My hands hurt from the cold. To get to the flat part of the trail, I drop nearly 800 feet to the waterfront and then, turn north. That drop is fast, so the wind runs right through me, my eyes tear up and my fingertips ache inside my gloves. It doesn’t seem to matter how many layers I’m wearing, the cold slices in and that’s it, I’m chilled for the rest of the day. It doesn’t help that I have a change of clothes or that I drink endless cups of ginger tea or that I have tomato soup and grilled cheese for lunch and I tuck the hot sandwich inside my jacket so I can get the heat off it while I walk back to work to eat it.
But the ride is good, even in the cold. The low light of the approaching winter makes everything glow and the big leaf maples drop red and orange leaves along the trail. I move faster than the string of tail lights lined up along the viaduct. And there an unexpected landscape of other senses too, at one place along the trail it the air gets heavy with molasses — really! — and there’s mulch and asphalt and on some days, the salt air of the sound. There’s the noise of trains and the diesel trucks taking cargo from the rail yards, and all that construction along Western Avenue. There are the buses in town, and yeah, maybe a homeless guy yelling at everyone to get out of his way.
In the morning the shelters empty and hard lives spill out on to the streets Pioneer Square. Just before the election, a guy was selling Real Change, Seattle’s newspaper produced by the homeless, and from his street corner pulpit, he shouted, “Real Change, one dollar! If you do not have a dollar, vote for Obama!” A few days before that, I came through downtown thinking that things seemed slightly crazier than usual, that was the worst transvestite ever, why is that guy wearing a headband with fake braids, surely that woman knows that wig is a travesty… it was not until I walked into the office that I remembered it was Halloween.
Because I am on a bike it is easy to stop and take pictures, so I do, often. I stop when the light is good on the water. I stop when the trees are a blaze of color on each side of the trail. I stop when there is a serendipity of lines. I shoot with my iPhone 4s because it fits in my pocket and because it works.
It’s hard to ride in the cold. I don’t like getting bundled up so heavily, I miss riding in my street clothes. But the trails are emptying of traffic as the days become short, and the light gets longer and glows more. Most of the time, it’s okay that I’m not warm again until I’m home after the 17 mile round trip.
Plus, good lord, it is gorgeous out there.
- Smith Tower seen from Western Avenue
- Pink sky from over the Duwamish Slough
- Harbor Island cranes
- Railway drawbridge across the Duwamish
- Java Bean Coffee on Avalon