Things broken on this trip:
One contact lens (ripped)
One tank bag zipper (map compartment)
One camera door (CF card)
One record for no “roadside chats” on a bike
Two friendships (at least I thought they were)
Friday morning, Canada Day, awake at 7 am, despite having gotten to bed at 1:40 the previous night fully exhausted after a full week at work, barely dragging the clean laundry into the apartment before collapsing on an unmade bed. Excited about trip to Mt. Rainier that I’ve planned out for me and Tackle and BCRider and his wife – spend a few minutes reading over the DH guide and making notes on my photocopied maps about tricky routings. Then up to pack, finding all my camping gear, stove, throwing in some tea for Tackle and BCRider along with my coffee, sewing connecting zipper on my jacket, taking care of cats, bemoaning that I didn’t finish cleaning the night before and that I don’t have time now (musing how much easier it was when I was coupled and we could pick up each other’s slack), slurping back a cup of coffee and a protein drink, no time for a shower. Get gear on – damn, sewed the zipper on wrong, do it again – damn, damn, damn, I’m late, again. I hate it and know it’s a problem – why can’t I get it together? but it’s done now – just make the best of it. Get on bike and hope for time dilation, knowing it’s impossible. Do my best. Get there 15 minutes late. Look around the weigh station. No bikes in sight. Pull out my phone. No calls. No “you were late so we left – hope to see you on the road – we’re going this way”. Nothing.
Disbelief and fury. And hurt. They’ve left me. My company over two days is apparently not worth 15 minutes of their precious riding time or even a phone call. How could they do that? What kind of people do things like that, potentially ruining another’s weekend, apparently unconcerned by it? That’s not normal.
What am I going to do now? Go back home? That tastes flat and I know I’d be bitter the whole time. Go for a different ride? Where? I decide to see if I can catch them at the border, unsure if I can even talk to them or what I would say – how can I possibly deal with people who would abandon me over 15 minutes on a two day trip, when riding together is all about compromises and taking into account others’ quirks and foibles (gas stop frequency, what roads, riding speeds, stopping, not stopping, where to stop – all compromises)? How can I be nice after that? Do I even want to spend time with people like that? I’m beginning to think they didn’t really want to ride with me and seized the chance to get out. On the way to the border I decide that I’m not going to allow them to ruin my weekend and I’m going anyway – heck, I’m self-sufficient, I have all my own gear. Screw ’em. I try sneaking in on 0 Ave again, only to be foiled by others with similar thoughts. Wait too long (wishing I could be an asshole like the guy on the Harley and just head for the front of the line). In the end am relieved not to see them.
Cross the border (“Why Mt. Rainier?” “There are some nice roads there” “
Ride on, enjoying the open roads with few cars that aren’t instantly passed. Glad I took the time to look at the DH because I find several roads that aren’t on the regular map. All good, until I miss one. Starting to get irritable. Decide just to book it to Eunumclaw and eat there. Except that 169, the direct route there, is full of traffic (ah-hah, end of work day) until almost the end (including a slight delay looking at someone who apparently crashed on a maxi-scoot – looks fine though). Get more and more irritable – I’ve made my old mistake of waiting too long to eat. In Eunumclaw, looking for a Burger King, hear a honk behind me, there they are. All the hurt and anger and irritability wells up – I only see a McDs so I pull in – they pull in behind me. “Perfect timing” says BCRider. “I’m really angry at you and I have to go eat now” says I and I storm into the restaurant, knowing that without immediate food things would be really bad. I get my fishburger, apple pie and coffee, scarf the first two while noticing my shaking hands and go back outside. Tackle has parked on the other side of the lot, BCRider next to me. His wife and Tackle are doing the bathroom thing. “Well, what now?” I say after it becomes obvious that he’s not going to say anything as he’s gearing up. He says, “I’m having a nice ride’. Me, “Well, you weren’t the one left behind.” Him, basically, “Stop blaming others”. Me, surprised by this, “Did I blame others for me being late? Cell phones work” and go through possible call. They continue to get ready to go – Tackle and wife not looking at me. He repeats – “Don’t blame others. You were late!” with increasing emphasis, like this cardinal sin of mine justifies everything. In the end, I say “Fine then, nice knowing you and have a nice life” or something like that and call that out to Tackle as well. “You too,” she replies as they ride off.
I stand there shocked and fuming, crying in frustration and anger, hands shaking as I get back on my bike. I can’t believe it. All along I’d been trying to deny that this was the end to what I’d thought were good riding friendships, that somehow, someway it could be made better, that it wouldn’t have to hurt. But it did.
