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Monday, March 30, 2015

The Fun Starts

Today was my first 60 mile day with the trailer, and contending with some decent inclines at that, 3300 feet of climbing. I consider this my first "real" day. And overall, it went alright. I had more trouble getting out of Port Angeles than I should have, but once on the highway, things got easier.
Biking around Lake Crescent was absolutely gorgeous. I remember seeing it with my parents last year and thinking it was the most pristine, bluest lake I'd ever seen. My Port Angeles hosts had warned me that it could sometimes be a treacherous ride as a cyclist with the winding road and lack of shoulder. There's a button you can push at the beginning to cause a light to flash and let drivers know there's a bicyclist in the roadway. ...But a single, potentially missed light to let cars know that somewhere in the twists and turns of the next ten miles is a bicyclist, only seems like it can do so much. But, thankfully, traffic was decently light and drivers were surprisingly kind, so it was mostly just a beautiful, reminiscent ride. ...The hill back up from the lake was sure a hell of a lot of work though.
My bike has issues I fear. It's developed a creak in the left crank, possibly needing removed and oiled. Though interestingly, after it rained, it mostly went away for the time being. ...At least one upside to getting drizzled all over later in the day. But a far worse issue is that my chain has started to skip when standing or biking hard on high gear. I assume the chain ring/crankset is worn out. ...I was worried about this before when I took it to the bike shop and paid a bunch (for me, relative to my cheap bike's value) to get it all fixed up, and the mechanic had told me not to worry about it. ...Bike mechanics telling me not to worry about things I think I should and end up needing to seems to be turning into a theme. I'm enduring and working around the problem though, while trying to figure out how to schedule necessary repair once I reach some kind of civilization (as measured by the presence of a bike shop,) again. I'll make it work somehow.
It's funny, my last hosts inquired about my host from Sequim, thinking they'd probably know him, and it turned out they did. Then when I came to stay with my current host, I found out she's an EMT here in Forks, and upon inquiry, sure enough, she's met my host of last night who is a nurse at the hospital in Forks (commuting from Port Angeles). The whole Olympic Peninsula really is a rather tight community. My host tonight was cool, made some excellent fajitas, and totally talked my ear off about her travels and ambitions and making sure I know that now when we're young is the best and sometimes only time to travel and do things. The socialization was much needed after the somewhat rough going day alone. Forks itself is an interesting little town, with its main industries apparently logging, prisons, and Twilight tourism. Its grocery store is probably the single most expensive I have ever seen (probably from being out in the middle of nowhere and having a monopoly on the market as the only grocery store in town). I rather wish I had managed to time my supply restocking to somewhere else.
I'm listening to the roar of the rain outside as I lie here slowly losing consciousness, and dreading camping tomorrow in a storm. But it is what it is, and one way or another, I will get through. It's awfully rainy around here, next to the rainforest after all, so I can't expect not to get rained on.

Pictures will follow later since I have no WiFi here and only limited data.

Dungeness Detour Day

So what does a bicyclist do on a day he only has to go 25 miles? Take about 10 extra miles in detours and go on an 11 mile hike of course. I decided I really wanted to see the Dungeness Spit. So with quite a bit of meandering and getting lost, I made my way out there and took the full hike out to the lighthouse. It was gorgeous, well worth every cent of the $3 charge and the several hours of walking. It was a tremendous experience, having the ocean on either side, the mountains behind, a narrow, driftwood strewn beach ahead. It was slower going than I expected it to be, I'll admit, sometimes having to race inland away from the approaching tide, slowed down at all times by the rocks and sand. But it was truly worth it. The east side of the spit is a bird sanctuary, and amongst the endless, ever present gulls, I actually saw a bald eagle, who regrettably launched into flight the moment I went to grab my phone for a picture. Even as it threatened to rain on me, I determined I wasn't going to regret the long walk. Though I was very glad it never more than drizzled. Some people sitting at a picnic table near the lighthouse at the end of the road (who asked me about my cycling...since I was still wearing my bike helmet...and thought I was somewhere between cool and crazy) were generous enough to snap a nice couple pictures of me.
What time of the day I spent actually biking, I  mostlu took the Olympic Discovery Trail...and generally regretted it, finding it a generally pretty, but often unnerving and arduous passage. Despite being well warned by my last host, by accident I ended up trying to go through Sequim Bay Park along the trail, only to end up turning around after realizing that wasn't really a thing. Then there was that crazy winding section. Then the sheer, switchbacked drop down to a bridge that I had to walk down, struggling to hold my bike back, before then also walking up the similar conditions on the other side. I was genuinely torn between amusement, distress, and a complete uncertainty as to how to make him leave me be.

Eventually though, I got my address and got in for the night. My hosts are great, have treated me really well. In the list of unusual things of the day, we ate popcorn coated in yeast and salted with mushroom powder, and it was actually really good.

My bike is having issues, already, that worry me. I feel I really got ripped on the maintenance I had done. ...But it's late now, and I can rave about that later.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

On the Road Again

It was about 4 in the morning when I woke up to go the bathroom, after spending a wonderful, but perhaps Ill advised evening drinking with my good friend Erin, that the realization I was embarking on my adventure down the coast today really hit me like a sobering blow to the face. I may have left my home in Seattle Thursday morning, but since then I'd been doing nothing but hanging out with one of my best friends, playing games, drinking beer, eating pizza, and getting her dog outside...not exactly anything to physically or mentally prepare for the complete change in my lifestyle about to start. I was jittery for a time, unable to sleep, my mind suddenly flooded with all the worries and doubts I'd tucked aside, wondering if I was really ready. Until finally, I worried myself back into a fitful sleep.

