And Then We Bought A Plumber Van…

Sometimes in life we are faced with challenges that force us to choose a path.  What makes us who we are is how we deal with these moments.  Do you choose to let it defeat you?  Or do you find a way to overcome it?

Ben and I were faced with such a predicament in Port Orford, OR.    We left Bandon, OR in the misting rain.  Ten minutes into the ride it began to pour, harder than the usual rain we’d experienced.  Then the wind picked up – enough to where the gusts would completely knock my bike over so I had to clip out.  I’m screaming through the rain, “this is nuts!”  Ben is nodding and hoping that it will let up during the ride.  We splash through puddles and the roadsides begin to flood.  After three hours of raindrops making their way into my collar and down my back, we finally drifted into Port Orford.  Click on this link to see a video of what 70 mph winds look like!  https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10101202360601613&set=vb.10211384&type=2&theater

windy

As fate would have it, a kind soul saw us on the side of the road and offered his help.  John, a fellow bike tour adventurer, pulled us over near the local hardware shop, jumped out of his truck and said, “You realize you are going into the worst storm we have had all year?!  It’s only going to get worse.  Like something you’ve never seen before.”  The forecast had called for winds up to 75 mph and sheets of rain for the next week solid.  Ben and I were hoping the forecasters were joking.  John rode across country several times and was sympathetic of the conditions we’d endured- three days without rain the entire trip.  He offered us use of his Powder House, one of Port Orford’s historical gems and the coziest place we’ve stayed thus far.  http://www.portorfordpowderhouse.com/

Once in the quaint home, Ben and I started calculating how long it would take us to finish if the weather continued like the forecast predicted.  Too long.  We would miss Christmas. Everyday would be spent in the rain without much visibility.  Was it worth it?  To say we did it, but not enjoy the time in between?  Life is too short to not be having fun!  So we thought of creative ways to continue riding while speeding up our adventure.  Planes, trains and automobiles.

During the days that followed, Ben and I huddled up in the warm Powder House (which was aptly named at it had been used to store explosives in a former life) enjoying tea and the company of John and Cathy, who so kindly welcomed us and showed us all the unique qualities of Port Orford.  We poured over plans and got anxious of the twists and turns the trip was taking.  Roads were closed, trees fell, power lines came down and part of the fence from the Powder House blew away.  At night I kept waiting for the roof to blow off, it sounded like it was being ripped away with each gust.

Three nights went by and we realized we weren’t going to make it anywhere on a bike, anytime soon.

Plan B.

Ben scoured craigslist for an option, any option and what did he find?  None other than a well-loved Dodge Plumbing Van, perfect for fitting the bikes into, for camping and more adventure.

A few napkin sketches later and a trip to Home Depot have morphed the plumbing van into a luxurious, functional, mobile adventure unit.  We now drive to places we couldn’t have gone previously and bike day rides each day, weather permitting.

The adventure continues…

plumvervan

Rain, Rain and More Rain

I peek outside and take note of the frequency of raindrops hitting the puddle in the muddy parking lot outside our motel. “I think it’s raining again today” I announce and grab another cup of coffee.  After waiting a bit I open the blinds again and see the same pattern of raindrops in the puddle, no different than before.  “I think it’s letting up, should be fine after breakfast.”   Chelsea isn’t buying it. It worked the first few times, but not anymore. She knows just as well as I do that we will be spending the next 7 hours riding through the rain.

The first twenty minutes in the morning are always uncomfortable as we wait for our bodies to warm up and counteract the cool drizzly day.  The degree to which we get soaked will be based on the intensity of the rain and the speed and direction of the wind which is summarized as follows:

Stage 1, heavy mist and light rain-

Under calm conditions and a light drizzle we’ll stay reasonably dry except for our hands, feet and face. I wear waterproof mittens when it rains (all but 3 days of our ride have been wearing these thus far) and they do a decent job of keeping the water out, but inevitably moisture works its way in somehow.  I don’t mind it as my hands stay warm. Our faces have beads of condensed moisture rolling off them.  The lenses of our riding glasses have small droplets on them that don’t affect our vision much.

Stage 2, cars change their windshield wipers from intermittent mode to constant-

As the intensity of the rain picks up, the arms and the legs of our rain gear begin to take on water.  The water weighs the fabric down and pulls it tight to the spandex beneath, removing any dead air that had been keeping the appendage in question warm.

Water begins to run down my cheeks and follow my jawbones to my chin where a steady dribble pitches forward onto the cross bar of the bike.

The voids between the aggregate in the surface of the asphalt are now full of water and runoff begins.  This causes a neat little rooster tail of water to launch off the front tire about 5’ in front of me when going 10 miles per hour.  Higher speeds yield higher rooster tails. The dry bag on my rear rack blocks any spray to my backside while a mangled license plate from Washington serves as Chelsea’s rear fender. It’s pretty rad.

