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.