I rode off, first the wrong way, and then back the other way. Stopped to check the map again, and the map compartment zipper broke. Got a couple of safety pins and put it together and kept going. Stopped for gas again by a couple with my bike. Then headed into Mt. Ranier. Mind was still not clear, but getting there. Passed all the traffic, in front, speeding some, turned a corner and saw a cop coming the other way. Slowed right down, but lights whirled on and he pulled a uey. I pulled over “S**t, what was the speed limit.”
Take my helmet off to look less threatening but wait to get anything else. Cop comes up, “How was your day” “Kinda crappy”. He smiles a little. I continue, “I lost two friends” and tell him what happened, short form, crying a little. He’s sympathetic, looks at my ID and registration, and tells me to slow down, and gets back in his car. No ticket. Phew. I ride off, at the speed limit.
As I get into Mt. Ranier Park, it starts coming back, that summer I worked there and the things we did. I remember coming off the mountain to party on the 4th of July, almost being 21. I chat with the woman at who takes my entrance fee, saying I used to work there. As I go up the twisty road I remember coming up there in my first car, a ’72 bug, brand new to me, and the first standard I’d really driven. I remember it being dark and the ever present danger of deer. I remember coming down to hike at the waterfall, and jumping off a rock and spraining my foot.
Going up the mountain, I remember that I’m alone and can start stopping and taking pictures.
I get to the top, via the loop, and park. I walk into the lodge with mixed feelings, remembering. It feels different – the summer I worked there the snow was still 12 feet high when I left, so I’ve never seen it green. But the lodge is pretty much the same as it was 14 years previously. I peek inside the restaurant, again seeing little change. The girls at the reception desk ask if they can help, and I say no, just looking – I worked here 14 years ago. They ask if I liked it, and I say, “Well, it was the only job I ever quit.” They laugh, and say things haven’t changed much.
It’s funny – I mostly remember the guy I was seeing while I was there and I wonder what ever became of him and if he ever got over his problems. I remember going down to his place and all that happened there, but nothing about who I was rooming with. I wander around a bit more, remembering.
I then get back on my bike and head off in a new direction. I’ve never been over this side of the mountain. And it’s wonderful. There is little to no traffic, and the clouds are starting to dissapate, falling prey to the altitude. They won’t make it over the mountain. Most of my bad feelings are also dissapating, though they won’t completely leave me for the rest of the trip and I’ll be hit with mental arguments and anger at some points.
I stop several times to take pictures of the road and of the backside of Ranier’s famous crown, but mostly enjoy the winding road down.
Coming out of the park it’s almost dark. I consider the first campground, but it’s fairly full. I get to the next one with just enough light to set up my tent, and then eat tuna, cheese and crackers and have some tea. I fall asleep quickly.
I wake up in the morning to beautiful sunshine. I eat breakfast and clean up, before getting on the road.
It’s a marvelous morning and I’m enjoying myself as I got back on the road. The weather was perfect, the scenery stunning. I started out listening to my mp3 player, but it skipped too much and then the battery died. I resolved to buy a new one, small, flash drive, with a replaceable battery.
Had lunch in a Taco Bell with some sort of high school team, one wearing a shirt that said “It’s a GREAT day to be a cougar!” which cracked me up, since she’s probably unaware of the Canadian meaning of cougar. Once the rush was over, the manager took on the role of maître de, coming around with wipes and mints.
Coming out of Ellensburg the wind was horrendous and scary, pushing me this way and that and gusting across that flat plain. I took 97 north, with everyone else travelling on the holiday weekend. But I was the only one who took the route over the mountain, maintained as a historical highway. In a car, without room to dodge it might have been scary, and it certainly wasn’t a place for speed, but it was gorgeous and deserted. As I went to take the first pictures I found that my camera door was busted and needed to be held shut. Unfortunately, it turned out to be fixable with a piece of tape (I want a new camera).
Crossing the plain, it was again windy and unpleasant, but not quite as bad as before. I stopped in Winthrop to find they were hosting the GoldWing Rides of America meetup, and there were older, soft couples in matching t-shirts everywhere. I had an ice cream and coffee and remembered coming here before, once with my father and sisters to eat lunch and get our photo taken in old time duds, and once with my ex, having dinner and camping out in the midst of a blues festival.
I took the back road we’d found before (now, with road work!) and then into Burlington and up I5 to home. It had been a long two days, but I’d quite enjoyed them nonetheless. I remembered that I like riding alone sometimes too.