Friday, September 29, 2006

Oregon Coast

We are at long last on our final stretch of the trip, one which we have been anxiously awaiting. Everyone we've talked to along the way, upon hearing we are planning to ride along the Oregon and California coast can't stop telling us how amazing it is, especially the Oregon coast. Click here to see a slideshow of our coastal images.

As you can see they aren't mistaken.

We debated over a route for a long time and finally it was decided we would ride down to Portland and then ride northwest up to Canon Beach so we wouldn't miss any of the coast. However, we were kidnapped by cousin's of Ira's and they forced us into staying at their house. They poured beer down our throats and force fed us food until we couldn't take it anymore, locked us in their dungeon where the only place to sleep was a king sized bed and the only place to clean up was a hot tub on the porch and our own private bath. They only released us the next day on the condition we take their car and tour up the northern coast to save us some time so they could keep us locked up a couple more days then originally planned. How have Ira and I dwelt with the deplorable conditions??? All I can say is, Ira and I both have a strong desire to survive no matter what.

Here are our pictures so far of our tour (in a car) of the coast from Licoln City North to Canon Beach. It was very foggy in the morning, but it cleared somewhat by the evening. Most of my pictures look slightly dull because of the layer of fog. We started at the beach at Cascade head where we were greeted by a typical ocean beach. 6 ft reeds blowing in the wind in rolling sand dunes and the wide open ocean.

Sitting here on the edge of this much open water, it is impossible to feel in awe of how small we are in comparison to the magnificence of nature.

Next we took a hike down the point at Cape Lookout which lead us 2 miles through a rainforest to amazing vistas of the ocean standing on the edge of 100 ft cliffs. However, it was very foggy so our view of the ocean was severely limited to what was basically the water at the base of the cliff.

From there we continued north to the lighthouse at Cape Meares, which is the shortest lighthouse in Oregon and the only one where you can climb right up next to the lens.

The cliffs along the coast also fill one with a sense of awe. The eternal violence with which the waves lash against the rocks, and the grace of the water as it eases itself back out to sea.

Once you get further north around Cannon Beach, you begin to see the famous sea haystacks, or large rock piles jutting out of the ocean.

I can hardly wait to see more.


Portland was a chance to see friends and soak up some culture.

I had a high-energy, armor piercing headache for the first day of our visit, but it went away in time to meet Nate for a pint at the Alberta Street Public House.

Favorite Portland things:

-Relaxing in Laurelhurst Park

-The skatepark, and locals ripping it up.

-Big lazy houses with huge trees hanging over the street

-Curteous drivers

-Visiting Lara

-Everyone rides a bike, not just the messengers, roadies, and geeked out commuters. There are totally normal looking people cruising everywhere.

-Powell's Used Bookstore was pretty nice too. I got a great travel writing book(soon I'll have no excuse for poor blogging).

-Mellisa and Jeff, our hosts in the city. High-quality folks!

The was yet another great city experience. We've met the coolest urban folks and the've been taking fantastic care of us.

Days of heat, nights of condensation.

We left Seattle well-rested and feeling better than ever. It was sunny, the Hood Canal was brilliant blue, and the dense forest around us was lush green, with little slivers of blue sky peeking through. Andrea and I weren't even fighting, something increasingly uncommon as the first six months of or trip winds to a close.

The roads we took from Seattle to Portland aren't even on some maps. They are rural, redneck, and residential. There are some pretty little cabins tucked away in the huge evergreens, and a lot of election signs that say (R) or (GOP) on them.

We stayed with a couple of awesome families.

The guy with the screw is Louis, likely the smartest, most precoucious six-year-old in Shelton, WA.

This was shaping up to be one of our worst campsites ever. Notice the large rocks- we are on a roadbed built in a massive swamp. I couldn't pound stakes into the ground, settling for piles of stone at the tent corners. The morning was alive and brilliant. There were so many insects, birds, and bird calls; the trees filled the air with pleasant herbal smells.

I'll remember Western Washington as a endless sequence of bridges.

A tressel outside of Olympia.

A veiw from the Lewis and Clark Bridge, crossing the Columbia River into Oregon.

Entering Portland on the Saint John Bridge.

