Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Bike Report || God is not in all my thoughts: collaboration #10

                                                 august 23, 2013 
cycling the san juans - Day 2
Mount Vernon, WA, to Brentwood Bay, BC

We wake in a shady wood, not unlike Dante midway on our life's journey.  But hoping the right road lost is behind us and not before. We are not out of the woods yet.


In any case, our window is propped open with a stubby antler.  Which is interesting.  The walls of the boxy barn of this cabin seen now by daylight are an archaeological richness of reference:  pretty girls in old-fashioned dresses, caricatures of King Corn (founding father of our hosts' family), mountain scenes with inspirational verse, Japanese dolls from someone's mid-century tour of duty, carved ducks, and a giant poster for Reservoir Dogs.  And it all goes so well with the eclectica of furnishings.  Like waking up in a multi-family garage sale.  Or surfing someone else's subconscious symbolism.


The morning air has turned chilly this last week of summer (because here and now in these words it will always be the last week of August -- it will always be the last time we are only what we have always been -- a mother and father biking with their children -- together and happy for it -- or happy enough -- the daughters are dismayed whenever we go out of range and their ongoing commentary with their far off beloveds is interrupted).  But now it's time to stuff everything we'll own for the next week and a half back into plastic ziplocks and then into bright yellow, already-heavy panniers that we lift and lock down onto the rack over our back tires.



And now we walk together, (like a little re-enactment of our life's journey thus far) pushing heavy-loaded bikes through woods (satisfyingly dark and greenly symbolic of any number of lurking truths) along a winding dirt path and over a creek into the main yard, up to the main house for a heavenly breakfast on gold edged china, lace tablecloth and heavy silver.  Though we find when we get there that we are surrounded by once-wild animals eying us glassily.


Poetry is emotion recollected in tranquillity, says Wordsworth (his name so apt for a poet -- that ideal of  rhetorical thrift.  Might we all at last get our words' worth out of our life sentences!).  But what is breakfast recollected?  A list of words, a menu.  But in the real moment,  better than poetry, especially after a full day's biking and even better before another: Dutch pancakes sprinkled with clouds of sugar, lemon wedges, sliced peaches and raspberry preserves, hot potatoes and spicy sausage, fruit tart made with all the last fruits of the summer.

Not sublime, but sublime can be tricky and leave you hungrier.  While this is good.  And filling. 

Other guests arrive to share our table beneath the transfixed gaze of cougar, bear and elk:  mother and teenage daughter hiding out from raging relatives who have gathered nearby for an imminent wedding.

And an attractive young couple here for a different wedding.  He's a drummer -- long hair curling on his starched collar, olive-skinned, courtly.  She's a teller at a bank -- baby blond, quick-laughing and certain as a senator.  They're from Minnesota.  The Norwegian cadence held in check, but bubbling ready to rise like laughter off stage.  

Oh, dear.
 
I just realized you may have come here hoping for something more gear-shift and head stem.  Some technical pointers about how to pack for a 10-day trek?


The answer is, Lightly.

Or, Heavily.  In which case you will learn all the better how much a body at rest would like to stay there, how strong entropy's attraction, and the gravity of our situation in general.

If you happen to be the one who complained on Amazon about Into Thick Air: Biking to the Bellybutton of Six Continents (a book I've sworn to read just for that fanastic title) because the author
Talks all about people, places and things, but nothing about the actual bike, or the things related to the day to day struggle of a bike trip. It reads like a travellog, he may of just as well been travelling by car or bus.
I am sorry for you.  I have nothing to tell you but people, places and things. Our actual bikes are the ones we always ride, comfortable as old shoes from so many miles, and just that notice-worthy. And the day-to-day struggle of the bike ride is mostly just pedal-pedal-pedal.  Interspersed with map-reading. 

Yes, we might as well have traveled by car or bus, all through our lives together.  Except if we had, we would not have ever spent a night here in Mount Vernon, Washington.  Would have driven through on the interstate yesterday afternoon and been in British Columbia already.  If we had come this way at all.

And we would have missed out on this breakfast.  And later the lunch of  hors d'oeuvres - tiny quiches, wraps, crudites catered by our hostess for yet a third wedding the night before (should I have seen the writing on the wall?  Shades of the Bridegroom Cometh!),  packaged up for us and pressed on us as we wheeled away.  We would have missed those savory bites, gratefully received and greedily consumed at the ferry dock sixteen miles later.  Missed them without knowing what we were missing.  And the hugs our hostess gave us and the waves of the other guests driving past as we walked our well-laden bikes down the steep and gravel drive out into the morning of a new day.

