Search Results for: issaquah

Bike/bus to Issaquah

Once a month we turn a trip to the orthodontist into a big adventure by taking bikes. Our orthodontist is 20 miles away, in Issaquah (hometown of Modest Mouse if you’re not from here and think Issaquah sounds familiar) so we do a bike/bus combo trip. We usually take the Sound Transit 554 from downtown, but our appointment was later than normal and we were able to take the much closer-to-school/home Sound Transit 556 bus. It was our first time on this line and the route is completely different so that was exciting.

We take my Bianchi Milano city bike (“the old mamabike”) when we use the bus since my Big Dummy is too long and too heavy to go on the bike rack. It was easiest when it had two kid seats and we all fit on the bike, but now it just has a rear seat and one kid has to ride his own bike. Actually, today it had two rear seats because I brought it’s original rear seat, a Bobike Maxi, along to give to a friend. The new rear seat is the Bobike Junior, suitable for my now bigger kids.

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I didn’t strap the extra seat on very well at the beginning, but my six-year old helped by holding it on. The extra seat also meant I couldn’t drape my eight-year old’s bike over the seat(s) and ride the bikes two blocks to school and had to walk them side by side–such a pain! I’m not very good at ghost riding (riding one bike while dragging another with one hand).

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Issaquah is a great town. When the kids were littler, they loved the train-themed playground and adjacent train museum (they still like the playground, but don’t care so much that it’s train-themed). They also love Maurice, the barber in the Cut Loose Caboose next to our orthodontist, and happily get their hair cut there while Daisy, the Pomeranian, looks on from the cupola. There’s also a salmon hatchery and we can’t leave without lunching (or dinnering in this case) at the Issaquah Brewhouse (crayons and kid menus, Duplo table, board games including Battleship).

One more thing: My friend who now has the Bobike Maxi recently wrote an excellent blog post: If you’re not biking, you’re part of the problem.

30 Days of Biking stats:
April 6 miles: 18.1
April cumulative miles: 118.8

Tour of Issaquah with Kent Peterson

The bus did most of the work (15 miles to my 6) as we multi-modaled it to Issaquah this afternoon. We headed over with time to spare before our dentist appointment so we could meet up with Kent Peterson for coffee and a small bike tour of Issaquah. I really need to start using my Endomondo GPS tracking app because I’m not sure of the route we took, but it was a good one–starting on the raised wooden path along Renton Road we’ve often admired, but never biked on, and on a gravel path through a forested area in search of three resident deer.

My first question for Kent was if he’s secretly British, based on two recent “tyre” tweets, but it turns out those were just quotes for highlights and notes of a book, The Bicycle and the Bush: Man and Machine in Rural Australia, he was reviewing. He’s from Minnesota, near Duluth, which is completely in line with his extraordinarily kind demeanor.

In addition to deer habitats and the turn-off to Pickering Barn (farmers market on Saturdays), Kent pointed out the East Lake Sammamish Trail, which is closed for paving. I’d like to think that one day I’ll ride all the way here from Seattle (alone on a road bike, mind you) and experience that new smooth trail.

I’ve yet to visit Kent’s shop, Bicycle Center of Issaquah, but after he tweeted a picture of Eddy the shop pug, we’re going to prioritize going in to see puppies and the Penny Farthing replica. Eddy works Friday through Monday and Dillon, a Chihuahua/Jack Russell mix, works Tuesday through Saturday.

Kent dropped us off at the Cut Loose Caboose and sped off into the snowstorm of tree fluff.

Photo courtesy Kent Peterson

Last time I opted for a long, slow bus that arrived close to home and realized that is not the way to do it (especially if said long, slow bus has something wrong with the battery, making it smell like rotten eggs, necessitating a vehicle change and associated wait). Today we took the Sound Transit 554 both directions and rode home from downtown.

We didn’t ride all the way home, though, since the UW Burke-Gilman Trail Party promised chocolate samples of Theo Chocolate World Bicycle Relief sea salt dark. We didn’t win anything in the free drawing, but the boys played with a puppy at the SDOT booth and found an open spot of bike rack upon which to hang–near a yellow recumbent bike they were quite taken with. I don’t know what it is with weird bikes, but the kids love ’em–tall bikes, penny farthings, recumbents. I guess it goes inline with preferring cement mixers, tow trucks, and buses to run-of-the-mill cars.

Today’s miles: 21.2
May cumulative: 319.5 miles

A trip to Issaquah (by bus)

Nine bike miles and 35 bus miles got us to the doctor here in Seattle and to the dentist over in Issaquah. Our doctor is only a mile away so the day started out easy enough (although mostly uphill, of course). While stopped for a red light at 40th and Wallingford, cursing the busy half-mile hill we’d just faced, the grocer at Durn Good Grocery came out and mentioned he’s our neighbor. Really? This is how hard it is to meet one’s neighbors in this city! We’ll be back…and time our visit to see the resident grocery dog as well.

After the doctor, we rode two blocks to the Bastyr Dispensary for some $11 cough tincture he refuses to take. Grr. But what a cool place! I’d never been so when I didn’t see a bike rack on the sidewalk, I just locked up to the front fence. I think there’s probably a bike rack below in the parking garage. The place is full of non prescription stuff so it’s nice to know I don’t have to go uphill to Whole Foods or as far downhill to PCC to get medicines. If you clicked to their site you probably noticed the Medical cannabis is NOT available at Bastyr dispensaries. But they were well-equipped for the medical munchies, with many chocolate options and even frozen burritos.

