Summer Travel

We did it! We finished immigration, I am now a dual citizen to Canada and USA….. and….. we are out of Portland for the summer!!!

Earlier in a post I told about how we purchased a short school bus that turned out to be a little out of our league. Sold that, kept looking with a more educated perspective, and found a very nice little bus that has it’s quirks but runs nicely for us. It took almost a year to get the leaks figured out and dealt with, but as far as we can tell, it is pretty water tight now. The inside got cut out, insulated with board, and built out for our little family of five. It is a tight space, but well laid out, and utilizes pretty much every square inch of usable space. This is the rig we are currently “living” out of while traveling through lower B.C. Canada for the summer before returning to Portland in the fall.

We also started our own vlog on YouTube! It’s called Simple Life Adventure. Surprising name I know, right?! My mom has a weekly vlog she does about their slow travel lifestyle, and we thought it would be fun to do the same for our simple adventure life. It started with some really random stuff, then documented a bit of our bus conversion, though I have to admit that once we set a dead line, it was hard to get the camera out while crunching long days prepping the bus and simultaneously moving out of our house. Once we started traveling though, we thought we would have PLENTY of time to take footage and edit. Yeah right!!!! When they say making regular videos for YouTube is a job, they really mean it! Especially with three kids.

One morning while we were at a rest stop between Sproat Lake and Tofino, (on Vancouver Island) one of my little sister’s was able to help guide me (via FB’s messaging app) through the WordPress program to get our site from a blog with a WordPress.com ending, to just .com. Easy I know, but it was intimidating for me! We all have our skills, and that is not one of mine! Anyhoo, now that this is a .com website, I see that I have to update everything on it. Bear with me as I go through and try to get caught up on all of it….. while staying on top of our YouTube channel….. while planning the next stage of our trip…. while keeping our kids happy, healthy and safe….. while maintaining my sanity!

Short but sweet post for all of you. And I just want to say Thank You for subscribing here, and thank you for checking out our videos and subscribing to them also…. cause I know you will!

We appreciate you all very much.

P.S. Seth is actually the one who does most of the vid editing. I love you dear!!!!

The Trip

Danaka + Burke Family at Snoqualmie Pass
Danaka + Burke Family at Snoqualmie Pass

Where do I start? The awesomeness of the scenery? Difficulty of hauling a couple hundred pounds up a mountain pass on loose gravel? The thrill of seeing our little girls play happy and content with anything they find on the forest floor? Or the difficulty of the logistics of getting us and our gear to where we needed to be?

I guess the story of our trip should start at the beginning. How do you get 2 children, 3 adults, 2 cargo bikes, 1 mountain bike and 1 trailer moved 167 miles to the start of a trail? Well, momma and kids take the bus to the train station and catch the big train to Tacoma, WA, while daddy and aunty get a rental truck to move the bikes and gear. They drive it to the station that mom and kiddos get off at, unload gear, drop off truck, start cycling.

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We followed the Cedar River trail south, camping between a river and the highway the first night. I was surprised at the number of late night/early morning bike commuters that used the trail we were camped beside. Nobody seemed to pay us any mind though, which was quite nice after a long stressful first day.

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Day 2 found us riding to the end of the paved section of trail and slogging along with big smiles on our faces over well packed gravel, stopping only when we got to locked gates in a park. What the heck? Where did the trail go? We spotted a fellow working at one of the park buildings and went over to ask him about the trail, and he very nicely gave us the low down on the situation we had unwittingly gotten ourselves into.

The Rail to Trail that we were following (Cedar River), was the continuation of the John Wayne Pioneer Trail that was our ultimate goal for our vacation. Our problem, was that the trail went straight through 90,638 acres of watershed, used by the City of Seattle, and the whole space was closed to the public after September, 2001, and very few trail maps of the area have been updated since that time. We would have to go around the watershed.

Danaka’s bike was lightest when unloaded, so I rode it to the closest town (Maple Valley) and rented a moving truck to get us around this big glitch in our trip. The only other option was to cycle with the little girls along 20 miles of highway with virtually no shoulder, and it was halfway through the afternoon already, so with our slow pace, we would have to find a place to camp right beside the highway. Didn’t like that idea.

