Weekend in Juneau

At 6 PM on Christmas Eve, I set out on my first solo trip in several months. At the ferry terminal, I loaded Jessica’s bicycle onto the ship. Unfortunately, my bike had been stolen the previous afternoon. I left Sitka, and arrived in Juneau, in complete darkness. Pleasantly rolled up in my sleeping bag, I slept through most of the 9-hour ferry ride.

The first day in Juneau was a rainy, typical Southeast Alaskan day. Because I arrived early on Christmas morning, I rode from the ferry terminal into town in the dark. With my headlamp bound to my bike helmet, I slowly found my way to my host’s home. After an early morning nap, I set out to explore Juneau. I quickly found an icy path, and rode Jess’s bike to the Mendenhall Glacier, which was way more beautiful than the image I had drawn in my head based on descriptions from the Internet.

Juneau, though a city of only 30,000, felt huge and a little overwhelming. I realized how much I had grown accustomed to the small-town life in Sitka. In this new city, I knew that there was no way I could bike from one end of the road to the other in an afternoon. However, my nervousness soon turned into excitement as I admired the new landscape around me. On the second day, I biked to the end of Thane Road. I was hoping to catch a beautiful sunrise, but only saw the heavily-clouded sky get lighter. After recharging at a coffee shop with some delicious cocoa, I found my way to Roberts Mountain and began a 1500-feet hike up the mountain. It was pretty cloudy throughout the hike, but there were still some amazing views.

So beautiful, but so cold! Luckily, my walks on Sitka’s trails had prepared me to go up snowy slopes. After the hike, I biked back with freezing slush in my socks and a big smile on my face.

On my last day in Juneau, I was out the door before dawn. I rode out to Mendenhall Glacier again, this time under clear skies. The air felt thin and rarefied. I hiked out to the tongue of ice, and watched the sun rise in the east, casting its light onto the glittering ice.

I found my way over to Nugget falls, which is this loud and powerful waterfall right next to the glacier.

Nugget Falls

In the afternoon, I rode about 15 miles on the bike path back into downtown Juneau. After some wandering, I found Perseverance Trail and began a slow walk in the snow. This trail was much easier, but even more breathtaking. All around me, ranges of smooth but serrated mountains stood out against a clear blue sky. I felt a light breeze push me along the winding trail.

That night, I hopped back on the ferry and set off for Sitka at midnight. This time, after 8 hours in my sleeping bag, I was lucky enough to be on the ferry after dawn. I woke up in the morning to a beautiful sunrise on the water.

It was an exhausting trip, and it felt wonderful to come home to Sitka feeling both completely spent and totally rejuvenated.

10897058_10152619047882423_6276007097900445255_nHappy New Year, everyone. Here’s to more adventures in 2015!

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One Last Sunset Together

Hello, everyone. If you’re wondering, I’m mostly OK right now, with some slight symptoms of withdrawal. I don’t know if you noticed, but I have been trying hard to avoid writing this post. Because it really does put me in an anxious place. Maybe it’s too soon to be talking about the end of this journey, especially since it ended so quickly, and in such an unexpected way. But I figure I should do this as soon as possible, even if my emotions are still in a weird place. I figure this will be interesting for my family, friends, and future self, to read.

In my current state of anxiety, I have started and deleted the first sentence of this post about 10 times, cut off the same number of inches from my almost-dreadlocked hair, and had countless solo dance parties in my room to all the summer tunes I’ve missed while on the road.* I also find a pile of Lindt chocolate truffle wrappers in front of me, and I simply do not know how they got there.

I’m sitting here, consulting the frenzied scribbles in my personal journal, trying to decide what I want to give away, and what I want to keep for myself.

I’ll go back to Stockton first. We had our last build day of the trip in Stockton, California. When we got to the build site, we met George, a man who clearly had a lot of experience with building and wore his Carhartt overalls with deserved pride. He told us about the Habitat for Humanity in Stockton, as well as the importance of location and orientation of homes. George talked about some of the green building methods that the Stockton chapter uses in order to make homes more cost efficient. “Minimize to maximize, maximize to minimize,” he’d say. We were then directed by Rene, a charismatic, and interesting, build manager. As a reader of this blog, Rene was already familiar with some of our team and the shenanigans that we engage in on this trip. We were split up and put to work roofing, fencing, and digging holes. It was great to work with a Habitat affiliate that, days earlier, after our deliberations, we had decided to give a grant to.

