Day 13 The Home Stretch

Our final day started at Discovery Bay overlooking the water.  Most of the day would either be on the Olympic Discovery Trail (ODT) or backroads.  I’ve been looking forward to this leg of the trip.  I’m in my own backyard, and there’s something significant about coming home after a long challenging journey. At Discovery Bay, my entourage (six cyclists and two runners) and I were met by two other cyclists, Wallace and a friend who would ride the entirety of the day with us.  We started off  on what ended up feeling much like a victory lap throughout the day.  There were many points along the route which would be meet up points for friends, family, and fans. 

 The excited crew at departure.

The excited crew at departure.

 Matt "Mizzo" Marks

Matt "Mizzo" Marks

A little ways before we reached our first meet up spot at Diamond Point we would have to ride on Highway 101 briefly.  We were provided a police escort from the state police as we entered the highway.  At the sight of the flashing lights Matt Marks’ instincts kicked in, and he was seen running into the bushes.  After realizing the police were there to support us, Matt came out of the bushes and got back to running.  While running behind the escort Matt was heard to say, “This is the first time I’ve ever chased a police officer.”

 

 

We arrived at Diamond Point where there was quite the welcoming party.  There were a lot of supporters with signs and positive vibes.  My favorite kind of women, Women on Wheels, a local cycling club, joined our growing group.  We were now becoming quite the spectacle, if we weren’t already.  I asked Dr. B. for a head count, but he can’t count past twenty, so I only know there were more than twenty of us now.

 The welcome into Clallam County.

The welcome into Clallam County.

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 Just a little bit of dirt.

Just a little bit of dirt.

After a quick interview and some rest, we continued on the ODT working our way to the next welcoming party waiting for us at Carrie Blake Park.  At times today it felt like I was already done with IansRide and was just out on one of my daily rides on the trails.  But we still had a job to do, and we still needed to finish these last twenty or so miles.  Even though we didn’t have much car traffic today, we made up for it clogging the trails with cyclists, runners, skateboards, and wheelchairs.  My trusty domestique Chauncey was there managing the chaos like only he can.  It may have been more difficult than dealing with semis on highway 20 at certain points.  Throughout the ride I have avoided any type of off-road terrain fearing my chair would acquire enough wear and tear and didn’t need any extra stress.  Not to mention, it’s not too comfortable for me either.  That being said, today was the last day, so we rode on a quarter mile dirt path to make things more interesting.

 

 My great friend, Kenny, and the force behind The Here and Now Project.

My great friend, Kenny, and the force behind The Here and Now Project.

Just before reaching Carrie Blake, my good friend and fellow quad Kenny Salvini joined us.  I’ve been waiting for Kenny to get off his lazy ass and join me.  #getoffyourasskennysalvini.  We kept calm and rolled on into Carrie Blake to more fanfare and hoopla.  We rested, schmoozed, took photos, didn’t sign autographs, and then it was time to move on.  We were joined by another friend and fellow quad Bonnie Richardson as we left the park.  My cousins Becca and Jason also joined in here.  Again, due to Dr. B’s limited counting ability I really couldn’t tell how big our group was now.  

Heading out of the park we had our second police escort of the day as we made our way through the not-so-busy streets of Sequim.  Matt, who was on a bike now after twelve miles of running was visibly nervous.  I explained to Matt that Johnny Law was our friend, and he had nothing to worry about as long as he stayed close to me.  His nervous look remained however until the escort was over.  Once at Railroad Bridge Park we ate lunch and we were joined by Todd, the quadfather, and his lovely wife Karen.  If you recall, they were with us at the very beginning in Coeur D'Alene! My friend Marsha, also in a wheelchair was now with us as well.  And my grandpa, Papa, was there too.  He was coming along for the ride in a bike/chair combo powered by Nicole Lepping from the Sequim Wheelers.  Russ and my mom were now on bikes and rolling along with us.  I told my mom I was so glad she got to ride with us.  She’s been running around for the last two weeks taking care of me and the crew. Finally she could relax and enjoy the home stretch. 

