“Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

ThistlesOur day today included much bike riding and a marathon swim date at the HQX YMCA. To my surprise the same lifeguards have been totally transformed from their demeanors during the school year. Rather than a handful of rigorous, goofy, and flighty pseudo-rules a more relaxed atmosphere of sensible regulations prevailed. It was wonderful. At first I was confused; then I realized that with summer and more children in the pool (I counted two dozen) there was not the petty energy to piss-about with “don’t touch the ladder” or “don’t lean on that”. Groups of children played freely, teenage boys doing improbably lopsy flips from the diving board and helping one another out (young men who show tenderness and comradery make my eyes sting with tears*), small tots being cared for by older kids, children exercising the fastest-possible technical “walk” on the pool deck (“WALK!”) – their legs stiff and elbows flying, and Nels and Phoenix delighting in having more child-company.

For a brief moment I considered a world where children were not institutionalized most of the year; where more children were more places I went during the day. It was a lovely vision.

I’ve written a bit about watching my son’s inspiring (to me) journey in swimming self-teaching. Today he is determined to learn to dive in the deep end. He first crouches low and hops into the water; then he bends his knees less before the jump, and so on. Over and over he tries different approaches until finally he jumps from a standing position. I’m thinking how much he will love our time at Mason Lake later this month. I tread water close by as Phoenix dives over and over and the two swim around one another like twin seals, all laughter and slippery camaraderie.

My son is such that it is entirely obvious how any amount of pressure or “teaching” agenda usually backfires and impedes his process. Yet helping when he asks and being there to facilitate safety (because truly he is enough of a swim risk-taker I’m glad he’s learning with me close by, here in the 8′ end) I have the honor of watching a flower bloom. His body is a delight, wiggling happily, not one second is he unsmiling. After watching his exertions for a time I am glad he will be sitting on the back of my bike rather than riding his own; he’s still little enough the round-trip and swim efforts would likely tax his little Self more than he’d be comfortable.

My daughter is an amazing mentor to her brother. I notice she offers advice to Nels on his backstroke: “Keep your back straight – put your tummy up,” she tells him firmly. He gladly complies and laughs in delight at the immediate improvement in his stroke. He then flips over and goes under water, emerging with his long hair across his eyes, just his perfect little nose and his big smile visible. Phoenix says, from a distance of a foot, “Do you need help?” Not at all bossy, entirely considerate. He energetically wiggles in his idiosyncratic dog-paddle to the edge under her friendly eye; she watches to make sure he is fine alone.

Typically after physical exertions the kids come home and want more sedate fare.  Nels plays with an electronics kit with the neighbor boy. Phoenix reads. Thanks to our Tweep Justin our daughter has a rather impressive small library of various sci-fi and fantasy novels she’s reading (now as I type she has her nose in The War of the Lance**). Later, the kids are excitedly talking about the creatures they want to pretend to be for the evening: a female centaur (Phoenix), a river-nymph (Nels).

Then Ralph asks them, “Should mama be a harpy or a sea serpent?”


Staircase wit: I should have shot back with, “Should daddy be a tiny-dicked orc, or a tiny-dicked ent?”

But I don’t always have a quick reply.

Nels Walks To The Store(Nels walks to the corner store.)


** NERD!

este día en la carretera hace mucho calor

Nels is looking different today from yesterday as about thirty minutes into our biking adventures he biked right into a car (while vying for the attention of children outside in a daycare yard). The daycare employee who witnessed this (I only heard the thunk! behind me) ran inside to get Nels first an icepack then an Otter Pop for good measure. She was a beautiful, beautiful girl with deep tanned cleavage and long shiny black-brown hair and I’ll bet she even smelled nice (I didn’t lean in to check) and with her sympathy and the ice pack and the ice cream, well, Nels didn’t seem to mind being hurt so much. My son spent the next half hour wearing the pack, and as a result his black eye is slightly less gruesome than it otherwise might have been.

Ice Pack

Today started out with our typical feral rituals: the kids went outside and ate (for breakfast) marshmallows, bananas, and special dark chocolate. In the yard, half clothed. By then I’d finished my morning writings (here’s some of that) and housework so I asked them inside where they each took a big drink of milk before we biked our errands, ending up at the Central Playfield park where now no longer do we have shade-trees (cut down by the City) so the sun bakes us all and the adults who wish to talk have to shout over the sound of two highways (the trees helped absorb that too). The bathrooms are also closed down as well (Honey Buckets in the summer sun, kids – and grownups – love that sort of thing) but the pool is open from noon for a few hours and the kids? They love it. My kids were in their underwear as I hadn’t brought the suits. You know, I don’t often use the term “ghetto” but, well.

