Thursday, October 07, 2010

Do I Look Deaf?

OK, I'll admit that it has been a while since I have posted anything. Well, I don't really have a good excuse or anything other that to say that I've been busy with other stuff. Sorry.

But I thought I would relate a small segment of what happened on my ride today. I found it interesting, anyway.

I decided that today would be a good day to ride from the house up to the Edmonds-Kingston ferry and go for a ride out on the Kitsap peninsula. It's the second time recently that I've done this. Last week I crossed over to Kingston and then rode down to Bainbridge Island to catch the ferry back to downtown Seattle and then rode home from there. Today I figured I would just go on a shorter loop on the Peninsula just to see some views I hadn't seen yet.

I got a little off course on my way to the ferry today and got there just as it was coming in from the Kingston side. Still, I had plenty of time and still stopped at the little espresso stand next to the waiting lanes to grab a granola round as a late lunch ($1.60 vs. $3.00 if you get it onboard). The way they have it set up is that bicycles and motorcycles go up to the front to board first as long as loading hasn't started yet, so I made my way up to the bicycle holding area where I was by myself. There were probably 15 motorcycles. As soon as the incoming crowd was off-loaded they waved me on, followed shortly by the motos and then the cars. I tied off my bike and went up to the passenger deck to eat my granola round.

I ended up sitting near the westward end in front of a couple of motorcyclists. They were talking about just general stuff and I was just sitting and eating. I think they started out talking about the hazards of SCUBA rapid ascents (though they had their physics wrong - not that I corrected them), and then moved on to griping about politics/politicians. Then they started in on bicycles. Hmm. I am pretty sure they could see me sitting with my helmet and cycling gear still on less than 5 feet away. Hmm.

Oh, it started out with complaining about all of the new bicycle lanes. Specifically, I think their main 'point' was that cyclists don't pay any road use taxes and that we (cyclists) should have to pay a licensing fee. Then they complained that bicycles get to board first and they have to wait until we are on the ferry. Next was the general scofflaw nature of all cyclists (we all run red lights and stop signs, we all ride three wide down the middle of the street, we don't ride on the sidewalks where we "belong", et cetera). Then, of course, was the fact that we all look down our noses at other people. Yada yada yada.

The ranting continued on, touching on how one guy's coworker was a cyclist and had made some comment about overly aggressive drivers at work one day...

And then one of them made the following statement: "Yeah, I guess everyone is an assh#le until proven otherwise."

Sensing an opportunity, I stood up and turned to face them. Then I laid out the following (as close to verbatim as I can recall) - in a perfectly calm and non-confrontational tone:

"You know, guys, I can't really disagree with you completely on any of the points you made, but I don't think you are seeing the whole picture."

[shock on their faces; maybe they thought I wouldn't dare say anything?]

"First, you are correct that I don't pay road use taxes for my bicycle. But for one thing, I don't have anywhere near the same impact on the road infrastructure that engine-driven vehicles do. What next? Do you then start charging pedestrians to walk on the road? Also, every cyclist I personally know also owns at least one car - I have three in my driveway - that they do pay road use taxes on. Besides, I think the biggest reason that bicycles don't have to be licensed is that it would cost more to register and placard bikes, including enforcement, than it would bring in. And maybe you should just consider that bike lanes help keep bicycles out of the flow of traffic and slowing it down"

[silence from the two of them, but people are starting to listen in]

"I believe that your next point was that bicyclists board the ferries first. Frankly, I agree there. I would actually prefer to board last and leave last just so I'm not getting passed by a steady stream of a few hundred cars that just came off the ferry behind me. But I didn't make that decision. If you don't like the policy, you should call the Washington State DOT. But you know, I'm guessing that those several hundred cars might complain about you guys getting to go around to the head of the line, too, now that I think about it."

[still silent, but squirming a little - and there are now about 15 other people standing by listening in]

"You also mention that bicyclists are all scofflaws, but I can assure you that not all of us are by any means. I follow the rules of the road - not the sidewalk, where I don't belong - when I ride, even when cars - and motorcycles - around me don't. Yes, I have seen the guys you complain about and I don't like it either, especially since the 5 to 10 percent of those doing it paint the rest of us in a bad light. I think we would do well to teach school kids bicycling safety so they know how to follow the rules of the road, but currently it is mostly a grass-roots effort in a lot of areas. I would also point out that many drivers tend to see you guys in a negative light based on the actions of some motorcyclists riding dangerously in traffic or just being perceived as being "hellions", so I would think that you might be a little more understanding in this regard."

[still very silent, looking toward the floor - surrounding people look interested, though]

"No discussion about the points I'm making?"


"Okay, well, I'll leave you with this final thought. That statement you made about everyone being an assh#le until proven otherwise? Yeah, I think you were dead-on with that one. Have a pleasant afternoon, gentlemen."

