At precisely 3:30PM Charlie and I headed out yet again on another road trip. This time we decided to head West to Seattle WA. My brother and his family live in a little mountain town East of Seattle and we could not wait to spend a week there. The timing was just right, my nephew’s birthday was the 5th and we would be there to celebrate with him. His name is Aiden and he is turning five. We decided to push the entire way to Washington in two days; this was a total of 21 hours of driving. Initially we thought it would be best to stop in Oregon and venture on to Crater Lake National Park before we went to Washington, but changed our minds last minute. We had the truck loaded down with all of our bikes, food, and riding gear. This was going to be an amazing trip consisting of riding all of the trails and all of the roads. Landon, my brother, had a route planned for us to ride, which consisted of 75 miles and 5,000 feet of elevation gain. This was going to be his birthday ride since he will be turning 39 on the 6th. We could not wait.
We drove on I-70 for what seemed like forever. The sun slowly drifted behind the mountains casting a biblical sunset for our viewing. We decided to stop outside of Moab and camp for the night. We found a quite dirt road in the desert and started setting up camp. It was roughly 9:00pm when we got the tent pitched and sleeping bags inside and when we looked up we saw the Milky Way. It was this vivid cluster of stars spanning across our sky that made us stop for a minute and appreciate what our eyes were absorbing. The desert is a special place for me. I am fascinated with the terrain and the wildlife that call it their home. There is something so remote and exotic that when my toes touch the rough, cracked ground it sends a shock of happiness through my body. Charlie set up his tripod in hopes of capturing the majestic ban of stars and continued to take pictures for nearly an hour before coming to bed. The air was warm and the sky was barren, so we decided to leave the rain fly off the tent. Lying on the desert floor looking up in to the vast sky was magical. My mind slowly started to unwind and my thoughts and worries simply vanished. Next thing I know I was waking up to that same, stunning sky, yet it was cast with vibrant pinks and oranges. As the Earth tilted, the sun laid a blanket of warmth on my skin. I woke up with a smile on my face.
Charlie and I assumed our roles. I began boiling water, this time in a real pot, and made us coffee. He took our tent down and began capturing the sunrise with his camera. We packed everything up and headed west to Seattle. We weren’t sure if we would make it to my brother’s house that day so we decided that we would get out and spin our legs with a quick ride. Our path would lead us to Salt Lake City, UT, which is notorious for mountain biking. After an hour of contemplation, we decided to ride in Draper, UT. One of the mountain biking gurus on YouTube does bike reviews in this area and is consistently riding a trail called Jacob’s ladder. His videos make the trail look fast, flowy, and mildly technical so we thought we would give it a try. Charlie mapped out the loop for us that consisted of eight miles and 2,000 feet of elevation gain. We parked the truck, put on our riding clothes and headed up the trail. If you are in the Draper area and decide to ride, be cautious. One of the locals warned us that if we didn’t lock up our gravel bikes they would be stolen. This seamed odd to us because the neighborhood is extremely inviting. I honestly would have trusted the bikes to be left alone, but it’s a good thing he warned us. We climbed and climbed and climbed, and finally reached the top. The climbing was not terrible except for the 95-degree temperatures that left me panting like a dog. We descended down Jacob’s ladder to Ghost Falls and lastly, rush. This trail system is out of this world. The trails are well built, fast, steep, and loads of fun. We had our little fun but it was time to get back on the road. We pushed on, amped up on a mountain biking high, and found ourselves in a secluded part of Eastern Oregon. We set up camp, cooked some food, and crashed for the evening. We were only four hours away from Landon’s house so we got up early and headed towards Snoqualmie. But before we made our way into Washington we had to stop at one of our favorite diners in Pendleton, OR. This little place is called Roosters and their food is phenomenal, especially their homemade desserts. After devouring our egg benedicts, chocolate torte, and berry crisp we drove the final stretch to WA.