Suits Not Required

Central Playfield in Hoquiam

I ended up scrunching under a pitiful amount of briefly-supplied tent shade and talked to a father there with four of his seven kids, a handsome, deep brownish/red-skinned man who could balance with me on the proverbial non-native language teeter totter, meaning he had about as much inglés as I have español (the vast majority of native-Spanish-speakers here usually have very good English although I do meet those que no entienden). One example: he told me he and his wife were “broke” so I asked ¿Tienes el trabajo? then he managed to convey he meant, he and his wife were broke from relationship with one another and I said “Oh! Divorced. Separated. I thought you meant no tienes dinero.” Then after we’d shared where we lived and how long we’d lived there I told him, “Mi esposo trabaja en el colegio” in case he got some ideas I was a scheming single mama looking to juggle a family of nine kiddos (instead I’m rather a scheming conversationalist who loves talking to strangers like a Huge Nerd) or in case he had similar ideas (seriously? A mama out with kids in Grays Harbor is not immune from flirtations from random strangers). He had the most beautiful one year old clambering around on him, a boy with shoulder-length locks and deliciously plump limbs who took interest in my bike wheels. “Fue agradable hablar con usted,” I said to this father as we biked out, my kids soaked and newly cooled down and me as hot as ever as we headed to our little grocery store for dinner provisions.

It’s no wonder to me my kids are getting a great education as letting them out and running and biking and playing and eating and drinking means when we get home they absolutely want to read an encyclopedia or give themselves spelling/English work or learn times tables or teach themselves history (or even clean their room, as my daughter is doing at this moment). And another thing, I never hear my kids say they are “bored” – ever, which is something to ponder given we have no television or video game system! (In full disclosure, we do have a computer which they are allowed to use if I am not using it). (Also, now that I have had the hubris to even slightly brag or more accurately, take joy in a facet of our little fringe lifestyle, the children are going to immediately come inside and chant in demon-voice how bored they are).

Tomorrow our day will consist of 100% beach time out in Ocean Shores with my mother and a picnic basket and sunscreen. And that’s going to be pretty goddamned awesome.

As I type the kids run off with the various and sundry neighbors catching the ice cream truck (the frosty treat-bait has caught some full-grown, some still children); my husband on his way home is picking up fresh mozzarella for insalata caprese and tahini for tomorrow’s hummus and also – very important – a pool for our front yard. Because like many PNw’ers we don’t have air conditioning and employ the strategies of lowered blinds and open windows or fresh cooling water.

Phoenix Attempts To Rejoin Her Mistress, The Sea

camel lash / cemetery trails

A Log Chair, Discovered
There is no doubt in my mind not one other person besides Ralph or I will watch a twelve minute video of my family running about in Elton Bennett Park in Hoquiam last evening; however I will in fact watch it, because it’s awesome, and I’m glad we have it on record because I love watching the many older videos Ralph has made. Such wonderful snapshots in our family’s life together.

(Music by my husband’s FAWM-friend Joel Canfield and used with permission.)

Ah, the famed “Cemetery Trails” as we called them back in the day, mostly we ran around and got up to harmless fun, maybe once I smoked some pot with Shane so-and-so (HQX ladies, you know who I’m talking about) and I can’t remember the other guy (Justin… something, don’t remember his last name but he Smoked A Lot of Pot). That’s about it. The trails seemed so long and winding and wild to me – even as a high schooler! – and I imagine the kids experience them in this way. Our storm in 2007 took down some trees and whomever used to maintain the park, well it is not being maintained as well now (HQX parks seem rather neglected except the one right in downtown which is always tidy-looking but is not a real “park” rather a cannon-display Veteran-honoring courtyard). It’s still a lovely place to visit (as is the cemetery proper, just a bit further up the hill), made all the more worthwhile by the rather strenuous ride up the hill to get to it.

Some notes – first, the kids crossed about every single huge fallen tree (over gorges full of devils club) there and back again, usually running, and although I let them do this I always worry they may fall (and they never have). Second, the last third of the film Nels is obsessing about getting some kind of caterpillar-odor off his hands. He is a smell-freak (just like his mother) and mostly yelled about this for our bike ride home.

