Monday, September 13, 2010

The End of this Adventure

Well, that's it. I rode back into Seattle the day before yesterday and unpacked my panniers last night; trips over. It was an incredible journey, one that I know that will be a big part of me for the rest of my life. The year flew by filled with countless unexpected surprises, filling me with hope, gratitude, and a desire for more. When I left, I knew that this trip would change my life in some way. But despite many guess as to how, I didn’t know what would actually materialize. Well, it turns out that most everything I’d guessed came true and more; I never imagined it would be so good.

The last few days of my journey were no less wonderful then the whole year. The ride from Cheney to Cle Elum, that I'd anticipated taking three days, I rode in two long days. Subconsciously, I guess I was more anxious to finish up then I realized, my legs just kept pedaling. Whereas the rest of the year, I did anything I could to avoid riding on main interstates, which often meant adding extra miles, I found myself just giving in a taking I-90 for 10-15 miles a day in order to shave those miles off. The first day I even had a rare tail wind as I rode through the rolling wheat fields and into the sage brush. It was fall for sure as the nights have gotten cold and was raining most everyday.

Soap Lake, full of all sorts of minerals and supposed to be "healing waters"

My last night sleeping out, a baseball dugout in Ephrata

Columbia River Gorge!

I did not anticipate the 12 mile climb out of the Columbia River Gorge, it was slow but beautiful. As I then entered the Kittitas Valley, the winds the area is known for hit me hard, making the last 40 miles of the day a struggle. It was a gorgeous ride though as I reentered my home territory riding into Cle Elum (where I'd been working the last three years for the Forest Service).

The spectacular road to Cle Elum

It was late by the time I got into Cle Elum and I was fully exhausted. All I could think of was food from the Thai place, only to be crushed by finding it had closed. I spent the next while living my old life as though nothing had even changed. In the morning, I walked across the parking lot with my backpack ready for work! Having arrived a day earlier then expected, I took the opportunity to get out and work with trail crew. It was wonderful to see so many of my Forest Service friends again, many of them have given me so much support this past year and I am so grateful to them. Trail crew was the same as always, full of fart jokes, impersonations, and hard work. We were up in the Teanaway, one of my favorite areas on the district. Although it was a bit cloudy, I was rewarded with some views of the fresh snow on the higher peaks. It felt great to have a tool in my hands again and to accomplish something of substance. My hands were in a good deal of pain though, not being used to holding a tool anymore, especially breaking apart rock.

Doing some tread work with trail crew!

That evening, a bunch of FS folks gathered for dinner. So nice to be with everyone again!

My Forest Service family out to dinner

After visiting the weekend crew in the morning, and getting the lab report from Mikki, I rode out up to Snoqualimie Pass. I ended up riding around 20 miles on a gravel rail-to-trail pathway. It was very peaceful and I didn't see another soul. The only tough part was a trying to get through a chain-link gate that was locked for some reason.

This was a bit difficult, with no way around and not wanting to ride a few miles back to circumvent this gate, I somehow squeezed everything through. It wasn't pretty.

Riding into the Pass and then into Gold Creek Valley was a little emotional for me. This is the place my family built our cabin over twenty years ago, where we spent our winter weekends and summers growing up, where I learned to love the outdoors, and where I'd lived the past three summers. I was ecstatic to be back in the valley, this place is more Home to me then anywhere else.

Home in Gold Creek Valley to spend a day at my family's cabin. After seeing a year of North America's sights, this is still my favorite place in the world; nothing makes me happier then to be in this valley.

Knowing that once I rode into Seattle, it would be difficult to reflect and relax without distraction, I tried to make the most of my day and a half at the cabin. Making a fire to warm the place up, listening to NPR all day, making great food, and enjoying the mountain air were just what I needed. Geoff, a friend who's been one of my biggest emotional supports this past year came up and spent the night which was wonderful.

The next day I had mostly to myself to go on walks, carry and stack fire wood, and go for a fantastic run up the valley. It was such a nice way to spend my last day alone, though I could have used a full week up there.

I got to reminisce a little looking through our old photo album in the cabin. Random, but I love this picture (I don't think I fell in).

Ready for my last day of riding.

My last day of riding included a bit of everything. It was cool and rainy on the pass, and then got sunny down lower; I had dirt roads, both perfect and horrible pavement, bike trials and interstate riding. Making my way through the greater Seattle area, I struggled over some of the steepest hills I've had all year as I tried to find my way winding through the residential areas. I made it to my Great Aunts house where a number of family members met me. After a short visit, a number of them then rode with me the last 25 miles to my parent’s house where I'd begun my journey exactly one year ago.

