Sunday, October 26, 2014

Coffeeneuring trip #5 and even more Shoreline events!

     After last night's raging windstorm and rolling black outs I'm not too surprised there's been few coffeeneuring posts today. It seems many cyclists are ducking for cover, and who can blame them with the wind calming to a 40mph. However, upon checking my planned coffeeneuring spots I discovered the Starbucks I planned on visiting was just one of those grocery outlet sort of shops. Nice, but not really what I had hoped to focus on for my first coffeeneuring tour. With a little help from my partner we realized that we could hit Cafe Aroma instead, though its only 1.6 miles there, the return would make it more than the requisite 2. I decided that I was also going to try a bike fashion trick.
     I had heard that a "penny in your pants" would turn a skirt into another bikeable outfit, and I'm a big believer in the whole, your-own-wardrobe-is-your-cycling-wardrobe.
Now here's what the video misses. The longer the skirt the bigger the coin you will need, and there is no guarantee when the skirt is longer than your actual legs. However, the theory is absolutely sound otherwise, it made a very cute button in my skirt, but next time I think I'll use a 50 cent piece for the skirts I have that reach beyond my feet Otherwise, as long as you secure the coin at knee-height it totally works.
       By the way, if you're wearing pants and sick of getting the cuff caught the cheap and easy solution is a handkerchief. Seriously. I just fold one into a triangle and wrap the pants using the kerchief. I wrap both legs in a matching set since a kerchief will only set you back about a buck and nine cents. You don't need fancy velcro and you don't need clips. Just a handkerchief. If you're really dedicated I suppose you can always match the kerchiefs to your outfit, but I just use a rotating set of whichever is clean.
     The wind set our pace back a bit setting out, we took a similar route to the one I took yesterday, down Meridian, up 155th, but then turned on 6th. The lanes were littered with debris, but cars seemed to expect we'd want to take the lane. We had to give up on the lane in several spots due to down branches. Now, the reason for turning on 6th instead of 5th has to do with the incline. You can go up 5th, but its rather steep, whereas 6th is residential and a little more flat. I'd been to this particular corner of 5th and 165th before to visit the Crest Theater. I have to admit I kinda like the Crest, sure the seats are dreadfully uncomfortable, but bike parking is secure and the prices for tickets and drinks are more amendable than the big chains.
     Cafe Aroma sits diagonally to the Crest, featuring a drive through, and a patio. We noticed the sign said 'no walkers' through the drive-through and speculated they probably would be okay with bikes driving through. Still, with the weather we wanted to go inside. We circled around and, nope, no bike rack. two lots for cars, but not a single rack. Oh, and only one car ever showed up in the lot.
Bike parking the way you'd tie up your dog, not park your vehicle
    Ben chose to lock up on the wooden fence. I don't like doing that myself, wood is fairly breakable. The sign outside said, 'Under New Management' which told me any previous reviews might not be accurate. The inside was nice, clean, and decorated for Halloween. A faux fireplace, fairly large screen, and a separate play room for kids (seemed very small girl oriented from what I saw). Three of the walls rolled up in good weather, and otherwise made for a very cozy little shop in damp weather. The kid behind the counter seemed fresh to customer service, but the lady working there seemed a bit more savvy. I had a pumpkin spice latte and a spinach artichoke pretzel wrap, while Ben went for a vanilla latte and bagel dog. 

behold your reward for facing the wind! 
     Sadly, with my head-cold I could barely taste the food, but I did taste broccoli which I like. The bulletin board had the line of flyers you'll see on every board across Shoreline, but this one was probably the most family oriented one. The bookshelves were an odd mixture of out-of-date computing books and Beowulf. I'd recommend the place if you have small kids, but on the whole this is another place I doubt I'll return to, nice, but with the customer service and the parking situation I'd just give the place three out of five. Cafe Aroma's facebook page
     The ride back we took 5th, which was for the best considering we had to fight to go downhill. The wind was absolutely unforgiving as we pushed. We should've taken 6th back because 5th doesn't have a bike lane, or sharrow markings (that we saw) and, the hallmark of Shoreline, car parking on both sides of the street. With the parking lane full of debris from last night's storm we had to take the lane and cars on 5th were not at all happy about this. Still we made it to the 155th turn intact, but found we had to get out the bike lane at several points as the debris created dangerous wipe-out zones. The difference is on 155th cars expected us to need to leave the bike lane, and expected our presence, so there was a lot less angst. Overall the trip was about 3 miles (1.6 each way, so roughly, given the way there is longer than the way back).
     On the way back up Meridian we kept getting separated, and I wish someone would make a remote button light system. You'd press a button on your handlebars and a light flashes on the handlebars of other cyclists in the group. Alas, I am not an inventor.
    I only have two coffeeneuring trips left, and with Starbucks off the list and Seattle Gourmet Coffee under debate due to the route, future trips are TBA. I will try to sort out the where and when for the last two in the coming week.

