Took a bike stroll down to Georgetown, on good advice last night. On a stunning spring Seattle Friday afternoon, I ventured south along the Duwamish Bike Trail that snakes the Duwamish River. Navigationally, this river is one of several waterways in the area that create both natural paths, and potential barriers. If you want to get around here, it’s best to understand it. Land use in this area is diverse, ranging from global industrial shipping to protected nature preserves.

While the signage system is incredibly well done, there are definitely times when as a road biker I got confused. Part of my reason is, most of my urban biking has been in Minneapolis, where I tend to almost exclusively avoid bike trails unless in open parkland with divided pedestrian and dual bike lanes. Paths are otherwise just too bike-populated, slow, family-filled, and dangerous.

But when traveling here, there’s way too much going on on the road. Today’s route weaved through intense dynamic of seaboard transit-oriented industry — ships, bridges (that often rise and swing), loading docks, trucks, rail vehicles (moving and standing), crossing of rail lines, blind spots, stacks of cargo containers, and generally a lot of stuff that creates blind spots and unnerving and distracting sounds.

Let’s just say that if you don’t know exactly where you are going and cannot flow with the traffic, then you’re just being an a-hole and/or dangerous wandering around, just waiting to make enemies and/or get killed. Many of those who surround you are people whose jobs it is to move materials. The remainder are vehicle drivers who are even more dangerous and they race in between these obstacles with less predictability and professional acumen. As a recreational biker, its smart and nice to stay out of the way, and to follow the rules they’ve created for everyone’s safety and economy.

So the short story, I made it to Georgetown alive.

And upon entering town, I kind of came in the back door. Lost track of some of the signage when I headed the wrong direction after passing over the 1st Avenue bridge. So my phone led me in.  Maybe not be the optimal aesthetic pathway, but certainly safer than what I later discovered in its the intense flow of on and off ramp road traffic.

Phil Jensen
Phil Jensen

But my “back door” entry to the retail district was beneficial in that it introduced me to Phil. With his easel, canvas, brushes and paints, he stood at the back of the parking lot painting. He explained he was meeting with a group of people who were going to do what I heard him say was some kind of creative thing. I asked, “What what kind of creative, some kind of performance?” (Me thinking it this looks like a bar, was maybe it was going to be some music.) He answered something like, “Well it’s not actually a performance, but a group who are gathering to paint.” (Now I’m realizing, looking at what he is actually doing, “Duh, Steve”.) With Phil’s permission I took a few quick shots. He asked off he could get a copy, and pulled out his card. And here I read he’s an artist and art instructor. Now I’m thinking he was teaching his class.

Nice vibe to start my stroll.

I rolled slowly with one shoe unclipped and often off pedal along the narrow sidewalks. Normally, I’d stay off sidewalks on my bike. But the area is an intense labyrinth and juncture of highway overpasses with exit and entrance ramps and car traffic. Intense as in, stay the heck off the road. But the sidewalks were safe, mostly because few pedestrians were to be seen. Those present were sprinkled in the countless bars and a few restaurants. And with so many entertainment spots packed into this small area, I could only image an intense nightlife lives here.

Discovering Georgetown
Rainier lives here

And why shouldn’t it? This is terra firma for where Rainier Brewing was established. As someone born in Milwaukee, I have an appreciation for the historical role of brewing in America. And Rainier’s past must have been something, given the size of these buildings, one named Malt Building, another Stock House, and many more. I’ve known of the Rainier brand for as long as I can remember, but being in this place begs me to learn a little more about its history. It’s on the shoulders of these giants that we may celebrate the craft brews of today.

And we might celebrate the way these facilities offer an infrastructure to spur industry, even today more than a century after their founding. Today’s industry in Georgetown serves an artisan community, including something I’ll have to return to photograph, a mobile trailer artisan hub. The parking area looks almost like its a farmer’s market square with a crest of very retro metal trailers to create a festival experience.

Discovering Georgetown

And speaking of metal. I met David hanging out. Right there on the main street across from the bars and restaurants and under one of the overpasses is a metal recycling business. I asked him questions about the location, and he explained he was not the owner. And when I asked to take his picture, he amiably said something like, “Sure, why not.” But we laughed when I agreed to his request that if the photo got into a big movie, we might let him know. We shook hands, and with his black stained thick rubber gloves, his shake extended to grasp my forearm rather than my hand. As I returned the grasp, I wondered if he did this to be kind and not stain my hand with his contaminated protective gear. Or was he just so used to handling metal pipes that it was a habitual way for him to grasp rods the diameter of my arm?

Mount Rainier stands proudly behind Georgetown
Mount Rainier stands proudly behind Georgetown

Heading back down Georgetown’s main street, it was a pleasure to enjoy seeing Mount Rainier glowing southerly behind. Again, industry and nature constantly intersect here.

Who's on first?
Who’s on first?

My way finding has been successful, but now I’m confused. There seems to be a debate going on in Seattle and I must get to the bottom of it. This sign reads, “Georgetown, Seattle’s Oldest neighborhood.” But in West Seattle, there is a column that celebrates the first landing point of settlers that created Seattle. And there is the “First Neighborhood” tag line that is connected to the Pioneer Square neighborhood. And now I learn that controversy about Seattle’s history is a part of its history. 

Discovering Georgetown

Thanks again to way-finding signage, I made my way back up the 1st Avenue bridge safely, for another view of the grand peak that is amazing evertime I see it. This time from a viewpoint that people in their cars can seldom experience, up and over the Duwamish River and the Duwamish Trail that celebrates the Duwamish Tribe

The exit route from Georgetown back to the 1st Avenue Bridge was cautious and safe. My favorite chuckle moment though was as I waited for a light to change for me to cross through an intersection where a highway dumped to street traffic. As not so unusual a sight, there was a semi-encampment of a street guy across the street with his well-worn clothes working the area, as in asking people who sat at the light in their cars for money. He occasionally held up his sign that read about him having a calamitous injury. Really, the word “calamitous” was lettered on his sign. He paced his patch of turf with a limp, a limp that made my leg ache a bit watching him. His cane hung from the fence to his side, and he spotted me. I patiently waited for the pedestrian signal to allow my safe crossing. The light was green for traffic and he waved over and instructed, “Cross now!” While I appreciated his gesture of kindness, I thought it good judgement to not take direction in a dangerous setting from a man who now suffers from a calamitous injury.

Discovering Georgetown

Finally, rising over the 1st Avenue Bridge, this sign spoke to me. I joked with myself and thought, “Thanks for asking me to draw your bridge!” Unlike others, I don’t really have much skill to draw a bridge. So I reasoned it was a sign to photograph it, and get back and show and tell how I can, through writing today’s blog entry.

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