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Going long

July 5, 2007

We’re having a heat wave in Seattle, and there’s no letup in sight. In the last 48 hours, both bikes got a long workout.

Yesterday, SQREAM did another parade, this time heading to Kirkland for that city’s 4th of July fest.

A good-sized group left Capitol Hill, taking the long way around the top of Lake Washington to get to Kirkland. This is not a difficult trip; as one member of the group put it, “you go to Kenmore and turn right.”

Once you make that right turn, you’ll be on Juanita Drive, a road that’s pleasantly smooth, and pleasantly twisty. I had to run flat-out to keep up with the SQREAMers, nearly all of whom ride modern Vespas, but running flat-out is easier when crummy pavement isn’t shaking your fillings loose and bouncing you around.

As in downtown Seattle, the scooters were a hit with the throngs gathered on the sidewalks.

Today, I decided to take the GT on a dry run for a possible commute. To Enumclaw.

Enumclaw is an east King County town in an area that is making a transition from rural to exurban. The route I planned would avoid I-5 and I-405, which could become hopelessly clogged.

I suspect traffic would be heavier on a day that’s not part of a 5-day holiday weekend, but that might not affect the overall trip time too much… I hope.

The Viaduct and East Marginal Way were effortless. I can’t get over how comfortable the GT is at 50-55 mph. The intersection at East Marginal & Boeing Access Road is torn up for resurfacing, so I have to tiptoe, but the drive into Renton is at or even above the speed limit.

Before I know it, I’m on SR 169 headed east. This is an arterial that’s kind of evolving into a freeway, flanked by new beige McMansions and Safeway Superstores. Traffic is light, but the wind is blowing, making the bike (and more so, me) a bit nervous.

Once you cross Kent-Kangley Road, the beige structures become less numerous, especially once the road narrows down to two lanes. This is nice… in mid-summer it’s very scenic, and Mt. Rainier looms large ahead of you.

Before too long, the town of Black Diamond appears. You may be surprised to learn that coal mining was quite the big deal in eastern King County in the late 19th and early 20th century. Coal was once known as “black diamonds,” and if you were to apply a sufficient amount of heat and pressure to a lump of coal, it would become a diamond… eventually.

Today, the town of Black Diamond is just kinda there, waiting to be inundated by the suburban wave to the west.

Black Diamond means Enumclaw is not far away. However, the low-fuel light is burning urgently, so I decide to fill up at the local 76 station. This adds about five minutes to the trip time.

SR 169 has become 264th Avenue SE, and it is intersected by streets with numbers in the 400s. Yes, these are extensions of Seattle’s street grid, starting from 1st Avenue and Jackson Street in Pioneer Square. The houses are more numerous, and closer together. I’m in Enumclaw.

A check of the GT’s clock shows an hour and 15 minutes has elapsed since I left downtown Seattle. Subtract five minutes for the gas stop, and maybe another 10 if the route becomes familiar.

Even if it doesn’t, the sign at the junction of SR 169 and SR 410 is tantalizing. Take a left, and you’re on your way to Yakima… Favicon


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