Ted is not 100% human

The Seattle PI recently wrote about the disappearance of “A day in the life of” blog from someone named “Ted” on my employer’s recruiting site. Among the more interesting revelations was a quote from an unnamed sources that the tone of Ted’s writing was
“not 100% human.” To assist with the investigation, I’ll answer some questions based on my special knowledge …
Continue reading Ted is not 100% human

STP

Been pretty busy at work this week. Three weeks until RSVP.
Stephen R. Husak posted a personal account on the Seattle to Portland ride. (EOM)
Continue reading STP

The big bike commute – part 2

In Part 1 we went from my house to Factoria Mall. Now we’ll finish the trip… and … go… all… the… way…

Maps
Factoria to Enatai (City of Bellevue Map) Bellevue to Mercer (King County Map) Mercer Island to Seattle (King County Map)

After crossing the very busy intersection of the I-90 Exit 10A offramp/S.E.
36th Street and Richards Road, we are confronted with this cryptic sign. It
seems to be here for people who, absentmindedly, fail to turn either right
or left and approach hoards of oncoming traffic barreling off of Interstate
90.
This road snakes among the confluence of Interstates 90 and 405. The
sound from the river of traffic flowing above and around us is amazing
and loud.
Soon, we’re in the Mercer Slough, a wetland area set aside as a walking/biking
trail. The road’s pretty rough in spots, but the views are pretty nifty.
On a moderately warm day, you definitely need to wear sunglasses lest you
get a face-ful of bugs.
After Mercer Slough is Enatai Beach park. About .1 miles away is a little
information kiosk with maps of the trail and the nearby park. The little
blue signs (left) are helpful but difficult to read when you’re
moving. One side shows us that downtown Bellevue’s only 2 1/2 miles away,
the other side shows 0.4 miles to Mercer Island.
Behold! The trail entrance to Mercer Island.Water to our right
The Mercer Island section is a series of trails cut by roads. Traffic’s
not that bad, however. If we continued straight, we’d do a few steep up
and downs on mixed-use trails. Since we’re trying to beat our previous
time of 1:25, we’re going to veer off and use the faster roads.
I’m not sure, but I think the construction flagger person lurks behind
the sign, waiting for a cyclist to come by. About 50% of the time over
the last month it seems like they’ll stop me to let some truck out. The
road isn’t that busy, so I’m not sure why they couldn’t wait a
few seconds. I take this in good stride, though.
The surface streets are actually boring, so I won’t show you them. But
here’s an example of random art along the trip. If this were Los Angeles,
the horse would have been tagged within 20 minutes of being put here. In
NYC, he’d be stolen. Thank God I live here instead…

Okay, I sort of lied. You can bypass several of the hills
by taking a sawtooth pattern (see the third map, on the northern part of
Mercer Island,
the path is shown as a red line. The sawtooth are the green lines above
this.) We took the “first” tooth, and enjoyed a quick burst of speed. Now
we’re on the “second,” where we’ll climb up to the little rest area. In
the afternoon, I’d bypass this because the field is usually replete with
kids and soccer moms, several of whom like to plop down on the bike trial.
They always seem surprised when someone tries going by them on a bike.
At the top of the hill, past the bathrooms and tennis courts, are these
weird structures. They’re not supposed to be art… I think. Anyway, we
have one more street to cross then we can get back onto the I-90 trail.
And here we are! The buckling effect on the right photo is caused by
my Clie having a really crappy camera.
We’re now nearing the I-90 bike tunnel. Look between the phone
and Speed Limit signs, and you’ll see the second car tunnel (there’s one
below, too). Look up just above the hedge and you can see the entrance.
We have a short hill to climb to get to this…
The view east (left) is pretty spectacular. But alas, we can’t dawdle
too much because we have an 8:30 meeting with the folks who can’t seem
to get a stable test environment for our projects… Let’s check out the
tunnel, shall we?
It’s lit (though not blindingly so), and usually cooler than the outside.
Along the walls are various murals that add a nice touch. Unfortunately,
the other side is where a lot of teenagers congregate and some of them
like to apply their additional unsolicited markings on this.
Emerging from the tunnel, we see the Philosophical
Promenade
.
We cross 23rd Ave through Sam Smith Park then Martin Luther King, Jr,
Blvd. This is a T-intersection with no indication which way to continue.
I go left and resume the trail, which begins with a rapid descent…
The trail hugs the feeder for I-90 in the opposite direction. You can
see my office in this picture 🙂
Taejon park, named after Seattle’s Sister City in Korea, is squeezed
in between the trail and the overlook of the freeway.
Here’s Equality,
by Ken Ledback and Rolon Garner
Nearing the stretch, we have a lovely view into downtown Seattle. The
trail ends at the 12th Street/Judkins/Golf/Charles interesection. In the
distance, you can see Seahawk Stadium.

