The First Ride From Mountlake Terrace
Dad had been riding his bike from West Seattle to his job in SEATAC. When he changed jobs and started commuting to Mountlake Terrace, north of downtown, he decided to try to continue his carbon-conscious ways. He studied the bus schedules to see what it would take to get him to Mountlake Terrace in the morning. Then he poured over bicycle trails to find the safest route home in the evening. Finally, he had his plans laid for both directions of travel. The busses seemed to be the most confusing part of the plan. They are so much more complicated than trains. Trains can only follow tracks, but busses can go anywhere, making it difficult to ever be sure where one will end up on a bus. Also, train fares are simple, one pays for a ticket, and rides the light rail to where it is going. Not so for busses. There are region fees, and transfer fees, so the net fare can be almost anything. And the hapless rider is expected to have the exact change necessary to cover any possibility. So Dad decided to confer with Kimi on the subject. They agreed that two busses in the morning was probably a bit more than suburban Dad was ready for. Afterall, with so many places for random events to intercede, there was not telling where Dad would end up!
So the plan was made for Dad to carpool into downtown with Kimi and Mom-mom. The ladies would leave extra early that morning so Dad would could make the early bus. Kimi, the urbanite that she is, would even escort Dad to within visual distance of the bus stop.
The next morning, the plan worked flawlessly. Dad put the bike on the back of the mini, and Dad, Kimi, and Mom-mom all drove into downtown. After Mom-mom parked the car, Kimi and Dad walked over to the bus stop. Dad laughed. “See”, he chuckled. “Things really do go full circle. When you were little I walked you to the bus stop, and saw you off to school in the morning. Now you get to walk Dad to the bus stop and see him off to work in the morning.” Kimi laughed with Dad.
After a short wait, Dad fastened the bike on the front of the bus. Then he managed to pay the correct fare through the miracle of the ORCA card. And finally, Dad arrived at the Mountlake Terrace stop and found his way to the office. Overall, the trip was a resounding success.
At the end of the day, Dad printed out a map and list of instructions on how to get back to West Seattle from Mountlake Terrace. With a bottle of Gatorade, and his instructions in his backpack, Dad donned his spandex, and mounted his bike to begin his journey home.
Right off the bat he raced down a huge hill. He was riding the brakes all the way down watching the traffic light at the bottom. “Why do they always put traffic lights or stop signs at the bottom of hills”, me mumbled to himself as he raced downward with the brakes grabbing at the rims. He pitch-poled to a stop at the bottom of the hill and waited for the light to change.
Just after the light, he hopped onto the Interurban Trail. He maneuvered along on that trail, until he made a wrong turn and ended up stopped on a sidewalk reading the map.
“Lost”, the young man asked?
Dad looked up from the map. “Yes”, he admitted. “This is the first time for me on this route.”
“Can I see where you are going?” Dad handed him the map.
“Oh, I can get you to Freemont and 83rd.”
“Thanks”, said Dad gratefully.
“By the way, what year is your bike”, the young man asked.
“It’s a 1974 Schwinn LeTour, and I’m the original owner.”
“Cool”, said the young man. “I have a 1983 LeTour at home. I love running errands on it.”
They rode together until they reached Freemont and 83rd. Dad thanked the young man for his assistance, and then they parted company.
Continued on fearlessly. Aside from an occasional misstep here and there, he did really well until he came to the 15th Street bridge. He had a bit of trouble navigating the complex traffic patterns on the approach to the bridge, and the sidewalks on the bridge were really narrow and more than a little intimidating. However, the view of Salmon Bay from the top of the bridge was inspiring.
He cruised down the other side of the bridge and after a few turns, promptly got completely lost in the Elliot Bay Marina.
Dad tried several different directions to get back on track, but none of them took him where he wanted to go. When he finally did make it out of the marina, he ended up in the BNSF rail yard.
The worst part of the rial yard was that he could see where he wanted to go, he just couldn’t get there. At one point he even found himself on the Magnolia Bridge, looking straight down at the trail he wanted to take, but there was no way to get off the bridge and down to that trail. One positive was that Dad got some nice photos of the shoreline and Mount Rainier that he would never have taken if not for the road mistaken. Dad must have spent a good half hour going back and forth over the BNSF rail yard in search of a way onto the trail, when just by luck, someone popped out onto the road from a trail behind some trees. That was the trail he was looking for! The trees had hidden the trail from Dad’s sight.
In a flash he was moving again. He zipped through Olympic Sculpture Park, and onto Alaskan Way. Downtown proved to be a nightmare for a country-boy like Dad. There were cars all racing together on the road. Trucks were squeezing pedestrians and cyclists alike up against the construction barriers. Busses roared by trying to keep schedule with the madness. Construction barriers were everywhere, spinning traffic into impossible tangles. Fumes and dust were heavy in the air, and the raucous sound of all the motors echoed endlessly beneath the cap of the aging Viaduct, which also served to block the beautiful sunlight from reaching the road leaving a dusty gloom to cover scene. It was like some Mad Max scene with a few bicyclists and tourists thrown in for color!
Dad tucked in behind a more seasoned cyclist and followed him through the chaos, till they reached King St, and the Elliot Bay trail. Once on the trail, Dad was finally able to relax. He let his shoulders unwind a bit, and started to breathe again. By the time he was on the approach to the West Seattle bridge, he was feeling so good, he raced up to a giant buckled slab of sidewalk and using it as a ramp, jumped his bicycle into the air a’la Evel Knievel. As Dad bounced to a successful landing on the sidewalk, he realized that jumping his 40-year old ten-speed was probably a bad plan; so many things could have gone wrong, flat tires, broken bones, etc. Or even worse, he could end up walking a broken bike all the way home along the sidewalk while wearing spandex shorts and a goofy looking helmet. But he also decided it was a lot of fun anyways.
He navigated his way through the rest of the 25 mile trip uneventfully to the house in Arbor Heights. After a quick walk to the park with the dogs, Dad sat back and relaxed after a hard days work.
Don’t forget to take your bike off of the front of the bus when you arrive at work.
I’m typically more worried the driver will leave without me having a chance to unload the bike. So I always go up front and let them know I have to get the bike off.