30 July 2011

All Summer in a Day

This spring and summer has been unusually cool and cloudy in Seattle. (You don't believe me? Cliff Mass has scientifically proven it!). Finally, Thursday was sunny and warm, making it a perfect day to take photos of my summer commute for the LGRAB Summer Games.

I cross Salmon Bay at the Ballard Locks. Cyclists have to dismount and walk across, but it's worth it. It's the best route across the water on the west side of Seattle. Early in the morning, it's quiet and serene.

The light industrial area of Magnolia and Interbay is better for cycling than one would expect, as the roads and bike lanes are wide, but the traffic volume is relatively low. Plus, you can see trains! On sunny summer days, the number of cyclists increases dramatically.

Down the road, I pass the place where school buses go to sleep. During the school year, they'd already be on the road. In the summer, you can see them lined up by the dozen.

Finally, I reach the waterfront. This is the prettiest part of my commute. I even take a small detour, just to spend a little more time here.

The wild roses remind me of my time in Edmonton. Their scent mixes with the salty, fishy air in a way that is strangely familiar yet different from Edmonton's background of trees and grasses. You don't have to stop to smell the roses, but it's probably a good idea if you want to take a picture of them.

On a clear day, Mt. Ranier appears to float above the horizon. We'll need to have a lot more sunny days before I can take that view for granted.

By the time I am on my way home, the city has woken up and is outside playing. The Locks aren't so serene now - cyclists and tourists continually thread past each other on the narrow walk way. I've said "excuse me" to people from many countries, given directions to the fish ladder, and explained that "yes, cyclist ARE allowed here. It's actually an important route". Being patient doesn't take much work - after all, we all want to be outside a little longer when the weather's so nice.

And that is my summer commute at its best!

27 July 2011

A Deelite-ful Balance Bike

Remember the adorable little mid-70s banana-seat Deelite that was going to take so much work to make roadworthy? A couple of Sundays ago, we took it in to EBC and turned it into a balance bike, with Coreen's supervision. The genius of this plan is that it means no need to repack the bottom bracket or fix the coaster hub - and that it will help Audrey with her rocky transition from 16 inch wheels with training wheels attached to 20 inch wheels and no training wheels. Once she's done we'll give the banana seat a makeover to make it less girly, and it will become Dom's.

As found. 

Much to my surprise none of the nuts that had to be removed from the cotter pins, chain adjusters, or axles were seized. We used a cotter pin press to remove the pins without incident, pulled the pedal cranks off, then broke the chain. Here's what I saw when I pulled out the axle:

Coreen: "Wow, that bottom bracket looks even worse than Poplar's!" I doubt that somehow, but it is pretty dessicated, and when I smushed the rusty granular goop together in my hand it was the consistency of that sticky putty you use when you install a toilet. That is not how grease should feel.

After cleaning the bottom bracket out, I smeared a little Phil Woods goop in there to help keep it from rusting, then put the cups back in place. Those two holes you see above mean a pin spanner is required for the job of screwing and unscrewing the cup from the threaded bottom bracket, in addition to the bottom bracket wrench with three prongs for the outer ring. Yeah, I had never heard of a pin spanner before either.

All done for the day. As you can see we also removed that rattly front fender, which involved taking the front wheel off entirely.

Best helper ever.

Leftover parts, minus a few ball bearings.

Yesterday I finished the job by changing both inner tubes, since neither of the old ones were holding any air, inspecting the rear tire that supposedly needed replacement (looks okay now that it won't be a braking surface), and resecuring the no-longer-needed chain adjusters. I'll have to get Coreen or Keith to take a look at the front forks, since I had to be really careful in placing the wheel back in there to find a position where it didn't rub as it turned - I think something must be bent to be causing that - but it's working okay for now and will fulfill its' immediate purpose.

And here it is in use! We fancied it up a little with a plastic front basket and some NOS Milton plastic streamers I found on eBay. Audrey is doing great on it - she says it feels really weird to be not pedalling - and in a few short days I think she'll have enough confidence to graduate to her big-girl bike. She's already working on building up a little speed and seeing how far she can coast without putting her feet down.

PS: Oh look, our heroes at Chicargobike have already posted a summary of balance bike history and make-it-yourself instructions.

25 July 2011

Critical Lass 6: North To Alberta Avenue

We had a gorgeous sunny summer day for our Critical Lass ride yesterday. Angel and I met at Bicycle Bottleneck and rode to our our meeting place. Along the way we rode briefly with Coreen, who took a different route so she could go to the bank, and met a new friend (hi Anon!). We took the bike path north to 103rd Avenue, then took that to Churchill Square, and found our meeting place in front of the Winspear: 

Our new friend, who has asked that we not use her name. She's the coolest, and so her is fab mid-70s Twenty.