When I started commuting last November, my average commute time was about
2:17 (two hours and seventeen minutes), which is, frankly, not good. I’ve
gotten it down to a more reasonable 1:25 and hope to work it down even further.
If I can get it to about an hour, then it’s within a reasonable amount of
the time it takes me to drive. THis, of course, depends on my ability to bike during the winter months when the days are very short

Stay tuned!

The big bike commute – part 1

Claire Petersky has really been a great influence on my commute, both in figuring out the route, as well as making it kind of fun to document. These photos were taken over three sessions because my Clie’s battery doesn’t hold out that long. Thus, you’ll see cloudy, rainy, sunny all alternating. Do Not Panic.

Maps
Home to Lake Sammamish Lk Sammamish to Eastgate Eastgate to Factoria

This is my bike, a humble 10+ year old Trek. It’s served me many miles, but I’m going to replace it at the end of the year with a new bike. I’ll still keep it for a “dirty commute” or perhaps my spouse will take an interest in cycling.
The commute is full of hills, the first of which is my
driveway
.
My neighborhood has fairly
wide streets
, which is nice because I hate weaving around cars as much as
I dislike riding on the sidewalk.
We have a brisk downhill. If I’m not fully awake by now, the cold wind
rushing by will certainly do the trick. The grade is about 12%, and I easily
hit the mid 30s going down. .
The next road is rather busy. This section has a lovely shoulder that,
unfortunately disappears. I live on a plateau, and the worst part of my
commute is getting up and down.
The main roadway has been realigned, leaving a lot of cones, uneven
shoulders
, pools
of water
, dangerous
obstacles
,
and sections
that
lead nowhere
.
Following this is a rather steep downhill and about two and a half miles
in busy traffic. Sorry, no pictures.
But at the end of this, we parallel Lake Sammamish State
Park, which has a large chunk of prime condo real estate allocated for
wetland. It’s
very pretty. However, snapping us out of our reverie is the other side
of the street, paralleling Interstate 90. (And check out those
condos just across the freeway
!)
Past
the park, we’ll continue up a long but
shallow
climb
that steepens at the top.
A short descent leads us to one of four traffic circles in the area.
I’m still not sure how to best approach this, other than trying to act
like a car and take
up the full lane. This does not fool
the school bus
, who proceeds to cut me off anyway.
Now comes the tricky part. I have to find the bike trail
connecting this to eastgate. Oh sure, now I know where it is and do this
subconsciously,
but until I knew where to look, it’s really hard to find. (Thanks to Claire
Petersky cpetersky
at yahoo.com). Hint #1: It’s behind the school.
Getting
colder: .Getting
warmer: .
Warmer… .
Hot…
Ah!
The
connector is pretty cool because it saves me from having to take some really
nasty roads (hilly, busy traffic, no shoulder) to do
the same thing. The climb’s are about 7%. .
The first time I took the trail, I was going the opposite direction —
downhill — at night, before coming to one of these switchbacks.
I am so glad that I had my light on!
After spiraling up, we’re running parallel to I-90 again. Note the closeness
of the highway traffic. . In a few minutes we will be entering
Bellevue
. Too bad I don’t have a radio (not).
This is the exit of the connector. Note that this side is almost as
hard to find as the original point. Oh sure, you’d
think you couldn’t miss this, but it’s a hidden driveway that, unless
you’re standing right in front of it
.
Our next challenge is The
Scary Tunnel
. It’s “scary” because it’s mostly unlit, and, as you
can see in the photo, the “shoulder” is about a foot wide. .
What you don’t see is the shoulder has rain grates in it, thus you don’t
want to ride to the right of the white line. . The good news
is there
is light
at the end of the tunnel
We wind past a shopping center and patiently wait at the traffic light.
We’re on the other side of the freeway, but looking down at it. Following
this is another lovely downhill, which I won’t take pictures on so I can
enjoy the hill.
Following this is another lovely downhill, which I won’t take
pictures on so I can enjoy the hill.
This is the last, busy traffic area we have to contend with. We’re near
Factoria Mall, perhaps the most chaotic area after the plateau. Traffic
exiting I-90 doesn’t typically look for the cyclists trying to cross the
road and join the trail just ahead of us.