Then we headed downtown to catch a Sound Transit bus to Issaquah. We went over a little early because Issaquah is a great little city–especially if you’re into trains and salmon. Today we didn’t have time for the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, the adjacent Rogue Brewery with Lego table, or the wonderful Issquah Library across the street. Instead we headed straight to the train-themed playground and the old train depot.

I made a discovery on the way to the bathroom across the ball field–it’s hard to ride on grass! I took the long way back on the path once I realized a short cut isn’t worth it when it’s over grass (or gravel).

This was our first big day out with the new Hebie kickstand. It’s high! It works great, but we’re all getting used to how high it props the front wheel. And I should point out that unless on have a cargo bike with Rolling Jackass center stand or similar, you should not leave your kids on the bike–even for quick pictures. While my bike has never toppled over during the shooting of a photo, I have dropped it before, and it’s not fun to have to pick back up (for any of us).

Seattle often feels like a small town when I unexpectedly run into people out and about, but Issaquah has Seattle beat because the last two times I’ve been at the park, I’ve seen Kent Peterson, the only Issaquah resident I know. The best part of today’s encounter was when Kent said, “Pictures or it didn’t happen!” before snapping a picture.

On the ride to the dentist the boys were wowed by a very large balloon tied to a penny farthing plant stand outside Issaquah Floral & Gift Shoppe. I also noticed a real penny farthing outside Bicycle Center of Issaquah so I’ll have to put that on a future Issaquah itinerary. And that will guarantee another Kent sighting.

I was sure our trip home would be better than last time, when we got stuck out late and had to deal with very cold temps. But an express Sound Transit bus is probably the way to go, even if it means a big hill to get home or a transfer to a second bus. Even if things had run smoothly, the 271 to the University District (1 hour 17 mins, 60 stops) is a long haul.

But things didn’t run smoothly. Our bus was broken. And not normal broken–broken that left it extremely stinky. Like rotten eggs. Something about the battery, I overheard the driver tell another passenger. A replacement coach met us at Eastgate Park & Ride, but it was a long, stinky ride over. The only good thing about the extra stop (other than leaving the stinky bus) was the salmon-covered bridge at the Eastgate Park & Ride. But unfortunately Sound Transit buses stop up on the bridge while Metro buses stop down in the parking lot. So no extra payoff for the extra bike lifting. And then the two-year old sadly asked about 50 times on the remainder of the ride home, “Where the stinky bus?” Don’t worry, little guy, it’s with the bus mechanic getting fixed.

Today’s miles: 9.0 miles
April cumulative: 132.3 miles

Issaquah by bus and bike

Today was windy (so windy, I think I would have been blown off the trail had I been riding a bike of average weight!), but sunny and warmish so it seemed like a good day to experiment with taking the bike and bus 20 miles to Issaquah. I was also feeling a little anti-car after all the driving yesterday and I’m taking part in my Twitter friend, Zak Schwank’s Bike Temecula Challenge, which is open to riders not fortunate enough to reside in sunny Southern California any more :) Also, I let the boys decide if they wanted to take the car or the old mamabike and bus so they’re to blame. I’d like to build a little widget to track mileage in the right column, but for now, I’m logging my miles on a separate page.

The timing worked out perfectly for heading out of town: we arrived at the 4th and Seneca bus stop with five minutes to spare. And just in time to watch the most beautiful gold bike zoom by. The sun glinted off its gold rims and blinded me for a moment before it disappeared from view. So pretty! The bus driver was worried about my windscreen blowing off, but I assured him “It hasn’t blown off yet!” which in retrospect I realize wasn’t the best way to put it. It’s disconcerting to watch it flap around so maybe I’ll start adding one more step to my bus pre-boarding process and remove it. But in the meantime, the kids have solved the matter by choosing the front left seats on the bus so my bike is blocked from view. It’s amazing how much more relaxing a bus ride is when I can’t see my bike bouncing around.

It was too cold to walk around the trains at the Issaquah Depot Museum or climb on the train-themed play structures in adjacent Veterans’ Memorial Field, but we saw this great train mural on the two-block ride from the bus stop to Issaquah Brewhouse. It’s not the greatest food, but there’s a Lego table.

After second lunch, we took a spin through the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery. The boys’ love for salmon is fairly new so this was our first time checking it out. A quick ride around didn’t do the place justice so we’ll be back. And we’ll be sure to bring the plush salmon toys with us.

We didn’t have time to stop in at the Cut Loose Caboose barber shop which resides next to our dentist (our reason for the trip here, by the way), but we’ve pestered Maurice many times in the past. And the boys both barked in hopes that little Daisy could hear them from inside.

The way home wasn’t quite as easy. I decided to change the plan and catch the bus from the Transit Center instead of downtown so we’d have a better waiting spot. We missed the 554 by a few seconds–it was leaving the curb as we arrived. I guess I could have blocked its path and finagled my way on board, but I just muttered and let it go. Waiting 30 minutes for a bus isn’t so bad, but the kids were a little cold and a little tired (and I was getting tired and crabby). I hadn’t checked out the Transit Center buses ahead of time and it didn’t occur to me another feasible bus might come by. Too late to make a difference, I noticed a bus bound for Northgate pull away from a different bay (that may have worked!) and then a bus bound for University District (that would have been even better than the 554!). I’m too worn out from the whole ordeal to check out the other buses now, but I’ll have things better figured out for next time. And the extra waiting time allowed me the time to decide I didn’t want to ride home from downtown so we waited 10 minutes and transferred from the 554 to the 510. My main reason for the extra bus was because I knew the kids would get very cold during that last 45 minutes of riding, but the half hour of time saved and no big hill sounded mighty nice, too.

Biking and busing strategies (help plz!)

