When it rains, it pours

So a lot has happened since the racing wrapped up in Alpenrose. Let's start off with a list:

Super Awesome:
The Detroit 3-Day
Japanese cooking
Hugicha tea
The Barlows
Taking ferries
Kate's adventure in Alaska

Pretty Awesome:
Bozeman, MT
Lolo Pass
Bellingham, WA

Not Awesome:
Central and Eastern Washington
Why I'm in Bozeman
107 F temperatures
People who back up without looking

Downright Awful:
Wisdom, MT

My luck

And now for the explainations. I picked up my freshly repaired car on Monday morning in Portland, and proceeded to check out the city with Kate. The initial impressions I had gotten of Portland being a cycling mecca were confirmed. Everyone who rnats and raves about this being the best city to bike in is absolutely correct. Portland is great. And there's a fighting chance that they're going to get public support to build an indoor velodrome. Two tracks in one city, respendent with brilliant riding and beautiful weather. I can see myself living there. We ran into Carrie Higgins again while sitting outside of Powell's Bookstore and eating gelato,
rode around a bit more, met up with Kate's friend Chris from Whitman, ate some awesome burritos in the Hawethorne district, rode some more, swam in the Willamette River, set up a few slacklines, rode home, and went to sleep. The overall Portland verdict: I want to live there. In the past, I've found the Twin Cities to be my favorite metropolitan area for a number of reasons, but Portland has powerfully usurped that spot.

On Tuesday we packed up the car and drove to Seattle to visit one of Kate's best friends from college, Katrina Barlow, and her family. Katrina was still working when we arrived in the afternoon, so we parked the car in downtown, pulled out the bikes, and took to exploring. The waterfront was pretty cool, I got to stand in the Pacific Ocean, we talked with a crazy lady about someone who is making found-object sculpture along the shore, rode through downtown, and then checked out the library. If you ever find yourself in Seattle, make a point to stop and at least walk around the outside of the public library. Rem Koolhas designed a brilliant piece of architecture, and it's inspiring to see it given an entire city block in the heart of downtown. Seattle is pretty great. Perhaps not as cool as Portland, but being on the ocean is a nice change if you're from Minnesota. One thing is does have going for it are a series of really steep streets leading down to the water, and what makes them even more fun is that they're mostly surfaced with some really old paving bricks.

After a few hours of getting acquainted, we met up with Katrina and went to her house, where her family was nice enough to not only let us stay for a few days, but to cook us some delicious Japanese food as well. We helped Katrina and her friend Collin finish building up her first road bike, and called it a day. On Wednesday, Kate and I got up and went for a ride around Lake Washington. The full distance is about 55 miles around, but we got off the beaten path about halfway through, and came back in about the same manner that we rode out. Having left the racing behind me for a few days, I figured I had left my bad luck as well. Not so. Riding down a nice, winding hill, I hit one of those plastic traffic dots that cover the streets in the northwest. If you've never encountered one of these, consider yourself lucky. They're about 3 inches in diameter, and about an 1 inch high in the middle, curving down like a dome to the road at the edges. As you've probably guessed by this point, hitting this ill-placed piece of traffic guidance made me crash. Again. That makes 3 times in 7 days. To put that in perspective, I didn't crash a single time last season. Not cool. I tore up my left arm (again, added some new raw areas to my left hip, and most painfully, tore the blister off of my right hand. I nearly quit riding, forever, right then and there. I was so demoralized that I gave some realistic consideration to picking up my bike, hurling it into the woods, and completely walking away from the sport. Fortunately, Kate managed to intervene with some much needed perspective before I could carry out my intended cylco-cide, and I limped on for the rest of the ride. At least it was a nice day, with nice scenery to boot. Somewhere in the course of this week, Kate decided to go work as a dog handler for a dog sled tour company on the Denver Glacier outside of Skagway, Alaska for a month to make some money and refill the travel funds, so we cleaned up, and headed out with the car to pick up the equipment she would need. A dinner of exquisite sushi later, a painful night of trying to sleep without touching my sides ensued.

On Thursday we rode from Katrina's house into downtown Seattle and took the ferry to Bainbridge Island. The Barlow's had suggested with visit the Japanese tea house that one of their friends runs there. I'm a big tea fan, and looking for anything that might improve my mood, we jumped at the plan. As hoped, it was a great excursion. The weather was the cool and windy sort that is so stereotypical of the Seattle as we boarded the ferry and rode across the sound. We brought our bikes with us, pedalled off the ferry (a cool experience in itself) and rode to Madoka's Tea House. To wrap this up quickly, hugicha is a delicious tea made from the roasted stems of tea plants rather than just the leaves. I've had a bunch of different Chinese, British, Indian, and South Asian teas, but never Japanese. It's much different, but delicious, and worth a try. Like good tourists, when we got back to Seattle, we wandered through Pike Place Market, then got on the bikes and rode home to yet another delicious meal.

