Thursday, August 29, 2013

Bicycling to a Wedding

Sometimes it's great to go on a bike ride for no reason at all. But other times it's great to ride for a reason.

Enter Will and Joanna.

My friends, Will and Joanna, got married this last weekend in Leavenworth. The wedding provided "a reason," and so I opted to bike the 248 round-trip miles to and from the wedding. How could I resist when the wedding invitation suggested bicycling as a means of transportation...

Biking is first on the list of transportation options.

...and included a graphic of an adorable dinosaur on a bike.

A cute dino on an orange bike.

Compared to the last trip, this one was rather short, at a mere six days. Two days to bike to the wedding. One full day at the wedding. Three days to bike home.

Like the last trip, this one also started at a marina (though a marina in Seattle, not Portland). Unlike the last trip, this one involved far less gear, primarily because I wouldn't be tenting.

Starting from a marina--with only two panniers this time.

Day #1: Thursday

I began the ride early on a Thursday morning. My friend, Claudia, joined me for the first part of Thursday's ride.

Claudia is the youngest 64-year-old that I know. She is an avid cyclist, a yoga instructor, and a lover of life. Her fitness and her attitude are just three of the thing-a-ma-jigs responsible for keeping her young.

Though a very new friend, Claudia and I are two peas from the same pod. On the day of our ride, we had known each other for a mere nine days. But in those nine days, we had spent four days spending time together. Of course, it helps that we both have schedules unencumbered by work.

First time spending time together: Claudia and I met at a bike touring meetup. The two of us, along with another cyclist, Bill, hit it off! Claudia, Bill, and I talked for five hours at the meetup--long after the other cyclists left the pub. We talked about cycling--sure. But we talked about many other things, too--careers, ambitions, non-cycling interests, and more! Our conversation ended only because the pub began blinking its overhead lights on-and-off, clearly telling us it was closing time and we needed to get the hell outta there.

Second time spending time together: Bill, Claudia, and I met a few days later, chatting for a few more hours!

Third time spending time together: The day before Claudia and I biked together, Claudia and I did yoga (Claudia tailored a practice to my yoga needs -- oh my!). We also talked about tiny houses, bike gear, and cycling in Southeast Asia.

Fourth time spending time together: We had a great ride for the 40-ish miles to the town of Monroe. We rode at similar paces and had plenty to gab about.

We stopped at Log Boom Park, where Claudia demonstrated how to fill a tall water bottle from a tiny water fountain stream. (Notice the upturned pinky.)

Claudia and I had lunch at Benjarong Thai Restaurant. What a fantastic find!

The highly recommended Benjarong Thai Restaurant, in Monroe.

The food was fantastic -- yum, yum, yum, yum! And the service was amazing -- not only did the owners let me park my bike inside, but they also brought complimentary mango ice cream to our table after our meal!

Mango ice cream!

After lunch, we parted ways, as Claudia needed to get back home to pack for a trip to The Big Island (jealous!). Unfortunately, Claudia missed out on the most scenic part of the ride, through the Cascades Mountains. (Fortunately for Claudia, she'll be seeing amazing scenery in Hawaii!)

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the geography of Washington, Seattle is on the west side of the state, at sea level. Leavenworth is near the central part of the state and requires travel over Stevens Pass (elevation: 4,061 ft). Stevens Pass is located in the Cascade Mountains along Highway 2.

Traveling east towards the Cascade mountains is relatively flat. But looming in the distance are the jagged, steep peaks of the Cascades. They are so different than the tamer Adirondacks I rode through just over a month ago.

As you pedal eastward and approach the mountains, the peaks seem to get taller and taller. And then, all of the sudden, you are in the Cascades.

Just inside the Cascade Mountains, near Index.

Before leaving for the trip, I checked the Warm Showers website to see if there were any hosts along the route. I was shocked to see a host in Baring, roughly halfway between Seattle and Leavenworth.

Andrea and Jerry, the Warm Showers hosts, run the "Dinsmore's Hiker Haven." They are "trail angels" for thru-hikers on the 2,600+ mile-long Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). They offer a hiker's dorm, with all the luxuries that hikers love--bunks, showers, laundry, movies, and more!

