30 June 2010

Now That I'm Here...

So Bellingham is pretty cool.

I've ridden some at Galbraith (which is essentially the mountain just for mountain bikers), once with Tasha and once with Angermeier. It was fun, and scary, and left me with some bruises and a deep longing to learn the trails well enough to get comfortable. Each trail is a lovingly-built masterpiece of tabletops, berms, and the occasional ridiculous wooden creation. Needless to say, in the dark, primeval forest the baby dinosaur felt right at home.The trailhead of Scorpion. We totally sessioned this feature...not.

The food and drink are fantastic. In the short time here I've sampled coffee from every shop I could find, sipped raspberry mead and old vine zinfandel, eaten sausage and gruyere crepes, exquisite sashimi, and salmonberries off the bush, and had a chocolate croissant that almost rivaled one from BMB.

The term "bike friendly city" has been bandied around a lot in recent years but I never really got it until I came here. Bike friendly is wonderful. Every street has a bike lane, every shop has a place to lock up, and most importantly drivers are aware of and courteous to cyclists.

Tomorrow we're off to Vancouver, and Tasha has a friend who knows some good Canadian trails. Bring the gnar.We ventured up Mount Baker as far as the snow would let us. It was beautiful beyond words.

26 June 2010

The Cascades Were GORGEOUS

...as were the macchiato and lavender shortbread with which I rewarded myself in Seattle.

I Beg to Differ

I ate breakfast in the high desert of Washington. My seatmates this morning were a xenophobic middle-aged man obsessed with Japanese beetles, a doughy horse woman wearing a scrunchy, and her deaf, grumpy mom. A vapid lot.
I almost came to blows with the horse woman. (I've met many doughy horse women and can't speak highly of any of them.) She announced with pride that the Washington peninsula was the only rainforest in North America. Just to make conversation I mentioned that my area rivaled hers in annual rainfall.
"No, but the peninsula is an actual rainforest. Except without like poisonous frogs and stuff." Her beady eyes were filled with smug certainty.
"Yeah, a temperate rainforest. That's what we have too..." but I trailed off. Nothing good ever came of a cyclist arguing with a horse person, even if it was a matter of hometown pride.The doughy horse woman hurried to inform us that this was the Columbus River. She was a very knowledgeable lady.

After Days of Flatlands...

I had almost despaired that it would be dark before we reached the scenic part of the trip. The sun was slung low on the horizon as we slowly crossed the plains and foothills fronting Glacier National Park.
But somehow, magically, the sun never seemed to set. We meandered through the snow caps, evergreens, and plunging whitewater and I was thrilled to spot a double rainbow over the mountains. It grew dark just as the train left West Glacier, and although I slept through the Rockies, I'd had enough beauty to last me until the Cascades.

25 June 2010

On Odor and Obesity

I have two seats to myself and my only complaint is that with my proximity to the dinette, every time the door opens an unpleasant processed odor wafts in.
When Jeremy-the-dining-car-manager announces mealtimes, groups of chunky beef-fed Midwesterners hustle past me to check out the chef's special. All I see in their rush are pale hairy calves and flapping t-shirts that reveal acres of back fat.
I'm not one to talk though--my feet have grown puffy from days of inactivity, and I smell a little like a concession stand.

The sky is a pleasant distraction.


I've grown fond of--almost possessive of--the "ladies' lounge", an antiquated avocado-green antechamber where I can stretch and brush my teeth and bemoan my greasy hair in private. The lounge even has booth seats and its own bathroom. Even better than the lounge is the observation deck, with huge windows and a snack bar. This is where people go to get drunk.