We visit Issaquah about once a month for our orthodontist. I often skip blogging about it unless there’s something exciting and new involved (like adding the Bobike Junior kid seat in place of Bobike Maxi kid seat), but I try to document things more in April for 30 Days of Biking so here we are! Plus we mixed it up bus-wise a bit so this is also a good time to ask for HELP WITH STRATEGIES FOR BIKE/BUS ROUTING!

Here’s what I do:
I start with home-to-destination Google maps transit directions to see which bus(es) go closest to our destination. Often it’s a two- or three-bus trip so I try to find out if we can bike to the last–or at least the second–bus. Often this is the point of that bus’ route closest to home as the crow flies, but sometimes it’s less uphill or less busy-road-stricken for us to hit it somewhere else along the line. Or now that the light rail comes near us, it might be where light rail gets closest to that bus…though we haven’t been incorporating light rail with our multimodal travels much yet. THIS IS ONE SPOT I CAN USE HELP: I want to look at all the stops on a King County Metro or Sound Transit bus and I don’t think the websites show everything, just some of the stops (the timed ones?). When trying to hook up two buses and kids on bikes, I really want to know every single stop. So I pull out my iPhone and check on the OneBusAway (“The Open Source platform for Real Time Transit Info”) app. It seems silly to use both computer and smart phone to figure out my route.

Anyhow, today was a bit different because we ran an errand in Fremont on the way to the orthodontist. We usually catch a bus near home to get downtown where we can transfer to the 554 that takes us 16 miles to Issaquah. I didn’t want to bike back uphill to catch any of our usual buses (mostly for the sake of my nine-year old who was on his own bike, honest!) so I used Google maps transit directions to find an alternate first bus. I settled on the 62 at the corner of 34th and Fremont in front of Starbucks. Bonus: it’s right by PCC Natural Market (where kids get a free piece of fruit) so we grabbed some groceries on the way. Removing a kid from a seat and having to lock up two bikes is a bit more involved than grocery shopping on my own, but even so, bikes still make squeezing in extra errands so easy!

The kids have apparently been paying more attention than I realized and have become savvy bus riders because they suggested I check OneBusAway to make sure the bus was on time. So I checked and discovered it was running six minutes late. We had seven minutes to go a block and a half between buses so when we saw a bus 40 with DOWNTOWN on the display, I decided we’d hop on and figure out our stop once on board. This is way out of my comfort zone! I like plotting our trip the night before and hem and haw for way too long over various options. Thank goodness for smart phones–I spent most of the trip studying the 554 and 40 routes and chose the two stops that lined up best–close to each other, but not in the part of downtown where that close togetherness was down a very steep hill. But! Then I figured since we’d have quite a few extra minutes for our transfer we should do something more interesting than just riding one block of sidewalk. So we got off near the top of the 2nd Avenue protected bike lane and rode most of the way down it…a whopping half mile! It doesn’t connect to anything so I rarely take the kids on it which means it’s always a treat to have a kid or two on his own bike when we’re down here.

Turns out I was wrong about our timing (have I mentioned I’m not a pro at riding the bus?) because as soon as we got off the bikes, the 554 arrived. Usually I fold in my rear baskets and fold down the seat (like in my photo below of our trip back) but there wasn’t time! I even forgot to remove my water bottle, but that side-entry drink cage (the only one I could find that fits in the tiny triangle) held tight.

And then we were in Issaquah where the riding is great! It’s a flat mile from the bus stop to the orthodontist and Issaquah has a lot of double-wide sidewalks that are officially part of the Issaquah Trail System so we bike on those.

We usually eat lunch while we’re out this way, either sushi right next door to the orthodontist or Issaquah Brewhouse a block from the bus stop. Today we opted for the brewhouse. It’s a super kid-friendly place, with coloring sheet kid menus, a Duplo table (in the back section that’s usually closed during lunch, but they’ll let kids go play in it anyway) and several games (my guys always choose Battleship, and there are two sets of it). The kid meals used to come on Frisbees, but today they had regular plates. There’s also a dog menu (and that food comes on a Frisbee, too) so we’ll bring Pixie along come warmer weather when the outdoor seating is set up.

We left the bikes locked up and walked next door to the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, one of our favorite places to visit. Despite being one of our favorite places to visit, we’ve never strayed from the front part before and I had no idea there was a back section with a fish ladder and many educational displays! Plus there’s a little playground just across the street. Wow!

But even better than all that, we were invited into the mysterious white trailer we sometimes see parked by the salmon ponds. They were piping in coho fry (babies), clipping their adipose fins, and counting them as they put flushed them out into a different pond. We didn’t get to do any fin clipping, but the kids got to pet them, name them, and put them down the drain. Extremely fun! And we’ll be on the lookout for Banana and Slimy the coho when they swim back up here in four years.

Then we biked a couple blocks (on the sidewalk) to the playground by the train museum, close to the bus stop. The water fountains were shut off (for the season, back on soon?) so we popped in the police station for the restrooms and to fill water bottles before we headed home. There’s a great display of police patches from all around the area inside if you’re into that kind of thing.

And there’s a great statue of an eagle trying to catch a salmon right outside that my kids love climbing on (always) and cutting themselves on (occasionally) while waiting for the bus to arrive.

Coming home we usually get off the 554 at Westlake Park and on nice days like today, stop at the playground for a bit. New this time was a little basketball toss.

Then just one block of street (and a BUS ONLY lane which is also OK for bikes) and half a block of sidewalk and we caught the bus that drops us off a couple flat blocks from home.

