Oh my . . .
Well, as we all know, it's been a very different year than anyone expected. We were putting the finishing touches on our trip planning, 87 nights in the Netherlands and 2 in nearby Aachen, Germany, when our home town of Seattle became ground zero for the coming storm of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The good news is that we were able to cancel our flights to and from Europe and the 75+ nights of lodging we had just booked, although with long delays getting our money back. But back it came.
On the tandem we could of course go further, but Seattle is a hilly place. Rome notoriously has 7 hills, and that led many in early days to refer to the Seven Hills of Seattle, but depending on whom you ask it's actually anywhere from 10 to 15 places worthy of the title. 4 of them are over 450' (140 m), and none of those is terribly far from Puget Sound, elevation zero. So biking tends to follow certain routes that avoid these topographic challenges as well as those created by motor vehicle traffic, and that somewhat limited the variety we could build into our biking program.
Indeed, the first and last 4 miles of 90% of our rides followed the exact same escape route from our perch on Puget Sound. It's a nice route, half of it on the fabulous Burke-Gilman Bike Path, but it's still the same route, again and again and again. And while we could obviously go further by bike, we still couldn't get out of the city itself and make it home the same day, so rides in the more open and leafy areas just outside the city like the Sammamish and Green River Valleys were not an option.
And THEN we said to ourselves, "You've now got a rack on your car, why not get a canoe to put on top of that rack?" Why not, indeed. With perseverance and the assistance of Craigslist.com, we finally found someone 100 miles away who was selling an Old Town 16' canoe for about 1/3 of its cost when it was new a decade ago. It had some gouges in the royalex skin that Jeff fixed with $10 worth of marine putty and prettied up with a little spray paint to cover the repairs, and we now had ourselves a terrific boat. More about it shortly. The irony created by the pandemic is that buying a car enabled us to be more active by giving us access to more interesting places outdoors to stay active.
Other walks combined utility and exercise, as we walked to the public library when it finally reopened for pick-up only (we could reserve books and dvds online and select our local branch for pick-up). That was a 4-mile walk without detours, and once again we alternated our route each time until there was no block we had not perused in that entire part of Ballard as well. Since this area is residential and the streets do not lead to other neighborhoods, walking was particularly safe. On the few occasions, maybe once each ten minutes of walking, that someone was walking toward us on the sidewalk, either we or they would simply step out into the street or to the sidewalk on the other side. Car traffic was so light that we almost never had to pause to let one by. Stay six feet away? We rarely came within ten feet. And of course we had our masks to slip on if we saw a close encounter coming.
As the the Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020 ended and the weather warmed, both unconnected but happy events, we were able to have picnic lunches more often, and started biking to new places. A 20-mile r/t bike ride brought us to Ella Bailey Park, which we had never seen before. As you can see in the photo below, we had quite a vista to enjoy during lunch, though we did have to climb 250' to reach it. But the route was gradual, and we never had to go to "15th gear," i.e. walking, on our 14-speed bike. That's Mt. Rainier above the front handlebars of our tandem. It's 62 miles (100 km) away 'as the crow flies,' so it's a little hard from here to appreciate its height of 14,400 feet (4,392 m). The Space Needle is on the far left and downtown seemingly next to it, although they're actually over a mile apart. In case you're wondering, the Needle is 608' tall, roughly twice the height of the Statue of Liberty, or 2/3 that of the Eiffel Tower. It's not the tallest structure in Seattle, which is the Columbia Tower in downtown. It is almost exactly the height of the Eiffel Tower.
Round the hill to the southeast facet and there's a great view of the Space Needle and downtown from Bhy Kracke Park, named after Werner Kracke who picked up the unusual nickname because he loved the expression "by cracky." He also donated the land for the park. There's a conifer just left of center. Behind it and to its right and left is "Amazonia," the part of Seattle where roughly 50,000 employees were working for you-know-which-company until the pandemic scattered most of them to their home offices around the region. You do not want to be a restaurant owner in that deserted part of town just now.
As we write this, about 1% of the U.S. population has gotten its first vaccination shots. As we peer into the future, will we see an end to the Coronavirus pandemic in 2021? And if so, how soon will it get under control? No one knows, but we all have hope.