Also, let me ask, do I have a huge, booming boyish/mannish voice or is it the “sexy Kathleen Turner voice” an ex-boyfriend once described it as? No wait, don’t answer. [fingers in ears]: *la la la la la la*

heartstrings and spoke lights

Today my son swam back and forth in the deep end of the recreational pool, over and over and with a smile on his face. He flipped over on his back and swam, and stuck his thumbs-up out of the water and winked at me.

Then he took me over to the lap pool and swam the length of that. Three times.

I’d love to write a little essay on the YMCA and their berjillion weird and contradictory pool rules, including and not limited to: children are the responsibility of the lifeguard, NO WAIT they’re the responsibility of the parents’/carers’; If the kids can swim they’re allowed in the deep end of the rec pool, NO THEY’RE TOTALLY NOT unless they’re at least eight!; you can swim in the lazy river if you’re taller than the water level, NO YOU CAN’T YOU MUST WEAR A LIFEJACKET, then No you’re NOT allowed to wear a lifejacket in the lazy river EVAR. And my personal favorite duo: small children must be within five feet of a grownup at all times; a grownup may supervise up to ten children at a time (the mental picture of the supreme unfunness in one adult with ten small children within arms’ reach, moving through the pool like so many cilia attached to a central grownup protista, is a hilarious and untenable one).

There’s also this whole “swim test” proposition posted everywhere which somehow involves testing and receiving a bracelet and getting more swim rights (I can’t even snark on the standards of this “testing” in any way because I don’t see any bracelets on kids, ever, so I have no idea if these systems are even in effect).

Given all this and the many times some lifeguard would tell my son “You can’t do that until you can ‘swim’ [meaning their version of swimming] across the pool” (I hasten to add most lifeguards recognize his swim-competence and let him do what he knows he can) Nels did what was logical: he taught himself to swim and today he took on their test. Given their inconsistent rules and spotty enforcements I don’t think the issue of Nels’ swim freedoms is as settled as he thinks it is.  I really do mean to talk to the director of the pool scene (a rather grumpy person who is clearly managing a very large program) and try to figure this crap out.  But in the meantime we are having about 99.9% fun on our swim dates and Nels’ and Phoenix’s pleasure in the over two hours of swim time we had today was pure joy.

Another first: in the course of the day we took the bikes out all around town and to East Side HQX which meant riding up then down a bridge that is very steep and has an icky re-entry to road traffic at the bottom. Naturally I was worried because Nels is not only a Speed Demon he’s a (calculated) Risk Taker in general, and the bridge path was made perfectly slick by today’s on-and-off rain. Riding behind Nels on the steep grade I held in my mind two truths that formed my amazing reality: A. the worst that could happen to him would be a broken wrist or busted-out teeth and B. I was actually okay with this because I know Nels is doing exactly what he should be doing: stretching his abilities (within his supreme self-knowledge of them) to accomplish something he wants to master.* Don’t get me wrong, crash injuries are terrible to imagine like any injury to one’s child (Phoenix’s horror-crash happened exactly a year ago!).  This is why as I was behind  him my chest fluttered and I felt supremely alive.  As we sped down the thoroughway I talked him through trying out his brakes on the slick surface and he tested these with an expert handling of the resultant slight fishtail.  At the bottom of the bridge he firmly stopped in the exact correct spot.

It’s funny because a very short time ago I was helping my little duckling daughter travel on the same bridge and now she’s so bike competent I can focus entirely on talking Nels through our ride, knowing she is behind me as well-furnished a rider as I (given much of our ride is on a highway with log trucks and a small but unpleasant selection of asshole drivers I really do appreciate being able to focus on my son). Halfway through our ride Nels began hand signals before turns, cautiously lifting his arm and shoulder-checking and discussing strategies for stop signs (which can be treated as yield signs by cyclists). He was so engaged and having such a wonderful time it was almost possible for me to not have my mind blown at how effortlessly, joyously, and willingly kids learn a whole passel of fucking awesome skills if you merely help in the ways they request help.

When we got home Ralph was already here and he got started on the meal I’d planned – fried chicken, peas, and German potato salad. He also brought me home a bottle of Jack which verily I shall be making into ye olde toddies anon. And just now I get a phone call: Phoenix has spent the afternoon and evening with a friend who now wants to stay the night, so: Sleepover! (which you simply must imagine me saying in the tone of Orange Mocha Frappucino!”)