This last stop, as well as PCC to the first bus stop and the Issaquah Depot Park playground to the third bus stop are close enough that my passenger could run ahead so I didn’t have to deal with all the various steps of loading–I wore the backpack rather than pry open a rear basket and in this last case, popped the seat open to accommodate the bag of stuffed animals.

So we made it there and back just fine and had one of our best Issaquah visits ever, but seriously: give me all your bike+bus route finding tips and tricks!

Bikes on the bus

A tweet and Instagram of a video my seven-year old took of me removing our bikes from the bus got more attention than I expected (especially from France, bonjour!) so I probably should put it up here, too:

* Yes, it takes longer to load than unload…but not much longer.
* Yes, all Seattle buses have racks for two or three bikes (as far as I know).

I’m no bus-on-the-bike pro since we usually only bus once a month to get to our orthodontist 20 miles away. Our trip to Tacoma with Three Bikes on Three Bus Systems last month was quite educational and makes our usual one- or two-bus trip to Issaquah feel easy in comparison.

How to
Before our very first bike/bus outing I watched the video on the King County Metro “Loading your bike” page a lot of times and used one of the practice racks.

About our racks
The rack in my video is the Sportworks Apex 3, the newest style here in Seattle. I discovered this by reading the comments of this Seattle Transit Blog post: Metro’s Xcelsiors hit the streets.

While I don’t know everything about bikes on buses, I have picked up a few tidbits…

* Just yesterday I learned from a lovely mostly-bike-and-bus-based piano tuner, Audrey Karabinus, that if the rack won’t fold down from the bus as expected, push it in towards the bus first. Worked like a charm on yesterday’s sticky rack!

* And from a friend who works for Sound Transit, the old DL3/Trilogy and DL2 racks can hold wheels as small as 20 inches and the Veloporter can hold wheels as small as 16 inches. I’d guess the new Apex also goes down to 16 inches.

I refer to the racks by the style of hook they have:
Apex = black plastic hook
DL3/Trilogy, DL2 = black metal hook
Veloporter = yellow claw

I like using the old black metal hooks best since they’re the easiest to deploy. Even the new ones can be sticky…a bus driver told me that when passengers don’t treat them gently they get like that.

Do you have any bike-on-bus insights? Please share them in the comments below!

To Tacoma with Three Bikes on Three Bus Systems

We had quite the adventure today, getting to the North 40 CX cyclocross race in Tacoma using our three bikes and three buses (and Pixie the dog in her dog packpack). I wouldn’t want to make a regular habit of this trip, but I’ll try anything once. My big takeaway was: there are lots of buses outside Seattle proper that only have two-slot bike racks. Uh oh.

I considered taking the old mamabike (my city bike with one kid seat) so I could carry one kid and just deal with two bikes on the rack in case someone else was traveling with a bike on the same bus (mistakenly assuming there would be three slots), but the kids both wanted to ride and that bike is heavy. It’s gotta be less than the 50 pounds it weighed when it sported front and rear kid seats, but it’s still a pain to heft up onto the rack. So I took my road bike, 25-ish pounds, with rear saddlebag full of snacks and front bag full of books and toys (and more snacks).

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We didn’t really need bikes for the trip, what with crossing the street for the first bus, then going two blocks to get to the second bus, crossing a street to reach the third bus stop, and then traveling a handful of blocks to reach the race…but I knew the kids would have a lot more fun with their bikes along at the race, whether or not they wanted to do the kiddie lap (they didn’t, bummer) and I wasn’t sure what that last handful of blocks would be like. And when the kids didn’t want to cross four-lane Pacific at the Parkland/Spanaway border at a mere crosswalk, our ride turned into a mile with detour to a stoplight. Plus the streets off Pacific didn’t have sidewalks so it was much nicer to be on bikes than on foot.

Nope. Not crossing here.

Nope. Not crossing here.

Our first bus was the 26 of the King County Metro system. As far as I know, all Metro buses have three-slot bike racks. I think they switched from two bikes to three bikes shortly after we moved to Seattle eight years ago. It was very quiet out and our bus ran early so while we waited to let the clock catch up the stop before our stop, I decided to hop off to double our downtown ride to four exciting blocks between bus stops.

Our second bus was the 594 of the Sound Transit system. We take its sister, the 554, to Issaquah once a month for orthodontist visits and that bus always has a three-slot bike rack so I assumed the 594 would, too. Ho ho ho, it did not. I peeked in and told the driver we had three bikes and asked if we could bring the littlest one on board? He thought for a second and mentioned the next 594 was also the same type as his (the tour-bus-looking kind) and would also have have just two slots (I asked if some 594s are different bus types and have three slots and he said yes) so he said we could come aboard. Phew! And he carried the littlest bike on board himself and stowed it vertically in the seat pair behind him.

Our third bus was the 1 of the Pierce Transit system. A new bus system for us! I figured the video on the website showing a two-slot bike rack might be an old bus so I Google image searched and thought the pictures I saw looked like three-slot bike racks and we’d be OK. Wrong again! All the Pierce Transit buses we saw had two-slot racks. But those racks had the old, easy-to-use metal hook arms. I know they aren’t as sturdy as the new yellow claws or the even newer black claws, but they are so much easier to use! The driver was unfazed by our extra bike and let me carry it onboard. And then let another guy carry his bike on board, too.

And 2.5 hours later we were there!

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It wasn’t raining when we left home and the Seattle forecast looked dry so I under-dressed us for the Tacoma rain that kicked in a bit after we arrived. The kids still had fun and we hung in our Recycled Cycles Racing tent by the fire, with great view of the barriers, until it was my turn to work one of the course crossings. The kids tooled around on their bikes while the rain steadily increased…which I may not have really noticed were it not for the announcers repeatedly pointing it out. The kids had rain jackets and thin gloves, but no boots or rain pants. I had a wool sweater and cycling cap. Pixie was wrapped in a baby blanket in her backpack with her head poked out the side window.

