Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Enumclaw is for lovers.

Day one slides away, leaving me safely nestled in my tiny pup tent, watching the stars while I listen to the nighttime songs of the neighborhood dogs and cows. I'm camped in the back 40 of ThunderMountain Middle School's voluminous recreational fields, surrounded by Enumclaw farmsteads.

My first day was a good one, despite a continuous headache. The scenery was lovely, and I was thrilled that KC keeps a segregated recreational path parallel to route 169. My scariest moments came while leaving Renton on 169, before finding the trail. Nasty truck traffic. The trail follows the Cedar river, so offers many opportunities to dip. I took a swimming break where I met a friendly swimmer named Chris with all the signs of a chronic meth habit. He offered that he's lived his whole life in the area, and kept up a constant stream of chatter about the history of that particular swimming hole, wild ferrets, his broken truck, his BMX bike. I would have swam longer, but frankly I was afraid of leaving any of my gear out of site around him, friendly though he was.

Renton was a pleasant surprise. I have always thought primarily of Renton as "that place where the Ikea is," but its downtown still bears the vestiges of quaint small town charm. I enjoyed sweet doughnut peaches at its mid-week farmer's market.

I covered a bit less distance than I'd hoped, only 36 miles. According to my bike computer, I peddled for under four hours today; even with all my breaks, that seems questionably low, but hopefully I'll soon hit my stride. At least I'll get an early start tomorrow. My top speed today was 43.9 mph going down a hill, and I can not truly impart to you the terrifying thrill of doing highway speeds while dressed in thin bike clothes with a hundred pounds of wobbly gear at your back.

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King County did not anticipate me.

King County maintains an excellent recreational trail along the Cedar river through Maple Valley. I've been enjoying it since Renton, and have stopped along it to swim and nap. Unfortunately for me, the southern end turns to gravel. The overloaded beast doesn't handle at all well over gravel, nor do my cleated shoes when I'm forced to push it up gravelled hills.

Here in this photo, I've reached a gated exit. The gate has a baffle to allow pedestrians or bicycles to pass through ... Except my bike, which is too wide and has gotten stuck in the baffle.

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The hardest thing to leave behind? Keys, and all that they represent. Other people are holding mine now, and I have locked my own door behind me. This is the only key I will need in the afterlife.

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My last act.

I'm amazed by how much work it takes to step outside my life; handing over professional projects, informing friends and family, planning for my pets... just generally extracting all the useful information from my brain and responsibilities from my shoulders. I imagine that this is what it would be like to die, assuming that I had foreknowledge and time.

My last act before leaving this world is to brand my mount with my tribal sigil so he can find his way to the home of my ancestors. (Thinking about it this way fills me with a short wave of sadness; missing my dad in a way I haven't in months.)

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Monday, August 13, 2007


Welcome to my blog, Bike to the Burn! The topic: a 700 mile bike ride that will take me over mountains and through deserts, to Burning Man, the annual week long festival in northern Nevada. People who hear what I'm planning almost all react strongly and almost all fall into one of two camps: "that's amazing!" or "that's crazy!"

This is not my first trip to Burning Man, though it'll the first time I've bicycled there. I've gone four years out of the last five, and happily identity as "a burner." Other burners often congratulate me on the positive environmental benefits of my trip. You see, the theme of Burning Man in 2007 is "the Green Man," with all sorts of talk of "greening the burn": environmental awareness, sustainability, carbon offsets, and what have you. But, the truth is, I planned my trip without any thought of saving the environment.

In 2006, I caravaned to Burning Man with my friend Zobeewa. I drove my tiger Saab; he drove his red double decker London commuter bus. As you might imagine, these buses are designed for flat city streets, and not at all for high mountain passes, and so Zobeewa was lucky to coax 15mph out of the beast going uphill. As his wingman, it was my job to guarantee enough space for him to change lanes when needed. And so, I drove behind him all the way from Seattle to Nevada, gritting my teeth as we inched up the mountain passes. "Why," I thought, "I could ride my bicycle up this hill faster than this!"

It was a funny thought, and it stuck. By the end of the week it was already cemented. On the drive home, I decided to go through with it. I soon started talking about it, and once my mouth was open, I was committed. I used the trip as an excuse to invest in a recumbent touring bike. I'd always wanted one, but the entry price point is quite high. I did some training, then slacked off. I bought a bunch of gear, and even used some of it. Finally, the weekend before my trip, I mapped out my route (thanks, Google!).

Now it is the eve of my departure (already a day late), and I thought I should share the story of "Why?" So, you may congratulate me on my eco-friendliness if you like, only bear in mind the real reason why I'm doing this...

I thought it would be funny.

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The Fearsome Bikebego

Here loaded up in all its glory.

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All this, on my bike, right now.

A comprehensive packing list for biking to Burning Man


Clothes | Helmet, jacket, 2 pairs shorts, 2 shirts, 4 pairs socks, cleated shoes

Technology | iPhone, solar charger for iPhone

Sleeping | Tent, footprint, inflatable mattress, sleeping bag, pillow

Gear | Multitool, lube, patch kit, tire levers, C02 pump, pocket knife, sharpie, lights, pressure gauge, 4 spare tubes, 2 spare tires, cable lock, 2 keys, hand pump, sunglasses

Reading | Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon, 12 copies of The Peterman Plan, maps

Food | 20 Clif bars, 3 dozen Emergen-C, 10 Java Juice, 10 Clif Shots, protein powder, backpacker's chocolate, 5 gallon water cube, 1 litre water bottle

Toiletries | EpiPen (in case of bee attack), sun block, toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, hand soap, legal pain killers, illegal painkillers, razors, lip balm, hairbrush, towel

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

My route

Seattle -> Burning Man. (See the full Google map.)

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