Monthly Archives: May 2014
Today is our third full day in Seattle and I am starting to see the whole Seattle big-picture. Since my last blog post I’ve realized immersing yourself in Seattle is kind of like jumping into a fridged cold pool; it looks really fun from a distance and you really want to be in the pool, but then when you jump in your heart kind of stops from the shock of it all, and then it hurts all over a little bit, and then…. you acclimate and it feels fine and you never want to get out (or, at least you don’t want to get out for a very long while).
Over the last three days Dustin and I have seen five parts of Seattle: Capital Hill (where our primary housing is at), the area surrounding the University of Washington, the Cental District, West Seattle and Vashon Island.
Now that I’ve had the chance to see the many dimensions of Seattle Tuesday’s “where am I? Who set this time machine to land in Chicago??” feeling of city-struck confusion has been replaced with more of an epiphanic “Oooohhh…. I get it…!” feeling.
Here are some highlights in pictures:
Next up: Burien to see Bethany, and an Amtrak ride to Widbey Island to see Lauren and Travis Free. After much debate, we finally decided to take an Amtrak from Seattle up toward the Northern Peninsula islands rather than riding our bikes north. This will get us headed East three-four days sooner (which will get us three-four days closer to Michigan and KT’s wedding in August!) So – tomorrow, Saturday, is our last day in Seattle for a while. I feel anxious about leaving since we still have the comfort of knowing someone here in the city… but it’s about that time to get on gettin’ on…
After 34 hours on the train, Dustin and I arrived in Seattle around 9pm on Tuesday night (5/27). After collecting our bikes (everything arrived in one piece; yay!), putting the peddles and handlebars back together, reepacking our panniers, and ditching our giant hilarious suitcases in a place where they were least likely to be mistaken for explosive devices, we walked our bikes with my long-lost Michigan friend turned Seattleite, Tony, from King Street Station to his house in Capital Hill.
Walking to Tony’s house it struck me suddenly that Seattle is kind of the Chicago of the Pacific Northwest; it’s a big-ass city. Why did I not realize this before? No shit Seattle is a city! Duh… Somehow, I did not realize this before. I think I imagined it more like Humboldt/Eureka and less like Chicago/New York.
I’m so glad we’re here. It’s giving us some time to really feel out the city and envision ourselves living/working here.
Now — writing from what is technically Seattle full-day number two — here are some thoughts and first impressions of the place:
1) If everyone thinks you’r’e “weird” in Georgia, move to Seattle. Everyone is “weird” here. It’s like a giant liberal melting pot. I’ve seen so much dyed hair and nose rings I can’t help but have Ben Fold’s “Underground” in my head all the time. It’s truly a liberal goulash (“melting pot” seemed too narrow here).
2) Cycle communting, smoking and fashion tights seems to be a rampant part of the cultlure here. At any one time you can look around and see someone smoking a cigarette (with or without coffee), a girl in zaney fashion tights, or an Ortileb pannier. The former I could take or leave; the latter I am really excited about.
3) Kickball, Dodge ball, bike polo… oh my! If you’re into non-traditional sports Capital Hill is the place to be. I saw some guys practicing their dodge ball moves yesterday and Tony says they have giant pick-up games with 40+ people sometimes. (I also saw a giant kickball game happening and a bike polo game, if you didn’t gather that from the headline..)
4) I found the door that goes to John Malkovich’s brain in Tony’s apartment building today. It’s everything I’d hoped it would be:
5) The park’s arre nice here and the squirrels are fat and unafraid.
Today we have it on our agenda to visit the University of Washington (a university Dustin is considering for his undergrad), and we’re going to see the Central District where I hear they have really excellent Ethiopian food (which I am reeeeeeeeally into). I also hear the Central District is a little less batshit crazy, so I’m interested to see that other side of the city.
Friday I’m going to a Yoga class at the Seattle Yoga Studio and then we’re planning to take a trip to Vashon island to see a straw bale house.