At this point I turned to go, stopping long enough to throw away the wrapper from my lunch. A couple of the bystanders came walking with me back down to the car deck. One of them said "Very eloquent. You know, I don't think you're an ash#le". "Thanks," I replied, "You either."

The story isn't over yet. I got down to the car deck and untied my bicycle from the securing point as others got back into their cars - or on their motorcycles. Once the ramp was in place the deck hand looked over at me and was about to give me the signal to go ahead when two of the motorcyclists charged ahead off of the ferry, almost knocking the deckhand down. Guess which two?


Story still isn't quite over. I rode off the ferry and started up the roadway just in time to notice two motorcycles (guess which two) go blasting right through a red light. Right in front of a Kingston Police cruiser. Lights flash, motorbikes stop on roadside, so on and so forth. It took about every bit of restraint I had not to say "Hmph. Scofflaws." as I rode past. I didn't, but I sure thought about it.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Exploring the River Trail

One thing Seattle has a lot of is bicycle trails. The big one that I tend to touch on a lot of my rides is the Burke-Gilman trail, but until recently I hadn't actually been all the way from one end to the other. The Burke-Gilman is about 17 miles long from one end to the other, which would make it a 34 mile round trip. The thing is, I don't live at either end but rather I usually connect in somewhere near the middle. I've gone south and west to end up on the Seaview Avenue trail to Golden Gardens park, and I've gone north and east out to Kenmore, but I never made it quite to the end out that way. Had I realized before just how close I'd been...

Last week I decided to go north and east and just keep going until I ran out of trail. I got to where I'd been before and only went just a little past when I discovered that the Burke-Gilman ended and the Sammamish River Trail began. Actually, another trail started out near there, and I took it to the north first, only to turn around when it disappeared after about 3 miles. Then I figured that the Sammamish route should be tested.

Back toward the beginning of January, MG and I drove out to Woodinville to try to find a winery we could visit. We specifically wanted to go to the Chateau St. Michelle winery, and after figuring out that the GPS didn't really know Woodinville all that well I was able to backtrack and locate it. We did the tour and then joined the Vintner's Club, if only because they hold outdoor concerts in the summer for club members. And we aren't just talking about some unknown bands here. Last year they had (among others) both Elvis Costello and Diana Kraal, though surprisingly not at the same time. MG even surprised me on the trip home that day by saying that it was her goal to get on the tandem and get to where we can ride to some of the concerts this summer. I figured that the Burke-Gilman would be part of our route, but that we'd have to exit onto local roads to go the last several miles.

I was wrong. I found this out on my ride last week.

As I rode along the Sammamish River trail I figured that I would have to hit Google Maps when I got home to try to find out exactly where I'd been riding. That was before I suddenly realized "Hey, that building looks familiar." Sure enough, I was riding right past the winery grounds. What I thought would be several miles of Woodinville roads to reach it turned out to be just a 1/4 mile or so to go from the trail to the entrance. Serendipity strikes again.

Of course, it's going to take a while before we can do that ride. From our new house (we move in early next month) the ride out to the winery is about 15 miles one way. MG hasn't been riding for quite a long time, so we're going to have to build up to that kind of distance for her and then hope that she recovers enough at the concert to be able to ride back. I think we can do it, though. We've got 4 or 5 months to work with and we get the tandem back out of storage once we move.

Personally, I'm looking forward to it. Especially since I now know how to get there from the Sammamish River Trail.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Farewell to Knoxville (at least for now)

Having grown up in Kingsport, Tennessee, I was well aware of Knoxville from an early age, if not as a place to go to, then certainly as a place to go through. My grandparents were all in Atlanta, so more often than not we would travel through Knoxville and on through Chattanooga on our way to visit. I guess my earliest memories of Knoxville are of the Arby’s on Kingston Pike near Papermill and of the gas stations at Cedar Bluff. The first time I can remember Knoxville as a destination would be when my father took us to go see the Ringling Bros./Barnum & Bailey Circus at the Civic Coliseum. In 1982 Knoxville became a destination for millions with the World’s Fair (I only visited once that summer, but I remember it well).

My college career began in 1983 at Tennessee Tech in Cookeville studying mechanical engineering, so Knoxville was again relegated to ‘place I pass through and stop for gas, maybe’. There were a few times that some of my friends and I would make a trip to Knoxville for an event, but more often our destination was Nashville.

After a few years at Tech, I decided that I’d change my major to Architecture, which was a program not offered there, so I transferred to the University of Tennessee. My stay in the Architecture program was brief (long story there) so I transferred into the civil engineering program at UT, and then determined I could finish my degree quicker if I returned to Tech. Thus my stay in Knoxville was only about 6 or 7 months at that point, but I was glad to at least leave my cockroach-infested apartment behind.

