Thursday, August 12, 2010

July 25th, 2010 – Boise to Seattle

This time, the five a.m. wake up call came WAY too early.  I crawled out of bed trying to motivate myself with the thought that today was the arrival day. I realized I needed a better breakfast today than I had yesterday. I added a can of Monster energy drink to the menu and headed out.

The Boise to Oregon leg was no more picturesque than was the Salt Lake City to Boise leg, but at least I didn’t have the sun in my face for hours. Once I hit Oregon, the terrain got much more interesting with twists, turns, and elevation changes aplenty. It kept me alert and really helped to make time and the miles fly by.

At a gas stop/butt cheek relief station in Oregon, an old white church van pulled in behind me at the pump. The driver was an older man in a black suit and his wife looked like one of those old school fundamentalist submissive women with an ankle length skirt and her hair pulled in a tight bun. At a glance, she looked as if she was a black and white character in a color world. As I checked my GPS, I couldn’t help but notice the man staring at me intently. I looked up, smiled, and said good morning to them. Without a pause, he pointed at my license plate (INFDEL) and asked me if it promoted infidelity. I struggled to keep a straight face and responded explaining that the plate was a symbol to certain religious fanatics who despise America, Americans, and Christianity; that I was their enemy and unlike them, I don’t hide. I’m pretty sure neither of them got it, but he changed the subject and asked if I rode all the way up from Texas. I told him I was taking my mom to Seattle for her birthday. Looking at the fully loaded passenger seat, his wife asked “Where is she?” I grinned, leaned my head to the side, rolled my eyes towards the tour pack trunk and said “in there”. They said nothing, looked at each other, got back into the van, and drove off.

With a full tank and an empty bladder, I headed out. I was alone on this stretch of road. Not another car or bike in sight. I forgot to change the time on my GPS and satellite radio and anyone who saw Easy Rider knows bikers don’t wear watches. It seems like common sense to me that a device like a GPS receiver whose function is to measure latitude, longitude, and TIME would actually know the correct time based on my location and not need my intervention to do it! My point here is I was shocked to be alone on the highway until I realized it wasn’t even seven a.m. yet.

I wasn’t alone for long. A car was rapidly approaching me from the rear. I could see the headlights appear and then disappear on the hills behind me. The speed limit was 75 mph, which is fast. Plus, there were no speedy cars to follow faster. Thankfully, I wasn’t speeding. The approaching vehicle was a State Trooper who tailed me for a few miles before hitting his lights. I pulled over and dismounted, but he sat in his car for a good minute or two before getting out and asking me to step away from the bike. He didn’t ask for my license or insurance. He just pointed and asked me what was in my “trunk”. I told him it was mostly provisions to travel from Dallas to Seattle for my mother’s birthday and offered to open it for him. He preferred to open it himself. Of course it was locked, so I offered the key explaining that it was in my pocket and asked if it was ok to reach for it. He looked in the tour pack and didn’t see anything interesting. That was when he noticed my dash and mom’s picture on it. That, combined with the lack of body parts in the “trunk” caused him to laugh saying there must have been a misunderstanding. As I mounted up, he told me to watch it ahead in [whatever] county because the local cops were thick with radar. I never saw the other cops in the next county or even thought about them. I was transfixed wondering what the call to the police from the preacher and his wife must have sounded like.

Sometime thereafter, I passed a sign that read “45th Parallel – Half Way Between the Equator and the North Pole”. Hey, when you’re on hour 33 of a 38 hour ride, most anything is exciting. At least it wasn’t one of the dozens of signs I saw along the way that read “This roadway improvement project was funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act”. Those signs got me thinking. Somewhere, there’s a bean counter helping the Obama Administration take credit for all the “new” jobs created to make signs telling us about all the jobs they’re creating. But I digress…

I crossed into Washington and felt like I was on the home stretch. The ride through Snoqualmie Pass was awesome. I had driven it before when I was in town working a project for T-Mobile, but experiencing it on a bike weaving in and out of traffic, snaking through the mountains thick with dark green forests and snow capped mountain tops was a real rush. Eventually, I made it past downtown Seattle and out towards British Columbia and made the turn onto Highway 20, which leads across the bridge to the island.

Suddenly, I was here. I ran a fast and furious pace all the way from Dallas and now that I was here, I was in no hurry. In some way, I actually dreaded crossing the bridge. I stopped at a parking cut out to collect my thoughts. I was so excited to have finally made it, so why the hell was I choking up and fighting back tears? This was exactly what mom wanted. It was closure time. I began to think that maybe this closure thing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

While stopped before the bridge, I took a few photos for other people and asked them to reciprocate. Looking at my photo, I can see elation, exhaustion, and melancholy all rolled into one. I switched on the video camera and headed across the bridge.

The structure is actually two spans, bridging a quarter mile gap 180 feet above the channel between Fidalgo Island and Whidbey Island. It was named for Joseph Whidbey, who in 1792 sailed the narrow passage that is now called Deception Pass and proved that it was not really a small bay as charted by the Spaniards (hence the name "Deception"), but a deep and turbulent channel which separates the mainland from what they at the time believed was a peninsula (actually Fidalgo Island and Whidbey Island).

Wanting to take it all in, I drove us across as slowly as traffic behind me (and the physics of motion and gravity) would allow. Mom had waited a long time to come back here and there was certainly no rush now. We rode on to her friend Mary Anna’s house for a long awaited reunion. Returning tomorrow for her birthday celebration with her friends will be especially moving and sentimental. We spent the evening reminiscing over old stories about mom and her friends.