Enchanted woods in Lynn Valley

9/8/22

Wowww… I am so glad I switched my travel plans to allow myself to stay one more day in Vancouver. My time here has been short, and I was tired upon arrival and behind on administrative tasks, so I hadn’t really gotten out and explored much at all.

But today I took a city bus up to Lynn Valley for a hike. It was so incredibly worth it.

Not much else to say; I’ll just let the pictures do the talking.

Tomorrow I’m going to take a ferry over to Swartz Bay, on Vancouver Island just north of Victoria, and if all goes according to plan, I’ll be visiting the famed Butchart Gardens!

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Mellow day in Gastown

9/7/22

I made a point to take it easy today. It was a beautiful day, although I could feel the beginning chill of fall starting to creep in.

I slept late, and then met up for lunch with someone local, Jennifer, who I met in a vegan travel Facebook group. We went to MeeT in Gastown, and enjoyed a Caesar salad and the special burger. We talked about Vancouver and travel.

Afterward, I stopped at a nearby coffee shop for dessert.

Then I walked around the Gastown area for a little bit, looking at the buildings and the steam clock Jennifer told me about. Pretty cool area.

Then I headed back to Maria’s place to do a few more administrative tasks, which was pleasant on the patio. Along the way, I paused at several pocket parks overlooking the water.

As a bonus, Cooper the kitty did make an appearance today.

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Extreme bike obstacle course from Surrey to Vancouver

9/6/22

Wow.

Wow.

By the time my head hits the pillow tonight, I will have earned every morsel of sleep I can find.

I had thought that a 27-mile (42-km) bike day would be pretty easy. I went nearly that far yesterday, and barely felt it.

But I have never had a day on my bike that was so challenging, in so many unexpected ways, as today.

I’ll try to chronicle it all, but I will probably end up forgetting a few things (like multiple false starts/having to turn around, for a variety of reasons, and blackberry briars underfoot absolutely everywhere, threatening to puncture my tires). I’ve got extra photos today, too, because I wanted to capture all the mayhem.

It started with an early (for me) wake-up, at 6:15, because I wanted to get on the road by 8:00. (This was after having been awakened by my bladder at 3:25 am.)

I enjoyed peanut butter toast for breakfast, as I said farewell to Jane and Billy and thanked them for their hospitality.

Then the fun began.

First, I realized that once again, my phone service was not functioning in Canada. (I didn’t realize until I was nearly to the end of my trek that simply powering down the phone and re-starting it would solve this problem, which was painful because I had already made that realization a few months ago, in Quebec. Doh.)

So I had to make an almost immediate detour to a Safeway, to hover outside using their wifi, as I found the Google Maps route and then screenshotted 32 separate images of it to use for navigation. (I was also chagrined to know that there are ways of getting around this—like offline maps—but I can never remember how they work, so screenshotting was my method.) This added probably a good 20 minutes to my time.

I got back out on the road and was soon confronted by the road construction my hosts had warned me about. They are putting in bike lanes along King George—yay!—but the construction part is no fun for anyone, especially cyclists.

I made it through, and the motorists seemed pretty patient.

I made my first real mistake of the day when I needed to make my first left turn, onto Colebrook. Unbeknownst to me, there was also a Colebrook frontage road. (Really??) So I biked about 15 minutes along that road, enjoying the beautiful sunshine and complete lack of auto traffic, before encountering a dead-end fork, one side of which (on a gravel drive) said “Construction access only” and had signs about hard hats and such, and the other side said “No trespassing.”

Argh!

I really didn’t want to turn around. I stood there weighing my options, looking at maps, wondering if I could just sneak by somehow.

I decided to try the “no trespassing” side, since it appeared that I could pretty quickly and easily get onto Hwy 99 that way. This would not have been a fun highway to ride—I could see the heavy auto traffic whizzing by—but I couldn’t see a good alternative on my map, and figured I could turn north relatively quickly from there.

But then I reached another fork in the road, one side of which was full of workers in orange vests, and looked rather impassable, and the other of which led to blueberry fields and a worker standing next to a truck blocking the way.

I approached the truck and asked the worker if I could get to 99 from there. (As I got closer, the physical way appeared much more daunting and dubious.) He replied in Spanish that no, I would probably have to go back around the way I had come. We went back and forth a few times as I tried to recall enough Spanish to really confirm that this was the only option, and at the end it appeared it was.

