Friday, September 27, 2013

Bike Touring, Tiny Houses, & Slug Sex

There is nothing better than a mini-adventure that combines my two loves: bike touring and tiny houses.

For those of you who may not already know, I am in love with tiny houses. "Tiny houses" are small, mobile homes that are built to look like houses (as opposed to RVs). They are built on trailers, thus enabling the homes to be easily moved from one location to another.

I have been obsessed with tiny houses for a couple of years now. I came very close to building a tiny home last fall when I first left my job. Alas, I've decided to hold off for now, until I become a little less feral.

I first mentioned tiny houses to my friend, Claudia, a few weeks ago. She quickly fell in love with them, too. Because it can be difficult to fully appreciate tiny homes without actually having been in one, I suggested that Claudia and I go on a bike adventure to visit my friend, Candice, who owns a tiny house in Snohomish County.

Me & Claudia.

While the bike ride from Seattle to Candice's tiny house and back is certainly doable in a single day, I wanted to make sure that we had ample time to visit with Candice and to experience tiny-house living. As such, I proposed that we make the trip an overnighter. Both Claudia and Candice were fully on-board!

Claudia and I left Seattle on a Tuesday morning and bicycled to the north and east, around Lake Washington. As we knew that we'd be helping to prepare dinner that evening, Claudia suggested that we stop at Local Roots Farm in Duvall to pick up some fresh vegetables to accompany our quinoa.

Local Roots is located in the Snoqualmie Valley and is owned by Jason and Siri. In addition to selling vegetables to restaurants and via local farmer's markets and community supported agriculture subscription programs, Jason and Siri also sell their vegetables from a farm stand, at the entrance to their farm.

Claudia, at the Local Roots Farm Stand.

I asked Claudia if she could take a photo of me outside of the farm stand as well. She captured the below photo.

Headless me, at the same farm stand.

(It's critical to know that this was Claudia's first photo-capturing experience using an iPad mini. Future photos included heads.)

We decided on some leeks, zucchini, broccoli, and tomatoes to accompany our quinoa.

The vegetables look so pretty on the panniers.

All but the tomatoes were bundled up in an orange bag and strapped to my rack.

Claudia called this my "leeky tailpipe." (Haha!)

It took every ounce of restraint to prevent myself from eating the tomatoes, which were carefully packed in my handlebar bag.

After picking out the vegetables, we rode a short distance down the gravel driveway to the farm. Claudia introduced me to the owners, Jason and Siri, and then showed me around.

We then found ourselves a great place for sitting down and eating our lunches. The valley was absolutely gorgeous and the farm was amazingly peaceful.

Our lunch spot.

After lunch, we rode a few miles north on the Snoqualmie Valley Trail. The air felt crisp against our faces as we rode through the crunchy, fallen leaves. Fall is definitely in the air!

Claudia rides along the Snoqualmie Valley Trail.

No ride through Duvall is complete without stopping off to visit my good friend, Doug. I had stopped by to see Doug nearly a month ago as I bicycled out to Will & Joanna's wedding, as chronicled in my Bicycling to a Wedding blog entry.

And so it was that Claudia and I next found ourselves at Doug's shop to say a quick hello.

Doug & Me.

After another hour or so of riding, we arrived at Candice's tiny house.

Utter bliss -- me, my bicycle, and a tiny house!

Candice's house is built on an 8 ft X 22 ft trailer. Although the house may sound small with its 176 sq ft footprint, a well-designed tiny house can be surprisingly roomy.

Candice designed the home entirely on her own using a 3-D modeling software called "SketchUp." With the help of some friends, Candice and her mom spent a year bringing her tiny house design to life.

Candice and her mom, Baoying.
"Mom," as we affectionately called Baoying,
is currently living with Candice in the tiny house.

Candice pays a small monthly rent to her landlord. In exchange for the payment, Candice gets to park her home on the property and hook up to the property's water, sewer, and electricity.

As my photography skills are horrendous, I did not bother to take any photos of the interior of the home. I will instead direct you here, where you can see photos of Candice's tiny home, as seen through the eyes of photographer Chris Tack, a mutual friend of Candice's and mine.

As a teaser, here is just one of Chris's photographs showcasing Candice's beautiful home:

Candice's Tiny House.
(Photo by Chris Tack, from

Candice loves animals. In addition to having a kitty kat, she also has two chickens. Candice has had her chickens for a few years now and knows their personalities inside-and-out. I didn't realize chickens had such unique personalities, and so it was a great learning experience for me to see Candice interact with her chickens.

Candice with her chicken, Maple Leaf. 

Candice has even built a coop for her two chickens, in the same style as her tiny house.

The not-so-tiny tiny chicken coop.

After gabbing for a little while, we decided to start dinner. Claudia and I made the quinoa dish, with our vegetables from the Local Roots Farm, while Candice made another dish.

Candice brings her veggies in from the rain.

Claudia cooks vegetables on the outdoor grill.