How to post a comment WITHOUT registering with blogger

Just a quick note on the comments. I've heard people have been having trouble sending comments because they don't know how or they don't want to register their info on the blogger site.

you don't have to do this. If you would like to leave a comment and not sign on, all you have to do is click on the comments at a bottom of a post you would like to remark on. Then you write your comment in the box to your right and if you don't wish to sign in or sign up you select the button "anonymous" under "choose" and "identity". Then you press the "login and publish" button. Even though it says "login", if you chose "anonymous" you don't actually have to login. It will just send it through and we can then publish your comment on our site, no hassle, no questions asked. However if you click anonymous but still wish us to know who is sending the message, just include your name with your text. How easy is that?

thanks again to all who are diligently keeping up. It makes this whole thing worth doing.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Love on the Road

Right now, in an empty spare bedroom, Ira is laying in his sleeping gear on a hard wood floor of a North Portland rust colored bungalow reading the Deer Park by Norman Mailer. The bungalow is owned by a 30 something couple, whom we have only just met. Having moved to Portland a year before, they have purchased this house in this up and coming neighborhood where we have been told you would be quite easily shot at 10 years back.

I am in the basement of the North Portland rust colored bungalow on an old futon, also wrapped up in my sleeping gear contemplating the current state of affairs.

Our hosts rent out two downstairs bedrooms which are currently vacant. Ira lays in one. I, as I mentioned above, prefer the basement. As I lay in bed, I think about the fight Ira and I had earlier in the night. Really, it was about nothing and I can't even remember what sparked it. Whatever it was quickly degraded into pot shots about my lacking in "good girlfriend qualities" and his lacking of hair (Ira is going bald rather quickly these days).

I was very upset earlier, but now replaying it my mind, it doesn't conjure up the same heated emotions I felt then. In fact, my reactions earlier seem strange, unnecessarily exaggerated; out of line. As I lie in bed and think about Ira, I don't feel any animosity or lingering anger. In fact, the concept of him now makes me think of his gentle voice, his curious way of being incredibly goofy and sentimental at the same time, his dark deep set eyes, and I realize I should get out of my incredibly comfortable sleeping situation to go upstairs and tell him I love him. It takes a little bit of time to fully convince myself to abandon my warm little sleeping cocoon, but finally love wins the battle. I unzip my sleeping bag, slap my feet on the cold basement cement floor, and pad upstairs to his room to express my feelings.

I open the door and walk into the brightly lit room. Our bags have been casually flopped around the walls of the vacant room and our few belongings are overflowing out of the bags and all over the empty floor. Ira lies in a random position on the floor with a look of false concentration of reading the Deer Park by Norman Mailer clearly showing he is doing his best to ignore my presence even though my very presence is being exaggerated by the echoing of my every movement against the emptiness of the room.

He finally looks up and pierces me with an icy glance before returning once again to the Deer Park by Norman Mailor. "You don't look very happy to see me" I say, knowing immediately what the response will be..."I'm reading". Oh these two words really communicate sooo much more. Ira is constantly getting irritated with me for interrupting him while reading or writing. He has lectured me about it countless times and I for whatever reason, thoughtlessness, a need to be spontaneous or out of sheer pettiness am constantly interrupting him in such cases. I stand there for a while just sort of staring down at him. Obviously this terse reply has hurt my feelings, especially since I left the comfort of my downstairs situation to pad all the way up here to tell him I love him. I spend moments trying to decide whether I will be above pettiness and give him my message of love anyway, or if I will succumb to the pettiness and make a sarcastic remark before stomping out.

Sarcastic laugh. "Oh yeah, I forgot. We are at currently at odds."
I stomp out.

Being on a bicycle tour for 6 months with only your significant other as a companion definitely takes its tool on a relationship. We did surprisingly well for the first 4 months, but during this last one, Ira and I are having a lot of trouble engaging in a civil conversation about anything. Our friends are not surprised.

"Oh yeah, I had some friends who biked across the country together, but they didn't make it to end together. They broke up somewhere around Colorado."


"When I was about your age, my girlfriend at the time and I tried to bike from Vermont where her family lived, to Oregon, but I got so sick of her bitching I encouraged her to take a ride in South Dakota and I continued on by myself."


"My boyfriend at the time, the 'monster', and I biked down the Mississippi to New Orleans and then to California. I am glad I haven't seen him since."

