Friday, while the kids were at school, I biked down to Auburn to check out the grand opening of Green River Cyclery and the Busted Bike Cafe. I had seen it in friends’ Instagram pictures and knew it was softly open, and then Kyla, one of the owners, posted about the two-day grand opening on Wheelwomen Switchboard (“…a place for women who love bicycling to connect with each other, share resources and ideas, and help each other succeed”). I deemed it too far to ride with the kids on Saturday, but was happy I could check it out solo on Friday.
Normally I carefully research routes to new places–at the least by what I know of the area and often by checking friends (or casting a wider net on twitter). But this time I just decided to be lazy and follow the Google maps app on my phone for the 30 miles/2.5 hour ride (which in case you don’t know me well, is much much much much longer than my usual trip). Turns out it was a pretty crappy route. I’ve taken (and disliked) 1st Avenue South before because there aren’t a lot of options for getting to Georgetown, but since I was going beyond Georgetown, I could and should have avoided it. Then East Marginal Way South was even worse. But after the two unpleasant stroads, the Green River Trail and Interurban Trail were great.
Once home, I checked with my knowledgeable friend Andrew Squirrel who bikes allllllll over the place plus commutes down thataway and got some terrific advice:
Here are my 3 commute alternatives I use most often to get from Fremont to Tukwila/Kent area in the safest way possible. There is also a 4th option that cuts through parking lots at Boeing Field / Airport Way but that usually sucks because it gets extremely windy.
#1, #2, #3.
Also if you want to match the bike/bus combo try catching the 150 bus somewhere in the tunnels and it pops on the interstate then gets off in Tukwila right at the Green River Trail near the golf course/casinos or stay on until you hit Fort Dent/Starfire.
As I suspected while looking at maps after the fact, and before receiving Andrew’s advice, option #2: crossing the West Seattle swing bridge and taking the Duwamish trail to the Green River Trail is the most pleasant.
And John offered “pro tip: take light rail to/from tukwila, save most of the boring miles!”
For this trip I took the 578 back north from right by the shop to REI (and then just a 3-mile bike ride home) because there wasn’t enough time to bike all the way home before the kids got out of school.
So now I know for next time. And there will be a next time–but probably on a kid-free weekend when I can take my time and ride both directions the whole way. And when it’s not rainy–this first trip was so rainy! But still worth it. The kids and I were almost this far south four years ago, but that was mostly by bus. So it was really cool to ride past and beyond the ShoWare Center on this trip. Light railing with the kids might work, but it’s still 13.5 trail miles at the end, as well as at least 5 miles, including un-kid-friendly downtown streets, to get to light rail. It’s too long a ride for them to sit on the Big Dummy without being bored and the tandem probably wouldn’t fit in our closest (Westlake) light rail station so that makes for an even longer ride. It probably makes sense to take three separate bikes, though my bike would be the Big Dummy in case I need to carry one or both kids at any point. Ooh, this is starting to sound pretty fun and will surely be a summertime excursion.
The shop was great and Kyla is awesome. She made a point of telling me about the things of particular interest to me: they had some balance bikes, but already sold them all! They’ll get more. Same for unicycles. And they’re probably going to put a Surly Big Dummy on the floor. And right now they have the smallest Surly Straggler in stock. My “me” bike is a Straggler, but I didn’t ride it down because the front basket makes it bad for putting on the bus bike rack (I think it would stay on there OK, but my road bike with no front rack is even better). I put the “me” of “me bike” in quotes since my rear rack is a Burley Moose Rack (with some welding work by Haulin’ Colin to make it play nice with the unique placement of the rack eyelets) so I can hook my Burley Piccolo trailercycle to my bike. I’ve only used the Piccolo once with my kids since it’s hard to convince one to ride with me and one to ride solo, but on a recent trip to Portland I borrowed a friend’s Piccolo and kid and that was awesome!
My Straggler is also a cargo bike, with a Haulin’ Colin trailer hitch. My friend in the neighborhood Velotron said I could borrow his trailer whenever I want if I had my own hitch. Which is maybe a little silly considering I have a cargo bike already, but it was too good an offer to pass up! I recently used his trailer for the first time, but only to carry him to our neighborhood’s new cat cafe. Next time will be for something more exciting, like a refrigerator.
So yeah, Green River Cyclery is awesome and Surly Stragglers are awesome–even if you want to just use one as a regular bike. Next time I visit Auburn will be with my Straggler. Oh, and the kid I hauled on my Straggler in Portland rides one, too! Similar build as in this Hiawatha Cyclery: Surly Straggler kids’ bike blog post.