It’s been a good day times one hundred.

* He’s also gotta lose those teeth soon anyway.

“he called me ‘sir’, without adding, “you’re making a scene”

I think my favorite moment today was when I biked on errands with Nels and halfway through my business I realized I was very hungry (I feed my kids first, when I remember to feed us at all), and I saw a sign advertising our own 8th Street Ale House’s vegetarian lunch special, and I decided to leave my son outside the bar while I popped in (JUST for the food to go, honest), and while I waited our police chief entered, and I half-expected to have my ass busted for the winsome little boy gamboling around outside the tavern and peeping in windows and hopefully not getting in the lawman’s cruiser.  (Previous sentence note: I am lousy with commas!) Our police chief is a very nice person and respected in his job capacity.  He is also intimidating, because A. he’s a policeman, hello (I have no bad experiences with police officers personally; there are just some types of Authority I feel a stilted relationship with, and they include teachers and doctors, whom I have been friends with but always call them Ms. or Miss or Mr. or Dr. Last-Name), and B. he is very tall (and handsome) – easily 6′ 5″ if not more, and in his uniform he looks even taller.  I just smiled at him and figured if he mentioned the kid running wild outside a drinking establishment it would be a good segue into something I want to ask about, namely having a mini field-trip for my kidlets to the police station, the kind of thing they miss out on since they are not in school.

But lo, as it turned out he was there on other business and did not cast his eye about the pub and bellow out Who was the Mother of this Poor (alternatively, Naughty) Child?, which is pretty much my internal fear any time I am ever anywhere with Nels (in some ways I cannot wait until this boy emancipates!).  It’s funny because whether my kids or myself are being Good, Bad, or Ugly do you realize I worry all the time I’m going to get busted for something?  Something, I have no idea what, as I am no law-breaker.  I don’t even smoke pot (borrring!) and imagine myself so Upright that if I ever get too much change back I always correct the cashier’s mistake (double borrring!).  Maybe one day I’ll be lucky enough and I’ll get Busted for whatever and I’ll realize I had nothing to fear all along.

The barkeep is one of those guys that calls women insulting pet names, like today “Dear”.  This is how I feel about that sort of thing: [ here ] (I used to get it all the time when I was in the Engineering profession – snore!).  Anyway, after I tipped the fellow and loaded up my lunch (a Greek salad) I retrieved Nels (who had behaved himself well) and we hit the supermarket and bought the food for dinner tonight and tomorrow.  It was sunny today but a bit cold; I however am not complaining because as long as it isn’t wet my bike errands are relatively joyous to experience.  Yes, even when I realized I hadn’t brought payment and had to run to my bank to take out cash, then return to retrieve our sundries.  All Mayberry-like my bank is only a couple blocks from the supermarket.  My son wrapped his arms around me and we experienced the companionable silence on the bike that has served so many wonderful memories already.  We eventually got home and Nels was off the bike like a shot, playing with his sister outside where my husband found them when he returned from work.  Ralph also came home to a couple loaves of fresh-baked bread, a whole wheat loaf that I’d been working on since yesterday, lovely and fragrant fare.  If I was smart I’d bake bread every day because I can’t remember a time I made it that it didn’t make everyone in my family happy, and I am completely serious about that.

It is wonderful to have Ralph home for the weekend.  Even though what he does when he’s at home is work work work, it seems he is happiest when here.  He tells me this weekend he’s going to give me the Lawn of My Dreams, although I’m not sure what that is.  I do think the fact he dug up a huge pile of garbage (previous tenants) and is installing garden beds is a good start.  The chickens absolutely love the temporary pile of dirt and sod.  They  pick through it triumphantly; they come running when anyone enters the lawn, anticipating more grub-revealing shovelwork, or perhaps the leftover chocolate chip pancakes from the morning’s repast.  They are happy birds indeed and reward us with their eggs – five from four hens the other day, wow! – which they leave in secret little roosts they choose about the premises.

in the gloaming

Today was lovely; besides finishing a super-awesome sewing project that had been plaguing me in the details – yay! and: Shhh! Secret for my daughter’s birthday – we were out on the bikes for most of our afternoon and evening. It was brilliantly, beautifully sunny. Packing up when there’s no chance of rain is a simpler affair:

Adventure NecessitiesColoring books! Crayon roll-ups! Swim gear! Coats!