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After an hour of that, we headed for the 1:44pm Pierce Transit 1 back to Tacoma. I had contemplated leaving my own bike in the team van so we’d only have two bikes to deal with, but I didn’t want to run after the kids to get to that first bus stop. Also, a teammate offered to drive us home if we left all three bikes in the team van, but we’d have to wait until after he cleaned up the course. Naturally, one kid wanted to do that and one kid didn’t. So I decided we’d try our luck with three bikes, hoping the 594s in the afternoon would be of the three-slot bike rack variety. And we were off to a good start: the 1 driver was cool about me bringing the littlest bike on board again.

The 594, not so much. A bus with a two-slot bike rack pulled up at our stop and I asked about the bike and was given a firm no. Considering how knowledgeable the southbound 594 driver had been about bus types, I asked if the next bus would have three spots and how soon it came and he said he didn’t no the type, but it’d be half an hour. He said he’d call someone (shift supervisor, I think he said?) to come down and talk to me. Wow, really? No one appeared to talk to me and I couldn’t tell from the next 594 driver’s poker face if he’d been warned about us, but he said we could bring the bike on board and put it in the mid-bus wheelchair spot. By the way, we watched a wheelchair load on a Sound Transit bus in the morning, drawing our attention to the mid-bus ramp and it’s really cool!

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Back in Seattle we could have biked all the way home. Of course one kid wanted to bike and one kid didn’t. I was partial to not biking uphill in the rain for close to an hour at kid speed so we biked two blocks to catch the 26 that takes us a two flat blocks from our house. And we got lucky–the 26 was running late so we only had to wait two minutes rather than 28 minutes for the one I thought we’d have to catch. And it had three empty bike spots for us on the rack.

And 3.25 hours later we were home!

Yeah, that’s a lot of time spent in transit on transit. But I should point out that the venue, Marymount Event Center/LeMay Family Collection, is hella far from home–50 miles away. Google maps says it would take an hour to drive there with no traffic so this was definitely longer than that (even with the rain, I don’t think there was traffic). I’d guess all three buses run more often on weekdays and the connections would have been quicker…but I’m too lazy to check. But mostly, it was a fun way to spend the day. We didn’t end up reading all together, though one kid read to himself for one bus. I also forgot about the toys they’d packed and they never asked for them. But we had a wonderful view, especially from our lofty tour bus seats on the 594. And after all this, only having to get to the Washington State Historical Society (where we transfered from the 594 to the 1) for Trainfest seems like a breeze! But we’ll do that without bikes.

Bike camping in Iron Horse State Park, take two

Funny story, while busy biking around Mount Rainier I missed a chance to respond to an email about being outdoorsy and car-free. Fortunately I still got mentioned in the Seattle Weekly article Do Urbanists Have a Wilderness Problem?: Density foes argue the whole point of being in Seattle is the ability to get out of it…with a car.

There are the bike enthusiasts, such as Seattle Bike Blog creator and anti-car urbanist Tom Fucoloro or family bike expert Madi Carlson, both Seattle residents who frequently journey to the forested outlands by bike alone (and in Carlson’s case, with two kids in tow).

The article posted sandwiched between two bike camping trips on the John Wayne Pioneer Trail. Neither trip was with the kids, but I did have Pixie along both times and that’s almost the same…though 100 pounds lighter.

With the one stint of bike camping in Iron Horse State Park under my belt, which was extremely fun despite taking a route out of Seattle that was less than ideal, I was ready to try again. This time my friend Velotron came along and we made it a three-day/two-night trip to make it even bigger and better than last time.

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Pictures: Iron Horse Trail with Velotron – Labor Day Weekend, 2016 (268 photos)

Routes:

  • Day 1: 66.4 mi, 6:58:35 moving time, 9:36:55 elapsed time, 9.5 mph avg, 37.8 mph max,
    4,426 ft elevation gain
  • Day 2: 54.8 mi, 4:40:12 moving time, 7:17:06 elapsed time, 11.7 mph avg, 23.0 mph max,
    1,853 ft elevation gain
  • Day 3: 63.0 mi, 5:28:50 moving time, 8:04:46 elapsed time, 11.5 mph avg, 32.9 mph max, 2,487 ft elevation gain

I still didn’t take the perfect route between Seattle and North Bend, but it was much better than last time and I’m sure with a bit of preparation I could figure out the perfect route for my “Third time’s the charm” attempt.

I had hoped to completely avoid the road-kill-strewn 202, but my chosen route followed it for a short bit. I chose a route by searching Ride with GPS for keywords “seattle iron horse trail” and ended up choosing this one: Seattle to Keechelus Lake. There were several options, some even without any 202, but many were there-and-back routes and I thought that would be more confusing to follow. I don’t find Ride with GPS the easiest way to navigate (the Google Maps app with upcoming turn warnings is my favorite), but it’s still a great resource.

Just to keep things interesting, we ignored the map 31 miles in, shortly after the Preston-Snoqualmie Trail spit us out onto Preston Fall City Road. We’d spent a lot of the trip on trails — I-90 Trail, Pickering Multi-use Trail, Issaquah-Preston Trail, and Issaquah-High Point Trail — so when Preston Fall City Road headed uphill and we noticed the Preston-Snoqualmie Trail picking back up on our right, we thought it’d be fun to get adventurous and hop on the trail. And if coming face-to-face with a series of steep switchbacks to walk is adventurous, then we were in luck!

