I’ve put this off long enough. Not sure why I have been so hesitant to complete the journal. Maybe because it marks the end of my journey and the return to real life, not that I have fully returned. It has been nearly 3 months since coming back to Arkansas and I have dont nothing but boat work and dream of my next adventure.
I left off at the campsite where I spent the evening talking to Lindsey. The next morning I packed up and was out before she started to stir. I left my travel card and a little money to help pay for the campsite. It would be a nice, downhill ride all the way to Seattle.
In my mind I repeated my to do list so I wouldn’t forget anything.
1. Get to Seattle 2. Lunch at some fancy vegan restaurant 3. Find a marina with cool boats 4. Fedex the bike 5. Head to the airport for the night.
As I got closer and closer to Seattle I started seeing more people on the bike path. I had never seen so many active people except during marathons. I saw several groups of cyclists being led by people with different colored fish attached to a pole above their heads. Seattle is serious about their group rides. It was easy to pick out the skill level of each group based solely on their gear. I was going about 15 mph, passing people and getting passed. It was an easy pace and allowed me to observe everything that was going on.
Everything changed when this girl, Bry, rides along side me and asks, “Have you been bike camping?” I looked her over and kind of laughed and said, “You could say that.” She was surprised at my answer to how long I had been camping and where at. We chatted as we rode, me keeping cadence with her while trying to stay alongside and avoid the many pedestrians, cyclists, and dogs. She eventually asked my plans and if I wanted to join her and her friends at some park. I immediately pictured three more girls resembling her meeting us and thought it best to follow.
After riding for some time I asked her how far and when we would enter Seattle. She told me that when the path turns to “shit” there will be a sign. Within a few seconds the path dropped and we whizzed by a sign. I thought she was joking! I stopped to get my selfie and she graciously waited.
We rode and talked and eventually she waved at a guy on a bike that joined us. He was the first of the three girls that weren’t girls. I hung back and let them talk until she made the introductions. Like we always do, we checked out each others’ bikes and kept riding. Not sure of where we were going or what was in store I kept following. We stopped at a local brewery and got a pack of beer to take to the park. The park was Discovery Park on the eastern bank of the Puget Sound. I did not make it to the Pacific Ocean but this was sea water and good enough for me.
At Discovery Park we met up with another guy and everyone started pulling food from their bags. They had planned a picnic, a real picnic with cheese, meat, and crackers, and fruits, and vegetables and hummus and bread. I didn’t think people still did this. I pitched in what little I had and we sat out in the middle of a field snacking and talking. Bry brought a slack like that she had just bought and wanted to give it a try. It took us a good 30 minutes to find a good spot, which happened to be next to a picnic table so of course the spread was layed out again. By then, two more of her friends had showed up with even more food.
It was getting late in the afternoon when the group split up. One of the guys, Ian, suggested walking down to the beach. So, he, Bry, John?, and myself locked our bikes together and went for a hike. We followed a sandy path that led to the side of a cliff and then down long winding stairs to the beach.
The beach wrapped around a point where a lighthouse stood. We walked towards it, all the while admiring the structures and carvings made with the drift wood. At the light house we were like kids crawling on the rocks. Me in my worn out bike shoes with plastic soles and no grip. Oh, and I went ahead and put on my pants when we first got to the park.
Eventually, it was time to head back. Fedex closed at 7 and I had about an hour to get there and get the bike packed and shipped. First we explored the lighthouse grounds, we thought we were being sneaky by hopping the fence and then ringing the 3 feet wide bell. We also stopped and sampled blackberries from the many bushes along the trail. These were not as juicy as the ones coming off of the mountain, but still good.
We four rode togther for some time until we came to our fork. I stopped to check my map and they rode on. Bry and I had this awkward moment where we tried to say goodbye from two blocks away, neither of us willing to ride the distance. She probably unaware that we were even having that moment until I turned around and rode off. We didn’t even trade information, but before the night was over we were connected on instagram. Still unsure how she found me.
On to Fedex. It took no time to find Fedex and to begin taking the bike apart. Something I had not planned on is what to do with my bags or my gear. I needed a duffle or something to put everything in. My panniers were awkward to carry and I decided to ship them with the bike. Next to Fedex was a CVS and there I found two large reusable shopping bags. I continued shopping the rest of the evening for a more suitable bag, but with no luck. All of my bike gear, shoes, stakes, and enything else I was afraid to take to the airport was put in the box. I wouldn’t see the bike again for another two weeks.
From there I set off walking to the downtown market where I could look for a duffle and catch a ride on the airport lite rail. I was only a mile and a half from the nearest rail station. It was dark by the time I reached the station and it took what felt like an hour to reach the airport. The rail was packed with rowdy football fans coming from some game in the city.
More walking and I was at the ticket counter to check in. I kept a few slices of bread, some peanut butter, and jelly to eat for dinner and breakfast. Jelly, by the way, is considered a liquid and you can’t take it in. I had to throw it out. At security one of my bags was stopped to be inspected for a strange object. It was one of the rocks I had collected for my grandma. We laughed about it and he said that it was a fine rock. Dinner turned out to be a burrito from Qdoba. As I sat there and ate, I spread out my gear and packed everything into one bag. My plane was set to leave early in the morning so I found my gate and set up my sleeping pad and bag for the night. I was the only person at the gate and it was easy for me to fall asleep.
I was awakened by a passenger on the 6 AM flight checking to make sure I wasn’t missing it. I set my alarm for an hour before my flight to give me time to eat and get around, but I went ahead and got up and packed my bed. I got a lot of both strange and admiring looks from the different passengers. It had been 4 days since my last shower and I had purchased some wet wipes from Hudson News and cleaned up the best I could the night before but even that didn’t help much. My flight was to Houston via Dallas. At Dallas I would hop off and ride a train to Little Rock. This was the cheapest way of getting home and ended up costing $150 and another $150 to ship the bike.
At Dallas it was a short rail ride and walk to the train station. This was the first time that I can remember riding a train in the US and it was nice. I had two oversized reclining chairs all to myself! I was on the train long enough to have two meals, take a nap, and finish several chapters in my book. Thinking about the two months it took to get out there and then the one day it took to get back brings up so many different emotions.
At the Little Rock train station, a place I had never been or even knew existed, I spotted my parents waiting for me to step off of the train. They both embraced me and then my dad took my one bag to put in the car. That one bag held most of my possesions that I carried for the last two months. I was already having separation anxiety from being away from my bike. It was my everything for so long and now it was gone.
My dad stayed in Little Rock for work and I rode back with my mom, her filling me in on everything I had missed. When we got back to Russellville I picked up a vehicle and went to the boat. It would be a couple of weeks before my first good night sleep. I wasn’t used to having such a nice bed. I have not done much riding since I got back, but rather spend most of my time on the boat. Everyone I meet keep asking me what’s next. There are so many options out there. The top of my list are hike the Appalachian Trail or sail the Great Loop. If I took anything away from my journey it is that I want to keep exploring. The people I met on similar journeys, whether hikers, cyclists, van dwellers, or even rollerbladers were the happiest, most gracious, and most content people.
To all the people I met along the way and everybody that helped, I want to say thank you for being a part of my trip. Thanks to everyone that has followed along. I didn’t realize that there were so many people reading these until I got back and met random people that thought I was still in Washington…sorry for the delays. Will probably not be another update until the next season of travel.