Monday, May 25, 2009

Updates from the Road!

We haven't done a very good job of keeping this blog updated...there's just been so much commotion leading up to our departure that it kind of got pushed to the back burner. Now that we're out here, actually DOING this thing, we're keeping a daily journal (a "Captain's log", if you will) that we'll transfer to the blog every chance we get.

Here's a recap of the past several days:

May 18th: The team arrives in Seattle

May 19th: Last minute frantic errands, getting set up for our send-off party at Stephanie's House, planning to leave the next day. We learn that one of the bicycles was delayed in the shipping process, setting us back a day. Send-off party was a HUGE success: Special thanks to Dave the Chef who prepared an incredible meal for all of our friends.

May 20th: Our Planned Day One (Though no actual cycling took place!) A few more last minute good-byes and errands, and some lovely sight-seeing in downtown Seattle (Park Place Market, etc.).

May 21st: Our first REAL day of riding....

And now, the Captain's Log:

May 20th, 2009
Captain: Stephanie
Weather: Sunny, blue skies
Town: Seattle
Where we stayed: Cam's House (Stephanie's Brother)

It's day one and here we go (sort of)! We ran into our first "bump in the road," so to speak, when we found out yesterday that Rachel's bike and gear wouldn't be arriving right on time. BZut as problems often go, it turned out to be a huge blessing in disguise. I think all four of us were feeling a little frantic about organizing our gear, making last minute purchases, and getting to know one another. So rather than kicking off the journey today in Anacortes, we savored the extra time to run errands, visit friends, and get organized.

We did, however, have a fantastic kick off party last night with about 30 of our amazing friends and family members. The food was prepared by my friend an talented chef, Dave, and all our friends generously contributed to the cause.

We just used the leftovers from last night to make a delicious team meal of pasta, shrimp, and spinach pesto. And, of course, took the opportunity to toast a fantastic day that put our target milage for the whole trip at a solid negative 57!

Everyone is currently doing some final last minute organizing and bike adjustments, all the while wrapping our brains around the fact that this is actually happening.

Some notable people and highlights from the past few days, are Miljen (pronounced "million" ) who checked us out at Trader Joe's and generously provided us with our new team catch phrase: "And remember....Don't forget." We had a power hour of food-tasting at Pike Place Market that included everyone's first taste of Chuckar Cherries, local jams, olive oils, fruit logs, and chocolate pasta. Greg used his afternoon to see Seattle from the bike saddle, making his way through downtown, into Fremont and back to Capitol Hill, up some of Seattle's steepest hills.

Kendal, as usual, was a logistical all-star making copies of all our vital documents and maps. And, of course, we all went to town this evening at Trader Joe's, buying an obscene amount of trail snacks, including 5 jars of peanut butter. Awesome.

I, and I think everyone, am super anxious to get on the road tomorrow and finally, after much preparation, get a taste of what the open road has to offer.

Day 1
May 21st, 2009
Captain: Greg
Weather: Absolutely Perfect!
Town: Sedro-Woolley, WA
Where we stayed: Riverfront Park
Total Mileage: 34.5

We have officially begun! After Rachel's bike finally arrived we loaded up Steph's parents' truck and hit the road. Rachel's compadre Susan, who by the way is an outdoorsy EMT like my old roommate, was kind enough to take us to Anacortes and drive the truck back. She also happens to be a writer. She was interested in writing a story on us and we hope it gets picked up by a major magazine! (Crossing fingers!)

After the ceremonial dippin of our wheels (and my brief swim) in the Puget Sound, we were off. The travel was eventful. Kendal had two spills ,we got a smidge lost, and Rachel had a birdnest in her dérailleur (a piece of fishing line got caught in the drive train), but we survived in tired but good spirits.

Anacortes -> Bayview -> Sedro- Wooleey: CHECK!

Day 2
May 22nd, 2009
Captain: Kendal
Weather: Gloriously Beautiful! All Clear Skies!
Town: Between Rockport and Marblemount, WA
Where we stayed: Wilderness Village RV Park
Total Mileage: 73.5

We woke up this morning to another absolutely gorgeous day. It took us a while to get started, as we're just beginning to form our daily routines and figure out what camp life is all about. We got up, had some oatmeal, broke down camp, stretched, charged our phones, etc., and finally got on the road around 11:50am. That start time will surely speed up as things move along.

The riding today went extremely well: Except for the few sore rumps and other aches, we got to our destination without any difficulties, crashes, or snags. For that we are very grateful!

We rode the majority of the day along the South Skagit River Highway--a scenic little off-road through pine forests along the southern bank of the river. We were sad to see a few patches of naked mountains, especially when big logging trucks passed us on the road. (Though they do give a nice tailwind, and smell like Christmas!)

We rode about 40 miles today, and strayed from our Adventure Cycling maps a bit to land here at the Wilderness Village, where Ingeborg the caretaker put us up for free! We feel so spoiled to have free lodging, showers, and laundry so early in the trip.

My dad is acting as our Mission Control center back in DC, making calls ahead to the towns we'll be visiting to find us places to stay and eat. We are so enormously grateful for his help!

