Sunday, September 29, 2013

Wedding Bike Ride to Port Townsend

Two weeks ago some friends of mine got married. While most people just drive to out-of-town weddings, I was inspired by Tessa Hulls to ride my bike. She is a friend in Seattle who rides her bike most places, whether around town, to a mutual friend's wedding outside Portland, or coming home from a trip in Alaska. (She is the one who gave me a great run-down on her bike touring packing list right before I did the Oregon Coast bike trip.) My boyfriend had already left town on Friday, so on Saturday morning I set out solo to ride from my house in Seattle out to Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula.

I'm north of the Seattle-Bainbridge ferry, so I decided to take the Edmonds-Kingston ferry and not have to backtrack. In the grey morning light I got on the interurban and pedaled north, barely giving myself enough time to make the intended ferry. I got to the ferry dock after all the cars were loaded and the boat was full, and I looked pleadingly at the ferry worker, "Can I still get on?"

"Go grab a ticket!" he replied, to which I bolted in and out of the terminal. I rode down the dock past all the cars, onto the full ferry, just before they pulled away.

It was a beautiful, foggy crossing on Puget Sound. It had been forecasted to be sunny, but it was fairly mild and very misty. A lot of small boats were on the water, and I watched a salmon jump over and over.

From Kingston I hopped on 104, which is a somewhat busy but pleasant enough road with a wide shoulder. The Hood Canal bridge was pretty to cross, and pads had been laid on the sharp grates on the shoulder for bicycles.

Just after the bridge I got to my favorite section of the ride. For about 2 miles, you can take the parallel Shine Road, which goes along the water, lined with cute houses and yards and fruit trees.
The rest of the ride went smoothly, with long gradual hills. About four miles before Port Townsend, I got onto the Larry Scott bike trail. It was a peaceful, wooded bike trail that eventually will go all the way to Neah Bay. But for now it was just nice to have a separate bike trail coming into town.
Once the trail got closer to the city, it opened up to the coast. I could see the ferry, lots of sailboats, and a half-sunken mini-ship.
I arrived at the wedding venue of Fort Worden State park just within my comfortable time limit. I was an hour early, and I'm glad I wasn't any later! I had just enough time to take a quick shower at the main house and throw on a dress that had been rolled up in my pannier. Dangly earrings, leather flats, a little mascara, and no one would suspect that I had just arrived sweaty, in bike shorts. Last time I checked, that does not make for the best wedding attire.

There was a drinks and appetizers happy hour before the wedding. I'm a big fan of the pre-event cocktail hour- weddings go so fast that it gives the guests more time to chat, and slows the day down a bit. It also gave my ravenous stomach a chance to normalize.

The ceremony was outside, which the bride had been adamant about. Even if it had ended up pouring rain, the wedding would have taken place outside. Luckily, the sun came out and it was a profoundly beautiful afternoon. Here's the groom and officiant waiting for the bride by a huge pacific madrone.
The ceremony was heartfelt, funny, and original. The chairs for guests were arranged in almost a complete circle. I like the inclusive, community feeling of that shape more than the straight, spectator rows. Then the bride walked down the aisle (well, across the field) to a live electric guitar Jimmy Hendrix-esque version of Here Comes the Bride. The couple wrote their own vows which were incredibly beautiful. There was also no shortage of humor with lines like, "I will always be there for you. When you are cold, I will keep you warm. When you are hot, I will take off your clothes." Also, instead of a flower girl, they had three "flower knights", who were all brothers in medieval costumes and capes, throwing petals. Later they came around before dinner to hand out little roses to all the guests.
After the ceremony it was happy hour before dinner, but I couldn't bring myself to stay inside. The light was incredible, warm early evening light with unexpected layers of coastal fog.
We climbed around on the old military bunkers, watched the water, and played with little kids until it was time for dinner. The rest of the evening was a blast- trivia about the couple, cake, lots of dancing. I know it sounds cliche, but those two really do make a fabulous couple, and I wish them the absolute best. I'm so happy for them that they found each other, and happy for me that I had a fun destination for  a longer bike ride.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Farewell Summer

It was a stellar summer in western Washington this year. I cannot even remember such a consistently warm, dry, and idyllic summer. In August a bunch of friends visited from out of town, the tomatoes got ripe, the sunflowers got big, the BBQ's were plentiful, the nieces and nephews played, and Golden Gardens hosted night after night of beautiful sunsets. 
I kept harvesting in the garden, as well as started planting for fall crops and overwintering veggies. I liked to challenge myself to make meals that were almost all from the backyard garden.  

One night I made garlic mashed potatoes, cherry tomato caprese salad, sauteed onions and kale, and Puget Sound crab that I caught. Everything was home-grown (and fished) except the butter, milk, and mozzarella. I feel like I just need a cow to make that dream happen!

