04/30/14

Review and giveaway: Cycling Sojourner’s guide to the best multi-day tours in Washington

by Jessie Kwak

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UPDATE: The giveaway is now closed. Thanks for all your comments!

I was so excited when I heard that Ellee Thalheimer of Cycling Sojourner was writing a Washington version of her awesome bike touring guide. I’d snagged a copy of the Oregon version, but since I lived in Seattle I’d never gotten a chance to try any of them out.

Well, as the world turns, by the time the Washington book was released, I’d moved to Portland. 🙂

I got my sneaky Oregonian hands on a review copy, though, and let me say it looks fantastic! Keep reading to find out why, and to see how you can win your very own copy.


The book features nine routes throughout Washington State, from an easy overnighter from Seattle to multi-day epics in the Okanogan and Palouse. I was drooling as I read through the descriptions of the John Wayne Trail and a wine tasting loop in Walla Walla.

(I’m quite the fan of wine tasting trips with bikes in.)

This guidebook does a great job of making bike touring seem accessible to riders of all levels and budgets. In the introduction, you’ll find a shoestring guide to bike gear, advice on choosing touring companions, and a nice discussion on how to carry all your stuff. There’s even a handy packing guide at the back.

Many of the trips are contributed by local riders, which means that you can count on a knowledgeable guide to camp sites, lodging, and places to chow down. I loved the attention to tasty restaurants and breweries along the way. Ellee was one of the coauthors of Hop in the Saddle, so you know the woman is a fan of good living.

The maps and cue sheets are top-notch, and the attention to detail in the route descriptions is really superb. All in all, it’s a beautifully-produced book and I can’t wait to go try one of the routes!

Giveaway!!

As I mentioned above, I’ve got a copy to giveaway to one of you folks. I picked up two through the Kickstarter ages ago, and one of them could be yours!

To win, just leave a comment below. Tell me either: 1) In your opinion, what’s the most beautiful bike ride in Washington State? or 2) Where in Washington do you dream of riding?

The contest will be open through next Wednesday (May 7), and then I’ll pick one comment at random.

Fire away!


If you’re in Seattle tomorrow, you should definitely check out the release party at the Bicycle Alliance of Washington’s headquarters in Pioneer Square. There will be beer, book signings, and all sorts of fun!


Read more about it and order your copy on the Bike Alliance website

Order a copy on Ellee’s website

12/20/13

Oh, all the roads I’ve rid in Seattle

by Jessie Kwak

As we get closer to our impending move to Portland, I’m starting to feel quite nostalgic about biking in Seattle. I keep thinking about all my favorite places to ride, but because of how busy I’ve been – and how cold the weather’s been – I haven’t had much time to go out.

I’ve written about a lot of my cycling day trips outside Seattle, like the Bainbridge to Bremerton loop, Whidbey Island twice, and the Cedar River Trail, but I realized I haven’t written as much about the the roads I’ve loved in the city itself.

View of downtown from Jose Rizal park on Beacon Hill

View of downtown from Jose Rizal park on Beacon Hill


This is only the smallest of lists – I could wax poetic on another few dozen favorite spots, but I wanted to keep it to places I rode frequently and will really miss. So here’s a little homage to some of my favorite roads, trails, and places.

What are yours?


Interlaken and Cheasty

People complain about Seattle’s hills, which are certainly plentiful, but you just can’t get the delicious thrill of descending if you don’t climb, too. Some roads are obviously of an easier grade than others, but I want to highlight two that actually manage to turn a grueling climb into a pleasure.

When I lived on Capitol Hill, I would sometimes need to clear my head in the midst of a day of writing. A quick bike ride would do the trick, letting me come back to the page fresh and full of new ideas. The best thing about living on Capitol Hill was that it was easy to get motivated to ride your bike somewhere – after all, it was almost always downhill. The problem was in the return.

Unless you climbed Interlaken Boulevard, a winding, forested road that’s almost entirely devoid of cars and homes. Interlaken is fun to descend, too, but for some reason I almost always descended 10th Ave N, then turned right in order to loop back up to climb Interlaken.

