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We’re goin’ riding on the free-way

October 23, 2008

I’ve achieved a fairly high comfort level on the high-level West Seattle Bridge and Spokane Street Viaduct. The Alaskan Way Viaduct isn’t a particularly stressful ride, either. Time to, as Emeril is always saying, kick it up a notch.

Yesterday, I needed to go to Ballard. Why not come back on I-5?

Couldn’t think of a reason not to. Well, I probably could’ve if the weather weren’t absolutely goregeous, but the sun shone brightly, the sky was bluer than blue, and pavement everywhere was bone-dry. Ideal conditions, for sure. And I-5 has lots of places to hop off if things get too intense.

I crest the hill at 85th, following the gentle downward slope onto the southbound SuperSlab. Traffic was moving at a manageable bit above the speed limit. But there are no fewer than two other lanes on my left for people who don’t think I’m going fast enough.

Downtown Seattle

Downtown Seattle (WSDOT photo)

The windscreen seems to create an aero barrier at 60 mph that feels like a giant hand holding the GTS and me back. I suppose I could crank the right handgrip harder, but I’m in no particular hurry.

The pavement is smooth and the GTS is humming along contentedly. But there’s a rumble behind me, getting louder very quickly. A double dump truck is filling my mirrors as if they were zoom lenses.

He’s able to go around, and a wide section of pavement just north of the Ship Canal Bridge gives me some room to move right and minimize the effect of his aero wake. This guy is booking; so is a red semi pulling a box trailer. Another big rig in the number 3 lane (These guys are not supposed to be there!) slows suddenly as these two pull in behind him. A collision and debris storm seemed inevitable, but somehow they all managed to slow and pull into a tight NASCAR-style draft.

I decide to hop off at Roanoke. Big rigs are not a huge deal at 35-40 mph, but at double that speed I think discretion is the better part of valor.

However, there’s a short ramp leading back onto the freeway at the other end of Boylston. What the heck, why not? This can be quite handy if you’re getting off at Mercer Street; during the afternoon commute even a 50cc scooter can cope because traffic is crawling.

I got off at Mercer. I realized there was somewhere I needed to stop on the way home.

Today, I thought I’d try it again. But this time I got on at 45th, the idea being to ride down to the Airport Way exit south of the I-90 interchange.

Eastbound on 45th, I see a line of cars stopped on the ramp, and the flashing yellow light indicating the ramp metering was in effect. The light changes, I make the right turn, and crawl along toward the ramp signal.

Then I remember I can use the HOV lane. Duh!

Southbound traffic on I-5 usually starts to thicken up at 2:00 pm. While it may look like a crawl from the top of the ramp, the herd is moving at about 40 mph. A good 50cc scooter could probably run with traffic in this case, but that’s something I will leave to the reader’s discretion. I have no trouble going 60.

I have to move one lane to my left to avoid the mandatory exit at Mercer Street. An opening appears, I slide in. So far, no expressions of surprise that a guy on a moped is on the freeway. Traffic speeds up a bit; I’m going 50 as I pass under the “Downtown Exits” sign. I need to move one more lane to my left to be properly positioned.

Some genius decided merging five lanes into two, in what amounts to a tunnel (actually the lid upon which the Convention Center is built) was a good idea. This always clogs traffic during commute hours. More easily dealt with on a big scooter, for sure. I get into the mandatory exit lane for Bellevue/Issaquah, which goes to a collector/distributor road. Move one lane right, and I can exit at Dearborn, 4th Avenue S, or Airport Way.

Traffic is moving above the limit as I emerge from the tunnel. The lane to my right is empty as I merge in. I don’t want to do the Dearborn exit; it’s a sharp turn and a fairly steep downhill plunge. Fourth Avenue S is slightly better, but Airport Way is the most gradual transition to the surface. I just wish the pavement on Airport Way was in better shape.

I turn right on Holgate, headed for the nice new pavement on 1st Avenue S. But the crossing gate between 6th and 4th is closed. Not to worry, these are the light rail tracks. The train will pass in the blink of an eye. Favicon

  1. chewy permalink
    October 23, 2008 4:45 pm

    The first time I took the Morphous on the highway, I wondered if that little 250 would be enough. Turns out I can to 70-75 with no problem, and I think the areodynamic shape helps a bit, too. I can’t imagine it on a 50cc sitting bolt upright.
    Hats of to you.

  2. October 23, 2008 8:36 pm

    I can speak from experience on freeway riding the GTS, more than half of my 3000 miles were on I-5.

    The windscreen, is helping. You remove it, you become a large parachute. Which is why I installed the flyscreen, it’s just big enough to send the air up to my helmet which is more aerodynamic than my barrel chest.

    You can try it without, but you’re going to want it back on I can guarantee it. if I duck under my flyscreen I can go even faster.

    It’s odd, I feel more comfortable on the freeway than on the streets, I think it’s because there are less intersections, no cars running red lights there.

  3. October 24, 2008 9:07 am

    Chewy, you’ve hit on the maxis’ sweet spot—high-speed cruising. It doesn’t require a large amount of horsepower to move a vehicle at freeway speed, especially one that weighs about 500 lbs.

    Nate, until I put the windscreen on the GTS, I was skeptical of the whole windscreen concept, but now I’m sold. Wouldn’t even consider riding at speed without it, especially on a freeway.

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