Friday, September 9, 2011


It is the seventeenth of August now.  I subtract this from twenty-two in my head and realize that summer is nearing an end and classes start in five short days; days that fly by frantically and nearly satisfactorily except that they won't stay put for just a bit longer.

Every time that I have thought guiltily that I should take a moment to blog I feel overwhelmed by the amount of information that I know I will have to divulge.  One adventure has ended, another begun, and with school starting, yet one more sweeping scene will take the spotlight and leave the last seemingly brilliant episode dimly in the shadows without ever having a chance to be seen.  It seems, some how, sinful to have lapsed in writing for so long that I have forgotten all the small details that make something worth remembering, writing, telling.

And the pictures!  What of the pictures that cannot be so nonchalantly placed in rows down a page, neatly scrap-booked by an electronic nobody that effortlessly places them uniformly and exactly and makes me want to just mess it all up a little bit, but that would take too much human work; I don't have the skills to make the alignment less than perfect.  

Now, where was I.

We rode down the coast and with sanguine faces every time that we saw the ocean and could hardly bear to ride away from it.  On the days that we were forced to dodge inland and the hills rolled like on the plains but through the woods, we made frequent stops at every stream to throw sticks for Mary to break up the monotony.  Bringing the dogs was the best decision that we made as they made us a laugh and entertained us when we were down and very effectively guarded our belongings when we went into stores or ate at restaurants.

We discussed at length the primordial desire to be near any water source; the euphoria we felt when in the ocean's infinite presence or the content fortitude that we gained while following a creek.  We saw a sand sculpture contest and an old ship wreck.  I did an oyster shooter, Mary fell off of a culvert into a creek, we stayed at a hiker/biker camp site for five dollars; all the details are lost.  

I desperately wanted to use our fishing pole and catch my own dinner.  I thought that it would top off the growing ecstasy we floated on while reveling in our independence from gasoline.  If I could catch my own food, I would truly be money free and self-reliant.  However, we still hadn't found a lure for our pole and the days went on as we road the coast with many a fisherman dropping their lines over the rocks along the way in search of their own meal, but not a one of them happening to drop a lure as they loaded their tackle boxes back into their cars and drove away.

Down the Oregon coast, stopping at a every town we could and doing short distances so we could enjoy the beaches and tourist traps.  I composed in my head the journal entry of what it would be like if we finally found a fishing lure.  I would write, "I squealed with excitement and startled the boy as I screeched to a stop and picked up my treasure..."  As I squinted in a setting sun at this thought, I passed one of millions of shiny metal objects that we passed every day on the side of the road.  The slanted rays of the sun illuminated the 'J' shaped hook as if I had dreamed it into existence.

Our luck had run out with the weather and it drizzled but we made the most of it, taking beer tours in Astoria and riding the tilt-a-whirl in Seaside.  It was a Monday morning at a campsite just passed Seaside that we discovered our only option for a rental car was back up the coast in Astoria.

After weighing our options, we decided that we would rather not continue down the coast and then have to back track into the wind.  Nor did we want to stay put in the area and watch our painfully earned and saved funds dwindle.  We decided that we would take the remainder of the cash left from the trip and invest in our next adventure, kiteboarding.

The ride back to Astoria was through poring rain.  For me, it was bittersweet.  I was excited to buy kiteboarding gear since we love to wakeboard but can't justify the enormous amount of gas guzzled by our speed boat and have been trying to sell it.  However, ending bike tour a little early felt disappointingly close to giving up.  Brenton, in contrast, was as cheerful as ever and in his typically optimistic manner he rolled with the punches and was diving head first into the next saga of our lives; The Year of the Wind!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Day 26 - Shiver Me Timbers

We begrudgingly left the campsite by the beach and headed slightly inland to ride around a bay before we would rejoin the open ocean.  The low tide on the bay revealed green sludge stretching all the way to the horizon.  Signs near by warned that shellfish found in the area was not safe to eat and the offensive, fishy, odor confirmed.  Brenton picked up a rock and threw it into the cesspool.  It landed with a sucking plop into the muck and about an inch away from where the rock had disappeared from view a thin fountain of water squirted from what must have been a clam startled by the stone.    