I took a photo of the dishes, thinking this was our meal. Little did I know that Candice was preparing two additional dishes. There was enough food to feed an army of hungry cyclists!

Our yummy dinner, minus two dishes.

The food was absolutely delish -- all vegetarian, all healthy, and all super-duper tasty.

Here Candice pigs out on some not-so-healthy Cheetos.
(Yes, those are chopsticks.)

The rain started to fall while we were cooking dinner. To ward off the chilly air, Candice built a fire for us in her tiny stove.

Candice's pre-made "firestarter cupcakes,"
made of wood shavings and clothing lint.

Candice feeds her fire.

As is the case with a home of any size, you want to make sure that your design incorporate elements that you love. Being that Candice loves to watch movies, her tiny home includes a pull-down screen and a movie projector.

Candice wanted to show us her movie theatre. The only film she had was in Chinese. Although Claudia and I could neither understand the actors nor read the Chinese subtitles, the acting was so exaggerated that we could more-or-less follow the story.

Watching a movie in the tiny house's theatre.

Claudia and I had brought our tents, intending to sleep outside. But, Candice was super sweet and offered us her second bedroom, as she could share the loft upstairs with her mom.

As you can likely imagine, Claudia and I graciously accepted the offer. Not only was it pouring outside, but we were excited to spend the night in Candice's tiny home. We had plenty of room in the second bedroom, which is about 4 ft X 6.5 ft; Claudia slept with her feet at my head, and vice-versa.

Claudia & me, in the second bedroom.

The next morning, Candice took me and Claudia on a tour of her landlord's 5-acre property. Candice described the property as very "out-of-this-world", very "Avatar-like." Indeed, it was an amazingly beautiful piece of property!

Just a few of the landlord's many alpacas.

The next door neighbor's Indian sweatlodge.

We came across a huge leaf. Either the leave was huge, or Candice is tiny. (Or perhaps both.)

Candice & the big leaf.

As we were talking outside, the sun broke through the clouds. Candice insisted on taking this photo of me, saying that the light made my hair look like a halo.

I'm an angel!

I tried to take a similar photo of Candice. Either I'm no photographer, the sun disappeared behind a cloud, or you must be blonde to be an angel. (Or perhaps all of the above.)

Candice strikes her angelic pose. 

As we started to share our goodbyes, we noticed someone riding Claudia's bike. We busted out laughing when we saw that it was Candice's mom riding the bike -- we totally didn't expect that! Unfortunately, I didn't capture the photo in time. But I was able to photo Candice's mom bringing my bike around to the front of Candice's house. (My bike seat was too high for Candice's mom to ride.)

Candice's mom delivers Shirley.

Before Claudia and I left, Candice's mom wanted a photo of herself with the two biking clowns so that she could show the photo off to her friends back in China.

Claudia, "Mom," & Me.
(Candice's adorably short mom is standing on the step,
whereas both Claudia and I are standing on the ground.)

We had such an amazing time! Not only was this a wonderful experience for learning more about tiny homes, but it was also a great opportunity to learn more about the Chinese culture. Candice's mom spoke very little English, and she had a lot of questions for me and Claudia. Candice served as the translator.

Claudia and I learned about Falun Dafa, which combines Buddhist philosophy with mediation and slow-moving qigong exercises. (Candice's mom is gung-ho about Falun Dafa.) We learned that there is no equivalent for the word "cozy" in Mandarin. (Claudia and I kept using the word "cozy" to describe Candice's tiny house.) And, Candice's mom learned that bike shorts in the U.S. have padding sewn into the rear ends. (Candice's mom confirmed by squeezing both of our butts.)

Many thanks to Candice, "Mom," and Claudia for making this a great overnight trip!

"Wait, wait, wait! Don't sign off yet!" you shout. "What about the slug sex?"

I bet you thought I put "Slug Sex" in the title just to get your attention! No, no, no my friends!

Candice wasn't kidding when she said that the landlord's property was very Avatar-like. Being that the ground was littered with slugs, I carefully watched my step as we toured the property. At one point, I noticed a strange translucent blob between two hugging slugs. "What in the heck is that?" I asked.

Slug sex.

Both Candice and Claudia instantly recognized this as two slugs goin' at it. (I'm so naive!)

When I got back home to my internet connection, I treated myself to some slug sex self-education. Holy moses, Batman! Slug sex is amazing!

First of all, slugs are hermaphrodites. (I didn't know that.) Penises (really long penises, might I add!) emerge from behind both of their heads and intertwine with one another to create a beautiful glowing non-phallic- looking structure into which sperm is swapped. (I didn't know that either.) Depending on the species, the slugs may chew off one another's penises once they are satisfactorily impregnated.

Although there are just as many copulation practices as there are species of slugs, I'd recommend taking a few minutes to educate yourself with this beautiful, educational video from BBC's and Sir David Attenborough's "Life in the Growth" series:

Yeah for slug sex! And yeah for bicycle touring and tiny houses, too!


I would love to hear your comments on this post!