Friday, August 14, 2009

Arik & Mia and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

3 hours on the bike- Shelton, WA to Elma, WA

Arik and I have decided our days on the tour can usually be divided into two categories: confidence boosting days and confidence destroying days. Today was emphatically a confidence destroying day.

It started out well enough. We slept in at Kelly's until 9:30, got our stuff together, had a good breakfast, and loaded up the van. Kelly was initially just going to drive us outside Bremerton so we could avoid the sketchy 'hoods we'd errantly ridden through before, but she offered to drive us a bit farther and we accepted. Tour purists might frown on us skipping out on part of the route, but it was the last time we'd have the chance to hitch a ride for a bit. We also figured that our misadventures and the accompanying added mileage at a minimum equaled it all out. Plus it was nice to have a little extra time to chat with Kelly. She drove us to Shelton, WA and we bid her farewell as we rolled through Shelton's small downtown.

The roads themselves were great- some of the best we've had really. Low traffic, good weather, rare hills- just nice. We even saw some cool animals- a family of goats, lots of horses, some llamas, and particularly stunningly, a family of deer. The father deer was huge and stood in the middle of the road looking at us. Then came the mom who also stood and looked as if to make sure we didn't have any devious plans, and finally the kiddo.

So we were moseying along, enjoying being back on the bikes and seeing all the cool critters, when suddenly we heard loud barking and saw 2 big, white dogs come streaking towards us. I don't think either of us have been that scared in a long time. Our hearts pounding, we both started pedaling as fast as we could and screamed at the dogs. They seemed to lose traction on the road and so couldn't chase us very far but we were really shaken up, and I was literally shaking. We stopped for a break a little ways down the road and gave ourselves a pep talk but after that first experience we couldn't enjoy the ride. Every driveway and yard put us on edge as we scanned for dogs. Sure enough, not far down the road, a huge black lab came sprinting at us. We screamed and yelled and pedaled as fast as we could but it ran right alongside my bike. Fortunately it didn't try to bite me at all but it easily could have. It finally left us alone but not without shredding our nerves for good. Elma, the town we'd decided to stop in, couldn't come fast enough.

From the minute we got into town though, it felt like we were in the middle of some kind of surreal nightmare. 2 nuclear reactors loomed ahead of us and electricity buzzed audibly in the power lines overhead. A car rolled by without a windshield as did a green and yellow jeep that looked like it was fresh off the Jurassic Park set. The motel we'd planned on staying at ended up being a dilapidated wooden building, but fortunately we'd spied a chain hotel on our way into town. We rode back there, past two restaurants promising good home cookin'. The hotel is perfect- friendly people, wireless access, a nice room. It's been one of the only bright spots on this otherwise crappy day.

We both called our dads for a pep talk and advice about the dogs. Today really left us wondering if the tour was worth it. I keep saying that this tour isn't a vacation- if we'd wanted that we would've headed straight for the beach and not bothered with all this biking business. Instead, I've been calling it an adventure, complete with all the scariness and danger and uncertainty that label implies. Even so, being anxious for every mile doesn't make for a very fun adventure either. Both our pops were helpful. Before the trip, my dad had told us to make up some makeshift pepper spray using water, black pepper, and an elmers glue bottle just in case we had dog trouble. Of course we figured we'd get to that "later" so we didn't have it when we needed it. First thing we did once we got settled at the hotel? Headed straight for the hardware store to get some elmers glue. We picked up 2 bottles and some velcro and then headed back home. On the way a big dog barked at us and scared the crap out of us, and a few houses down a young boy opened his front door, whispered "Run!" to us, and then ran back inside. Yes this is a really freaky place.

On the way home we stopped at Elma's best restaurant: Rusty Tractor. We figured we'd just get some french fries and a salad, and when we walked in we were positive that would be it as far as what we'd be able to eat. Chickens and cows were the motif and the menu was filled with the Rusty Tractor specialty: Yak burgers. They even had a burger called the farmhouse burger, which was a hamburger with ham and a fried egg on it. Guess they do have all the main farm animals covered. To our delight, we spied a veggie burger and beer-battered onion rings- hooray! It all ended up being quite tasty and we were happy to actually be able to eat at a sit-down place. Headed back to the hotel with full bellies, then Arik went to the nearby gas station to pick up some pepper and snacks. He came back and reported that the best of Elma was on display: 2 large, trashy teens were cursing and yelling and being super raunchy.

Now he's reading and we're about to do a little laundry and make our pepper spray. Tomorrow we're going to hit up a gun store here in town to pick up a telescoping baton- we're gettin' hardcore on this here tour. We're shooting for Lewis and Clark State Park tomorrow.

In the meantime, we're crossing our fingers that tomorrow will be better than today.

Be well,

Arik and Mia