Ugh.

Back around. I finally realized that the “real” (non-frontage) road was parallel to the road I was on. After another 15 minutes or so, I made it onto that road.

Before too long, my right turn onto the bike path showed up. That path was unpaved, as my hosts had warned me it would be, but the gravel surface seemed reasonable, as I had hoped it would be.

After a very short while, I spotted two beautiful deer enjoying some grass snacks in the morning light. They were kind enough to let me capture their likenesses.

Then up ahead the path bent to the left.

Soon after, the real obstacles began.

I wasn’t aware of this area having had much rain recently—I know it tends to be rare in this region during late August and early September—so I was flabbergasted to discover the dry path suddenly becoming a lake before my eyes.

You may recall that I have encountered similar watery obstacles on paths in Virginia and Pennsylvania (at least—maybe also other places I’ve forgotten) but this was the first time that there really was no way around it.

I would have to go through.

I was not happy about this, but as soon as my eyes had spotted the situation, my mind had leapt into action to imagine how I would handle it. I came up with a few options.

The one I ended up choosing was to open up the trailer and my suitcase, to change into my (rarely worn) sandals, and tie my athletic shoes and socks around the handlebars to keep them dry. I checked the depth of the water as best I could, and looked under the trailer to gauge its clearance. I really didn’t want to get water—especially potentially mucky water—on the bottom of the trailer.

Looked like I could make it.

So I waded through the water, pushing the bike and trailer together.

Made it through! Parked the rig, and walked back into the water to try to clean the mud off my sandals as best I could.

Then I re-mounted my steed, feeling quite proud of myself, and glad that the challenges of the day were behind me.

Needless to say, they were not.

Shortly I encountered several sections of nearly impassable large/coarse gravel, often accompanied by a dip in the path. There were several times I had to just walk the rig through it.

Interspersed with the large-gravel sections were a few other sections of fine, dusty sand, which were also un-rideable, and slow going to push through on foot.

I pressed on. It was a long path, but my screenshots showed me that by the end, I would reach the on-ramp for the long, tall bridge I would need to ride to cross the Fraser River.

But when I got within maybe 100 yards of the end of the path, I was met with “road closed” and construction signs.

You’ve got to be kidding.

Surely there is a way around this…

I walked past the first two signs, until I met the truck blocking the path. It would have been challenging to walk the rig around the truck (very narrow passage, and blackberry brambles on the path) and I also felt awkward about encountering the workers while trying to circumvent their signage.

I realized how futile it really was when I did park the rig and walk around the truck myself, to be met by the image of the path ahead thoroughly blocked by large downed trees, and an orange-vested worker slowly wrangling them.

There was no way I was getting through.

I suppose I haven’t yet mentioned that I had a Zoom call scheduled for 4:00. I thought I had given myself plenty of time to reach my Vancouver host, Maria, by 2:00 or 3:00 at the latest, but every one of these obstacles was costing me time, and I felt it every single time.

OK, don’t panic.

I looked at the map again, and realized my backtracking didn’t have to be as ridiculously long as I had feared. Rather than turning right to go out to the busy road instead of the path, I could turn left after 100 yards or so to get to the adjacent path.

OK!

But when I reached that intersection, the seemingly short distance to that other path looked nearly impossible.

First I had to lug the rig up onto a wooden boardwalk with no ramp, just a very tall lip.

Once I got it up there, I was nearly swallowed by the tall wet vegetation on both sides. Some of the boards were also decaying—and of course also covered by brambles—so at one point one wheel of the trailer fell off the path, and I worried the whole rig might break the boardwalk, or simply fall over the edge into the bog below.

Argh.

I managed to get the trailer back on the level, but was soon faced with a substantial break in the boardwalk—again, no ramps on either end—for some gnarly tree roots.

Great.

I hauled the rig awkwardly over them.

I finally reached the end of the boardwalk, and stepped into a clearing… filled with tall railroad tracks and a steep hill on the other side.

This can’t be happening.

At first I assumed that the tracks were the adjacent “path” that the map was showing me. I knew it was illegal—and quite possibly also dangerous—to walk alongside the tracks. Furthermore, I didn’t know how far I would have to take them, or how well I would be able to turn left from them, to reach the street I needed.

But I couldn’t think of a good alternative.

So I started clearing some of the worst brambles from the gravel next to the tracks.

