This summer’s three bike trips!
You all, I’m so excited! Everything keeps falling into place, and it’s reminding me how powerful it is for me to hold a beautiful vision—strongly yet lightly—and to allow the pieces to put themselves together, with just a few gentle nudges from me.
As I’ve been preparing to embark upon an entire year of bicycling around the continent… and thinking of how my current bicycling practice consists mainly of a 3-mile-each-way commute to my workplace four days per week… I’ve thought it would be a good idea to do a few “practice trips” this summer, to give myself more time in the saddle, more experience with the trailer, more practice with loading the bike and trailer onto different kinds of transit vehicles, and more outreach to potential hosts.
So, this past week I have put together two such practice trips, and the magic of my vision has been showing up in spades!
One wonderful serendipity: Amtrak’s 50th anniversary, on May 1st. To celebrate, the company offered 50% off fares for one week, which was perfect for me. I booked two trips, both splitting my time between bicycling and Amtrak: Corvallis, Oregon and Seattle, Washington.
I have a wonderful and amazing friend in Corvallis who had offered to host me, not just on my actual trip in September, but on a summer practice trip as well. I’m so looking forward to spending a couple of nights with her and her partner, both of whom are avid cyclists (and recently vaccinated). And, I’ve never spent any time in Corvallis, save for a two-hour evening event at Oregon State University a few years ago, so I’m looking forward to exploring and experiencing a new city, as well. I’ve heard great things about Corvallis.
My sister and her partner, also both cyclists, live in Seattle. (Several years ago, they spent the whole month of May bicycling around a very rainy Germany.)
I had initially thought to bicycle the whole 200-mile distance to Seattle—over the course of four days—and then take the train back home. However, I realized that would take more time than I wanted, and would be more physically rigorous than even my main trip will be, with 50+ mile days every day, and no rest in between. As I searched for lodging hosts all along the way, too, I ran into some gaps.
I reminded myself that a key part of my vision for this journey is to gently challenge myself while prioritizing ease, flow, beauty, and joy. (Some bicycle tourists are motivated by pushing themselves physically. I am not.)
So, I realized that I could use the train to make things more pleasant and joyful.
I will take the Amtrak Cascades train to Olympia, Washington, and then bicycle from there to Tacoma, arriving mid-afternoon, just in time to visit one of my favorite restaurants, Quickie Too. (If you ever find yourself in Tacoma, please do yourself a favor and stop at this restaurant! They are a wonderful Black-owned vegan sandwich shop, and their food is truly amazing. In fact, when I found out they were closed on Thursdays, I moved my whole itinerary back a day to make sure I wouldn’t miss out!)
I needed a place to stay in Tacoma, so I made my first outreach to a Warmshowers host. I searched the map, and found four hosts within a few blocks of the restaurant. They all sounded like interesting people, but I was especially drawn to one particular house of vegetarians. I sent a message explaining my trip, and received a prompt warm welcome of a reply from the host, saying they would love to have me on that date! I had been a bit nervous to reach out to strangers on this new-to-me platform, so this was a wonderful reassurance that I was on the right track.
I needed to continue on to Seattle, and I looked at Google Maps bike directions to puzzle out my best route. During this time, I talked to my sister on the phone, and she checked with her partner, who had recently biked between Tacoma and Seattle. He strongly suggested going through Vashon Island, rather than paralleling I-5; the scenery would be dramatically better, if I could stomach a few more hills.
I have never been to Vashon Island, but this recommendation reminded me that I have another incredible friend who lives there. I had been out of touch with her for some time, but I reached out with an email to see if she might like to meet up for tea.
To my surprise and delight, she also replied almost immediately, and insisted that I stay with her and her husband for the night! I had been contemplating whether to try to find lodging on the island for the night, or to press on and try to make Seattle in one day. Her offer made my decision easy, and I think I will appreciate it, given all the hills between Tacoma and Seattle.
That friend—who has not owned a car since 2008, and who told me she has biked around Europe three times(!) picking up litter all along the way(!)—said she would meet me in town and give me a bike tour of the area, before we headed up to her house for the evening. I’m so excited!
The next day, I’ll take the ferry over to Seattle, and head the rest of the way to my destination with my sister and her partner. I’ll spend two nights and one full day with them, and then leave on the Amtrak Coast Starlight train back to Portland. The Coast Starlight—unlike the regional Cascades train I’ll take on the way up—is a long-distance, Superliner train. It is more luxurious, and I love taking it any chance I get. It runs daily between Seattle and Los Angeles.
Taking both types of trains will give me an opportunity to practice loading both the bike and the trailer into different types of luggage compartments. In fact, I plan to take a pre-practice trip just to the Amtrak station in Portland sometime soon, with my bike and trailer in tow, to talk to a baggage attendant in person and ask how best to prepare for this. (When time is of the essence on a trip, there is little margin for error or uncertainty. I don’t want to be stressing about missing a train or having any luggage snafus.)
The Corvallis trip is in June; Seattle is July. I also have a third “practice trip” planned for August, this time without any trains except perhaps our municipal light-rail MAX train: I will bicycle across the west hills of Portland and out to Stub Stewart State Park, along the Banks-Vernonia Trail, where I have rented a cabin to stay for the night and do some wandering in the woods.I
love how things are coming together to make this all wonderful: my vision, my friends and family, Amtrak, and the wonderful network of Warmshowers hosts.
I’ll write about the magic as it unfolds on each upcoming trip. Thanks for following along!
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