Places and People. Carlton, WA to Okanogan, WA
It's one thing to read about an event in the paper, or hear about it on the news and completely different to experience it first-hand, even the aftermath. I heard from my friend Twig the work he did for days on end with no sleep to protect his home from the fire that would surely come through. And it did. And he and his home are fine. But I followed his hand as he pointed across the valley to a hill that occupied most of our view, as he told me that hill was on fire for about a day.
I rode through land which the fire raced through, stripping trees of lower branches leaving them to decay, destroying dozens of homes and dramatically altering the valley's appearance. The area is a fire ecosystem; it needs to burn periodically to remain healthy. A big fire was long overdue, but that knowledge does little to salve the sting of destroyed property and this life-changing event.
I said goodbye to Twig in Carlton and headed into Twisp. There I met Eric from Bellingham who was out on a weeklong motorcycle trip. Another married but solo adventurer, we compared notes on staying connected with family and friends at home. He told me about road construction ahead as I rode east, and I assured him that the passes would still be snow-free as he rode west.
Just as I started to climb Loup Loup, the road construction crew stopped me. I visited with Peggy in her pink hard hat while waiting for the pilot truck to give me a lift. She lives in Spokane but temporarily relocated to work on this road project. She was curious to hear about whether I felt safe traveling alone (I do) and together we marveled at the destruction from the summer's fires and floods. She helped me load my bike and bags into Cindy's truck for a 3 mile ride up the hill.
Cindy, who was also in town temporarily for the construction project, offered me a bungee cord I didn't need but accepted because I am my father's daughter. She also told me about a guy named Randy who came through recently, and that his goal is to say hello to everyone he meets. Sure enough, just on the other side of the Loup Loup summit, Randy flagged me down. My solar charger was dangling from my rear rack - I forgot to reattach it after getting into my trunk bag for a post climb cookie.
He told me that he is walking around the country. That he's on a mission to create more human connection. He expects this walking trip to take 5 years. We had a nice little visit, each took the other's photo and promised to connect on Facebook. He told me I have a beautiful heart, and that was really nice to hear from a guy who clearly has one himself.
I rode on through Omak, stopped in the bike shop to fill up on air after a pinch flat that afternoon. It was a slog to Tonasket, I stayed on the highway thinking the direct route would be fastest. The last couple miles into Tonasket were pretty, with graceful hills along the river. The visitor's center welcomed me with lawn camping just for bike packers and an awesome taco truck across the street. After a cookie ice cream and battery purchase at the local grocery, I climbed into my tent full of memories and connections to the people and places that touched me today.
- Pacific Coast Milestones -
- FROM: Seattle, WA
- DOB: 1974-09-20
- OCCUPATION: Regional Team Leader and Tour Guide at Bicycle Adventures
What was the genesis moment or inspiration for your upcoming adventure?
I'm going to blame my fellow Ranger J.D. Pauls for this one. He told me about a new Trans-Am Race that's happening this June, and hopefully annually thereafter. After seeing 2013 Ranger footage of Nick and J.D. racing their hearts out while Carrie and I cruised down the coast eating ice cream (ok, Carrie rode a damn strong tour and I'm the one who cruised along from ice cream shop to ice cream shop)... and while I know I'm not a front-of the pack race contender, I kind of feel like maybe there's something I missed out on.
I'm looking for a different challenge this year. One that still involves ice cream, but something that pushes further toward being the strongest version of myself. I learned that phrase at Seattle's Bike to Work Breakfast, listening to a high school senior talk about his recent experiences in Seattle's Major Taylor Project. Before he joined Major Taylor, Brook had never biked out of his neighborhood. He thought that their first organized 10-mile ride around SeaTac airport would surely result in broken bones or some other major injury. But he did it. And then he rode his first century. Then did his first 200 mile ride. Brook talked about how cycling has been a means to becoming the strongest version of himself.
At the end of last year's tour I was the strongest I have ever been in my life. Physically, mentally, etc. – hands down, I was the strongest in every way. This year it's time to tap into that again, crank it up a notch... and see what happens.
Have you travelled by bike in the past?
Last year's PCH tour was my first real bike tour. I hope to add to that resume during the summer of 2014 with my new job leading tours at Bicycle Adventures! I understand I’m being made to spend three weeks in the Glacier-Banff-Jasper area… and I’m bragging about that to anyone who will listen.
What is your goal for the route?
I'm starting in Astoria, Oregon and will go as far as I can in 2 weeks on the Trans-Am route. However far I get, at the end of 2 weeks I'll go to the nearest train station and buy a ticket home.
Someday I want to do a cross-country tour, and this trip will help me decide if this is the right route for me, and if an event like the Trans-Am Race is right for me. Will I get lonely on a less-traveled route than the PCH? What will it be like with fewer amenities along the way? (Will there be enough ice cream shops!?) I'm most curious about what will it be like to race the clock a little bit.
During my tour last summer, I set out having just had a lateral appendectomy 6 weeks prior. While I got clearance from my surgeon to do the tour, I still rode conservatively, just wanting to avoid any possible problems. And then mid-way through the trip, I found out a friend would be in the Bay Area for a very limited time, and if I wanted to meet up I would need to ride several very challenging days - 70 to 80 miles over sections of highway with the word "Pass" in the name. I hemmed and hawed and ultimately decided to go for it. It was the biggest challenge thus far on the trip. It was tougher than I imagined - one day after bragging to some fisherman at the foot of Jenner Pass that not only was I going to make it another ~25 miles to Bodega Bay State Park that day, I was going to complete all 5 miles of climbing Jenner Pass without stopping.
I stopped twice, ostensibly to pee, less ostensibly to catch my breath. But I made it to Bodega Bay. And then the next day, I made the meeting.
I wouldn't have pushed myself if not for this meeting, this race against time. And if not for the meeting, I wouldn't have realized this new strength. And I wouldn't have gotten to that stronger version of myself -- the one who was shrugging off 80-mile days like they were nothing by the end of her tour.
What do you hope to get out of this journey?
I took a leadership course with the Adventure Cycling Association last fall, in their office in Missoula, MT. On the wall near the entrance is a photo and essay about an ACA member who has cycled across the country 7 times. His goal in life is to "make every second count." Whenever he feels that slipping away, he gets on his bike and rides across the country.
There has been a lot of transition in my life recently - going from a corporate desk job to an outdoors lifestyle company was huge. I'm still adjusting. I still spend a lot of time in front of the computer, and at times I still catch myself hunched over the keyboard like a vulture. Some days I struggle to find time to ride my bike. There are still too many "should's" in my mind - how I should (working!) or shouldn't spend my time (goofing off), what I should or shouldn't say, eat or do. I hope to get closer to finding my passion or purpose or true north or whatever you want to call it, that is "making every second count."
- Pacific Coast Milestones -