You’ll have to forgive me, I think this post is going to seem a little vague. The last week of cycling went by in a blur, and honestly I rarely knew exactly where I was. For what is probably a more accurate account of what happened, visit Kevin’s Basses Bikes and Boise!
Anyway, I spent a glorious couple of days relaxing in Portland with wonderful hosts. Despite all the help I got from Sue and Be the Match, Portland CrossFitters did not respond to my requests to hold donor drives at their boxes. Which was a little disappointing, but also kind of nice, since that meant more domestic time under a roof for me. I baked cookies for the family, went on grocery shopping trips, got a little massage, did my laundry, and all those little things were very soothing. Friday May 8th rolled around very quickly, though, and it was time to meet Kevin and Sunyoung at the train station.
I cheated and got a ride into downtown Portland so that I could have time to poke around a bit before the train came in. I dropped in at a CrossFit box to make sure they knew what they were missing out on by not hosting me (just kidding, I’m sure they’re doing their own wonderful things!) and then swung by the Be the Match office unannounced. Linda Alexander, manager of the northwest district, was engaged in an absolute flurry of activity, but once she realized who I was, she squealed and enveloped me in her tornado of energy. Almost immediately she plunked me into a conference call with the other Be the Match contacts in the northwest district. It was great to hear Frances’ voice again and to get to talk to John, whose email I had recently blown up with plans for Boise.
Afterwards I still had some time to kill, so I decided to find some food. I left my bike in the office and explored the nearby area on foot, but all the restaurants hadn’t opened yet. Then I heard all these voices in my head from the previous week telling me that if I didn’t go to Voodoo or Blue Star that I would regret it for the rest of my life. Blue Star was closer, so I went there. And totally forgot that walking is slower than riding a bike! I had to run back to the Be the Match office with my box of donuts to get my bike, hoping that the sticky pastries would be tasty enough to make up to Kevin and Sunyoung for making them sit around at the train station. When I arrived they had just finished lunch, but after all the happy jumping around (mostly done by me, I think – I was so happy to have riding partners!) they still had room to help me eat a few donuts.
All sugared up, we clambered onto our bikes and started weaving our way out of Portland. At this point I could feel my brain shutting off. After a couple weeks of maps and negotiating different routes and more maps, I happily excused myself of having to do any more of that and just followed Kevin and Sunyoung.
We found our way to the Historic Columbia River Highway. I had heard stories that the Columbia River Gorge would be gorgeous, but I mostly thought people said that for the pun. Nope, turns out it really is!
There were some climbs to do, and there were some winds, too, but they were nothing compared to what I went through on the coast. Just enough climbing to get some gorgeous views, like at Chanticleer Point.
Yes yes, I know, pictures of scenery are overrated. There are better pictures of these places on the World Wide Web. Here are some of us:
Cindy demanded a picture of all three of us, so we took a selfie, though there were plenty of people who could have helped us out.
The first night we made camp at Ainsworth State Park. It was a pretty short day, only about 35 miles, and we could have pushed on to the next campground, but Ainsworth looked pretty good, so we stayed there. Kevin and Sunyoung are more diligent than I am at cooking and eating well on the road.
They actually have a stove and mess kit! Hot meals at the campground were a real treat for me. But they’re still big fans of my jar of peanut butter, so I contribute in my own way. We fueled up in the morning with oatmeal and instant coffee and took off for Columbia Hills State Park.
It was a beautiful morning in the gorge. Yeah, it was kind of hilly, but as someone who went The Wrong Way for so long, I only made a few token complaints.
There were some interesting new challenges, though, such as the stairs we had to descend at Eagle Creek. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad without fully loaded touring bikes, but our situation made us rely on a whole lot of teamwork to get the job done.
We took some time to visit the sturgeon and trout ponds, where I learned a lot of stuff I did not know before about sturgeon. They don’t let you feed the sturgeon, but they let you feed the trout. These trout were so fat that it didn’t seem like they could wiggle and swim at all. They reminded me of the land leeches I used to shake out of my boots in Khao Yai after they’d spent hours drinking my blood – just balloons of overstretched skin. An informative sign pointed out that the trout were of a size not seen in nature, due to the large amount of feed given them by tourists. I chose not to feed the fish.
