“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.”
– Martin Buber

Saturday, May 31, 2014

What Will it be This Time

Todd and I are trying to figure out what our adventure will be this summer. We have been all over the map with options. One was to tour the Maritimes. Another was to go to Ireland. The latest is to fly into Detroit, MI, ride North and and then down to Toronto. Take a train from there to Montreal and then ride from Montreal home. Or... to just ride from our door and make our way to Toronto via Mass, NY or PA. More research is needed. Back to Google!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Day 21: Closing the Circle

Day 21: Sweet Home to Scio

Todd bought his Trek 520 from Roger of Scio, Oregon. During the course of the transaction they became friends. Roger has ridden across the country several times and has posted the stories of his adventures on crazyguyonabike.com - https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/directory/?o=1&user=irisimages&v=3

Roger and his wife May were insistent that we visit them when we were in Oregon and wanted to help support us in any way possible. They went above and beyond average helpfulness by offering to get boxes for our bikes and then toting us to the airport 70 miles away.

As we rode into Scio we paused at the river for lunch and to just take in the last moments on our bikes. We swam to cool off, rested and ate lovely peanut butter and fresh blackberry sandwiches.

Blackberries were everywhere, waiting to be picked.

Once we were filled up and content to go socialize, we headed to their house where we heard an "event" was happening. Turns out "Friends of the Library" was having a potluck at Roger's house. We arrived into a buzz of relaxed preparations and were received with such genuine warmth and care our hearts ached. It just felt like we were family.

The visit was long and relaxing as they opened their home and their lives to us, sharing stories and involving us in the activities. It was the most ideal way to end our trip. We ate so much fresh corn and home made goodies that our bellies ached. We slept deeply.

On the flight home I thought of all the people I had to thank for this trip. I have never experienced anything like it. I have only been on a few vacations in my life. I felt pared down and simple. I felt full of people's goodness and the beauty of the land. I felt grateful for my body and for my husband with whom I had shared so much goodness, camaraderie, mutual kindness and support.

We returned to Vermont on our wedding anniversary filled to the brim.

Day 20: Trick bike track and the Paleo Diet

Day 20: Fall Creek to Sweet Home

A solid night's sleep was followed by amazing coffee. This is the norm in Oregon. Everyone is very proud of their coffee and beer. Works well for us. We are not ones to get all excited about appliances but this espresso maker was very elegant and worked without electricity. The Presso Espresso:

Before we went to bed the night before, Lynne asked us, "Are you breakfast people? I thought I would cook a big breakfast but didn't want to impose it on you."  YES! This is a good question to hear. Despite eating as much as we can Todd and I have each lost 7 - 9 pounds. Not a problem, but every offer of food is appreciated.

After a delicious breakfast we set off on our second to last day. It was meant to be only 27 miles long, but we saw that we would come very close to Eugene, and it was Sunday, and Eugene is meant to have some of the best bike friendly paths in the state. It was also the day Todd was deciding everything, which was fun, and he was gung ho to explore the U of Oregon city.

After exploring a little it was time for lunch. The picnic tables were taken so we set up our kitchen under a tree and cooked up egg, pepper, zucchini, cheese enchiladas. Yummy. We were probably breaking some park ordinance but it was worth it as you can tell from my face.

Todd had it in his mind that there were not enough pictures of me. There have been plenty!
On our way out of Eugene we saw a dirt bike BMX track and Todd decided he wanted to ride on it. So off we went. Go Todd Go! Look at him talking trash to the other riders at the starting line!

I love this man!

From there we started a long, flat, hot section of road to Sweet Home. We did OK, just breathing and going steady. We stopped at a covered bridge and dipped in some cool water. We stopped to take photos by a yard filled with flowers.

When we arrived in Sweet Home we were greeted by Jonathan, our WarmShowers host, who followed the Paleo Diet. Yummy. He fixed us a huge pile of steak and vegetables, covered with a fried egg.

He offered us his guest apartment and we slept very deeply, feeling sentimental about our last day approaching.

