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Chad's 'Seattle Through The Back Door' Bicycle Tour

07-07-2013 | By Jeff Day |

Those of you who are familiar with Rick Steves' Europe Through The Back Door probably picked up on my little play on words. Rick's place is located just a little North of Seattle in Edmonds, and I've really enjoyed my trips with Rick Steves' tours.

Chad at the Old Rainier Brewery

 Over the 4th of July weekend I spent three days bicycle touring through the Seattle and Bainbridge Island areas with my friend Chad. Chad and I used to work together at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Washington State. Chad has since retired, and now splits his time between his apartment in Seattle and his cabin in Chelan. Chad grew up in Seattle as a youngster, and after he retired he moved the family back home to Seattle.

Old Rainier Brewery

Chad's an avid cyclist, and since moving back home, Chad's been catching up on old times riding his bicycle around checking out the Seattle area's sights, extensive craft brewery scene, and all the off the beaten path great places to eat. Chad's wife, Chung Wa, was traveling over the 3-day 4th of July weekend, so Chad asked me if I'd like to join him to check out 'Seattle Through The Back Door' by bicycle, and of course I said "Yes!"

Old Rainier Brewery 2

The photos above are of the Old Rainier Brewery that was established in 1878 and is a part of Seattle's rich brewery history. Located in Seattle's industrial SODO district, its now long closed, and Emerald City Beer Company bought it and renovated it, and they keep it looking sharp as part of Seattle's brewery history. Tully's Coffee headquarters is located there now, and artists' loft apartments, which I think is pretty cool.


Vespa 2

The craft beer movement is huge in Seattle with a micro-brewery literally every couple of miles or so. We stopped at a brew-pub and a Vespa dealer in the space next to it was having a big Vespa party, and there were hundreds of Vespa enthusiasts partying hard!

Vespa brew pub

After having a beer and watching the Vespa action for a while, we cycled on over to West Seattle and caught a little cask ale at the Elliot Bay friendly neighborhood brewpub. Cask ale is cask-conditioned beer and it is amazing! Best beer I've ever had!

Brew pub cask beer

After sampling the cask ale we circled around West Seattle to take in the sights.

West Seattle

West Seattle 2

Here's a nice shot of Seattle downtown in the distance from West Seattle.

West Seattle

After checking out West Seattle, we cycled back to downtown Seattle and over to Lake Washington to watch the 4th of July fireworks display over the water.

Lake Washington

Lake Washington Fireworks

After watching the fireworks display we headed back through a late-night Seattle (both bikes were equipped with lights) to Chad's place to get some rest and ready for day two of the tour.


For day two we changed locations to Mackenzie's house, a friend of Chad's. Mackenzie lives over in the Magnolia area of Seattle, and the houses are historic works of art! Many thanks to the gracious & hospitable Mackenzie for letting us visit for a couple of days! On the way to Mackenzie's we stopped in at Filson Outfitters, a classic Seattle area store that's been around since Gold Rush days, when they outfitted the miners that were going to Alaska to look for gold. My Grandfather had a Filson double Mackinaw jacket, so did my Dad, and so do I. It's classically Pacific Northwest, and some of the best outdoor woolens in the world.

McKinnon (1)

On the way to Mackenzie's we also stopped in at McKinnon Furniture, known for their fine craftsman furniture, and is to the Pacific Northwest what Stickley is to the Northeast. McKinnon will build you an audio rack out of any wood you want (I particularly like the ribbon mahogany and the walnut). As soon as I get the rest of my vintage McIntosh audio gear, I'll get it measured up, then I'm going to give McKinnon the measurements and get a new walnut rack made up special for them. That's the Rainier rack above and you can get it made in any dimensions you want and out of any kind of wood.


After those quick two stops at Filson and McKinnon we were back on the bikes and headed up Magnolia towards Discovery Park, which takes up a sizable portion of the peninsula North of Seattle.

Towards Discovery

Discovery Park! My steel-framed randonneur bike with its 650B wheels and 42mm tires rode great on the pavement, the dirt roads, and the sand trails! Retro rocks!

Discovery Park

Discovery Park 2

Then we rode from Discovery Park to the Lake Washington Ship Canal, that is run by the Corps of Engineers, who I worked for a short time right after I got out of graduate school - a great group of people!