In 1988 my then girlfriend (and future wife) left Auburn University to attend the UT College of Veterinary Medicine in Knoxville, so I suddenly found myself making the trip from Cookeville to Knoxville almost every weekend. My knowledge of all that Knoxville had to offer expanded greatly during the next two years until I graduated from Tech in 1989 with a degree in civil engineering.

Degree in hand, and knowing that my girlfriend/fiancée had to stay at UT to complete her degree until 1992, I decided to concentrate my job search in the Knoxville area and landed a job in Oak Ridge, only minutes away from west Knoxville. I moved into an apartment next door to a high school/college friend/fraternity brother and began my twenty-year stay in Knoxville. I married my wife (aka MG) one year later and we moved into a slightly larger apartment.

After she graduated, we decided that we might as well settle in to Knoxville as our home. I had my job, and she found work in west Knoxville, so we moved into our first house for the next four years or so.

I found myself on the road for most of 1995 through 2000, but always with Knoxville as my home base. Since her career was in Knoxville, MG stayed home while I was wandering about the wilds of northern New York, northern Maine, and northern Alabama (you know, all of those “northern” places). In 1996 MG sold our house and moved in to house sit for some friends on an assignment in Maine. That same year we bought some land (backing up to another fraternity brother’s property) and started building a new house. I was home for most of the winter that our house was being built, so MG and I were able to put in a bit of the work ourselves including tiling, painting, and installing the dining room hardwood floor. We moved in during the spring of 1997 just before I shipped out again.

I finally finished my stint on the road in late 2000 and got assigned to a project out in Oak Ridge again, so I was able to begin feeling like I actually lived in Knoxville again. This was about the same time that MG made a career change and started being a road warrior in her own right, though she spent more nights at home than I had ever been able to.

Most of the real connections that I have in Knoxville started after 2000. I got back into cycling through a friend at our church, and from there joined a cycling club sponsored by my favorite local bike shop. Many of the people that I feel closest to now have come from branches of one of those two trees; cycling or our church Sunday School class. There are exceptions, of course, including friends from MG’s veterinary career and from the car club we belonged to for many years.

So fast forward now to 2009. MG’s career has progressed as she has moved up through the ranks at her company. We originally thought that the next step for her would be a move to the home office near Philadelphia, PA, but instead she was offered a position that would better allow her to utilize her medical background as well as her other experience with the company. The catch? The position is to cover the Pacific Northwest region of the country. We looked at the region, studied our options, and decided that Seattle, a city we had already visited and liked, would be the location to host the next phase of our lives. We moved into a small rental house in Seattle with about half of our possessions in September.

We had put our house in Knoxville on the market in July. We knew it would be tough to sell a house in the existing market following the economic chaos of the previous two years, and indeed it was. Showings were sporadic, and though feedback from those showings was generally positive, we had no offers since the market was flooded with houses in the same price and size range. We realized that it would take someone coming in and falling in love with the house the same as we did. In December it finally happened.

We went under contract in mid-December and I returned from Seattle in January 2010 to get the remainder of our stuff moved from the house in Knoxville to a storage facility in the Seattle area. Due to a mix-up we were not aware that the closing date had been moved up until just a day or two before my trip, so it turned out that closing was scheduled only hours before my return flight to Seattle.

I spent my week in Knoxville dealing with details concerning the move during the days and trying to get together with friends in the evenings. That worked on Monday through Wednesday, but Thursday didn’t turn out so well. Snow started falling early that day and the movers were not able to finish up by 1:00pm as they had predicted, but rather at 5:00pm. I still had too much to do, what with hauling away excess cardboard boxes and recyclable paper and plastic, to meet with the friends I was scheduled to have dinner with. As it turned out, the chef at the restaurant even called me to say that he might have to close due to the snow. Snow was quickly making the roads very slick and icy.

I’d intended to spend the night at my friend JB’s house, but I found that I couldn’t get the rental car up his driveway. Other friends had previously offered a room for that night, but I quickly narrowed it down to only one place where the roads were flat enough that I wouldn’t have to worry about getting in and out, so I spent my last evening at K&K’s.

I got up the next morning and decided to head straight to the title company office rather than run any of the last-minute errands I had planned. I got there early for our closing, but they let me go ahead and start signing the paperwork I needed to sign. I left there hoping to have lunch with Wally before I had to be at the airport, but time had slipped too far away from me. Yet another casualty of the snow.

So now I no longer have any ties to Knoxville other than the emotional ones. I do not know that this is the way it will stay, though. For some reason I don’t think Knoxville has seen the last of MG and me. Maybe in 5 or 10 years our paths may turn that way again. Meanwhile we will still visit periodically (my next visit is scheduled for two weekends from now, in fact).

So farewell for now, Knoxville. Farewell, and good luck.