As you can see, the Square was packed for Taste of Edmonton! Poor Coreen wasn't sure where we were meeting, and wasn't able to find us in the crowd. We hope nobody else had the same trouble. =(

We all coveted Marilyn's fantastic skirt from H&M.
We waited an extra 35 minutes to make sure nobody else was coming, then started on our route:

down 102 (Harbin) Avenue through South Chinatown,

along Jasper Avenue, where we admired the river valley views at the top of Dawson Park (which you need to enter from the bottom of the valley, so we'll explore it another day),

then along the multiuse-trail that runs parallel to the LRT line,

to the end of Alberta Avenue closest to Coliseum LRT Station, which is the most recent section to have infrastructure upgrades. The site of the old Cromdale Hotel (above) gives a good idea what much of the street looked like a decade ago, when it was best known for its drug-fuelled crime rate. We walked a couple of blocks on the brand-new sidewalks, crowded with people walking in the opposite direction toward Capital Ex, and watched pickup trucks and SUVs whizz past, then decided our best course was to ride on quiet, residential 119th Ave, using the church and community league park as our landmarks to come out onto the sidewalks on 118th. In retrospect maybe we should have taken photos of the parks, too - they both had playgrounds full of families, nice green spaces, and at one of them there was a fenced space with a community garden and dogs playing off-leash. So cool.

Most of the shops along 118th have this sign in their window, for the community-based campaign to reclaim their neighborhood. (Oh look, this is also a self-portrait.)

Our first stop was Handy Bakery, famous for their pastries...

... and their display case didn't disappoint. They had a steady stream of clients coming in to pick up orders.

The Portuguese custard tarts? So. so. good.

They also have half the shop devoted to hard-to-find groceries and spices.

I wonder if the traffic on 118th is always this busy, or if it gets busier during big events like Capital Ex at Northlands?

We unlocked our little bike pile from one of the brand-new racks that line the street, then headed back via 119th to our destination, where Coreen caught up with us:

It smelled amazing inside, thanks to the shisha smoke from hookahs, and meals like this:

Ethiopian food! So tasty, and extremely filling. The injera (flatbread) that you eat with tastes a bit like sourdough. Nom!

Afterward we rode south on the residential streets marked on the map in the last post, past the Mustard Seed and Hope Mission, and along 106th Avenue parallel to where the railroad tracks used to divide these neighborhoods from downtown. We made one little alteration to our planned route, cutting through Grant MacEwan College and down the future Capital Boulevard:

Yeah, the Ledge grounds. After all, it was hot and sunny. How could we resist the chance to go wading?

But first we went into the rose garden for a group photo (which will be in Coreen's post) and admired a bumblebee who was playing in the blossoms. There are more photos from the rose garden in Coreen's ride report!

(Thanks for the sweet photo Coreen!)

I love this photo of Coreen. She sewed her floaty wrap skirt herself.
So refreshing, and such a great way to finish the ride! Afterward we headed our separate ways, with most of us heading over the High Level Bridge to Bicycle Bottleneck.

Thanks to everyone who came out! Those of you who missed it - we'll see you August 28th!

27 July Update: I've been reflecting on the changes on Alberta Avenue. It's definitely way less scary to spend a sunny afternoon there than it was in 1994 when I first visited, on a mission with my roommate to find stuff for our student apartment at the world's sketchiest used furniture shops. I remember lots of boarded-up storefronts and pawn shops then, and not a lot of pedestrian traffic. Now we're seeing families in playgrounds, lots of restaurants, lots of people out walking. There's a farmer's market, gallery space, and a number of festivals held on Alberta Avenue now. I expect, now that the infrastructure upgrades are complete, in the next couple of years we'll see it become an incubator of cool local retail and arts space, in the same way that 124th Street and Whyte Ave have been in the past.
I also commented above that the working-class neighborhoods we rode through were divided until fairly recently from downtown by railyards; Marilyn notes in her blog post that the arena project proposed for the redevelopment of that land could make that division permanent. Go read!

PS: This post is part of our series for the LGRAB 2011 Summer Games! It could qualify in several categories - this was a new part of town and took in new-to-us bike paths - but we'll just call it a group ride. Let the games begin!