Chad worked on building the fish ladder at the ship canal when he was a kid going to school at University of Washington.


Wave 2

Boats in the ship canal.

boats in the canal

boats in the canal 2

boats in the canal 3

The Corp of Engineers does a fantastic job keeping the grounds up around the ship canal!

Corp grounds

After finishing up at the ship canal we pedaled off in search of more craft beers and it didn't take long to find some!

NW Peaks beer

We decided to go into Hales Brew Pub and grab a beer and a bite to eat to fuel up for some more riding.

Hales Brew Pub (1)

Hales doesn't look like much from the outside but is really nice inside and has some great beer and food.

Hales Brew Pub

Hales Brew Pub 2

After fueling up we headed off for Gas Works Park, which is the site of the old Seattle Gas Light Company gasification plant, located on the north shore of Lake Union, which has been converted to a public park.

Gas Works

Gas Works 2

Next up was a ride over to the University of Washington campus where Chad's oldest son, Corey, just graduated from and went to work for Boeing. Chad's youngest son, Casey, is there now doing his studies. For three generations Chad's family has been going to the University of Washington - they've got quite a tradition going!

UW 1

UW 2

UW 3

UW 4

After a tour of the beautiful University of Washington campus we pedaled off in search of more craft beer, and as luck would have it we hit the gold mine!

craft beer

craft beer 2

Next up was some Pagliacci pizza to do a little carb loading before we continued out ride back up Magnolia to Mackenzie's house. That particular pizza had Salumi salami, mole sauce, fresh olives, and goat cheese. It was awesome! Hey, its Seattle!


There were some nice views as we climbed back up Magnolia to Mackenzie's house.


Check out this house suspended out in space!

Magnolia 2

In the morning we got an early start for Bainbridge Island, where Chad's dad lives. As we pedaled down towards downtown Seattle to catch a ferry we saw some great sights. Check out the marina below as we descended from Magnolia.

Magnolia 3

Here's some cruise ships that pulled into the Seattle waterfront.

Cruise ships

In the photo below you can see the distant coastline of Bainbridge Island where we were headed (middle of photo to the right). That's a ferry headed out that way. We'd catch the next one out after riding through the Seattle waterfront.


The Seattle waterfront.

Seattle Waterfront

Seattle Waterfront 2

In line waiting for the ferry to Bainbridge Island.

Ferry to Bainbridge Island

Ferry to Bainbridge Island 2

On the ferry headed for Bainbridge Island, with Seattle in the background.

Ferry to Bainbridge Island 3

Ferry to Bainbridge Island 4

Ferry to Bainbridge Island 5

Ferry to Bainbridge Island 6

The view of Seattle after landing on Bainbridge Island.

Seattle from Bainbridge 2

The roads around the island were hilly and scenic - we really got a hill workout on Bainbridge Island!

Bainbridge Island

Bainbridge Island 2

Bainbridge Island 3

Bainbridge Island 4

Bainbridge Island 5

Chad's dad had recommended an Italian restaurant to stop and eat at for a little carbo loading - the Via Rosa 11 - and interestingly, a lady driving by in a car stopped to talk with us and recommended the same restaurant, as well as a new craft brewery that she recommended we try! The locals are friendly!

Villa Rosa 11

Villa Rosa 11 2

Villa Rosa 11 3

The food was so good at Via Rosa 11 that I had almost eaten the whole lunch before remembering to snap a photo! This was the best Italian food I've had since I was in Monterosso on the Italian Riviera last year. Fantastic!

Villa Rosa 11 4

Villa Rosa 11 5

Next we stopped at Bainbridge Island Brewing on the way back to catch the ferry. The lady was right - great beer! Thanks for the recommendation!


Now it was time to ride back and catch the ferry and the scenery along the way!

back to the ferry

back to the ferry 2

After taking the ferry back to Seattle, we rode back up to Mackenzie's on Magnolia. We rode a hundred plus miles on our bikes, so we felt completely justified in ordering another pizza and having a few cold beers before calling it a day!


Many thanks to Chad and Mackenzie for a wonderful weekend of bike riding, sight-seeing, craft beer sampling, and eating some great food! You're awesome!

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