Such were the stories we were inundated with before leaving for this trip. The thing is, Ira and I fight about everything in our regular life. For the past five years of our relationship, we have been consistently embarrassing to be around because of our public and private displays of stubborn spats. In fact our friends have dubbed us "Angria and Irate". So I assumed Ira and I were prepared.

We talked again and again about how important good communication was going to be for this trip. We really did get off to a good start. Sure we had some quality fights along the way, but for the most part we were enjoying our trip and enjoying each others company. For the first couple of months I would truthfully reassure people Ira and I were doing really well, working as a team, etc.

Recently however, Angria and Irate have returned.

I pad back downstairs to my not so warm cocoon. I crawl back inside my bag and zip up. What is going on with us?

Things started to get bad in Montana, but they got better again in Washington to Seattle. We left Seattle and as we headed south so did our relationship. Yesterday morning it all started with a tear in the cook set bag. Ira had put the cook set away the night before and was not too happy to be doing it. He jammed all the pots, spoons and spatula in the bag half hazardly. The next morning revealed the spoon had been jammed down in the bag in such a way as to force it through the mesh creating a rip. In the long run this of course is not a big deal at all. However that morning, it set me off. I lectured Ira about it, how he always half-asses any tasks he doesn't want to do. He in turned responded that although he was the one to put the cook set away last night the whole situation was really my fault because I am on the one who came up with the system of storing all the afore mentioned items in said bag. The system was obviously faulty , I came up with the system, I am to blame. I countered with the statement that if it was done correctly, with care, everything would fit in the bag just fine, but when you just throw stuff around, it’s bound to break. Blah blah blah.

He wouldn't apologize and I wouldn't let it go until he apologized. He wouldn't apologize because he thought I was being totally out of line. I was proceeded to get further and further out of line because he wasn't apologizing.

Finally I got out a piece of paper, wrote out the directions for the days ride, threw it over to him and said "fine, just meet me in Longview". The directions fell on the ground. He turned in disgust and said, I don't need your directions and stomped off with his 100 lb bike in tow.

Good, I thought, finally I'll have some peace. During the 30 mile ride to Longview, Wa, I found myself ceasing to be angry with Ira and once again, begin to focus on his gentle voice, his sweet mannerisms ... When we finally meet up in Longview I apologize for being so crazy earlier that morning and he apologizes for not apologizing earlier. Things are good again until 15 minutes later, we start discussing where we are planning to stay in Portland the next night, something he said he was taking care of, and he tells me he has made no plans. AHHHHH. Fight Fight Fight.

This is a constant recurring theme with us. Fight fight fight, brief make up and then minutes later fight, fight, fight. I've gotten to the point where it seems the best situation is to just not talk at all. This tactic works pretty well.

My sleeping bag is heating up again now from my body heat and I wiggle my toes around in my socks enjoying the warmth. I also am enjoying my solitude. Being away from Ira at night is such a luxury. Normally we are only sleeping inches apart in a tent so small we are constantly bumping elbows, kicking each other and can barely sit up to read a book or for me to fix my hair. Beside the tight quarters, Ira snores. I bought ear plugs but I can still hear his slurpy sloshy snoring through them. The silence of the basement gives me true comfort.

I keep wondering if our relationship is on the outs or not. I wonder if we really don't work together well as a team or if a situation like this would break the bonds of any relationship. I just don't know. What I do know is Ira and I have spent every day for the last 136 days together. We have little social contact with others for days on end. We get up around 7 in the morning, are on our bikes around 8:30 and ride till around 6 or 7 when we are so tired we can't think straight. We have to find a place set up our tent in some out of the way place where we won't be caught and made to pay camping fees. We may not have the everyday work-a-day stress to worry about but never knowing where you are going to sleep at the end of the day can wear on you.

Ira says my fuse is getting so short it is nonexistent. This is probably true. Little things he does are really starting to wear on me. Like this book he is reading right now. It seems he goes out of his way to tell everyone he is reading "The Deer Park, by Norman Mailor". He talks about the book all the time. When he is done reading it, he will ask me if I would like to read it, and I will respond I have no need to because although I may not know the book in a linear fashion, I am pretty familiar with the general story since he has given multiple different people the synopsis, over and over.

Everyone has their "stories". Annecdotes which are funny and cute or ideas which we obsess about. However when you are with the same person all the time, you start really getting annoyed at hearing the same stories over and over again. I don't mean to particularly single Ira out on this. I know I do the same thing. I am conscious of the stories I tell over and over, so I before I begin one of them, I usually preface it with, "Ira, I am sure is getting sick of this story..." As if somehow this sentence will make it less annoying for him. Probably not.

