Clown Time

On the weekend we were invited to join Portland’s clowns Olive and Dingo in the Division Street Parade. We arrived on time, were all set, then one of the bands started up right beside us in the staging area, setting Trista into a scared crying fit. There was nothing to do but back out and comfort her while the parade took off. Trista eventually did calm down and fell asleep, so we were able to rejoin the fun further down the street.

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A few days later, we hung out at a coffee shop just down the street from our house for Story Time where the clowns do their act every week. Don’t worry, they have a NEW act each time. This particular day they had a camera crew filming them. If the footage gets posted online, I will add the link!

At the end of Story Time, they always make balloons for the kids. Marin usually asks for a bow and arrow, while Elita is happy with anything, sometimes a flower, or snail, or dog… yup, content girl! Today they got something completely different. Observe….

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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!!!!!

 

Run and Hide, the Clowns are Here!!!

We were quietly watching the neighbourhood folks work and play along the street, some painting the compass rose in the middle of the intersection, while others sat on lawns snacking and catching up on gossip. Then the clowns showed up.

I had finished face painting some designs on a couple children and was just started to pack up, so had Marin watching Elita for me. When she saw the clowns, she turned to sit facing away from them, begging me to go home. I refused. When the paints were safely packed away, I sat beside her, holding Elita and comforting Marin, refusing to take the girls home until we had at least seen some of the performance. For the first 5+ minutes Marin would barely look at me, and wouldn’t even venture to sneak a peak at the clowns.

Seth met our SE PDX clowns, Olive and Dingo about a year ago with Marin, who (at the age of 1 1/2 years) did not take to many people in general let alone someone with face paint and crazy hats! The whole summer Marin and Seth had casual encounters with them, but never once did they crack a smile out of her.

This year though? It’s gonna be different! Marin is now 2 1/2, and after those first 5 minutes of her not even looking at them, she slowly turned just so she could keep an eye on them. Then her curiosity got the better of her and she sat, facing the “stage”, watching intensely and keeping one hand over her mouth as she always does when she is nervous. By the very end though, she was brave enough to talk to Olive, giving her a smile even! And when Dingo came over with a cupcake to get his picture taken with her and her half eaten one, she actually stood beside him and mimicked him, holding her cupcake out. I think it helped that they gave her a pink balloon dog.

These amazing people, Olive Rootbeer and Dingo Dizmal, ride around town on tall bikes, performing for the comunity almost every day, making kids (both big and small) smile and laugh, being what clowns everywhere should be. Good, honest, cheerful people who are lucky to make so many others happy.

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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!

 

Bikes Fountain
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

Visit from the GUYS

Earlier this month my dad and oldest brother flew into town for a visit on their way back to Canada for work. I didn’t tell Marin about their coming until the day of, as she does not yet get the concept of “in a couple days”. But, that morning I told her they were coming, and her confident reply was, “and Ret come!” (Ret is her nickname for my sister Maret, whom she absolutely adores)

Despite it just being the guys and no Maret, she was still SUPER excited to go for a truck ride to pick them up at the airport, where my brother Mitch had to wedge himself in the back between the two car-seats.

After the excitement of the truck ride, Marin still managed to make every moment of their visit exciting. I don’t think Mitch woke up in the mornings by himself. He usually was pounced on by Marin and pulled into her games before he could get a drink or breakfast. Grandpa wasn’t much better off, being another source of fun for my toddler, and a great baby tender for Elita when I needed to get stuff done. He did get breaks though! Both of them did. It was called “nap time”, and all of them participated in it.

Mitch and Marin Asleep
Reading books at the end of a long day will knock anyone out!

 

Mitch and Marin Smile
Mitch and Marin were almost inseparable.

Their “long” visit of 4 1/2 days was short, but I think we got a fair amount done. Doughnuts, bubble tea, yard work, playground, long walks for cart food, more doughnuts, short strolls for more cart food….. the list goes on. Some of it can be seen here at my mom’s blog.

 

Mitch and Marin Tongues

These guys come through every couple of weeks or months, so I’m sure you will see more of them!

Overdue Updates

I know how frustrating it can be to read someone’s blog, or follow it, looking forward to their next post, only to find that they stop posting for an indefinite amount of time. I figured I would never be that type of blog poster. But…. it has been almost a year since I last wrote. Terribly sorry!

So….. lets see…..

We became pregnant with our second child beginning of February, 2014.

I started working the register at a hardware store very end of March.

A month later we became the first renters for my brother-in-law, moving into his rental house at the end of April. I didn’t hook up the internet until September, finding that we could do all our necessary internet work while on lunch break or in a few minutes down at a coffee shop. “OMG!” you say. How could we live with less than an hour of internet a day for 5 months? Quite happily actually. We got lots of reading done, conversing, and nice quiet wind-down evenings. It was wonderful!

So, for 5 months we enjoyed sunshine, gardening, playing with Marin, going on bike adventures around town and trying not to die in the intense summer heat. As my belly got bigger, that last one became more of a focus!

Sometime at the beginning of the summer (I don’t remember exactly when) Seth switched from working for corporate Columbia Sportswear, to wild west Next Adventure. It was a wonderful move for him, relieving a lot of stress, fitting his personality a little better.  It also is on the same side of the river and only a 10 minute bike ride away!

October I quit working at the hardware store, staying home with our little 2 year old and enjoying the last month of pregnancy. I also went out for coffee and walks a lot with my Mother (who was staying with us to help out with Marin during my labour), as well as one of my brothers and one of my sisters.

On October 29th our second daughter was born. No complications. Midwives barely arrived in time, as my labour was barely 1 1/2 hours long.  Her name is Elita.

At first Marin was like most other 2 year olds who have a new sibling arrive. Indifferent or slightly hostile. But now she seems to find that having a baby around can be quite fun. Elita smiles and giggles when Marin plays with her, and gets her toys. Marin even enjoys having baths with the baby and snuggling together in bed.

Sleeping GirlsThat’s about it for the updates!

Oh, besides the fact that our wonderful room-mate that we all love and Marin especially adores, will be leaving us shortly to hike the Camino so we will now be looking for a new person to live with us. Grr…. if only we could find another person exactly like the wonderful woman with us right now!

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!