Ralph teaches an evening class on Wednesdays and so far each evening has been wonderful. You’d think being with the kids all day I’d rather loathe having them by myself even further. Perhaps it’s that when my husband is home I feel competing urges to be with him and the children (and myself, sewing!), but I find our Wednesday evenings sans Papa to be relaxing and intimate. Go figure.

Where I Live
We stopped at Hodge Podge, the Habitat for Humanity store; Nels found a little red vacuum cleaner he has decided to purchase. Nels is building his own house out of a cardboard box and an assortment of homemade furniture including, for practicality’s sake, a Skee-Ball arcade game (lumber purchase pending). We already own a vacuum but I guess it isn’t good enough.

Nels & I, Deep In Study
While Sophie swam I read some library sewing books and Nels wrote up a list for his new domicile. I think you can see here how lovely the sun is.

On Our Ride Home
On our way back from the YMCA I glanced in the front yard of a little apartment complex on Aberdeen Avenue. Imagine my surprise when I saw an apartment inhabitant walking – not a pair of small dachshunds like she had been the week before – but a pair of cockatiels! We motored right over and the kids spent several minutes playing with the friendly and beautiful birds.

It was a good day; I didn’t even have to use my AK.

monar en la bicicleta, de la noche

My favorite parts of today were two-fold:

First, I gave up on worrying about letting the kids outside during school hours.  I don’t know what I worry about, exactly, but let me tell you: there was something so freeing about deciding to trust the kids, and trust the Universe, and get on with my life.  It’s been lovely out – we’re having a lot of sun and even warmth, daffodils blooming, the rain letting up – and the kids want to be outside.  Nels rode a tricycle around the block and I decided not to worry the cops would get called (little one on the sidewalk, Where’s Mama?!), or that he’d get mowed down by a giant truck (seriously, my largest somewhat sensible fear about living life with chilluns), or that some other vague, unsavory event would occur.  I told Nels to let me know when he ventured out, and where he was going.  And that was that.

At 2 PM today Sophie set out with my mother, arriving home an hour later with a leopard gecko and all accoutrement for ownership of said reptile – crickets and cricket-house, lights, bedding, shelter, lid and tank: a birthday gift from Grandma.  My daughter named the creature Anna Dell Geckaboom, and the two have been spending much tender time getting to know one another.  The lizard is exceedingly beautiful, almost makes you believe in God or some kind of Master Plan.  She licks her lips when you supply her with her six-legged fare and if you handle her body her tiny toes grip your fingers firmly but gently and sticky like tiny Post-It notes.

My second-favorite part of today: later in the evening, riding the bike back from Sophie’s swim team at the YMCA.  I glided through our quiet down with the kids on the back – just like old times, before my daughter had obtained a license for her own vehículo de dos ruedas.  It was stark, and clear, and dark and night-magic; the kids were fidgeting on the back of the bike (since we used the bus to get to the Y – but not to ride back! Jeebus! – we took only one bike – we knew for sure we’d be able to load it on the Transit) and it was cozy in the way that only X-travel really can be, your kids hugging you and murmuring and close.  I stopped halfway home to tuck my pantleg into my socks, adjust my front wheel, and snap a picture of Hoquiam across the little river:

HQX (Wednesday) Night Life

Hoquiam, (Wednesday) night-life.

Much later the husband and I met at a tavern for a late dinner and I had some good pub-fare; the kids stayed home and built forts and ate the meal I’d left them – homemade spaghetti and meatballs, carrot sticks – then gave themselves a bath.

Just: lovely, lovely, lovely.


day two of the S24O

You are reading part two of two of the S24O camping trip my seven year old daughter and I took from Hoquiam, WA to Westport, WA.  I’d attempted to tweet along the ride with pics, but out on the coast this ended up not being possible. Part one is located here.

It was a terrifically uncomfortable overnight on the Thermarest – but I must have slept soundly enough because when I woke my daughter had switched pillows on us, leaving me with the smallest while she bogarted the two larger ones.  Here she is naked, her face all chocolatey, making a joke about how she took my pillow:

Like a champ, Sophie elected to stay in the tent while I took a shower and foraged for breakfast.
Like a champ, Sophie elected to stay in the tent while I took a shower and foraged for breakfast.