What it all comes down to is, I am getting irritated with Ira over the little things more then anything. I catch myself complaining about something or criticizing him and I realize how petty I am being. I hate this pettiness in myself and it makes me more annoyed and more crabby. It is a never ending cycle.

How can we solve this problem? I have no idea. Sure I can say I need to practice more patience, but how easy is it to be patient when it is almost dark, we have no place to camp, it has started raining and Ira keeps vetoing every camping option? How patient can Ira be of my incessant need to complain about everything and anything that goes wrong? Or my inability to make decisions, depending on him to make a choice, so I can later blame him if something goes wrong. Our fighting all the time isn't anyone's fault. It is a mixture of physical and emotional fatigue, lack of social stimulus and lack of patience.

In three weeks we will be in San Francisco and our passage over the Golden Gate will mark the completion of this half of the trip. Before we start the second half of our planned ride from Austin, Texas to Halifax, Nova Scotia we will have a three month break. We fly back to the Midwest. Ira will stay in Chicago, and I will be going back to Michigan to be with my family. Three months apart. I can't wait. How we will deal with the second half of our trip is like anything else in the future, unknown. However, I am hoping our distance from each over the break will have its needed affect. I will probably start thinking about his gentle voice and his deep-set eyes.

I don't have the energy to dwell on it anymore tonight. I, unconsciously, roll over on my stomach and start drooling on my warm pillow.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Where did the sun go?

We're back in the States now after Vancouver and a ferry ride to Victoria.

The ferry to Vancouver Island held three hundred cars and the population of a small town. It was a sunny day and we had fun sitting on the deck reading.

We spent two days in Victoria, which has the narrow streets, alleyways, and old buildings of a European city. I should really say more because it was a nice place, but we were feeling scattered for various reasons and didn't get to do much besides sit on the waterfront and eat fried fish.

We've been under a shroud of gray for the last few days and it's weighing on us. The clouds are around all day, with rain shifting between ambient moisture and pissy drizzle. Yuck. People warned us about the rainy season but we were hoping to have a little more time before it set in.

Bob and Cindy have been treating us like royalty during our stay in Poulsbo, WA. They have an awesome dog named Dexter that loves frisbees.

We took the ferry into Seattle to spend the night with some ex-Chicagoans. We had the day to ourselves and met them after work.

Seattle is pretty nice, despite the rain. We spent hours at the aquarium.

It's creepy how much these guys look like the Cthulu.

Allan and Jenny (forementioned Chicago emigrants) showed us around Capitol Hill, the domain of Seattle hipsters. It was really fun and we had some good beers at the Six Arms Brewery.

There's a lot of in-between things I'm leaving out, much of which is notable. I'm hoping we have time to touch on more things in detail. Andrea will probably do a good job of this in the next few days.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Our neighbors to the North.

We love Vancouver. The key to a good city visit is having friends to show you around. Amber, Carl, and Co. enthusiasticly offered up all the fun we desired.

Andrea and I spent our afternoons roaming around the city.

Like our native Chicago, Vancouver has a public waterfront. Going for a walk on the seawall was a great way to spend the afternoon and see people. There are stylishly dressed Asians everywhere. The rest of the population(and most of the poor people) are White, Native, or Arabic, almost no one is Black or Latin.

The ethnic markets looked great but we had no time to shop.

After work we met up with our friends and went out for food and drinks.
While we were eating, the sky exploded with rain.

Luckily we were in a car! Everyone told us that the rain offically marked the end of summer.

Sushi is the pizza of Vancouver, by which I mean it is cheap and on every street corner.

We went to a place where it was served deep-fried, in mass quantities, a phenomonon credited to the near-legality of weed in the city.

We spent hours at the Vancouver Art Gallery, veiwing the exhibition of Haida(Pacific native) painting and carving. They are amazing craftsmen and their culture was totally screwed by European invaders.

We have been away from cities and our peer group for so long that we are out of practice! It took us a few days to recover from the partying.

Thanks Amber, Carl, Rich, Steve, Andrea, Jeff, Pete, Joel, and of course Pat! You guys are welcome in Chicago any time (with the notable exception of Pat who is already there)!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Out of the Country

Our trip is now an international trip. Here is Ira crossing into British Columbia.