In addition to connecting us with Ingeborg, he also arranged for us to have a free dinner at the local diner (SUCH GOOD FOOD! Marblemount Diner...GO EAT THERE!) which was so amazingly delicious after a long hard day. The diner had hummingbird feeders outside each window, which buzzed with beautiful birds during our entire meal.

Just before we got into camp this afternoon, we stopped at the Cascadian Farms Fruit/Ice Cream stand on SR 20, where we met the AMAZING Katy and Martin, who offered to host us in Mazama tomorrow night (or whenever we get there!) after we cross Washington Pass.

It has been so wonderful to meet such open, giving people today. It helps so much to have Dad scouting ahead for us, but we're also meeting loads of warm folks along the way.

Personally, I'm a little anxious about the climb tomorrow. There's been a lot of Memorial Day traffic along SR 20 today, and I'm hoping it slows down tomorrow. We'll be climbing over 5170 feet (vertically!) over the course of 70+ miles. So I should probably get some sleep! I'm so grateful to be here with people I love. Who knows what adventures await us?

Day 3
May 23, 2009
Captain: Rachel
Weather: Still Glorious!!!!!
Town: Somewhere 10 miles east of the Diablo Dam
Where we stayed: Interesting story....

It is with great honor that I recount our most unforgettable story thus far in our unforgettable journey. It all begins with our very naive goal of making it across 2 mountain passes in 1 day.

Uh uh. Not happnenin'.

40-ish miles after starting, we're scouring the side of the road for the "National Forest" sign to tell us that it's fair game to drop our tents after a sudden uphill jaunt that seemed to last forever (like this sentence).

We found a spot: Mossy, overlooking the river, 20 feet from the road...Perfect. We set up camp, cooked some gourmet beans+rice+tortellini+couscous and were beginning to look for a place to hang our food out of reach of the bears. It was a very half-hearted attempt, as we were exhausted an a little disheartened by not making it to our goal.

As I was walking along the road looking for viable trees to hang the bag, a truck pulled up. A guy got out to pee, noticed me, and sort of awkwardly asked me if I knew where "Gorge" was. I had no idea, and thinking it didn't exist, started to quickly mosey away. The guy said, "Hey Lady, I think you'd better come back here..." and I thought "No thanks I'd rather go this way.", but he said "Seriously lady, there's a bear right there."

At this point I noticed his wife was in the front seat with her camera out, and I decided this was extremely well-staged assault, or more likely, legitimately a bear. Luckily (sort of) it was the latter.

I ran behind the guy's truck, and sure enough, a black bear was less than ten feet in front of us. James (my new hero) sort of grunted at the bear for a minute, but nothing happened, so he bravely marched into our campsite to notify the others. (Which I'm told was similarly startling for them.)

Everyone came stumbling out, gawking at our new camp friend, and Kendal immediately flagged down the first car we saw, which happened to be a state trooper from Sedro-Woolley, who had been called up to attend to an AVALANCHE!!! 4 miles up the road. Between James' grunts, Trooper Mike's headlights and megaphoned "MOVE," the bear did not budge. So armed with a machine gun and James, we went back in to the campsite, got everything but the bikes, and threw them in James and Alicia's truck.

By now it is pitch dark, which in camptime, is waaaaay past bedtime. James and Alicia were on their way looking for a campground named "gorge", but we thought maybe they were looking for the campground we passed earlier that day. So we asked them to take our gear there, and the state trooper crammed all four of us into the back of his squad car. It should be noted: Cop cars are NOT designed for the comfort of one, let alone FOUR. But of course we were not complaining. We were thanking ever god we could name that these kind, armed folks had stopped!

So we humbly retraced the climb that took us all 3+ hours by bike in 15 minutes in the trooper's car, unloaded our gear from Alicia and James' truckbed, only to discover that all of our gear had broken his brand new fishing pole! Ay yay yay. We felt so terrible!

By this time there were no campsites left in the campground, so Kendal put on his sad puppy face and asked the happiest, loudest party in the campgrounds if we could mooch on their site. The guys staying there were extremely nice---and very excited to hear about the bear---and apologized for being a little drunk and loud. (A small kid jumped out at Kendal and said, "I have to warn you, I'm totally hopped up on Mountain Dew!)

At that point, we were so glad to have a place to lay our heads, and so grateful to those guys for letting us mooch...none of the challenges of the day mattered anymore. Finally, we collapsed into our mummy bags and fell immediately to sleep.


Kathryn said...

An interesting day to start your adventure! Glad all are safe and sound. Rachel, check your email, sounds like I should get in touch with Kendal's Dad about facilities where you might perform along the way. May you continue to meet such helpful,(and harmless), folks on your journey. Love, Kathy

Lisa Michelle said...

I love this blog! Your guys' stories are awesome...I'm loving living vicariously through you :)

Continued safe travels!

GrandmaSuz said...

We are having a grand time sharing your SPOT and web site with friends and families. We just want you to be safe. We are thinking we will be in Williamsburg to greet you when you get there. VA friends are welcoming you too. love, grandmaSuz