Our second day of riding together was truly beautiful, with lots of incredible views. I was especially thrilled when we passed the Bridge of the Gods for no reason other than because the book Wild talks about it, and so I knew it’s part of the Pacific Crest Trail. I’m not sure why this bridge gets such a formidable name. But then someone muttered something about “many gods, only one bridge.” So that put it in a different perspective.
We also had our first flat of the ride! But that was okay, Kevin took care of his tire pretty quickly. We also treated ourselves to lunch at the Full Sail brewery in Hood River, so of course it was a fantastic day. It was a pretty long day of riding, though, and when we found a grocery store we took full advantage of it. Kevin and Sunyoung taught me a lot about not worrying about extra weight on the bike when it comes to carrying food and drink. I’ve relaxed about that a bit. It used to be agony deciding whether I needed two tank tops or three. Now I was finding myself strapping a six pack of beer onto my bike without a second thought.
Oh, and, of course, thrillingly enough, we crossed the Columbia River, which meant that we were officially in Washington! So add that to the list of states I reached by bicycle!
Then it was Sunday May 10th, Mother’s Day! Things had been going a little too swimmingly so far. It was time to make things tough. There wasn’t much in the way of anything until Crow Butte, our next camping spot. Our environment changed quite a lot as we proceeded along and we found ourselves in dry desert. And it was time for me to get my flat tires now. I’d managed to come all this way without any, so of course today I had to get two – first the front, then the back. I think I wouldn’t mind changing flats so much if it didn’t have to include digging through your stuff to find your tools and spare tubes.
We had to cover quite a lot of ground, so we didn’t stop to see all the things that would have been nice to visit. We debated stopping at a winery when we passed by, but decided that 10am was too early for wine tasting, even for us. Then there was Stonehenge in Maryhill, a monument to soldiers who died in World War I, but it was a mile off our route, which would mean adding two miles onto a day that already included 75 miles of riding in dry heat. We peered at it from a mile away, called that good enough and kept going.
The absolute heartbreak of the whole trip was when we anticipated a mini mart where we would refill our bottles and get a cold drink. I had visions of lemonade. Sunyoung was talking about getting a Coke. We were going to make it, we were going to be okay, signs announced the mini mart coming up in 500 yards! Just a little farther to go…. and it was clearly closed. I couldn’t believe it. We stared at the locked doors and dark windows. We read the sign announcing that soon they would be on their summer schedule and they would be open at this time. I stared at the locks on the ice machines. I looked at my water bottles and thought about that scene from ¡Three Amigos!
I looked at Kevin’s and Sunyoung’s bottles, suspicious that maybe they had full bottles that they would use to do something silly, like wash their hands. Nope – theirs were looking pathetically low, too. There was nothing to do but to just keep going. I popped a stick of gum in my mouth to hopefully improve the saliva flow. Well, it was worth a shot.
We finally made it to Crow Butte, cursing the fact that it’s on an island in the middle of the river and that the bridge to get to it wasn’t directly across from the campground. That was a whole extra two miles at least to go east to get to the bridge, cross it, and then west on the island in order to get to the campground. Once we got there we clustered around the water faucet and drank. There was some confusion with the campground host about which campsite we should take. He had directed us to one, but it had a sticker claiming to be reserved. So we took that as a fine reason to relocate ourselves to the site we actually wanted. Later on he told us that we could ignore that sticker since the person who reserved it had moved to a site with better signal for his satellite TV. We blinked in incomprehension at him as we continued protectively caressing our precious water faucet.
…ok, maybe I was the only one sneaking in a few loving pets of the water faucet.
And yes, I called my mom to wish her a happy Mother’s Day.
Monday May 11th was much much easier. Our hardest day was behind us, and now we had flat roads and tail winds! It was absolutely glorious. I kind of wanted to take pictures, but it was far more fun to just keep flying with the wind. We did get stuck for a while behind a line of cars waiting to get through a construction zone. The truck in front of us had a huge bull in it. The bull did not like us. I tried to not panic as it stomped and shook the truck about, but eventually we snuck out of the line and moved to the front, where the traffic director didn’t have much of an idea of what to do with us. We got through eventually and we didn’t get gored by any bulls, so we’ll call that a success.
