2019 Emerald City Ride: Not as scenic anymore, but still a thrill to ride carless freeways

Riding on I-5 just south of the Ship Canal Bridge

Riding on I-5 just south of the Ship Canal Bridge

This year’s Emerald City Ride was without the featured stretch on the Alaskan Way Viaduct because, well, the viaduct no longer exists. Replacing it with a jaunt through the Highway 99 Tunnel means that you can now escape the rain or cold for a couple of miles, but you miss out on the scenic views of Puget Sound, the ferry boats, and the Olympic Mountains.

Just getting on the Ship Canal Bridge, with the best views of the ride

Just getting on the Ship Canal Bridge, with the best views of the ride (click any picture to enlarge)

Still, some 3,000 riders turned out last Sunday (May 26) on a Memorial Day weekend because of the chance to bicycle several miles of freeway through Seattle without worrying about any cars. That part hasn’t changed, and it makes this once-a-year opportunity (provided by the Cascade Bicycle Club) still worth it. Many of the riders were parents biking with young children.

This is only a 12-mile ride, and the course is largely flat with just a few significant hills. But I got a decent workout anyway Sunday because I showed up fashionably late and had to push myself hard to make the I-5 express lanes cutoff time at the six-mile mark. When race organizers say they won’t allow any riders on I-5 after 9:30 a.m., they mean it. Fortunately, I got there around 9:22 a.m. so I could complete the ride.

No time for a food stop

The Emerald City Ride courseThat first part of this ride is northbound through the three-month-old tunnel — it opened last February, at the same time the viaduct was closed for its imminent dismantling (now about 90 percent completed).

Since I rode through the 2-mile-long tunnel in the inaugural Highway 99 Tunnel Ride on Feb. 3, it was not new to me. But I got a chance to relive the memory of how you start out fast on a downhill plunge, level off, and then climb the last mile or so up a 5 percent grade to make it out (it is the same situation going both northbound and southbound).

In my haste to make the cutoff, I didn’t even think about the next hill after coming out of the tunnel. But I was pedaling up Highway 99 to the Aurora Bridge, a gradual incline that I ran up earlier this year as part of the Hot Chocolate 5K. It is a stretch that I know well from the Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Marathon, the St. Patrick’s Day Dash, and several other road runs.

Climbing to the north end of the Highway 99 Tunnel

Climbing to the north end of the Highway 99 Tunnel

We rode across the Aurora Bridge and then turned down into Fremont. There was a food stop at Gas Works Park, but I had no time to stop. They didn’t want us to stop either — they were putting away tables and booths, and urging everyone to keep riding to get to the I-5 entry way. I was glad to finally get there on time and not have to argue my way on, as I did in last year’s Emerald City Ride.


Four miles of bicycling down I-5 

Pictures at the finish line

Pictures at the finish line

Once on I-5, the best part of this new Emerald City Ride (sans viaduct) begins. You enter going southbound on the Ship Canal Bridge, and can stop to take pictures of Lake Union, the Space Needle, downtown high-rises, and the Sound off in the distance.

I simply like having multiple lanes to bike in, much in the way that I relished having all that room on I-5 northbound in running the new Seattle Half-Marathon course last November. You have four miles of free riding down I-5 until you exit back into downtown through the express lanes tunnel to Fifth Avenue. No cars, no stoplights — only young kids riding slower to watch out for.

My reward for completing the ride

My reward for completing the ride

I finished the ride in just over an hour, as I stopped several times to take pictures. The start and finish line was behind the Pyramid Alehouse that is across from T-Mobile Park in south downtown. For the second straight ride, I gorged on a sausage dog afterwards.

This was my third ride this year and 38th overall (since 2011), and I have at least one more planned for 2019.

New job underway at Fluke; plus what’s next

Getting to the finish line behind the Pyramid Alehouse

Getting to the finish line behind the Pyramid Alehouse

As I noted in my last post, my day job has changed. I left Allytics to become the content manager at Fluke Digital Systems, starting on May 13. Three weeks into the new job and I am enjoying the new challenge, with still lots to learn about the Industrial Internet of Things and the Fluke/Accelix product line and marketing strategy. So far, so good, but I do miss my peeps at Allytics.

I’m hoping some former teammates will join me in running the Rock ‘n’ Seattle Marathon 5K — it’s a 5K race on June 8, the day before the big marathon and half-marathon races (I’ve done both before, but will not do either this year). I like the idea that this run starts and ends, and runs through, the Museum of Flight in south Seattle.

Another I-5 shot, closer to the exit to downtown

Another I-5 shot, closer to the exit to downtown

The following day, I’m bicycling again — the Woodinville Wine Ride, a 24-mile ride through northeast King County sponsored by the Cascade Bicycle Club. I did this ride in its inaugural year of 2015, when the course was a simple, unremarkable spin from Woodinville to Seattle via the Sammamish and Burke-Gilman trails.

I signed up for this year’s event because the course through Woodinville’s wine country seems a bit more interesting than the previous one. I’m hoping the swag again includes a wine glass.

It is a second weekend this year where I’m running a road race one day and doing a bicycle ride the next, so wish me luck.

Cheers, everyone. Thanks for reading.

About monteenbysk

I am not an elite runner or bicyclist, though I am friends with many. I run, walk, and bike for fun and the health benefits. I can get you to the finish but probably not to the Boston Marathon (and especially not to the Tour de France).
This entry was posted in 5K, Bicycling, Burke-Gilman Trail, Cascade Bicycle Club, Hot Chocolate 15K/5K, Rock 'n Roll Seattle Marathon, Running, Sammamish River Trail, St. Patrick's Day Dash and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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