But when I woke up and found all the waiting over at last, getting myself around to finally actually go, the tension of anticipation slipped away into the reality of procedure. I've done this before, and I can do this again. It's not the distance from here to LA, it's the distance of each day, one stop at a time. Before I knew it, the time to go had come. There was a wonderful moment of coming full circle, having arrived at Erin's at the end of my last journey, now leaving from there for the beginning of this one. And with her and her military husband about take leave in Nebraska and then move to Camp Pendleton, the both of us now stood on the verge of becoming vagabonds in our own ways, both bound for California by our own route and in our own time.

Then goodbyes were over, and just like that I was on the road and again. I think by virtue of my short, lightly-packed trip to Vancouver, I had somewhat deluded myself into thinking the biking was going to be easier than it actually is, managed to forget just how heavy and difficult hauling my trailer really is. It's like waking up one day to realize you've somehow grown a fifty pound ass during the night, and now you have to figure out the process of getting around all over again. But still, before long it was all coming back to me, and I was riding along the highway singing my eclectic mix of "biking songs", sore, but having a good time.

All said, this was a very easy day of outset, from Bangor to my stop along Chicken Coop Road outside of Sequim, only 45 miles, only 2100 feet up and down, gorgeous weather, no rain, a nice shoulder, an excellent host to stay with at the end up of the road. It was easy enough I was happy to make a couple mile detour to the cute little town of Port Gamble, and when I got lost reaching my host, I wasn't even that frustrated by it. ...Things are going to get much harder before long. But hey, one day at a time, right?

I had the honor and the privilege to be my host's first guest. Though you'd think he'd been doing it for years. He's a remarkable man of many hats, a musician, writer, naturalist, builder, former employee of NOAA. He made me to feel right at home right away. Amongst that multitude of hats is also that of a chef, and he cooked me a great vegetarian dinner. He provided good conversation over food and beer and showed me his gorgeous self-built home and property. He has ambitions to turn some of his land into a campground for cyclists coming through, and I have no doubt that it will be up and going before long. The best part of touring really is meeting all the amazing people on the way.

It should be another easy day tomorrow, even shorter than today, a quick jaunt to Port Angeles. Then the real adventure will begin.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Emerald City

Seattle... I came into this city with a head full of hopes, pockets filled with dreams...and next to nothing else to my name. I left my trailer on Bangor Base with my dear friend Erin, and took the ferry back across the Puget Sound with literally nothing but the goods on my back and the bike beneath my butt. I spent a couple weeks with my cousin in Lynwood while part busing, part biking a near 40 mile roundtrip to the Seattle Bartending College each day, trying to crash course my way to what I hoped would be an employable skill. From there, without a clue where to go or what to do, I had the marvelous fortune to meet a wonderful fellow in Wallingford who not only took me in for a couple days, but provided me with yard work on his property to make funds I desperately needed. After which I came to couchsurf with, then rent from, some folks in a wretchedly inconvenient region just south of the city limits, who were nice...a little nuts...and whose place had cockroaches in the utensil drawers and mold in the bathroom. There I spent more than a month, grossed out, weirded out, homesick, speaking about the conditions in whispered conversations to my friends and family, frantic to find a job, and generally entirely unsure what I was doing. I was lucky to get some day labor from the neighbor doing construction work to keep me mostly in the financial clear, while all the while applying hopelessly to one job after another, feeling like I'd never find steady work.

Until finally, I got an interview to be a bartender at a bowling alley/billiards/bar/restaurant in Tukwilla. ...I flubbed that interview and got hired as a waiter instead. ...Then I turned out to be a terrible waiter and within the week was working as a busser. But I had a job. And as soon as I possibly could, I got out of that horrible house to move into a vastly cleaner, surprisingly cheaper, and far less crazy house with two really great roommates. And there, in my strange little suburb of Skyway, still outside the city proper, in a no-man's land south of Seattle, north of Renton, where people could apparently legally have roosters, at the top of a very tall hill, in a neighborhood with a weird aversion to sidewalks, and in area I was frequently informed (despite my own general feelings of safety) was not the safest of places to live, I eventually came to feel at home. There I would live for seven months, while little by little learning this city of Seattle I'd come across half the country to reach.

Now that time is done, I've said my goodbyes, currently riding the ferry to Bremerton, and I find myself looking back on it all, remembering all those hopes in my head and dreams in my pocket. I came wanting to live in the heart of the city. I ended up living outside of it, spending most days never stepping a foot inside the city proper. I set out with the ambition to work as a bartender. Instead I ended up as a busser. I originally thought I would take permanent residence here. It wasn't long before I knew that simply wasn't in me to do. In most every sense, I failed at everything I tried, at every turn I made.

And I regret nothing, not a thing. I have met crazies and kindred spirits, and an undeniably large number of folk who were both. I have gone to islands and seen orcas. I have visited nearly every museum in the city and seen most the great landmarks. I've spent time chatting with good people from around the world in coffee shops and bars throughout the city. I got to work my job with some of the best people I've ever met and who I will miss dearly. And I've learned a lot about the restaurant industry from a good place to learn it, near the bottom.

Without a doubt, my time here in Seattle has been worth every minute. My experiences here in the Emerald City have proven as marvelous and meaningful for me as my personal yellow brick road journey to get here. And just because I've decided to face the wondrous and wicked witch of the west that is Highway 101, before ultimately going to Phoenix and clicking my heels together three times to get a lift back to my home on the Midwestern plains (...did I carry that one too far?), Seattle and everyone I've met here will always be close to heart.

Goodbye Seattle. I'll miss you. Until we meet again.