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My baby don’t take no morning train

July 30, 2009
The GTS at Denny's

Yes, there are things in the suburbs you won't find in Seattle. Denny's f'rinstance. (Orin O'Neill photos)

I’d actually managed to get a few hours’ sleep last night. But I’m heading for Issaquah at 5:37 am (73°F) to take part in Seattle Met’s commuter derby. Bus, carpool, single-occupant vehicle, bicycle and scooter would be duking it out for bragging rights and commute supremacy. Or not.

You could certainly take a Vespa GTS on I-90, so that’s what I did. That’s why I left so early. Traffic should be light before 6:00 am, especially eastbound. While riding a scooter on an Interstate highway is not something I go out of my way to do, in this case it was necessary to make sure I got to the meetup location on time. Issaquah is about 15 miles east of Seattle, so this would be my longest continuous freeway ride.

Especially when you add the West Seattle Bridge and viaduct, and a couple miles of northbound I-5 to reach the I-90 junction.

I had the West Seattle part to myself, though the ramp to I-5 seemed clogged. However, people were doing the speed limit plus going north. Luckily, the ramp to I-90 is a mandatory right-lane exit. But the pavement grooves are still there, and now the front Sava does this crack-the-whip thing. I wish I could put a Kenda on the front.

Once on the smooth pavement of I-90, the front tire’s not-roundness was actually worse. Think of a wheel out of balance on your car. Kinda the same deal, the front wheel feels quite squirrelly above 60 mph. There being two more lanes to my left, I stay right.

The only really scary moment on this trip was a Sound Transit bus passing on my left. Most city transit buses in the U.S. resemble bread boxes, with flat front ends. Pushing a barn door through the air will generate turbulence, for sure, but what happened when the front of the bus pulled even with me was something I didn’t expect at all.

It felt like a giant hand had grabbed the sleeve of my Corazzo jacket and pulled it to my left as hard as it could. There didn’t seem to be any danger of being yanked off the saddle, but it was sure disconcerting.

Exit 15 appeared in almost no time. It was still quite early, so I decided to find a place to have breakfast. Freeway exits have these nice signs that show where to find motels, and food. Turn right for the usual roadside food suspects, the sign said. That was the opposite direction to turn for the meetup, but my sense of direction is quite good. Getting lost is not an issue.

I decided Denny’s would be the place. We don’t have them in the city limits of Seattle anymore. I’m not sure why; they’d have done tremendous business this week, since their air conditioning is usually cranked.

The lone scooter in Issaquah

As I returned to pick up the route to the meetup, this little scooter in the middle of the vast sea of asphalt that is the junction of I-90 and SR 900 caught my eye. Yes, there are scooters in the suburbs.

The streets in Issaquah seem to be in decent shape. In fact, some are fun, being old farm roads that have turned into suburban arterial streets.

My pet peeve about driving on the Eastside is the conspicuous lack of street numbers on buildings. Luckily, all the streets in King County are numbered and directional-ed starting from 1st Avenue and Main Street in downtown Seattle. At least I can make an educated guess based on the cross streets, which are all numbered outside Seattle.

Found it! I’m early. The others are late. That’s fine. I have all day.

After posing for lots of pictures, we head out. Official time is 8:10 am. Here’s my route:

I was zipping along quite contentedly until reaching East Lake Sammammish Parkway, where there’s construction going on. The traffic on the intersecting street (i.e., the one I was on) was being held. And held. And held. Geez, I’m trying to win a race here!

Finally released by the flagger, the road is pleasantly twisty and pleasantly cool. Lake Sammammish is a nice air conditioner. While the GTS says it’s 80°F it feels a lot cooler.

Looking for my next turn, a thoughtfully-placed brown sign saying “Marymoor Park” appears. This is where I need to go.

It soon becomes apparent I should’ve stayed on the arterial route. The speed limit in the park is 25 mph, and where there isn’t a speed bump, there’s a stop sign. And a green Corolla in front of me.

The Corolla and I turn left onto West Lake Sammammish Parkway. From here, it’s not at all far to the Overlake area. From there, it’s not far to where I planned to jump onto WA 520.

The only HOV lane on this part of 520 goes west, and it’s also a shoulder because… well, because. But traffic is crawling on the general-purpose lanes. I’m doing the speed limit and a bit more.

For some reason, the clogs on 520 always clear up on the bridge deck. I slide the GTS past the crawl and motor along. Oooh, I love this! It’d almost make me think about living on the Eastside. Almost.

All that’s left is to hop off at Roanoke, swing around the south end of Lake Union, and head to Seattle Met’s editorial offices on Western Avenue. There’s HOV parking around the corner. I pull in next to one of the two Harleys in the space.

My official arrival time is 9:14 am, the distance a bit over 23 miles. I could easily knock at least five minutes off the time by making the changes I mention above, and by following the arterial from Overlake.

Old-Skool GPS

Of course, a GPS with traffic alerts would help, too. Favicon


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