Before the Trip

Send Off BBQ
Hectic to the last minute, Friday came quickly and so did the celebration. We are officially starting- or at least not working anymore. It was awesome to start breathing a little bit easier- even with all the packing tasks at hand still to be done. Music, friends and family, some food and drinks - we were well on our way. The weight of normalcy was lifting with every second that passed. All the well wishes were awesome - hopefully you'll enjoy the stories that unfold here.

Packing - the Ritual
Usually I stuff a couple extra items in with the bike. This time I had so many extras I had to stand on the box and pull the straps with all my weight to close the gap. 3 person tent, sleeping bag, air mattress, camp stove, fold-up chair, 2 pairs of bike shoes, tools, floor pump, 3 water bottles, flashlight, Camelback MULE, first aid kit, oh, and the bike with aero bars. It's all in there, and that's from what I remember. The duffel had all* my clothes and maps. Primarily bike clothes for all weather conditions - freezing and raining to hot dry desert. Then some non-riding clothes.

So I'm in Hartford, Connecticut - staying with my cousin Carmen and Carlos - for Alisa and Glenn's wedding, and I happen to remember that I didn't pack my bike shorts. What? Are you serious? I didn't even have to check. I can clearly (now) remember that I didn't pack them. Any of them! I joked about not bringing the bike, but a close second on the priority list would be the shorts. Blame it on the beers Rabbit and I "punished" the night before packing, or trying to fit everything for a month into a duffel bag- including the suit for the wedding! But any way you look at it... you'd think you'd remember that. Thanks to Tim for bringing them for me. I brought the bike.

Getting There
Flying out to Seattle on Monday - Sept 5 - from Hartford. Seemed easy enough before it actually happened. Then the poker game started somewhere around midnight. Thanks to guys I am now traveling a bit lighter despite the great cards I got- the river card just kept killing me. Anyway, that only lasted until about 3am or so, and the flight wasn't until 6:30 or 7am - the specifics were still a bit hazy. Oh and we didn't know where the airport was - but we saw one "on approach" the day before so we figured it was close. Great theory, maybe.

So by the time we get back to the house (where we were staying), packed up the bike box, logged online for some dial-up numbers I need to download along the route, and re-pack-- well, by then it was about 3:57am - the alarm was set for 5:15am but for some reason I never heard it. Maybe the baby did because he was the first one up at 5:30 - and we were in the car 10 minutes later wide awake and fully rested. We were off and I got there with time to spare- hopefully the bags are with me.. and the bike.

Phoenix - on the way to Seattle
There are shorter routes but it was too good a deal to pass up. Fly from Hartford to Seattle and then return from San Diego to National (with a bike both ways) - about $300 all inclusive on America West. They offer "bikes fly free" if you book through the USAT travel agent (and you're a USAT member).

Seattle: Almost
Are we there yet? Well almost- just another hour or so. I met up with Tim in Phoenix to catch the same flight up. Once we get there we'll meet up at baggage claim with Aaron, Lauren and Melba. The plan is to somehow get our bikes and gear over to the car rental place and load up our equipment... without yet having a bike rack. So the first stop will be REI- to get the rack and some other supplies. In theory it seems to work but having 5 people and 5 bike boxes and gear in one vehicle might be a tight fit. Then again it makes sense that the hardest part of the coordination is when we are NOT riding. Once on the road by bike things we'll be easy.

The Bikes Made It
So we all made it there with everything we packed. The rental counter was right in front of baggage claim area number 9 - we were set. And the reality set in - this was it.

We checked in at a Quality hotel - in a great neighborhood. Right across from the "Hurricane: open 24 hours" - not yet having walked in there we've all speculated as to what actually goes on in there. Anyway we ended up unloading and heading out to get some food. Starved from traveling all day and not sleeping right we ended up at Zeeks Pizza- just five blocks away near the space needle. I can't remember if it was 4 or 5 pizzas but they were the best pizza I ever had. Well, I was hungry- so it was really good. We sat around soaking it all in - the people, the weather (60° and sunny), the trip, and it was hard to get up from our comfy outdoor plastic chairs.

Eventually we did get up- there was one thing that seemed to call us- the REI flagship store- again, probably only about 10 blocks from our choice location; our temporary home. Once we got there it was like walking into a museum- it was HUGE. An entire nature center that you walk through to get in and no lack of space. Without exaggeration I think it was the largest store of any kind I have ever been in. We found our essentials (bike rack, CO2) and some toys- of course. I think Lauren even enjoyed shopping for sports equipment - and we were able to pull Aaron and Melba out of there in time to get back and start building our bikes.

Critical Items
Before falling asleep- two bikes were assembled - all checked out. And my beloved bike shorts were with me. All is good.

Vancouver - the Day Before
Tuesday was a slow day- finding the right spot for breakfast in Seattle before packing up (and getting all the junk in the van) and then heading north to Vancouver. Awesome day - 65° and sunny. We met up with Jason and Ian (another two riders) near the US/Canada border and took the rest of the day to roam around, have some dinner and relax a bit. It certainly felt "west coast" - not sure exactly what it was but the people, the weather, the pace and probably the huge mountain landscapes but it all added up to a carefree satisfied attitude.

On our way out of town we came upon a Dairy Queen. It was like God had placed it in front of me for a reason. Ok, maybe that's a little far fetched but there had to be some kinda karma working. So without hesitation I ordered up my Oreo Blizzard- first one of the trip. I haven't really done any biking *yet* but why pass up a perfect opportunity. Plus, in my mind, this is part of what the experience IS. This IS the trip.

On the way back to the hotel I went over some basics with the team - although I kept thinking that the only way some of this stuff makes sense is to actually be on the road. It's one thing to study from books- another thing to learn in the field. But one more run through was good. Route, costs, food, support driving- where to stop, where to be, when to wait, group riding, and so on.

7am is the set start time. And for as good as that sounded I think we'll roll out at 8 or so. The first days always take a bit longer. Getting into a system of filling bottles, filling tires, packing up-- being ready to ride.

OK, off to bed. It's past midnight and 6am comes quick. Oh, I can't wait to ride. To feel like you can go anywhere.


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