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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