   News and Events! As you know November 8th is going to be huge, but what about Halloween? Well since there's no ride I know of, why not ride to something fabulous? There's a family event at the Lake Forrest Park Commons that is more treat than trick. Special thanks to the KCLS for giving this Halloween a bit of flavor, find more info about An evening of candy, music, and fun! in the hyperlink. There's lots of events listed in the Stranger for those of the more footloose persuasion Seattle's Halloween Events.
    Personally, I have been seriously bummed by the lack of trick or treaters in my neighborhood. In the past three years we've gotten a total of five. I don't get it, its a good neighborhood, and I know lots of kids live in the area, but I've talked to my neighbors and they get the same amount of kids. I guess I'll have plenty of candy for the Kidicle Mass Candy Buy Back, but... *sigh*
  This year we're going as Frank & Sadie Doyle from the Thrilling Adventure Hour, and I'm pleased the penny-makes-your-pants trick will allow me to ride in evening dress for Halloween, oh and to the WAbikes Gala that I will not shut up about.
    Oh! Speaking of cool events, why not make a sculpture for the Solstice Stroll? Free! Pick up the material before Halloween and submit it by December 14th, more info here: Solstice Sculpture (did I already say free?).
    And just for fun, what about all this coffee and biking eh? Its not just your imagination, you are going faster after that cup

And with that, Cheers!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Coffeeneuring trip #4 and more stuff to do on November 8th

     Its fast approaching the end of October, and people here know that means soggy weather and slippery pine needles. I'm currently suffering a nasty head-cold, but with the fever broken, I decide I'm well enough to ride. My dog, Mac, was less than enthusiastic. Being half Chihuahua he's made for sunnier climates and resents the cold and damp. Nevertheless, swathed in sweater, he joined me as we set off for The Bounty in North City.
     North City sits right next to Shoreline, but not quite Mountlake Terrace. It hosts free bluegrass on Tuesday nights, which I might check out sometime, I do get nostalgic for what is easily the most popular music among Alaskans. We set off down Meridian Ave. N, to the ever sketchy 155th. Though Meridian Ave. N boasts of two schools and several parks it only has sharrows, but hey cars get street parking on both sides the entire way. 
     155th is one of my pet crusades. Though emails about its inclusion in the Master Bike plan have gone ignored and I've sort of despaired of its ever being a reasonable passageway for cyclists. There's a bike lane right until you hit 5th Ave., then of course, parking for cars on both sides of the street. I ride in the parking lane. Sure, I could own the lane, but the street parking is rarely ever used. You can pretty much count on it being empty most of the time, but for whatever reason this parking is preserved. 
     We turned left onto 15th Ave. with very little trouble, cars understood via signaling, and no one seemed in a particular hurry. We sailed into the bike lane on 15th with no trouble, but the bike lane on 15th is no picnic either. Branches dipped down dangerously blocking the view. I'm a less than 5'2, if I am ducking branches they need to be clipped! The bike lane vanishes once 15th meets crosses 175th, and you know you're in North City. Four lanes for cars, but no bike lane. It took a lot of courage to make the left turn into the Bounty's lot, but we managed.
    I circled around, confused by the street parking and lots of lower parking for cars, but no rack. Maybe I missed it. The drizzle was dying off and I locked up to head inside.The Bounty's home page

did my best not to block the stairs
   I ordered a 12 oz Americano, and asked if I'd missed the rack. The barista told me "Most guys just lock up to the railing," telling me two things; 1) the expected cyclist is still male and, 2) they are content with locking to railings. The interior of the place was warm and otherwise welcoming. Plenty of comfortable seating, a fireplace. A mixture of antique and modern furnishings. However, with the break in the weather I couldn't resist taking my drink outside on the patio. The seats were metal and easy to dry. Mac and I sat down to enjoy the sun coming out for a brief appearance.
espresso and a friend

cute logo
     The area was full of apartments, shops, and I noticed they all were somewhat situated off the road. Peering at the nearest shops I noticed not one had a bike rack or bike rail. The 347 bus breezed past and I mused how many residents of the nearby apartments must use the bus when they could take one of the most easy to cycle streets in the area. Well, easy in terms of the overall terrain. The way back was filled with lumps of asphalt creating gnarly humps. I sighed, finishing my drink. Overall the Bounty is a nice enough place and I might come back, but much like the other places I've visited the lack of parking makes me reluctant to stop by the actual shops in the area.
snug for traveling
     Clouds resumed their clustering, but the rain held off until we arrived back home, (about 5 miles altogether), and the ride itself wasn't too bad. Oh 155th is no picnic the other way, but as we made out way to the intersection we waved at passing pedestrians, gently pedaling in time to the music in my ears (Susan Justice and Poe if you're curious). We decided through the neighborhood instead of just jumping to Meridian, its less of a climb and always nice to go past JA's Bamboo shop. Birds flock to the area, though its patrolled by numerous cats. Overall just a lovely fall ride.

