This morning, Hitomi and I rode our bicycles through the suburbs (formerly countryside) around Orting, Washington. The route took us through Buckley (home — perhaps formally home — of family friends), and Bonny Lake, Lake Tapps, Prairie Ridge, etc.
The event was the Daffodil Classic. Sponsored by the Tacoma Wheelman's Club, there were three routes available: a 40, a 60, a combined 100 mile, and a 20 mile "fun ride". (Hitomi was not too sure about the 60 mile distance, and I wasn't feeling so well, so we went on the 40 mile ride.) Part of the registration fee went to food (one motivating factor for her was "strawberry shortcake" at the end), and rest stops along the way. I wouldn't say the food was special or the rest stops very necessary for me. What was most appreciated, were the direction arrows spraypainted in the shoulder lane. This kept me from needing a map for most of the route.
Though, we're not sure how the route was planned out exactly. Certain parts of it were quite enjoyable, the stretches where we climbed and decendend through lush forests, or on roads passing next to streams. We passed many quaint farms and houses, enjoyed some rolling, quiet roads. But much of the route took us into busy roads. The countryside seemed to require a lot more trucks: Huge disel trucks with oversized tires, enormous SUVs looming on our left. Impatient drivers passed close. Some drivers honked, perhaps to intimidate us, perhaps because they were certain the roads belonged to them.
The last part of the ride, and parts around Buckley took us past new housing development areas. There were large color signs, advertising for developments such as "Elk Ridge" or for price or size. Many signs announced "Luxury Homes" in the "Upper $500k", or some such amount. Some offered "Only $500 Down" or (in the title) "3232 Square Feet", repeated over and over again along the road. Luxury and size were obviously the sales points. Large houses were built up right next to their neighbors. These McMashions weren't Luxury houses, just pretentious, bland designs.
We passed by many cleared plots of land. Hundreds of new homes were coming in around the dilapidated town of Orting. It was like Issaquah or Lake Stevens or Renton ten, twenty years ago. Houses were being nestled into subdivisions. Fences and gates were going up. The cycle of clearing, development was repeating, though each iteration brings bigger houses, larger cars, and fatter people. It wasn't clear where the shopping areas (strip malls) or office parks were going in: Where do these people work? Were these people going to commute to Tacoma? Were they going to have to soon enlarge the roads? Was city traffic going to be their problem someday?
I appreciated the opportunity to see it in transition, because eventually, many of the backroads around Orting will be too busy and dangerous for your average cyclist. Or at least unpleasant enough to keep many of them away.