I have the best husband in the world. He knows I like bike-riding so much that he researched which cities in the US are best for bike-riding. We bandied about places to go on vacation at date-night dinner last month, and I was all for keeping it simple and local since we never did get around to planning anything earlier in the summer. He brought up Minneapolis, Chicago, Seattle, and some others. After we got home, the next thing I know, he comes into the living room announcing that he'd booked a hotel in Seattle! Seattle is far from local and simple, but it was some place I'd always wanted to visit. After talking to some friends, it came out that I HAD to see Victoria too, because it is like England, with gardens, and high tea, and all things I enjoy. And from there it was an easy ferry ride and drive to Vancouver. It turns out that all of these cities have good bike-riding amenities. I will talk about each of them in the next three blog posts.
We spent five days in Seattle. We stayed at the Moore Hotel near Pike's Market, which is a huge tourist draw. The Moore was a nice, pretty, older hotel, and rather inexpensive. Note that there is no air conditioning. That is okay for September. The evenings were quite cool, though the afternoon temperatures were in the 80s when we arrived! (We had unusually nice weather for Seattle. They were in the midst of a record-breaking-dry-summer.) Our room was quite spacious, and had everything we needed, and it looked out over Elliott Bay, which was a few steep blocks down the hill. The bed was very comfortable. We were on the 7th floor. There is new construction going on all over Seattle, so it was not surprising that there was a construction site right outside our room. However, since we kept early hours, and didn't take the time to nap there, it was not a problem. They always finished by 5pm. If you are uncomfortable with people asking you for change at every corner, this is not the hotel location for you. We ran into people like that all around the Pike's Market area. Next to our hotel (which is an historic building according to "Seattle: Then and Now") is an old building that used to be a hotel, but now is called The Josephus. It contains low-rent housing and a homeless shelter, and one of the ballrooms has been renovated into a lovely Catholic Church. We attended Mass there, and the priest had to have been the happiest priest I've ever met (and mind you, Father Gerry Bowan was my pastor for 16 years!). It was a lovely community and we felt very welcome there. I'm glad to know our church really does some good
Some hotels offer bikes for guests. Ours did not. We rented our bikes at the waterfront down below Pike's Market at a place simply named "The Bicycle Repair Shop." I highly recommend it. The bikes were rather expensive, but since our hotel was cheap, we felt justified to rent them, twice. They provided well-maintained Giant Escape flat-bar road bikes, which were very light and nimble, and perfect for the hilly area. Our first ride took us to the Burke-Gilman Trail which is a rail-to-trail. First we cruised along Alaskan Way (you can ride on the sidewalks in Seattle) to get to a bike-path, which led us past a beach to a railroad yard (which made my husband's day!), and around to the Ballard Locks which provides a link for boats between the salt water of Puget Sound and the fresh water of the Ship Canal, which connects eastward to Lake Union and Lake Washington. That was neat to see. On the other side of the locks (you have to walk your bike across) is a lovely botanical garden (you have to continue walking your bike until you are out of that park too). We pedaled out of our way to see the Golden Gardens, which is a nice ride, but dumps you on a beach, and it being a very gray day, was rather dull. We turned around, and found the Burke-Gilman Trail, which took us to some interesting parts of town. First we had lunch at The Harvest Bread Company (yes, just like the one on Center Parkway!) in Ballard. We passed some docks and house boats, and ended up at Gasworks Park, which is a really neat place which looks out over Lake Union at the Seattle Skyline. Our skyline view was quite hazy, but it was still enjoyable. The sun was out by then, and it was quite a nice day. In the park is some large equipment left there from days when they used "gasification" to change coal into gas. When natural gas became the preferred gas, the plant was closed and became a park. What a neat idea!
After that, we rode on to the University of Washington campus, which was quite pleasant. Then we had to cross a bridge to get back to our part of town, and here we had to do some real city driving, and some hill-work. Until then, our ride was quite flat. We ended up riding back to Alaskan Way via Stewart Street. We meant to swing by the REI Flagship Store, but somehow got discombobulated. By the time my husband realized we'd missed it, he asked if I wanted to go back several blocks, but I wasn't willing at that point to climb the hills on Stewart again. REI had to wait. We ended up putting in at least 20 miles, but I don't know for sure because I paused my Garmin at lunch and forgot to restart it until after Gasworks Park. A snapshot of my Garmin map is attached, along with some photos from the ride.
After we returned our bikes, we were between Pike's Market and Pioneer Square so we decided to walk up to Pioneer Square and find out about the Seattle Underground tour. Did you know that when Seattle was settled in the 1800s, they picked the nice flat land below the hills to develop, and it turned out to be wet mushy tidal land that went underwater at high tide? So when Seattle Downtown conveniently burned down in the 1860's, the city officials decided to rebuild in stone, and to build the streets up at second story level. So the sidewalks were down in the mush in a kind of ditch 12 to 35 feet below the road, and shoppers had to climb ladders to go across the street! Eventually the city raised the sidewalks, and put skylights in them, and so created the very first shopping mall! However, the rats brought in fleas that were infected with Bubonic Plague so they had to close down the underground. The underground is still there, and much of it is in use (30-some city blocks), but it is not used like a mall anymore. Several landlords are paid by the Underground Tour people to keep their underground as it was, to preserve history for people to see how it was. Very interesting!
The next day involved walking to REI, and from there to the Space Needle, touring the Chiluly Glass museum, taking a Ducky Tour, and having dinner in the Space Needle. It was a beautiful day, but we could not see Mount Rainier from the Needle because there were forest fires in the north mucking up the atmosphere and making everything look hazy on the horizon. Otherwise, our views were lovely. The next day was our first experience with typical Seattle weather. It was a misty morning. We wanted to rent bikes again and ride them over on Bainbridge Island, and though the weather forecast promised a clearing later, it showed no sign of abating. Finally, we decided to brave the elements and go anyway. What is Seattle without a little rain anyway? We got our bikes from the same place, took the ferry to the island (conveniently across the street from the bike shop), and rode an abbreviated version of "The Chilly Hilly" - a popular ride that the big Seattle bike club organizes in February. The full thing would have been 30 miles, but the bike renter cautioned us that some of the hills were just pointless and evil. He promised us the weather was going to be nice too. It wasn't, until we were almost done. But, hey, no regrets! There were some beautiful views, even though I nearly "bonked" on the last big hill.
"Bonking" (if you don't know) is a popular term used by cyclists when they "hit the wall" and no longer have the energy and/or will to pedal further. Usually it requires the immediate ingestion of something delicious and sugary, and a little rest. I'm all for sugary treats, but it is not worth bonking to get one.
Our last full day in Seattle involved hiking and chasing Mount Rainier. We hiked a beautiful trail near Mt. Rainier National Park, called "The Greenwater Trail" which didn't have any mountain vistas, but did have incredible scenery of old trees, moss-covered rocks and cliffs, and a couple of small lakes with, get this, otters! Real live otters! So cute. We finally did see Mt. Rainier hovering over Enumclaw after dinner there at Frankies.
We really loved Seattle and the surrounding area, but were ready for some Canadian adventures, which I will write about next time.
I started a Facebook page, so if you are on Facebook, and want to contribute to discussions there, feel free to "like" my page: The Elkridgean Cyclist.