With the truck we were able to get all of us around the watershed and up to North Bend, where we checked out the town a little bit and ended up crashing for the night in the back of the truck in a corner of a grocery store parking lot. It was a ten foot box truck, and remember it had all our big bicycle gear already in it! So Seth’s and my bikes got tied in place along each side, over the wheel wells, Danaka’s got suspended in mid air at the back of the box, and all the panniers were stuffed into any crevasse we could find. It left just enough room for Seth, the little girls and I to sleep shoulder to shoulder across the back wall with our feet funnelled toward the front where Danaka slept at an angle in front of the door, which we pulled down part way but tied so it could neither be opened from the outside, nor closed and us get locked in!

The nice part about camping beside a grocery store, was that we were able to get nice hot food for dinner, and fresh fruit for breakfast!

Okay, so we finally found the trail we wanted, just outside town, where we unloaded everything, and then I had to drive back into town with Danaka’s bike to do the whole “dropping off the truck” business, and find a bike shop to tighten one of the cranks on the bike. I was directed to SingleTrack Cycles and received wonderful friendly service, advice and local knowledge of the trails. They were a breath of fresh air after a rather stressful night of moving truck shenanigans.

We got rolling finally around noon and went pretty much without stop all on an up hill grade until we reached Rattlesnake Lake, where Marin and I went down and played in the mud and tree stumps for quite some time. It was just too much fun to stop!

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But we had to keep rolling, so we did, and found a camp spot with an amazing view! Oh yes, and we got to watch some rock climbers too. And a person gliding past in a motorized para-glider!

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With awesome views and only intermittent rumbles from the highway further down in the valley, we finally worked our way up to the top of the mountain pass, topping out half way through the Snoqualmie tunnel, which is 2.3 miles of hard packed gravel and dirt, with long, shallow, narrow ruts from bicycles grinding through the sporadic puddle caused by water dripping (or full fledged trickling) down from the ceiling. Of course in over 2 miles of tunnel, you need lights, even though the path is straight and you can see slivers of light from each end. But once you’re in the middle and turn OFF the lights, you can’t see diddily-squat. It’s been a long time since any of us were in darkness of that kind. We did try the “hand in front of our faces”, but to no avail. Only when looking at the light from one of the entrances could you then see, not your hand, but rather the absence of that light when you passed your hand between yourself and the entrance. There was no outline of things or anything! After a while of riding, I would think I was halfway through, only to look back and see the entrance was still large and I was far from halfway. Around mid point the tunnel became almost disconcerting. I couldn’t imagine going through by foot and taking 100 times longer!

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Once we passed through and filled up our water at the parking lot, the trail turned sloppy real fast. Our tires sunk down in the loose gravel and I think all of us fish tailed a couple times before we made it to the camping sites on the south end of Keechelus Lake. Marin really liked the lake, as the shores were steep and a mix of rocks and sand. We spent a long time sitting on a tall outcrop, throwing rocks over the edge, listening for the splash.

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That night we seriously discussed goals, miles, energy and expectations. It felt like we had been going for over a week, instead of having just finished our fourth day on the trail. We decided to cut the trip short, keep the camp set up the next morning and just do a quick day trip, then head home.

 

With only bare necessities and enough gear to get us un-comfortably but safely through the night if we got stranded somewhere, we headed out the next morning down the loose trail, with hardly any weight and a downhill grade. Eventually things levelled out and we passed through fields and farmland, swamps and over clear creeks. Our turnaround point was the “BBQ place” in South Cle Elum we had heard rants and raves about from multiple people. I guess there must be two places, because the one we went to had me wishing for Clay’s Smokehouse back in Portland after only three bites. Seth too. Not saying it was bad, it just didn’t come close to anything we were expecting.

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Our ride back to camp was long. We were getting tired, and Danaka was having that mental struggle that anybody who has set out on a multi day physical challenge has experienced. Thinking you can’t make it, you’re too tired, your knee hurts like hell, but knowing that you have to make it cause you have no choice, and you still don’t have the energy to keep pushing through. “I can’t do it”. It’s a hard spot to be in. Fortunately Seth and I have both been there multiple times before. Once I figured out what was sort of happening, we were able to make some changes, pull together and get us all safely back to camp in time for a late dinner.