Was this reality? It felt like a nightmare.

It was at that point that I suddenly saw that on the other side of the tracks was a steep stairway roughly built into the eroded hill.

I ambled across the tracks to climb up it… and what should I find up there but an absolutely gorgeous bike-and-pedestrian path. It felt like the otherworldly Redwood Regional Park in Oakland, California. It was wide, and shady, and “paved” in crushed gravel and fallen tree needles.

I would love to be on that path.

But to get there, I would need to get the rig across those blasted railroad tracks, and then carry the components up that hill, piecemeal.

(That had been my initial thought of how I would need to get across that lake-puddle earlier. I was so relieved back then to realize I wouldn’t need to go to all that effort. But… now, I guess I would.)

I did know how to do it. I wasn’t happy about it. But I detached the trailer; removed the rain cover; extricated both bags from it; re-zipped it; and then made three trips across the tracks and up the hillside staircase: bike first, trailer next, bags last.

I had made it to the promised path!

I sat down on a boulder to rest and reflect and have a snack, and then resumed my mission. I made a few false starts getting off that path, needing to backtrack at least twice. But eventually I got out and made it onto the neighboring suburban streets.

Now I would need to figure out how to get onto that Alex Fraser Bridge. I had been stymied by the blockaded path from getting on way back earlier, where the climb began. I looked at the map to see if I could instead access it from nearly underneath, where I was now.

Nope. Not a chance. I looked at the bridge and the road below, and saw that there was no way I could do it.

Seriously??

OK, now what? Should I consider taking another bridge? My hosts had warned me that that bridge was long and steep, and others were gentler. But they had also conceded that the other bridges would add significant time and distance to my route, so ultimately they advised me to go with the Google Maps plan to take this one.

But I weighed my options. How could I even get back to the bike on-ramp for that bridge? Maybe I should head east—out of my way—to find the next one? Or maybe west—even more out of my way—to get the other one?

Time was running short.

Ultimately, I decided to stick with the Alex Fraser Bridge. This meant a significant backtrack, through a very industrial area filled with shipping containers and enormous trucks sharing the road with me.

I finally made it to the on-ramp, then realized I was on the wrong side of the bridge, so I backtracked and got to the other side.

And then that climb began.

Oof.

I was so over this day already, and I had been on the road about five hours by then, I think. I was about halfway to my destination, which I had calculated would take me a total of six hours.

No phone or internet access to contact my host, nor the person I would be Zooming with.

OK. Onward.

I made it across the bridge, and even stopped briefly to admire the beautiful river I was crossing.

On the other side, there were hills to climb, several of which I ended up walking.

I was hot.

Thirsty.

Tired.

Cranky.

I did my best to appreciate the urban bicycle and transit infrastructure I encountered, such as a covered bike-and-ped bridge and the underside of the SkyTrain.

The SkyTrain!

Shortly after I emerged from that underpass, I saw a sign indicating that the SkyTrain station was on the right.

Wow. Maybe this was just what I needed! It was 2:30 already, and I really wanted to arrive no later than 3:30. Maybe with the train, I could!

I wended my way through narrow winding sidewalks to reach the station. I studied the map to learn which would be my best station to disembark. I looked at fares, and confirmed that I could buy a ticket easily with my credit card. I glanced at the trains I saw on the platform—as well as the turnstiles to get to them—to confirm that loading my rig onto a train would be logistically feasible.

This really might work!

I paid my fare. I navigated the wheelchair-accessible turnstile lane. I stood and waited for the train. It arrived within 60 seconds.

I boarded! It was a tight fit with the rig, but it worked, and no one seemed too annoyed about my presence with it; they walked around it.

I rode for seven stops. I can only imagine how long it would have taken me to bicycle all of that.

As it was, when I disembarked, it took me another half hour to reach Maria’s place. Fortunately, at that point I remembered how to regain phone service by restarting the phone, so I was able to message her and a few other friends to let them know my status.

Maria welcomed me warmly—and told me I might see her adorable-but-skittish cat later in the evening—and I managed to get set up for my Zoom call out on the patio just before 4:00!

After the Zoom, I took a badly needed shower, and then my wonderful Vancouver friend Lori picked me up to treat me to dinner at a vegan Vietnamese place. I ordered “chicken” with eggplant, and it was exactly what I needed.

We caught up on our lives from the past couple of years since we had last seen each other.