The next morning, we set our sights on Palo Alto. My tire had reached the end of its life, and by mile 20, I had a flat and found several large slashes in my tire. I decided to wait for sweep while taking a nap underneath a tree by the road. When Trevor and Stephen pulled up, they had red, white, and blue stripes in their hair and a matching patriotic tire, that had been donated by “Dan from Central”. I set off in high spirits, with a new tire and war paint on my face.** We rode through a pass that was surrounded by hills of dry yellow grass, wind mills, and solar panels. This, to me, was proof that we were, in fact, in California. Lunch, at mile 50, was at Todd’s house, where his parents and siblings greeted us with kindness and delicious food. After lunch, I was still the last person before sweep, so I set off on my own, but rode with Grace and Kelsey for a while before riding on by myself. I was glad to catch up with Cindy and Emily, because we hit a windy and busy one-lane road. Then, things became a little blurry.

The last thing I remember with any clarity, after the accident, was being in an ambulance with a friendly, young guy who was telling me about his life as an EMT. Once at the hospital, I felt a bit woozy, but generally well. Besides some road rash and a bruise on my cheek and lips, I was physically fine. I later found out that I had lost consciousness for quite a while. There was also a conversation or two that I had had, and now have no memory of.

At the hospital, I was given a CAT scan and IV. The doc recommended that I stay at the hospital for at least 12 hours, in case the concussion was more serious than they had initially thought. I was hesitant to stay the night and potentially miss our last day of riding, but I was also too tired and dizzy to really question his advice. Stan, one of our leaders, came to visit me at the hospital and talk out the options. In the end, I decided to stay in the hospital, which would mean I would miss our last day of riding to the shore. I felt disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to finish this journey the way I thought I would, and knew I could. Even so, I felt more relieved than sad about the whole situation. Concussions (I’ve had one in the past) scare me to no end, and the idea of losing memories is one of my biggest fears. I began to rack my brain, making sure that all the sunsets, inside jokes, valuable conversations, dance moves, and silly moments were still there. I hoped to keep these memories safe and locked up in my brain for a long time, and I was so thankful that they were still intact and lucid in my mind.

That night, Stan left me with an amazing bar of Godiva dark chocolate and a not-so-amazing styrofoam box of chinese food. Then my phone started to buzz. I received so many positive messages, silly photos, and funny videos from my teammates. It felt great to smile, even though it hurt my bruised face pretty badly. There are some gems from Kaitlyn, Beth, and Sarah that really made me laugh.

The next morning, after I was cleared for discharge from the hospital, I met Mr. and Mrs. Huntley, May’s parents, in the lobby. They had kindly offered to pick me up from the hospital, which was a 40-minute drive from Half Moon Bay. The Huntley’s are such a positive and energetic family, and even though I would have rather been on my bike, I am glad I got the chance to ride to the bay in the car with them.

Moments later, I was standing next to my teammates, just yards from the Pacific Ocean, still in my paper scrubs. It was a sunny and clear day, one of the best days I have seen in the bay area. The waves were huge, both threatening and hypnotically inviting at the same time. We ran into the water together. Since I was still not feeling that well, I retreated pretty quickly to the sand while everyone played and swam in the ocean. I found a spot to sit in the sand, and video-called Melissa, one of our riders who left the trip early to start her job in Ohio. I’m glad I got to share that moment of joy and accomplishment with a teammate, even though she was thousands of miles away.

Watching my teammates play in the ocean was a moment I won’t forget. I thought about how we had met just 10 weeks ago, as strangers, eager to embark on a grand adventure that was not yet grand nor yet an adventure. Though there have been other Bike and Build trips, the unique memories that we created, both as individuals and as a family, make #P2C14 so special.

After the wheel dip, we headed back to the church, where I began dealing out some early goodbyes. The initial plan was for me to figure out my own way of getting back home, probably by greyhound or the train, but my worried parents had driven up from Southern California earlier that morning because of the accident. I was sitting at a table when someone tapped me. I turned around to find my mom standing there. I felt a bunch of indecipherable sensations in my stomach, and for a moment, I thought indigestion was the culprit, considering the mess of foods I had stuffed in my mouth earlier that afternoon. I hugged my mom. I don’t remember how long it lasted, but it was so nice to be in such a familiar embrace. My dad joined us in the church, and I could see the concern and relief on both of their faces.