(Please go to part two…)

Tour de Blast

When I was working the rides booth at the Seattle Bike Expo, I was looking for an event that would be physically demanding but fun. Initially, RAMROD seemed like a great option, however that sold out. Tour de Blast sounded intriguing because it was an out and back on roads leading to Mt. St. Helens. The folks who went on it consistently glowing comments, so I signed up.

Today was ride day…

Next year when I do this ride, I’m going to spring for a nearby hotel. The drive in took nearly three hours, including two potty stops, and I was feeling kind of groggy. I found parking right in front of Toutle high school. After stretching a bit, I went to the bathroom and then got in line for my T-shirt. One of my coworkers had come over the night before with one of his friends. Both look more rested than me.

I got to the Elk Rock rest stop in pretty good shape. However standing in line for the porta-potties for 20 minutes in the downpour didn’t help. Lots of riders were huddled under the shelters, and I started getting chills, so…I figured I’d motor on to warm up. Visibility was worsening quickly, maybe 50-100′, and I wasn’t warming up at all, so I bit the bullet and turned around. Before I did, I pulled down my balaclava, put on my long-fingered gloves and tightened the straps on my jacket. Cold and shivering, I just went down the hill as fast as I could control it, averaging about 35mph for the next several miles. My feet felt like pontoons as they were being pelted with the spray coming off my tires. In retrospect, I should have Hofstadt to warm up near the fire.

Once I hit the flat portion, I had some minor cramps and took another several miles to re-warm up. The last few miles into the headwind were otherwise uneventful.

The men’s showers were spewing only cold water. I rinsed off the extremeties and bundled up with warm clothes before heading out to the pasta feed. I also thought it was really cool they had ride photos ready, and cheaper than Marathon (who does CBC events). I fell asleep in my car for an hour before heading home.

I’m definitely planning to do TdB next year, and may be making a trip out there in July.