When she dropped me back off at Maria’s place, Cooper the kitty had indeed made an appearance, although he clearly did not want me to get too close.

Maybe tomorrow…?

But now: sleep!

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Bellingham to Surrey, BC, by pedal power

9/5/22

Wow, what a gorgeous day for a bike ride!

I said farewell to my wonderful Bellingham hosts Alek and Zoe late this morning, and pedaled north toward the Canadian border. The clouds and sun put on a spectacular show for the whole 25 miles, with the bucolic countryside adding its charm to the mix.

I arrived at the border in Blaine, via the truck route—per Google Maps’ instructions—but then had to endure a short lecture about how bicyclists should not use the truck route. (Hmmm. OK, I wish someone would tell Google that.) The questioning was both more extensive and more invasive than it had been during my easy-breezy bike crossing from Vermont into Quebec (“How much money do you have access to in your bank account right now?”) but she eventually let me through, with an admonition to use the passenger-vehicle lane in the future.

There were blackberry snacks to be had along the whole route; it’s great to be back in this bioregion!

I arrived at the home of my Warmshowers hosts, Jane and Billy, in the late afternoon. They are preparing to move significantly east within the province in just three weeks, so I was especially grateful that they were willing to receive me in the midst of their packing and sorting. Jane even made a delicious vegan chickpea curry for dinner.

While she prepared it, she encouraged me to go for a golden-hour walk through the neighborhood park across the street. What should I find there but another Little Free Library! (I don’t think it was an “official,” registered one, but they are all awesome.) There were also a couple of duck ponds in the park, which were lovely at that hour.

I’ll be out of here at about 8:00 tomorrow (quite early for me!) to continue my trek up to Vancouver. I’m looking forward to connecting with friends old and new there.

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Breadth of Bellingham magic

9/4/22

I’ve been here in Bellingham two full days now. What a variety of experiences!

For the first 24 hours or so, I enjoyed some one-on-one time with my longtime friend Alek. We bicycled into downtown to visit Bellingham’s all vegan grocery store and café, V Go’s, where we chatted with Alek’s friend Nate—the store’s co-owner—while dining on delicious cilantro-lime burritos. I picked up a few treats at the store for future hosts, as well.

Afterward we biked back to the house, enjoying the city art along the way, and then strolled out to the neighborhood footpath with a ladder, to gather some peak-ripeness blackberries! (They have now been turned into a compote topping for a vegan cheesecake.)

Then yesterday evening, Alek’s wife Zoe returned from her trip to Spokane, and we all enjoyed a homemade pizza dinner together, followed by a wonderful couple of hours of singing together while Alek (a very gifted singer-songwriter in his own right—check out his music page!) accompanied us on the guitar.

This morning, I joined Alek on a Zoom call with his friends for a “manifestation meditation” meetup. I was honored that he invited me to join in on this virtual gathering the group has been doing for years. I enjoyed meeting his friends Bob and Rachel there, and we had a powerful group session over a two-hour span.

After that, I hopped on my bike to go meet a longtime Facebook friend, Kristin Noreen. I “met” Kristin at some point before I embarked on my journey, when our mutual friend introduced us on Facebook, because Kristin had published a very gripping book about her experience recovering from a near-fatal bicycle crash. (A distracted motorist plowed into her, while she was biking legally and as safely as reasonably possible.) I immediately bought a copy of the book (which I recommend—you can find it here) and devoured it, despite my usual struggles with reading books. Her story was painful but deeply inspirational.

We have been Facebook friends ever since, and she has been following my journey on this blog.

She lives quite close to Alek and Zoe, so I was able to easily bike over and visit her at her charming tiny house.

It was fun to take the “tour” (did you know there is such a thing as a washer-dryer combo, in just one compact machine? Wow! And she also has a “guest bedroom” in the tiny house!) and we sat and chatted over some snacks and beverages. She also showed me the opulent vegetable garden plot she shares with a few neighbors.

I bicycled back to Alek and Zoe’s place, managing to avoid the rain that threatened.

What a rich time I have had here in Bellingham. Tomorrow I’ll be bicycling 25 miles north, just across the Canadian border to my Warmshowers hosts in a town called Surrey.

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Seattle to Bellingham

9/2/22

I had a lovely low-key time in Seattle, spending time with my sister and her partner, eating wonderful homemade food, darning some socks, and taking care of several other administrative tasks. We also spent some time walking partway around Greenlake, and through a shaded park to the PCC Co-op grocery for some provisions, after the requisite stop at Mighty-O Donuts.