Dustin and I officially kicked off our tour this morning with an Amtrak train ride from Ventura to Seattle. Before this morning, Dustin nor I had ever been on an Amtrak, so let’s just say it’s been a bit of a learning experience. We’ve been on the train for five hours now, and we have 29 more to go (!). Here’s what I’ve learning about riding the train so far this morning….
1. That bike box they give you is a lot skinnier than you think.
So Dustin and I have watched about a dozen videos of people taking the train to start their bike tour. They show up; they’re stoked; the roll their bikes in a box; they high five and shake their booties and then they’re on their way. Turns out the bike doesn’t actually just roll on in the box, like a hampster in a hallway. If you have dropbars, the handlebar (even turned sideway) is kind of fat and needs to stretch the box sides out. To get our bikes in I crawled into one end of the box and actually pulled the front tire of the bike into the box. So…. the box is big enough to fit me in it. And it’s big enough for your bike. You just have to work for it. Don’t be a Larry and turn your handlebar way down or try to take it off like Dustin didn’t do. (Feel free to read between the lines.)
2. You only get 2 carry-on bags each, so you need to pack your panniers in giant suitcases.
This is another thing that no one has ever mentioned in all their bike touring how-to videos… If you’re riding with front and back panniers, that’s four bags each and you’re only allowed to carry on two bags each. So, if you don’t want to pay the $10 per bag checked baggage fee you have to cram your panniers into a giant suitcase (and then make a plan to donate that suitcase to your final destination). Not a big deal, but something that we didn’t consider until 11pm the night before we were leaving.
3. Inside the train, don’t carry your big-ass suitcase up the world’s tiniest staircase. It won’t fit in the overhead (duh)
After we got the bikes bagged and waited around the train station for a while reminiscing about how happy we are not to be Oxnard Train Station security personnel, it was time to get on the train. They scanned our tickets and we carried on our two carry-ons — one giant suitcase and one Ortileb backroller classic each. Since we’re travelling for 32 hours we’re on the second level of the train. At the bottom of the tinieist staircase ever you will see a place for giant suitcases. Deposit your giant suitcase here!!! DO NOT CARRY IT UP THE TINY STAIRCASE! You will end up punching some sleeping man in the face with your giant suitcase (like I did), and the suitcase won’t fit anyway (duh.) and then you’ll have to go the other way with the suitcase, back down the tiny staircase… and it will be embarassing. So. Don’t do that.
4. BRING SUBWAY! Bring soooo much Subway….! And water!
Apparently the train was made for carnivores. If you’re not into ribs and chicken and lamb and hamburgers, bring your own train snacks vegetarians! We’re only 5 hours in and already I wish I had brought a picinic lunch/dinner so bad. I’m so hungry I’m not even mad about this girl eating her horse apple next to me. I’m just jealous.
5. Don’t pack your headphones in your checked luggage (re: your bike)
Oy vey. Dustin and I both packed our handlebar bags in the big box with our bikes… and inside those handlebar bags, we both packed our headphones. Stupido. Now how am I supposed to listen to all 21 hours of The Grapes of Wraps on audio tape????
6. The viewing car is where the party is at.
In every (most?) Amtrak train, there is a “viewing car” with giant windows where people can go and sit at tablees or face the windows. In the last five hours I’ve learned that you sit in your assigned seats when you want to sleep, or talk about business, or play your RPG (Dustin), or listen to audio books (everyone except me), and the viewing car is where you go when you want to par-tay. (Part-taying is actually optional, but that seems to be the place where strangers are laughing and mixing and mingling and consuming large quantities of vacation alcohol.) The big, bright windows and the off-chance you might meet a new stranger make the viewing car highly rated in my book.
7. John Steinbeck was not full of shit
Riding through Central California we’ve seen lots and lots of vineyards, and cows, and mountains, and produce and it’s quite nice. I can see why Steinbeck spent so much time musing about this part of the state.
See You In Seattle!