Tour de Blast starts at Toutle Lake High School, about ten miles east of Castle
Rock. The first ten miles are relatively flat. The ride dips down to the river in an area called Maple Flat, the site of the buried A-frame house completed just before the volcano erupted. The owners dug it out and made it into a tourist attraction. Thankfully it was really early in the morning, otherwise I might have been tempted to see what, exactly, a buried A-frame house is and why people would be charging admission. (Okay, not really.)
Tourist Attraction
The road and river both make a big bend, and we start up the first climb
of any significance. So far, we’ve been on the section of the highway unscathed
by the volcano. After 12 miles, we’ll see the newly constructed portion
of Spirit Lake Highway. The original highway, now buried under tons of
ash, soil and rocks, wormed its way up the Toutle valley floor. The new
highway is cut into the valley ridges.
The new section begins at this bridge, just under 1,000′
elevation. By mile 17, we’ll be at the Hofstadt Bluffs rest stop, at 1,400′
elevation.
The first stop had a fire going, something I didn’t fully appreciate until
my way down. Lovely view, though, and an interesting interpretive center.
It’s really surreal to think that I’m standing on top of a seismically
active area. In the early 1980s I was watching footage on the TV show Real
People
.
At mile 20 is the Hoffstadt Canyon Bridge, about 400′ above
the creek. We’ve officially entered the volcano’s blast zone, where the
volcano flattened over 200 square miles of forest and enough timber to
build a half million homes. A lot of this was salvaged by Weyerhaeuser,
who “owned” the timber rights. They’ve subsequently planed over 15 million
seedlings, which is hard to miss with all the signs telling you when a
particular patch was planted, thinned and harvested. The bridge view was
taken at a little view point about 100′ above and to the north.
We have some spectacular views of the valley. The
climb itself runs about eight miles at a 6% grade. It’s long, but seems
very manageable.
These
are some photos taken at the second vista point. As you can see, the weather’s
great for cycling.
This is Elk Rock, where the road has reached its peak elevation
of 3,800′. Shortly after this photo was taken, the weather got really
bad
. Showers started, it cooled down, and fog moved in, limiting visibility
to about 50-100′. Many of the people at the top were ill-equipped for the
bad weather. One of the local bike shops brought up a lot of light inclement
weather gear and was doing a brisk business. Shelters were limited, and
a lot of riders were huddling underneath, preventing anyone from really
getting food. Also the lines to the porta-potties were long, as there were
only two potties. And, tragedy among tragedies, they ran out of coffee.
It’s really hard to tell in this picture, but the valley
is filled with a grey deposit that used to be the volcano’s summit. When
it collapsed,
it filled up the valley floor a few hundred feet. If you added a lot of
sugar, you could make a giant Oreo sandwich.
This is
the aftermath of a long ride: bike is covered with volcanic ash…

the crank…
chain deraileur
andmy
car.

Statistics:

Mileage 54.9
Ascent 3,980′
Average grade 6%
Speed 11.9 overall, 38.6 maximum down the hill
Weather 40F, showers, windy & fog at the top
Duration 4:30

Bike to Work Challenge

Friday was the last of the Bike to Work Challenge, which tries to extend the Bike To Work Day beyond a day.

We fielded four teams from work. There were ten on my team, only seven rode during any given week.
Although the final rankings won’t be posted for a few weeks, my team did well. We did over 1,700 total miles and 84 round trips during the month. The riders:

  • Megan
  • — was training for a cross-country charity ride, which helped her mileage. However, since it was a trip to work, sans car, it did count. Rode the most mileage, with a couple of back-to-back 75 mile days while it was really hot.

  • Me
  • — had the longest commute, barely edged out Jim in mileage, but he rode more trips than I did.

  • Jim
  • — lives a couple of miles from me, is a regular commuter (32 miles round trip), and looks it. He was my inspiration for riding in as much as I did and helped me flesh out one of the more annoying segments of my route.

  • Andy
  • — Andy was very consistent and tied Megan for the most round trips. Helped get us some signage throughout the building.

  • Natalie
  • — She came on fairly strong in the end and completed the eight trips. It took me a couple of weeks of email to realize she’s on my floor.

  • Alicia
  • — a new commuter, only did 6 of her 8 rides. However, she’s worthy of a gold star because she also did two triathlons and an event ride (7 hills of Kirkland) while this was going on.

  • Gilia
  • — Came somewhat close to doing her trips.

  • Doug
  • — Lives fairly close to work, but in the midst of several projects and didn’t make the eight rides. He’s going to be riding the RSVP with me in August and will probably blow me away.

  • David
  • — threw out his back the first week, and rode only twice.

  • Noah
  • — Rode once during the whole month.