Vulnerability, Warts and Whiskers

Vulnerability isn’t a topic I thought I’d be exploring on this trip; though it’s an issue on every trip I’ve ever taken. Anytime we step out of our comfort zones we push against our personal boundaries; whether they be physical, intellectual, or emotional.

The physical vulnerability I anticipated. Living with epilepsy and brain injury I knew they would offer their unique challenges. Sharing the roads, often shoulder-less, with semis, logging trucks, people texting and driving, and holiday traffic, can be jarring and wear on your nerves. Most drivers give me space, every so often someone will crowd me to make a point. Tourist traffic on Vancouver Island and the Olympic Peninsula was so prolific that the sound of cars steadily passing became numbing and energy sapping. One of the perks of towing your canine companions in a trailer is it is much more visible than a bicycle, and you can decorate it with reflective decals, flags, and flashers. It’s also three times as wide as the bicycle and motorists will give me a wider birth, most of the time.

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Crossing the Astoria-Megler bridge connecting Washington and Oregon.

Intellectual vulnerability: challenging your preconceived conceptions, expectations, route planning, and the soundness of your intellect. I thought I planned well; this trip has been bouncing around in my head for years. Despite being familiar with the route, I couldn’t control the weather or prevent several heat waves from hitting B.C. and the Olympic Peninsula. I was happily anticipating the cool misty weather of the northwest. It laid waste my expectations on how many miles I could cover. The heat zapped me, and I ended up taking quite a few extra rest days and covering fewer miles. Then, there’s Houston, my effervescent and unpredictable brain. He’s most mischievous when I’m tired or in a stimulating environment, which includes: bright or fluorescent lights, noise, and people. When Houston is tired, he’s a trickster. More on Houston and his shenanigans later.

Emotional vulnerability has ended up being by far the most challenging and unsettling. I know I have health limitations, and I work hard at compensating and managing them, really hard. It often feels like a full-time job. Sharing or admitting I’m struggling isn’t easy for me, and I often wait until it’s too late, I’m drained, confused, completely inside my head, and shut down emotionally. I become a befuddled old grandpa, chasing kids off my lawn. Intellectually I understand it’s better to fess up before it goes too far, but, even if I’m willing to let my guard down I often don’t realize it even if I’m not consciously trying to push through something. I’m not a lot of fun do be around when I’m in my catatonic state. When I get like that while on the road, I pull over, break out napping paraphernalia, and the girls and I will take a siesta. When I arrive in camp: pitch the tent, walk the girls, feed the girls, feed me, walk the girls, and crawl into the tent. I’m in bed sometimes by 7:30 pm, up at 5:30 or 6:30 am.

When I’m not touring I usually plan carefully: monitoring and managing my energy levels before I’m out and about in public. I’ve lived alone most of my adult life; I’m used to just being me, warts and whiskers when I’m home. At the end of the day, I have enough energy to do the basics and crawl into the tent.

Receiving help and support isn’t something I’m comfortable with either. I receive it awkwardly. I take it as a sign of weakness; people might find me needy, annoying, and pitiful. I also didn’t want to be a burden. I’ve lost a lot to the brain injury; my fierce independence and shredded dignity are all I feel I have left.

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Cape Lookout State Park was magical. I stayed on for four days to recharge my mental and physical batteries.

This trip so far, 625 miles, has had so many layers to it. Intense joy, so overwhelming I feel like I’ll burst, to such intense emotional turmoil that it opens the floodgates. I’ve cried out of joy and sorrow more on this trip than I have in years. I’m not a crier, though I might have to reconsider that belief. I find cycling hypnotic and meditative, soothing and restorative emotionally and physically. I wonder if that’s what’s causing my hardened shell to crack?

Week II

Another heat wave came through during the second week. I struggle in heat over 85, and I don’t think the pups are thrilled with it either. Rather than sap my limited physical resources I took extra rest days when the temperatures peaked. I am still waiting and looking for the cooler misty weather that the Olympic Peninsula is famous. Several fires started in Olympic NP; by the end of the day, my face was smudgy from the smoke. Olympic is beautiful, even when it’s toasty warm.

Outside of the park was another story. I was blown away by how much of the surrounding land had been clear cut and was in the various stages of regrowth. Areas with regrowth didn’t have the diversity of plant life; there was an absence of undergrowth, mosses, and ferns. As I cycled through I could feel when I was in old growth versus clearcut and regrowth areas. The temperature would drop significantly in the old growth forests as if someone had opened the door to a walk-in freezer. Regrowth clear cuts, even if the trees had grown significantly, the temperatures would soar, as if someone opened up a giant industrial dryer door.