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The entourage at Railroad Bridge

 Jesse Collins added style and panache to our group.

Jesse Collins added style and panache to our group.

Leaving the park we were more of a spectacle than I could have imagined.  Luckily I can’t see behind me and Dr. B can’t count, so I didn’t really know what the situation was.  I did though have a sense there was still something missing, and a few miles down the road from Railroad Bridge we found the missing piece, Jesse.  Jesse is another good quad friend of mine.  Jesse’s great attitude and fabulous new hairdo added to the spectacle.  We were officially a motley crew. If I am ever to be compared to Forrest Gump, this would be the moment.  

 

The last four miles or so were emotional for all of us.  At different points along the route today we all had a moment where we realized we had made it and accomplished something special.  Once we made it to my house it was time to celebrate.  My friends finished all the beer from my tap, and made a substantial dent in the collection in my fridge.  Jimmy had run the entire twenty nine miles, so I was hoping he would stay hydrated.  I recommended water, but he needed the food value that beer contains.  Our friend, Kristin, had arranged for burritos from Little Devil’s Lunchbox to feed the masses.  A local lumber company, Interfor, together with Little Devil’s Lunchbox picked up the tab.  Thank you!  It’s going to be hard when I stop getting free stuff.     

 more than 20...Less than 50.  What a welcome!

more than 20...Less than 50.  What a welcome!

 

As the night went on, the crowd slowly dispersed, and the team gathered in my house to reminisce.  It was great to sit around with the crew and share our feelings about the ride.  I’m so thankful for everything this group has done for me.  All they want in return is beer.  It’s quite the deal.  I am incredibly lucky to have such strong family support and have the good friends I do.  I always feel supported whether it’s doing something I do everyday or riding across the Cascades in my wheelchair.  No one who knows me ever tells me “no, you can’t do that.”  There’s a bitchin’ line in one of my favorite Guy Clark songs, The Cape, “He did not know he could not fly, so he did.”   

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Day 12 Kingston to Discovery Bay: Back on the Peninsula

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The day started at the Kingston Ferry, which is familiar territory for my mom, Chauncey, and myself. The sky was overcast not with smoke, but a cool PNW mist that made the air feel extra refreshing to breathe. Joining us today for the ride to the Hood Canal Bridge was the West Sound Cycling Club, who not only greatly increased our numbers but added a lot of visibility with all of their blinking lights and bright clothing. Among the crowd of new faces were some very familiar ones: my dad, brother Adam, and close friend Matt were riding with me all the way today, and my uncle and cousin were providing extra vehicle support. It means so much to me to have the support of my friends and family.

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We all rode on the busy street out of Kingston to Port Gamble, car drivers passing us by with supportive honks and cheers. I chatted with members of the cycling club, and learned how active they were in advocating for inclusive road infrastructure. I'm not sure the Hood Canal Bridge would have been doable for me if it hadn't been for their voices. Thank you West Sound Cycling Club for the work you do!

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We made it to the bridge, which was the stopping point for the club, and continued across with a slimmed-down group. You might remember Matt from the 2016 ride. He's thinking about signing up for a triathalon, so he decided to run with Jimmy. My brother rode my mom's downhill mountain bike, which isn't ideal for riding up hills on the roads, but he barely complained at all riding over the rolling terrain of the 104. I'm probably the most proud of my dad, who rode the whole day. 

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On the other side of the bridge, I really felt home. We took a picture with the Nelson Boyd sign, as they were the sponsor of the day. There's no way I can thank them enough.

I added a layer, and before we took off a beautiful great blue heron flew overhead. They are such majestic creatures, gracefully floating their giant bodies in the air overhead. Then the GBH blessed the van and Adam with a giant splatter of poop. The GBH is now Adam's spirit animal.

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Along the way we added another rider to our group: Wallace Teal. He has a fascinating cycling history, not only having ridden across the US but also started an ocean-to-ocean race in Panama that continues to this day. I'm honored to ride with him!