We met later that night on the beach. My parents drove me, Rob, and Cindy back to the shore, where we found some Bike and Build alum working a grill. The sun was beginning to set. We were bathed in California’s golden light, and it was surreal. Everyone was enjoying the view, the food, and the drinks that were thoughtfully provided and planned by our alum. There was a certain satisfied sadness, knowing that this would be the last sunset we would watch together. The Pacific Ocean was a goal, a motivating force, that we had been talking about since Providence, but now that we were finally here, it didn’t seem real. It was romantically melancholy to think that the Pacific was not just a goal, but also an endpoint to this journey. Someone started a bonfire, and s’mores popped out of nowhere because that’s what happens. A cop came and made us put out the fire, because that’s the law.

After the party, we drove back to the church, and after some more extended goodbyes, I parted ways with the strangers that had become my friends and family over the past two months.

*If you know me, you know that I’m just playing that new Taylor Swift song on repeat.
**Bike grease from my dirty chain

Cheers to the Unknown

I woke up today feeling pretty wretched. I thought I could fully embrace sleeping on hard floors, but my back and neck are suggesting otherwise. I also woke up with a sudden realization that this biking cross-country thing is a thing* that’s actually happening. On Monday, I will be attempting to sneak my bicycle onto a Providence-bound Amtrak train. Exactly one week from today, after meeting my teammates, getting oriented, and building in Providence, we will dip our wheels and head West.

The excitement and nervousness that have been festering in my stomach for the last few weeks have finally emerged as fear. I fear the physical and mental hardships. I fear the possibility of not fitting in with a group of unfamiliar individuals that I’m basically stuck with for the next three months. I fear the end of my “bright college years” (staying on campus has allowed me to disregard the fact that graduation was weeks ago). Mostly, I’m scared of stepping outside of my comfort zone and into this world of foolhardy expedition. I have to remind myself that good things don’t come easy, and that taking chances has allowed me to experience the most rewarding, the most beautiful, and the tastiest, things in life. Like leaving home for college, 4000 miles away. Like stepping near the edge of the Grand Canyon. Like giving grapefruit a couple more chances.**

I looked at our route today and thought about all things could be compressed and contained in each inch of my screen. Surely there are plenty of dirt roads, hills, vistas, and swimming holes that didn’t make it onto the map. Even if the physical landscape could be captured, there is so much more that is unknown–the spills and the successes, friendships and fights, and everything that is wild and beautiful on the road.

*adventure, enterprise, crazy dream, whatever you want to call it.
**hands down, my favorite citrus.

May Overview

In May:

~370 miles on the bike

0 crashes(!)

2 slow motion falls

2 flats

I’ve completed my required 500 miles and my 10 sweat equity volunteer hours. All I have to do now is visit my PCP for a health check-up, pack my bag, do some AH research, find a route from here to Providence, and get to my fundraising goal. Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who made donations in lieu of graduation presents. We have raised $4200! That means I am only $300 away from my fundraising goal. And don’t worry–if you were freaking about forgetting to get me a graduation present, you can still donate and help me get to $4500 before June 9.

My ride begins THIS VERY MONTH, and I am so pumped. Have a great week everyone!

 

Less Than Two Weeks

It’s pretty hard to believe that I’m done with college. Commencement weekend was absolutely surreal. So many photos to take, moments to relive, places to be, and people to see. I just hope that all the goodbyes are only temporary farewells. I am grateful for so many people–the amazing friends I have known for half my life, and those I’ve made over the last four years. Thank you to my grandparents, my aunt and uncle, and my little cousin, for driving from Toronto for this occasion. My mom and dad, who flew in all the way from California to see me graduate–I know you don’t support everything I do, but thank you for always believing in me wholeheartedly when you do. Most importantly, thank you for always being honest.

I’m done with school, but still living on campus because I’m working the alumni reunion events. I need the extra money to get to my fundraising goal, and my paycheck for these two weeks will be donated to Bike and Build.