Today, the two of them accompanied me to the train station, where I caught the Amtrak bus to Bellingham. We walked to the U District light rail station, where I enjoyed the cool subway aesthetics and art. We rode that train to the Amtrak station, where we said goodbye (though I might see them again in a couple of weeks) and I boarded the bus (which used to be a train, and will return to train service again at the end of this month.)

On the bus, while enjoying some bucolic views, I struck up a conversation with my really cool seatmate, Ardeth. She and her partner live car free in Centralia, about halfway between Seattle and Portland. They had their own folding bikes and a trailer in the cargo hold of the bus as well! They were on their way to a retreat in the San Juan Islands, which sounded really cool. (I’m putting Indralaya on my list of places to check out and possibly stay sometime. The retreat center periodically offers work trade for lodging, and the work is only three hours per day doing fun things like picking plums.) It was cool to meet a like-minded adventurer on the bus!

In Bellingham, my friend Alek picked me up at the train station, and we stopped at the co-op on the way home to pick up some vegetables to cook for dinner.

I’m looking forward to a couple of days in Bellingham, hopefully connecting with several friends and also visiting the new vegan grocery in town!

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Beautiful rail journey from St. Paul to Seattle

8/31/22

Well, it’s the last day of August, and I arrived in Seattle on the train yesterday. It is indeed surreal to be back in the Northwest, and reconnecting with my sister and her partner after not seeing them since July of 2021.

Today I completed many administrative tasks and phone calls, which feels like such a relief. I may do a few more tomorrow, and possibly a Zoom or two. I also need to work on lodging for some of my next Northwestern stops.

But today’s blog will mostly be a photo essay on my two-day Amtrak journey from Minnesota to Washington. It was a beautiful ride.

Nathan kindly gave me a ride to the train station in St. Paul after dinner on the 28th. That Amtrak station—recently renovated—is breathtaking. I enjoyed seeing it at night, with very few people in the grand space when I arrived a few hours early for the 11 pm train, so that I could appreciate the architectural splendor.

(And of course, what should I find inside—next to the first-class lounge—but a Little Free Library! They are absolutely everywhere.)

The ride went smoothly, through Minnesota overnight, then North Dakota and Montana the next day. There were enough vegan options in the dining car at each meal to keep me satisfied, and I once again enjoyed my “Amtrak cocktail” (sweet tea and vodka) in the sightseer lounge car as the beautiful scenery rolled by outside the windows.

We headed into nighttime again right as we reached East Glacier (I was having a great dinner conversation at the time, with my Indiana tablemates in the dining car).

I awoke the next morning in Wenatchee, Washington, with beautiful golden hills right outside my berth.

Around 11:30 am, we disembarked in Seattle, and my sister and her sweetie picked me up from the station, to save me the hills on the way to their Greenlake abode. The occasion was bittersweet: one of our favorite Seattle vegan-dining stalwarts, the Wayward Café, was closing on that very day, after just a couple of weeks’ notice after many wonderful years in business. Fortunately, the two of them had swooped by the restaurant before they picked me up, and snagged us each a brunch entrée, which we then plated and savored once we reached their house. My garden benedict was delicious.

I’m looking forward to another day of downtime here in Seattle (and even doing a recording for a podcast that will soon feature me—stay tuned!) and then I’ll be heading north to Bellingham for a few days, where I’m looking forward to connecting with several friends.

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Want to support my vision financially? I am in the process of manifesting $50,000 in lieu of a “salary” for the year of this journey. You can make a one-time or monthly contribution, or even become a Fairy Godfunder! (Heartfelt thanks to all my patrons and supporters!)

Vignettes from Minneapolis

8/28/22

Wow. Tonight I board the train to Seattle! I cannot believe I’m already returning to the Northwest… and before you know it, I’ll be passing through Portland again, a year after I departed. Very surreal.

But I’m not done with my loop yet!

And my time in Minneapolis has been magical as well.

I got a chance to spend some lovely time here with Nate and Paula and their cheerful and creative 3-year-old daughter, and their house has been comfortable and full of great conversation during my stay here.