We stopped for a generously long lunch at 20 miles. Once everyone had eaten, Jimmy and Matt hopped on bicycles for the rest of the way. Less than a half mile from the finish, we stopped at the Discovery Bay Village Store for a beer and to chat with other cycling tourists who had parked their bikes outside.

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After hitting our finish line for the day, we piled our stuff in all the vehicles and headed to one of my favorite watering holes, The Taproom in Sequim. An anonymous patron paid for our first round! The rest of the tab was picked up by Steve, who is not only a close family friend, but is responsible for setting my chair up with the lithium battery. His name is prominent on the list of people without whom this ride would not have been possible. Thanks Steve!

I can't believe the 2018 ride is almost over. One more day, then I can relax a bit. Or start planning for 2019.

For those of you wishing to join me on the last leg of our trip, here is our planned itinerary (please allow some wiggle-room for unexpected delays):

9:30 - 10:00 - we leave Discovery Bay
11:15 - Diamond Point
1:00 - Carrie Blake Park
2:00 - Railroad Bridge Park
3:30 - Robin Hill Farm Park
5:00 - HOME!

Day 11 Getchell to Edmonds: Cruising to the Ferry

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Around mile 400 of this journey, I was cruising the Centennial Trail with good friends, taking in wavy Sitka spruce and draping western red cedar branch patterns, observing different types of houses and what people are doing with their yards, weaving from more forested areas to more developed areas in this wild land-urban interface while just enjoying the sights and sounds of western Washington. The group had grown to include another cyclist (Diane Trepanier) and three people in power wheelchairs: Denise Smith-Irwin (who graciously hosted us all at her house last night), Joe Meyer and Tyler Schrenk, all from our big and wonderful Here and Now Project family. In the peace and quiet of the Centennial Trail, we all got to mingle and converse as we made our way southward toward Snohomish. 

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Right around this point, Jimmy passed his overall running goal for the trip of 120 miles. Tyler cruised with us for a few miles, Denise and Diane stayed with us until we got to the southern end of the Centennial Trail, and Joe kept going with us when we had to leave the quietude of the trail and continue on along roads. We had a quick lunch pit stop at the Rotary Park in Everett. I couldn’t let the crew rest for very long, as we still had a long way to go, and some meeting logistics had us running a little behind schedule. So I used my powerful lips to crack my whip and we were off again.

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Travel for the remainder of the day was challenging as we dealt with increasing traffic and urban congestion. Not long after lunch, Joe’s wheelchair just suddenly quit while we were heading up a steep hill, and the crew had to disengage his drivetrain, back him up onto a sidewalk, then push him into our van so that my mom could get him to where he needed to be. We rode the Interurban trail for a while, which mostly runs along roads, but occasionally has pure trail sections.

Trusty Ben returned the U-Haul today. It served us very well, it’s hard to imagine how we would have pulled off this trip without that vehicle.

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The day was highlighted by our first view of the briny waters of the Puget Sound. That is when we could viscerally feel just how far we’ve come on this journey, just how close we now are to our final destination. We were elated when we arrived at the Edmonds ferry station, and we were able to go right up to the water. Natalie from BodyPoint and Leo from Norco met us there, and we ate, drank and were merry at Rory’s, a restaurant just a block from the beach.

Soon thereafter, we boarded a ferry and were bound for Kingston. Most fittingly, the name of the ferry was Spokane, the endpoint of our very first day, which seems like a long time ago now.

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We are now back on the Olympic Peninsula, and only have 2 more legs to finish this journey.

Day 10 Darrington to Getchell: Rocky Road to Smooth Trail

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After waking up and packing the SAG vehicles we headed to Darrington where we left off yesterday.  Before we could start making our way closer to Port Angeles I had an interview with King5 News.  They spent some time asking me questions about why the team and I are out here.  The television crew had some questions for my mom since she’s the backbone of this operation.  Mainly things like, “how difficult is it living with a celebrity?”,  “do you ever want to take a pair of scissors to those dreads?”, “does Ian prefer Ginger or Maryann?”  In addition to King5 News we were followed by a freelance photographer/writer, Karen Johanson.  She followed us for most of the day and snapped photos at different points along the route.

