28 June 2016

Kids Pedaling for Kids

My daughter Gwen (10) has twisted my tiny bike rider arm and we're pedaling Courage Classic Lite again on  August 6. This year we're going to double-down in every way: riding a tandem together and riding 60 miles to the summit and back.

The "Lite" version is the shorter one-day all-trail version of the amazing 3-day Courage Classic ride over the Cascade Mountains. Both rides raise money to directly fund the Child Abuse Intervention Department at Mary Bridge Children's Hospital in Tacoma, WA, our hometown. We're pedaling to stop the cycle of child abuse in Pierce County. 

Last year Gwen pushed herself to the limits on this ride, pedaling her little folding bike 30 miles to the summit of Snoqualmie Pass. It was an extremely emotional and physical journey for her. 

You can donate to Gwen's fundraising efforts here, but she's also looking for other kids, parents, and kids-at-heart to join her Kidical Mass Tacoma team as Courage Classic Lite riders and fundraisers. Join us! 

The "Lite" route takes you up the Snoqualimie Valley Trail and John Wayne Pioneer Trail, which are closed to motorized vehicles.  The trails offer some stunning views as you cross old trestle bridges on your way up, up, up to the Snoqualmie Tunnel, the nation's longest people-only rail tunnel. It's 2 miles long and completely dark inside - you have to bring lights! Once through the tunnel you'll be treated to a great lunch, a shuttle back to the start point (for 30 mile riders), or go back through the tunnel and enjoy the descent you've earned (60 mile riders.) We may even drive over to Cle Elum and camp with the 3-day riders to show our support for them. It's gonna be a long day in the saddle, but I know it will be worth it.

So Donate! Join our Team! And THANKS!

05 June 2016

Pipeline Trail Adventure

There's a ton of buzz lately about trails in Pierce County and Tacoma. Evergreen Mountain Bike has partnered with Metroparks Tacoma to expand and improve mountain bike trails at Swan Creek Park, the Puyallup Watershed Initiative is looking at how we can build a trail network to reach Mount Rainier from Tacoma, and long-time advocates are helping to find funds to finish the missing links..

One piece of the trail puzzle is the Pipeline Trail corridor, which connects East Tacoma to South Hill in Puyallup. The land is owned by Tacoma Public Utilities and Pierce County, but the water pipeline right-of-way is open to the public for non-motorized use. You can add the trail to your Pierce County Bike Map by connecting the dots of Pipeline Road. 

TWBC member and trail guru Bob Myrick offered to show me the Pipeline Trail corridor and some of the other trails that can connect Tacoma to Puyallup. We were joined by another rider, Kent, who had also never been on this route. Bob was vague on details, but suggested we bring water and fat tires. "I'll get you back to the salt water at the end." Bob leads a mean boondoggle and Kent and I were game for an adventure. (There's a rough map of our route at the bottom with points of interest.)

The Pipeline Trail starts out as barricaded doubletrack segments from E 40th Street in the McKinley Hill neighborhood and heads southeast. Kent had no idea what Bob had meant by "the gates," but we both found out very quickly. You'll have to lift your bike over many of these barricades for the first few miles, though there are a few places where you can walk around. There's lots of broken glass in places, but we managed to complete the whole day without any flats.

As you reach the more rural edge of the Tacoma city limits, there are many places where Pipeline Road doubles as access for residential properties along the right-of-way, so the road is well maintained. The scenery is stunning and it's surprising how quickly we had entered the countryside.

Part of the corridor is marked and maintained by Pierce County as Orange-gate Park. We saw a bunch of well worn trails splitting off into the woods from the main Pipeline Trail as we passed through. A local resident heading for the trails stopped to explain that they are great for mountain biking and that he rides there 3-4 times a week. I can't wait to come back and check these out!

We left the trail at Fruitland Avenue and headed north on the road towards Puyallup. (To continue on the trail you have to jog down Fruitland Ave for about 200 feet to rejoin the trail, but it continues all the way to Meridian Ave in South Hill.) We could have taken Fruitland all the way to Puyallup, but Bob showed us a trailhead into Clark's Creek Park (also referred to as De Coursey Park) and we rode singletrack trail, instead. This gravel and dirt route from Tacoma to Puyallup is all kinds of fun! 

The trail ended next the the hatchery. There's some parking next to a gate and this extremely informative sign (see map below for location.)

I figured we would be on the road for a while through Puyallup, but Bob showed us a few cut-throughs on the Meeker Creek Trail and then the Silver Creek Trail. These are just short sections of public green space, but at this point I was amazed how little of our ride had been paved.

After a stop to fill water bottles at the new Playback Sports location in downtown Puyallup, we headed for Tacoma along Levee Road. Both Levee Road and River Road are the primary thoroughfares along the Puyallup River and neither of them are friendly places to ride bikes. Rider beware.