I also got to learn about honey extraction through a demonstration by Seattle Bee Works. They set up a screened tent in West Seattle, and had all the tools for harvesting honey, along with a large, 20-frame motorized extractor. It was open to beekeepers bringing their own honey to extract for a small fee, or just for the public to learn about the process.
I helped "uncap" the honey frames by using an old-school hot roller knife to take off the the layer of wax on the comb that tells us that finished honey is underneath. Then the uncapped frames get spun in the extractor, and honey comes out the bottom. Then that honey is put through a strainer to remove bits of wax. And voila! You have pure, raw honey ready to eat. (I still haven't decided if I'm going to harvest any of my own honey this year... more on that soon. But just in case you are wondering, both of my hives are alive and doing well!)

I also did a couple day hikes with girfriends. Off I-90, Tessa and I climbed up to Mailbox Peak. That's a great one if you don't have time to go far, but you still want a killer quad workout. It's something like 3,100 feet of elevation gain in 2.8 miles. That's basically like climbing stairs the whole time. But the views are worth it, and as a bonus there is a mailbox at the top full of surprises. There are endearing "letters to self" from teenagers, random pictures of Eminem, bug spray, bandaids, maps, keychains, etc. A friend told me that when she went last year, there was a whole bottle of whisky. So the contents are always changing- make sure to bring something of your own to leave! 
Serena and I went to Gothic Basin, off the Mountain Loop Highway, about 30 miles past Granite Falls. The trail begins on the same road to Monte Cristo, a ghost town from silver mining prospects of the late 1890's. I am fascinated by the idea of a local, mountainous ghost town and plan to go there someday soon. But instead, we forked off the river trail and climbed up to the stunning Gothic Basin at 5,200 feet.
And that catches us up to last night, when some friends and I celebrated the end of summer and the beginning of fall. I wanted to make an appropriate meal- fall comfort food straddling the freshness of summer. So I made a vegetarian pot pie with carrots, potatoes, parsley, and chives from the garden, and a garden salad of mixed greens, arugula, and radish. We packed a dinner picnic and headed down to Greenlake where the Fremont Arts Council was putting on their annual Fall Equinox Luminata lantern parade. There was a gathering of people with lanterns and lighted costumes, fire dancers, and marching band music.
As full darkness settled, the group turned into a parade, walking partway around the lake to end in a dance party of light, moonrise, bonfire, cookies, and hot cider. From here on out, the days will be shorter than the nights. And after the hot, frenzied summer we had, I couldn't be more ready for the fall.

Monday, September 9, 2013

A New Baby! And Other Thoughts

My older sister just had a baby! She lives in Bellingham, and since I wasn't working, I was able to head up there before the baby came. I hung out with my mom, my niece, and my sister's partner at the hospital, and then the sweet little girl was born at 10:14pm. She was beautiful and healthy and had one real tear in her eye. My mom started crying as soon as she saw the baby. It's her 8th grandchild and the joy of a new baby in the family will never diminish with time or quantity. My mom is a BIG fan of her kids having kids.
We went home to their house to get some sleep, and headed back to the hospital in the morning. It was so nice to be back in my sweet college town, and just have unhurried time to hang out with family. I absolutely love being around newborns- tiny humans with a huge energy about them. 

Being around the baby reminded me that life is precious and exciting.... and also that babies and pregnancy can be sensitive issues. There are all sorts of medical risks for the mom and baby. But wait! Even before that point, there is the trying to get pregnant part. Since I've recently gone from my 20's to 30's, it's like a switch flipped and suddenly every one is trying to get pregnant, and those experiences vary widely.

I have friends who are a married couple and tried to get pregnant for over seven years. They finally decided to consider adoption, but even that has been a slow and arduous process. The whole thing baffles me as I know they will make the most wonderful, loving parents. Some other friends have been trying to get pregnant for just a few months, and they are already experiencing the stress and frustration of that. Then I have other friends who just got pregnant, right when they planned- the exact same month that the wife defended her dissertation and got her PhD. The timeline is totally different for every family.

We were taking family pictures last weekend with the aforementioned seven grandchildren. It was suggested in jest that I shouldn't be in the family picture since I didn't have kids. It was, of course, a joke. But don't they say that people only make jokes when there is a nugget of truth? 

The thing is, having kids is a private issue. Sometimes it feels public because it's so visible- a big pregnant belly, or loud, energetic kids running around. We connect to cute children, want to talk to them and play and feed them and keep them safe, even when we don't know them. It takes a village, right? But it's important to remember that everyone has a different reality of medical, personal, philosophical, financial, and logistical issues that might not be appropriate to just bring up casually.  

A few years ago when I lived on Orcas Island, some acquaintances of mine got married. I was talking to a good mutual friend who had just gone to the wedding. "So, are they planning to have kids?" I asked. "Um, you could ask them directly," he replied. "And it's not really anyone's business but theirs." At the time, I thought his comment was really harsh. Looking back however, I now agree a lot more with that sentiment. I'm all for having babies (yeahhh!!) but also being conscientious about how we talk about it.