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The theme for most of the route today was narrow shoulders with a lot of rocks and gravel.  There was an eleven mile stretch where the road was under construction.  The team had to be on top of their game.  I had my first real chair breakdown today.  The bearings in the right front caster wheel gave out, and we had to change the wheel.  This was something we planned for, so we had a spare wheel in the van.  Luckily the team is like a well oiled Nascar crew and had the bad wheel off and the new one on within twenty minutes.  Now that I think about it, that won’t cut it for Nascar. 

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A little further down the road I had what might have been the biggest surprise of the trip to so far.  While we were off to the side of the road using the cough assist a large white truck pulled over and a face I hadn’t seen in thirteen or so years popped out from the driver’s window.  My uncle Al, who lives in Florida and drives all over the country making deliveries, decided to surprise me.  He had been in Nebraska, knew what I was doing, and figured he’d just head west to Washington and come visit his, (I will assume), favorite nephew.  It was a wonderful surprise.  I had not seen him since before my injury.  This was his first chance to see Ian 2.0.  He drove along the route, and we would see him a few more times throughout the day.  He will be here for the remainder of the ride, so I’ll get a chance to spend some time with him.

It would appear that ten days of riding in this smokey environment has caught up with me.  The frequency with which I had to stop and use the cough assist has increased over the past couple of days.  Due to the increased number of stops for coughing, the problems with my chair, and the morning interviews we found ourselves behind schedule.  I don’t like being behind schedule, especially when there’s really good beer waiting for us at the end of the day, so when it was time for a lunch break I told the crew they needed to be quick.  There’d be plenty of time to lollygag at the brewery later.  Dr. B decided to pull my sip and puff away from me so I couldn’t get back on the road until everyone had a chance to relax and enjoy lunch.  Now we were even further behind schedule.

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Another five miles of stressful, crappy roads followed our ridiculously long lunch break before arriving in the town of Arlington where we would pick up the Centennial trail and have some peace and quiet.  We stopped to meet my mom who had some road sodas for us to take on the trail.  While filling Dr. B’s panniers with the road sodas Jimmy noticed he had a broken spoke.  Apparently the poor road conditions took their toll on Jimmy’s fancy bike.  Because we were already behind schedule I didn’t have time for Jimmy and his mechanical problems.  This isn’t Jimmy’s Ride.  I rolled away with Chauncey, Dr. B., and the road sodas and told Jimmy to catch up.  Luke at Arlington Velo Sports got Jimmy’s bike fixed quickly, and Jimmy caught up to us within a half hour.  Oh how I missed Jimmy during those thirty minutes.

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While riding on the trail, most of which was in secluded areas we were able to relax, talk, joke, listen to music, and really enjoy the last ten or so miles of the day.  If trails like this existed in more places more people with various mobility issues would be outside living a better quality of life.  These last ten miles reminded me of what I’m doing this for.  It is sometimes hard to remember this during the daily grind of this ride.  I was thankful for the reminder.

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Our trusty crew member Ben met us along the trail to ride the last few miles with us.  It was great to spend time with him on the bike.  Our end point was along the trail today.  Another surprise was awaiting me at today’s finish line.  Along with my uncle Al were two good family friends, Terry & Tammy Gallagher from Port Angeles.  Terry and Tammy were nearby and wanted to come see me and the team.  After a little conversation and some laughs we loaded into the van and headed for what I had been waiting for all day, all week actually, some Dirty Bucket.

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During IansRide 2016 we visited many many many many many breweries.  My favorite was the Dirty Bucket, so I was very excited we would have a chance to visit again.  When we arrived at the DB, Two of my friends, Denise and Joe who are also in chairs were there waiting for us.  Denise had brought food for the entire team, and we didn’t wait long to pick out beers to go with the food.  The owner Steve Acord was very generous with his time.  He likes talking beer, so Jimmy and I nerded out with him.  He took some of us on a tour of the brewery.  The Dirty Bucket came through again.  To say the DB is bitchin’ would be an understatement, The DB is hella bitchin’.  I can’t wait for the next NotJimmy’sRide so we can visit again.  I don’t have a route picked out yet, but I’m willing to go hundreds of miles out of my way for some DB beers.