     Now, news and events! People, volunteers are still needed for Washington Bike's Annual Auction and Gala, all Washington biking folks benefit by supporting this group. I know most of you are wondering if you can still get tickets though, and I'd quit putting it off while they are still available, now is the best time! Here's the info, November 8th at the Seattle Merriott Hotel, doors open at 5:30, and oh my gosh, you totally need to check out the other stuff that's been added to the auction since the last blog update. So much coolness. 
      I haven't found any info on a Halloween ride for Shoreline, if you are leading one please let me know. Unfortunately, I do not have time to organize one myself this year, but next year... Interurban trail down to Darrel's Tavern would be a blast. 
      In the meantime, also on November 8th at 10:30am its the November Kidical Mass Halloween Candy Buy Back and Party! Now you might be confused because its meeting up "at Meridian Park" and there are two Meridian parks at least. The Meridian Park in this case is on Sunnyside Ave N. You don't need to bring candy to participate and its good fun for the whole family. More info here.
     Lastly, there is a little sharing library on the Interurban Trail around the 170th mark. It is badly in need of books, this library is heavily used, but because it is only accessible through biking and walking it is rarely filled. If you would like to donate to the sharing library please contact me and I will bring the books to the library. 

And don't worry, that bike rack rant is still coming, I'm just gathering steam.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Coffeeneuring Trip #3 and bonus Bike Movie review!

    Fall is officially here, but someone forgot to tell the weekend weather. A beautiful Saturday I set out to find the coffee shop we passed a sign for on the way to Bridge Coffee house, but it had evaporated in the space of a weekend. I decided to loop around the neighborhood and head back for home.
    Today I set off again, for the predetermined Highlands Coffee Co, this time with Ben, but to our surprise it turned out to be just a distribution office.We had taken the Interurban trail down and already filled the two mile requirement by the time we reached Bitter Lake area. The greenway down Linden dropped us off nearby a shopping center and we decided to try to find another coffee place. Looking around I saw Aurora Donuts, which is combined with a Baskin Robbins, and parking our bikes at Planet Fitness we walked across the parking lot to the shop.
    Greeted by a delicious aroma we selected pastries and medium coffees. It was a heck of a medium, larger than I'm used to, and the Bavarian Creme doughnut was far superior to Krispy Kreme or Dunkin' Donuts.  
Took a lot of will power to take this good
   We got another, I went for the peanut doughnut, which did not disappoint. The coffee had exactly the right amount of cream, not to bitter with a strong flavor rather than bite. We spoke to the guy behind the counter, he had asked where our bikes were and I explained I had seen his shop before and it didn't have a bike rack, so we parked up the way. He laughed and said we should've parked in front of the windows like most cyclists. I explained I didn't feel safe doing so, and pressing him further, found his own bike had been stolen from his work by someone determined who had jumped the dumpster fence and boosted the bike over. Even caught on the camera from the bank next door the thief was never caught. I pointed out a bike, even inside, is vulnerable if left unlocked and he agreed, the best method was to bring it inside and lock it if you could, but always to a rack.

    Frankly all the businesses on that side of Aurora owe Planet Fitness a huge 'thank you' because greenway or no greenway I wouldn't shop there if I didn't have a place to lock my bike. We finished our doughnuts long before our coffee and decided to sip them as we rode down the greenway. It was a lovely Sunday afternoon and the trail was full of the usual crowd of dog owners, parents and kids, joggers, and cyclists who must be training for a race of some kind. 
    Our laptop was down and so on the way back we stopped by a local shop to inquire about rates. LaptopSwap has a noticeable sign if you're riding the trail and I was pleased to see a bike right by the door, far closer than a car could park. Sadly, if a computer is beyond my repair its usually beyond any repair and my suspicions were confirmed. On the bright side, this post is coming from a new laptop and who knows, the future might hold video posts..... All told our coffeeneuring ride was about five and a half miles, and quite a satisfying start to the day. By the time we got home we ended up riding out again, after all, why not enjoy such a lovely Sunday?

Bonus! Bicycle Movie Review: "Aftermass: Bicycling in a Post-Critical Mass Portland

    I've been cycling since I was a child, but hadn't heard of Critical Mass until only a few years ago. On the world timeline I was learning to ride a bike without training wheels when the first Critical Mass took place in San Francisco. While interested to know the history of Critical Mass, I wasn't necessarily interested in Portland history. We cycled from my work place downtown to the Wallingford neighborhood, Well, we stopped in Myrtle Edwards park first, the view of the Sound in the late afternoon is something special, and I like any excuse to ride that pedestrian cyclist bridge back to third. Traffic was at a peak at this point, bumper to bumper, but we cruised along, occasionally forming a train with other cyclists who breezed with us by the long line of stilled traffic. We arrived at the church hosting the event with plenty of time and spoke to other cyclists as we locked up. Ben and an older gent traded notes on bike seats.
       By the time the film started downstairs the church basement was packed. The director, Joe Biel, introduced the film. A lean man, with one pant leg higher than the other in the fashion of cyclists, he spoke of gratitude to the hosts and to those he interviewed. Then the film began.
      It is hard to say whether or not this film is more important to see as a citizen than a cyclist. Ultimately, you should see it no matter what, but it is more important to see it as a citizen. Its a story of how you build urban planning, a story of how it is never to late, a tale of bravery. And in the end it is the story of how the pedals push the gears forward. I can only say the trailer is far too understating:

I really think the film needed to be shown in a bigger venue, and I hope to at some point try to organize a viewing for Shoreline folks. Sadly, I had to leave shortly after the premier of another film, this one by StreetFilms, and did not get to stay for the panel after. Hopefully someone who reads this blog can fill us in on the after action.  In the meantime, see it as soon as you get the chance, and put the fun between your legs!