We may have glanced at but would have missed the Skagit River Produce harvester mowing through a corn field with its pleasant-faced young teen and his gray-haired father.  Because to really see a thing it helps to move along it, slowly enough to take it in. Which biking preeminently allows.


We cycled back into town, the tricky railway crossing not so very tricky in the morning light, the train station just there.  We wave at the station as we pass, glancing down its side street, looking much more cheerful than it or we had the night before.


Our original plan for today had been to cycle out from our bed & breakfast and head south and west to La Conner, then up through the Swinomish Reservation.  But after our adventures yesterday and not wanting to risk missing the ferry, we decided we'd switch and do next Friday's route now but backwards, shaving some miles by heading straight across to Anacortes. 

Of course we miss the turning west out of town.  And learn the lesson we keep learning about how the names on Google maps don't reliably match the posted road signs.  Or don't learn it, once again.  And then a bossy girl at the service station just north of town won't let us glance at her map unless we buy it.  But a trucker leans his elbow on the counter and, pointing and sketching over my worthless Google printout, tells us where we want to go back to and where we ought to turn.

And soon there we are, biking across the bridge and out into a  flat country with a long straight shot for Anacortes, along a clean, wide bike lane, zipping past fruit stands and ice cream shops, temptations we've decided suddenly we have no time to stop for.


Beside us, the car traffic is steady but well-behaved, thickening but never heavy the closer we come to Anacortes, though we are increasingly glad for the well-made bike lane.  At the tall bridge over the Swinomish channel -- tall enough for sailboats to glide beneath at full-height -- we are twice-glad we changed our route to ride this northern route today instead of coming back this way next week.  Cycling the other direction we would have found the bike lane end suddenly and no bike lane at all over the tall and narrow bridge  -- except on the side of the road we are traveling today -- towards Anacortes.
 


Here's some technical for you:  Anacortes wins the Cyclist's Golden Award -- or should -- for beautiful FREE full-color maps available at the roadside in TAKE ONE boxes just the other side of the bridge.

With insets to show close-ups of critical turns:



From the bridge we escape the highway onto a low-traffic road taking us across March's Point onto a repurposed rail line built on a causeway  across Fidalgo Bay.



Biking the causeway is delightful, water on both sides and secret-feeling.  Though a secret well-shared.  No cars, so the only hazard on the Tommy Thompson Trail is avoiding other cyclists and rollerbladers and keeping our tires from rolling over sharp shards of shells everywhere from seagulls dropping shells to get at the meat.


The trail on the other side of the bay carries us around city -- mostly ferry -- traffic.  No plotting required, just pedal by pedal by pedal.  We have plenty of time now.  The moment swells bigger until it is all there is.  From the causeway we enter on a dedicated bike path that takes us almost all the way to the Guemes Channel and the ferry terminal there.


Without worrying where we're going (trails are so delightful that way!), we wind past trees, along the water, beside boats in dry dock.  It's when we are stopped along this trail, picking blackberries, that we feel we are at last all together in our homeplace.  More at home than at our house, out along the roadway in a Pacific Northwest blackberry season with helmets on our heads.



My daughters say this out loud. 

We all agree. 

My heart is here, made ready for this moment by our long day pedaling together.


At the ferry terminal the ticket office is crowded -- all that traffic we saw earlier has lined up now and disgorged travellers waiting for passage. 

But all their hurrying has not got them anywhere faster after all.  We buy our tickets and are sent to the front of the line where other bicyclists soon join us.  We sit together in the sun, eating our picnic of wedding hors d'oeuvres, that snack before the coming feast, until the ferry arrives and we can roll our bikes on board and tie them fast near the front. 



Now we're free to go up top, consult our maps, share out our Swedish fish, 



catch up on sleep  . . .


Dreaming of what's still ahead. 

Or not dreaming.  Not even thinking of how dear each moment is. Do I send up even the briefest prayer of gratitude?  My mind more full of mileage computation and ferry schedules.  Which route we'll take from Sidney to Brentwood Bay once we disembark.  What we need to buy for the coming weekend at Sidney's Thriftway:   

Steel cut oats. 
           I'm making a list.   
Maple cookies.  
Salad dressing.  
Soup in boxes.  
Milk in boxes.  
Honey.  
Wine gums.   
Bread. 






1 comment:

Melody said...

What. the. . . I had no idea you were doing this! You're an artist and an athlete in one! I love every word of this. Safe travels. Can't wait to read more.

Related Posts