Day 19: Don't believe your thoughts at 2PM

Day 19: Cougar Dam to Fall Creek

I laughed to myself as I thought of how convinced I was that we would not make it, that the road would be too hot, too wide, that my legs would fail. How many times do I have to learn this lesson. I think I know the end of the story but I don't. I can never know. So why do I keep making up the end of the story? -- Annie

We had planned our trip pretty solidly up until Sisters. We arranged for WarmShowers hosts and identified campsites up until that point. But we weren't sure how we would feel once we hit Sisters - so we left the last days open. Would we want to stay up in the Cascades and go North to Detroit Lake or head West to the Willamette valley for flatter, albeit hotter weather?

Todd came up with a great route that took us over the McKenzie Pass, through the Aufderhide Drive to Oakridge and on to Fall Creek, Sweet Home and then Scio. The plan was formed once we found out that Roger, the man Todd bought his bike from, was eager to help us out by getting bike boxes ready and then driving us up to the airport. Thanks Roger and May!

Today, our goal was a WarmShowers host in Fall Creek, but because we got lost yesterday it meant we had more mileage to cover, about 80, and a big climb. We identified some campsites that might serve us if we didn't have it in us.

We headed out early on beautiful quiet roads to the ascent over the Aufderhide. My legs felt very tired so the pace was slow. I also felt some apprehension about the day's goal. Since the trip was winding down, we had to get certain mileage in order to get to Scio on time. But.. as is always the case with me, as soon as we got through the approach got on the climb itself I was fine. I like climbing. Everything goes by so slowly you can look closely at plants, insects, birds. You can talk to each other. Up and up we went. And down and down through big trees and morning light.

We took a delightful break at a swimming hole we had both seen through the trees. Bright green-blue water indicated a perfect spot for lunch. It would be the last time we would be deep in the woods in Oregon and we waned to savor it. Soon we would be down in the hot and flat Willamette Valley. Beautiful in its own right, but not the same as these Oregon woods and rivers.

It was COLD! Colder than the waters off the Maine coast. Wow!

Refreshed and well fed we headed to Oakridge where we discovered a stark, open, hot town. A kind young person at McDonalds (wifi stop) told us about a festival going on in town and a bike race. So we followed the one long wide strip of road to the town proper where we discovered a small cordoned off section of road with a band performing and people selling crafts and food. After roaming around a bit, we were approached by an older gentleman. "Are you Annie?" he asked. It was our WarmShowers host for that evening who was in town with his family for the event! What a kind man.

I wanted to tell him that we would see him later, but it was so hot and I was tired, that riding the 37 miles to his house seemed outside my comprehension. I imagined this wide hot road with a head wind blowing just going on and on for all those miles. I told Todd, we should make another plan based on how I felt. So.. we saw where the campsites were on the map and headed out. Well, 5 miles later the road came under the constant shade of big trees, the road tilted slightly down hill and before we knew it we had travelled 20  miles. Having met our host and experienced his kindness we were both motivated to get to his house. So we made it with the help of some blackberry bushes along the way.

I laughed to myself as I thought of how convinced I was that we would not make it, that the road would be too hot, too wide, that my legs would fail. How many times do I have to learn this lesson. I think I know the end of the story but I don't. I can never know. So why do I keep making up the end of the story?

Clarke, Lynn and their grand children welcomed us in like family and fed us royally. We had such a lovely visit and conversation long after dinner. Again, people's kindness on this trip overwhelmed us.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Day 18: Temporarily Bewildered

Day 18: Sisters to Cougar Dam
“How do you calculate upon the unforeseen? It seems to be an art of recognizing the role of the unforeseen, of keeping your balance amid surprises, of collaborating with chance, of recognizing that there are some essential mysteries in the world and thereby a limit to calculation, to plan, to control.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost
This was a BIG day. Much has been written and said about McKenzie Pass and while it is a hefty climb it turned out to be the less challenging part of our day. The pass is part of the TransAmerica cycling route, so for many cyclists who are starting their trip it is the first major challenge. But we were approaching from the East, which is "easier."

