Roads less traveled

Brunching at the Roanoke last weekend, we watched a pair of bikers zip themselves into their padded jump-suits for “ridin’ down the highway.”

“Where you off to?” I asked.

“Not sure,” said the girl. We looked to the guy.

“Wherever the road takes us,” he said.

“Toward the water or the mountains?” I pushed on.

“Guess we’ll head that way,” he said, pointing east.

K.T. Tunstall’s song lyrics from “Beauty of Uncertainty” came to mind — “no sense in traveling if we’ve already been that way.”

Same place in my mind where some Mercer Island crossroads are parked: PEAK, Tent City, the coming “narrowing” of Island Crest Way at 44th, a yet-to-be-found superintendent of our schools, to name just a few of our open roads ahead.

Mission accomplished — Martha Bacon, an Island resident of many years, is one road-weary traveler who recently moved to Greensboro, S.C., in a car with four cats. Word is that she arrived safely without incident and all five of them are nicely settled in their new digs.

Gridlock Rx: Metro-King County Councilman Reagan Dunn, chair of regional transportation and transit committees, painted a grim picture for Rotarians last week of future rush hours on the Eastside without attention to better roads and transit. The lawyer who also has served the national effort to reduce gun violence, terrorism and violent crime, got his law degree at the University of Washington and is the son of the former U.S. Congresswoman Jennifer Blackburn Dunn, who died Sept. 5.

He says another 1 million people are projected to join the region in the next 20 years, and presently, we’re driving on roads built for a population of 20 years ago. He added that “the I-520 bridge has been beaten by high winds and increased traffic to the point of becoming unsafe.” In a recent inspection, he noted the concrete is “taking on water.” Scary words to Islanders who experienced the sinking of a bridge whose pontoons did just that in 1990.

The two-part proposition for three counties on the Nov. 6 ballot includes $10.8 billion for 50 new miles of light rail — which would cross Mercer Island — and $7 billion to expand the I-520 bridge from four lanes to six, improve I-405 and I-167, among other projects. Funds would come from a .6 percent increase in sales tax and user fees, including an estimated $3 toll to cross the new bridge. Approximate annual cost per household would be $200-300, depending on how many cars you own.

When N.W. Yeshiva High School relocated from Seattle to Mercer Island in 1992, it had less than 50 students. This fall — its 15th year here — it enrolled 95. Its students are a select number who chose a private preparatory education based on principles direct from the Talmud. Its motto: “From Einstein to Maimonides” (a Jewish philosopher of the middle ages), connotes classic learning with Jewish perspectives.

You no longer see its sign on the east side of Island Crest Way (just before the final curve to Island Park Elementary), as it was vandalized last winter and, according to headmaster Rabbi Bernie Fox, it won’t be replaced on that side of the school.

However, you will know the students when they compete in basketball. They’re the young men wearing yarmulkes as they play their hearts out against teams in the Sea-Tac B League, such as Evergreen Lutheran and Rainier Christian schools.

Traveling memorial at Mercerdale: What a dramatic statement in Mercerdale Park, Sept. 16 — grave markers for 2,900 of our U.S. soldiers who have died in the Iraq war. There wasn’t space enough for the other 1,000 casualties, the total approaching 3,900. Veterans for Peace sponsored the “Arlington Northwest” display, a traveling memorial to our fallen men and women.

Caught in historical moment: Hu Riley, the WWII vet who landed on Omaha Beach in Normandy on June 4, 1944 and subject of the famous D-Day Landing photograph by Robert Capa, only has revisited the battle scene on the 50th anniversary of D-Day in 1994. Now, Hu and his wife, Charlotte, will view it again at the opening today of “This is War! Robert Capa at Work,” an exhibit at the International Center of Photography in New York. Capa, known as a pioneer in photojournalism, replays the Battle of Normandy with brutal realism via unpolished lens. See it at,29307,1648361_1419267,00.html Not incidentally, the Rileys still live in the house on North Mercer Way where Hu was born more than eight decades ago. “Lotta water under the bridge,” he jests.

Okay, Farmers New World Life Insurance Agency employees: we’ve noticed groups of you wearing your nametags on walking regimes through Mercerdale and downtown. Is there a health initiative “afoot” or are you just “walking the talk” to improve health and live your company brand?

To contact Nancy Hilliard, e-mail her at

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