We were all concerned about crossing the border. We made sure to both use the restroom before trying to cross incase we got detained again like last time. We were detained an hour coming back from Winnipeg four years ago and they wouldn't let us use the potty so we couldn't flush the drugs. Anywho. We were waiting in line and a woman in a uniform came up to us and started asking questions about our trip. I just assumed she was on break chatting with us. After three questions, where are you from, going, how long etc. She waved us through and said have fun. No IDs or anything. Oh you Canadians.

We're in Vancouver right now having an awesome time. More pics to follow.

3 Trillion Gallons of Excitement

We were riding through Washington and seeing a lot of farmland.

When all of a sudden, we came around a corner and there it was....

The Pacific Ocean. Our first view. Neither Ira or I have either been to the west coast, and we were both really excited to see it. We rode along Chuckanut road (Highway 11) which curved and rambles up and down hills along the coast, winding through some very rainforest like surroundings. Ferns and mosses drip over the road with giant cedars towering overhead. If this is what the coast looks like, I am PUMPED about riding down to San Fansisco.

This is maybe the most scenic way to ship freight. So keep that in mind the next time you need to send a package.


We're finally done with moutain passes. Rainy pass was our last of 12.

Riding the Cascade Highway was another beautiful scenic route. I am sure after my last mountain pass post, none of you want to read anything more I have to say so here are some pics. The pictures are a little hazy because of the forest fires going on in the area.

We thought Washington was going to be more populated...

Monday, September 11, 2006

Getting fat like bears.

We've passed through a lot of alpine wilderness since the last post. The climate on this side of the mountains is lush, wet, and far tamer than the craggy mountains and glacial valleys of the past few days. Everything is green, alive, and nurturing.

We camped by the Skagit(rhymes with gadget) River last night, where blackberries bushes hung low under the weight of their fruit.

Blackberries in the morning oatmeal taste like berry cobbler. What a treat!

The Skagit River has so many salmon jumping around in it that it sounds like someone is throwing bricks into the water every couple of minutes.

We'll post a lot more about the mountains, there were some pretty cool things that happened in the past few days. Only a half-hour at the library for now though.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Psychology of Climbing a Mountain Pass

We've been climbing a mountain pass each morning for the past two days and have two more planned for the following two. At the beginning of each pass climb, I always make the silent vow that I will complete the climb, and I will attempt to complete it with dignity. So far, I have always accomplished the first goal. Not quite on the second.

When Ira and I left on our trip, the idea of quitting our jobs and riding our bikes around the US, seemed like the equivalent of winning the lottery The desire to leave all trappings of society behind, hit the road and go on an adventure of discovery is so much a part of the American dream, its almost on par with hitting the mega millions jackpot in a lot of minds. With everyone telling us this was a chance of a lifetime (with the except of much parental concern), we allowed the romanticism of the fabled American west to act as a magnet pulling us out our front door and across the plains. The idea of heading across the frontier thrilled my imagination. Except for one tiny detail. The ROCKY MOUNTAINS! My Midwestern born and bread legs soon began fearing for the future. The mountains loomed as a dark ominous threat I knew I had to deal with sooner or late, but was always hoping for later. They were easy to put out of my mind in Minnesota, and even for most of South Dakota, but as we got into Wyoming, and as the foothills began growing in view across the horizon, I started wishing them further and further away. When we got to Buffalo, WY and our first pass was directly before us, I actually resorted to having a little hissy fit in a supermarket parking lot when I could not talk Ira into getting a campsite in town to wait an extra day before starting the climb. He was resolute (he is used to dealing with my high-strung antics) and we pursued the climb that day.

I always thought going through the mountains would be one long climb. I guess when I mean long, I mean hundreds of miles long. I had this view that once we started ascending into the Rockies, we could keep climbing for days and days and days. When we finally reached the top, we would have a very, very long descent and, bam, we would be out the mountains, forever.