Andrea and Jerry's "Hiker Haven," in Baring.

Someone awhile ago recommended that Andrea and Jerry extend their operation to cyclists by posting a profile on Warm Showers. That's what they did, and that's how I came to find this awesome treasure! By becoming Warm Showers hosts, Andrea and Jerry doubled their heaven-worthiness, becoming "road angels" in addition to "trail angels."

The bunks in the hiker's dorm.

Of course, I had to ask about the wedding dress hanging in the dorm. I soon learned that there's a story behind everything at Hiker's Haven.

The wedding dress adorns the dorm ceiling.

Apparently there was a PCT hiker who needed money to hike the trail. As a fundraiser, he offered to wear a wedding dress for 100-mile stretches along the trail, and this was one the dresses he wore. I asked how it was that he managed to hike with the long train on the dress, as those dresses ain't easy to walk in; the hiker apparently tied long dresses around his waist.

There were about ten hikers at the haven when I arrived. We introduced ourselves, exchanged information about our travels, and then headed over to the Baring General Store, across the road, for a BBQ.

The BBQ at the Baring General Store.

Two of the folks I met are pretty well-known in the hiking world. Teresa "Dicentra" Black has authored "One Pan Wonders - Backcountry Cooking At Its Finest." And "Warner Springs Monty" is well-known for his minimalistic backpacking. In fact, he appears in a National Geographic film about the PCT. Coolio!

Me & Monty. Monty is quite the womanizer.
(Photo by Andrea Dinsmore.)

I really enjoyed talking with the hikers and learning a lot about their world. Here are just a few of the things I learned:

  • Hikers use hiking names instead of their own names. The hikers had names like "Walking Home," "Goldfinger," "Turtle," and "Jeffity-Jeff-Jeff." This was, admittedly, hard for me to get used to. The hikers were surprised to learn that bikers don't similarly use biking names. Sure, I have a biking name -- it's "Sarah."
  • Hikers refer to rest days as "zero days."
  • A woman (!), known as "Anish," recently set the record as the fastest self-supported hiker to hike the PCT. Click here to read about her.
There was a time when I thought I might enjoy hiking the entire Pacific Crest Trail, or perhaps the Appalachian Trail. But, at this point in my life, it doesn't really interest me. It's too slow to travel by foot. Cycling is definitely the way to go -- it's fast enough to make decent progress, but slow enough to still be able to smell the proverbial roses.

Day #2: Friday

I set out early the next morning to bike over the pass, hoping to avoid having to climb in the afternoon heat. Fortunately, the skies were overcast for a majority of the day, which kept the temperatures nice and cool.

About to enter the short tunnel on Highway 2.

I followed the bike route suggested by Google Maps. Google provided a decent set of directions, routing me on side roads, when possible, to get me away from traffic.

The climbing was gradual, and the next thing I knew, I had arrived at the top of Stevens Pass. (For bicyclists who would like beta on cycling over Stevens Pass, see Route Beta: Biking Over Stevens Pass.)

At the top of the pass.

I've driven along Highway 2 many times, primarily en route to backpacking or climbing destinations. It's fun to finally bike along a route that you've only ever driven before. Biking this route makes the far-away outdoorsy places seem far more accessible.

Having a snack at the rest area, after the descent.

Will and Joanna found an amazing place to hold their wedding -- a camp on the shores of Lake Wenatchee, which they dubbed, "Camp Ushering Elk." The camp had a number of cabins for housing guests, a lodge in which to have meals and house the reception, a huge outdoor seating area with a firepit, and a stunning water front for swimming and boating.

The wedding celebration was a four-day ordeal. The ceremony and reception were held Saturday afternoon into the evening, but guests could spend the other days hiking, or climbing, or just plain relaxing.

I arrived at the camp in the early afternoon on Friday and spent a good deal of the afternoon out on the dock, soaking in the scenery, as the dock was gently rocked from side-to-side by the waves.

Oh, how I love the Cascades. This, to me, is home sweet home.

Enjoying the mountains around Lake Wenatchee.