Holy crap, my nephews were so excited to see us. We knocked on the door and Nathan, the youngest, opened it and immediately smiled and said, “Uncle Charles.” My nephews, Aiden and Nathan, were bouncing off the wall in excitement and could not wait to show us all of their new toys and have us play with them. We sat down and relaxed for a minute and chatted with Landon and Mei. Landon informed us that he already had a route planned for us the following day that was only 50 miles. What? Fifty miles? Seriously? Landon is a savage and can ride for days. Not wanting to look like whimps we agreed. We decided to get up at 4:30 in the morning, ride, and be back home by the time the boys got up. We said our good nights, which if you have two nephews you know it is not just one good night. The boys love to come in our room and kiss us good night, turn off the lights for us, and close the door. It doesn’t get much sweeter than that. I set my alarm for 4:15 and before we knew it, it was time to get our asses up. After getting dressed we went down stairs and had coffee with Landon. After trying to brew a poop for thirty minutes everyone went to potty (TMI, I know) and set out. The temperature was a little chilly at first, but after peddling for a half hour, we quickly warmed up. The fog decided to hang low for the majority of the ride, which kept us nice and cool. Landon taught Charlie and I how to ride in a pace line and how to draft. Since we have no friends we only ride with each other and the majority of our rides consist of Charlie waiting on me. Drafting is a whole other ball game when it comes to riding. I was able to maintain a 20 mph speed without working hard at all. This will come in handy when Charlie and I race our first gravel race at the end of this month. We wound up doing a 60 mile ride that morning and made it home just in time to play with the boys. We relaxed the rest of the day, enjoyed burgers and tater tots for dinner and went to bed. Charlie and I had big plans for the next day; we wanted to ride our mountain bikes and explore Bellingham. Bellingham has been on our radar for a while now and Charlie and I wanted to explore in order to determine if this could be our forever home. We got up early and headed north. We arrived at Galbraith Mountain and hopped on the mountain bikes. The Pacific North West is gorgeous and the riding is out of this world. We climbed up a fire road and descended evolution, unemployment line, and atomic dog. Thanks to Jeff Kendall-Weed, we were able to see some of the better trails Bellingham has to offer. We were only able to spend a little time riding because we wanted to explore what the town had to offer. We stopped at The Mount Bakery, which is a small cafe close to downtown that offers homemade baked goods and excellent benedicts. We walked the town and confirmed with each other that we were ready to move.
That night we had plans to go to my sister-in-laws’ parent’s house and enjoy homemade Chinese dumplings. Mei’s parents make the best food that has ever touched my mouth. I warned Charlie that they were food pushers and if he ate all of it, he would be their favorite. Let’s just say that they loved Charlie. They brought us out the first plate of dumplings and Charlie said, “Oh this will be no problem.” Little did he know they would prove him to be weak. Nearly five plates later, Charlie was dumpling drunk. Not only did we have a million dumplings, we also had ice cream cake for Aiden’s birthday. Charlie and Landon ate half of the cake and I slowly shoveled a sliver into my mouth. We waddled our way back to Landon’s house and passed out. Landon had planned a 75-mile ride for the next day to celebrate his birthday, so we needed as much sleep as possible. We got up at 5:00 the next morning and headed to Whidbey Island. We had to take a ferry to the island and started the ride around 8:30. Landon’s friend, Dejon, was able to join us and he showed us the best coffee spots and lunch eateries. The route that was mapped out was stunning. We coasted along the ocean and decended into picturesque island towns. We stopped for lunch, ate, and pushed on. We got to a part of the island that was notorious for Bald Eagles. I was riding along and looked up and saw an Eagle soaring above me. I was in awe. He was tremendous. I tried to get Landon and Charlie’s attention but they were focused on riding. We made our way to the cliff that the Bald Eagles call home, and witnessed a juvenile eagle. Charlie was pointing it out to me when all of a sudden I got attacked by a wasp. The damn wasp flew into my mouth and stung me on my upper lip. It was instantaneous panic and I began screaming. Landon thought the eagle attacked me, but when we stopped I told them I had been stung. I am allergic to bees so I wanted to make sure that it was indeed a wasp. Everything seemed to be fine, except the swelling, so we continued with our ride. Landon looked back at me after ten miles and began cracking up. My lip was so swollen I couldn’t close my mouth. Landon and Charlie checked on me to make sure I was still doing okay. I was, but was ready to get done. Not only was my lip swollen, but I was also I getting a cold. Nathan was extremely ill while we were there and of course I got it. We finally made it back to the ferry just in time to pick Nathan up from school.
