When it comes to seeing a city, there are many ways to get around from place to place and strategies to seeing all the most important tourist attractions.
Seattle is a very spread out city, for short term visits it doesn’t pose much of a problem with so much to do in the downtown area alone but if you want to branch out a bit you may find yourself frustrated with the bus routes. When I lived in Seattle, I always had a car. It wasn’t until coming back this time that I had to learn to be independent, I suddenly realized not only how little I had utilized my car but also how much I had taken for granted.
In all the years that I visited Seattle as a child and the four years that I lived here while going to university I had only been to West Seattle a handful of times and I remember it as being one of the most beautiful places in all of the city.
I don’t know where I got the crazy idea, it developed slowly when a friend mentioned taking the water taxi over and renting a bike for the day to explore the beach. Somehow when I brought the idea up to my brother instead of saying:
Let’s go to Alki and rent bikes…
Let’s ride our bikes to Alki!
That is so not the same thing but my brother wasn’t about to let me back down.
It ended up being one of the best decisions I made this whole month!
We picked up the bikes from my sister-in-law’s family in Ballard and began the long trek to West Seattle. As we set off I couldn’t have been more excited but as my wheels began to spin faster and the cars were relentlessly inching closer I started to second guess my decision. It just can’t be safe. Then we saw the first of the wretched hills rising before us and before I knew it my peddles seemed welded together. I quickly hoped off my bike and jogged it up the hill in hopes of not feeling too girly and pathetic in the eyes of my brother and boyfriend.
Just a few short rolls of the wheel later we reconvened to discuss the best route and just as my brother took off with Lorenzo not far behind I heard a strange sound and felt the back end of my bike bouncing unevenly along the pavement. The psflap, psflap of a completely flat tire rolling along the rocky street. Great.
After only a few seconds the boys turned around to realize I wasn’t there and came cruising back to check up on me. My brother had brought everything we might need, except a patch kit. Luckily, we had broken down just in front of an auto repair shop which unluckily did not fix damaged tires. The mechanic pointed us to a nearby bike shop and after a fifteen minute walk and $10 we had a new tube on my tire and my brother was persistently suggesting that we still had more than enough time to complete the ride and still be home in time to make my 7:30pm dinner date.
Off we went, cutting in from the main drag of Magnolia to the bike trail, which pleasantly ran almost the entire rest of the route across the Sound.
Biking through Myrtle Edwards Park, along the Pier, through the hustle and bustle of lunch hour in Downtown Seattle my eyes were completely opened to the vast friendliness the city of Seattle holds for bikers. Driving in the city for all those years made me realize, sometimes abruptly, how many commuters chose the bike as their preferred mode of transportation but I never realized how helpful the city was in allowing them to get to their destination safely and comfortably.
As we wound our way through bulldozers and cranes smoothing the pavement we hopped on the brand new bike route to the West Seattle bridge. And then I saw it.
The hill of doom.
If you have ever been to Seattle you may know the kind of hill I am talking about. The West Seattle bridge rises high over Puget Sound as it carries cars away from the horrible scene the Mariners are putting on back in Safeco Field. The hill was big. And I made it.
As we descended the hill of doom and began the curve along the first sidewalk of West Seattle a major feeling of accomplishment washed over me as I realized that I had just finished what, just an hour earlier, I had doubted I would be able to do.
Riding into the Alki peninsula of West Seattle was like suddenly being transported to the beaches of California. The boardwalk wound around the corners as the perfect stage between streets and quirky, only-in-Seattle shops and the beautiful white sand beaches along Puget Sound.
Riding along the coast, the smell of sea salt drifted up and brought with it memories of my childhood, of the few trips that my family took to nearby destinations of Seattle and the Oregon Coast.
Unfortunately a 16-mile bike ride and a set dinner date meant that we only had time for a quick lunch before heading back to Ballard. We chose something simple, a place called Slices located just across the street. With most of the slices made from natural and organic ingredients the pizza was delicious; they also served piping hot grinder sandwiches.
We ended up taking the water taxi back to Dowtown Seattle and it can be a much less excruciating option if you are looking for a fast and painless way to get back and forth between Alki Beach and Downtown. The water taxi can be caught at Pier 50 from Downtown Seattle and drops off at Seacrest Park just a few minutes from the main beach on Alki. For only $3.50 ($3.00 with an ORCA Card) it is a cheap and easy way to spend a beautiful summer day in Seattle.
West Seattle has a special vibe to it, something that you may not find in other parts of Seattle. It’s distance from the main city gives it a very unique, separate existence and an attitude all its own. Being on a bike made me feel like I fit right in.