The Back Roads and Bike Trails of Summer


It’s easy to survive Seattle this time of year. It’s not cold. It’s not even wet. These are the two elements I dread the most when the season changes. I’m spoiled. I’ve lived a life of privilege. I’ve moved around. I’ve picked great places and been blessed with good health. I think that in a perfect world I would ski for three months in the winter, hang out for three months on a tropical island somewhere and spend the rest of the year in and around home in Seattle. I’ll own it; Seattle is really not that bad – at least until the monsoon starts.

Part of my attachment to Seattle has to do with the bike. I’ve always had one. I’ve always used it, and it makes me feel good. I’ve ridden all around Western Europe, SE Asia and a lot of the US. At home I use it for exercise, transportation or just plain leisure fun. When I worked downtown I tried to ride the 20 miles to work at least once a week during the good months. I’m lucky to live right on the Burke-Gilman/Sammamish River Trail, a 50 mile long dedicated, multi-use, recreational trail and I’m also within pedaling distance of the 30 mile long Interurban Trail.

The Burke-Gilman is beautiful and sometimes Marilynn and I tell each other that if it was in France we would be raving about it, but since it’s right outside our door it doesn’t seem that special. This is what the trail looks like near where we live:


But we aren’t tied to the Burke-Gilman. Yesterday we put our bikes on the car and drove 1 ½ hours north to Anacortes where we left the car and rode the bikes onto the San Juan Island ferry. An hour later we were pedaling through Friday Harbor on our way to a friend’s house 15 miles north on Westcott Bay. On summer weekends if the weather looks good we pick an island – Lopez, San Juan, Orcas, or even Vancouver Island – grab our gear, put the bikes on the car and drive to the ferry. All the islands have simple bike camping sites at state and county parks and there is a restaurant on each of them where the food is upscale and locally sourced. We leave home about 7am, spend the night on the island, eat a great meal in the local restaurant, and take the noon ferry back the next day. We’re gone less than 36 hours and we feel like we’ve been on a distant island adventure.

Here is what it looked like on our way to breakfast this morning –


And this was our view from the restaurant –


Tomorrow we’ll ride back to Friday Harbor, hop on the boat, pick up a fresh berry shake at the Fidalgo Drive-In in Anacortes, and be home by early afternoon. Not bad for a couple of urbanites.

During the week we use the bikes for transportation and shopping. We often ride to University Village to take an Apple class on iPhoto or Going Further on Your Mac, or ride to Fremont, Ballard, or Redmond for lunch or an afternoon latte. It’s an easy way to take an exercise break without hitting the weight room or pounding the pavement. Marilynn likes the shopping option too. She’s figured out that stuff can be delivered if it doesn’t fit in the panniers. Eileen Fisher loves her.

Recently bike safety has received a lot of critical attention around here and the creation of a safe network of trails and street lanes is climbing the list of civic priorities. I appreciate the Cascade Bicycle Club and other advocates who are helping make it easier and safer. The city has struggled with developing a bike lane system on crowded city streets, and given the financial and special interest constraints I think they’ve done a decent job. They can definitely do more and better, but being a savvy rider is important too. I’m really tired of the spandex and lycra wannabes who blast down the trail drafting on each other and scaring the bejeezus out of dog walkers and mothers with strollers. The Tour de France is a “road” race. If you want to train for it get off the trail. There are plenty of good country roads in the area where you can ride any speed for miles and miles. Please cool it on the multi-use recreational trail.

Summer is winding down. Next Monday is Labor Day, the unofficial end of summer, but September and October are also great months to ride – mild sunny days, changing colors, and fewer people on the roads (or trail). I’m planning to do some overnight trips to Coeur d’Alene, Chehalis, and Wenatchee after the holiday frenzy. All three of these destinations have well developed trail systems and fewer riders. I can’t wait.

I suppose there will come a time when I won’t be able to ride, but until then I’m planning to stay in the saddle and go. It’s hard to imagine a better way to get exercise, go shopping, be out with friends, or see the world.



  1. Je suive (is that right?). One of these days I’ll talk Willa into pedaling her recumbent (she calls it an “incumbent”) over to show you some truly relaxed biking. We’re off to drive to the S.F. Bay area in two weeks and have four big rides planned going and returning (lotta good riding in Oregon and northern Ca).

  2. Jack, when you go to Wenatchee you will see some sculpture along one area of the bike path. Look for Richard Beyer’s “Captain Alexander Griggs Walks to Work”. Then if you pick up a map, you will see there are 80 or 90 other sculptures around town–you will need to park your bikes and walk to find most of them. One of our favorites was also by Beyer (he did “Waiting for the Interurban” in Freemont) and our favorite is called “Coyote Reading a Candy Wrapper.” I think this outdoor art exhibit alone is worth a trip.

  3. I live vicariously through your wonderful blogs. Mother Nature cancelled my bike permit a few years ago. She seems sweet enough, but sometimes does play hard ball. I warmly recall the cool oh-dark hundred ten-speed commutes to THF. You are one of the few who sees that now, jetzt and maintenant really ARE the good old days.

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