I also got to reconnect with my friend Vika, who is originally from Minneapolis but spent 13 years in Portland, during which time I met her when we both were helping to teach Nonviolent Communication (NVC) to prisoners at the Oregon State Penitentiary, Oregon’s only maximum-security prison.

Vika departed Portland to move back here just one day before I departed on my journey, back in September. We connected here the other day for a picnic and “magical meeting” at Lake of the Isles, at sunset. Vika does wonderfully inspiring work in the world; our life missions are very aligned. You can take a look at her work at www.thrivingworldproject.org.

We talked about my idea of fairy godfunding, among many other topics that inspire us both. (She has piqued my interest in checking out Human Design, which I’ve been curious about but don’t know much yet.)

The next night, she introduced me to her friends Tom and Ranja, who served us a wonderful homemade vegan burrito-bar meal at their home in the Minneapolis suburbs. Tom is a retired engineer, and he is a wizard with bicycles. He recently purchased an e-bike, and he is designing a sort of cover for it to protect the rider from some of the elements. He is using corrugated plastic and aluminum to build a sort of windshield and canopy.

He also has some flexible solar panels, which he hopes to integrate with the design so that the bike’s battery can be charged by the sun while the rider is in motion. So cool!

Another of his projects is an amphibious bike, which he can pedal directly into the lake behind his house, where the pedaling then powers a water wheel at the back of the bike. Plastic barrels on the front and rear fold down to provide flotation.

And perhaps most excitingly, he has recently built a 105-lb trailer for the e-bike, out of the same heavy corrugated plastic. The trailer folds up to be towed behind the bike, and then it can unfold to provide both storage and shelter, including a sleeping space, when at “camp.” It’s such an exciting thing to imagine in use!

Then today, I got to attend a biweekly “Plant Based Popup” event with my hosts. We got some delicious homemade savory and sweet treats there, including some wonderful tacos from a cargo-bike-powered stand (by an entrepreneur who used to run a vegan food cart in Portland called Pyro Pizza!) and an incredibly decadent s’mores cookie.

While there, I also met up with my Facebook friend Donovan. We only got to talk for a brief while, but he seems to have led a fascinating life so far, and I’m curious to learn more about his passions of human health and environmental responsibility, as well as the interesting ways he uses his skills and creativity to bring about good in the world.

That’s what my journey is about: meeting these fascinating folks, picking their brains (and inviting them to pick mine) and connecting them with others wherever possible. (For example, Donovan may be able to make some bicycle recommendations to Nate and Paula, who are in the market, while Vika might be able to help them sell some extra plants they have in the yard. I love these synergies!)

Other things I have enjoyed during my time here: going to a vegan “chicken” restaurant (run by The Herbivorous Butcher, based here in the Twin Cities) and a vegan boutique, visiting George Floyd Square (less than a mile from my hosts’ house, in a residential neighborhood) and enjoying some incredibly fluffy homemade blueberry-chocolate-chip pancakes, courtesy of Paula’s cast-iron wizardry!

I love this place and its people. I look forward to returning sometime.

Now, I’m off to two full nights on the train. Sadly, I will be skipping my planned stop in Glacier National Park (the timing isn’t quite right this time) but I will enjoy rolling through it. And in the late morning of Tuesday the 30th, I will be reunited with my sister and her partner in Seattle, whom I last saw in person last July, more than a year ago!

This will probably be my last post for a couple of days, since internet access is very spotty on long-distance trains. But when you next hear from me, I will be in the Northwest!

Surreal.

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Enchanted Minneapolis

8/25/22

What a beautiful day!

Nate and I didn’t do all the neighborhood fruit foraging we had planned (yet!) but he did take me on a five-hour excursion—with his adorable 3-year-old daughter in his Burley trailer—all around various local creek and lake bike paths.

I’ll let the photos tell the story.

My favorite part was when we went through the Lake Harriet Rose Garden. The hibiscus flowers, painted boats, beautiful trees and grounds, and incredible skies all blended together to create a sort of Alice in Wonderland effect.

What a beautiful city. I’m looking forward to a few more days here!

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free one-hour phone or video call with me!

Want to be notified of future blog posts? Use the green “sign up” button to subscribe!

Want to support my vision financially? I am in the process of manifesting $50,000 in lieu of a “salary” for the year of this journey. You can make a one-time or monthly contribution, or even become a Fairy Godfunder! (Heartfelt thanks to all my patrons and supporters!)