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Find a place to park your bike and set your calenders

   Whether you're in Shoreline or Seattle or Lynnwood, or... Let's not play name-that-northwest-city, if you're reading this you love bikes, right? And let's face it, without the Seattle Bike Expo your calender is lacking in bike events overall. If you're anything like Frank & Sadie Doyle of Thrilling Adventure Hour fame, you love a good auction, right?
   The Bicycle Alliance of Washington, aka WAbikes, Annual Gala & Silent Auction is November 8th! At the Marriot Waterfront Hotel. Silent auction starts at 5:30pm, dinner and live auction starts at 7:00pm. What's up for auction? How about:
  • A custom weekend bicycle tour for six. 
  • A gourmet vegetarian dinner prepared at a unique location from a VW Campervan. A coveted RAMROD entry. 
  • A flat of organic raspberries picked and cleaned just for you. 
  • A mountain bike vineyard tour and private wine tasting with the winemaker for four.

Find out more at

    Of course times are hard, but we can all do what we can to support bicycle advocacy. Especially the effective kind. If you aren't bidding you can volunteer, folks are still needed for all kinds of spots. Find out more by contacting their Auction Volunteer Coordinator.

    If you missed my coffeeneuring update, Bridge Coffee House is talking about installing a bike rack! I contacted them through their Facebook page, and they responded warmly to the idea. Shoreline residents, speak up! Be reasonably polite, but let businesses know if they want to keep you they need to put a rack in. It is perfect that the banners down Aurora depict a cyclist riding in silhouette when that is exactly what people do, they just ride through. Why stop when there's no place to park?
    Have a favorite local business that you'd love to bike to, but can't without parking at another business further away, or worse to some makeshift post? I bet we have a few in common.

  • Gyro House & Grocery, great food, but you end up parking by the dumpster if you arrive by bike, what an appetizer. 
  • Broiler Bay, good burgers sure, but the milkshakes are the best I've found in Shoreline. They do $2 dollar cheeseburgers that beat anyplace else, but I recommend parking at Safeway if you go.
  • Master Hair by Top Tobacco (incidentally, also a good place). Actually all the shops in this area are great, but not a single place to park. Oh sure you can sorta lock up to the railing in front of the watch shop, but the owner really doesn't like that and its thick railing, so large U-locks only.
  • Shoreline City Hall isn't a business, but I went by there the other day and lo and behold it is still the worst. Competition for worst bike rack, anyone?
    What's your favorite local place that doesn't have a rack? 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Coffeeneuring trip #2 Bridge Coffee House and Shoreline News

    A cloudy Saturday and we set off to coffeeneur to The Bridge Coffee House, near Haller Lake and close to Northacre Park. I'd set off to find this coffee shop before, but because its more or less in the same building as a church, I missed it. The Bridge is only 2.5 miles from our place, and so close to the dog park that I felt another attempt had to be made.
     I set out with my little dog Mac and my best friend Ben, to find this elsuive server of Sumptown coffee, previously sampled at a shop near Nickerson Street Saloon. Or maybe it was in the saloon. That was a crazy day, but I did remember thinking Sumptown coffee was a bit overrated, but so was Alaska Coffee Roasters if I'm going to be completely honest.
    The ride there was a typical 1st Ave. ride, cars in far too much of a hurry for suburban streets raced close by as we made our way up the sloping climb. Meridian has more sharrow markings, but its far steeper than 1st so we prefer it when heading south on the east side. Passing Roosevelt we hit the lovely six way intersection that baffles cars and cyclists with its faded paint. Always a pleasure the guess where you're supposed to stop.
   When we arrived at the shop we circled around searching for a bike rack. Perhaps we missed it, but I doubt it. So we ended up locking up to a rusty fence:
MacCloud Daventry is just as displeased by the lack of rack

     I was disappointed. The building didn't just have a church and a coffee shop, but some other organization attached. I have to admit at this point I wanted to turn around and find another shop, I hate locking up like this. Ben had a hard time getting his U-lock firmly attached, but eventually years of puzzle solving adventure games played off and he was able to secure his ride.
    The Bridge was playing Frank Sinatra when we entered, which I only dislike slightly less than Elvis, but more than Bing Crosby. We ordered, I got a pumpkin spice latte, enchanted by the early morning fall, and examined the available board games. Bonus points for having Settlers of Catan, and watched the passing announcements on the flat screen. 
The latte was exactly how a pumpkin spice latte should be, just enough of everything
"A vanilla latte, and a view"