Stage 3, it’s officially raining-

The shoulder of the road frequently has puddles that we try to avoid as much as possible.  We clip out often when crossing dodgy sections. Our speed on the flats drops to 7 or 8 miles per hour.

The flow rate of water off my chin increases to a steady stream and a new rivulet begins to pour off my nose.  If I look up towards the sky I am provided the unique feeling of having raindrops injected into each nostril.

Despite our over-booties, the road spray inevitably starts to work its way into our shoes and the dreaded Slurpee-foot beings.  Slurpee-foot is just what it sounds like- Imagine filling each shoe with your favorite Slurpee flavor and then putting your foot in it.

The beginning of the storm

Things start to get exciting when a headwind picks up during Stage 3 rain. This causes rain to work down the back of my neck and between shoulder blades before hitting the back of my cycling bib. After enough water droplets reach the bib, they seem to conspire together and select one brave soul to make a break for the butt crack. This is not pleasant.

Love What You Do

In the past few weeks I can’t count how many times I have been asked, “Does ZEAL have any job openings?!”  Once people find out that there is a company that helps push their employees to do what they love to do, they want in.

We are a small team at ZEAL, but a strong family who is tied to our roots even as we grow.  ZEAL just launched internationally and the brand is expanding, but ZEAL will remain grounded and committed to what is important.  We strive to live passionately and with purpose:  to give back to the community, while following our own ZEAL and quest for adventure.

When I approached ZEAL’s director of marketing, Joe Prebich with Ben and my idea to bike the entire Pacific West coastline, I expected the typical boss reply, “That sounds nice, but I need you here.  Can you do it in a few days?”  What I got instead was, “That’s awesome!  Yes.  Blog and spread the ZEAL word on your way.  As long as you can keep the work and words flowing, you’ve got our full support.  This is what it is all about!”

I was shocked, but I shouldn’t have been.  This is what ZEAL is ALL about.  We are more than just a sunglass and goggle company.  ZEAL helps people to see what they are capable of and just wants to go along for the ride.  We provide a vision for a lifestyle that adds to your life.

You don’t have to go on a two-month bike tour to find your passion.  You can do that within your own workweek or weekend.  Get out of your own comfort zone.  Do something that inspires others to live their lives to the fullest, whether it’s planting a local garden, helping build a brand, or planning a trip to the jungle.

What I am saying is that if you aren’t doing what you love, you’re missing out.  Get up, find that fuel that gets you going and live everyday to the fullest.  My advice to all of you who want to love what you do:

1)   Find something you are passionate about

What sparks your interest?  Can you work in a field that surrounds and supports that interest?

2)   Make sure you work with people who build you up and help you learn

This is a key component to loving what you do.  Surrounding yourself with positive influencers is something that will strongly impact your life.

3)   Take chances

Be bold!  No one ever got anywhere by sitting around waiting for something to happen!  Make it        happen!

Follow your passion, Follow ZEAL.

Cannon Beach and the Mist

We approached Cannon Beach after a steep downhill grade and a long uphill climb.  It was sprinkling.  We’ve found it is very rare for water not to be draining from the sky in the Pacific Northwest.

Cannon Beach is absolutely my favorite little beach town we’ve visited.  It’s quaint cottage culture is irresistible.  With a focus on handcrafted artisan work, the community is unique and beautiful.  We got lucky and arrived in the midst of an art festival.  Ben and I splurged a little and got a cottage with a fireplace that smelled like a cozy sauna due to it being wrapped in cedar.  You appreciate everything all the more when you are on an adventure like this.  The warmth from a fire, a hot shower, a bed, and a cup of tea are all 10 times better than they’ve ever seemed before.

We set out to explore the town and walked out to the seashore.  Unreal.  Both Ben and I were speechless as we looked out at the sea grass and giant rock outcroppings jutting out of the ocean.   Cannon Beach holds the most picturesque coastline we’ve seen.  It has a magical feel to it.  After a rather hysterical photo shoot on the beach, Ben and I attended a local art gallery open house which gave us access to free food and drinks and some really beautiful art. 

Following a local’s advice, Ben and I headed to the Irish Table for dinner, a rustic and cozy restaurant that was turning people away when we entered.  Somehow they took our reservation for one hour later and sent us to the bar next door.  The bar was set in a hardware store!  It was such a fun atmosphere.  Ben and I sipped on our glasses of wine next to the wrench section.

Two older couples sat across from us.  Midway through our time there one of the old men spoke up, “This is what’s wrong with America today! “ nodding our way.  Ben and I were both searching for the following nights lodging on our phones, while not talking to each other.  We looked up and laughed, explaining our situation.   We must’ve looked like that couple that can’t stand each other.  Ben was quick to explain he was sick of me, with that impish grin of his.

The next day…

Turn on a showerhead with a light flow of cold water and point it directly in your face for five hours; do that and you will know exactly how today felt.  With strong winds from the south today Ben and I were pelted with a light rain that constantly poured down our faces.  I kept joking that I had a water beard as it streamed off my chin. 

