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Road trip dress rehearsal

January 21, 2007
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520 Bridge

The WA 520 Bridge (Photo courtesy WSDOT)

In Seattle, you pay about 54 bucks for Basic Cable, at least once Comcast’s promotional prices expire. This would seem to be an awful lot of money to pay for the Canadian Broadcasting Company and The Weather Channel, which are the two channels I watch the most. But then, the HBO tier is something like 90 dollars, and I’m too cheap to pay for that.

Yes, I said The Weather Channel, and it’s not because I think Stephanie Abrams is totally hot or that I like the music that accompanies their Local on the 8s forecasts or anything like that. When you’re on two wheels, exposed to the elements, knowing what the weather has in store will not only make your journey more comfortable, it will make you safer, too.

I’d decided last night that I’d take the PX on my favorite Eastside ride this morning, but only if the rain stays away. I have TWC on, and at 28 minutes past the hour, the synthetic male voice says today’s forecast is afternoon showers. However, at 38 minutes past the hour, the showers will hold off unti this evening.

That’s why I keep paying the cable bill.

Yes, I know I give people grief for not wanting to ride in the rain, this being Seattle and all, but it’s one thing to ride 25-30 mph around town, and something else entirely if you’re going as fast as the bike will go on a major highway.

In this case, the highway is State Route 520, specifically the Evergreen Point floating bridge. When I had a job in Redmond (and no, it wasn’t Microsoft), I took the ET across the bridge a few times.

The bridge itself is not a bad place to ride at all. The pavement is fairly new and smooth, and there’s no grating, just a couple of intertwined steel things connecting the floating bridge deck to the highrise sections at each end. Crosswinds are common, but you’re okay as long as there are no whitecaps on Lake Washington (really, are you crazy enough to ride here if waves are breaking across the bridge deck?)

What makes traversing the 520 bridge, uh, interesting is the traffic. A vehicle moving through the air makes a wake in same way a boat does in water. A 213-lb. scooter, even with a 230-lb. rider on board, is rather vulnerable to this wake action, and the bigger the vehicle, the bigger the wake.

That’s why I decided a Sunday morning would be the best time to cross… traffic will be light, and the likelihood of encountering large trucks was almost nil. I finished breakfast quickly and rode out to Montlake.

Motorcycles get to use the HOV lane on the 520 entrance ramp, and the angle is better for building up speed. There was a bit more traffic that I expected, but not so much that anyone who had issues with my rate of forward motion couldn’t pull into the left lane. Still, even though the speedometer is showing 50 (the posted speed limit), I get passed as though standing still. I get the wake action, too, showing again that the PX is a bit twitchier than an ET.

Some people (even some who work at Microsoft) continue on after leaving the east highrise, but I’m not one of them; I jump off at 84th and go through Medina on the way to downtown Bellevue, or as I like to call it, Little Dubai.

Pass Bellevue Square, left on Bellevue Way and north to Kirkland as the street turns into Lake Washington Boulevard, then Lake Street in downtown Kirkland. I marvel at the residential development that has taken place along this street, not only at the palatial lakefront condos, but the crappy little apartment buildings that have been “re-imagined” as condos, “from the mid-400s.” Yikes. I’m glad I got my place when I did.

As eye-watering as housing prices are in downtown Kirkland, it’s still an appealing place because it has more of an urban feel than just about anyplace on the Eastside. A Vespa doesn’t seem so out-of-place here, and things like stores and entertainment are short walk from most of the pricey condos.

Go left at Central Way, then right at the stop sign (where you don’t have to stop), and you’re on Market Street. Go north through some slight twisties and you’ll be at Juanita Drive. Go left, and enjoy more intense twisties and, when the leaves are on the trees, great scenery.

Eventually, you’ll come to Bothell Way, at the northern end of Lake Washington. This is a main drag, but people don’t blow off the posted speed limits here like they do on 520. Bothell Way becomes Lake City Way once you cross into Seattle’s city limits, and is more of a commercial strip. But it’s a place we go frequently on group rides.

Before I know it, I’m on Roosevelt Way, and Cafe Racer is in sight. This was the long way to get there. Favicon

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