Friday was taken up with packing all of Kate's gear and getting her to the ferry in Bellingham that's current taking here up to Skagway. I'd heard traffic in Seattle is bad, but I was not prepared for this. The 1.5 hour trip turned quickly into 3, and the about 25 minutes needed to suffice for check-in time for boarding, a bit less than the 2 hours they suggest. Either way, we got her on the ship, bid farewell, and I turned out to spend some time in Bellingham before returning to Seattle. As of Friday morning, I had planned on racing at Marymoor in the evening, but the traffic was so bad, it was clear that wasn't going to happen. Back in Seattle, I gathered my things up, loaded the car, and prepared to head out in the morning.

Saturday morning I left town. Things seemed promising, no firm schedule I needed to keep, just a drive across Washington, Idaho, and Montana, stopping to ride whenever I saw someplace interesting. Less than 30 miles outside of town, I stopped to get gas and mail a letter to Skagway, to see which arrives first, the 4 day ferry, or the US Postal Service (I think the ferry has a leg up in this competition, as it leaves on Friday and travels all weekend. We'll see.) While stopped at the local gas station, some woman in a huge SUV backs up, ignores my horn (and apparently presence) and runs right into the side of my rear bumper. Yet another car problem. At least it was just superficial, and the car could run just fine. We swapped insurance, I laughed at my luck, and got on my way. Now if western Washington is beautiful and interesting, central and eastern Washington is anything but. It is hot, arid, and boring. Don't go there, if you can avoid it. I made it through there, across the panhandle of Idaho (a welcome relief from Washington) and into Montana. I took a detour south of Missoula so that I could stop and ride Lolo Pass, which was a nice break. 17 miles of straight climbing that ends at the Montana/Idaho border. The climb is a good one, getting increasingly steep as the road progresses, following a stream through tall pine forests, a few open meadows, and striking rock formations. The ride back down is exhilarating, and I finished up at dusk, feeling refreshed and ready to travel. My plan was to drive to Wisdom, Montana, some 80 miles south, and ride over Lost Trail Pass early in the morning before getting on the road again. I should preface this by saying I planned the logistics of these two rides just by looking at a road atlas, seeing what was close to I-90, and picking a nearby town to use as a base.

It turns out Wisdom sucks. This one-block wasteland is comprised of a couple liquor stores (closed), a handful of restaurants/taverns (closed), and a shady looking motel (apparently open). The office was supposed to be in building next door, but the door just led me into someones garage, and a knock on the subsequent inner door brought dogs barking and no answer. Not feeling particularly great at this point, I decided to bag Lost Trail Pass and drive on the Butte. I could stop and ride other places in Montana...

Somewhere on the desolate back highways of rural Montana, I came over a rise onto a bridge, and proceeded to obliterate some mammal with the front of the car. Based on size, I'm guessing it was a raccoon, but based on speed, I doubt there is enough of it left to determine for sure. The car appeared to be running alright, and I was tired and anxious, so I pushed on. Awhile later I made it to Butte, but every motel in town was full. What anyone would ever want to do in Butte is beyond me, but disappointed and exhausted, I holed up in a Safeway parking lot, and managed to a get a few hours of very uncomfortable sleep. When I woke up, I was still tired, but rested enough to go on, spurred by the idea that by the end of the weekend I would be back in Minnesota, getting my stuff together and preparing to head to T-Town for a month. Curious, I decided to see if there was anything left of the poor creature I decimated the night before. As it would turn out, there was none, but it did leave me something before it left, in the form of a bent in and broken radiator, a broken fan shroud, and a crushed in front spoiler. So if my car woes hadn't been enough on this trip, now I was stranded in Butte at 7:00 AM on a Sunday, looking for someone who repairs VWs. This is not a good situation to find yourself in. I wandered around town, and as luck would have it, into a gas station where the attendant was very familiar with VWs, and was able to both confirm my suspicions and give me the number and address of the nearest VW dealer, some 70 miles away, in Bozeman. So I limped down I-90, made it Bozeman without overheating despite the coolant leaking out of my radiator, and all of that brings me to the present, sitting in a coffee shop, writing out an update, and waiting for a motel room to become available. The service department opens at 7:30 tomorrow morning, so I'll be there, bright and early, to plead my case, and hopefully get back on the road in a day or two. Until then, Bozeman isn't the worst place in the world to be stranded. In fact, if I had to pick somewhere along the route, this just might top it. So I guess it could be worse. On the upside, I'm close to Yellowstone, so I think I'll try to ride out there this afternoon and check it out.

Pictures to come later...