Nice to have a cup with my little buddy 
    We sat in a corner where the window let us keep an eye on our poorly secured rides. The music abruptly changed to a twany folk country music, completely jarring with the art deco atmosphere the shop otherwise exuded. There was a biscuit cup and a water dish, with fresh water. The sun came out and the barrista, Laurel, opened the doors to let in the air and sunlight.
    Finishing our drinks we didn't linger except to examine the bulletin board. Plenty of community events listed, and the flat screen announced other events at the shop. It seemed a great place for writers to get together, especially in the evenings. I doubt, however, I will ever return without a rack. There was nothing that special about the place to make me endure risking tetanus each time I lock up.  
     With the return of sunshine we couldn't bear to end the ride, so we rolled over to Northacre Park to the off leash area (also, no bike racks, I like to make a statement by locking up on the "NO PARKING" sign). 
     Speaking of Northacre, there's a Volunteer Day next Saturday for those who want to help maintain the park. It starts at 10am. Also, a COLA meeting ( for those interested in the Off-Leash events and news on October 22nd at 6:30 in the board room of the Seattle Parks and Rec, address 100 Dexter Ave. North. Seattle, WA 98109
    Shoreline also had its Monster Mash Dash today, if you missed it the photos are on City of Shoreline's flicker account. 
    Shoreline also had a meeting recently about the upcoming light rail coming to 145th. If you missed it there's a meeting every 4th Thursday at City Hall (that's on Midvale) In room 301. You can contact for more information. I missed the last meeting due to an accident on E line when a car decided it didn't need to yield in the bus lane. Another passenger was injured and it was some time before I made it home. I hope to make it to the next one. 

Riding home from coffeeneuring and dog park fun, we encountered someone on a motorcycle angrily screaming. He didn't know the rules for cyclists on the road and became enraged. This happens, there's quite the education gap in what it takes to operate a motor vehicle vs a non motor vehicle on the road. Before you yell at someone for what they are doing on the road please consult the laws governing your state, city, or county regarding cycling and operating a motor vehicle. Even if your motor is electric you should know the laws about operation. I'm not going to link it here because I have faith you know how to operate a search engine. 

Next update will include communication with myself and SDOT regarding the 3rd and Union intersection (notoriously an unsafe place) and won't have as much Shoreline news, but I promise a full blown rack attack rant is coming. If you're interested in seeing bike racks in more places in Shoreline I'd love to talk to you, shoot me an email or message me via the usual social media places (twitter @hyperboreanwolf,sorry not on ello yet). 

The next coffeeneuring stop is The Highlands Coffee Co, watch twitter for specific day and time announcement. 

Until then, keep drinking coffee and keep riding. Cheers!

UPDATE! I contacted Bridge House Coffee and they are talking about installing a bike rack! I hope this means one is installed soon as I would come back if I didn't have to lock up on a fence.

Friday, October 10, 2014

An hour of freedom

     My commute to work is about an hour long by bike. The trip is only 11 miles, and if you can do math, you know I roughly travel at 10mph. Yup, I'm slow, also downtown eats time like crazy, making up a good 20 minutes of my commute, so maybe I'm not that slow. In fact, to non-cyclists, I'm insanely fast.
    Coworkers and friends are constantly marveling at my speed. Other cyclists seem to have no patience with my pace and race to pass me. Its cool, I left with plenty of time, because there's so much to see. There's wildlife on the trail, art in the city, the smell of coffee just brewing in every little shop along the way. Bakeries are just venting out the scent of their first loaves when I make my commute. Geese are squawking, waking up to the dawn and as anxious as a human commuter.
    But non-cyclists remain awed by my "endurance" for going 11 miles. Its not like I bike the way back, I'm not a kid anymore by any stretch of the imagination, and I suspect most of the awe comes from the well known fact that I'm not exactly the most healthy person in the world. Its 11 miles, but its one of the best hours in my day.
    For an hour I am free of the oncoming bus ride (I have a somewhat antagonistic relationship to my afternoon commute, that's another post), for an hour I am in another world entirely. For an hour I am listening to a podcast, for an hour I am listening to a book*. For an hour I am dancing to music, yes, dancing on my bike, its not hard on a steady stretch. For an hour I am watching the sky change, for an hour I am enveloped in mist that gives an eerie glow to the rising sun.
   Its only 11 miles. Its only an hour. But that hour could not be more mine if I was at home reading a book. I could not tell you the times I have traveled with a character in body and spirit across worlds spanning time immemorial. My bike has been a horse, a ship, a spaceship, and countless other modes of transportation. Its only 11 miles, but I travel galaxies in those 11 miles.
    I used to bike 24 miles a day, back in Alaska, because I made the returning commute. Here, in Shoreline and Seattle, you can opt out of one way of commuting, whether you choose the way there or the way back. Which is nice considering the way back is uphill for me and I'm not terribly eager to go the other way up Greenwood having done it a few times. Its just my opinion, but you can only go uphill so long before its a slog, and to be honest I don't find the north parts of Greenwood all that fabulous a vista. Oh sure, sometimes I just get off the bus on Northgate and ride my bike the rest of the way, compelled by forces within and without, but not that often.
    Moreover, it makes that morning something special. Those 11 miles can be beautiful, scary, ethereal, and absorbing. Pretty much the definition of sublime. That hour could be the only one I get to myself some days, and given my druthers I wouldn't spend it any other way.