It turns out that even while camping my priorities are the same: shower, then coffee, then, at some point, breakfast.  Not only did I proceed this way but Sophie did as well. She stayed behind while I showered and brought our morning breakfast beverages (coffee for me, chocolate milk for her – carried in her water canteen).  Then I escorted her to the showers and she happily moaned in pleasure at the feel of hot water.  It only took a few minutes back at the site to break camp (although wrestling the Cabela’s tent back into its sleeve was aggravating).

How cool is it that ALL our camping gear is packed on our bikes?
How cool is it that ALL our camping gear is packed on our bikes?

Highway trip behind me, I’d found a new trip detail to obsess on: the number of bikes that can fit on a Transit bus.  Both for Sophie’s sake, and a soccer meeting later that day, I’d decided we would bus from Westport into Aberdeen (if not to Hoquiam and a few blocks from home).  The only problem with this was A. the fear some Transit driver will balk at loading my X on the rack (this hasn’t happened so far), and B. the fear that the bus would already have a bike on it -since they can only fit two.  In the case of the former obstacle, I am a pro at getting my X on the bus rack (it involves pulling the front wheel off) and I’ve found my confidence in doing so has helped drivers feel confident as well.  In the case of the latter obstacle, I just obsessively worried.  I knew at very worst we could leave a bike in town and venture out by car later to get it (ugh).

During my morning coffee run, I interviewed a man at the park and ride (another man with prematurely decayed teeth; Westport seemed to have a few of these working class young guys who were very friendly but looked like they’d had a rough go of it) about the bus / bike protocol. Before I rode off he told me if we headed into town, to check out the “boardwalk” that ran a couple miles along the beach and north to the Westport docks.

Which is exactly what we did.  Although the highway and town were sunny, a few blocks away from the beach the cold, clammy mist descended, bringing a cool breeze to counter the humidity.  The boardwalk wasn’t as I pictured, but rather a smooth, gently sloping path through the grassy dunes.

I dont mind biking on the highway or in the city streets; but I must admit, these trails were a real treat.
I don't mind biking on the highway or in the city streets; but I must admit, these trails were a real treat.
If I was smarter Id have done a pictoral panoramic of the wild, cold seascape here.
If I was smarter I'd have done a pictorial panoramic of the wild, cold seascape here.

Sophie was charmed that the trail ended right at the observational tower at the Westport docks, and she raced right to the top where it was very cold. I was pleasantly surprised that in climbing the tower we had a pelican’s-eye view of, well, pelicans – many groups that flew close enough it seemed we could touch them.

From in town Sophie elected to try the Westport Aquarium over the Maritime Museum (which has the largest American flag flying I have ever seen, but is probably full of stodgy old fart museum stuff).  It turns out the Aquarium has new owners who hope to put more humane exhibits in the 50-year old tank system that has languished over the years.

The new owners have put a spark of life in this Aquarium, which you can sense despite a rather shabby feel to the place.
The new owners have put a spark of life in this Aquarium, which you can sense despite a rather shabby feel to the place.
A funky little dry display in one of the old concrete tanks.
A funky little "dry" display in one of the old concrete tanks.

The new owner took me back to where the seals had once been contained; I was shocked to see how small these facilities were, but glad to hear seals will not be featured on the re-opening of the Aquarium.  My daughter purchased a pack of cardboard dinosaur figurine puzzles and yet another shell – a conch – for her brother, who loves to transform shells into building materials for musical instruments.

It was getting cold and clammy in Westport; we stopped for sandwiches at the Mermaid Pub & Grill (there are lots of breast visuals, under the guise of mermaid paintings and sculptures, in Westport).  It was a nice lunch, a delicious cup of coffee, and a good finale for our day in town.  We took our last few minutes looking at the whale skeletons housed in the courtyard of the Museum.  When the bus came we had no problems putting the bikes up on the front of the bus at our Dock St. stop, although I was both asked many questions and actually filmed by some tourist as I did it.

Sophie sat in front, and watched Grayland come and go. I messed about with trying to Tweet to no avail.
Sophie sat in front, and watched Grayland come and go. I messed about with trying to Tweet to no avail.

Grayland was beautiful, and again I wish I’d had a better camera, or could have popped off the bus for a minute.  The bus was populated by all sorts of locals, including a teen mother who formula-fed her screaming baby and a kind older man who was the only person on the bus (myself included) who thought to jump up and assist her with her monstrous stroller and carseat caddy-like carrier.

