The final countdown! May 8, 2018

Tomorrow we begin our journey from border to border and I am beyond excited. But also, I can’t lie, I’m a little nervous. I honestly haven’t ridden more than 20 miles since that fateful day 2 years ago when we ended our Transam journey. But, riding a bike is like… riding a bike. If you did it once, it’s a skill you never forget, right? Eh I guess we’ll find out soon enough!

So far everything has been going extremely smoothly. I wrapped up work and had all last week free to prepare for what I have in store for this summer as well as spend some quality time with Addie. Since I already have all the gear I need for biking, I focused mainly on preparing the the JMT. But alas Sunday came very quickly and I soon found myself on a flight to Denver. After landing, I met up with my cousin Julie and her boyfriend Adam. They showed me around the city and we visited a few cool spots, including the most massive REI I have ever seen (granted, I’ve only ever seen one other one). It was awesome catching up with them and exploring the city. I’m kicking myself now that I didn’t get a picture with them, I’ll blame it on the altitude sickness. Sheena made her joyful appearance later at night and it was great to see her after over a year of being apart.

We flew into Seattle extremely early in the morning which was fine cause both of us were miraculously able to sleep on the plane. After picking up our bags, we decided to use the Light Rail system to get to the bike shop since an Uber was ridiculously expensive at rush hour. But what we saved in money we spent in effort. Sheena was smart and packed all her gear in a roller luggage bag. Me, being the genius I am, packed a huge duffel bag. Coming in at a whopping 42.5 lbs, carrying it the 1/2 mile to the train station was a struggle. And apparently it was an obvious one because a kind soul driving an airport taxi stopped and let us hop aboard for a lift to the station. After the train ride we had another 1/2 mile walk to the bike shop. That, too, was a bear. Even more so. Seattle is a pretty hilly city, so walking with an awkward duffel bag with pot and pan handles poking you with every step of the way was pretty brutal. And here I was last blog post saying that hiking the JMT with a 40 lb bag wouldn’t be a huge deal…. maybe I should reconsider that brazen statement. But regardless, with frequent rest breaks we managed the harrowing journey and were reunited with our bikes at Velo Bike Shop.

Should you ever find yourself in Seattle with any bike needs, get your butt over to Velo Bike Shop. Even prior to arriving, they were very good at communicating with us when our bikes arrived and when they were assembled. But once we got there the manager Lloyd let us literally dump every piece of gear we had (including clothing) in the middle of the shop and organize our panniers. They offered us helpful advice for sights to see and ways to travel around the city, and even let us keep our bikes and gear in the shop while we explored the city on foot. Talk about amazing customer service! Cannot speak highly enough about everyone who works there.

Luckily for us the bike shop is in the middle of all the action in Seattle. We were able to visit the space needle, Pikes Place Market (we missed the fish throwing unfortunately), and the ever popular (and highly disgusting) gum wall. Along the way we strolled along the water and saw beautiful snow capped mountains. Both Denver and Seattle didn’t feel like major cities, at least so far as what I’m used to. There were no police sirens screaming, no ambulances wailing, and no car horns honking! Maybe it has to do with west coast mentality or the legalization of a certain something that was definitely wafting through the air, but it was so much more quiet and “chill” than what I’m used to.

After returning to Velo to pick up our bikes, we geared them up and did our first fully loaded ride of the trip! After a somewhat rocky start (with much laughing and ‘oh my god we should’ve actually trained for this’ moments) we made our way 1.3 miles of pure downhill bliss to the Amtrak station to catch the train into Vancouver. Seattle is an extremely bike friendly city and we had no fear of getting hit by a car or pedestrian.

The train was the first hiccup of the trip, and a very minor one it was. It broke down 45 min into the ride, but with some help of the engineer, it was up and running in no time. Plus where we got stuck, we had a gorgeous view of the sunset over the water.

But alas, that was not the end of our Amtrak woes. With only 15 min left in our trip, we came to a complete stop. The conductor came on the PA and announced that a freight train was stuck going up a hill and needed an additional engine to give it that extra push. This discouraged me not only because it was already midnight and we were stuck for an undetermined amount of time, but also because there was a hill so big even a train couldn’t make it, and we were headed the same direction only a couple of days later (great!) But after about an hour (I think, I fell asleep) we pulled into the station. We grabbed our bikes, went through customs and it was official, we made it to Canada and the start of the PCHT!

Being as late as it was, we were unsure whether to take the train or ride to the hostel that was only 1 mile away. Since it was warmer outside than in the train (it was freezing in the car) we decided to ride on over. Plus at 1:30am, do we really have to worry about traffic?? After a beautiful ride in the city, we arrived and checked into the Cambie Hostel in Vancouver, BC. We have to haul all our stuff up 2 floors (past a very noisy cat), but we have our own private room in which to store our bikes and gear. After all, on the ride over to the hostel, a motorist told us that Vancouver is the “bike stealing capital of the world”, so we better be careful.

Vancouver is much more like the cities I’m used to. Honking is abundant and everyone is in a hurry, pushing and shoving their way to wherever is so important that they’re going. Today we mainly did shopping for food and checked out a little of the city. We’re both super tired from having a 21 hour travel day yesterday, so we’re taking it pretty easy.

Public transportation in the pacific north west is extremely easy to use and navigate. We’ve taken light rails and trains just about everywhere so as to avoid biking in the city.

Right now we’re sitting at the Mexican restaurant under the hostel anxiously waiting to devour some tacos to celebrate taco Tuesday. We’re planning on going to bed early for a super early departure before rush hour hits. It’s looking like rain on our first day, very similar to the start of the Transam. So I’m taking that as a good sign! Can’t wait to get back on the bike and let the adventure begin!

Sheena’s Corner:

Common theme when I travel to other countries: “What part of Mexico are you from?”

There’s a cat at the hostel named Ding Dong, so now I have two Ding Dongs! *editor’s note: Sheena’s nickname for her boyfriend is Ding Dong*

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