Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Stomping On My Old Grounds

I am so grateful to have the absolutest bestest friends in the whole entire universe.

One such friend is named Doug. Doug escaped from Microsoft about ten years ago to start a full-service fabrication shop. As you may properly assume, he has some decent noodles between his ears, and he can make most anything with his hands. He is a great storyteller, and he has this amazing no-bullshit-here's-how-it-is way of communicating that I totally admire. He also sports this Great Big Goatee (trademarked, by Doug). I'm fairly certain it's this GBG that gives Doug other out-of-this-world powers.

The Oregon Trail Rally brought Doug to Portland this weekend; he was the mechanic for two customer cars that were participating in the rally. I biked over to the Portland International Raceway Friday afternoon to spend some time visiting with Doug. I will readily admit that I am not a huge fan of cars, and I'm definitely a lesser fan of race cars. Despite this, it was great to see Doug doing his thing. He knows cars inside-out, and he can handle the most difficult car modifications with the greatest of ease. It was wonderful to see Doug and to catch up on our lives. He always brings a smile to my face and a feel-good feeling to the rest of me.

Me & Doug

Saturday morning I woke up at the crack of dawn and drove up to my old stomping grounds in Seattle for an extended weekend visit. I set the cruise control a wee bit faster than I would normally travel so that I could arrive in time to attend my old yoga class, taught by Will "The Yoga Coach." The yoga class was amazing--as always, it encouraged me to play the edge. The thing I love most about Will's anusara yoga classes is that they stretch not only my body, but also my mind, spirit, and heart. I'm generally not a political person, but I refuse to step down from my soapbox regarding the following matter--daily yoga practice should be mandated for everyone in this world, and Will should be appointed to lead all yoga classes.

Next, there's Alex. Alex and I met shortly after I moved to Seattle in 2006. This man is wickedly smart, wickedly capable, wickedly full of amazing willpower, and super-duper generous. One of the things I really appreciate about my relationship with Alex is that we enjoy being sounding boards for one another--for example, we can (and have) spent hours talking about financial independence and how to bring our life goals to fruition. I'm glad to have Alex in my life, and I'm excited to see Alex breathe more and more life into his dreams.

Alex and I went on a hilly 40-mile bike ride on Saturday. The last time I biked with Alex was nearly a year ago. Alex was on my Butt Monkeys Bike-to-Work Team, and so he and I would commute together to-and-fro our jobs at Amazon. To be truthful, Alex wasn't riding so well a year ago; he struggled on our commutes. Particularly on our climb up 8th Ave, he would grab his chest and wince in pain. (Scary!) But after a successful six-bypass heart surgery last September and an amazing transformation in lifestyle, my old is Alex is back, and he's stronger than ever before!

Alex & Me

Although I had biked this particular route once before, I was unfamiliar with all the turns, and so I had the cue sheet for our bike ride on my handlebar bag. This was pure, unintentional genius on my part. You see, I was able to prevent Alex (who I started called "TS" for "Tough Shit") from sprinting too far ahead of me. By only calling out one turn at a time, I was able to keep Alex within sight (for the most part). Yeah for me--I outwitted the TS!

My wimpy, toothpick-thin calves don't stand a chance against these intimidating calves of steel.
These things once carried Alex on 24-hour mountain bike races.

I spent some time Saturday evening with my friend, Preeti. Preeti is absolutely beautiful--definitely on the outside, but even moreso on the inside. I love her passion for life and her drive to want to be the best person she can possibly be. Preeti and I crossed paths a few times while working together at Amazon. For the most part, our relationship had existed at the 10,000-foot level. But just a few weeks ago, Preeti and I had a long, heart-to-heart conversation on the phone about some work-related stuff. I really enjoyed the conversation, and so I was hoping Preeti would be interested in some face-to-face time during my Seattle visit. I'm grateful she was able to squeeze me into her busy schedule.

Preeti and I walked along the Sound, tea in hand, as the sun was setting. We shared stories and laughter. She's a great gal. I only wish we lived closer so that we could gab, giggle, and do girl things more often.

Alex has a sailboat at Shilshole Marina, and he graciously offered that I stay on his boat during my visit. So, I headed back to Alex's boat to crash for the night. Suffice it to say that I slept well; it had been a long day. (Tidbit: It is ~1/3 mile round-trip from Alex's slip to the marina bathroom.)

The view from Shilshole Marina, with the Olympic Mountains in the background.
Can you spot Nessie?

Sunday morning Alex and I went for a nice, long jog across the Ballard Locks and over to Magnolia. I then headed to the Kadampa Meditation Center to attend a meditation class. I had always been curious about buddhism. Last November, I attended my first class at Kadampa and really enjoyed the meditation practice and the teachings of Gen Khedrub. The topic of this Sunday's class was purification. And trust me, I could use me some purifying!

I then headed back to the marina for an afternoon sail with Alex, Alex's girlfriend (Julie), and my friend Mike. (Mike, who sports a Great Big Beard (trademarked, by me) and I were running buddies. I've heard miles and miles worth of entertaining stories about Mike's work and dating lives.) It was a gorgeous day for sailing. The skies were perfectly blue and the temps were in the high 70s.

Mike was a natural at the helm.

Alex & Julie looking all cute and everything.

Alex enjoyin' the sail, and Mike livin' the dream.

Heeling--this is when sailing gets really fun!

Fortunately, we had two minor mishaps. And I say "fortunately" because it is mishaps such as these that make for grand adventures.