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Next morning, we all felt a little sad that the trip was coming to an end and we were heading home, but there certainly was a lot of excitement and giddiness as well!

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Heading back toward North Bend, we made great time. I mean, heading downhill with heavy bikes is a heck of a lot easier than trying to fight gravity with those same bikes going uphill. What took us two days for us to go from North Bend to Lake Keechelus, we accomplished in reverse in less than one full day. We had time when we got into North Bend, to find the library and use their computers to figure out what bus routes the girls and I would need to take to get us back to Seattle so we could catch the train home to Portland the next day. Once that was figured out, our next task was to find a place to pitch our tents for the night. We headed north out of town and found a pretty good stealth site completely out of view from the trail. It was a little stressful, trying to keep the little girls quiet as we made dinner and set up the tents with the light fading and them just wanting to play, but we did it! There were no surprises in the morning. No cows wandering through, or rangers knocking on our poles. Yippy!!!

Breaking stealth camps can be kind of awkward, as my family usually wakes up hungry right away, but you gotta get everything broken down as fast as you can and out of there so there is no evidence of what you just did. That’s where I found easy to grab snack foods come in handy. Namely, dehydrated banana muffins. The girls loved them and it gave all of us something to settle our bellies as least temporarily.

Back in town, we eventually found our bus stop. Scrounged up a few baked goods from a local café, and said our goodbyes as the bus arrived. It was back to the girls and I taking public transportation home and Seth getting yet another rental truck. Here’s where we made our last big blunder. Instead of calling the rental places first thing to make sure they had something available before we got on the bus, it wasn’t until after the girls and I were already on our way before Seth found out that he would have to catch the same bus to a neighbouring town to get the only available truck. Two hours later he was on the same route that we had just taken (bus only ran every 2 hours). At this point we were just rolling our eyes and shaking our heads, dreaming of simply being home.

There’s not a whole lot to tell about the rest of the trip. The girls and I received an escort from a very nice person through the confusion of Seattle’s transit centre and construction. The girls had a grand time chasing each other through the wide open spaces of the train station, making people simultaneously smile at them and jump out of their way. On the train home I finally had a chance to look in a mirror and figure out what had been making my head itch like crazy for the last three days. Lice. Oh boy! When I found those little critters, all I could think of was the nit comb stashed in our cupboard. That, and try really really hard NOT to scratch! Literally, as soon as we got home, I kicked my shoes off and went straight to the bathroom to comb my hair without saying hi to anyone. Seth, by the way, got the truck and they (Seth and Danaka) had a safe drive home, beating us by half an hour. Just enough time to unload everything from the back and come meet us a couple blocks away for the final drag of the trip.

Next day, Seth dropped off the truck and came home with “our” beloved dog Lorax to keep the girls entertained for the day while we unpacked and cleaned our gear. Danaka helped out a ton too, with reading a kazillion books to Marin and keeping an eye on Elita.

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Whew! It’s been almost as epic trying to get this all typed out, as it was to do the trip!

If I left out any important stuff or simply left you wondering about something (besides the reason I hadn’t gotten this posted sooner),  please leave a comment and I will rectify things.

THANK YOU FOR READING!!!!!

 

First Family Camping Trip

It’s about time!

We had a three day weekend coming up, and I had just bought a dehydrator, and been busy drying up a storm of food, so it made sense to go away for a couple days and eat it all. Makes sense right?

Marin Campfood

It took us nearly a whole day of planing and organizing and finding stuff, before we were able to roll out, but we did it!

Our bikes were big and heavy…..

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and it took us three hours to go the distance normally covered by bike in 1 1/2. But we got there!

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Having two nights to camp in one spot was really nice, as we could recover from our heavy peddling and enjoy an afternoon at the Oxbow River without worrying about the time.

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We even slept in by a kazillion minutes!

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We had a blast and that’s what matters!

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Marin learning how to take selfies.