*I do not have the sound up as loud as it could be, I need to be able to hear horns, bells, and calls to pass. So do you.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

First Coffeeneuring Ride-Zoka's Coffee & Tea House

A gorgeous Sunday morning set the tone for my first coffeeneuring ride. After rounding up the animals my best friend and I set out to Zoka's, the first destination. Conditions were perfect, only a faint breeze whisked the air and scattered leaves darted. The Interurban Trail was full of folks jogging and walking their dogs. I gave a cheery twang to my bell as we made our way to the Linden Ave Greenway. There, a family teaching their son to ride a bike for the first time, being passed by a trio of Lycra clad warriors. We wave hello, and making our way, spot a grandma giving her grandchild a lift in her wheelchair.

In little time we turned onto Dayton, but instead of riding it down to Greenwood, then Phinny, as is my habit on my commute. As any rider can tell you Dayton Ave. has some lovely axle snapping pavement ridges and dips. We invented a hand signal between us to let us know if something hinky is ahead. One of us raises our right hand, makes a fist, then spread open hand, then a fist. The other is able to swerve around. Its a nice down hill, in spite of the pavement, and we glide, roughly down to Woodlawn, and from there it was only a minor jaunt around Green Lake. While Dayton Ave is a traffic calmed roadway, its not exactly in the best condition. From Green Lake it was only a short stretch up to Zoka's Coffee & Tea House but coming down Green Lake a car that was parked next to the bike lane started, the swerved into the lane, nearly hitting me and my companion. The driver wasn't going fast, and seemed lost, and seeing him so close anyway, giving space. it was merely a brief exciting moment than a tragedy.

Locking up we laughed, realizing that coffeeneuring and a lovely day, had ensured the bike rack was once again full:
bike rack outside Zoka's

Having already had two cups of coffee before I left I opted to get an iced chai and a ham and cheese croissant, which I chose to enjoy on the deck outside: 


My partner got the same snack, but an iced Americano. Both of us agreed the drinks and snack were lovely. The croissant a bit unevenly spiced, but the chai had t  full flavor without have that sickening over biting flavor that can accompany the lesser chai teas. A water dish for dogs sat on the pavement outside, and a few passing mutts found refreshment. A fellow coffeeneuring cyclist came by and said 'hello' and we wished each other well on the road ahead.

Like a gentleman, my companion offered dessert at Mighty-O's Doughnuts and we enjoyed french toast doughnuts (very good) in the sun.

Coming back the map app decided to crap out, but I noticed the street sign said the 44 and the 16 ran through, I told my undaunted companion that, logically, Aurora would run this way. He agreed, I reached out and put my hand over his on the bars, we smiled. An intimate moment you can only really have on a bike, with the change of the light we set down Green Lake again. You could see where they'd moved bike lanes and when the bike lane brought us between cars I felt a bit nervous. My companion admitted much the same.  However, we reached Aurora Ave N. with nothing more exciting than passing numerous cars stopped as we floated on, the bus lane clear.

We walked our bikes up the pedestrian accessway, carrying our bikes, then rolling them along the edges as we could. Taking the E line back was a relief. As much as we wanted to circle Green Lake all the way back, my companion works the night shift and had to be back to head to work. Riding down the driveway we agreed our first coffeeneuring ride was totally a success!

Want to read more about bikes?

Hey, that's like MY bike!

Want to read more about coffee?

Next Coffeeneuring destination, The Bridge Coffee House! See you there

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Getting Ready for Coffeeneuring

Its the 4th annual Coffeeneuring Challenge, but this year will be my first attempt. For me this is an exciting opportunity to visit places I've never been, to go to places I've never seen, even along familiar routes. My friends have all chimed in support, and laughed because I'm not known for athletic challenges. This is, if you know of coffeeneuring, hardly an athletic challenge. You only need to go two miles.

Being a caffeine consumer I've hit the places close to me already, Java Jane's on 15th and 145th and Bareistas on Aurora are well known haunts. Sadly, both are too close to count for the coffeeneuring rides. I don't recommend Java Jane's if you're on a bike. Its in the Goodwill parking lot and cars will not be shy about either cutting you in line, or choking you with their exhaust. Bareistas is nicer, surrounded by smaller shops, and my favorite tobacco shop, the coffee is better than Jane's and the girls are obviously quite charming*

At the end of this post I'll give a list of the Shoreline area coffee shops I'll be visiting for my challenge, and the projected days. If you'd like to meet up send me a message and I'll do my best to ride with you and have a cup, I enjoy helping new riders and meeting other cyclists.

Today, however, I took my coffee the usual way. I started with a ride with my friends R. and D. (names redacted for privacy). R hadn't ridden in a long time, he's an older gent, not quite a young buck anymore, but not old enough yet to be anyone's dad. D is a bit younger, and had been wanting back in the saddle for a while. This was their first ride with another friend in a long time, and I chose a route that wasn't too long, starting on N 160th and riding to the end of the Linden Ave. Greenway, where it hooks back up to the Interurban Trail.

Densmore, as always, gives new riders a bit of push on this side, its a near 180 degree climb, and for me at least, there's no shame in walking up it if you've got any weight. D. was envious of my little basket, because, as usual, my little dog rode in it, jaunty little head poked up. I lent her my Sherpa bag (cannot recommend that brand enough), so she could take her Pom.

