So now I know what this Cascade Bicycle Club ride is all about. I can cross it off my bucket list. I’ll probably want to do it again, and I’ll make sure I can see better next time when we start slippin’ into darkness.
At the Seattle Night Ride last Friday, June 29, I joined more than 600 other bicyclists, including lots of families with young children. This popular 14-mile jaunt just north of downtown begins at dusk and ends in near-total darkness.
The course starts and ends in Ballard and runs through some interesting parts of Seattle that I had trouble recognizing in the dark. In other words, I didn’t really know where I was much of the time. But because I always stayed within a group of riders leading the way, I got through the ride without getting lost — or worse, slamming into any cars, pedestrians or other bicyclists. Fortunately, it didn’t rain at all.
This ride can be done in an hour, but most people take it slower and safer and make stops at the two rest stops provided. Counting stops, it took me about 1:50 to get to the finish line party at the Peddler Brewing Co. brewery in Ballard.
Colorful riders around me
It was still light out when we started at 9 p.m. in front of Peddler Brewing Co., where the Cascade Bicycle Club had set up their registration tents. Lines of people were still registering up until the start.
When we finally did start, bicyclists had to cross the starting line in several waves and then ride near-single file to safely accommodate cars on the road. The first half-mile is on some of Ballard’s busiest streets.
Soon we were on the Burke-Gilman Trail heading east to Fremont, riding in colorful packs with many lit-up riders. Some had colored lights around their helmets, others had cool glow-in-the-dark rings around their tires, still others flashing lights on their backpacks or jerseys, even on their glasses.
The minimum requirement was a white headlight or helmet light and a red backlight — which was what I had. My lights worked the whole night, but my helmet light, I learned later, was on dim. Silly me. One or two clicks and I could have had it on bright and seen so much better. Lesson learned about checking this before the ride.
As it was, I stayed close behind some riders with better lighting to see in front of them. Visibility wasn’t an issue until the last few miles back to Peddler Brewing, when I got a bit too far behind the course outrider (support team member) I was following. I got out a small flashlight I brought for a little help.
In my defense, however, I saw a few people riding without a headlight or helmet light at all.
Scenic stretch along Elliott Bay
The course had us on Burke-Gilman for two miles east to the Fremont Bridge, which we crossed and got on the Ship Canal Trail going back the other direction (west). I am not that familiar with this trail, and lost track of the direction we were going. But it didn’t matter, as I was simply following the pack.
Near the four-mile mark, we had our first rest stop at Fisherman’s Terminal. I really didn’t know where we were, but I was still having great fun riding in the cool night air. The lines were long here for Krispy Kreme donuts. I took a few pictures, then a bathroom break. Back on the road.
We headed south on city street bike lanes between the Interbay and Magnolia neighborhoods, then merged onto the Elliott Bay Trail along Puget Sound. I had figured we were riding along Elliott Bay, but it was confirmed when I saw the big Seattle P-I globe (which I wasn’t sure still existed, but it does, and I know the P-I offices are on Elliott Avenue).
This stretch was the most scenic, even in the dark. I was able to keep up with two speedy riders ahead of me to see where I was going; I didn’t see the few bumps and cracks in the pavement, though. In the end, no biggie.
Instead of continuing straight into downtown Seattle, we turned left and rode up hills into the Queen Anne business district. At the start was an overpass over W. Thomas Street where I stopped to get some pictures. I then joined a pack of riders as we navigated the streets behind the Seattle Center and Key Arena, then got on the bike lanes of Mercer and Westlake streets.
Last stop: Lake Union Park, which I should have recognized
The second and final rest stop was at Lake Union Park in south Lake Union, right across from Amazon’s many corporate office buildings.
This park was the start and finish line for the Lake Union 10K that I ran in 2016. I’ve been here several times. But in the dark, I didn’t know exactly where we were. Still, I had a cookie and watched a few minutes with others as a swing band with a dozen musicians entertained riders.
In the last four miles, we rode up the trail on the west side of Lake Union, crossed the Fremont Bridge again, headed west on the Burke-Gilman Trail and then made our way back up to Peddler Brewing. It was only 13.55 miles total, but with the darkness, this seemed like a longer ride, and I was glad to be done.
The finish line banner provided the entry way into the post-ride party at Peddler Brewing. I wanted to stay and sample the brews at this local establishment, but decided it would be easier to find my car and drive home if I didn’t.
This was my fourth organized ride of this year and my 35th since I started riding again in 2011. I am glad I did it, but as I said, next time I have my lighting working better so I can be comfortable riding solo, if necessary.
Next: back to running
I hope to do at least one more bicycle ride this year. But for now, I’m looking forward to two July road runs: The Redmond Derby Dash 5K on the Sammamish River Trail on Friday, July 13, and the Seafair Torchlight 8K Run in downtown Seattle on Saturday, July 28.
The Derby Dash will be an after-work run and I’m trying to get some Allytics colleagues to do it with me. It’s on a totally flat stretch of the Sammamish trail, and is usually my fastest 5K of the year (which might be walking pace for many others).
Thanks for reading. Happy July 4th, everyone, and Go Mariners!