The Hometown Homage is the perfect cycling route to do as a leisurely ride with friends, taking in all the sights and smells and enjoying the day. Isn’t that what the holidays are all about anyway, slowing down and spending time with friends? In that spirit, the crew at Swift has compiled an outing the wends and winds along the waterways that make Seattle a city unlike any other. Download the map, pack some foul-weather layers, and plan to snack and drink along the way! We start with breakfast sandos and top off the day with a delectable bowl of ramen.
Here’s what’s in store:
The 30-mile ride circumnavigates the inner-city, guiding you through vibrant neighborhoods, pockets of forest, salty shipyards and busy, neon-lit streets. It starts near our HQ at the Peloton Cafe in Capitol Hill, which doubles as a bike shop. There, you’ll find delicious breakfast sandwiches and great coffee, all of which are delivered to your table with a large helping of smiles and napkins.
From there, the route travels north through the Arboretum. The Arboretum, known for its lush vegetation and bird watching, is home to a variety of rare plants and a stunning Japanese Garden. There’s a trail that weaves in and out at a slight descent, making you feel as if you’re on a Speeder Bike whooping past trees on planet Endor…Star Wars reference aside, it’s really fun. At the end of the trail comes perhaps one of my favorite bridges in Seattle, the Arboretum Aqueduct, formerly known as the Arboretum Sewer Trestle. You read that right, I guess it used to be a sewer trestle, nowadays it’s a footbridge. Rest assured, though, it has nothing to do with the sewer — not anymore at least. Take it from this important guy who, in a letter observed to the City Engineering Department in 1912, “The bridge is not an ‘appurtenance of the sewer.’ It is a piece of ornamental bridge architecture designed elaborately and is a very much greater thing than the sewer itself, in every way.”
As the route continues north, you’ll soon notice more foot traffic — mostly students quickly walking, chin tucked behind their books in a hurry to get to class. This is one my favorite parts of the route as you’ll soon be engulfed by old, neo-classical architecture that occupies the campus grounds of University of Washington.
The transition from neo-classical to old forest comes quick. In an instant, you’ll find yourself in what feels like the middle of the rain forest, aka Ravenna Park. The park has a short section of gravel which has tons of little off-shoot paths to explore. There’s even a great stream that runs through the park where you can spend hours tad poling and searching for frogs! Oddly, the sudden switch of environs brings a heightened awareness to the change in climate — going from city streets to old growth feels like entering a big bubble of moisture as everything, the leaves, trees, and branches, drip no matter the time of year.
The dark-green canopy of old-growth gives way to an open sky as you crest out of the park and into the Roosevelt neighborhood. We thought we’d stop by and say “hey” to our pals at Ride Bicycles where we were greeted warmly by mostly everyone, save for the nervous shop dog whose nap was disrupted by our visit. Ride Bicycles is a commuter-adventure focused bike shop and they have a great selection.
From Roosevelt, we snaked our way down to the Burke Gilman Trail. This is a high traffic, bike commuter highway but when you catch it during business hours it’s a breeze to get through. During this point in the route, the challenge is to make it at least 4 miles without stopping at a coffee shop or bakery. Let me tell ya, it’s nearly impossible.
Once we got up the Burke, we rode through perhaps one of the most underrated tourist attractions in Seattle, the Ballard Locks. I could go on for days about how cool the locks are, but you’ll just have to see it for yourself. In short, the locks conduct boat traffic by way of adding and decreasing water levels within a chamber. This is all in effort to regulate water levels in Lake Washington and Lake Union while also keeping fresh water and sea water separate. The locks themselves are stuck in an industrial time capsule and is a must-see for anyone living or visiting the area.
From the locks we followed the curve of the canal down to an old shipyard. The shipyard is open to the public and definitely worth a visit if you enjoy modern and vintage fishing vessels. It’s safe to say that all of us felt a little inspired as we walked the docks observing paint-chipped boats bobbing in the water, creating tiny laps under our feet. We joked about which boat we would be if we could be a boat. Weston, of course, with a simple, workman style said he’d be the boat that had wooden accents and a satisfying blue & white color block. I pointed at the “Jean D,” the rustiest and most dilapidated boat in the bunch and said I’d be that one.
Rounding out the ride, we stopped by the famous Pike’s Place Market on our way back to the HQ. As a Seattle resident, it’s hard not to scoff under your breath when someone brings up the market. I mean, it’s only our biggest tourist attraction and is overpriced and always jammed packed and yadda yadda. Albeit, with all that, when you’re there it’s hard not to enjoy yourself — the old buzzing neon, the tie-dyed shirt wearing musician in the ally, the gross, kaleidoscope-like gum wall — I mean what’s not to love, right?