It took all in all about an hour to get back into Aberdeen, where we exited the bus, rode through downtown Aberdeen’s Crackton, and back home against a rather demoralizing headwind.

At home Ralph was kind enough to bring our gear in; it took only a few minutes to have everything put away.  I was surprised that a more minimalistic camping trip was so much more fun and so much simpler than any camping trip I’d taken so far.  There were no extra comforts so there wasn’t much to do except ride, eat, and meet people and see fun things.

Technically our trip was not an S24O as we were back home at 2:45 PM the day after we left. I felt this was a great dry-run of a camping trip.  I look forward to taking both of my children soon; I need my son Nels to be peddling, as I’ve noticed on long trips he is the only one to complain – out of boredom, I think.

We Embark

venturing out

You are reading part one of two of the S24O camping trip my seven year old daughter and I took from Hoquiam, WA to Westport, WA.  I’d attempted to tweet along the ride with pics, but out on the coast this ended up not being possible.  Part two is located here.

I chug coffee like other people chug water. But I did make it the whole five hours on this one 12-ounce cup of regular brew.
I chug coffee like other people chug water. But I did make it the whole five hours on this one 12-ounce cup of regular brew.

Believe it or not, the night before setting off on a 25+ mile bike camping trip with my daughter, I was not obsessively worrying about highway shoulders or bad weather or traffic. No, what I (obsessively) worried about was some overenthusiastic motorist driving past me on some uphill or hectic stretch (as I huffed and puffed) and screaming at me to “Get off the road!” (or, as might be more the point, get my seven year old off the road).  After all, there are actual hazards in using a bicycle out in the world, and then there are the things we in particular dislike.  I have only been yelled at a couple times but it is unpleasant, intimidating, and yes, infuriating (Good sir, would you like to pull over and we could rationally discuss bicycle rights?).

The trip through Hoquiam and Aberdeen was very pleasant; we were able to ride next to one another much of the time and talk. We also saw lots of cats and neighbors out and about, which is a lot of fun for us.

The Chehalis River Bridge, which as a bike with lots of cargo, and little ones, is a nemesis of sorts - that is, in fact, conquerable.
The Chehalis River Bridge, which as a bike with lots of cargo, and little ones, is a nemesis of sorts - but one that is, in fact, conquerable.

As it turned out, all motorists except one seemed extremely courteous.  The “one” zoomed past us at full speed without giving us an extra inch, right up the John’s River Bridge – one of two rather assy uphill narrow bridges with no shoulder (and I do mean nothing).  The bridges were the only unpleasant spell in the twenty five mile ride.  Sophie was a champ, plugging along at an admittedly slow pace (my seven year old daughter may be the only cyclist I will ever feel I have to slow my pace for) but having no problems – even hauling as much gear as she was.

Little Hot Pocket. Most of our mini-stops shed take off her helmet to get some of the breeze on her hot head.
Little Hot Pocket. Most of our mini-stops she'd take off her helmet to get some of the breeze on her hot head.

Sophie carried all our clothes, our toiletries, all our food, and the first aid kit and pocket knife (these latter two items she was minorly obsessed with; always finding an excuse to suggest their usage).  For record’s sake, I carried our Thermarest pads, sleeping bags, pillows, water, a couple tools and extra tires, and my own coat and hoodie.  The only thing I didn’t carry was our tent, a large, heavy Cabela’s lovely homestead.  It is very heavy, and I hadn’t had the time to research the best lightweight tent for these kind of trips (I’m open to suggestions on this).  My load probably didn’t weigh much more than hers, but as much of it was bulky the Xtracycle’s panniers (if you can call them that) were the best choice, while Sophie’s bags could more easily hold small items.

One nice thing about this trip, it seemed to earn a lot of compliments bordering on astonishment from locals.  In Bay City we asked a store proprietor how many more miles to Westport. She said, “Oh, it’s just around the corner.” I said, “Well, we’re on bikes, so I’m wondering the mileage.” Her eyes went up and she said, “Oh, bikes!” – as if this was an entirely different mileage calculation altogether. Which I guess it kind of is.

We stopped about every five to seven miles. On the trip we discovered an archery club, gun shop, a, um, sausage place?, lily nursery, and wrecking yard.
We stopped about every five to seven miles. On the trip we discovered an archery club, gun shop, a, um, sausage place?, lily nursery, and wrecking yard.

We got to the state park at 1:45 PM, just short of a five-hour trip.