We stuck to the river as much as we could and after some round-about navigation, we ended up at another public green space right in the middle of the Port of Tacoma. There was even a parking lot and a welcome sign! At this point I was really scratching my head and wondering, Why don't we already have a trail to Puyallup along this corridor? We crossed the Puyallup River on the Lincoln Ave bridge and continued along the dike to S 11th Street. 

Not shown to the left of the photo above is a section of encampments. The homeless population in Pierce County is on the rise and this is one of the few places where folks camp relatively out in the open, mostly because there's no signage telling them not to. We only saw a face or two, and a pile of battered bicycles likely salvaged from other camps and used for spare parts. Each little makeshift tent had a bike parked out front. Bikes truly are the vehicle of the people.

This route was a great showcase of how a trail system in Pierce County could be easily built, connecting users to the Foothills Trail and destinations closer to Mount Rainier. Such a loop like this would be used for all types of recreation as well as a Commuter Connector for residents in the rural areas between Tacoma and South Hill. It won't take much improvement of the current trail infrastructure to get more people exploring Tacoma and Pierce County on bikes. 

Note: Depending on when you read this, parts of this route may be under construction. Some of the areas along the Puyallup River are inhabited with campsites and you may need or want to find an alternate route.

02 June 2016

Slow Down Nicely

I've been cutting through Highland Hills on my last few solo rides, heading back and forth to the Narrows Bridge. I noticed that there are a few large speed bumps and many polite signs encouraging drivers to slow down.

As I stopped to take on of these photos, a homeowner came out of his garage and asked if I needed air. I ask the same sort of questions when I see folks prowling around in front of my house. 

"I like these signs. You've got quite a collection along this street." The neighbor explained that the HOA had asked the City of Tacoma to help them with speed control and they did nothing. "We get lots of speeders cutting through to miss the light at N 21st an Pearl."

So the HOA paid to put in the speed bumps, with the help of some grant funding, and put up the signs throughout the neighborhood. The Highland Hills neighborhood has plenty of pedestrian traffic between the golf course, retirement communities, families and kids playing, and the bus line. The 25mph zone could easily be a 20.

I thanked the neighbor for the chat. He was happy to share his story and happened to be heading out on a bike ride that evening, too. His family was biking to a restaurant for dinner.

Until the City of Tacoma engineers safer streets and increases traffic enforcement, neighborhoods like Highland Hills will be forced to take matters into ther own hands. And they are even doing it nicely.

20 April 2016

My Other T-Town: Tulsa

I learned to ride a bike as a kid in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We lived in a quiet, secluded neighborhood with a very low speed limit and plenty of other kids. We rode our bikes in the street, helmetless and carefree.

Clowning on my little sister's bike
Once while sleeping over at a friend's house down the street, we snuck out and biked to the video store, leaving the neighborhood and riding on the narrow shoulder of a few 40mph arterials in the dark. I realize now that the two mile roundtrip was extremely dangerous, but those kinds of bike experiences stuck with me over the years.

I reconnected with some of those biking memories on a recent visit to Tulsa with my family. The arterials are still wide and fast, many without sidewalks or shoulders. We did not see a single bike lane. My wife and I talked with Jason at T-Town Bicycles in South Tulsa, a shop very close to my childhood neighborhood. He said that he often rides to work using the marked Bike Routes that zig zag through the neighborhoods and subdivisions, connecting the large grid of arterials. There's a strong bicycle culture growing in Tulsa, but it's hard to see it through the sea of cars.

T-Town Bicycles is located very close to the Riverparks Trail, a haven for all types of bike riders. Mrs. TBR and I had a chance to ride part of the trail on cruiser bikes that we checked out for free from the Tulsa Townies bike share system.

It's FREE!
Only 2 of the 4 bikes worked.
The 40mph arterial adjacent to the trail has been punched through the field where I played as a kid. Riding through there on the trail as a grown-up was a surreal experience to say the least.

Iconic Landmarks of South Tulsa!
When a bigger bridge across the Arkansas River was built, they converted the old one to bike/ped only.
We ended our trip with a walking tour of downtown Tulsa, where I was surprised to see bike racks used to distinguish shops and business districts. And we found one sharrow painted street! I'm sure there's another one somewhere.

And with the passage of Vision Tulsa, a local ballot initiative to help pay for livability improvements, USA BMX will be relocating to Tulsa and the old baseball stadium will be turned into a world-class bmx arena. This was announced just days after we returned home, so I'm excited to see how this plays into the bike culture movement in T-Town. My other one.

06 April 2016

Missing Pages

Over the years I've used this blog as a place to document our bicycle adventures.  Even though 2015 was a big year for us on bikes, I didn't get a single thing posted. I won't attempt to go back and fill in the blank, but I am disappointed that I won't have TBR to use a a reference for 2015 - Tacoma's Year of the Bike.

Moving forward, I will make a renewed effort to get a few photos posted now and then in more of a micro-blog style. I used to feel like Tacoma needed to be showcased as a good town for bikes and wanted to help promote what the city had to offer. Now I just need to try and keep up with my family and our memory-making days on two wheels. Tune-in or tune-out; either way TBR is getting a tune-up.