The reality of climbing through the mountains is very different, as anyone who has ever been through them knows. Modern roads are graded to give the most gradual ascent possible. They are generally designed to follow a valley for as long as possible, usually along a river, and when this is no longer possible, the road will cut to switch backs, lacing up the mountain, to the pass. Usually, when you approach a pass, you have a period of say 10 miles with a very gradual uphill grade interspersed with a few short steep sections through the valley. Once you get within 5-10 miles of the pass, the road will start the switch back section. This section of road is generally steep to very steep all the way through. So actually, although you may have to climb anywhere between 15-25 miles, usually only the last section is the worst. Of course, this is all very general. All passes are different. Our longest climb was the Powder River Pass in the Big Horn Mountains, which was 25 miles long, and steep for almost the whole stretch. The pass we climbed this morning, Waucunda pass, was only about 10 or 11 miles, most of which was a very casual assent with a steep section only along the last 3 miles.

Whatever the condition of the pass is, we've never been faced with hundreds of miles of uphill at once. Instead, we've seen a few passes scattered through miles and miles of valleys. By now, we have ridden about 1000 miles of mountainous territory through Wyomming, Montana, Idaho and Washington. Through this, we have done 9 passes to date with three more before we cross the pacific divide and hit the ocean just north of Seattle. If we can guesstimate each pass is approx. 20 miles, in the last 1000 miles we have (very) roughly ridden only 180 miles of steep grade which is only 18% of our riding time. The vast majority of the time, we've been on mostly level ground. We have ups and downs, sure, but, for the most part straight shooting.

By breaking it down to 18%, I don't mean to infer riding a pass no big deal. For me, riding a pass is always a big fat fu**ing deal! As I said, at the beginning of each pass climb, I always make the silent vow that I will complete the climb with my dignity in tact. So far, the dignity part has been illusive. What can I say, I'm sort of a shit. Poor Ira.

We know its going to be hard, so we've come up with a battle plan to attack each pass to ensure success. To split the climb in half is usually the best way. We'll camp somewhere halfway up the mountain, so we can hit the final hard stretch early in the morning, well rested and ready to go.

I like riding in the mornings. The light quality is so clear and pure, especially in the mountains. The sunlight filters through the trees at an extreme angle, just above the horrizon, hightlighting and glistening on all the drops of dew. Everything feels crisp and clean. Birds sing. I feel like a good person and the world seems benevolent, just waiting to give me all that I ever wanted. I generally start out strong, positive, well rested. I try to focus on spinning the pedals in a light gear to not wear out my knees. Ira and I will chat and joke back and forth for a little while, enjoying the ride. Not for too long though. Soon the going gets tough, and we get quiet. I'm starting to not care about the birds. AT ALL. I will turn on my ipod and try to listen to some music which will help me set a pace and take my mind of my legs which are beginning to burn. So far I've been listening to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot by Wilco. I listened to it on the first climb, and now its become a must have, like the lucky pair of underwear which help win the game. I just listen to it over and over again until I get to the top. I choose this album because the beat is slower, so it doesn't make me feel like I need to pedal faster. The lyrics are poetic enough to be enjoyed yet pretentious enough to give me something to criticize and complain about beside my legs. The music is soothing and it helps me relax. Relaxation is the key when climbing a mountain, although for me, next to impossible.

At first I would want to stop all the time to rest, but I have since realized this is a very bad idea. When you stop peddling in the steep areas, it is almost impossible to get your legs going again. You have to keep experiencing the "muscle burn" each time you start up. If you just keep going and pedal through the burn, you get to a place where you're not burning red hot, but just a steady low heat which is tolerable.

At this point, I spend way too much time focusing on the small green markers along the roadside which slowly tick off each mile passed. We generally ride about 5 miles an hour up these steep grades so we pass a mile marker every 12-15 minutes. Time goes slow when riding uphill, so 12-15 minutes will start to feel more like a half an hour. I keep a keen eye on the horizon for them, sometimes imagining that perhaps because I was so focused on the ride I might have missed one, or possibly the marker was hit by a car and destroyed. So if I just passed mile marker 302 I will fantasize the next one will read 304, however it always, always says 303.

So, I ride along, trying to relax, all the while being totally compulsive about watching the road and keeping track of mileage. I plan rest stops, in 5 more miles I can stop for 45 seconds. Sometimes I make it, mostly I stop at the 3 mile mark and then again at the planned 5 mile stop.

I watch the road as I am coming up a hill. If it dips out of view and I can't see what direction the road takes, what I can see is a huge mountain looming over the horizon directly in front of me. At this point I start praying aloud for the road to please, please curve so I don't have to ride all the way up. It always does. When the road starts getting more curvy, I know were getting closer, which is a relief, but I also know the road is going to get steeper, which is not.