The trail was a wonderful experience for these almost-new riders. D. had expressed concerns because they didn't have helmets, and they were scared of riding near cars. I wisely steered us down suburban streets until we hit the Interurban trail. D. marveled at the infrastructure, the trail was full of families enjoying their evening. When we got to the greenway she was a bit nervous at first, it being a street, but within minutes she was riding as confidently as if she owned the street. R. is usually a driver and, frankly, usually a bit grumpy about sharing the streets behind the wheel. Yet this evening he spoke at great length how wise the greenway investment was, how expanding it could change how often he drove, and how much he would like that. D. mourned her job required a car, because she used to ride from Lynnwood to the Seattle Center and back as a teenager. We settled down for a picnic as the sun set, sipping from water bottles and bemoaning the need to go back.  We watched others speed down the trail and D. asked if I minded going so slow. I shook my head, its nice to ride with new folks, to take a slower place and really look at what's around you. When you go slow because you can't go fast you don't look around, you're powering through. When you go fast you're looking out for danger. But when you're riding with novices you can point out the art along the way, and immerse in the beauty around you.

On our return I made cups of hot cocco and asked what it would take to make this a regular thing, D. wanted to go every weekend. I call this "new rider glow" you realize it doesn't take much to get in the saddle and you want to go crazy go nuts. R. was more realistic, work and school for him was going to make these rides something to schedule. So we pledged to ride together every other weekend. And you can bet I'm going to drag them to some pretty out there places.

Shoreline is bikeable, but we need more riders to prove it. I saw so many riders out there on the trails tonight, and it warmed that cold vestigial organ I call my heart. I wondered how many of them became riders because of the greenway nearby. I wondered how many started because a friend just ceaselessly harassed them to go riding with them. I wonder how many got in the saddle as adults because they never stopped riding as kids.

And Shoreline needs those riders, there's safety in numbers. As I rode the Interurban there was one...person of questionable character, who chimed how much he'd love my bike, making R. nervous. He's quite capable of laying down the beats, he just really doesn't like doing it (like any good man). While D. and I rode fearlessly (I can and have used my bike as a weapon of  self-defense) we did because we knew as a group we were safe. D. expressed concern that I rode this trail every morning, asking if it bothered me, and I answered truthfully, yes it does. There should be a way to help the people along the trail, but I'll be darned if I know where to begin.

As a rider, I do know this; we're safer from attacks. We're safer from traffic. We're safer when we ride together. And we need to ride together. Here's the places I'll be visiting for the cofeeneuring challange:

10/5 @ 11am Tomorrow!
2200 N 56th St.
Seattle, WA 98103

10/11 or 10/12 (time TBA)
The Bridge Coffee House
2150 N 122nd St
Shoreline, WA 98133

10/18 or 10/19 (time TBA)
Highlands Coffee Co.
14508 Whitman Ave. N
Shoreline, WA 98133

10/25 or 10/26 (time TBA)
The Bounty-North City
17551 15th Ave NE
Shoreline, WA 98133

11/1 or 11/2 (time TBA)
Seattle Gourmet Coffee
17565 15th Ave. NE
Shoreline, WA 98133

11/8 or 11/9 (time TBA)
Diva Expresso Bar
14419 Greenwood Ave N.
Seattle, (technically) WA 98177

11/15 or 11/16  (time TBA)
17202 15th Ave NE
WA 98155

This would be a perfect time to start organizing trains. If you're unfamiliar with the idea, a train in the non-machine sense, is the term for a group of cyclists who ride together to complete their commute. For example as a group they stop and pick up each rider, and as a group, drop each rider off at their destination. A conductor makes sure everyone knows the route and helps keep the group together.

Let's get together and start some trains. You can contact me via e-mail (vanwolf "at" gmail dot com) or on twitter @HyperboreanWolf. Pick a weekend and a time and I'll help you get started. Or if you just want to meet up and get a cup of something sweet with another rider. .

Want to know more? Here's where you can sign up to coffeeneur officially:

Special thanks to Mary who started this wonderful tradition! If you can, please consider kicking more than just the required $4, she does this out of pocket you guys.

If you want to find other local riders participating:

Cheers and safe travels my friends.

*note: Bareistas baristas dress is a manner that is..risque. It is always tasteful, but do be respectful when you visit them. They are beautiful women, but they are still human beings who be deserved to be treated as such.    

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Shoreline City Hall, Bike Racks, and Hilarity

     Shoreline is an awkward area. Part suburb, part conglomerate shops, and a dash of industrial. But you can measure a city's enthusiasm for cycling by how well it directly accommodates, well, cyclists. Before I come across as a grumpy curmudgeon, I love art. I am well acquainted with whimsy, in fact the charge of being eccentric has been leveled against me many a time. That said, the bike rack in front of Shoreline City Hall needs an overhaul. I get that they were going for reeds, reeds are kind of a big deal here, and they're super pretty. But reeds evolved to be reeds, not bike racks. I'm not even going to start on the problem of locking a bike side to side. In the below pictures you'll see my bike. What you won't see is my fiance's bike, who could not lock up beside me. I guess the holes in the top are supposed to be for your handle bars, which sadly angles the bike so that its impossible to park next to, and that brings me to the glaringly obvious problem.

