Cycling over the lake

USA today came out with one of their lists of best places to live.  Among all cities (without looking at slicing and dicing them into midsize cities, etc.) Newton, MA and Bellevue, WA took the top two spots.  My experience with Newton has been limited to playing bridge at the Jewish community center there, so I don't know much about Newton, but having lived in Bellevue for three weeks, I consider myself an expert on what makes the area cool.

My work is in downtown Seattle but we chose to live in Bellevue after extensive research because it has both great schools and convenient public transport into the city. I'll talk about the schools another day; today, I'll talk about bicycling.  Having lived and bicycled in Oklahoma, the difference is stark.

Most days, I bicycle to an express bus stop (5 minutes) and then take the bus into the city (20 minutes in the morning, 30 minutes on the way back).  Had I taken a car, it would take 40 minutes to get there and an hour to get back.  Not to mention ... I'd pay $11 for parking most days and up to $125/day when there are events going on .

On days when I can plan it out, I can bicycle all the way home, forgoing the bus altogether.  The bicycle path runs along the interstate and over the lake.  This is what my bicycle commute looks like:

Leaving work in downtown Seattle: notice that the line is marked for bicycles, and note the space that the car gives the bicyclists at the traffic signal.

 Near 12th and Jackson at the south edge of the city, just before getting on the Mountains-to-Sound trail.

The start of the trail.

The trail runs through a neighborhood that is a sister city to Daejeon, S. Korea

About to join I-90, the bike trail becomes fenced in on both sides.

Joining I-90

One bridge on I-90 wasn't wide enough to accomodate bicycles, so you you've got to wait at a traffic signal to cross the street

To make up for that, though, the trail then runs through a park

Trail going through a tunnel under a particularly steep hill.

View of Lake Washington and the I-90 bridge from other side of tunnel

The bicycle path running beside I-90 over the lake

The cars are backed up, but the cycles have no issue.

Mercer Island

Trail in Mercer Island

The trail loops over the north end of Mercer Island

But part of the trail is along a rather busy road. Still bicycles are fully separated from the road

And at this point, we start going through a park again

local road on left, I-90 on right.
 Pecking order
In Bellevue, the trail runs through a swamp called Mercer Slough

This is the worst part of the trail in that it is a bunch of concrete slabs.

In Bellevue, you get a dedicated bicycle lane

So, 11 miles through downtown, traffic signals, mountains, parks, tunnel, lake, island, swamp. And at no point unsafe. That, ladies and gentlemen, is what all of America needs to be like.

Spectacular and crowded

Having recently moved to the Seattle area, we are still like kids in a candy store.

I'm bicycling to a bus stop and taking an express bus to work.  This combination is a little unlikely in the Midwest -- I am on the liberal, left coast alright.

Last weekend, we drove all of two hours and found ourselves in glacier country.  Glaciers!
This was the view from Cascade pass. We reached it after a strenuous 2.5 hour hike.  The trail head is at the end of 18 miles of unpaved road.

Surely, that means we'd have the place all to ourselves? Nope.  The parking lot to the trail was crowded with at least 50 cars.

This weekend, Thursday's solar flares were to setup a huge geomagnetic storm.  That, along with clear skies, meant that there was a good chance of seeing the aurora borealis.  The question was where to go to escape the light pollution of the Puget Sound cities and still get a northern view.

A lot of internet searching led to Rattlesnake Lake, about 30 miles east of where live.  So we went well after dusk to that secluded state park ... and found that cars were lined up outside the park entrance for at least a mile!

Rattlesnake Lake was unlighted and dark, but there were still low hills ringing it, meaning that we couldn't see the horizon. The light pollution was still there, though, because of aircraft lights atop the hills, and the situation was not helped by the hundreds of people packed by the lake and turning on their flashlights every so often.

This was the view from Rattlesnake Lake.  Those are not northern lights.