There were two main doubts I had coming into this trip – camping and cycling (basically the only two activities I’m engaging in for the coming months). I remember our family going camping at our property in Morgan occasionally, but I can’t really say that I’ve camped a lot in my life. Apart from Easter 2010 (and festivals which don’t really count), I can’t remember going camping since I was a teenager. It’s not really because I’ve actively avoided it, just that I’ve lived in large cities like London and New York for the last eight years and the opportunity doesn’t really come up that much unless you organise it yourself. So when I agreed to spend most of my life in a tent for an extended period, I had a few concerns to say the least. It hasn’t really been long enough to make a full judgment yet, but I think it’s going pretty well. The first time we did it was awesome, because everything was a novelty and I didn’t really care how long it took. I’ve had some frustrations in the time it takes to set up and pack up, but I’m streamlining the process and it’s becoming much easier. There have been some interesting moments, from seeing a raccoon trying to break into the tent to dancing around the fire with Andy but it’s all been pretty awesome so far. For some reason the food is tasting amazing when you cook it yourself on a miniature stove and eat it out from plastic bowls. I was incredibly unprepared, but through a process of reactive purchasing and copying Andy’s (cub) scout practices I’ve been able to work most of it out.
As two generally competitive people, we’ve been coming up with new challenges at each campsite to try out on each other. Generally these involve throwing, running, catching etc. – the most elaborate one last night was trying to throw three rocks into the air consecutively with the same arm and have them land simultaneously on the same spot in the water. These competitions have their limits though, and in general, the campsite (and the cycling) gives you plenty of time to read and to think – I already feel as though I’m becoming wiser. This may be partly due to the ability to stroke my newly grown beard. Maybe I’m just delusional from all the hot sun we’ve had over the last week. Actually, it’s probably just the beard.
When it comes to the cycling – I’m in a really good place. I used to ride a bmx bike around my local neighbourhood up until about the age of 14 (I looked pretty stylish in my bright yellow stackhat), but haven’t really ridden at all recently with the exception of the ten minute commute on a Barclays bike between work and home at my old job. There were several areas where I was anticipating some problems coming in but so far (touch wood!) they all seem to be getting stronger and less painful. I’m having a few issues with my neck towards the end of a long day but I think with a few adjustments in my riding position I can sort it out. The hills around Whistler on the first few days were absolutely brutal, but already I’m pretty confident I can get over just about anything without straining too much. After three long days coming into Seattle, my quads were particularly sore, so I think we may have to manage the workload a little bit but I’m pretty confident overall. Even though we’re carrying some pretty stupid luxury items, I think I could handle more weight if we needed to – I’m thinking the cycling can only get easier from here. My legs already feel much stronger than day 1.
As far as the country we’ve seen – it’s been absolutely amazing. I have to admit to having been a little naive about this area of the world – I had been to Seattle once for a Microsoft conference but I basically came straight into Redmond and saw nothing else. I may have been the only one in the dark, but I had no idea about the incredible scenery that British Columbia and Washington have to offer, particularly the mountains, islands, lakes and forests. We’ve become completely blasé about taking pictures of stunning views because we see them all day, every day. Vancouver and Seattle are both very cool cities that I could easily imagine myself living in – a good balance of nature, activity and fun with excellent access to more full on activities like skiing, water sports etc. It’s pretty cool seeing wildlife everywhere as well – we’ve seen deer run across the road in front of us and lots of other small critters I haven’t really recognised.
Some of the best parts of any holiday are always the unexpected, and ours has been no exception. Some notable mentions include riding through remote corn fields near Bellingham and coming across a cluster of four houses which all have fireworks/gun shops out the back – my favourite was Vinnie’s Boom City. It was as if each of the neighbours were trying to outdo each other. We’ve cycled past naval reservations with aircraft carriers and military aircraft flying practice runs overhead. There was even a massive iron pig in Shelton marked as the county assessor. We’ve seen hundreds of small things to make us smile – we’re thinking of getting a video camera like the GoPro to try and record all the little things and make a big video later. There are heaps of things that you only see for a second and don’t have time to take the camera out in order to capture. Today we got chased about a km down the road by two dogs – apparently the top speed of a miniature terrier is about 28 km/h. I’ve travelled long distance in the U.S. before in a car but when you stick to the interstate roads you miss so much of the local character that you are forced to absorb on the small roads on a bike.
In the lead up to our departure, I really enjoyed talking to people about the trip – most people found it pretty interesting and exciting. This has probably doubled since we’ve started the trip – almost everyone who sees the bikes and panniers wants to know where we’re going, why we’re doing it, how long it will take it etc. We’ve already met at least two people who have done the same trip on a bicycle before. Everywhere we go, whether it’s cycling past on the street, waiting for a ferry, buying drinks at a bar in the early hours of the morning or simply guarding the bikes outside a grocery store while the other grabs some food, there’s always someone keen to know what we’re up to. I have to admit that giving the same answers to the basic questions is getting a bit wearing (1. Where are you going? 2. Really? 3. How long will it take you? 4. Are you crazy?) – we were joking today about putting a FAQ on the back of the bike. But the interest is always genuine and I think it will be a long time before we truly get sick of talking about it.
Andy and I are still getting on pretty famously – I’m amazed that anyone can put up with me pretty much 24 hours a day. I think I’m pretty lucky to have such a great like-minded friend to go on such an adventure with.
We’re nearly at the point where we have mobile internet available to us and hopefully posts become a bit more frequent. I did manage to get a U.S. SIM card but then promptly drowned my phone, so I’m waiting for the unlock process to finish on Andy’s spare phone before I’m back online. If anyone needs to call us, email me or message me on facebook for the number – please just remember the time difference (GMT-8).
If you’re going to be anywhere near us please get in touch – a good friend and ex-colleague Martin realised we would be in Seattle together from following us on Twitter (for those of you who know who I mean – you can imagine how the day went). It’s fantastic being able to see people and catch up and hopefully a few of you can come out and join us for part of the trip.