he got a flat.

During the changing of the flat he dropped this other gem: “I’ve actually had a number of flats with these tires. I should change them, but I really like the color.”

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The speed at which he took the bike apart and changed the flat was impressive, but it still makes me rethink my recent idea to swap my Schwalbe Marathon Pluses for Schwalbe Big Apples when the time comes.

And then we were off again. Our second spate of drizzle started and after riding through it for a bit Brad said, “Oh, yeah, lightning” and I started giggling hysterically. My cheeks still hurt, I laughed for so long. That’s when I realized I was a bit worn out. The tiredness caused by gravel riding really sneaks up on me.

We reached the bottom of the tunnel at 7:12 p.m. I forgot to check what the numbered alcoves start with at the top so I couldn’t gauge how quickly we were getting through. For next time: 40. 40 consecutively marked alcoves. Now you can keep track on your way up, too.

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We stopped for dinner on the way home and were finally deposited at our door, kids fast asleep, at 10:04 p.m. What a long and awesome day!

Of course a trip to the Iron Horse Trail need not take this long. The two-car, one-way 20-mile trip from Hyak to Rattlesnake Lake, or even a bit shorter from Hyak to Exit 38, seems great for riders both little and big. And even just riding through the tunnel and back is worth the trip. Having the luxury to both carry and ride alongside the kids thanks to the cargo bike is wonderful, but it would have still been fun carrying both kids the whole way or on separate bikes, being careful not to take them too far before heading back.

Brad regaled me with tales of randonneuring (long-distance unsupported endurance cycling) throughout the day. The stories are great, but actually doing randonneuring sounds a little scary. However, I would like to do a regular-bike ride along the Iron Horse Trail–maybe even with just adults!–someday.


While we were 60 miles from home, having the time of our lives on the car-free Iron Horse Trail, something horrible happened back in Seattle: Sher Kung was killed by a delivery truck driver while biking in the 2nd Avenue bike lane. I hate 2nd Avenue. Everyone does. Bike expert John Pucher gave it a scathing review. I used it for the first time two years ago. Brad and I were both in Cascade Bicycle Club’s first round of the Advocacy Leadership Institute and we usually biked over together, except for this one time when I was on my own and followed Google maps’ instructions to take 2nd Avenue to Pioneer Square. After a couple scary blocks I caught up to an experienced bike commuter and followed him. I learned so much during that ride. I followed him up into driveways to skirt around the backs of cars poking out into the bike lane despite the enticing open space in front of those cars. And we danced to the right (the bike lane is on the left side of one-way 2nd Ave) of cars stuck in the middle of left turns. It was exhilarating! Exhilarating in the sense that I couldn’t believe we’d made it through unscathed. He didn’t know I was behind him so I pulled alongside at my last red light before turning west to thank him for the lesson. He said this night was worse than normal. Now I use 3rd Ave with the buses or 1st Ave with its many red lights. They’re both crappy, too, but not as bad as 2nd. And if my destination is on 2nd I use the right lane instead. But I only know about using the right lane by reading comments on Seattle Bike Blog. A lot of people ignore the left-hand bike lane and ride to the right, but a lot stick to the left lane–why would it be there if we weren’t supposed to use it? This tragedy is extra frustrating because this horrible street is finally getting a protected bike lane in a week. We experienced the practice version on Park(ing) Day last year and of course it’s a world of difference. Just too late for Sher. And others.

If there’s a memorial ride next week, we’ll attend. The only other thing I know of to do as an individual is to donate to the Sher Kung Memorial Fund. And if you bike downtown, join Connect Seattle’s Connect Downtown group. And/or join a different Connect Seattle team. And your nearest Seattle Neighborhood Greenways group. And ride your bike. And talk to others about biking in Seattle. We need better bicycling infrastructure, but we also need more people biking. And if you drive, slow down. 20 is plenty in the city. Even if the speed limit sign has a higher number. And stick your phone in the glove box when you’re driving. And open your car door with your right hand to make it easier to look out the window into the door zone first. And know that I’m shedding a tear (or 100) for Sher with you right now.

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4 thoughts on “Iron Horse Trail with family bikes 2014

  1. The bike lane on 2nd was put there by those that wanted to do something for bikes, but just didn’t know how to properly implement. I always take the center of the right lane down 2nd. It’s downhill, and even heavy bikes can easily keep up with traffic. The bike lane on the left side invites left hooks. If you ride to the right side of the right lane you invite right hooks and doorings. Take the center of the lane and be safe! Nice account of your Iron Horse adventure!

  2. If you were searching for just one more bridge, the next one past Hansen creek is probably another 7 miles down to the trail near Ollalie state park where there are 3 bridges within 2 or 3 miles. Google maps doesn’t show the bridges but OpenStreetMap does: http://www.openstreetmap.org/#map=15/47.4329/-121.6506
    I took my wife and two children (8 and 10) through the tunnel last week for the first time. We picked up a couple head mounted work-lights and a couple LED flash lights from Harbor Freight for the kids and taped the flashlights to the children’s bike frames and mounted the work-lights on their helmets. I commute year round so I have a good headlamp on my bicycle already. At first the kids were definitely scared of the tunnel once they saw how dark it was, but after a while they got used to it and it helped to sing songs while riding through the tunnel. I think the tunnel was 70 bottles of beer long as in “99 bottles of beer on a wall, 99 bottles of beer….”

  3. Pingback: Bike News Roundup: 8-year-old threatens to rip off bike thief’s ears | Seattle Bike Blog

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