The last day, we loaded up and headed out, looking forward (NOT) to the massive hill we had to go up to get out of the river valley. It was so steep that when we went down it, Seth was afraid he would blow a tube from the friction of his brake pads. For those of you who have never ridden a cargo bike fully loaded with children and enough camping gear for 4 people, down a hill, let me tell you it can be very scary as the bikes pick up a tremendous amount of speed! We were safe though, as our bikes made it through like champs.

Anyway, back to that hill! It was big! Something like 600 feet elevation climb in less than a mile. About 50 feet into it Seth and I got off our bikes and pushed them. We had sweat dripping down our backs and arms, palms got slick on the handle bars, and we made wonderful time, getting to the top in 1 hour.  Now, 1 mile per hour is NOT making good time I know, but it was a HUGELY STEEP HILL!!!! At the top we cheered, sweaty high-fived and ate a couple granola bars.

That’s about the end of my story. The rest of the ride home was uneventful except that we made a small detour at the end to enjoy some of Little Big Burger’s fries and lettuce wraps. Seriously, they are amazing and a treat after sweating in the sun for 3 hours!

Monsters Under Bridges

There’s this amazing book called “Monsters Under Bridges” by Rachel Roellke Coddington, about some of the resident monsters here in the Pacific Northwest. Our favourite monster from the book is Louis, who lives on the St. Johns Bridge in northern Portland and likes to travel a lot, just like one of our awesome neighbours.

Portland is an amazing place to live, because we also have the Fremont Flixies on…. you guessed it! the Fremont Bridge!

Just a little while ago, on one of the amazingly nice days that we get sporadically here between douses of rain, we as a family went on a trip to see if we could find Louis and the Flixies. Of course, we went by bike. All the way from here in the inner SE, up to and across the St. John’s Bridge, then down the west side to cross back over on the Hawthorne, making stops along the way to play, eat, read the map, smell the roses, look at the view and discuss what our odds were to actually be able to spot the monsters. Marin was pretty sure that we would find the monsters’ homes (the bridges) and that we would find the monsters themselves.

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The fountain at a rose garden.

 

Family Fountain
A family photo!

 

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A view of our rigs. That’s Elita in her carseat in the front of Seth’s front loading roll-caged cargo bike. Marin sits in the kid seat on the back of my Big Bunny. (for Surly snobs, that’s a Big Dummy)

 

The St. John’s Bridge felt very BIG, going across on bicycles. I think it is the second largest I’ve ridden across. Surprised we forgot to take any pictures.

We didn’t see Louis, so he must have been visiting friends. Probably Ronoh, who lives in the water under the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge in Vancouver, BC. Louis does love to travel!

Having had no luck finding Louis, we continued to Portland’s down town area for dinner, then passed a ton of bridges and underpasses, looking for the Fremont Flixies and any other monsters that might have come visiting the bridges of Portland that day. Alas, we had no luck.

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Us! On a bridge in front of a Ferris wheel.

 

After a long day of cycling, we headed home, crossing on the Hawthorne Bridge, with eyes pealed for any sign of monsters. On our ride up SE Stark St, Marin kept telling me that we didn’t find the monsters, so we needed to go back to the bridge, to see the monster’s home and find the monster. With sweat dripping down my neck, and fire burning in my thighs, I had to tell her that finding the monsters would have to wait for another trip, at which time we might be more fortunate in finding them.

Elita Fountain

Return of the Fat Tire

When the Portland Police take a stolen bike report, they don’t give you much optimism as to ever expecting to find it again. That’s just the way it is. Bikes are a big thing in Portland, and just as it is the choice of transportation for many commuters, so is it the premium choice for the homeless community who neither have space under their chosen bridge to park a car, nor do they have the money to put any gas into it.

While Seth was out riding around on Thursday asking people if they had seen a bike with bad-ass tires, one fellow of a shifty character explained it to Seth in a simple way that made a lot of sense. “If you live in a city, you never actually own your bike. You just get to use it for a while before it’s someone else’s turn.”

