Sunday, February 24, 2013

Road Trip

I built the Surly LHT with trips like these in mind.

The train speeds quickly against the miles that I earned just days ago when I strapped a pair of skis on my bike, pointed my nose north and began pedaling.  I packed the best I could and set out with little more of an intention than seeking an adventure and spending time with family and friends.

The winter night hurries by silently outside my window as the events of the week play like movie clips inside my weary head.

I met a man who commutes over 80 miles every day by train, ferry and bike from Whidbey Island to Seattle year around, rain or shine.   I respect the effort immensely.

I played pool with childhood friends in my parent's basement.  Nate smiled with the anticipation of an unborn son and Dave was racing home to family across the mountains before Big Jim could fire up the first pot of Folger's in the morning.  I have a heck of a lot of fun watching my buddy's become dads.

I shared time with both my mother and father and left home feeling a little closer to each in different and unique ways.

I made breakfast for my brother and gave him two hugs.  

I rode 30 uninterrupted miles of solitude on a paved bike path through a canopy of Pacific macro flora grinning ear to ear the entire time.  

I drank beers with two old friends in a place where you keep track of your own tab because people trust you.  We spoke honestly with each other because it would do no good to lie, and the truth is a hell of a lot funnier anyhow.

I scared ducks to flight from roadside ditches in the darkness of the Skagit night.  I find it peculiar that they remain unstirred by the roar of thousands of pounds of speeding metal but alarm at the silent report of my bicycle tires meeting chip seal at 12 miles per hour.

I recovered from a 65 mile ride with five shots of tequila and dancing the worm across Cliff's hardwood floors.  I have concluded that water and sleep are much better choices for a fellow if he wishes to be at his best the following morning; albeit less fun.

I crashed repeated trying to ski in 15 fresh inches of heavy Northwest powder and 40 mph winds.  I had a blast and feel decadently rich every time I hitch a ride to the top of a slope on a lift and let gravity pull me down.

I fell asleep spooning a Boston Terrier in front of the fire on Cindy's kitchen floor and woke up 11 hours later in a sleeping bag on a futon.  Hot tea with cream and honey was served soon thereafter; it is really nice to be taken care of.

I blazed a trail up a mountain with the men who taught me how to climb and shared a beer with them as the sun turned the clouded horizon pink salmon over the San Juan Islands to the west.  I like having old friends.  

I asked a couple walking with a dog to watch my kit while I bought food at the Co-Op in Mount Vernon.  When you travel by bike, you sometimes just have to trust strangers.

The conductor calls for the Edmonds station and wakes me from my trance.  I gather my kit and fill my water bottles for the last push home.  One leg over my bike, I gear down and spin to wake my sleeping muscles.  The cold February wind blows off the Puget Sound and nips sharply at my nose and cheeks.  I inhale deeply,  point uphill, and pick-up my cadence.  I think about Jenny.  As much as I  like being on the the road, I miss her dearly and truly love coming home.   I am anxious to crawl into the warm bed beside my wife.

The hill steepens and I begin cutting switch-backs across both lanes as I inch my way higher into the darkness of the frigid night.  My body sweats as the grade inclines again and Saturday night becomes Sunday morning.   I dig in, stand on the pedals and let my loaded bike flex wildly under my body as I grind out the last 100 yards of the climb.   Steam rises rapidly from my open mouth as I crest the hill and roll to a stop.  My  mind is tired and legs burn, but my soul is joyful for all of the wonderful people and rich opportunities in my life.  I am filled with a deep sense of gratitude as I point my nose south for last time on this trip and roll home towards my Front Door.

Livin' the Dream,


The Sounder Commuter Train is an inexpensive and convenient way to get out of the city with a bike.  The ride cost me $3.50 and saved me 25 miles of urban pedaling.

 The matriarch and youngest of the Alford Clan.  Pretty good looking couple in my humble opinion.

 30 miles of uninterrupted bliss.  The Centennial Trail stretches from the city of Snohomish to Skagit County an is undoubtedly one of the greatest recreational gems of Snohomish County.

 Bike Art. Arlington, WA.

Horse rack.  Bryant, WA.

Current end of the line at the historic Nakashima Barn.

The Rexville Grocery, among my favorite hydration stations.

It is still winter at Mount Baker.

Aging men and an old trees.

To the summit!
Blanchard Mountain and the beautiful Skagit Valley below.

Good day to fly.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Greatest Adventure

The truth is that I really don't care that much for Valentine's Day; in fact, I think it kind of sucks.

I work in an Elementary School and many of my colleagues have this charming habit throwing their class party and jacking 7-year-olds up on sugar just prior to sending them to PE for me to deal with; hilarious.  Todays' migraine was only rivaled by the one produced on Halloween, my other favorite holiday.
Besides my disdain for trying to manage screaming groups of children cracked-out on corn syrup, the blatant commercialism and exorbitant waste associated with Snt. Hallmark's Day exacerbates my repugnance.  I guess it seems to me that if you need a special day to tell somebody you love them, you probably really don't all that much.

Armed with all my ill feelings towards the celebration of the great Saint, I hopped on my bike this evening and spun the ten miles home through the perpetual winter fog of Seattle trying to think of something special to do for Jen this year.  It's true I tend to be a bit of grouch about some holidays, but I am not such a dick that my wife doesn't get some recognition on Valentine's Day.

Through the Front Door, I dumped my helmet and swung the fridge open in search of a can of liquid tylenol and I was greeted by the best Valentine a guy could ever ask for.  Jen makes it pretty darn hard to be holiday-hating curmudgeon for long.

 Red Velvet Beet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting.  Snowman has been missing for months, but comes out of the woodwork for homemade cake.

With a cold beer and fork I went to work on my cake, reflecting a little about the woman to which I have devoted my love and life.  My marriage with Jen has certainly been the most magnificent, bold and interesting adventure that I have ever embarked on.  Like any great adventure, there have been obstacles we never could have never foreseen and days when the wind has blown so hard against us we felt we were losing ground.  But in those harder times we have always kept spinning forward and been rewarded by arriving someplace grander than where we began, and a little stronger for the effort.

I couldn't be more happy, proud and thankful to call Jenny my wife and my Valentine.