It was chilly, misty, gray; the type of day that you would expect on the Washington coast and that we had grown used to.  We had lucked out the night before, with the sunshine on the beach in a state park.  Now we only had the promise of a long day of riding and another K.O.A. at the end.  

We found a bike path that took us in the direction that we wanted to go, and a gentleman riding in the opposite direction called out, "You guys passing through?"  We warily replied yes, without slowing down, but he stopped and asked if we knew where we were camping yet.  We said we weren't sure.  He proceeded to tell us about a campsite at the edge of the next town that had tent camping for five dollars, and we thanked him sincerely and rode on with smiles on our faces.  Things were looking up.

Across the road, I spotted a sign for fresh seafood and called out to Brenton that we should get some fish.  Without hesitation, he darted left and we ended up with a two pounds of fresh tuna for twelve dollars that had just been caught that afternoon and had come into the store thirty minutes prior to our purchase.  We had happened upon this little market just in time, as the amiable woman at counter was just about to close up.     

We rode a short distance and found the campsite, just as the friendly local on the bike path had described it.  It was a long boat dock stretching into the bay; a grassy area with a picnic table under a tree in between the water and the large, gravel parking lot.  Sure enough, a sign advertised tent camping for five dollars and we gratefully put a five in an envelope and into the drop box.

We cooked our fish and let the girls run around freely as there was no one else around.  Only one fisherman used the dock all evening.  He politely inquired after our ride and wished us luck.  Dinner was delicious and the sun broke through the cloud cover.

There was no where to build a fire, so our entertainment for the evening was watching Mary dive off the dock after her ball.  As the tide went out, we could actually see the current swiftly moving water and debris out of the bay, and with it, MJ's momentarily forgotten ball.  She caught sight of it floating towards the sun in the distance and whimpered, at first softly, but as the ball floated further and further away from the dock, she became more and more agitated and finally decided that she wasn't going to let it go.  After pacing the dock and leaning over the side hesitantly with frantic yipping and whining, she belly flopped into the water and kicked with the tide, her tail swishing from side to side at the surface of the water like a rudder.  Mary loves to swim and would paddle around all day if we let her, but I have to admit I was a little bit nervous with the distance that she swam that night.  She recovered the ball a ways down bank from us and triumphantly trotted back on to the dock, shaking water off with an extra flutter of her hind end, just in case I wasn't wet enough already.   

We watched the sun set over the bay with a pastel display like I had never seen before that no picture could capture.  The water glowed with the pink reflection of the sky and drenched everything to the west with a baby blanket but left the town to the east to fade into the hills with the soft and sleepy grays of establishments built only for the ocean that themselves seem to sway with the lapping of salt water at the edges of the docks.

As the sun put on his fantastical disappearing act, it sucked all the warmth in the air behind the trees with it and the coldest night of the trip made the wet dogs shiver as they laid on the dock next to us, huddled in all our warmest clothing.  A sea lion popped his head out of the water every now and then, looking right at me with dark eyes.  Although he eluded our camera, I had a feeling he would be back in the morning.   

Friday, July 29, 2011

Day 25 - The Safety Police

Into Aberdeen we rode.  The cool breeze blew off of the bay and the sun was shining.  We crossed a little bridge with a side walk  conveniently located on the outside of the support beams so we were protected from traffic and I smiled with the chill that ran down my spine and gave me goose bumps, partly from the breeze, but mostly, it was a shiver of excitement as I anticipated walking on the beach before the day was over.

There was another bridge, this one much longer than the last, and the sidewalk had an eight inch curb with the no ramp to assist a biker with a load and a trailer.  There was no shoulder and, as we had done many times in the last thousand miles, we rode with traffic; four lanes of undivided highway 101. 

The traffic, traveling at thirty-five miles per hour, passed us with ease.  The cars simply merged into the left lane, taking little notice of us.  Above me, on my right, a ealthy number of joggers and cyclists crossed the bridge, going against traffic, so that they faced Zerbert’s blue eyes as she craned her neck out of the trailer and twitched her nose with each different scent she detected.  When passer-byers noticed that there was a dog rather than a child in the trailer, they turned up the corners of their mouths and their eyes glittered with inadvertent, pursed-lipped smiles, and if there were two people together, I heard exclamations from slightly behind me, “Oh did you see his eyes!” 