It’s strange to be in such a familiar place without all the people I’m so used to seeing here. My parents took most of my things home, so I’ve been living out of a backpack and in a bag for the last ten days. It’s a liberating feeling, and I’m looking forward to fully adopting this minimalist way of life for my summer on the road.

Last week, I worked at the kids’ camp. It’s a tiring, exciting, and rewarding job. I have so much respect for the people who work with children as a career. The nature of their work requires a combination of skills and knowledge, physical and mental strength, empathy, playfulness, and patience. I don’t know how many times I heard “Let it Go” sung at the top of little lungs on karaoke. Yes, it’s a good job.

I probably totaled a measly 10 miles on the bike for the entire week, but I think 12 hours straight of playing basketball, tennis, and badminton with tireless kids also make for pretty good training.

During my down time, I decided to finally figure out how to use iMovie. I made my first little video with the bicycle footage captured from my GoPro:

Less than two weeks til Bike and Build. Please, please, please help me get to my fundraising goal! All DONATIONS are tax-deductible, and extremely appreciated.

As always, thank you for reading. 🙂

April Overview

In April:

~300 miles on the bike

15 hours volunteering at New Haven’s build site

4 crashes (this is normal, right?)

6 flats (this cannot be normal, right?)

1 race (my first!)

The last crash was pretty nasty; resulted in a stretcher, an ambulance ride, a good dose morphine, and crutches. Haven’t been on the bike since, but I’m walking again, so I’m hoping to get better soon. Till then, I will be struggling to sneeze, laugh, and hiccup. Each time I do, it feels like my ribs are exploding inside my body.

Here’s to more miles and fewer crashes in May!

The Farmington Canal Heritage Trail

For newbie and nature-loving riders like me, the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail offers a unique adventure, and minimizes automotive encounters. This adaptive reuse of an abandoned railroad line allows access to a bit of urban decay as well as an opportunity to reconnect with nature. During my last year in New Haven, I finally made it onto the trail, and was amazed by the uncommon and unusual things I found there.

A little bit of internet research told an interesting and historical tale of how the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail came to be. In the 1800s, after Jefferson doubled the size of the United States with the Louisiana Purchase, businessmen found large profits in the transportation industry. The success of the Erie Canal prompted the Canal Corporation to design and build a canal from New Haven’s port, through Connecticut, to Massachusetts.

During the groundbreaking ceremony, the shovel broke, an inauspicious start to the construction of the canal. The Canal Corporation was under-capialized and did not receive any funding from the State of Connecticut. Nevertheless, the company continued to build, but was forced to make shortcuts, with disastrous results. Leaks and collapses disrupted the canal’s construction, but in 1835, the canal was completed–stretching 84 miles from New Haven to Northampton.

Apparently, still beset by problems, the canal was never able to turn a profit, so the shareholders of the Farmington Canal Co. petitioned the legislature to build a railroad. In 1848, the New Haven and Northampton Railroad Co. was chartered.

Just as the locomotive replaced the canal boat in the mid 1800s, trucks began to take over transportation services in Central New England in the late 1900s. Rail lines around the country fell into disrepair. In the 1990s, groups of creative initiatives began to explore the idea of converting abandoned rail and canal paths into recreational trails. The “rails-to-trails” movement was born, and is still in motion today. Today, there are still a few small gaps to be filled before the entire 80-mile length of the trail is connected and complete. From sunrise to sunset, this unique trail is shared by walkers, riders, and skaters.

The Canal Line

Rolling through the trail on my bicycle, I ride slow enough to take in all its small historic and picturesque pieces, but fast enough to see it transform. My start of the trail is behind Yale’s Department of Health, and several minutes later, I enter New Haven’s residential area. A few more miles down the trail, I’m greeted by wooded stretches and babbling brooks.

Tracks

If you start out from New Haven on a bicycle, you’ll see remnants of railroad sprinkled on the side of the trail. You will be confronted by passing cars and trucks where the trail intersects with urban streets. The paved road leads you through dark tunnels and long stretches of sky. Wooden bridges roll underneath, while interstate bridges pass overhead. Benches lining the trail offer moments of relief and contemplation.

The Farmington Canal Heritage Trail promises miles of respite from a (sometimes) hectic life in New Haven.