First day in Minneapolis + yesterday’s challenge

8/24/22

I’m here at the home of Nate, Paula, and Hildie, and we’ve been having a lovely time so far! We had a nice vegan crockpot dinner, al fresco in the backyard. When it got dark afterward, a family of five or six raccoons came out to climb up on the grape arbors right near us for an extended midnight snack, which was kind of surreal to witness.

The earlier part of the day, I spent bicycling from the St. Paul hotel to their place about 13 miles west in Minneapolis, enjoying the sights… but a good chunk of the day was also devoted to bike-shop stuff.

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that in addition to my train-ride disruptions, I had had a snafu taking up some of my attention and energy.

What happened is that about 25 miles into my beautiful 26-mile ride from Madison to Columbus, I noticed that my right trailer tire had gone flat. Argh!! This was only my fourth flat on this year’s journey, but the second on that wheel within about a month.

I was pretty sure I knew when it had happened: I had watched myself rolling over a chunk of steel-belted radial tire debris, and I cursed the luck that had put it in my path. (I had steered to avoid it with my bike’s tires, but then I saw the trailer wheel roll over it.)

As it turned out, though, I don’t think that was the culprit (unless it was an additional culprit, which is possible): I discovered the offending enormous nail (tack? thick rusty something) a little later.

Some of you may know that I hate changing flats.

I hate it so much that I refuse to do it.

A number of people—in “real life” as well as online bicycle forums—have stated or implied that this stance of mine is unacceptable.

“Oh, you have to be able to change your own tires!”

“Are you kidding? That’s an essential skill! Just practice a little, and you’ll be a pro soon!”

“No one should ever get on a bike without being able to fix a flat.”

Know what? I don’t care.

I have fixed flats. Probably half a dozen over the years. It’s not foreign to me.

But I hate it. And I choose not to do things that I hate, if I can manage to avoid it in any way.

I can’t tell you how empowering that feels. (And if you’re reading this and feeling tempted to chime in that fixing my own flats would feel even more empowering, please save it; I’m not interested.)

I love autonomy. I love making my own decisions about what is important to me in life. And I love living that. And I love modeling it for others, too. A (small) part of why I’m doing this journey, and doing it the way I am, is to show people that you can be adventurous, even if you’re not “perfect.” Even if you don’t like to camp. Even if you don’t like to bike up big hills, or on rugged gravel, or over long distances. Even if you can’t—or simply won’t—fix your own flats.

There are workarounds. Do what you love! Leave the things you hate, as much as you possibly can.

So. With that off my chest…

Since I refuse to fix flats, I do need to pull in other forms of creative problem solving.

What that looked like yesterday was, to start with, gambling that I could bike the remaining mile or so to Columbus without damaging the wheel’s rim. I looked at the map and saw that there was a park within about a third of a mile.

Good! I was hungry anyway—and a couple hours early for the train—so I could pull over there, find a shady bench, relax and remind myself not to get upset or freak out, have a snack, and come up with an action plan, which would probably include finding the nearest bike shop in town and heading over there.

When I got to the park and sat on that bench, though, opening a Clif bar, I checked Google Maps and discovered that this town was too small to have a bike shop.

Oof. Really??

Not one.

The nearest shop was about 14 miles away.

No way should I ride that far with a flat. Plus I didn’t have the time.

OK. Don’t freak out.

What about a Lyft? How much would that cost? Would the timing be feasible?

I checked.

$25.99 one way, and about 45 minutes to get there.

I could maybe afford that time, but definitely couldn’t justify the cost.

OK. Don’t freak out.

Maybe at the train station I would find a fellow cyclist who would enjoy helping me fix the flat…?

Maybe. But I couldn’t count on it.

But the station was less than a mile away, so at least I felt OK about biking that far.

I reasoned that it should still be easy and non-risky to the wheel to simply load the bike onto the train as is. Then unload it in St. Paul.

Unfortunately we would be arriving near midnight, so no bike shop would be open then.

But I had had the foresight to book a hotel as close as possible to the station. (I certainly hadn’t foreseen this complication, but I know that some sort of complication is always possible, so for late-night train arrivals, I’m willing to spend a bit more money than I otherwise would to get the very closest hotel.) As you may recall from yesterday’s post, it was only half a mile away.

I could do this!

Let’s see… search Google Maps for the closest bike shop to the hotel.

About six blocks. Nice!

