Monday, November 26, 2012

Cheshiahud Loop

The boundaries of my new microcosm have been mainly determined by the lack of time during daylight, not by the lack of transportation means. I would happily pedal for 50 miles if there was time. The days are short and frankly, there have been more important things to take care of than going for long explorations.
However if you looked at Lake Union on the map, you would find that its shores host a nice concentration of interesting places. Sure, it is partly by design, since the lake shores are an attractive place for residents, businesses and tourists. The Cheshiahud trail loop has been designed to give walkers and bicyclists access to some of the area attractions. Stealing one afternoon of the 4-day weekend allowed me to ride this loop and stop at a few interesting places. So what follows below is probably an n-th online description of the same sights. I still had fun and enjoyed the weather, fresh air and the ride.
Let’s go for a photo tour:
My (and seems tons of others’) favorite place so far: Ballard ship locks. The lake water gets churned under the steel gates, it smells and feels powerful. Walking your bike over the locks is actually OK, let’s you enjoy the views.

The Burke-Gilman trail on the other (north) side goes both left and right. Let’s depart from the map recommended loop and go left – west then north. The trail ends at the Golden Gardens beach, but just before that, next to a marina is a tribute to the many Pacific Northwest immigrants from Norway and Scandinavia: a 30 ft tall statue of Leifur Ericson.

 If your ancestors came from that corner of the world and you pay 125 bucks, you can have your name added to stone pillars surrounding the Norse explorer. But as a Scandinavian, I’m sure you’d rather have one of these boats.

 Turning around and going back towards Ballard means you will have to leave the trail for a few blocks of busy streets but just before you do, say hello to this stylish Salish fisherman.

Leaving the trail for Ballard streets, I thought it would be a good idea to check one of the bike shops in the area. The Dutch Bike Co. is a great place, that kind of shop I would want to have myself one day. City bikes (Linus mostly, some Civia) that look more like an art than transportation, combined with good coffee. I got my squealing front rotor fixed here for $5.

Reconnecting with the trail again at the end of NW 45th street and continuing clockwise around Lake Union takes you to Fremont. Besides Google buildings on the canal shore, there are a few interesting artifacts to look for a few blocks away. This is supposed to be a Cold War era missile but to me it looked like a cheap imitation (we Czechs know the SS-20s).

 But this guy was genuine:

 As much as we hated the presence of V.I. Lenin on every town square when I grew up in Czechoslovakia, seeing the old Vladimir Iliych here made me feel almost homely. The Slovakian city of Poprad had expelled him, but here he has found a new home. Good for him.

 Besides harmless Lenin, there is the Troll, he looks dangerous, squeezing a VW beetle, but the kids did not care.

The next stop was the Gas Works Park, with nice views of downtown. I have been here once before and taken lots of pictures so this time I just rode through.

The east, south and west Lake Union shores are interesting in many ways as well, but here my patience for stopping and taking pictures expired, it was getting late and cold and I still had lots of editing to do at home. I may cover these areas in more detail some other time.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Turkey Trot

It has been just about a month since I arrived in Seattle. It has been a busy month. New job, new apartment, new surroundings, weather change, all that occupied me for most of my time. And the fact that I spent pretty much every day off work helping Marketa with her critically important school paper. So in a month all I saw was my lab and computer screens. I did commute to work by bike and I enjoy it. Mornings are cool and the ride home is after dark. So I have so far lived in this microcosm and did not really venture beyond its boundaries.
Came the Thanksgiving holidays, four days off, more computer work and no turkey this year. But I did peel off the Mac on Thursday afternoon for a run to the Discovery park. It was dry so I paid more attention to the route and found a nice way to get there. I ran the park loop but decided to take single track trails down to the beach. Narrow, wet, rooty trails in a rain forest vegetation. When I ascended the cliffs above the beach facing west, I could for the first time here see the Olympic mountains, now all covered in fresh snow. So I can now live through another busy month knowing the mountains are nearby and hope to have a weekend off for exploring them on skis or, at lower elevations on a mountain bike.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Twelve Years Rewind

This past week, with the elections on Tuesday, I realized how my current situation reminds me of the same period twelve years ago.
In November 2000, shortly after joining a tiny group of scientists who set out to change the world of genomics by reinventing how we sequence DNA, we moved with the company to San Diego, CA. My colleagues and mountain biking friends Keith, Scott and John and I lived out of our suitcases, worked long hours and weekends, explored local trails and enjoyed the warm weather of Southern California. Then came the Election Day and we watched the TV in a hotel breakfast room next morning with horror. Everybody knows what happened next, both to the good old US of A as well as the company called 454.
This year, after 12 years of what one really cannot call other than misery for this country, the right guy got reelected and with much less drama, too. And my new state, WA elected to allow gay marriage and legalize pot. That I call progress!
I can say that I live here now, well, at least I have established a permanent residency in Seattle. I also went for my first real bike ride here on Saturday, although it was just 40 miles on paved Burke-Gilman trail. The fall scenery was beautiful and I liked how all kinds of folks ride all kinds of bikes here. Today, I ran to find out how far are the trails of Discovery Park from my house. Taking the steepest streets of my neighborhood (much steeper than my old 14% Crestview drive!), it is about two miles to the deep woods, ferns and trails of the park. Rain came back this afternoon so I got soaked again. Next item on mental shopping list: trail running shoes with goretex.

PS: this Blogger mobile app sucks. You cannot insert photos in text, just append them at the end. So here are few pictures from this weekend:

Friday, November 9, 2012

Se(a)ttling In

I have spent most of this week unpacking and moving boxes around. People generally hate moving, I actually enjoy arranging my stuff in a new place, trying to come up with new and creative placement of things. I totally despise getting rid of carton boxes and packing material.
Due to the above activity and the fact that I really do spend 10+ hours at work every day, I did not broaden my horizons significantly. I almost have the car route to work and back home figured out, I know how to get to Whole Foods Market, a drugstore and a hardware store. I have learned that one of the main streets through town is one way traffic which explains why I was never able to backtrack some routes.
But most importantly, I did find enough warm layers to bike commute to work once this week. The commute I'd really easy, about 4miles each way and dead flat following the ship canal and south shore of Lake Union. The sights along the bike path are so much different from what my bike commute used to be, industrial shipyards, then fancy yacht marinas and few homeless guys here and there. Boats and seaplanes. And lots of other bike commuters. People here complain about other bikers cutting them off, not cars!