Twin Harbors State Park is a lovely campground, with pretty fancy showers and a firewood truck that visits you so you don't have to go into town looking.
Twin Harbors State Park is a lovely campground, with pretty fancy showers and a firewood truck that visits you so you don't have to go into town looking.

The first order of business: to find some coffee. I hit one of the many nautical-themed espresso stands in the area and I spot a drink: The “Dirty Dive”. Sounds filthy, but boy was it delicious. As the barista pours a half cup of raw sugar into my cup, he says, “It looks like you guys are doing some heavy-duty biking.” I tell him where we came from and what we’re doing and he’s impressed. In fact I’m going to find that on the next day – many people amazed one could bike from Hoquiam with camping gear and a child. Our modest feat doesn’t seem to deserve that much wonderment, but it’s nice to hear the praise and surprise (the other thing we hear a lot of: “Be careful!” Yeah, thanks. I know they mean well, but I also notice the people who actually ride bikes regularly don’t feel the need to install the Bogeyman in us each time we set out somewhere).

Coffee in hand (or rather, on bike) we cruise through the park, check in, and find our site.  Sophie hounded me to find the beach with her.  At the trailhead she was off like a shot, and within minutes her clothes were in a pile and she was in the ocean:

It was beautiful and sunny for the duration of our stay.
It was beautiful and sunny for the duration of our stay.

We walked about in the surf.  Sophie found her brother an intact sand dollar – the only one we were to see the whole time.  After a bit I finally coaxed her into heading back to the site.  I had been working so hard on the trip I hadn’t anticipated how much I’d like to have a sit-down, and how much nicer it would have been to throw the tent up (as well as feeling awesome at setting up camp in record time).  As it was we made do with a rest on our Thermarest pads and sleeping bags:

Riding a bike miles and miles is great for one thing: a very active child will usually consent to resting alongside you for a bit.
Riding a bike miles and miles is great for one thing: a very active child will usually consent to resting alongside you for a bit.

At this point, we were anticipating the arrival of Ralph and Nels, who were bringing us our tent, a flashlight (the one thing I’d forgotten to pack), and s’mores accoutrement; also expected were our friends J. and M. But for some reason, I really wanted to head into town (about four more miles away).  It was pretty cool to be able to pull a few things out of the bike and have a camp set up all ready – even cooler when a couple who’d packed everything one could think of came to my site to find an air pump for their air mattress (I might feel kind of awesome now, but later in the night I’d wish I had their bulky air mattress or something similar).

Sophie was amenable to town except for one clause: she wanted to ride on my bike. I tried to convince her otherwise, but the truth is I’m pretty used to pulling about 50 extra pounds.  We absolutely flew into town on a sun-dappled, gravelled-shoulder road, passing many funny houses and odd worn-down establishments of questionable origin.  I put the flashing tailight on for this trip because it was a bit of a windy, shadowy road and evening hovered in the near distance.

Westport proper wasn’t really hopping on a Wednesday night. We investigated long enough to discover the pizza restaurant I wanted to try was closed due to fire, and to answer many questions about my bike from a wandering semi-toothless young man who took interest (the man, on a bike himself with a dilapitated old trailer, did an abrupt U-turn and cackled behind me for a bit before finally coming alongside – in the middle of the road – and saying, “Looking goooooood. What am I looking at, here?” At first I thought he meant my cleavage, but we ended up talking more about the Xtracycle).  Just before we turned back to the campsite I find another nautical coffee shop – with yet another “Dirty Something-Or-Other” that ended up being exactly the same beverage (that is, an Americano spiked with more sugar than one might think possible, cream, and topped with whipped cream and raw sugar sprinkles).  We headed back to town and arrived just in time to catch the firewood truck, then the arrival of Ralph, Nels, and our tent.  We set up the tent, then travelled into town to Sergio’s Restaurant for some Mexican food.

Our digs, bikes, and the Dirty Sanchez or whatever it is I was drinking.
Our digs, bikes, and the Dirty Sanchez or whatever it is I was drinking.
Hot sauce and cute guys
Hot sauce and cute guys

Back at the camp site, our friends came out and took pictures, then we shared some s’mores.  Sophie’s dress was pretty damp from the sea-going so I hung it up and she slept naked.  The little creature didn’t even have to brush her teeth before bed. We hit the sack around nine and talked long into the night, before falling asleep at precisely the same time.