Family welcomed me at my Great Aunt's house for a little food.

My entourage, ready to ride the last miles with me!

The family on the way in: parents, brothers, and sister-in-law.

Crossing into Seattle!

With my dad, back where this whole journey began one year ago.

So that was it. It was fun having family ride in with me and I'm so thankful for all of their support this past year. Now it's time to transition as I finalize this trip.

As I bid goodbye to one adventure the next begins shortly as I prepare to move to Whitefish to ski coach.

Back to city life: working in the yard with my dad. Our pears are enormous and so perfect this year!

The Final Tally for 365 days on the road:

Miles: 16,184 (26, 045 km)
Flats: 41 (none since way back in Vermont!)
Tubes: 15
Tires: 7
Jars of Nut Butter: 38
Nights under a roof: 128
States: 30
Provinces: 4
National Parks, etc: 38
Bike-free days: 58
100+ mile days: 21
Rain: 87
Riding in Rain: 48
Riding with companions: 29
Books: 24
Spontaneous hosts: 6
Ferries: 8
Farms: 2
Rear Wheels: 3
Warmshowers/Couchsurfing hosts: 17
Bike shorts: 3
Tubes Chamois B'tter: 3
Sicknesses: 3
Sunglasses: 3
Nights paid for: 13

I owe a huge thank you to everyone who has been invaluable this past year in making my ride possible. To those of you who have trudged through my spelling and grammatical errors, trying to make sense of my blog; to those who have opened their homes and hearts to me everywhere making sure I had anything I needed; for the phone calls and emails that have helped keep me sane and inspired to continue; to those who believed in me and didn't just dismiss me as crazy; to the other riders I met along the way, especially those who gave me some company for a short ways; to the countless anonymous folks who gave me waves, friendly honks, thumbs up, fist pumps, and even the one who blew me a kiss. Without all of you this trip would have never taken off and definitely wouldn't have been such a positive experience. I am forever indebted to you and hope that one day I can began to repay your kindness.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Back to MT for something a little different

After a relaxing and productive day off with Sarah in Cheney, John picked me up to drive back to Montana. That night we got to the camp on Flathead lake where we'd be staged the next few days. Rick (the groom) and a few family and friends where there. It was fantastic to see John and Rick again, to catch up with them and hear some Cle Elum and Forest Service news (we worked together the past few years).

While the boys did their bachelor thing, I got to relax around camp and explore a little on my own. The next day, John and I got an early start, drove into Glacier National Park, and set off on a hike up to a fire lookout. This was a different part of the park then I'd hiked in the other week, very different and nice. Being out hiking with John again was just wonderful; made me want to go back and ranger again!

John hiking up to Huckleberry Lookout

The day couldn't have been much better, warm and sunny. We enjoyed a little ridge walking and picked delicious huckleberries on the way down.

View from the Lookout

We got back in time to get John to the wedding rehearsal, then cleaned up for the rehearsal dinner that evening. It was fun meeting so many folks from all over the country gathered for Rick and Adair, such a great group of people.

After thunder showers in the morning and a little worrying, the afternoon of the wedding turned out beautifully. Flathead Lake was a picturesque setting for such a lovely affair.

What a beautiful ceremony!

Adair and Rick, the newly wed couple!

John, Rick, and me. For a couple of wilderness hippies, I think we clean up pretty well.

First Dance

Dinner and dancing that evening was a ton of fun! This sure added another fantastic element to my bike trip. Fortunately, my parents had gotten my dress to John so that I didn't have to show up in bike clothes.

Always early risers, after a short night, John and I headed back into the Park for another little adventure. We'd hoped to scramble up a few peaks, but the weather forced us to a back up plan-a very short hike up a small peak right at Logan Pass. As we left the parking lot, the snow started to fall and the surrounding mountains were rapidly engulfed in the clouds. Our first snow of the season and we were in heaven! The meadows and peaks around us began to turn white as the world quieted down. However, the winds were a little rough and we weren't exactly prepared for a snow storm, but were just so happy to be out there it didn't much matter.

Winter arrives


Great visibility on the summit

John and me, summit shot

The hike was short and we quickly headed back down to a lodge for the blazing fireplace and a warm meal. This morning we packed up and drove back to Washington.

So, here I am back in Cheney and getting ready for the final few days of my bike. It hasn't yet some close to sinking in that I have a mere five riding days left. My line across Washington will be about a direct as it can be as my year is almost up and I'm looking forward to my next step: Whitefish, MT! I got the job coaching the Glacier Nordic competition team there and am super excited for the move!