A little while later my friend and cabinmate, Eric, arrived. (Eric is not to be confused with "Master Birder Eric," mentioned previously in my blog. No, this is "Climbing Friend Eric.")

I mention Eric partially because he and I spent a good deal of time together hanging out at the wedding, but also because he is an avid biker...who shared an awesome photo with me.

When I first began my blog, Eric sent me the following photo, as he found it to be relevant to my blog title, "Honoring My Compass," particularly in the context of cycling:

The compass on Eric's handlebars.
(Photo by Eric Broeren.)

Eric has done a number of bike trips in his days. A few of those trips have been from Seattle to Portland. When making this trip, he typically uses the Seattle Randonneur's route, which traverses through the Gifford-Pinchot Forest. On one trip though, he and his friends decided to navigate to Portland by using just a map and a compass. Eric described the adventure as dicey, hilarious, and for-the-most-part-fun. This was Eric's initial compass, until it fell off and got smothered by a semi truck.

What a fun way to travel!

Eric had considered biking out to the wedding as well, but busy schedules ended up getting in the way. (Boo for busy schedules!)

So, yeah, Eric and I chatted for awhile on the dock Friday afternoon. This was followed by a catered dinner and a great, big bonfire out by the lake.

Day #3: Saturday

We had the morning and early afternoon on Saturday to relax.

Eric enjoys a cold swim in Lake Wenatchee.

Mike and Kris paddling.

Various wedding guests, getting their daily dose of vitamin D.

The ceremony on Saturday was preceded by a lemonade stand, which was operated by the younger wedding guests.

And then there was the ceremony, which was absolutely lovely. The bride and groom arrived by canoe. The vows were spectacular and clever. And the doggie, Catfish, was right on cue in delivering the rings.

The lovely bride, Joanna, in her adorable wedding dress.

Instead of serving cake at the reception, the bride and groom served the most amazing ice cream, from Full Tilt. I discovered my new favorite flavor, Ube, which is made from sweet potatoes.

After the dancing ended, folks migrated out to the bonfire. We were amused and entertained by some 20-ish-year-old guests who, after imbibing plentifully, went for a swim and then dried off, in their skivvies, by the fireside. Ah, to be young and carefree again!

Speaking of carefree (though maybe not so young), Saturday evening I dragged my sleeping bag and pad out to the dock to sleep under the stars. Despite the loud creeking of the dock, I eventually fell asleep, only to be awakened around 2am by the 20-ish-year-old folks who were going for yet another swim. This time a few of them opted for the skinny version of dipping. I suppose I was compensated, in a way, for the awakening, as I got to see some boy parts.

As it wasn't clear when exactly the rowdiness would subside, I moved my sleeping gear to the porch of the cabin for the remainder of the night and drifted in-and-out of sleep until I could sleep no more, at 7:30 Sunday morning.

Update 2/5/2014: There's a great write-up about Joanna & Will's wedding on

Day #4: Sunday

I enjoyed a hearty breakfast with fellow wedding guests, and then I was on my way to head back towards Seattle.

After biking the seven or so miles from the camp to Highway 2, I turned onto the westbound shoulder and saw the below message:

I love little messages like this.

I was so happy to have seen this message. It changed my frame-of-mind from "I hope I can bike up the pass today considering the little amount of sleep I had last night" to "Simply be in the moment and enjoy the ride."

So enjoy I did. The climb up the east side of the pass was easy-peasy, as the westbound climb is less steep. In less than three hours, I was again at the top of Stevens Pass.

As I've mentioned in prior posts, I love to climb. I could climb all day. I'm not such a huge fan of descents, though. They can be sketchy.

But for the first time, I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed the descent. Part of the enjoyment was because I was adamant about taking the lane -- I had no patience for navigating the uneven and gravel-laden shoulders while descending at 35+ miles an hour. But also, the winds were tame, and so I didn't have to deal with my bike being suddenly thrusted in one direction or another.

I stayed at the Hikers Haven again Sunday evening. When I first arrived, there were two hikers. But shortly thereafter, six additional hikers arrived. It would again be a very social evening.

A few of the newly arrived thru-hikers decided to pose in the infamous "purple dress" -- another example of the many traditions for which the Hikers Haven is well known. Andrea, the host, keeps an album of all the hikers (both men and women) who pose in the purple dress.

