Sunday, July 24, 2016

Road trip USA!!!

My best friend got married this year, and tho she lives 3,000 miles away in Tacoma WA, she asked me to be her maid of honor. I was super stoked - this would be my first experience in a wedding party - but also because it meant I had a tailor made excuse to do a trip I've been wanting to do for years. I let work know that I would be leaving mid June…and I wasn't sure when I'd be back! The day after we unveiled a huge rooftop art installation I packed up my car and headed west. 
I had about a week to make the wedding so I was booking it to Tacoma - my first stop was Grand Rapids MI where I had an artist friend, then Madison Wisconsin where one of my Positive Spin coworkers had moved. We spent the afternoon riding around one of the lakes and then followed Madisons extensive trail network out to Epic Headquarters, this crazy company that basically wants its site to feel like a theme park. There were Harry Potter themed buildings, wild west buildings, a Lord of the Rings themed state of the art 10,000 person auditorium, Dungeons and Dragons offices, and so many more. It was a playground for adults!

The next day I drove over to Minneapolis, and rode about 60 miles of their mind boggling urban trails. The level of bike infrastructure there was astounding. At some parts I was riding in the middle of the city and it felt like I was on a bike trail in a secluded forest! So amazing.

Mtbing in the "Enchanted Forest"

After Minneapolis I hit my first experience with unbelievable geography. I drove through the Badlands National Park. I really can't describe how beautiful and alien the landscape was there, so here are a few pictures:

Climbing the Badlands Cliffs

South Dakota, land of big beautiful skies

 From there, I stopped in Rushmore long enough to take an obligatory photo, got pizza in Deadwood, got stuck in a herd of bison crossing the road in Yellowstone, and had Old Faithful erupt sulfery water all over me. I saw a grizzly bear in a stream, almost hit a moose, and had to stop for bighorn sheep as they clamored down a mountain into the road. That was week 1! I made it to the wedding in one piece, where I scrambled to write down the maid of honor speech that had be gestating in my brain for about 6 months. The wedding was a US/Canadian bike polo camping affair, and Jill and Leon didn't shy away from making sure their rides were in the wedding photos!

Me and Tara at the Flying Bike Cafe
I stopped in Seattle to visit another old friend and take a spin on my road bike before hooking back up with chunks of the wedding party to head north.

See the Space Needle?!

I picked up Bike polo extraordinaires  and fellow wedding attendees Kyle and Sarah to head up to Orcas island to visit a former Pgher I had only met that weekend. Mike is a potter who lives above the studio he works for in a rainforest, on the beach. GEEZ, it doesn't really get more beautiful than that! This may have been the best weekend of my life. We hung out in tree houses, jumped off cliffs into a mountain lake, fished for salmon, made homemade pizzas, skipped rocks for hours into the sunset and then had a beach fire. As the sun started to set that night, Mike hopped into the ocean water and swished a stick around, jubilantly demanded to know if I could see the sparkles. Kind of? Maybe? I think so? Or maybe thats the sunset reflecting off the waves??? But! as the sun set for real and the night got darker, I could clearly see sparkles jetting off the stick he kept waving, like a magic wand shooting stars. There was a bioluminescent algae bloom off the shore!! Soon enough the waves washing up the beach were full of glitter, and Mike was finding big logs to drop into the water so glow-in-the-dark halos would radiate outward, like some kind of electricity field. I went out on a row boat and let my hand drag through the water, unable to stop my amazed laughter at seeing the sparks flow under my fingers. When I saw Kyle come back in from his turn on the boat, every time the oars hit water they sent a shock of glow through the waves, and the hull of the boat was lit like it had LED light underglow. It was the most spectacular thing I'd ever seen.

Sarah getting ready to jump/friends in the treehouse!
skippin rocks into the sunset

Too soon, it was time to leave Orcas. Our next stop was Seattle, where a friend of mine was promoting her line of women's cycling-specific jeans; RYB Denim, at Peloton, a polo kids-owned bike shop and bar. It also seemed like the whole wedding party reconvened to keep the buzz going - people I had just met kept filtering in to grab a beer, pick up some spare parts, and try on the jeans! The next morning was more of the same - breakfast at Peloton, giving a final hug to everyone I had just said a final goodbye to last night! - and then Kyle Sarah and I headed out to Portland. Sarah spent most of that day at her new house, getting her gear together for the 4th of July polo tournament in Pittsburgh (ironically, they were flying back to my city, and I was heading down to crash in Kyle's pad in Oakland CA). Kyle and I found a Lemmy themed bike ride to crash after we checked out Red Star Bags and Cascade Brewing.