It was always magically quiet – similar to Cheasty Boulevard on Beacon Hill. Suddenly the honking horns and and whirr of traffic dies away, and it’s just you, a road, a beautiful wooded area, and a gentle-but-epic ascent.

Cheasty and Interlaken were both designed by the Olmsteds as pleasure roads – in fact, Interlaken was originally a bicycle boulevard.

Seward Park and Lake Washington Boulevard

Living in Georgetown, I developed a different route to clear my head when I was spending all day writing. I would climb up and over Beacon Hill, taking Swift Ave S to S Myrtle Place, then climbing out to Seward Park. The park juts out into Lake Washington, and I loved to ride the perimeter trail along the water on sunny days when families were out walking, together and picnicking on the beach.

Then I’d head up along Lake Washington Boulevard, joining the scores of other cyclists that take that route on nice days, grinning as the sun sparkled on the water, and Mount Rainier held court in the distance.

I never actually made it out to Bicycle Sundays along Lake Washington Boulevard, but it’s a nice ride even sharing the road with traffic.

Mercer Island

I’ve written about Mercer Island before, but it stands out still as one of my favorite places for an afternoon ride. Even on a gloomy day there’s something magical about the way the rain glazes the mossy trees and glitters in the little pockets of emerald foliage. And oh, man, those rolling hills – climb, descend, climb, descend. Amazing.

Green River Trail

There were parts of my commute to my office job by the South Center mall that I hated, but not the 9-mile stretch that followed the Green River Trail. It was peaceful, and I almost always had the entire trailway to myself.

I loved the spring, especially, when the flowering red current would begin to bloom, and the baby geese would go spilling down the banks to splash into the river whenever I zipped by.

Geese on the Green River Trail

Geese on the Green River Trail

I loved the crisp fall days before it got too dark, when there was frost on the ground, and I could see that I was only the second or third cyclist to blaze through it that morning.

The only bad thing about the GRT was that I had to ride for 3 miles on East Marginal Way to get there. As much as I’m going to miss Georgetown, I’m certainly not going to miss any of the roads you have to take to get anywhere from here. I’ll be happy to wash my hands of East Marginal Way, Airport Way S, 1st Ave S and all the rest of those semi truck-infested roads.


I’m sure I’ll come across favorite routes in Portland, and I’ll definitely blog about them when I do. If you have any suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments. I’ll be working entirely from home when we move, so I’m really going to need to get out and ride!

09/12/13

Work is for the rainy season. Brewing is for every season.

by Jessie Kwak

The sun makes Seattleites flaky.

We may have the best of intentions–yes, totally we’re going to go to that Margaret Atwood reading, we promise!–but when the sun comes out all bets are off.

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We’re like insects with a 24-hour lifespan, who go about life in a frenzy of “reproduce or die,” although for Seattleites it’s more like “Get vitamin D or die!”

Which is why, when the news told me it was going to be one of the last best days of summer, and I should have been sitting at my computer working like a good little freelancer, I was actually out riding my bike instead.

Work is for the rainy season.

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I rode over Beacon Hill to Seward Park, tooled around on the little waterfront pathway there, struck out north on Lake Washington Boulevard, and then climbed Madison to Capitol Hill.

To reward my climb, I stopped in at the Elysian Brewing Company for a well-deserved black bean burger with bacon and blue cheese. (It’s incredible, believe me. I sold a ton of those when I worked there.)

It’s always a pleasure to see who’s working when I stop in, and I was stoked to find brewer Kevin in the midst of making a fresh-hopped ale, Kama Citra. (With Citra hops, get it?)

"And they shall know I am a brewer by the length of my beard."

“And they shall know I am a brewer by the length of my beard.”

They had 16 paper grocery bags full of amazing-smelling hop flowers back in the cooler, all brought back from Yakima earlier in the week.

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Would I mind giving him a hand?

Hell yes, I’d love to!

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I wish I could capture how amazing it smelled when the steaming hot wort started filling the tank, mixing with the hops. See the clouds of steam in the next photo? Like being in a sauna of delicious. Like a smouldering caldera erupting with aromatic floral notes of pure happiness. Like breathing in joy.