After talking with and showing a picture of the bicycle to a Parks and Recreation ranger, Seth felt that for his own safety it was time to head. The threats were starting to get forceful and there is no reason to risk your well-being for any type of bike. He continued on home while the ranger got picked up by his partner in a pickup and they headed through the downtown area of Portland. Shortly after crossing the bridge, the ranger spotted a bicycle matching the description and pulled over to ask a few questions of the shifty looking rider. The fellow got off the bike right away, leaned it against a wall and took a step away. It was his brother’s bike he said as he took another step away. With further questioning he just turned on his heel and walked from the scene. 

The funny thing? He was caught with the bike barely 200 feet from where it was stolen!

The rangers confiscated the bike and contacted Seth. Over the phone they asked him to describe the bike, specifically the reflective (Seth puts reflective tape in strange places on all his bikes). He passed the quiz with flying colours and was able to quickly cinch proving he was the owner by producing a key and unlocking the u-lock that was still securing the seat to the frame. 

Then the real questions started! Why are the tires so big? What is the purpose of such a fat tired bike? Where do you get them? etc.

The rangers even got a group picture taken of themselves with Seth and his bad-ass fat tire Surly Pugsley bike. 

Seth was quite the happy camper that day, but it wasn’t over yet. He had ridden his cargo bike to pick up the fat tire on his was in to work, but they were too big and bulky to fit through the narrow staff door, so he had to pull it in through the front doors and move everything one at a time through the store to the back for safe keeping. The morning staff got the whole story at that point, then at the end of the day the evening staff got the story as well as he pulled everything back out of the staff room and back to the front where he strapped the frame and tires of the Surly into the cargo bay of his load pusher. Customers thought it was pretty awesome too, and one asked if he could take a picture of the “Fat Tire in a Cargo Bike” and send it to Bike Snob in NYC. Seth refused, saying it was enough of a day to have gotten his beloved bicycle back after having it stolen, and putting it in his cargo bike was the only way he was able to manage picking it up and getting to and from work all at the same time. He didn’t want to deal with the Bike Snob using it as ammunition against Portland on top of everything else! Fair enough. 

Loss of a Fat Tire

This week has had some ups and down. Seth’s Surly Pugsley Fat Tire bike was stolen on Monday from in front of his work at Mountain Hardwear in downtown Portland.

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As you can see from these pictures, the bike has insanely HUGE tires on it! Bigger than most people have ever seen on a bicycle. In fact, the Surly frame had to be built special for the big tires.

There is a reward for getting the bike back. So far what is known, is that a guy and girl who are known drug addicts were seen dragging it (the wheels were locked to the frame) looking to sell it cheap. Any further information is appreciated. 

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Snow!!!

We just got back from a wonderful 1 1/2 hours out playing in the snow. There is at least 4 inches on the ground!

While trying to get Marin all set for going outside, she fought against putting her equipment on and refused the jacket. So got finished getting myself all ready, then plopped the two of us out on the back deck where Marin was then quite willing to get another layer on!
She didn’t seem very excited about the snow. Just stood there. Then we got the dog and a sled and I pulled her down the street to 36th where there is a nice grade hill. Other people had thought the same thing, as there were at least 20 people (adults and kids) already using the hill. We went down a couple times while Lorax wandered along the edge of the road smelling stuff. Marin had a snow cold face on and I couldn’t tell if she was having any fun at all! Then a little kid who is scared of big dogs came around so I then held onto Lorax’s leash as we went down the hill again. He thought it was great fun running beside us, trying to bite my gloves and jacket. Marin totally cracked up laughing at it too! So then we went down another dozen times or so with Lorax chasing after us and Marin giggling away!  One lady there said we were the cutest trio ever! The mail carrier (Jeffrey) got a kick out of watching Lorax chase us down the hill (he likes Lorax) and wished that he could take the day off to join us all on the hill. We have such nice neighborhood people!
After a while Marin wanted out of the sled and just stood around watching all the other kids. I got bored and put her back in the sled, pulled her home and got her undressed. Then she nursed and she fell asleep right away!
The Olympics start tonight, so Seth had previously asked to get out of work early today. Works out great, as he will be home with plenty of daylight to take Marin outside again for some snowy fun!  As it is, he already got to have a bit of fun this morning as he rode his big fat-tire through the snow to work.
That’s our little adventure this morning. Oh the joys of life!