We rolled into Pendleton nice and early and had a pizza dinner with lots of beer. Pendleton gave us the kind of welcome that I’ve read about in bicycle touring books – a policeman pulled up to find out how he could assist us and someone from the local bike club jumped out of his car to introduce himself. Kevin had found a host to stay with through Warm Showers. Our visit was pretty brief, but they were nice people and very understanding about our need to wake up super early to catch a shuttle at 5:08am. A section of I-84 had been closed to bicycles because of construction. We could have taken the bicycle detour, but it was advertised as being extremely mountainous with hardly any shoulder, so it just made far more sense to take the free shuttle into La Grande. We wanted the super early shuttle so that we could get our bikes and gear on without disrupting too many passengers. I think we made the right decision, as all our loading up was quite clumsy and time consuming, but the few other bleary-eyed passengers didn’t seem too bothered.
Once in La Grande we found a Starbucks in a Safeway and hung around for a while running various errands in a very uncoordinated fashion. I sat at the table for a while doing nothing and watched Kevin and Sunyoung do the dance that all groups must do at some point.
“I’ll be right back, gonna get something.”
“Well gosh I’m gonna go to the bathroom while we wait.”
“I’m back, wait, someone’s missing? I’m gonna go get something from my bike.”
“I’m back, what, she’s still not here? I’m gonna go look at that shiny thing over there.”
So we stayed at that Safeway for quite a while. But in the end we got all restocked on supplies and headed out on the road for Baker City, where we had another Warm Showers stay planned. After sneaking in a stop for some ice cream, we went to our hosts’ house and were greeted by Will and Julie, a fantastic couple, incredibly enthusiastic about hosting people, who made us feel right at home. Julie would show us where things were once, and then she would emphasize that from then on we had to get it ourselves, because we were family. And their dog Louie demanded pets all the time.
From this point on I think I must have completely zoned out. Kevin kept wanting to talk about route options and miles and interstates vs highways, but I’d now gotten used to just following the person in the lead. It was so easy to turn off the navigation part of my brain and just let everything drift away to other worlds.
Our goal for Wednesday May 13th was Farewell Bend State Park, and that’s about all I really remember of that day. It was a pretty easy day except for one giant hill right at the end. But then we got to coast straight into our campground, where we cooked over the campfire because of stove malfunctions. The food tasted even better that way! And we got a good close up look of an owl, what more could you ask for?
So then we were starting to near the end of our trip. Boise was coming up close. Things were becoming bittersweet for me. Yeah, I was excited to get to Boise, and I had lots of CrossFit people to meet and a couple drives to do, but I didn’t want this section to end quite yet.
We rode along the Snake River, which brought back memories of playing The Oregon Trail as a kid, even more so than all the Oregon Trail information signs we’d been stopping to read. I could see the map from the game that I had studied so much as a kid in my mind, and I thought that if I could go back in time and tell my younger self, playing The Oregon Trail on the computer, that someday I would actually go and ride my bike along that very river shown so prominently on the computer screen, my little girl self would have lost her mind. Would I have been thrilled at the idea, or would I have been convinced that I would break an axle and get cholera and a snake bite? I just don’t know.
We crossed into Idaho, which in my mind was an extremely momentous occasion. I realized that I know absolutely nothing about Idaho. I couldn’t recall anyone telling me anything about visiting Idaho. I’m pretty sure that I have some kind of connection with every other state, like maybe a friend who’s lived there, or at least visited, and has told me a little bit about his or her experience there. Not so with Idaho. It felt like entering a totally foreign country.
The only really noticeable change right away in Idaho was that we were on mountain time. For a while my phone couldn’t decide what time it was and just reported both. We stopped at a park, ate and suntanned, and found ourselves so far ahead of schedule, we didn’t know what to do with ourselves. We could have even pushed ourselves all the way to Boise, rather than camping another night. But that seemed silly when we could be using the time to drink root beer floats. So we went to A&W instead of Boise.