"Cowboy," lookin' sexy in The Purple Dress.

Another hiker dons The Purple Dress. Look at those legs!

While the hikers relaxed in front of a movie, I crawled into my sleeping bag and listened to the sound of the rain on the tin roof as I quickly fell asleep.

Day #5: Monday

On the ride westward the next morning, I stopped to take a photo of my favorite street name along Highway 2.

Pickle Farm Road makes me smile every time I see it.

Being able to easily pull over on the side of the road to photograph a favorite street sign is just another reason why I love biking. I've seen this same sign from the window of a car many, many times, but I never pulled over to snap a shot.

I really enjoyed the few miles along Tualco Road as I approached Duvall. It was a flat, windy country road with little traffic and gorgeous views extending for miles and miles.

Flowers growing along Tualco Road.

You may recall my friend, Doug, who was introduced in my Stomping On My Old Grounds post. Doug lives in Duvall, on the east side of Lake Washington. Because it's about an hour drive between our homes, we don't see each other often. I figured I would swing through Duvall on my way back to Seattle to spend some time visiting with Doug. Doug gladly agreed to serve as my Warm Showers host for the evening.

Doug owns a fabrication shop in Duvall. As I arrived into town during work hours, I met Doug at his shop. It was great to see Doug in his element.

One of the autos in his shop was the 1952 "Fabulous Hudson Hornet." The Hudson has been a pet project of Doug's for awhile now. The car recently raced in the 24 Hours of LeMons race in Shelton, WA and took the top prize! Woohoo! (You can see Car & Driver's write-up of the race here.)

Doug poses in The Hudson.

Doug's specialty is fabricating roll bars.
Nice bars, eh?

Look at that original console. What a beaut!

Doug had an early evening appointment, so I hung out at his house, spending time with his sweet doggie, Maggie. When Doug returned, we sat on the couch for a few hours, listening to Brandi Carlile while catching up on each other's lives.

Day #6: Tuesday

Before parting Tuesday morning, we experimented with a new style for Doug's goatee. What do you think about the braid?

Doug's newly-styled goatee.

Doug took Shirley for a quick spin around the driveway. Doug is big into mountain biking and recently got into velodrome racing. But he's never toured.

Doug would make a great cycling tourist.

All in all, this was a fantastic bike trip. I witnessed some great friends publicly commit their lives to one another, I spent more time with great friends, and I expanded my horizons by meeting new people.

In the last three months of bicycle travel, I have met more people that have influenced my life than in my entire previous 35 years of living. This makes me want to spend an eternity on the road.


  1. Love your blog. A pleasure having you here. Glad you enjoyed your self.



    1. Many thanks for being my road angel, Andrea. Hope to see you again soon!

  2. Great story! Found your blog from Train's (the guy with the wedding dress, FB post. I'm a bicycle tourist AND PCT hiker, so the story was very special to me. Also, I love the title of your blog, "Honoring My Compass".

    1. Thanks for your note, Grandy! What is your favorite bike tour?

  3. I'm still catching up on my bucket list after a lifetime of following the "standard path". I did do a little 350 mile (mostly)off road tour of the Northern California coastal mountains recently that reminded me to check my maps more closely in regards to total elevation gain/loss! There were several 2000-3000 foot climbs on the route that I didn't account for, but all in all, it was a great traffic free trip.
    My girlfriend got a kick out of your bike named "Shirley the Surly", as I own two Surlys (Troll and 1x1). Just for fun, I bought her a big Surly sticker to put on her kayak. She calls her kayak "Surly Shirly".
    If you are ever passing through the Chico, CA area, our door is open for you!

    1. Grandy - Ah, northern California is gorgeous! I discovered that on my trip down the Pacific Coast last year.

      I would love to do some off-roading. I've been eyeing The Great Divide route--it's on my bucket list. I found it interesting that a few of the hikers at Hiker Haven said they'd love to bike the CDT. :-)

      Your girlfriend sounds smart --she's got a good sense of names. :-)

      Will indeed let you know if I pass through Chico.

      Peace out~


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