I like to ride in front because then I can set the pace. Ira jokingly calls me "dinky pace" because I am very slow at climbing. I refer to Ira as "Earl of Stinkpot" because I am jealous he can climb so much better then I. His effortless pedalling pisses me off. If he rides in front of me, he will get very far in front of me, which makes me feel insecure and I usually slow down even slower and have a tendency of resting more. If I am in front, I will try and ride as long as I possibly can without a break.

So here, we must applaud Ira's patience at always humoring me at riding in the back, to keep up my morale. However, he sometimes shows his impatience at going so slow when he starts inching up behind me and is suddenly riding next to me, like he wants to pass. I turn around and ask very aggresivly if he wants to pass, letting him know by my tone, I definitely don't want him to. He will usually fall back. I would like all you readers to understand the state of my mind here. I am usually at the point of full physical exertion and full mental instability. I try to keep my cool, but this is where it all goes to plop. I am not riding a straight line, and sometimes I veer off the shoulder. As I start to snake over, I see Ira has moved up again and his front wheel and my rear wheel are parallel. I turn around and again, ask if he wants to pass. He says no. A few minutes later, the same thing happens. I abruptly stop and Ira almost crashes into me. I turn around and yell something about how much i hate him ridding up my ass. Although his riding may look effortless, he is also very tired and physically stressed. He can't take it anymore. He yells back for me to stop yelling at him. At this point, I may start gesturing wildly, telling him to "just go. Just go ahead. I'll meet you at the top. I don't even want to be around you."

Really, I just don't want to be around myself because that means I will have to deal with riding the hill. However, the reality never changes and I still have to get to the top. Ira may humor me and apologize, or he may just take my advice and ride ahead. Either way, I have allowed my stress to get the better of me. I am not relaxed, I'm festering with the physical insecurity of whether I can do this or not. I "know" I can do it, but my legs don't and right now, their insticts are stronger then my brains. Mind over matter. Whatever! Somewhere deep inside, I feel really bad for getting so worked up, but that part of me is not in control. I am a raging terd. I am the Earl of Stinkpot and I am affecting everyone with my noxious odor.

My mind is stressed, my body is stressed and I am cannot relax. The least little thing will irritate me. Because of this, everything has to be in it's place. My pants have to be rolled up just so, the clasp on my necklace has to be in the back, I have to have Burt's Bees applied to my lips to keep them moist. Anything off will just drive me crazy. I'll pedal on obsessing about the random thing out of place until I can't take it anymore! I'll have to stop pedaling to fix it. But I wasn't at my planned break spot yet. DAMN IT. I have NO SELF CONTROL!

The closer I get to the top, the steeper it gets. I know I'm getting close when the road really starts curving all over the place. I start praying around each corner I'll will see the pass sign. I have to stop about each mile. I'm about to quit (although where would I go?). I don't think its humanly possible to make it any further when finally, FINALLY, I get to the pass!

When I reach the sign, any irritation I may have had is immediately gone. Poof! I love life, I love Ira, I love the sign. I must kiss it. I always feel an intense sense of satisfaction and pride. I am capable of climbing a mountain. My bicycle weighs 240 lbs, with me on it. I am capable of hauling that amount of weight, up 4000 ft, along beautiful twisty roads. I can hear the birds singing and I enjoy the crisp morning air. I feel good. Time for a snack!

All the hard work is forgotten until next time. All I can think about now is the 15 mile ride downhill at 45 mph without having to pedal once. HA! See you at the bottom!

Getting closer to civilization.

This was our second pass in two days. Peice of cake.

I never realized how rural Washington was until this past week. Seattle and the coast are all I ever hear about, but our ride down Highway 20 has showed a wilder side.

"This business supported by timber dollars" is a popular sign in genral stores and gas stations that sit along train tracks in small towns all over Northeast Washington. Mills and logging employ most of these towns and the surrounding mountains show it. Some areas are scarred by near-clearcutting and others look well managed, but evidence of the timber industry is everywhere.

Towns are closer together than they were in Montana and the larger ones all have natural foods stores and arts centers alongside the western clothing outfitters and welding shops. They are vibrant rural communities with a suprisingly diverse population.

In a day's riding we've gone from sub-alpine forest to scrubby desert.

It's hard to believe that in a couple days we'll be in a rainforest.