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Once we got up the switchbacks the trail was great! After a while we saw a sign that warned the trail ended ahead. Velotron worried that meant we wouldn’t be able to get through, but I was optimistic that it meant we’d have to get back on a road. Before we got all the way to that dead end (which has a great vista point and is worth a trip if you’re not on your way somewhere–see Biking Bis: The surprise on the Preston-Snoqualmie bike trail) we looked more closely at the map and realized the dead end was really a dead end and we turned back…but not all the way back, just to the previous cross street, Lake Alice Road. So we skipped some of busy Preston Fall City Road and I got that great switchback photo. And we met some nice bike tourers on the switchbacks, too, whom we saw the following day on the Iron Horse Trail. I have a feeling they intentionally took the trail and knew to turn off at Lake Alice Road.

Lake Alice Road connected us up with the 202–but for much less of the 202 than I experienced on my first trip out. Unfortunately, I’d stopped paying attention to my pinned Ride with GPS route so I didn’t realize we could have turned off the 202 after a mile and accessed the Snoqualmie Valley Trail (!!) but we turned off even earlier to take Fish Hatchery Road. Remember, this is the road I avoided last time based on a friend’s advice. Fortunately for us, we met a guy on a road bike who guided us away from a wrong turn suggested by my Google Maps app. He also told us about Strava Routes for future route help. It was nice to avoid part of the 202 and still go by Snoqualmie Falls.

The rest of the way to North Bend was the same as I took before, but we stopped in town for groceries, at what must be the most beautiful QFC in the world, tucked in the shadow of Mount Si.

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We also hit a bike shop for Velotron to pick up a spare rear tire in case his old one didn’t survive the gravel trail (but it did!) and Pixie and I met a biking family with an adorable toddler who were planning to move to the area.

We ate our grocery-store-bought lunch at the Northwest Railway Museum somewhere I’ve only previously been by car so of course it was SO EXCITING TO BE THERE BY BIKE!

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Soon we were back on the Snoqualmie Valley Trail, which was so much better than the busy road I took last time, but starting the slight uphill gravel this early was a bit tiring. It was incredibly fun heading back down two days later, though!

Our plan was to bike to Roaring Creek Campground at milepost 2109, the eastern-most campground in Iron Horse State Park, but it was getting late and would be dark by then and we were tired so we decided to stop at Carter Creek Campground at milepost 2123 and save the Snoqualmie Tunnel for the morning.

Carter Creek Campground was great! There were several other bike campers there, but it’s divided into three sections so we had our own picnic table and three tent squares. I think Carter Creek and Cold Creek (milepost 2113, where I camped last time) are my two favorite campgrounds in Iron Horse State Park. The creeks are right there for easy water collection and they’re pretty. Alice Creek Campground (milepost 2127, the closest to farthest west) is very exposed and the creek is on the other side of the trail. We checked out Roaring Creek Campground the next day and didn’t explore enough to find the creek, but it wasn’t right by the campsites. It was pretty, though.

Alice Creek Campground

Alice Creek Campground

Carter Creek Campground

Carter Creek Campground

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Carter Creek Campground

Roaring Creek Campground

Roaring Creek Campground

Day two was supposed to be a day trip without gear from Roaring Creek Campground to Cle Elem for award-winning BBQ at Smokey’s Bar-B-Que, but after much consideration (Should we pack up and then ditch the camping gear at Roaring Creek before going to Cle Elum? Should we leave the tent at Carter Creek and go to Cle Elum and back? Should we pack up and carry everything to Cle Elum and decide where to camp in the evening? Should we ditch the gear at Roaring Creek and just go to Easton? Should we leave the tent at Carter Creek and just go to Easton?) We eventually opted for what we figured was the most reasonable choice and left our tent at Carter Creek so we’d have a smaller day three and see how far we could make it to lunch–Cle Elum if we felt ambitious or just Easton if we wanted to take it easy.

We were right to hit the tunnel Sunday morning rather than Saturday evening. It was packed! We saw at least 70 people in there (and three other dogs), more people were on bikes than walking, but there were plenty of both. This was Velotron’s first time in the tunnel and I think he may have been a bit disappointed that we couldn’t find a spot dark enough to turn off our lights and appreciate the total dark. But I thought it was fun and festive.

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We ended up stopping in Easton for a 55-mile day rather than an 80-mile day. Mountain High Hamburgers was perfect. Over 40 flavors of milkshakes and each hamburger named for a pacific northwest mountain. The bathroom was full of framed photos of Mount St Helens erupting and several outdoor picnic tables meant it was easy to eat with Pixie.

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Had we made it to Cle Elum we would have bought dinner supplies at a big grocery store, but in Easton we had only the gas station RV Lounge. That worked well enough, plus we got some of Leo’s THE BEST SMOKED SALMON for breakfast.

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As we headed along Lake Easton Road between the trail and Mountain High Hamburgers, we noticed what we thought was the trail through the trees. So on the way back we found a little path through the trees and found a short cut to…not the Iron Horse Trail. But it was a great little low-traffic road Google Maps called Old US Hwy 10/Iron Horse Trail.

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I got a little worried when I saw a DEAD END sign considering day one’s Preston-Snoqualmie bike trail whoopsie, but this was the good kind of DEAD END that featured a gate closing the road to cars, but not bikes.

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And then we saw signs for the John Wayne Pioneer Trail ahead and transferred to a great trail (also called Iron Horse Trail by Google Maps) that connected us back up to our trail. I really liked this little detour because it meant we biked along the south side of Lake Easton on the way to lunch and along the north and west sides of the lake on the way back. And we saw a lot of families with bikes past the DEAD END gate, presumably parked at Easton Lake Beach.