Nearly every day, however, there has a been a bystander who finds it his or her duty to protect us from our own ignorant blundering.  Often times it is just someone warning us to “be safe, ” with a concerned look on their face, rather than wishing us a safe journey when we they hear what we plan to do.  Once it was a dangerously obese woman who repeatedly insisted that Zerbert’s trailer was unsafe. This time, it was a gentlemen riding his bike on the high and narrow sidewalk, against traffic, pointing frantically downwards towards his wheels and shouting to Brenton, who was riding ahead of me, “Ride on the sidewalk man!” 

When this type of presumptuous criticism began, even before we left for the trip and were still in the planning process, we responded politely as if we were young children listening to advice from a wise elder, even though most of the comments were from people who have never been to the areas that we would be visiting, and had never even heard of bicycle-touring before. 

After hearing from every local about how impossibly steep the next hill is, how there are bears and mountain lions everywhere, how the shoulder is really thin down that road, and almost every comment followed with the belittling phase, “You know that, right?” as if to imply that we have no idea of what we are getting ourselves into, we had run out of patience.  Brenton called back to the man riding the wrong way down the sidewalk, “And how are we supposed to get up there?”  There was no time, in passing, to point out that if we were riding on the sidewalk, there would be no room for anyone to get around our trailers anyway.  The guy stopped his bike and called out from behind us, “I’ll help lift you up if you want help!” 

I pictured us stopping on the bridge and taking the time to lift trailers and bikes onto the thin and tall curb and then running everyone else off the road, and as the exhausting thought was still playing in my mind, we pulled off of the bridge and the shoulder opened wide again.  Brenton and I grumbled about the nerve of people, and how they should mind their own business.  I felt a little guilty, knowing that the guy probably meant well, but I also felt a little enraged by his tone, in which he made no attempt to hide the fact that he thought we were doing something stupidly dangerous.  I wished that I could have stopped him and explained that cyclists ride with traffic all of the time and that it is perfectly legal and often, as in this circumstance, there is no other choice.  Instead, I rode on and brooded over it, thinking of all the sarcastic and witty things that I wish I would have said.

I know that we are taking risks, every day, on this trip.  I have laid awake at night, worried that the rustling outside the tent is a bear.  I have cringed at the roar of trucks chasing me down on the highway.  I’ve felt defeated and humiliated as I pushed my bike up a hill.  Many times, I nervously micro-managed the dogs’ every steps as they trotted a little bit too closely to the side of the road; but, it would not be a true adventure if there was not some inherent risk involved, and it has been worth every second of dread.  One might even argue that all the risks involved in our bike tour are nothing compared to the seemingly conservative habits of watching TV and eating junk food.  Perspective is an cunning phenomenon that makes the most straight forward of facts nothing but a subjective whim.  I can only speak about my own.

As I saw it, the road ahead was begging me to brave it.  It promised that if I would only put aside my fears and travel on, the next bend would surely have more to offer than the last, and the next thing I knew, we were pulling into a campsite and throwing our tent up as fast as we could with the sound of waves pummeling sand just passed the trees.  We hiked the short path through the wooded area behind our tent and then over two steep and green, grassy hills and walked out onto the hot sand of the wide open beach.  We spent the rest of the evening throwing sticks into the waves for Mary to fetch as Zerbert bounced in part way after her, only to hop back to the safety of the beach with the white, foamy, edge of a dwindling wave chasing her. 

We gathered driftwood and burned it slowly, savoring the salty air and vibrant glow of the sunset.  This is what we had ridden a thousand miles to do.  I shivered on Brenton’s shoulder for awhile after the sun disappeared behind the horizon, and reluctantly agreed it was time to kick sand over our embers and hit the hay. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Day 24 - Snakes

Our next stop would be our last RV park before the coast, and the day was uneventful in preparation.  The most exciting thing that happened  all day was when I saw about fifteen snakes dart one by one off of the side of the road as we passed them.  Somehow, Brenton didn’t see even one, and teased me that I had imagined it.  Every time that we road passed a bungee cord or some other serpent shaped garbage on the road, he began calling out, “Snake!” and then, “How many have you seen now?  Twenty?” 

