Spin-off (MINTZ)

Jim Eanes has nothing against the Cascade Bicycle Club. In fact as one of its ride leaders, he considers himself a big supporter of the role it plays in building cycling advocacy and community. But as the largest bicycle club in the United States with more than 6500 members, for Eanes’ purposes, Cascade is just “too important.”

Wanting a place where he could post photos online from his group rides and upload route maps to share, he formed his own splinter group, the Seattle Bicycle Touring Club.

“What we wanted was a less formal environment where we could do other things,” said Eanes, a software engineer who lives on the Island.

SBTC has become quite an organization of its own since its founding last January. It holds rides every week for three different skill levels, hosts potlucks and social activities and unlike Cascade, membership with SBTC is free.

The real growth in the group, Eanes said, has stemmed from its online library. With 120 pages of route maps spanning the region and a wealth of information on bike maintenance and repair, the Web site,, has become a valuable resource to cyclists everywhere.

There are maps for 17 rides originating on Mercer Island alone. They are carefully edited to ensure accuracy and are downloadable in PDF format.

“It was an accident but we became quite popular very rapidly,” Eanes said. The Web site, he said, gets about 200 hits per day and he is now obligated to to spend about 25 hours of his week maintaining it,

That’s what sometimes happens when you try to simplify.

Backyard comfort

You would have to be pretty brave to try to turn authentic backyard BBQ into a fast food franchise. So I had to wait until a day that I was feeling pretty brave myself to venture over to Slo Joe’s Bigtime Backyard BBQ for lunch. If “comfort food,” of all things, leaves me feeling empty and unloved, then the terrorists have truly won.

But last Friday, I finally sat down with some pulled pork and coleslaw inside Mercer Island’s new BBQ joint, the second Slo Joe’s to open following the South Lake Union location. For $5.25, the half-sandwich and side dish with a heap of potato chips was a good deal.

The meat is smoked and slow-cooked on-site for 4-5 hours, according to manager Bob Sessler. The bread is warm and fresh and the coleslaw has plenty of crunch to it.

But still, as the rain and wind pelted the windows outside, the “spicy” sauce I ordered on my sandwich was failing to warm me up.

But helping myself to an extra slather of sauce out of the bottle on the table produced enough additional heat to satisfy, and the back-slapping friendliness of the staff made things warmer still. As I looked around at the decor I realized the room had been turned inside out — the walls, decorated with exterior window panes, wood siding and garden lattice, delivered me into an indoor backyard that may not have been too convincing, but at least it made me smile.

By the time I had scooped up the last bit of sauce with my potato chips, I was feeling adequately comforted — certainly enough to brave the rest of the workday.

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