Thanks to Moira McDonald’s article in the Seattle Times for raising awareness about the 2019 Seattle Independent Bookstore Day Challenge! The idea is to discover and visit at least one independent bookstore in your neighborhood. Did you know that Seattle has a specialty bookstore devoted almost entirely to poems? I didn’t!
If you want to earn discounts you can participate in the passport challenge and visit 3 participating bookstores for a one-time 30% off coupon or get your passport stamped at 21 stores for 25% off during the following year. Usually the idea of driving in traffic all day fighting for parking is not appealing to me, thus we don’t own a car. Nevertheless, good books have become an important part of my life so I was definitely going to walk or cycle to a few stores. Then I started sketching ideas to see if it would even be possible to complete the route without a car. I was just curious.
It is possible! Six days later I travelled approximately 152.2 miles and briefly visited 21 bookstores.
- Bicycle: 90.0 miles
- 2 Ferries: 14.2 miles
- 6 Buses (4 had been planned), the equivalent of 35.4 cycling miles
- 2 Light Rail Trips, the equivalent of 12.5 cycling miles
- 0.1 miles by foot i.e., walked my bike up part of a hill in Bellevue
Surely an elite cyclist (i.e., not me) could complete the route without bus or light rail. I wasn’t motivated by the potential to accomplish any record-setting physical feat on my bicycle. I was most interested in showcasing the amazing public transit options available in our region. My wife and I regularly commute without a car, and I recommend that everyone look for opportunities where you can swap in public transit. It was really cool to hear of other #SEABookstoreDay participants using public transportation!
During the Seattle Independent Bookstore Day Challenge there were definitely some advantages to commuting without a car.
- Bicycles are first off the ferry, and I made it to Edmonds Bookshop before a line could form. To all of the drivers who patiently navigated downtown Edmonds traffic that morning: KUDOS to you! By the time I arrived at The Neverending Bookshop a few cars and at least one motorcycle had caught up or passed me, but there was no wait time to get the passport stamp.
- Nearly all bookstores had a bicycle rack out front or nearby, and I didn’t have to hunt around for a place to secure my bike. Thank you!
The downside of this approach is that I could not stop for the specials and festivities. I do hope to visit many of the stores this year, and now that I’ve memorized the route I’ll know exactly where to go whenever I’m in one of these neighborhoods. I’m assuming that the event organizers also had this in mind. ;-)
I want to add a disclaimer upfront that the route as described below is not necessarily recommended by myself or any organizers of the Seattle Independent Bookstore Day Challenge. It might not be safe or scalable if large groups of bicyclists participate in parallel. I had the advantage of being alone, and could make my own split second decisions safely.
Based on the hours of operation for each participating bookstore (available via seattlebookstoreday.com), starting on Bainbridge Island appeared to be the only way to visit all stores. Without a car, I surmised that catching the 6:10 am Seattle to Bainbridge ferry, as well as the 9:35 am Kingston to Edmonds ferry would be crucial.
The detailed Google maps are further below, and here is a table overview of the estimated versus actual arrival times at each location.
The route could be improved, especially since I was ahead of or on schedule upon arrival at Queen Anne Book Company.
- Probably there would have been time to visit both Ada’s Technical Books and Cafe and Elliot Bay Book Co. on the southward sweep towards Arundel Books. I opted to finish at those bookstores, since they are open late and I didn’t want to risk missing the 7pm deadline at BookTree Kirkland.
- Could have taken the 555 bus from Mercer Island to Bellevue Transit Center, and then either the 234 or 235 bus from Bellevue Transit Center to Kirkland. I had looked up these options before starting the day, but in the moment decided to keep cycling (minus the 0.1 mile uphill walk).
I completed the challenge at Ada’s Technical Books and Café — woohoo! Obligatory passport photo shown below.
All of the bookstore employees and shoppers I met along the way were so kind and accommodating. Thank you to the drivers who safely passed me by, and the passengers who shouted encouragement from rolled down windows. What a morale boost to hear a fellow adventurer proclaim “you’re amazing!” — THANK YOU!
Thanks to the approximately 100 people who let me cut to the front of line at Liberty Bay Books. (I quickly polled around 10 people at the back and front of the line and nobody objected.) The entire challenge would have been in jeopardy had I missed the 9:35am Kingston to Edmonds ferry.
Thanks to my wife who memorized her library card number years ago, knows me the best and always has great book recommendations. I am admittedly not yet a model citizen for the local independent bookstores. Although out of habit and convenience I buy most things via Amazon, I’m frequenting Third Place Books Ravenna more often thanks to my wife’s excellent recommendation.
Thanks to Google for the great maps, especially bicycle directions!
For anyone interested in specifics, here are the Google maps that I leveraged. If you have any questions or suggestions how you would improve the route please share your feedback!
- Bicycle from my home near Green Lake to the Colman Dock
- Ferry from Colman Dock to Bainbridge Island
- Secured my bicycle between The Traveler (#24) and Eagle Harbor Book Co (#6)
- Bicycle to Liberty Bay Books (#11) and the Kingston Ferry
- Ferry from Kingston to Edmonds
- Bicycle to Edmonds Bookshop (#7), The Neverending Bookshop (#14), and Aurora Transit Center.
- Rapid Ride E bus from Aurora Transit Center to Aurora Ave N & N 76th St
- Bicycle from Aurora Ave N & N 76th St to Phinney Books (#17)
- Bicycle from Phinney Books (#17) to my home at Green Lake to pick up more food and water. Of course this step is customized for me personally. PCC and Whole Foods are among several great lunch options between bookstores.
- Bicycle to Third Place Books Ravenna (#22), University Book Store (#25), Open Books: A Poem Emporium (#15), Book Larder (#3), Secret Garden Bookshop (#20), Magnolia’s Bookstore (#13), Queen Anne Book Company (#19), and Arundel Books (#2).
- For the record, en route to Queen Anne Book Company the King County Metro Bus #3 carried me up the last part of a hill from 3rd Ave W & W Raye St to Queen Anne Ave N & W Mcgraw St. Subtract 0.4 miles cycling, add one bus route to the mix. Again, I wasn’t out to prove anything on the bike. ;-)
- Bicycle to 3rd Ave S & S Main St
- King County Metro Bus #124 from 3rd Ave S & S Main St to Fantagraphics Bookstore (#9)
- Bicycle to Page 2 Books (#16)
- Bicycle to Tukwila International Blvd Station
- Light rail from Tukwila International Blvd Station to Mt Baker Transit Center
- Bicycle to Island Books (#10) and BookTree Kirkland (#4)
- Midway through I walked the bike 0.1 miles up a hill in Bellevue. I knew this particular hill was coming a mile away and had all but decided in advance to walk it.
- Bicycle to Kirkland Bus Bay 1.
- King County Metro Bus #248 from Kirkland Bus Bay 1 to Redmond Way & 166th Ave NE
- Bicycle from Redmond Way & 166th Ave NE to Brick & Mortar Books (#5)
- Bicycle to Redmond Way & 166th Ave NE
- Sound Transit Bus #545 from Redmond Way & 166th Ave NE to Stewart St & Yale Ave N
- Bicycle to Elliot Bay Book Company (#8) and Ada’s Technical Books and Café (#1)
- Bicycle to Capitol Hill Station
- Light rail from Capitol Hill Station to University of Washington Station
- King County Metro Bus #45 to Green Lake (home)