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    Wednesday, July 22, 2009

    Seattle to Portland

    In a strong push, Brendan, Jess, and Mel finally put pedal to the metal (or asphalt) and started biking south in earnest. Though roughly 10,000 riders made it from Seattle to Portland in 2 days last week (a total of 204 miles in one of the largest bike events in the world), we're proud of our 3.5 days of loaded biking that it took us to make the trip between the two cities.

    Our longest day was 68 miles, along with two 62-mile days. While I'd like to think we're just getting in better shape, the flatter terrain has helped enormously as we pound out the miles. Here's a Google Map showing our progress:

    View Larger Map

    Tonight Jess, Brendan and I are attempting to summit Mount Hood, before Brendan makes a final push for San Francisco and Jess and I spend a few more days in Portland. We've had incredible luck with the weather and our amazing hosts on WarmShowers.

    A few pictures from the first part of our journey:

    Host family in Nanaimo, Vancouver Island

    Heather and Ellen in Vancouver, BC

    Jess and Brendan get ready for cold water scuba diving off of Vancouver Island, BC

    Heather admires Peter Freeman's sailboat that he used to break the solo record for circumnavigating the globe

    Jess and Brendan help build my bike after I get off the airplane on a random street in Vancouver

    So far, the only major bike repairs we've needed to do came from my bike (the only bike supposedly equipped for touring). A broken chain got stuck on one of my rear spokes, pulling my rear derailer (gear shifter) between the spokes, making the bike totally useless. Luckily, it happened towards the end of our day on the San Juan Islands and I was able to walk the bike the last mile to our campsite. The next morning, I hadn't even finished writing my hitchhiking "To Seattle" sign when an SUV made a U-Turn to come pick me up and drive me 20 miles down the road to the closest bike shop--a total 40 miles out of their way! A million thanks to Tibor Szivos (below) and Half Link bike shop for helping me get back on my wheels.

    Brendan, itching for some rock climbing, campuses on Deception Pass on the San Juan Islands

    Total Miles: 541.2
    Trains that passed by our campsite (and blew their horns) between midnight and 6 am in southern Washington: 7
    Number of peanut butter jars we've finished: 3
    Number of times someone from Warm Showers has given us directions or hooked us up with a place to stay when we realize we're never going to make it to 35 miles to Olympia at 9:30 at night (thanks Saul, DelRene, and Bobbie!): countless

    Thanks for all of your support. We continue to be the highest fundraising team for World Bicycle Relief! Please consider donating by clicking here. Thanks for your support!

    Happy Trails,
    Jess, Brendan, and Mel

    Saturday, July 18, 2009

    Go South, Young Man!

    After finally looking at one of those map things, Jess, Mel and Brendan came to the realization that the dream of biking the Olympic Peninsula would put us about three weeks behind our decidedly loose schedule, instead of the more palatable 1.5 weeks. So after hemming and hawing for an entire day in the suburbs of Seattle, we bit the bullet, stashed our bikes, and rented a car. A surely worthwhile trip, though when people asked "so what brought you out here?" the typical "we're biking the Pacific Coast!" was a little hard to explain.

    So now we set off for Portland, hoping to make the 200 mile trip in 3 or 4 days. Warm Showers has again brought us to some amazing hosts--Saul in northern Seattle owns 23 kayaks and organizes community kayaks two or three times a week for anyone who wants to go, free of charge! In the trendy downtown Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, we slept in a host's RV and were welcomed into the Fraternal Order of the Eagles--it sure looked like a regular bar from the outside!

    My neighbor, Wendy, is currently in Kenya teaching a class for Boston University about public health. Among her work visiting rural health clinics, she's been able to witness firsthand the power of bicycles that enables health workers to get around. Knowing that the money we're raising is making such a positive difference is even more reason to help us get up on the saddle and continue biking south! We're currently the biggest fundraisers for WBR--please consider donating to help us further.