Charlie and I had plans that night to have dinner with a surgeon and her husband that I used work with in California. They had relocated to the Seattle area right before I moved back to Colorado and I was looking forward to seeing familiar faces. I informed Charlie that Abbey was not like a typical surgeon. She did not walk around with her nose up in the air and didn’t act like her shit didn’t stink. She was a good person both in and out of the operating room. Unfortunately, I did not get the chance to work with her as much as I would have liked, because I primarily scrubbed spine and vascular. Her husband, Ben, and I worked closely together because he was a spine rep for one of my surgeons. Ben and I got along perfectly with one another. He is exceedingly sarcastic and does not take shit seriously. I appreciate this because I can be relentless in the operating room. I never gave that poor man a break. But, with that being said, I always had his back and he had mine. Ben made us enchiladas and persisted to tell us that he made cheese enchiladas and chicken. I picked the cheese ones because I predominantly eat a vegan diet. After a bite or two I looked at Ben and asked him which ones were the cheese? He grinned and revealed he forgot the cheese ones were actually kid’s chicken and the others were the adult chicken. Despite Ben’s mental capacity to distinguish chicken from chicken, we dove in and ate nearly all of the enchiladas. It warmed my heart to sit down with Abbey and Ben and talk about the old times and the future. They are moving to Montana and gave Charlie and I an open invitation to stay with them anytime we found ourselves up there. We hope to see them next year when we travel to Glacier National Park. After saying our goodbye’s we made our way back to Landon’s house just in time for Aiden to make Uncle Charles and Auntie Mal smores. The next morning we got up early, packed up the truck, and said goodbye to the boys. We were headed Westbound to Olympic National Park. Olympic is a vast park that spans across the North West corner in Washington. There are few roads leading into the park making it secluded for backpackers. We drove Hurricane Ridge and reached the summit to witness the range of mountains Olympic contains. We decided to check out Sol Duc Falls on our way out and hiked the three-mile trail. The falls were smaller than I had expected, but cascaded down into a small pool that was a glimmering emerald color. We absorbed all of its’ beauty and made our way back to the truck.
By this point I was extremely sick. I couldn’t keep my eyes open and my head was so congested I couldn’t think. I told Charlie we needed to get a hotel for the night so I could try and sleep it off. We stopped in a small town called Aberdeen and posted up for the night. We learned that Kurt Cobain was born and raised in Aberdeen. Fun fact aside, we pushed on to Crater Lake National Park. Charlie and I had planned to ride the rim around the lake on our bikes. The route consists of 30 miles and 3,500 feet of climbing. I was still sick and we were unable to do this, but we got out and walked around mesmerized by the aqua blue lake. Pictures do not do Crater Lake justice. The iridescent blue will sweep you off your feet, leaving you in awe. We got our passports stamped, purchased a few stickers, and headed out. We were now on a mission to get home. I felt so crappy that all I wanted to do was get in our bed and sleep for days. We had to stop one last time in Elko, NV. We got a few hours of shuteye, then had our sights set for home. We arrived at our little cabin around 10:30 pm and passed out. I wish we could have stayed longer in Washington and were able to explore more of Oregon. All in all, we had an amazing time with family and friends. We are unsure of what our future has planned for us, but we hope it has us in the Pacific North West.