I honestly can't imagine how this got installed in the first place. There's nothing preventing a thief from lifting your bike and negating whatever lock you have, U-lock or chain, as they quickly make off with your ride. Below is the discussion, via twitter, I had with the City regarding the rack: 

This was on Sept. 26th 2014, or thereabout. I plan on biking out this week to see if there's any changes. I'm not going to get my hopes up. This is the city of incomplete sharrows, the town of missing racks (ever try to park your bike at the Shoreline DMV? No really, some of us just need an I.D.), and the center of the forgotten sidewalk (bonus points if you've ever narrowly missed hitting the lamp pole in the middle of the sidewalk on N. 145th) 
I have very little faith that something is done. What will probably be done is just a regular rack. One of those standard-bars-too-close-together affairs. I'd like to see something else though, I think Shoreline should try again for an artistic design, but this time aim for something that can actually be used. Who knows, maybe people who work at City Hall might start biking to work themselves if they had a place park. 
You can help me by tweeting at Shoreline City hall to demand change, or by making hilarious videos of locking up to the rack and post them on the web.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Barriers and Bare-Heads

     How could a safety measure be a barrier to biking? To someone who grew up wearing a helmet the idea is preposterous, but how many of us grew up wearing a helmet? I didn't. For 18 years I rode bare-headed across the land. Sure, I crashed a LOT, several times a year. Conditions for the intrepid Alaskan cyclist are terrible, infrastructure near non-existent, and don't even get me started on the fellow humans who decided I made an excellent throwing target.
     Back then I asked my parents for a helmet, I would've loved to have a helmet. I never received one, what I got instead was the admonishment to give up cycling. Obviously, I never stopped. Instead I moved to a place that purports to be "bike friendly" so much so, that it has a mandatory helmet law, regardless of age. Now other Shoreline riders will note, its probably best to have a helmet on Shoreline sidewalks. Due to hilarious rules regarding sidewalk maintenance you will find Shoreline sidewalks full of defunct driveway dips, roots breaking pavement, pavement that just goes over the roots in a precipice so that passage is a laughable concept.

     My heartfelt condolences if you've ever had to push a stroller down a Shoreline sidewalk. Also, you deserve some kind of certificate of achievement or a trophy.

    The sidewalks are known to snap axles and toss riders. If you ride on Shoreline sidewalks, I'm sorry, but you need a helmet. Maybe not on the Aurora corridor, but certainly any suburban sidewalk is going to be hazardous. If you ride on the Seattle sidewalks its much the same. There's too many ways to go head over bars.
     But what about in other places? I do not, strictly speaking in non-legal terms, need a helmet to ride anywhere else. If I ride any of the trails; Inter-Urban, Burke-Gilman, Sammish, etc... I don't need a helmet. The likelihood of going head over bars is less than winning the lottery. Oh, I might get by a car on the streets, but I don't need a helmet there either. In fact, there's plenty of evidence to implicate I'm more likely to be hit because I'm wearing my helmet.  So if safety is a concern how can adding safety be a problem? Its a problem when the safety measure isn't a good solution.
     I think an under 18 helmet law isn't any better than an all ages required helmet law. If it discourages one group it will certainly discourage the other by connection. I can say I recommend one for kids, but I would never make it law myself. Because if that had been the law my parents would never have been able to afford to let me cycle.  Remember, a "used" helmet, if its been in a crash, its entirely worthless the next time, so purchasing one from a thrift store is basically just buying a lumpy hat.
    Because of the helmet law, I'm frankly amazed by how many women I see cycling. Its unfair, its not right, but women are judged by the appearance in a way men are not. For one thing there's a lot more boxes to check. So, let's shorten this discussion by just agreeing that, its unfair, but women are judged more harshly if one aspect of their appearance is out of order. Economic times are rough at best, and when that's the case people are more judgmental and circumspect about their appearance.
     For the dense let me connect the dots, most women spend enough time with their hair that the prospect of throwing a helmet in is just too much of a complication. Its the most common reason women give me for not cycling over; safety, distance, expense, comfort, you name it. A woman is more likely not to cycle if she has to wear a helmet, and before you call her shallow keep in mind she's only following what she and everyone she's known has taught her. I might have anecdotal evidence that men actually shed their helmets more than women, but that might not be true. I guess I'd better tell you now that even I'm subject to confirmation bias. Ladies, I'm not going to urge to you to spurn the law and ride, hair flowing in the breeze, locks loose to the sky. Instead, please don't be discouraged.
    I know not all of us have a style that is ready in 30 seconds or less, not all of us want a hairstyle that conforms to that. Helmet hair is never going to catch on. I know its a bit like a bra, uncomfortable and pointless at first. But I will ask this, if that's all that's stopping you, what can you do to pass that problem on the right? Sometimes there is no solution, but if that's the case for you, write your representative and ask for a repeal. There's no shortage of petitions with Pronto stations being installed all over Seattle, to repeal the pointless law. And to you flaunters I wish nothing but the best and smooth pavement.

Want to kick this idea around some more?

Dangers of an improperly fitted helmet & how to make sure yours it right: