28 August 2013

Get Creative: Decorate Your Helmet

After Kidical Mass #4, I rode downtown to the Tacoma Art Museum where local artists were busy decorating bike helmets. (Many thanks to Tinkertopia owner RR Anderson for the heads-up on this event!)

According to TAM:
"Participating artists will receive a bicycle helmet to decorate, an assortment of mixed media supplies, receive 20 dollars of credit at Tinkertopia, and an honorarium of 50 dollars for participating. During the event there will be a ballot box for people to vote for their favorite helmet. At 3 pm the first, second, and third place will be announced.
After the festival the helmets will be on display at Tacoma Art Museum in the community art space until September 21. On September 22 during the Dome to Defiance Sunday Parkways bicycling event the helmets will be worn by special guests."
It was a beautiful day to work outside and every artist seemed to have a completely different design concept.

Some helmets were already completed and on display inside the museum.

Make sure you attend the Downtown to Defiance event on September 22 to see these works of art in action. TBR will be there to help with Kidical Mass #5: Point to Point. It's going to be rad. 

23 August 2013

Kidical Mass #5: Point Defiance to Point Ruston

Tacoma's first Kidical Mass summer is winding down!

Our fifth and final ride of the season will be Sunday, September 22 as part of the Downtown to Defiance: Sunday Parkways event.

Kidical Mass goes Point to Point
Kidical Mass will lead a family-friendly bike ride from the entrance of Point Defiance Park down to Point Ruston on the newly finished section of the waterfront trail. Kids can play on the playground at the halfway point before heading back up the hill for a frozen treat from Hilltop Pop Shop.

The ride starts at 11am, but activities at Point Defiance begin at 10am so plan to arrive early. Look for the Kidical Mass bike corral! Everyone is welcome to join us. 

Visit DowntownToDefiance.com to register for the ride and check-out a full listing of activities.

Downtown to Defiance

The Kidical Mass Point to Point ride is just a small part of the Downtown to Defiance event. MetroParks will close some lanes of Dock Street and Schuster Parkway to car traffic for a limited time in the morning to allow cyclists, runners, skateboarders, etc., to enjoy a waterfront route from the Tacoma Dome to Point Defiance Park. The event will showcase the completion of the interim waterfront trail through the Point Ruston development.

View Downtown To Defiance in a larger map

The whole route is about 7 miles and there will be stops along the way with lots of activities provided by MetroParks. Be sure to visit DowntownToDefiance.com for more details and to register for longer rides with the Tacoma Wheelmen and the VeloFemmes.

If you ride all or part of the Downtown to Defiance route earlier in the morning, you should have plenty of time to join Kidical Mass at 11am. Everyone is welcome.

Point Ruston Waterfront Trail

The interim trail is the missing link between the well developed Ruston Way trail and the many trails and pathways in Point Defiance Park. As of August 23, the trail is roughly graded and will be paved soon.

The trail will be the on the graded roadway on the right
The trail switchbacks around the cliffside above Point Ruston

The trail climbs up a 5% grade from the Copperline Apartments at the north end of Ruston Way. This may be a challenging climb for younger riders, but it also makes a nice walk!

Feel free to leave questions and comments below. We are really excited to be a part of this first-of-its-kind event in Tacoma!

19 August 2013

South Tacoma Trail Ride with Kidical Mass

Our fourth Kidical Mass of the summer happened on Saturday. Five families met at South Park for a ride on the Water Ditch Trail, which winds through the South Tacoma neighborhood. Before we started, I scoped out the street crossing at South 56th, the only major arterial on the trail. To my surprise I found a huge car show taking up 6 blocks of nearby South Tacoma Way.

The car show was easily drawing 10 times the normal Saturday morning traffic and the road closure was causing backups and parking issues near the trailhead at South Park. While the kids decorated bikes, the pedal parents discussed how we'd handle the traffic.

There is signage expressly prohibiting pedestrian crossings where the Water Ditch Trail meets 56th Street. Rather than navigate our 15 bikes several blocks up the sidewalk to the traffic signal, we simply waited for a gap and blocked traffic for a minute. It worked OK.

After we crossed and walked up this short incline, we were rather unencumbered for the rest of the ride. There are many small residential street crossings, which gave us opportunities to practice Watch for Cars and Look Both Ways. 

Our destination was Arlington Elementary, where one of our riders had just graduated from preschool. She was excited to tell us about her field trip to Northwest Trek and how she'd be attending kindergarten at Edison Elementary next month, a school which we also rode by. With conviction and maybe even pride, she told us, "I live in South Tacoma." She seemed tickled to be sharing her neighborhood with us.

At Arlington we spent 15 minutes picking up litter from the playground and the ball field. Kids and pedal parents were more than happy to pitch in.

Knowing the afternoon traffic would be heavier, we left the trail and dropped down to Puget Sound Avenue just before 56th Street so we could cross at a traffic light. It was a good choice.

Big kids took the lane and younger riders took the sidewalk for the last six blocks back to the park. Traffic was heavy, but everyone did a great job of sharing the road. At this point I felt the whole group was riding with a poise and confidence that we lacked at the beginning. They made it look easy.

As usual, Jeff's Ice Cream rode along and handed out frozen treats to all of our riders at the finish. South Park is truly a gem of the South Tacoma neighborhood and worth checking out.

Thanks again to the Tacoma Wheelmen's Bicycle Club for supporting Kidical Mass. Our next (and final) ride of the summer, will be on September 22 as part of Metropark's Downtown to Defiance: Sunday Parkway event. Kidical Mass will start at 11am from the Point Defiance Park entrance (look for a special bike corral.) More details will be posted here soon. Mark your calendar!

12 August 2013

A Day on the John Wayne Pioneer Trail

I took a day trip to Iron Horse State Park for a ride on the John Wayne Pioneer Trail with my friend Terry. The western end of the JWPT starts at Rattlesnake Lake near Cedar Falls, WA, then heads east over Snoqualmie Pass into the arid plateau of eastern Washington. This was my first time on the trail, so it made sense to start at the beginning.

The trail is on the old Milwaukee Rail line, so the grade is very consistent and reasonable. The trail is basically a one-lane gravel road with a well-packed surface. My 29er was overkill for this terrain, but the wide tires help even out the bumps.

Terry simply put a set of cyclocross tires on his city bike. We both packed along lunches, lights and rain gear and planned to ride 21 miles to the pass summit at Hyak, which included the 2.3 mile Snoqualmie Tunnel.

The going was easy and we chatted much of the way. We played tourist, stopping at the trestle bridges and viewpoints.

There are several trail-side campsites along the way to Hyak. A father and son told us to check out the Carter Creek site that they had just used. These are all State Park sites, so the fee is just $5/night, and there is a clean pit-toilet bathroom near each location. Family campers should check it out!

The real treat on this ride is the Snoqualimie Tunnel. It has a serious Lord of the Rings feel when you stand outside the entrance.

Lights are a must and jackets are recommended. It's cold and dark and a little drippy in there. 

The upper entrance to the tunnel at Hyak is near a big parking lot and is easy to find if you wanted to drive up and just ride or hike the tunnel portion.

It was only 11:30 when we reached the summit, so rather than turn around and head back to Rattlesnake, Terry and I decided to keep riding the JWPT around the southern edge of Kachellus Lake. 

The interstate and its ongoing widening project are on the opposit side of the lake. The trail is quite quiet even though you can see the cars in the distance. It was warming up and we were feeling good (and when were we going to get a chance to ride this trail again?!) so we kept on towards Lake Easton.

Shortly after crossing this bridge over the Yakima River, we left the trail and headed for Lake Easton State Park. The JWPT continues east around the opposite and more remote side of the lake, but we were already 40 miles into our day and low on water. We would have to see more of the trail another time.

I've been to the Lake Easton campground several times before while riding the Courage Classic. It's another great spot to bring the whole family.

We turned around and headed for home. This is where the photographic part of the story ends, because just a mile later the wind picked up and the rain started. I tucked my camera in my dry saddlebag and then never had a chance to get it back out. The rain turned into a deluge as thunder roared on the rock faces above us and lightening flashed nearby. It's 18 miles from Easton to Hyak and somewhere in the middle it started to hail. I had been saving my rain jacket for the tunnel, but at this point I finally stopped, already soaked, to put it on. My oversized hood fits over my helmet, which keeps the cold water from running down my back. The pea-sized hail bouncing off the hood sounded like I was riding with a popcorn popper in my ears.

This Biblical thunder shower continued for most of the ride to Hyak, with the rain letting up just as we reached the tunnel. Inside, a cold wind chilled my ungloved hands. Its mid-August, why would I need gloves?

Back outside in the daylight and on the descent, we were riding faster. However, the heavy rain had washed away our smooth trail and turned it into a puddled and rutted gravel mine-field. The cold and increased vibration caused my hands and soaked feet to go completely numb. The 18 miles down to Rattlesnake were fast, but not fast enough. My fingers were bone white when we finally reached the trailhead and I could barely squeeze my brakes. The first half of our ride was blissful; this second half was torture. 

That being said, the pain wasn't anything that heated seats and a cup of coffee couldn't mend! Our initial 40 mile joyride had become an 80 mile adventure. Even if I had known about the weather we would encounter, I still would have done it. Day trips like this don't happen very often for me and, especially when a good friend comes along for the ride, you have to just keep smiling and go for it.

04 August 2013

Kidical Mass Tacoma #4: Water Ditch Trail

Our next Kidical Mass on August 17 will head to South Tacoma for a ride on the Water Ditch Trail. The trail starts near South Park and the Asia Pacific Cultural Center at S. 50th and Puget Sound Ave (just off South Tacoma Way). We'll start there at 11 am, but come earlier if you want to decorate your bike.

South Park has a playground, sprayground and restrooms.
The trail heads south through the neighborhood, past Gray Middle School, and ends near Arlington Elementary School. I pre-rode the route today and found this guy at the Arlington playground.

While the playground will make a fun mid-point recess spot for our young riders, I couldn't help but notice the litter. There's a lot of litter around the playground. So I'm going to bring garbage bags, broom, dustpan, and some gloves so that we can do a little clean-up while we hang out at Arlington. It just looks like it could use a little love. Bring gloves for your young riders if you'd like them to pitch in.

View Kidical Mass #4: Water Ditch Trail in a larger map

Then we'll head back to South Park for treats and another chance to play. South Park is well shaded and will be a great place to cool off after this flat and manageable 3.8 mile round-trip. Did I already mention the sprayground?

As always, we will ride together and stop to regroup as needed along the way. Our only major street crossing will be at S. 56th Street. We will have volunteers stop traffic before crossing the street as a group. On every ride, I'm always impressed with the courtesy of drivers who give us their right-of-way when we cross arterials. Kids are traffic, too!

We'll see you on August 17.