My knee was beginning to hurt a bit and got worse as we climbed. Todd is a generous man and luckily we are nearly the same size, so we switched bikes. I felt immediate relief; the pain disappeared.
Body Aches and Pains: It's very common to have a variety of aches and pains when you ride your bike every day. The challenge for me is to figure out which ones need tending and which ones are simply part of riding a lot and will go away.  I get anxious about this. Since Todd has ridden a lot more in his life, he can often put my mind at ease by telling me things like, "Oh yeah. Over this many miles you will probably feel some pain in your neck and shoulders." Most pain comes from a poorly fitted bike, which can be remedied by adjusting saddle or cleat position or stem height or distance. My knee pain was due to a change in my Q factor, the width of my stance from pedal to pedal. For some bizarre reason, Trek decided to increase this distance by 2 cm between the time Todd's Trek was made and mine. You can feel the difference when you get on the bike. It feels like you are mounting a horse.  I adapted my riding style to enlist my butt muscles more and that helped, but now, 700 miles or so into the trip, the pain is pretty constant. 
As you approach the top of the pass, the landscape turns into a moonscape-- a huge lava flow for miles. It is quite stunning with views of the major mountains of the region: Sisters, Washington, Hood.

At the top is a lookout constructed of the lava rocks.

As you can see, the sky is as clear as it is every day. The heat is so dry that sweat evaporates immediately, making it a more comfortable experience.

The descent was outrageous! It took us about an hour and ten minutes to descend. Descents are very pleasurable in the West. The grade is less steep than the East and the curves are banked so that you feel like you are on an amusement park ride as you swoop around the curves. This photo gives you a good idea of what you see as you come into a 15 mph turn.


We came out at McKenzie Bridge and fueled up at a small store where we received directions for a short cut to the Aufderhide Drive, the next part of the trip. Well, it turned out the directions were lacking a few turns so we ended up becoming involved in a tiring, but funny detour.

First we went down a road that turned into dirt -- wrong way. Then we got on the right road, but since the directions missed some turns we ended up at the base of a huge dam. They had told us we had to go up and around the dam so we scanned the near vertical walls for a way to get up it. There was a dirt track on the left side that seemed to switchback its way up the wall so we both decided to go for it. What a coup that would be to get up and over this beast with our fully loaded bikes.

We skidded our way up and up and up the dirt track. As we went higher and deeper into the mountainside my mind rested on the rocks in front of me, the sound of my steady breath--in through my nose, out through my mouth, the view of Todd's wheel 5 yards ahead. Getting "lost" is something we both have invited into our experiences, whether on the bike or cross country skis, we enjoy venturing into unknown landscapes. So neither of us wanted to turn around, but eventually it became clear we had to -- the dirt track was not going anywhere near the dam now,  so we reluctantly skidded back down. 

Back down on the road, we saw a hippie van driving towards us. We waved it down and there was a lovely middle-aged hippie woman who was happy to be the one to tell us how to get where we were going even happier to be the one to let us know about the very "shanti" hot spring pools we had to visit along the way. "This is why I am here right now! This is my purpose... to tell you about these springs." We weren't sure about hot springs on a hot day but we were happy to be filled up with her spirit. The Aufderhide is a beautiful road. Even in our fatigue we could appreciate the beauty:

We found a lovely campsite along the South Fork of McKenzie river, bathed in its very cold, very clear waters, ate a huge pile of food and went to sleep. I was completely whooped... the most tired I've been the whole trip. I was out as soon as my head hit the pillow. 

Day 17: Bend to Sisters - Soul Flares

Day 17: Bend to Sisters

Today we have a short ride to Sisters to visit with a Soul Flares reader. Seylah has been reading my writing since I first started writing for Heron Dance. Wow... that's ten years. So, I am feeling very happy and excited to meet and share a meal with her.