OK… what time do I have to check out of the hotel? What time does the shop open?

11:00. 1:00.

Argh… but doable.

Is there a vegan-friendly restaurant nearby, and/or a park, so that I could spend my time there between 11 and 1?

Yes and yes. Both within a block of the bike shop.

OK!

I made some calls, to the bike shop and hotel, to confirm these things.

Confirmed!

Now, I knew that the nearby bike shop would almost certainly not have the replacement tire I would need; most bike shops don’t carry Brompton-sized tires. (At this time, I was assuming the tire had been shredded by the car tire fragment. That may not have been the case, but as I later discovered, the nail had damaged it enough that it would indeed require replacement.)

So, that would be an additional step. But fortunately, I carry two spare tires, after my Warmshowers hosts on my very first night—way back in September—warned me sternly of just such situations. I also carry two spare tubes. (I may not be willing to do the work, but I do make sure to at least carry the tools and materials so that somebody can!)

Still sitting on the park bench, I visualized the whole sequence in my mind:

Bike to the train station. Load the rig onto the train. Unload at 11 pm, and bike as “gently” as possible to the hotel. Check out of the hotel at 11 am, and bike as gently as possible to the restaurant and/or park, depending how hungry I was. At 1:00, proceed to the bike shop. Have them use my tube and tire to make the repair. Then, go to the sole Brompton-certified shop in Minneapolis (none in St. Paul) to have them replace the tire. (At this point, I picked up the phone and called that shop to make sure they had the 16” Schwalbe Marathon Plus in stock. They did. Could they replace it on a walk-in basis? They could.) I would also buy a new spare tube there, to replenish my stock.

Then—wallet lighter but mechanical confidence restored—I could proceed to my hosts’ place and get on with my enjoyment of the journey.

And… that is almost exactly what unfolded:

I managed to load and unload the rig on the train with no problems.

I got to the hotel around midnight.

I checked out at 11 this morning, and headed to the restaurant. Sadly, they were slammed and running behind, so I found a nearby Chipotle instead.

After lunch, I went to the bike shop near the hotel. It turned out to be inside the train station! The irony is that they stay open until 9 pm—later than any other bike shop in town, the owner told me—but still not late enough for me to have handled the whole thing last night upon arrival, which would have been soooo slick! (I had checked those hours while sitting on the park bench, though, so I knew what to expect.)

The person who did replace that tube at that shop was a boy who didn’t look more than 11 or 12. I wasn’t sure if he might be the son of the owner, but he addressed her by her first name, so I’m guessing not?

I sat next to him on a matching comfortable chair (the bike shop was recently expanded to also be a coffee shop, and he sat on the chair to do his work, without a greasy apron or any other such “wrenching” apparatus) and thanked him for helping me with this repair.

“Oh, you’re welcome! Surprisingly, this is actually one of my favorite things to do.”

Wow.

I mean… there it is.

I hate, hate, hate to do that task. Here was someone who loves to do it. And now, I’m paying him to do it for me.

Win-win. This is the kind of life I love living.

When the tube was replaced, I headed out the door for the 12-mile ride to Perennial Cycle, in Minneapolis.

What a cool shop! They had folded Bromptons stacked artfully on shelves. In fact, a customer was just walking out the door with his beautiful brand-new deep red one.

Of all the Brompton shops I’ve visited so far this year around the country, most of them haven’t actually had the bikes in stock, or at least not prominently displayed. It felt cool to see that.

The mechanic got straight to work on replacing the tire shortly after I arrived, and even noticed a piece of embedded glass in the spare I had been using! He removed the glass in front of me, but showed how it hadn’t gone all the way through, so he deemed the tire still OK for use as a spare.

So then… that was it. My wallet was indeed lighter (those Marathon Pluses aren’t cheap, but they are worth every penny) and now I was free to complete my day’s journey. Nate and Paula live less than a mile from the shop, so it was easy-peasy.

So that’s the story! Now it’s late and I need to sleep. Nate says he will show me some good neighborhood fruit foraging trees tomorrow!

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free one-hour phone or video call with me!

Want to be notified of future blog posts? Use the green “sign up” button to subscribe!

Want to support my vision financially? I am in the process of manifesting $50,000 in lieu of a “salary” for the year of this journey. You can make a one-time or monthly contribution, or even become a Fairy Godfunder! (Heartfelt thanks to all my patrons and supporters!)