I was swerving a little as we left the brewery, but I made it to the van and we all headed to Denise’s house where she graciously hosted all of us for the night.  She has a beautiful house with an elevator, which brought me up to my third floor suite.  After my crew showered and stopped smelling so bad, we all had the chance to spend time with Denise and talk about our trip.  Denise and Joe will be joining us tomorrow for a portion of the ride, so I’m very excited about that.

Day 9 Newhalem to Darrington: A Breath of Fresh(ish) Air

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Last night we stayed at the Alpine RV and Campground, who graciously contributed to the cause by giving us space for our 5th wheel and tents for two nights. My stepdad Russell, good family friend Rob, and my dog Linus greeted us at our home on the road with the 5th wheel for me and my mom to stay in (#sleepinside) and tents for my crew. 

We woke up to a bacon and egg breakfast cooked by Russell. Dr. B, a vegan, fed me bacon. What a testimony to his dedication to our friendship! We all scrambled (egg pun!) to get ourselves ready for the day ahead, starting thirteen miles back in Newhalem. Russell and Rob joined us on bikes, bringing my cycling crew to four, with Jimmy running.

 Russell and Rob

Russell and Rob

The day was beautiful! The smoke was cleared up enough that we could see our shadows for the first time in four days! Monday morning traffic was very light and the shoulder was wide. Temperatures stayed in the 70s and the terrain was gentle. Russell rescued a baby bird from the road, then a little later a mouse needed assistance getting to safety. He's a funny guy, that Russell, one minute rescuing small creatures, the next taunting Dr. B with bacon. 

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The First thirteen miles flew by, and as we passed the campground we were joined by friend and road crew hero, Ben. Jimmy got on his bike. Now there were six cyclists and me on easy roads along beautiful rivers.  The mossy trees were draped with bright green Old Man's Beard, and the songbirds were chirping away. Vanilla leaf was everywhere, marking the transition to my local plant community. We could all ride together and talk. For the first time it felt like a ride, like we were just cruising around having fun, and not a mission. What a relief.

After four long days of Hwy 20, we finally left it, and it really started feeling like we were close to home. We rode along and crossed the Skagit and Sauk rivers, crossing countless creeks. Jimmy took a quick swim in the Skagit because he wanted to feel like a tri-athelete, and I couldn't believe what he told me he saw: an AMERICAN DIPPER! The only aquatic songbird in the US, and more importantly, my spirit animal! 

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 Another Roadside Attraction

Another Roadside Attraction

After lunch (delicious sandwiches brought by my mom), Ben got off his bike and back in the truck to help with the schlepping. Rob called it a day after thirty-three miles, his farthest bike ride ever. Russell stayed with us the whole day!

It was also a record ride for me: 43 miles, my longest ride ever! The Lithium battery lasted almost 26 miles, and the lead battery still had plenty of juice in it. This record will be broken... but not on this trip. I have to save something for later.

After calling out "One more mile!" for about three miles, we finished at the Hawk's Nest Bar and Grill for dinner and hoppy hydration, tired but happy with the day. I gave my nightly interview with 91.5 KSQM, my local radio station that has given me great support on both this ride and 2016. They really help spread the word in my community - thanks everyone!

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Our sponsor of the day was Invacare, the company that makes the chair I have so mightily abused. The designers did not have "crossing the Cascades" on the list of selling features, and yet their product has kept up remarkably well. I travel in my chair thousands of miles a year in all kinds of weather. I am not only proud to be sponsored by Invacare.  I am deeply grateful.

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We went back to the campground and tried to ID the bird Russell rescued that morning with my dog Linus happily hanging out under the night sky. This has been my first time camping since the accident. You never know what life will bring you.  Just do your best to make the most of it.

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