Today I made my first foray into the dinette. I had avoided it thus far because it was pricey and filled up fast, but I'm on my longest leg, with no Charlottesville pancakes or Chicago reubens to tide me over.
I was seated with three travelers from the sleeping car, which (according to the elderly San Francisco gentleman to my left) was comparable in price to flying first class. So, I knew my place among my breakfast companions.
Small talk ensued and, as often happens with strangers, coincidences started popping up left and right. We were all northern California natives. The Montana couple, whose matching cowboy hats contradicted their WASPy mannerisms, were well-versed in the field of pediatrics, as was the San Franciscan. But then the world got really small. I revealed that I was a college grad from NC.
"What school?" the woman asked.
"You wouldn't know it, it's tiny."
"Try me," she pressed.
So I tried her, and lo and behold, her daughter graduated from Warren Wilson. And won the downhill race at the '07 nationals in Banner Elk.
"Shut up, shut up!" I could barely keep myself from saying.
It was madness. We talked about her daughter's decision to run mud spikes because of the abysmal weather, about how Warren Wilson is doomed to be ever the bridesmaid, about the great comraderie among the teams of the dirty south, and best of all, about the questionable hygiene and trademark funk of Warren Wilson kids.
It was a good breakfast.

Recent flooding has plagued the Midwest, leaving everything green and delicious. Today I watched the sun rise over the waterlogged fields of Minnesota.

23 June 2010

Dear Amtrak: You Are Wretched

(But I forgive you.)
Amtrak lost my reservation not once, but twice. The first occasion was weeks ago, when Julie-the-automated-Amtrak-lady rang me up and left an ominous message telling me that I had to call her as soon as possible. Because phones make me quake in fear, the Saint took care of it for me and reminded Amtrak that I did actually exist and did actually have a reservation.
And then we rolled into Greenville late last night and...you'll never guess. Once again we spent almost an hour convincing the company that I was not a ghost or specter. (It's like that Stephen Crane poem...I said to Amtrak, "Julie, I exist!" and she replied "However, the fact has not created in me a sense of obligation.")

So that was kind of appalling. And the station was filled to capacity with crazies. Two stereotypical New York hens gabbed ad nauseum while Lee the OCD station attendant (and Jessco White look-alike) sashayed around with his can of Mountain Dew and engaged his customers in conversations right out of a bad screenplay. Fortunately the trip has been relatively painless since then. And checking a bike on a train really, truly does cost a mere and magical five dollars. I'm in Charlottesville in the Blue Moon Diner killing time until my 1:00 connection to Chicago. They gave me a pancake with Dwight Schrute's face on it, so I can't complain.

If you look closely you can just make him out under the pat of butter.

Then I was about to pack up and wander back to the station and they turned on the World Cup! I am swimming in coffee and very content.

21 June 2010

Headed West

summer in b-town has been delightful so far, but my wanderlust finally overcame me and i booked a train trip. i was unable to hit up montana as originally planned, so it'll be a straight shot to bellingham to visit my shoe twin. fingers crossed there will be some vancouver/whistler action sometime during the stay, and i'll also spend a weekend in portland with tinaalexiscarolinedecosimo.

ever since i laid out my plans, i've heard nothing but bad stuff about trains. they're slow and unreliable, they're cold, they're boring, they're only one step less sketchy than the greyhound.
ok, but still. i want to see the whole country and i don't want to drive. we shall see how it turns out. i leave tomorrow and i am mad excited, and damn the naysayers.
oooo lookit them mountains!

this trip will also serve the purpose of helping me narrow down options for a possible location change. it's going to be SO hard leaving the wonder spot that is brevard, but i have to get out of here eventually.

the pacific northwest may not be what i'm looking for. i was perusing the weather channel and was deeply disturbed to see that b-ham is not only rainy (not surprising) but also chilly (somewhat surprising). i had to recalibrate my sun-addled mind and remember to pack a few long-sleeved shirts in the place of my myriad of sundresses. ugh. please, no one say "i told you so".

hopefully i will manage a few pictures and words during the long...long...long voyage...stay tuned.

07 June 2010

all that?

it hasn't been an eventful summer
hence my lack of posts
and pictures tell it better anyway

of course there's been a lot of this

and a good bit of this but i've also indulged in a little bit of this
possibly a bit too much of this
and not nearly enough of this
and pretty soon i'll be getting a whole heaping helping of this