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And then Brad (Brad of my Mount Rainier trip) found us on our way back! Oh, I should mention that I know Velotron because he also has a cargo bike (an Xtracycle EdgeRunner named the 7XL). I checked with him the night before our trip to make sure he really wanted to bring small bikes rather than longtails. Brad was also on a small bike instead of his Surly Big Dummy. He’d driven with a friend to North Bend and biked up through the tunnel as a day trip.

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Upon arriving back at our campsite we met family bikers! They had parked at Hyak (just east of the tunnel) with their bikes in their van and biked the eight miles downhill to Carter Creek. The mom was on a regular bike, the dad was on a Bullitt longjohn carrying the littler kid and the gear, and the older kid was on a 14- or 16-inch Islabikes (same brand my kids have). They were hoping the biking kid could make it the whole way on her own wheels because they hadn’t saved room for her and her bike in the Bullitt box. We made it a bit past Carter Creek on our Iron Horse Trail trip with Brad two years ago and I remember the uphill ride taking FOREVER.

The ride back was fun! Slight uphill gravel is OK, but slight downhill gravel is AWESOME. We mostly followed our Saturday route in reverse. I belatedly noted the turn off for getting to the Snoqualmie Valley Trail and and avoiding the 202, but it was steep so we stuck to the 202, knowing it’d be better on a holiday Monday than on a real weekday. And this time we stopped at the Snoqualmie Falls.

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We stopped for lunch in Issaquah and made it home before it started raining. Hooray! I think that’s it for camping for me for the year, but the kids just expressed interest in bike camping again so we might try to squeeze in one more trip on a nice weekend with no other plans.

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Monthly multimodal orthodontist trip

Nothing too special this Monday, just our usual monthly check-in at the orthodontist (20 miles away in Issaquah) to which we generally take bikes and bus. But just to make it extra difficult this time, we brought Pixie the dog along, so I may as well record it here for posterity. For busing we use the Old Mamabike, a Bianchi Milano city bike with Bobike Junior kid seat (blog post with lots of photos here, and most of our multimodal trips to the dentist/orthodontist can be found here). The Old Mamabike doesn’t have a front basket for Pixie to ride in (and if I ever did put something on the front, it would be very small so it could still fit on the bus rack) so Pixie rode in the Timbuk2 Muttmover backpack. Dogs are allowed on Seattle buses, by the way. Dogs are not allowed inside the orthodontist so we took turns hanging outside with her.

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Our 10am bus had the new Sportworks Apex 3 transit bike rack! So much easier to use than the yellow claws.

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And the bus was super crowded so we were stuck standing at the front and had a nice view of it in action:

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Having the bikes along isn’t critical on the Seattle side of things–we ride half a mile to the first bus and then a block between buses…but it is pretty fun to bike downtown with kids!

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Once in Issaquah we ride a mile and a half to get to the orthodontist and then around to a variety of places in town. Today we used our bikes to visit Bicycle Center of Issaquah. Sadly, Dillon the dog wasn’t at work today so Pixie didn’t get to meet him, but they aired up my incredibly low tires (oops) and the kids fought over–I mean played with–the stationary kid bikes.

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And we all pretended to mount the penny farthing. I haven’t worked on Pixie sticking her head (and just her head, not also half her torso) out the side window of the Muttmover yet so you’ll have to take my word that she’s chilling in the backpack.

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Then we pushed along to the Issaquah Brewhouse because they have a DOG MENU!!! Pixie ordered bacon and treats made from used hops. Other items on the doggie menu were peanut butter and jelly sandwich and cheeseburger. I assume those are the same as the human versions, but I didn’t ask. Her meal came on a frisbee, just like the kid meals.

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This trip was also different from those previous because I had my six-year old ride the separate bike and carried my nine-year old. I probably won’t do that again. The little guy did fine on the way there, and was happy to ride the five miles home from Belltown, but things got a little messy at the end.

We always take two buses on the way there and are 50/50 on taking two buses on the way home. It seems more worth it to have had the bikes along if we use them (duh), but it takes longer to ride the whole way home from the end of the 554 line. But it costs more and I have to lift the bikes on and off the bike rack an extra time. Hooray for having options, I guess!

We started on the sidewalks (legal in Seattle), but moved to the street once I deemed it safe enough. Part of that was in a door zone bike lane and I grimaced as my little wild child bunny hopped and skidded repeatedly behind me (thump…screech…thump…screech). I’m happy he has so much fun on his bike, but I instituted a new rule: NO BUNNY HOPPING OR SKIDDING IN DOOR ZONE BIKE LANES. I later added NO BUNNY HOPPING UPHILL as he swerved slightly while hopping his way ahead of me. The guy on the bike he swerved near laughed loudly at my hollering so I’m not sure that lesson stuck.

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Once on the Burke-Gilman Trail, my small racer zoomed ahead to hang with the faster commuters, generously waiting for me to catch up at intersections. And there was the obligatory blackberry-picking stop because now that it’s blackberry season, all trips take an extra half hour.

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All was good until that last hill when he decided he’d rather walk his bike than downshift (whereas my nine-year old still doesn’t seem to have the knack of shifting gears, my six-year old figured it out in five minutes, but thinks it’s better to mash uphill in gear seven rather than slowly–“Too slow!” glide up in first) and then he fell over and refused to move. I unloaded his big brother and was able to lure both kids into walking uphill by oohing and aahing at the sight of our school playground’s preliminary construction as I took turns getting both bikes up the hill.

