Ready, Set, Go!

Friday was the last day in our apartment – everything out, nothing left with us except the little we will carry for the next 4+ months. A few things went into storage, but for the most part Lindsey and I cleaned house. The last 6 months living in that apartment were a pain in the ass anyway. First the bed bugs and the run-around from our landlord, then the roaches, all the construction noise, and we never did get that washer and drier we were promised…boy it felt good to leave!

Day 1: After staying with a friend in Seattle on Friday night, and barely squeezing in a last-minute trip to REI on Saturday morning, we met our friends at the ferry to Bremerton. Five people rode with us about 18 miles to Belfair State Park for a night of camping.  Another two friends and their dog met us there and we ate drank, toasted, and celebrated our friendships. The evening was all fun and it felt so great to get everyone together one last time.

 

Lunch stop at El Balcon, in Bremerton, WA – so good!

 

Day 2: This morning we woke and dilly-dallied while everyone slowly broke down camp and eventually said our final goodbyes. There were some tears and sad faces, but I don’t think it will really hit me for a few days. But I know it’s not goodbye – even though I don’t know where we will be going after our travels end I know we will be back to visit. These are some of my favorite people – I’m going to miss you!

 

Our friends came out for a night of camping to send us off!

After going our separate ways, Lindsey and I headed south towards Shelton, WA where we are staying with Donna, a Warm Showers host. Along the way we swam at Twanoh and ate a lunch of local produce and ice crea at Hunter Farms outside Union. The salad with smoked slamon was exactly what we needed after eating mostly junk and beer for the last 24 hours. Originally, we were going to spend the night with all our friends at Twanoh, which would have put us further from Seattle and about 45 miles to the next destination, Schafer State Park. But having stayed at Belfair (Twanoh was full) it would have been 60+ miles to Schafer. We reached out to Donna on Saturday and within just a few hours she confirmed we could spend Sunday night at her home.

Right now Lindsey and Donna are talking while I write this up. Donna made homemade bread and provided fresh greens, tomatoes, and peppers from her garden which Lindsey and I used to cook dinner. We swapped stories about travel, family, and all types of stuff – it is amazing how easy it is to find common ground and bond with complete strangers! I’m looking forward to meeting new folks and remind myself not just how beautiful this country is, but how great the people are and how lucky I am to live to have this opportunity!

Happy Riding!

 

 

What I Leave, What I Dream

On August 27th I leave for the next great bike adventure.

This time I will be traveling with my partner from Seattle, WA to Los Angeles, CA and then on to New Orleans, LA. We’re not in a rush. We don’t have an exact schedule. We’re not racing. We are out to see the country.

RouteMap

The approximate route, with alternate routes in purple. View on Google Maps.

The United States is huge. For the first 18 years of my life I barely traveled outside of my home state of Pennsylvania and the few surrounding states. Even then, I only saw a fragment of each new location – that is what you get when you drive everywhere. Inside your big protective hunk of metal you feel safe – but isolated. Cruising along the highway at 60mph you feel fast, but blurred. I have since learned to slow down. Now I travel on two wheels. Human-powered, at human speed. I bike.

In just a few days I will hit my three year mark in Seattle. I like the place – it reminds me a little bit of Copenhagen and it’s definitely more appealing than my hometown in PA. But there is backstory here:

I broke my travel-light streak when I went to Spain with my high school Spanish class. Two weeks in a foreign country was mind-boggling to someone who had probably never spent two weeks outside Pennsylvania.

From that point on I knew I wanted to travel. No, I needed to. I chose a college where study abroad was a core part of the curriculum and over half of students spent at least 1 semester away from campus. I went to the Dominican Republic a Service Learning trip during one spring break and to Maine with Habitat for Humanity for another. But the highlight was hands-down the semester I studied in Copenhagen, Denmark.

There is so much to say about my study abroad experience, but this is not the place. What is important is rather than satisfy my travel curiosity, traveling Europe put bellows to the flame. I committed to doing something big after graduation and spent the summer of 2013 raising over $9,000 for young adults with cancer while riding my bicycle for the Ulman Cancer Fund’s 4K for Cancer Program.

My team of 28 riders rode from Baltimore, MD to Seattle, WA in 70 days. Talk about getting to know people and our country! Before I even left I I knew that when I finished I couldn’t return home. It’s not where I belong, at least not now. So I set out to find a job, an apartment, and build a new life for myself 3,000 miles from home.

Seattle has treated me well. Very well, in fact. I went from no job, two friends, and invading someone else’s home to a cushy job, living with my partner, surrounded by our friends. Along the way I lived in six places, held seven jobs, and volunteered or engaged with dozens of organizations. I worked my way from the wrong job field to the right one through a series of odd part-time gigs and a lucky break that landed me on a major political campaign. And more than just my job and home changed – my lifestyle became healthier and more sustainable as I grew to value food, cooking, and human-powered transportation. I’ve learned to care less about stuff and value people and experience more. I’ve embraced a love of the outdoors like never before.

By many measures I have achieved exactly what I set out to do and I should be content to continue on my path towards higher education and a higher career. At this point many people envision saving money, buying a home, and settling down. A nice home, a nice car, a nice family, a steady, well-paying job. It’s the American Dream. But it’s not my dream. No, I dream of adventure. I dream of exploration. I dream on two wheels.

When I leave Seattle, I am not giving up a good job with good opportunities. When I leave Seattle, I am living my dream.