Sunday, April 8, 2018

Surfing the Atmospheric River

Local weather blogs have been all atwitter all week about the impending atmospheric river this weekend -- a big one, not too unusual for November but something to get excited about in April.

I relish a good atmospheric river, but I had mixed emotions about this one; I don't especially like biking in the rain and this Sunday was the long-awaited, much-anticipated Emerald City bike ride on the viaduct and through the Battery Street Tunnel.  I love that rickety old viaduct with all my heart; there is no better way to come into and out of downtown Seattle in terms of spectacular views, and I'm going to be pretty sad when it's torn down next year to make way for a boring old bored tunnel.  Goodbye, spectacular views!

So atmospheric river or not, when cars are banned from the viaduct for a couple of hours early on a Sunday morning and bikes are given free rein, there is no way I'm going to miss that.  The storm was blowing in full force when I got up early this morning, raining hard and blustering harder, so I pulled on tights and wool sweater and rain jacket, wool beanie under my helmet, waterproof gloves (oops, forgot the shoe covers and my shoes quickly became swimming pools!), and headed out into the weather.  It was cool, and so Seattle, to see other bike riders heading in the same direction, and cars with bikes on their racks pulling out of their driveways and heading out.  A little atmospheric river is not going to stop Seattle bike riders from having an adventure!

I rode down the hill in time to get to the locks as soon as they opened at 7:00 and walked on through, waving hello to the friendly crew high up on the decks of a ginormous fish processing ship that was locking through, then rode downtown along the water.

The weather was really howling along the shore, with big waves crashing on the rocks at Myrtle Edwards park, strong gusting wind and heavy rain in my face.  I rode along with another woman heading to the same place, and we compared bike commuting and bike crash stories.  We left the bike trail at its end and joined the line of bikes riding down along the waterfront.  As we got closer to the ferry terminal and the south end of downtown, the street got sketchier and sketchier -- narrow and bumpy and potholed, as the big Waterfront Seattle project continues, all part of the viaduct coming down and the tunnel going in.  That's one of the projects I'm involved in at work, so it was very fun to be right in the midst of it.  I'm so glad I didn't drive to the start of the ride and miss the mess of progress!

At last we made it to the start area, where thousands of bike riders milled about, picking up numbers and grabbing coffee before heading out onto the viaduct.  And then, there we were, on the viaduct!  I've driven across hundreds of times, but there was something special about crossing it at a human-powered pace, up close and personal.  It really was an amazing experience, and I sang a little song in my head as I rode ("I'm so glad I did it!  I did it!  I got up and did it!").

It was over way too soon, because the viaduct really isn't that long.  We descended into the Battery Street tunnel, which, people, looks a little like a medieval torture chamber when you're cruising through slowly, looking all around, instead of focusing on the cars ahead of you -- all stained cracked walls and dripping water and eerie yellow lights.  This old tunnel is going to turn into a landfill for construction debris once the new tunnel is finished, so that will be the end of it.  Too bad, it's pretty cool down there.  I was in favor of making it into a skateboard park, but I guess no one else was!

And then we emerged from the tunnel, back into the rain and wind, and rode up Aurora and across the bridge.  We cruised down the first exit after the bridge, then wound our way down Stone Way to Lake Union.  From here the ride continued toward the I-5 express lanes -- also closed to traffic for the morning -- and back to the start, but that part wasn't as interesting to me and I had had enough of riding in a crowd.  So I turned the opposite direction, stopped at PCC for some pesto and greens, stopped at the espresso cart for a quick and warming macchiato, then rode along the ship canal, through the locks again, and up the hill to home.

Back home, I rinsed the road grime off my bike, put my soaking wet shoes on the boot dryer, changed into warm soft clothes, and made French toast.  Then it was couch time with a book.  It was a day of all my favorite things: rainy windy weather, big ship in the locks, viaduct, macchiato, pesto, bike, French toast.  What a splendid way to spend a Sunday and say goodbye to a Seattle icon!

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