The ride to Sisters was short and full of turns and a bit of tension too. Todd and I have navigated the stresses of a long-distance bike tour very well. Each day brings hundreds of decisions, big and small, that affect each other's well being -- how far to ride, where to stop for lunch, when to ask for directions, what to eat, when to eat. Todd tends to be more thoughtful and takes more time to make decisions, so I often jump in and make decisions first. And since we think alike so often, it doesn't seem to matter to him and sometimes he even seems relieved. But upon reflection we concluded that over the course of the trip, the imbalance grew and created some tension. So, most of the trip to Sisters was ridden in silence until we arrived, had some ice cream and talked it out. It doesn't take us long to get to the core of the issue. We are both very good at listening to each other carefully and respectfully when it matters most and often that's all it takes. In the end there is often nothing that needs to be fixed, someone just needs to be heard.

With smiles and wet eyes we headed to Seylah's and was greeted with outrageous hospitality and warmth. She cooked an amazing healthy yummy dinner of kale, rice, egg, cheese and herbs, a huge salad and lovely red wine. We talked for hours, sharing stories about our life journeys. It was very special to connect. In the morning, after she filled us up with a huge omelet, she offered to escort us on her bike to the food market and out of town.

Leaving Sisters for MacKenzie Pass!

Day 16: Blessed Rest, Connections and Big Hearts

Day 16: Rest Day in Bend with the Keane Family
"There is a drugged feeling to life during a rest day. Everything seems to pass by gently as you sit; your body melts into whatever furniture you are sitting on, coffee slides down as if you've never tasted anything so precious." -- Annie

Waking up in our backyard campsite at the Keane residence in Bend was a pretty excellent feeling. It was to be our first full rest day with the only challenges being to find the best coffee shop in Bend and to visit the used sporting goods store for new flip flops.

 It is a beautiful thing to just land, smack down, in the middle of some one's life. Taking a full rest day in Pete and Julie's world allowed us to really take in their lives versus having this tight little slice of social interaction over dinner. We got to see the reality of having two active middle school boys running around the house, and of operating a busy guiding business, Timberline Mountain Guides.

Throughout our time we got to hear snippets from Julie's fascinating work as an emergency room nurse. She has traveled to India many times as part of a cleft pallet repair work called Operation Smile. Julie is featured in this website about nurse volunteers: http://journeys4good.com/blog/volunteering/nurse-volunteers-there-is-always-a-need/. 

Digging farther back into her life we discovered that she went on a 2-month bike tour as 19-year old in Mexico and Peru, traveling into regions that had never seen a white person. Why do we travel? To hear stories like these.

We landed at Thump Coffee in Bend and stayed for four hours, reading and writing. There is a drugged feeling to life during a rest day. Everything seems to pass by so gently as you sit; your body just  melts into whatever furniture you are sitting on; coffee slides down as if you've never tasted anything so precious.

Todd and I occasionally lift our eyes to gaze at each other lazily and gratefully across the table. We get to talk to our kids without traffic noise and write emails that are longer than a few lines. Here is Todd, deeply ensconced in his rest day.

When we finally emerged from Thump the skies were dark and threatening. Thunder rumbled. "What?" We had not seen a rain cloud since we had arrived. So we raced back to the house and out tent that had been left unzipped. All was well.  Pete and his family were busy preparing for a big trip so I offered to cook a dinner from what was left in their fridge. What a hoot that was. While Pete and Julie sat at the kitchen table chatting with us and sipping Margaritas, Todd and I cooked up two huge plates of enchiladas. I loved how willing Julie was to completely give over her kitchen.

After sitting around a big table and eating a huge amount, Julie announced we were going to walk around the block. We all piled out of the house -- three boys and three adults -- all exclaiming at the beauty of the sky and mountains as the sun set through the dark, scattered clouds.

Most of the night the thunder rumbled and lightening flashed. It was not until midway through the next day that we were able to leave for Sisters.

Thank you Pete, Julie, Calvin, Finn and cousin Reuben!