Of beer and bikes

I feel like a lot of my time in Seattle has been spent waiting for the sun to come out. Maybe I’ve finally adjusted, or maybe after months of sunshine I don’t mind a few days of gray. This weekend, for whatever reason, had all the cheer and energy of a Seattle summer–without the sunshine.

Compostable cups!

Compostable cups! (Look: free product placement!)

I spent all day Saturday at New Belgium Brewery’s Tour de Fat, a bike festival held in a handful of western cities in the summer. (It’s highlighted in my article 8 Quirky Bike Events.) Lucky for me, it was held at Gas Works Park, a short distance from my apartment. It’s famous (well, locally anyway) for a few things: it was the setting for the paintball scene in 10 Things I Hate About You, it’s a great place to fly a kite and has been called the strangest park in Seattle because it still has the skeleton of the coal gasification plant that once operated there. Tar still leaks from the soil on occasion, but apparently it’s a safe place to be…although someone once told me never to eat anything dropped in the grass if I ever picnicked at Gas Works. Yikes.

Not my bike, but: A bike leans against the coal plant at Gas Works Park during Tour de Fat.

Not my bike, but: A bike leans against the coal plant at Gas Works Park during Tour de Fat.

But no matter; it’s still a great place to go, and it worked well for Tour de Fat. The event started with a (super slow) bike parade, in which some 200 people–some in costume–rode down the bike path led by a man whose bike trailed a large speaker system. There was a designated area for riding Articycles (bizarre bikes that really aren’t very rideable or practical, but they’re still cool enough to want to try out) and plenty of music and entertainment. There was, of course, a beer garden. Yum, Fat Tire. Later, someone gave up his car for a year in exchange for a bike, which was lowered from the stage after a car funeral, New Orleans jazz-style. It was all very strange and entertaining, which you’d expect if you know New Belgium. They have a super fast twirly slide in their brewery so the office workers can zip on down to the taps, and they give vintage-style cruisers to employees who’ve worked there for a year. Plus, they use wind power and lots of other environmentally-friendly brewing practices. I usually try to drink locally, but I make an exception for New Belgium every now and then–I like their business model and their tag line “Follow your folly” resonates.

The farmer’s market is crazy this time of year. Everyone’s gone nuts with the arrival of a slew of colorful produce. I came home with corn, beets, parsley, cherries, zucchini, onions and artichokes this week. In Ballard, the mood is always festive as well as a bit frenzied: musicians, kids, dogs… It used to work that if I got there right when it opened at 10, I could avoid the crowds. Not so anymore. Just have to elbow your way through to get what you want, but at least everyone’s pretty good-natured about the whole thing. I usually feel a bit harried myself on these summer weekends as I try to preserve what’s left of my time here. Lucky for me–as the emcee at Tour de Fat emphasized–everything moves more slowly on a bicycle.

Great spread at the market this weekend

Great spread at the market this weekend

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Filed under Cycling and Bike Culture, Seattle

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