 I said goodbye to my friends that night, and started my solo trip down the coast. I took the scenic highways all the way to San Francisco, stopping along the coast to pick starfish out of tide pools, binocular watch a pod of humpbacks, and stand under the redwoods. I had a couple amazing friends in the Bay Area, so I ended up staying there for about a week. My July Fourth was at a boathouse in San Fran, I visited DZR headquarters and King Kog bike shop, saw the Sutra Baths, pet stingrays at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, saw a flock (a flock!!) of hummingbirds dine on a 30foot agave at Hearst Castle, wandered the labyrinth that was the Winchester Mansion, and even made some money doing an art handling gig just outta town.

   Orgeon coast                                                                                    tide pools!                  

Hearst Castle                                                                                indoor pool                  

I went to the Winchester Mansion and King Kog with Carolyn


When I finally left the Bay Area I had picked up a friend from back home, and our first stop was Death Valley. We got there around midnight and stopped to camp on the side of the road. Camping in Death Valley was awesome and I'm glad I did it, but we stepped out of the car into an oven, and though I was pretty sure we weren't going to die, I wasn't completely sure I wasn't wrong about that. I couldn't drink water fast enough so I had to resort to just pouring it on myself all night, because it would evaporate completely in about 20 minutes. Every once in a while a donkey scream would echo across the hills, making me jet bolt upright and send my heart rate skyrocketing. Around 2 am we got up to stand under the night sky, staring at the clearly visible Milky Way and counting shooting stars. We broke camp at 4:30 and headed down into the valley, the elevation dropping from 9,000 feet to zero real fast. I stopped to get on my bike and road the downhill through the desert until I ran out of water and couldn't take the chapped lips anymore. (I made it about 20 miles). As the sun rose, it was 90 degrees.
almost 300ft below sea level!

Devil's Golfcourse
We stopped by the Devil's Golfcourse, a sea of coral-shaped salt covered rocks sharp as cut tin, that would creak and ping in the sun in a cacophony of metallic acoustics. I stood in the lowest point of the US, Badwater Basin, and wandered out onto the blazing beach of salt for sand.

From there we passed through Yosemite and skirted by Area 51 on the way to Vegas. This was the only time we got a hotel - the Hotel California in Old Town Vegas! I wandered through the themed casinos, met up with my long lost German cousin for the first time in 10 years for New Orleans themed buffet, and then booked it to the Grand Canyon the next day.

Flagstaff AZ was our next stop, where we met up with a super lovely character who was also a cross-time teammate of mine! We busted out our homemade gin and killed an evening gabbing with Mike V, catching up on subjects like Pgh/Motown, Hillybilly Roubaix, and how across the board awesome JR and Gina are. When you're traveling across the desert, have been home in 4 weeks  and have been sleeping in your car, a soft bed and a shower feels so so good.
Just outside of Flagstaff is an inactive volcano that one of Mattress Factory's favorite artist installers bought decades ago and has been converting into an art installation that isn't yet open to the public. However, we managed to catch the artist's crew at the studio and they were happy to give us a private tour of the place. It was incredible! There's really no way to put it into words, so here are some pictures that are sure to amaze and confuse:

The trek across Utah was a series of scenic drives and National Parks. We stopped in Zion, a lush oasis in the desert, where I stood under a rock overhang that wept water. I hiked barefoot up the most beautiful lush creek of rock cascades, sand pools, tadpoles, and water plants. We saw mountains that looked like melting ice cream, others that looked like needled rock, and natural red dusty arches. I've realized that every chunk of mountains in the US has a completely different look and feel and texture, and was wishing I had a flashcard deck of mountains like the constellation playing cards I had gotten in the Grand Canyon (I realized in Death Valley the only constellation I know is the Big Dipper). We stopped in Moab and I hiked my mtb up a hideous 9 mile climb to a super fun flawy hour long single track descent. To cool off after the ride we found the local watering hole (a gorgeous creek, of course), and I parked myself on an expanse of flat rock that a beaver dam forced a gentle waterfall down. Bright colorful dragonflies flitted around and parked themselves on my bikini.


Mtbing in Bryce

Bryce Canyon

Mtbing in Moab

Beaver dam/rock waterfall Creek in Moab

Full creek pano @ Moab

We had two stops left. Denver Colorado, where we stayed with previous Mattress Factory coworkers and hit up Casa Bonita, the crazy strip mall cliff-diving labyrinth Wild West wonderland, and Kansas City MO. We left KC at 6am and made a pit stop in St Louis to scope out the City Museum and grab a deli sandwich, then marathoned the 14 hour total drive back to the Burgh. Popping out through the Fort Pitt tunnels and seeing that beloved skyline and the brightly lit PNC park was heaven. I finally made it home!!! Unfortunately, a work-related gash I had gotten on my leg the day before I left had festered for 5 weeks and gotten infected, so I spent all of 20 minutes at home, unloading my bikes and giving my new roommate an exhausted hug, before she carted me off to the ER and I spent my first night back in a hospital bed with an IV slapped in my arm :(
Oh well. It was totally worth it.
too much fun.