We spent the night at Country Corners RV Park, where they told us it was $20 per tent. I told them that I have a hammock, and I’m pretty sure the guy made up a rule right there on the spot that hammocks were banned because of the damage to the trees. But I ended up needing the tent anyway, as the rain decided to move in that night. Our afternoon of basking in the sunshine seemed incredibly distant as I hunkered in my tent, listening to the wind and pitter patter of raindrops.
It was still raining in the morning, but there was a cafe across the street, so I got dressed and scurried over there. Kevin and Sunyoung were still in their tent, so I just went ahead and made the decision that breakfast and coffee were happening before any packing or route discussions. It was very cozy in the cafe and the rain seemed to be dying down rather than getting worse, so I think we made the right call.
One last push to get to Boise and our next set of Warm Showers hosts! We packed up all our wet stuff and got prepared for a day of riding in the rain. Really, we were lucky, the rain never got heavy, but still, you just end up feeling like you’re covered in mildew when you perspire in rain gear. So we stopped at a mini mart for some of those sickeningly sweet coffee drinks, which tasted really good at the time and provided some much-desired warmth, but didn’t sit well with Kevin later on. While he visited the bathroom, I ate almost an entire one pound bag of pretzels.
When we were getting close to our hosts’ house, Kevin put in a call to let them know we would be arriving soon. While we were stopped to see some surfers at a standing wave in the river, Dan arrived on his bike to escort us the rest of the way! That was incredibly nice of him, and he gave us some information as to where the roads led and how the city was laid out so that we could have a better sense of where we were. We got to his house and met his wife Kristi, and once we’d gotten showered and into dry clothes, we settled into the sun that was now peeking from behind the clouds and got treated to some homemade wine! Dinner was an amazing jambalaya, I think I had about four bowls of it.
The next morning I was off pretty early to go to CrossFit Fireside, about nine miles away. Kevin and Sunyoung opted not to come with me, since they had to get to the car rental place and start driving to Seattle. So I said my tearful goodbyes to them, knowing they would no longer be around when I came back, and joked about whether I would get a flat in these last nine miles.
A mile away from the gym I got a flat.
I could have fixed it, but that would have made me late. I was frazzled. Just a mile away! I could run! I tried running. I couldn’t run with Lutz, especially not with a flat tire. So I called the gym and asked if anyone there had a truck and could come get me. And indeed there was, so CrossFitter Matt was my savior that day. It’s always humbling when you realize just what a difference our vehicles make. I was so embarrassed at how quickly Matt drove us to the gym.
It seemed like I was right around the corner! Why did I call for help? But on foot I would have delayed the workout, and that’s just not what I’m here to do.
Anyway, I made it, and CrossFit Fireside is an excellent box to visit! Catie and Ben, the owners, had Lori Nam’s video up for everyone to watch. Jeff, a bone marrow transplant recipient, was there, and he shared his story with the athletes. Then John, a member at CrossFit Fireside, shared his story of donating his marrow to his brother. Tears were shed, and then they jumped into doing Lori’s WOD! It was a full-on Swab and WOD!
Afterwards many of the athletes came over to get swabbed, and I’m sure everyone else would have, too, but they were already registered! Many many thanks to CrossFit Fireside for being so welcoming and supportive! I hung out a little more with Catie and Ben while changing my flat.
Fortunately, I didn’t really have to say goodbye, because the next day I was going to Verdant CrossFit for one of their local competitions, and they would be there! I was really starting to like Boise!
I spent the afternoon enjoying being by myself some. I took myself out to an IHOP, stupidly enough, because I just wanted a table and WiFi and a whole lot of free coffee refills. Then I went to REI to think about gear that I might have been convinced I needed. Kevin and Sunyoung had things like helmet covers and overshoes. I kept hearing Kevin’s voice in my head. “Riding in the rain for ten minutes without a helmet cover is no big deal, but if you’re going to do it all day…” I stood around thinking and finally ended up with just a few things that I think I really need: more fuel for the JetBoil, water resistant gloves, and a cheap pair of sunglasses to replace the pair I lost. Helmet covers and overshoes will just have to wait a while longer.