Mishap #1: Upon unrolling the headsail, it became evident that the halyard was not attached to the head of the sail. We quickly brought down the sail, having lost the halyard at the top of the mast. (Alex later attached the jib to the spinnaker halyard, and so we were able to sail with both sails.) When we got back to the slip, Alex ascended the mast (thanks to the hoisting brawn of Mike) and recovered the halyard. Sure enough, the gate on the shackle had failed. Bummer.

This ain't the proper resting place for an unused sail.
The captain aloft.

The captain's arse (for Julie's eyes only).

The culprit--a broken shackle gate.

Mishap #2: While Julie was at the helm, the wind sneaked up on her, grabbed her hat, and tossed the hat overboard. Alex quickly grabbed the hook, and Julie spun us around so that we could backtrack and save the hat. It took two attempts, but the hat was successfully rescued. Two lessons from this little mishap are: 1) don't run the boat over whatever has gone overboard (this especially applies to overboard crew members), and 2) it is preferred to wear a hat that is colored something other than "Puget Sound Blue"--hot pink or neon yellow would be ideal.

Post sail, I stopped by the cottage where I lived the last few years and said hello to my dear landlord friends, Deb and Kim. It was good to see them. While I was in the neighborhood, I swung by Sunset Hill Park to watch the sunset.

Sunset Hill Park is a few blocks away from my old home. It is situated on a bluff overlooking Puget Sound. Down below is Shilshole Marina (where Alex's boat is docked) and Golden Gardens (a popular beach). Just to the south, beyond the Lake Washington Ship Canal, is Discovery Park. Directly across the way is Bainbridge Island, and far of in the distance are the Olympic Mountains, which are currently snow-topped.

Sunset Hill Park is a great place for views and sunsets. I used to go to the park regularly, often abandoning my dinner mid-meal to time my visit with the most glorious glow of the summer sunsets. I loved to track the sunsets in the sky throughout the year; at the winter solstice, the sun nearly touches the southern tip of the Olympic profile, and at the summer solstice, the sun just kisses the northern tip of the landmass across the way. Occasionally I would visit the bluff in the mornings to watch the sunrises as well; few people ever think to look at the beauty of the sun's rays to the west as the sun rises in the east.

I've been to this park hundreds upon hundreds of times. As I've looked out over the water, I've pondered joys and sorrows alike. When I think back to all my visits to the bluff, it's bewildering to scan through all the thoughts going through my head during those visits. The things I was grateful for. The decisions I was needing to make. The lovers who I was falling in or out of love with. Seeing the water below and the mountains in the distance was always humbling for me. The views never failed to ground me. And many times that grounding was so refreshing that it brought tears to my eyes--tears of happiness.

The view from Sunset Hill Park, taken from "my bench."

Monday was a low-key day. As the rest of the world was working, I slept in late and then relished the solitude in the cockpit of Alex's boat as I enjoyed the gentle rocking and the nearby barks of the sea lions. There was a whale sighting this weekend near the marina, but nothing sighted by my own eyes.

My friend, Chris, is a liveaboard on the dock just south of Alex's dock. Chris and I roamed along the Goldens Garden beach Monday evening. Chris has this wacky (read: "in the gutter") sense of humor that totally makes me laugh. We chanced upon a beaver at the park's little wetland area. (And, yes, Chris cracked animal-appropriate jokes). Chris and I sat down a mere ten feet away from the beaver as the little critter chewed away at a too-young-to-be-murdered flowering tree. It was getting dark by this time, and Chris and I (both having had Lasik surgery within the last little while) struggled to keep our eyes on the beaver as he waddled off into the woods.

Tuesday morning I met up with Alex at 5:45 to run two laps around Greenlake. I then headed to Wright Brothers Cycle Works to give my bike some TLC and to pick up some spare cables and other tools for my trip.

Wright Brothers is this amazing old-school shop with great classes (earlier this year I took the maintenance and bearings classes) and an awesome co-op program, which gives you access to bike workspace and tools for an insanely reasonable lifetime membership fee. I absolutely love the milieu of the shop. I only wish I had discovered this awesome place earlier. Perhaps Charles (the proprietor) will open a similar shop in Portland sometime soon. I recognize that this is a pipe dream, but that won't stop me from dreaming.

Charles is a character, with a big heart. He has an immense passion for and a deep knowledge of bicycles. He knows everything, and he can fix anything. Plus, he's a walking encylopedia of past and current events, particularly those involving the local community. (Tidbit: Upon my departure from Seattle, the only tears I shed were when I said goodbye to Charles.)

One of the things I needed to pick up was a pedal wrench so I can remove my pedals when I transport my bike on Amtrak. Charles was super sweet to let me borrow his "traveling pedal wrench," of which there is only one. I will make sure to take photos of the pedal wrench in interesting places along my trip, Flat Stanley-style. I promise the pedal wrench a grand adventure!

Charles, holding the one-and-only traveling pedal wrench.

Charles hooked me up with this adorable Campagnolo hat. I'll wear it under my helmet so that:
a) I won't get a sunburn on my scalp, and b) I can hide my hideous helmet hair.
This hat officially makes me a badass chick. Thanks, Charles.

After an absotively posilutely bodacious weekend, I then made the trek back to PDX, city of roses and stumps. As I mentioned above, I am so grateful to have awesome friends. Thank you, friends, for a feel-good weekend!

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