Sometimes I live a pretty charmed life. I have a good job, steady housing, food to eat, and friends and family who love me. In June, I was sent to Europe for work for 5 days and had the opportunity to extend my stay for some vacation time. More coming on those adventures soon (I promise), but over the course of ten days I had the pleasure of exploring Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands.
Upon my return, I felt like my life was a shit show. I literally had hundreds of emails to read, piles of laundry, and the Swift Campout on the books for the following weekend. The sensible thing to do would be to cancel the camping trip and use the weekend to get caught up on life.
Guess what I did?!?
Thursday and Friday were a whirlwind at work- catching up on emails, following up on everything that transpired in Europe, and getting adjusted to the 9 hour time difference again. I vacillated all day Friday about going on the trip, debating whether I really wanted to ride to Tolt McDonald Park or if I would feel overwhelming FOMO if I didn’t go.
In the end, the fear of FOMO (is that a thing? A fear of a fear of missing out?) won and I made the decision to join the group ride to the Swift Industries campout. The plan was to meet at west end of the 520 bridge at 11am and ride 30ish miles to Carnation. In theory, there would be 12 of us riding as part of a “chill group ride” and then meeting up with 55 other people at camp.
As I packed on Friday evening, I literally packed and unpacked 3 different bikes. For the life of me I couldn’t decide which bike to ride. ALL the cool kids would be at the campout, so I wanted to ride a cool bike. I also just picked up my new Masi CXGR bike that I’ll be riding in Montana this summer for Ortlieb’s Ride Beyond Stereotypes women’s bike packing event. While not a “cool” bike persay (it’s pretty bare bones and functional), I do need to get more saddle time in. I also really really really love the bike I bought for JR (the one I rode to Mt. Rainier.) Decisions decisions.
I eventually settled on riding my Surly Straggler, mainly because it has a rear rack and I can pack so much in those panniers. (Side note- remind me next time to pack less. Always pack less.) I also for some reason decided that I don’t like any of my shoes that I have been riding bikes in forever so I made a plan to go to REI the next morning before the ride to pick up shoes.
If at this point you’re thinking “what the hell, marley? You should know better than to overpack AND buy new shoes just before a ride!” You’re totally right. I literally did the textbook version of “What Not to Do.” Don’t do like I did – plan your shit in advance.
Ok, so back to the ride. Saturday morning, all packed up, got my new Five Ten Freeriders on (hey REI – why don’t you have the women’s version online? You definitely have them in store…) and on the way. I made a quick stop at my friend Amanda’s house for a little pre-funk and then met up with the crew from Swift Industries for the ride.
At the beginning of the ride, Martina went over the plan for the day. We’d ride the 520 Bridge and path into Redmond, then go up a big hill, and then be there. 30 miles, easy pace, no drop. She did ask for a volunteer to be the sweep, which I gladly stepped up into. As the slowest person on group rides, I don’t mind being sweep as long as I know where I’m going. That way nobody else has to feel bad about being slow or holding up the group- I can help shepherd them to where we’re going and everybody is happy.
The first 15 miles were uneventful. The group stayed together nicely, regrouping at the top of hills and before turns. We stopped for a picnic lunch just off the Sammamish River Trail and it seemed like the group was meshing together well.
At this point, we were making great time, especially for a group of our size. (The predicted 12 people had morphed into 25.) That progress came to a skidding halt, however, when I hit a patch of mud on the trail and totally wiped out.
It seemed like before I had even picked myself up off of the ground to assess the damage, there were tons of people at my sides offering first aid kits and water, making sure I was ok. Adrenaline is a tricky little bitch though and I insisted that I was fine. I cleaned out my road rash, adjusted my fenders, and wiped off the tears as we climbed back on our bikes to keep riding.
As the miles piled on it became clear that I wasn’t actually ok. My leg, fingers, and arm throbbed. Thankfully I hadn’t hit my head, but goddam did everything else hurt, and we hadn’t even started climbing the real hills yet.
Soon enough we turned off the gentle flat trail and onto a road called Union Hill Road. By this point in my cycling career, I know that any road with ‘hill’ in it’s name, will involve a climb of some sort.
Sure enough, we climbed for a few miles. As we were finally descending, I got a flat. If you remember from this post, my wheels were recently stolen. When we replaced them, instead of replacing with quick release skewers, we put locking skewers on. Turns out you should know how to use them before you need to.
At this point on the ride, I was mentally, emotionally, and physically defeated. As I struggled with my tire, the tears were streaming down my face. I was embarrassed to be crying over a tire, my road rash hurt, and I was hungry. Literally the worst.
Thankfully, a few of the women in the group convinced the rest of the group to go ahead, as I really didn’t want to rush to change my tire in front of 25 people I’d already held up. Four of us stayed behind and somehow managed to patch two holes with my wheel still on my bike.
Bike repaired, tears dried, food consumed we got back on our bikes to ride the last few miles into camp. Thankfully they were pretty boring, despite a wrong turn that gave us some bonus gravel miles and a pocket FaceTime to Hannah’s mom. Hi Mom!
We eventually made it into Tolt McDonald Park where we set up camp with the rest of the crew that had rolled in before us. Lots of folks checked in with me to make sure I was alright (special thanks to Mal for the relaxation mints ;)).
As always, there’s a special kind of magic that happens when you bike camp with strangers. Over shared snacks you tell silly stories and find common interests (besides biking) and make future plans for more adventures. By the next morning, it’s as if you’ve been friends forever. Bike camping is basically like a sleepover for adults.
In this case, however, my injuries definitely put a damper on my trip. My mood was a bit of a bummer and I didn’t have the energy to bounce from circle to circle. I even ended up bailing on the bike ride home and snagged a car ride home. I’m glad I did, as even now, 3 weeks later the bruises and road rash are still healing.
So, cheers to Swift Industries for putting on another excellent trip. Here's hoping for a bit less eventful one next time.