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We have a bonus orthodontist visit in two weeks, but scheduled in the afternoon after bike camp, so it will be a different, even tired-er trip. Sure to be another adventure!

Biking in Eugene, Oregon

I just spent a wonderful weekend in the amazingly bike-friendly Eugene, Oregon. I took the train–Amtrak Cascades allows roll-on bike service for $5 (reserve ahead of time to guarantee a bike spot). The trip is six and a half hours and is often early (my train was 20 minutes early, even with some fire alarm business and the forced detraining of a bathroom cigarette smoker in the middle of nowhere–Amtrak doesn’t mess around!). One can also take BoltBus between Seattle and Eugene, but I think it might be seasonal…I can see bookable trips in February when I click around now, but I wasn’t able to find trips back when I was booking this visit. We’ve taken the cargo bike on BoltBus to Portland, but it’s an as-space-allows thing when it comes to bikes so I prefer Amtrak and the guaranteed bike spot (though cargo bikes aren’t allowed).

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Saturday morning I kicked off the day with an Urban Cycling book reading at Arriving By Bike™, a terrific and super-friendly family-owned bike shop. It was a good-sized crowd, especially for 9am on a Saturday. I should have taken a photo from the front, but I was a little busy talking about how much I love biking so check out these snaps by Kent Peterson:

After the reading, Shane MacRhodes, creator of Kidical Mass, led a group bike ride. I cannot tell you how exciting it was for me to be in the birth city of Kidical Mass! Not to mention seeing several friends who live down here, including the aforementioned Kent Peterson who recently moved down from Issaquah, and my friend Victor who just moved down from my neighborhood. They both seem to have found heaven on earth in Eugene.

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I met Shane in Seattle when he taught my League Cycling Instructor class, but I hadn’t seen his striking Bike Friday Haul-a-Day cargo bike in person before now.

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And since his trailer bike is a Burley Piccolo like mine, I was able to borrow it and one of his kids! (Kid was more stoked than photo lets on.)

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There was quite a bit of kid shuffling and at one point, they were all three on separate bikes. So fun!

Photo by Sally Hunt

Photo by Sally Hunt

The amazing weather made our trip along roads and trails, across the river and back, all the more enjoyable. Just look at that sun!

Photo by Sally Hunt

Photo by Sally Hunt

Murals

Seattleite Neil Hodges paid a bike visit to Eugene a week ahead of mine and I was inspired his photos to check out some of the same places and same murals. Kent Peterson shared The Murals of Eugene on Twitter so I got a nice preview.

I got the idea to take note of murals after the Kidical Mass group ride when I rode with Sally Hunt to Bike Friday and decided we should recreate Neil’s photo.

Photo by Sally Hunt

Photo by Ron Hunt

Much of their showroom fleet was over at the fairgrounds for the Eugene Home Show, but there was still plenty to see and the first question as we entered was, “Are you here to test ride?”

By the way, many of my friends in Eugene have Bike Fridays. I love the hometown pride!

Sunday I went back by Arriving By Bike™ to sign the remaining books and my friend Maritess, also down from Seattle, humored me with a photo by ABB’s mural. See, too, ABB from the outside:

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Another mural at Sundance Natural Foods, Victor’s favorite grocery store:

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And two on the way to the train station, a block after the Ninkasi Brewery on the left, and at Morning Glory Cafe across the street from the train station (with awesome bike rack I want to climb!) on the right:

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Had Sunday not been so drizzly, there would have been even more mural stops.

Bicycle Infrastructure

Saturday’s group ride took two of the five (I think) walking-and-biking-only bridges across the Willamette River. The trails (a.k.a. multi-use paths) and car-free bridges are awesome.

Then on Sunday Maritess on her folding Brompton and I on my non-folding Surly Straggler biked around with Eugenians Jolene and Victor on their folding Bike Fridays.

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Near University of Oregon we used the two-way cycletrack and I hear there are more to come:

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I also quite liked this covered cut-through:

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The City of Eugene has a Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan and a Pedestrian & Bicycle Strategic Plan Update, but also some pushback from a couple businesses on much needed bike lanes. I’m not sure I’ll see any new developments come May, but Eugene is currently pretty great to bike around.

Wildlife

My photos aren’t worth sharing and I didn’t see any of the promised deer, but on Saturday I saw a nutria with Sally! I found this very exciting because I didn’t know they lived out here–I’ve only seen then in New Orleans (where they’re called jokingly “cajun chicken”).

The nutria sighting was right in town alongside a bike trail by a small river, but uphill towards Victor’s house we saw wild turkeys! And stopped a car to let them cross the street. I hear there’s a cougar in his neighborhood, but we didn’t see it.

Riding home through Amazon Park Saturday night I heard what I thought were crickets from far away, and then assumed was a burglar alarm as I got closer. Turns out it was bullfrogs! I don’t know if they were extra loud for the full moon, but they were deafening.

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Next time!

I cannot wait to come back to Eugene. A weekend is not enough time to do it all.

I’ll be back on Friday May 20th to be part of the University of Oregon LiveMove presentation series. And hang around for Bike Month activities through the weekend. I missed out on seeing the Center for Appropriate Transport so that’s at the top of my list of things to do.

And once school lets out, the kids and I will come down for a longer visit. We’ll probably travel by train without a bike and rent a cargo bike upon arrival, but perhaps we’ll take the Big Dummy on BoltBus or three separate bikes on the train…but I think we’re still a couple years away from them being in charge of all their own pedaling–I worry about the trip to and from the Seattle train station as well as an entire weekend in an unfamiliar city.