Here goes!  More to come on today’s riding once we’ve had a rest.

Central Washington Doldrums

The charm and beauty of Port Townsend quickly eroded the further we rode from it.  Cute towns were replaced with cold, industrial settlements with blowing trash, mean dogs and rude cars.  Beer cans littered the highway, often being the ‘High Gravity’ or ‘Steel Reserve’ variety – these boys aren’t drinking for flavor out here.

Folks up here seem to really enjoy drinking cheap beer, cutting down trees and rooting around for sasquatch (or ‘squatches’ as they’re fondly called up here).  All these things are fine to partake in once in a while but making these the focal point of life might get old pretty quick.

Town after town seemed almost identical and unappealing, leaving us with the feeling that central Washington will not be on our list of places to come back and see.

One good thing about the area is that it allowed us to see a ton of wildlife. Otters, possums, raccoons, deer, beaver, salamanders, frogs, and even snakes are frequent sightings… in the road. Granted, they have tire tracks on them, but it sill offers a close glimpse at some pretty creatures. Occasionally, we don’t know what species it is due to it being in ‘less than ideal condition’ which gives us a chance to play our game, ‘Guess That Critter!’

It rains every day, but the rain is quite different from the rain back in Colorado. It’s more of a light mist with little bursts of heavier rain that last for a few minutes before giving up and returning to the mist or quitting altogether.   At times the sun will come out briefly which we always celebrate by pulling our bikes off the road and stand facing the sun, soaking it in.

We’ve been having our sun celebrations much more now that we crossed into Oregon.  Everything seemed to improve the minute we got on the ferry leaving Washington to cross the Columbia River for the Oregon border.  The rain had been the hardest we’d experienced though it quickly abated and the sun came out.  The quality of the roads improved vastly with virtually no bad bumps or potholes and minimal road debris. More importantly, there is a huge bike lane much of the time, which is a blessing when logging trucks don’t give us extra room.

Though the last few days in Washington were difficult at times, they taught us a lot about our abilities as well. We completed our longest ride, hitting 62 miles and also have learned how to conquer difficult hills both mentally and physically.

Initially we were intimidated by some of the large hills though after several successful summits we realized that the hills aren’t necessarily difficult, they simply require more time to execute.  We’ve applied the same thinking to the rest of the ride- there aren’t hard parts, simply parts that will take more time to complete than others.  

On very steep pitches we’ll switchback in our lane when traffic permits which makes the climb much easier.  Also, we’ve learned to take frequent breaks on the climbing portions to give our backsides a break as they seem to be the limiting factor on the ride.  Standing up on the bikes while climbing in order to rest the butt is difficult due to the added weight, which makes things unwieldy.

We are also keenly aware that every uphill stretch we do will enable us to have a downhill run on the other side. Our favorite combination is a steep ascent followed by a long, gradual descent, which gives us a nice break while still making progress.

Silverdale and Farmer Blows

Ben and I started off to a brisk, but blue-sky morning.  Our breath steamed in front of us as we peddled our way out of Port Townsend.  Knowing today was to be the hardest thus far, with more climbs and distance than ever before we set out determined to conquer it.  Clad in our warm gear and our ZEAL’s we were smiling and well-rested after our time in Port Townsend.

The sailboats rocked and the town was quiet as we slipped on out.  Immediately we hit some rather large hills, but the grade wasn’t too bad and we managed them easily.

My advice to anyone trying to do a similar trip with as little experience as we have is to just go slow, always be able to hold a conversation with your riding partner, don’t push yourself because there is a long way to go.  I pushed myself too hard on the first few days and paid for it.  Now I’m feeling great and ready for it!

Side note: Ben also recently taught me a very important skill while biking in the cold- the farmer blow.  Ladies…. yes, I know its gross.  I never would have thought I would be shooting snot rockets roadside, ever.  But it is a critical skill on the bike!  I am not talented enough to pull out Kleenex every few miles without stopping to wipe my nose, although I would love to!  I did misfire once.  A huge splat landed straight onto my forearm…fail.

All along the way, the sides of the roads were covered in dense forest and a tall canopy of cedar trees.  With all the rain, the air fills with the scent of cedar and smoke from nearby fireplaces, it’s heavenly. 

As Ben and I went through 10 miles rather quickly, we were feeling really pumped.  Then about 20 miles in the rain started, heavier than any rain we’d experienced thus far.  I could feel the water pouring off my nose and chin.  It started to get miserable.  Hill after hill all I was thinking about was our next stop in Poulsbo, the town both my dad and Ben’s mom had suggested.    The cute Scandinavian town was a few miles off route and as we hit more climbs heading into it, both Ben and I started to grumble.

We finally made it and stopped at a pub in the middle of quaint Poulsbo, which I’d imagine would be breathtaking in the summer.  After five cups of tea each and a hearty meal, we were back on the road and made it easily to Silverdale after one very long ascent and descent.