Day 8,  August 20:

Rest day, took a second rest day to wait out heat wave, forecasted to break tomorrow, dip into 60’s.

Weather:   High 90’s

Highlight:  Sol Duc Hot Springs in Olympic National Park, followed by swimming in a beautiful crystal clear glacier-fed stream.  Magical.

Campground: Klahowya USFS Campground.

Sol Duc River, Olympic National Park
Sol Duc River, further upstream

Day 9, August 21:

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Klahowya to Hoh Rainforest Campground, Olympic NP

Miles:  35.5   Elevation: 3,031′

Weather:  50’s-60’s with misting and light rain.

Highlight:  the cool weather and the Hall of Mosses walk at Hoh Rainforest in Olympic NP.

Campground:  The Taj Mahal of campgrounds.  Our site was beautiful with a little meadow, little drop down to the picnic table in mossy ferny woods, then another drop down to area to pitch the tent.  A trail lead to the river, a milky glacier fed stream, and continued on along the bank.  In the morning two does and a fawn walked by our site.  One doe jumped up onto a downed tree to get a better look at the dogs.

Hoh Rain Forest, Olympic National Park
Hall of Mosses trail, Olympic NP

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Hoh River with its milky glacier water.
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Walking the girls along the Hoh River.
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I’m taken by the lush, mossy, ferny-ness of Olympic NP.

Day 10, August 22:

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Hoh Rainforest to South Beach Campground, Olympic NP

Miles:  25

Elevation:  2,363′

Weather:  cool 60’s

Highlight:  moody weather and dinner on the deck at the Lodge overlooking the beach.  Half a mile north of the campground.

Campground:  open area, reminded me a little bit of the California beach campgrounds.  The Swiss couple Tess and Ben pitched their tent next to mine.  Huge trees washed up onto the beach, round pebble beach, rugged rough surf.  A treat for my canine companions.

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Swiss Ben and Tess, cycling from Anchorage to Ushuaia.
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South Beach campground, Olympic National Park. Here’s a close up of Tess and Ben’s setup.
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Bodhi tasting the weather, she opted to continue napping. My Georgia peach prefers warmer temps.
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South Beach, Olympic National Park.

 

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Dory enjoying a little off-leash time.
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Moody day on South Beach, Olympic National Park. View from the park concessioner’s lodge.

Day 11, August 23:

DAY 11 PCBR 23 August copy

South Beach to Willaby Creek USFS Campground,  Quinault Lake.

Miles:  30

Elevation:  2,846′

Weather:  50’s-60’s

Highlights:   Taking the dogs swimming in Quinault Lake, meeting Hellen & Norman from Montreal cycling to Ushuaia, Argentina, and waking up to Loon’s calling.

Campground:  Site 1 the first night.  Pretty little campground, but this site had the tent pad right next to the neighbor’s picnic table.  LOUD incessantly chatty types who didn’t go to bed until 1:30am.  Hellen and Norman from Montreal pitched their tent with us, the campground was full when they arrived at dusk.  Hellen introduced me to the idea of earplugs.

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Hellen and Norman from Montreal, they’re traveling from Calgary to Ushuaia. They shared the site with us last night.
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Impressive how compact all their gear ends up being once packed up. I’ll post a video clip later.

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Taking off!  You can follow Hellen and Norman’s tour to Ushuaia Argentina: Norman’s http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/rikimiki  and  Hellen’s http://www.tandemetcie.com
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Sisterly sunset affection.

Day 12, August 24:

Rest day

Highlight:  Swimming in Quinault, Loons calling, and breakfasting with Hellen & Norman.

Campground:  moved to site 12.  On the lake, great swimming, much quieter.

Smoke from the Olympic National Park fires make colorful sunsets.
The little beach off of our campsite.

Day 13, August 25:

DAY 13 PCBR 25 August copy

Lake Quinault to Hoquiam River RV Park.

Miles:  47  Elevation:  4,300  **Forgot to resume app and added miles and elevation missed via Google maps.

Weather:  high 90’s

Highlight:   Humptulip US F&W fish hatchery.

Campground:  A necessity, not a destination CG by any means.  Meh

Rainbow Trout at the fishery.
Rest stop. Bodhi showing why, even when her harness is hooked in to the trailer, we can’t ride with the door open. Madam likes to surf, balancing one leg on the trailer hitch.
One of the many, many, clearcuts I cycled past. It feels like you’re cycling through an oven where there aren’t any trees. You can feel the heat radiating from the exposed earth.
Siesta. Taking a break in a spot of shade. Bodhi showing off her napping super powers.
The cool breeze coming of the water was deliciously refreshing.