Something like that, anyway.

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Want to taste this little bit of heaven? They’ll be pouring Kama Citra at the Fresh Hop Ale Festival in Yakima (October 5th), and eventually at the various brewpubs.

Although I love a good romp of playing hooky, I was almost relieved to see the cloudy skies this morning. I do actually need to concentrate on being productive today.

Hey, Seattle!

Back to work, guys.

Wait—does it look like it’s clearing up to you? Check out that hint of blue over in the south. Doesn’t it look like clear skies? Maybe if I just finish this blog post, then I can get out by the time the fog burns off. Maybe—

Peace out.

*drops everything to ride*

09/10/13

See you at Cycle the WAVE on Sunday?

by Jessie Kwak

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Remember last year, when I told you about the cheerleaders who will cheer just for you?

It’s September once more (seriously?!), and it’s time for Cycle the WAVE. THIS Sunday, September 15th!

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My lovely mother will be joining me once again, and I’ve convinced her to sign up for the 42-mile route this time. She’s game, though she’s pretending to be nervous about it—probably so she can leave me in the dust again.

I’m seriously on to her plan, guys. Remember how last time she did the 25-mile ride on her front-suspension Scott? This year she’s armed with a carbon fiber Lapierre road bike AND she’s got some miles under her belt. Madame Kwak won’t have a problem.

If you read this blog and do the Cycle the WAVE this Sunday, come say hi. I’ll be kinda visable:

Neon yellow cycling dress | Bicitoro

(P.S., are you in Massachusetts? Cycle the WAVE is happening there now, too. In June. You’ve got some time to get ready. Check out the Massachusetts page for more info.)

07/15/13

Back on track after the NACCC

by Jessie Kwak

Is it beautiful out there, or what? Seattle has been giving us an incredible summer so far, and I for one am ready to start enjoying it!

As I mentioned in my last post (almost exactly a month ago, the horror!) my cycling and sewing time has been pretty limited lately. Between job transitioning, freelance projects and the NACCC, I feel like I’ve been running around like a chicken with its head cut off.

But we’re in the clear now!

NACCC

For the past 18 months or so, my husband and a group of his friends have been organizing the North American Cycle Courier Championships in Seattle. I’ve mostly kept to the sidelines, helping out when needed and staying out of Rob’s hair when not needed.

Here they are, organizing away:

Why, yes! That is a bike frame on Rob's desk. Why? Where do you keep your spare frames?

Why, yes! That is a bike frame on Rob’s desk. Why? Where do you keep your spare frames?

The event finally happened over the Fourth of July weekend, and everything went off swimmingly. It was a true testament to how much effort and planning these guys put into it. Over 200 people, 10 kegs of beer, 7 races, 5 days, and only 1 arrest (that I’m aware of).

I sadly didn’t get to ride my bike the entire weekend, since I was driving around a Subaru packed with registration supplies:

NACCC registration

Girls of Summer

But I did get to ride my bike for the Girls of Summer Alleycat, which was put on by the ladies of Menstrual Monday. I raced in it last year (and blogged about it here), and I had just as amazing a time this year.

We got to tag plywood “walls”, change tires, drink rosé, decorate our bikes, and race tricycles.

Girls of summer tagging

I’m pretty proud to say that I came in 3rd place, only a minute behind the winner! The prize I chose was a sand-blast and powder coat from Seattle Powder Coat, which I’m super excited about. As I mentioned ages ago, I’ve been wanting to paint myself an art bike this summer. This gift certificate will certainly speed things along.

That is, if I can decide on a color. Look at all these! How will I ever choose?

Girls of Summer mechanical

Coming Up

All this to say that I’m feeling more relaxed than I’ve felt in months, and I’m excited to dive back into cycling, sewing, and all my other favorite things. Stay tuned: I’ve got some fun rides planned in Seattle and elsewhere to tell you all about, as well as some eye-catching stylish safety sewing to blog about.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go enjoy the sunshine on two wheels!

Over and out.