16 July 2011

Critical Lass July plans

Reminder: Sunday July 24th will be the next Edmonton Critical Lass ride!

So you can check out A Taste of Edmonton before the ride, if you like, we'll meet at 1:30pm in front of the Winspear Centre and depart at 2pm. We'll ride via 95th Street (and Chinatown and Little Italy) to Alberta Avenue, so we can see for ourselves its' revitalization from a neighborhood that a decade ago was best known for pawn shops and drug-related crime problems, now that the infrastructure changes from the Streetscape Improvements program and storefront facade renovations are mostly completed. We'll likely make stops at The Carrot, Bedouin Beats, and Handy Bakery, and have our supper at Habesha (Ethiopian, and we hear they're vegetarian and vegan friendly!).

Originally, our plan was to ride all the way to Northlands, grab a group photo with Gretsky, then take our bikes on the LRT - but since Capital Ex is on, we expect Coliseum Station to be a bit too crowded for bikes. So, now we think we'll loop back to downtown before going our separate ways.

Any feedback on the route, ladies?

20 July UPDATED PROPOSED ROUTE: So. After discussion with Angel, I did a screencap of the bike map then highlighted our new route idea:

We'll be starting about where the blue oval marked 3 is (that's the AGA), taking the on-road bike path on 102 Ave (that's Harbin Road, just north of Canada Place, which stands where the original Chinatown was established 100 years ago) through Chinatown South to Jasper Ave, and take that along the upper edge of Dawson Park (it's not clear whether we can actually enter the park from the top - if we can we can stop and take photos here) to where it turns north and becomes 82nd Street. Where 82nd crosses the LRT tracks at 113th Ave, we can get on the MUP (red) then take the on-street path (green) north on 81st Street (past another wee park) to 118th Ave. This brings us out close enough to Northlands to hear the ruckus and smell the mini-donuts from Capital Ex, close to the eastern end of the section of Alberta Ave that's had infrastructure upgrades. Then we'll ride west on 118th, check out some places, and stop for supper. Afterward we'll take 96th Street south and pick up the on-street path (green) that skirts north of downtown to head to 109th Street, then south via the MUP (red) and across the High Level Bridge to Bicycle Bottleneck. When they reopen for the day I'll call Habesha and ask them about the timing - whether they want a group to show up for the 4pm coffee ritual, or want us to make reservations for later, will determine whether we move our start time a bit later. Our reservation is for 4pm at Habesha. Sound OK?

12 July 2011

Bicycle Sunday

On Sunday, Spencer and I set out on the trail-a-bike for a bicycle adventure. Bicycle Sunday is a program run by Seattle Parks, where Lake Washington Boulevard is closed to car traffic on summer Sundays. The weather was good and our schedule was clear, so we decided to try it out for the first time.
Technically, this is not a panda shot since we are beside our bikes, not on them.

Lake Washington Boulevard winds gently along Lake Washington with parks on one side and attractive houses on the other. It was a fun, family crowd, with trail-a-bikes, trailers, training wheels, and wobbly new-to-two-wheelers.
Friendly people from the Cascade Bicycle Club were out, selling and fitting helmets for new riders.
Neighbourhood kids had a lemonade stand. I don't know how much business they did that day, but it was certainly a hit with my kid.
Now, Spencer wants to set up his own stand, so he can earn money to buy more toys.
Spencer: I could ask people for $5 for a glass of lemonade.
Me: No one is going to pay that much for lemonade.
Spencer: Well....what if I gave them lemonade AND let them play with one of my toys?

The protected road ends at Seward Park, home to a very nice playground.
Bicycle parking was at a premium!
And, of course, we had to end the day with ice cream. Hey! I just asked you to HOLD my ice cream while I took a picture!

I'd never gone to a Bicycle Sunday before, so I was curious to see how the experience compared to riding in the neighborhood or on the nearby trails. The combination of wide roads and the complete absence of cars created a remarkably relaxed and fun atmosphere. In comparison, the Burke-Gilman trail is quite narrow and, on a busy day, requires a lot of attention, especially when passing or being passed. Spencer is just learning to ride a two-wheeler (sans training wheels) right now. Once he gets a little steadier, he'll want to move beyond the school playground, but won't really be ready for streets or even the BG Trail for some time. Bicycle Sunday will be the perfect opportunity for him to spread his wings.

All in all, it was a lot of fun and we'll certainly go again. However, it will never be an every weekend activity - I'm not a big fan of driving 12 miles in order to ride for 3. Now, if only we could convince Seattle Parks to do a similar event in north Seattle....