The eighth thing I’ve learned is that I love my Sharkk wireless keyboard that is allowing me to type this blog post in record speed from a train! And the ninth think I’ve learned is that it’s kind of hard to type on a train that feels like a whale watching tour boat. So, with that said, I’m off to go try to find an Iceburg salad and a bag of Doritos from the snack area of the train. See you all in Seattle where Dustin and I will be cruising and perusing with Tony and Jane Fader! (YES! #GiveMeMoreCoffeePlease)
T-minus 2.5 days until Dustin and I start our cycle sabbatical with a train ride up the Pacific coast to Seattle. Let’s just say shit’s getting real. (And let’s also say, in advance, sorry to Dustin’s mom and my dear friend and co-worker Paula Allen who will have to endure a small amount of swearing throughout this travel log. Swearing is better than lying and I would be lying if I promised I was not going to swear in this blog… or in real life… for the duration of my 4,200-mile bicycle adventure).
Physically – I think we have everything we need. It’s like that scene in Happy Gilmore. His bags are packed…just send him home..! Just tap it in!
[Now would also be a good time to give you fair warning that there are going to be a superfluous amount of Wayne’s World, Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore and Dumb and Dumber references throughout this blog. I don’t condone it…. But. It’s happening.]
At this point, all we have to do now is just take the first step; leave the house; peddle the first mile; just tap it in if you want to go on this metaphorical golf journey with me.
It’s so close!! And so exciting! ….but also a little scary.
Dustin and I have been planning this journey for a year now (!). We know all of the people who work at REI and their stories (and they know ours. Oh boy, so they know ours…), we’ve done training rides, I rode my bike from Ventura to Simi Valley at least 52 times, I’ve mapped out my daily goals and contacted a bunch of straw bale builders we want to meet across the states…. Now………..we just have to do it.
I’ve never done anything like this before (nothing of this magnitude). I haven’t been unemployed for 20 weeks since 2005 (and even then I had a job. It was just a much, much better job learning about English Literature and Art History for a $0 per hour wage). I’ve never attempted to ride my bike 5 days a week for 16 weeks in a row, and I sure have never walked up to a stranger’s house to ask them if I could pitch a tent on their front yard (double entendre intended) (Sorry again, Dustin’s mom. We’re going to get to know a lot about each other in this blog, aren’t we?). So I really don’t know what to expect. It’s all new.
Shannon Hoon would be proud of all the changing we’re doing, I think. I feel pretty good about it, at least.
So, 2.5 days from leaving…. The world is my oyster.
I’m excited to spend 20 weeks exploring the northern tier of the US slowly. (oh so slowly.) I’m excited to be a part of it all (no a passer by). I’m excited about our sabbatical! About making this trip an opportunity to flesh out opportunities and move a step closer to living the life we want to live (in a magic straw bale house surrounded by food we grow and eat). I am excited that we made a commitment to take this dream adventure and that we’re actually making it happen.
And I am a little scared of all the unknows.
But a little fear never hurt anyone.
I feel like this – in my introspective pre-trip ramble – is a great time and place to also mention grateful and truly blessed I am to have had so many people come out of the woodworks over the last weeks and months to show me how truly, deeply loved and appreciated I am. And – it’s also a great time to tell those people how truly madly deeply loved and appreciated they are as well.
As a (not) recovering introvert, it can be easy to fall into a routine of isolation; to feel – by no one’s fault other than my own – that I am utterly alone in the world at times. That no one would come if you had a giant BBQ in your honor. Putting my plans to take this trip into the world has forced me to shatter all of those existential falsities I subconsciously and secretly harbor. PEOPLE SHOWED UP TO MY BBQ! People – YOU! – donated $10 (or sometimes much more!) to my bike fundraising efforts! It’s frikkin amazing! And really, really special.
I feel so loved and ready to share that love with the Northern Tier of the United States.
I have one more post about sparkle Grittering the crap out of my helmet that I want to share before we leave, but after that……. I’ll talk to ya’ll in Seattle! And then…. Onward! In Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine (…and possible all those other Atlantic Coast states between Maine and North Carolina).
Keep on dreaming boy cause when you stop dreaming it’s time to die.