South King County bike ride

We went for a long bike ride in South King County today (Sunday), starting at the Maple Valley Park and Ride. We went down the gravel trail to Black Diamond, along the country roads into the town and out the other side, on to Green Valley Road and Flaming Geyser State Park, and back via some of the same roads and a different branch of the gravel trail. It was one of the most beautiful rides we've taken. Black Diamond is a tiny coal-mining town, a little threadbare and not one of those really determinedly picturesque towns. I liked it because it seemed relaxed and friendly, a sensible place. (Well. except for all those Harley-Davidson riders.) And it doesn't need to be picturesque, considering its showstopping view of Mt. Rainier. The mountain looked so close that it seemed if we just kept going a little longer, we'd meet the snow.

We turned onto Green Valley Road, which would be a great place to live in the country. Instead of big and phony suburban developments we saw well-kept, ordinary houses with a lot of space around them. Most of them were probably built long before mastersuites, extra bathrooms, and "cathedral ceilings" were a requirement, and occupied by someone who keeps their house and yard in good shape but isn't trying to look wealthy. That's how I'd like to live in the country. Just get a small house with a few acres and appreciate what's all around me.

Near the end of our ride, we saw a park with a good view of the Cedar River. We went in and saw that it formed one of the boundaries of the Cedar River Watershed, one of the sources of Seattle's drinking water. You can't go in there, but it's great that a park was build next to it so you can enjoy the river.

There are plenty of other public places along the river too, and this river seems especially beautiful because it is flat enough so that the bike route can stay close to it and you can appreciate its meandering curves, but at the same time the water is swift and clear and not too deep. You can always see the stones on the bottom through the fast riffles on the surface. Many areas are forested on at least one side.

At the park where we stopped to look, I saw an opportunity-yay!-to do my favorite thing.

The water was so clear that you couldn't really see the surface. This rock was at least six inches under:

Our ride was 36 miles, average speed 10.2 mph, max speed 34. We climbed several hills. One especially long one took us out of the Green River Gorge after we left Flaming Geyser State Park (where methane escapes from the earth, powering a concrete-enclosed pilot light on the ground in the park-a minor attraction compared to the park's expansive, shaded picnic areas along the river). We felt quite smug when the hills shown on the map, though long, did not wear us out. I like my Bianchi Volpe because it's like the old ten-speeds I rode as a teenager: it can go into low gears for the hills here in Seattle (or against the wind in Chicago) but it has a faster frame geometry, drop-style handlebars, and smaller tires so I can go fast if I get a chance (i.e., not huffing up and out of a ravine).