City Lights. Ferries, and Dumpster Diving

Met up with a couple of folks from Native Planet on Saturday morning in the Montlake neighborhood of Seattle for my first in-city bike ride. We left Joe's rental house around 10am and made our way up and over some hills to the Eastlake neighborhood before dropping down alongside I-5 to Stewart. From there, we turned west and zipped straight through the heart of downtown Seattle. The five of us took over the right-hand lane and blasted over and around streetcar tracks, manholes, and potholes on course for the waterfront. I hadn't ever ridden in the city before and it was quite a thrill, even if it was just light weekend traffic. Joe led us down the narrow, cobblestoned, steeply sloping Post Alley landmark and more than a few Paris-Roubaixe comments were made by the group. Mental Note: Must attend that race one of these years!

Our course was plotted towards the waterfront for a reason: we were taking the ferry over to Bainbridge Island to ride the "Chilly Hilly" course. I've never been to Bainbridge Island before and have heard great things about this particular route, so I was excited. And did I mention the sun was out and the temps were (finally!) climbing into the upper 60's.

Bainbrige Island blew me away. The narrow country roads, the impecable craftsman style homes, the hills, and did I mention the views? Man alive, this is one of the nicest places I've ever ridden! A local named Tony joined our group once we got off the ferry and he took us on a slightly more intimate route than the standard Chilly Hilly course and much of the ride was right along the water. We'd swoop and climb and descend along the coast with mouths agape at the incredible views into secluded coves and bays and, of course, back across Puget Sound to the Seattle skyline and Cascade Mountains. It was the type of day that makes putting up with the Northwest winters all worth it. It was the type of bike ride that makes me glad to be alive and thankful to not be anywhere but where I am.

The Chilly Hilly course lived up to its name and while I do not see any reason to ride this route with the thousands of other cyclists in February, my bike and I will definitey be no stranger to Bainbridge Island in the summer months.

We completed the 33 mile course in time to catch the 2:00 ferry back to Seattle. We had split into two different paced groups and the slower bunch would have to catch a later ferry, but they expected as much and on a day like today, nobody was complaining. Back in Seattle, Joe and Jim and I rode north along the waterftont, past the throngs of tourists, the sculpture park, and onto the bike path towards Queen Anne hill. Joe wanted to take in "the view" from the park atop Queen Anne and who was I to argue? The climb was a bear after having already committed myself to sprinting every hill on the Chilly Hilly course, but the three of us made it to the top without stopping and were soon soaking in the incredible views overlooking the city. As usual, a wedding party was there posing for photos. They couldn't have picked a nicer day and a better backdrop if they had tried.

From there, we headed northeast and, much to my chagrin, over the Aurora Bridge. The bridge is about 165 feet high, the sidewalk not too wide, and there was plenty of gravel on the sidewalk too. I spent the entire half-mile or so trying not to look down and wondering if it was possible for me to crash in such a way that I would fall over the railing. I should point out that Aurora Bridge is Seattle's premiere suicide destination and after having ridden over it, I can now say that I'm all in favor of higher jumper-proof barriers being erected.

Jim split from the group in Fremont to head home, which left just Joe and I alone en route back to his place. This is when he looks to me and says, "Today's your lucky day, I'm going to show you a secret."

I don't really know Joe. I met him on a ride last Tuesday and to be honest, I'm not sure he and I would really have much in common besides cycling. He's a little different. He's very friendly, and a genuinely nice guy, but he's a bit more earthy than I am.

So he tells me about a bread company nearby that throws out all their day-olds into dumpsters behind their factory. For some reason they don't donate it or give it away or destroy it, but rather just chuck it all into a few dumpsters. Really high-quality "artisan" breads too. Joe's secret was that he was taking me dumpster diving.

We roll into the parking lot behind the factory and a UW hippie-chick is rummaging through one of the three dumpsters. Joe flips the lid on a second and practically starts salivating about the prospects. The breads are all in paper bags just like they'd appear on store shelves, but they were in a dumpster. The dumpster was about half full so you had to really reach in deep to grab anything. I knew refusing to partake would label me a snob so rather than turn up my nose at the whole thing, I instead chose to hold it, reach in, and feign excitement over a loaf of sourdough. To my surprise, however, the excitement turned genuine when I realized how soft the bread still was. It smelled great, it appeared clean, had a rich golden crust, and honestly, I was actually turning excited to have this $5 loaf of bread for free. Joe was excited too and in a blink of an eye, climbed into the dumpster to fish for a couple of olive-loafs for he and his fiancee. He agreed to carry all the bread back to his house -- I guess riding with a courier bag has its benefits -- and several other people drove up to the dumpsters as we were leaving. He tells me that he even sees some of the well-healed folks for the million-dollar Queen Anne condos hitting the dumpsters after work for free bread. I might even believe him.


Finally had a great week on the bike thanks to the turn in the weather. Got in about 10 hours of pure saddle time and over 11,000 feet of climbing this week. Also finally got around to replacing the brake pads on my road bike and buying a shorter stem. Maybe I won't be terrified descending Alpe d'Zoo this Tuesday!

Tuesday - Road Bike: 20.3 miles, 2841 feet climbing.
Thursday - Road Bike: 22.2 miles, 1271 feet climbing.
Saturday - Road Bike: 50.2 miles, 3567 feet climbing.
Sunday - Mountain Bike: 33.6 miles, 3645 feet climbing.

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