 It was gray and rainy all day.  Our campsite was a fire pit and picnic table in one of two grassy islands surrounded by a sea of gravel, RVs afloat.  There were bike racks at each spot, and I was reminded that we were nearing the land of bike touring.  Later in the evening, the other site became occupied by a man on two wheels.  I didn’t go talk to him, but overheard him telling someone that he was on his first day of tour from Seattle, and we thought of how nice it would be to tour without trailers and be able to make that kind of time.

We splurged and bought two bundles of wood to make a fire, the first time we bought wood on the trip, and had a weak, smoky thing going that was barely able to withstand the drizzle seeping from the misty arm that draped over us from the gray sky.  

Day 23 - Slugs

Some days on bike tour are full of dramatic and colorful changes in scenery and moods.  This was not starting out to be one of those days.  After riding endlessly through Tacoma and the surrounding towns, it felt like going to a job that you don’t hate from eight to five and, even though its not hard, you are just ready to be done for the day. 

We finally got out of the Seattle Bay area, leaving its many bike lanes, and reentered the woods, back on the highway.  It was a relief. 

The wildflowers along the road looked like lace and traffic wasn’t so bad.  We rode like this for quite sometime before we happened upon a bike path that followed our highway, but was just deep enough into the trees, which were becoming lanky giants all fighting to occupy the same spot, to mask most of the sound of semis grinding by. 

There was more wildlife to be seen on this trail than we had witnessed the whole trip, that is, there were slugs and snakes everywhere stealthily sidling out of the jungled ferns of the forest to find a sun-warmed patch of concrete.  We wanted to make good time so we loaded the dogs up and rode hard.

Zerbert had developed a habit of standing with her front paws on the arm of her trailer the way that most dogs stand on the car door and lean their head out of the open window.  This seemed like a dangerous stunt and we figured that now was a good time to teach her a lesson.  I devised a plan to brake hard and make her stumble every time she stepped out where she shouldn’t be, but it didn’t shake her.

Brenton said he was going to bump me from behind the next time she did it and he dropped back, ready as planned.  Just then I saw a snake slithering frantically across the path beside me and I called out “Snake, snake, snake!  Get your camera!” as I pulled on my brake levers.   Just as I was almost to a complete stop,  I was jolted mercilessly from behind.  Brenton had apparently not heard me or noticed that I was stopping and was executing the plan.  I swerved and tried frantically to pop my feet out of my pedals, but crashed on the side of the path.  I yowled and paced around, shaking out my wrists and bending my knees up high to make sure that it all still worked.  “Why would you slam into me like that!”  and Brenton, “Why did you slam on your brakes right before you knew I was going to bump you?”  I came out of it with a few scratches, but a bloody knee was the worst of the damage.  Zerbert was not the one who learned a lesson.

We ate dinner at the only restaurant in a one horse town along the bike path and rode on to the next settlement of a few houses, a gas station, and a grocer.  We found free camping at a little park at the end of the bike path and scrounged for firewood, finding tons of fallen logs but with  spongy bark, damp from the frequent rain and dense canopy of the forest blocking out any light to the ground. 

Using a cardboard beer box and some brown paper sacks for kindling, we stacked up the driest twigs that we could find around the paper and lit the paper bags, hoping for the best.  To my surprise,  we built quite a blaze out of all that wet wood and scooted our chairs back, with growing warmth on our faces. 

The talk around the fire was of the days to come, how we couldn’t wait to see the ocean, and how we were going to take it easy on the coast and build beach fires every night and try to catch our own dinner with our fishing pole or maybe even dig some clams.  We had decided a ways back that rather than making a loop back to Helena, we would continue as far as we could make it down the coast and then rent a car for the return.  In my glossy daze, after a day of riding, and under the spell of the hot coals of the campfire hypnotizing my sleepy and drunken eyes, my world was made of nothing but time, and that time was endless summer.