Day 14, August 26:

DAY 14 PCBR 26 AUGUST copy

Hoquiam to Kenanna RV Park

Miles:  33

Elevation:  1762’

Weather:  high 90’s

Highlight:  cool bridge, drawbridge, with wooden planks for cyclist/pedastrian walkway.

Campground:  Long but beautiful walk to the beach in tall grasses.  Waking to coyotes!

This girl can nap. She fell into a deep sleep within seconds of getting into the tent.

Cool old bridge with a wooden pedestrian/cyclist path. I don’t know what it is about bridges, but I love cycling over them.

Day 14, August  27:

Rest Day from heat.

Highlight:  wifi access,  House of Donuts in Westport.

Campground:  KenAnna RV Park no coyotes this morning 🙁

The walk to the beach was through tall grasses and wild flowers.
The walk to the beach was through tall grasses and wild flowers.

Sonora Desert National Monument & Maricopa, Arizona.

I am delaying my posts now due to an incident; a man I didn’t know used my blog to locate me. At the ripe age of 50 I didn’t think that this would be an issue, but oddly it is. For that reason, I’ve delayed my posts by a month for safety reasons. The encounter was benign but unsettling.

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With temperatures reaching low 100’s in October, when I took this photo, I needed to be creative.  In Calexico, I bought an umbrella and jerry-rigged it with some duct tape.  To protect the girls from the heat I started getting up at 4 a.m. to get to the day’s destination before the heat of the day reached its zenith.  The temperatures have been unseasonably high, by as much as 20 degrees.

 

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Janet and I met up and after I had crossed into Arizona, we dismantled the trailer and gear and piled it up into her snazzy RoadTrek to get to the hotel.  I also had several adjustments and repairs that needed to be done.  It took some driving around and visiting different bikes shops before I found the right parts and mechanic.  Janet is not only kind, but patient.

 

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I knew California was a big state but didn’t really get just HOW big until I cycled across it.  It felt like that Monty Python in Search of the Holy Grail scene when the knight is storming the castle but never gets any closer.  I was downright giddy when I crossed into Arizona.  My first 50-mile day.

 

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A regional delicacy?

 

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I passed a few canals along this section, I was surprised how just the sight of water elevated my spirit.

 

IMG_5693Cycling in the Sonoran Desert was magical.  The mountains on the horizon and the variety of cacti was a feast for the eyes.

 

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It was unbelievably hot cycling on I-10 through the sand dunes.  No shade to be found, I envied Bodhi and Dory’s umbrella.  Some of the sand dunes were tall enough that I could feel the heat waves radiating off of them.

 

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Bodhi loves exploring and nesting in little nooks and crannies.  She found herself a cozy nook in Janet’s RoadTrek.

 

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I pity the cow that has to graze in this country.  Slim pickings.

 

IMG_5620A surprisingly successful combination, there was a sign on the window saying they’d moved to a bigger location.

 

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A gas station had this facility for pets, it had cooling mist that I envied.  Great service to prevent pets dying in cars.

 

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My inner child was giddy with the motel’s space theme.

 

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Janet dropped me off at the motel, I was sad to part company but no doubt our gypsy paths will cross again.  Dory was crushed, she was quite smitten with Janet and her luxurious Mercedes RoadTrek.

 

IMG_5649My favorite campaign sign, a giant mustache!

 

More highlights pedaling through the Sonoran Desert:

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First sign of saguaro cactus.

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It’s hard to imagine it raining here.  If I hadn’t worked in the Painted Desert at Petrified Forest for a season I wouldn’t have believed it possible.

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Gloriously flat smooth paved roads.

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I refilled the water bottles at a remote school that seemed to appear out of nowhere.

 

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Felt absolutely decadent staying at a hotel casino.  Gambling baffles me so I stayed clear, but I did appreciate the beautiful room and pool for less than I’ve paid to stay in a Motel 6.

 

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This was a tough day.  Even though I got out early the heat was draining and there wasn’t a shoulder to ride on.  Met with the most aggressive and vocal drivers on the route to date.  Fortunately encountering hostile drivers has been rare, there were more today then the entire trip combined.

 

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A memorial for Sally, who made the olympic team, but didn’t have the opportunity to realize her dream.  While out training on her bicycle she was struck and killed by a motorist.  Poignant and sobering.

 

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Bodhi being creative in her quest for shade.  Lucky gal.

 

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Dory enjoying a solid nap.