That evening Dan and Kristi’s son was playing at Edge Brewing Company with his band, Jonathan Warren and the Billy Goats. Lucky me, I got to tag along with them to see him! It’s a little brewery tucked into an industrial zone, but it was filled with people, including a whole lot of children, and the bluegrass was great! Here’s a video of one of their songs, but there have been some changes in band members. Dan and Kristi’s son is the one playing the cello.
The next day I didn’t have to be at Verdant CrossFit until about noon, so I had a very relaxed morning chatting with Dan and Kristi. Verdant CrossFit is also much closer to their house than CrossFit Fireside, so thankfully I was able to get there without any flat tires. When I got there I was a bit overwhelmed – there were so many people! It was ridiculously crowded! Different boxes from all around Boise had sent in teams to compete. Jennifer from Bronco CrossFit was my contact person, as she was one of the organizers of the competition. She immediately jumped onto a box with a megaphone and made everyone hush up as she introduced me. Then she handed me the megaphone! I gave my quick spiel about what I was doing and why, but mostly it seemed like all these CrossFitters were too amped up about their upcoming WODs to pay me too much attention. There were some people out there I could immediately see were touched, though, and sure enough, they came and found me and pounced on the opportunity to register.
So for the next four hours or so the teams were cycling through different stations and different workouts. I had a table outside right next to the cooler full of ice water, which was a great place to be, because as athletes came out in between their workouts, I was able to talk with them.
Slowly the word started spreading, and by the time the competition was over, we had 21 newly registered people, not to mention several more who had taken my link to maybe register online after they’d thought about it more. Also, some people asked about how they could hold their own drives at their boxes, which is even better! So many many many thanks to all the CrossFit gyms in Boise! I can sense great things are going to happen here!
It started raining again, so I made my way back to my hosts’ house, and Kristi mentioned that she would love to introduce me to someone she works with at the nonprofit Life’s Kitchen. We had been talking about nonprofits and the kind of work we did and the kinds of things we’re passionate about, and it turns out we have a lot in common! So I agreed that I could stay in Boise long enough to meet this man Jeremy. She sent him an email and he said Monday afternoon would work best for him, so we decided I would spend the whole day Monday in Boise, using the first half of the day to go on a little tour of the town with Kristi. Then I could leave Tuesday morning. I also convinced Dan to try some of my Eagle Rare bourbon, and then he rushed off to bring out some Scotch, and so we also had an excellent night of whiskey/whisky tasting.
So on Monday Kristi drove me up into the hills so that we could look over Boise. She and Dan are very interested in geology, so she gave me a quick lesson on the geologic history of the valley. It was really nice to be able to see Boise from up above, because later as we drove through it I had a much easier time orienting myself. We stopped for a beer and some poutine – my first time having poutine! Unfortunately, Jeremy had car trouble and could not meet up. Well, that just meant that I would have to hang around a bit on Tuesday to meet him in the morning.
So now it’s Tuesday, and indeed Kristi and I were able to meet with Jeremy, but it was brief because he was in a conference. The three of us are now kicking around the idea that I just might come back to Boise in the fall to see what the nonprofit world is all about… we’ll see!
I came back to the house and started trying to get everything together, but there’s still so much to do! I still hadn’t done the bike maintenance I’d been putting off, I still hadn’t finished my blog post, I still hadn’t sent out some important emails… there were just many things. Dan and Kristi kept reminding me that they were in no way pushing me out of the house and that I’m welcome to stay. Then it was raining again, and Dan looked at the weather forecast and said there was an 80% chance of rain tonight, but only 20% tomorrow. The thought of camping in the rain when I had just packed away my nice dry tent made me cringe, and then I knew the decision had been made: one more night in Boise, then a nice early start in the morning. But that’s it! No more delays! I’m hoping that tonight Dan and Kristi will allow me to take them out to dinner. And it will be a giant dinner for me, Salt Lake City is far off in the distance!