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Monday, September 22, 2014

Stuck Between a Door and an Open Space

Okay, so I'm not as creative as Alton Brown when it comes to pun titles, but I tried.

This is part 2. For part 1, click here.

We've established that I had to take my bike home from Auburn without any previous planning. I somehow managed to fit it into the backseat of my car, and headed home from the train station. I left it in there over night because honestly, who cares.

The next morning, I left extra early and drove to the station in Auburn in order to drop off the bike. I opened the door, and attempted to pull it out.

I say attempted because, well, it was stuck. I had managed to pull the bike almost halfway out, and then it wouldn't budge. I still had to get to work regardless, so I figured I'd try again afterwards, and attempted to shove it back in. I say attempted because, well you get the picture.

So here I was in the parking lot, my car's back door open with a bike hanging out of the back seat. I had 2 options that weren't really options:

1. Drive to work like that. Pfft.

2. Leave the car as is and walk to work. (It's a 1989 Celebrity. If a thief manages to get the bike, let 'em have it!) But no, that was still too dumb and risky.

And so my only real option was to call work and have someone come down to help me take apart the bike and get it unstuck. I worked at a bolt factory so I think it was safe to say they'd have the right equipment. I pulled out my phone and it had about 30 seconds of battery left. I was so lucky that my phone wasn't dead because I did not have a car charger. (I probably bought one that same week thanks to this!)

Merit came down and took the front wheel off the bike. I honestly can't even tell you if I was embarrassed. I was probably too focused on just getting this done so I wouldn't be late to work. Yeah, you heard right - I'm dealing with all this junk and I still had time!

By the time it was all said and done and I got to work, I was probably only a minute late or something.

This is why I give myself so much time before work that I could probably catch an extra hour of sleep otherwise. Knowing me, something bad is bound to happen and you just never know!

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Train, the Bike, and other things

I love you if you get my title.

Anyway, I can't believe I never wrote out this story. I've probably told it 10 times; it is regrettably one of the most interesting things to happen in my life. Murphy's Law-wise, of course.

I hate traffic. Hate it. I will do anything to avoid it. When I accepted a job in Auburn, I had to deal with I-5 every day and it would take me over an hour to go less than 20 miles. So, after doing a little research, I discovered a solution. My place of work was only a mile away from the Sounder train station, which commuted between Tacoma and Everett every day. I would buy a bike (got one for $50), rent a bike locker at Auburn Station (less than $20 a year I think), and take the train and keep the bike in Auburn. It was pure genius.

You know, except for the 10 months of bad Washington weather.

Let's just ignore the fact that I probably only committed to this a total of maybe 8 trips. But, here was the downside. My place of work was on the very outskirts of town. The Sounder train was on the correct side for the actual town, and we were on the other side of the industrial tracks. Can you see where this is heading?

I was on my bike, riding towards the Sounder, when I saw a freight train blocking the only intersection. I pulled up alongside the cars that were waiting. Okay, I had some time, I could wait. But as time ticked on, and the train didn't move, I began to get antsy. The guy in the car next to me told me that I should find another way around - they'd been waiting for over 20 minutes.

20 minutes?!

I began to panic. He told me to ride down the trail to my right - eventually I would get past the train and I could cross. I watched as people on foot climbed through the train to get to the other side. I briefly thought of doing that, but pulling my bike though was too dangerous. I heeded his advice and began to ride. The train seemed to last forever. There was no end to the damn thing. As I rode one way, the train slowly began to move in the other direction.


I turned quickly and rode like the wind. Like a bat out of hell. I pedaled so quickly that my feet were skipping the spins. My heart was going to explode. I actually had a legitimate worry that my heart was going to stop as I couldn't breathe well enough. I was extremely overweight and this was the most exertion I'd probably had in years.

The train began to move ever faster. I could barely keep up. Finally, I reached the intersection - barely 30 seconds after the train went completely through it. I was out of time. The Sounder train would be coming any second, and the lock on my bike locker was too finicky to mess with it.

Out of breath, legs shaking, completely obliterated, I stood with my bike, and got on the train. I then had to stand the entire trip back as there was nowhere to sit.

I owned a regular car with no bike rack and no ability to fold down the back seats to make the trunk larger. The only thing I could do was shove the bike into the backseat with all the finesse of, well, this:

I managed to get it in by some miracle of Frith (if you get this reference I love you even more), however, the next day was to become even more interesting.

Hold on for Part 2!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Skyline Trail

I was standing on the edge of  trail with a clear warning sign of "steep snow", but I did not falter. I took my first step, and then another, my friend close behind me with both of my trekking pokes as she did not have hiking boots. I got about half way - I was going to make it! And then, I slipped.

Wait, let me back up to the beginning. On Thursday afternoon, while I was at work, a patient was telling us about a trail up on Paradise at the Mt. Rainier National Park, where apparently you can see several mountains at once. This intrigued me. Apparently, because Paradise's elevation was so high (5,400 ft), snow had been covering the Skyline trail up until this point but now it was "hikable".

I had managed to convince my friend Monica to go, as she liked to hike occasionally. It was a two hour drive, and a total of a 1,400 foot incline in a 6 mile loop. I hadn't hiked all summer but nothing was going to stop me now. I wanted that view more than anything, and I really wanted to test out my new Sony NEX-5N MILC camera.

The hike itself was well maintained. As you can see, it was a perfectly clear day, and we had a view of the top of Mt. Rainier pretty much the whole hike. I wasn't used to the thin air, so going up steep inclines definitely made me pause, but I could tell that my strength workouts at the Y were paying off.

Unfortunately, something in my camera flubbed up, and this was the result at Panorama Point. However, if you ignore the overexposure and weird darkening effect, you will see Mount Adams and off in the distance, Mount St. Helens with her blown top.

After Panorama Point is when Monica and I ran into trouble. This high up, there was indeed still snow on a part of the trail. Many people had created a useable trail and were currently crossing it, so we tried our luck.

This is where I was a few feet before I slipped. As you can see, it slopes down quite a bit at the end there, and I had nothing to hold onto. Luckily, my ass remained on the trail after I fell. But, like ice, there was no getting back up again. I decided to sled my way down to the other side. If it hadn't been for the fact that the snow here seemed colder than typical snow and was about freezing my hand off, it would have been fun. It happened to Monica also, and she ended up doing the same thing I had. She had supporters cheering her on behind her, though. :P

After that, the hike went well for a bit. We ran into a family where a teen had somehow hurt his ankle. They were currently trying to wrap it in a splint and asked if we had any Ace bandages. Unfortunately, our first aid kits were limited to band-aids and an S.O.S. whistle. A little over a mile away from the point of entry (as it was a loop), Monica somehow twinged her ankle; probably in sympathy. At this point, we had to slow quite a bit.
[At this point, with a tripod weighing my pack down because I was determined to get the well-known "blurry water photo" of my dreams, I had already tried twice to no avail. Even with a Neutral Density filter of 8, there was no shade and my photos were way over exposed. It wasn't until after Monica hurt herself that I was finally able to get the perfect shot.]

I let her go on without me while I set up my tripod one last time. Finally, a waterfall in the shade. The perfect conditions for my blurry water.

I was not disappointed.

We slowly made our way back to the car. That last 1.4 miles seemed endless. And I knew I was finally getting sunburned despite my slathering on of sunscreen before I left. But, it was all worth it in the end. The views were spectacular, and I finally got my dream photo!

Here's some more shots to satiate your need. Enjoy!