    Thanks for everything and happy trails,
    Jess, Mel, Brendan

    Miles Total: 310.2
    Maximum Speed: 38.4 (holy crap, Seattle!)
    Money raised: $1200
    Bike repairs: replaced chain, cables, and rear derailer (Melanie)

    Wednesday, July 8, 2009

    Ready... Set... Hang Out

    We're exploring Vancouver Island at a rather slow pace, taking frequent breaks for sea kayaking, bungee jumping, scuba diving, and snorkeling (it's tough, raising money for charity, but we make do).

    Thanks to the biciclists' version of Couch Surfing called Warm Showers, we've had a lot of amazing hosts on our trip, like Duhane in Vancouver who pretty much single-handedly saved our biking trip by jerry-rigging all of our bikes so they actually, you know, worked, or the Ringham family in Nanaimo who made us probably the best curry this side of New Delhi. Every person we stay with is so interesting and accomodating of our haphazard style of travel, we haven't even had a chance to camp yet on the trip. In North Saanich, Vancouver Island, Terry and Marion built their own house overlooking the bay and Marion, with 11 books to her name, gave me some excellent writing advice (tape this above your typewriter: "Nobody cares if you don't write." --Gertrude Stein).

    Our second full day biking took us 50 miles from Nanaimo, BC to the marina to get to Salt Island. Our Warm Showers host on Salt Island, Peter Freeman held the record for a solo sail around the world (236 days) in 1985. He's also a gold medalist sprinter for Canadian masters and a badass cyclist who picked us up in his boat and tied five bikes to the roof of the boat to get to his house. My favorite story he told us was about his round-the-world trip--after practically bankrupting himself to build his own sailboat, he took off for the trip with only $100, had to make $95 worth of repairs in Santa Barbara, and sailed all the way around the world with only $5 in his pocket. Around the world on $5? That's my kind of traveling!

    Tomorrow we cross into the US of A via the San Juan Islands, and from there we plan on hopping from Seattle to Olympic National Park and straight down the coast to San Diego (with inland stops in Portland and Eugene). Our buddies Heather and Ellen leave on Saturday to fly back to the real world--it's been great having a big happy group to start and all learning how to do this bike touring thing together. It'll be exciting to really get moving south, but my muscles are already complaining. All that advice I got about how I'd get in shape AFTER the first week of biking didn't really take into account how I'd feel during that first week. Maybe my load will get lighter after the first week as well?

    Our stats:
    Money raised for World Bicycle Relief (click here to donate): $1,118 (our goal: $3,000)
    Miles: 160.4
    Average Speed: 9.8
    Maximum Speed: 33.5
    Calories burned: 3,421

    Thanks for all of your support and hope there are happy trails in your lives!
    Jess, Mel, Brendan (Heather, and Ellen)

    Here's a picture from Duhane of the four girls setting off on our first day of biking (Brendan was at the store making last minute purchases)

    Friday, July 3, 2009

    In Vancouver... here we go!

    I can't believe we made it... Jess, Brendan and I met up in Vancouver, CA yesterday afternoon and assembled my bike on the corner of Howe Street. It's crazy to think that we're actually starting this trip. We loaded up our bikes and hightailed it to the closest bike store for some much-needed advice and tune-ups. After a few hours of eating (yes!) and getting everything set up, there was nothing else to do but get up on the bikes and ride them. It was kind of scary swinging my leg over the saddle for the first time--I did a few loaded training rides before we left (not enough, obviously) but something about getting on the bike for the first time on the trip was mildly terrifying. Once I started pedaling, I immediately felt calmer. We reached our host's house in a funky downtown neighborhood (bike tourers: check out to find cycling hosts, it's a CouchSurfing site just for bikers that's worked out amazing for us so far).

    We've currently raised about $1100 for WBR (total not reflected on our website), and our eventual goal by the end of the trip is $2,000. F. K. Day, the founder of World Bicycle Relief, wrote a great article about his vision for the organization in Wend Magazine. You can donate to our ride by clicking here. Thanks for your support!