Three years and we keep pedaling to find balance in a strange new world–an update from Seattle

This morning Facebook reminded me that it was three years ago, on September 1, 2017, that we dipped our wheels in the Atlantic Ocean in Halifax, Nova Scotia, 70 days after we began in Seattle. I hardly need a Facebook memory to pop up to remember the trip of a lifetime.

In fact, for the last year, Irena and I have been actively remembering our spoke and stories by writing them down. From October to March we met regularly to remember, write, and tease out the details of landscapes, mishaps, milestones, and triumphs. We took an adventure writing and nature journaling workshop for my autumn birthday with Charlotte Austin and Claire Giordano. At Irena’s dining room table, we reviewed this spokeandstories.com blog for bones, and fleshed out facts. In the dark basement of her neighborhood pub, we sipped ciders and savored the memories, trying to help readers taste the adventure in the effervescent bubbles, and smell the mint across the prairies. We reviewed submission guidelines for Adventure Cycling Magazine and all sorts of other publications, and posted deadlines to our calendars. We pitched to REI, Ignite Seattle, and we even lined up a speaking gig with Swift Industries Stoked Spoke Storytelling Event in Seattle for March 25th that we called Reflective Stuff: Stories from a Cross Canada Bike Tour.

Swift Industries on Twitter: "Stoked Spoke Adventure Series kicks off  tomorrow night! Come join us. - https://t.co/cNFWjnrkQE… "

A gathering of like-minded coffee-drinkers who want to learn the art of brewing

Our storytelling began with the crux of our trip, the break in Thunder Bay, and a phone call with Irena’s husband. I was pretty sure he said “Give her some of your reflective stuff”. In my fabulously fatigued fog, I heard him say reflections, such as poetry, philosophy, and musings. But, to a caring husband whose wife is about to ride solo across Ontario, reflective stuff means high visibility gear so that his wife doesn’t get “smooshed” on those narrow or non existent shoulders.  

Regardless, it was clear that our trip across Canada still leaves us with much reflective stuff. 

All the while we were actively planning and training for our next adventures. Falling hard for gravel and grit, Irena was gearing up to ride the Continental Divide Trail. While I continued to love the art of traveling by bike, I designed a Spoke and Hub tour out of a base camp with friends in Luxembourg. I was going to ride a spoke in each of the cardinal directions, more or less, to Amsterdam, Paris, Zurich, and Heidelberg, taking the train back to the hub.

Then, the very week we finalized our slide show presentation, Irena was asked to work from home. Days later, I would be given 2 hours notice to leave my classroom (by bike of course), not to return to the classroom for instruction the rest of the school year. Our Stoked Spoke was rescheduled.

new date spokeandstories at stoked spoke

Clearly, we still had hope. 

Remember Hope?

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When they closed the Canadian border, we cancelled our end of March ski trip to celebrate our storytelling event (which never happened at all), I promptly sent my passport off for renewal. Even in a pandemic, I had to keep pedaling. 

While in quarantine, an April 2 newsletter from Warmshowers caught my eye announcing a new podcast and calling for stories. “Tell us more about your story and why you want to share it with our community?”  

With piles of paragraphs in printouts marked up with red and purple pen edits, I pulled something together quickly and sent it off. Eighty percent and out the door is better than 100% never done–This had become my writing guideline this year.

I was giddy when weeks later I was contacted to schedule an interview.

But then my flight to Europe was canceled, and it became clear that my passport would be significantly delayed, and that this pandemic wasn’t letting up anytime soon. I began shifting my plans. I even sketched out a map of the adventure in shifting, and finding balance in the movement, including the low points of cancellations and closed campgrounds, and the highs of the podcast launch and release.

 

You can find my episode of the Warmshowers Podcast called Bike Life by clicking this link. My episode is number 6 called Opening Doors Opens Hearts. The gist of is that one can find balance by continuing to pedal. On a cross country bike trip, or in a pandemic.

It’s hard to know what lies ahead, but you know you have to keep going. 

We didn’t have to go very far. We both adventured by bike this summer in Washington State. Irena would end up adventuring on a few bike packing tours. One on the Olympic Adventure Trail, and one she called a suffer-fest at Mt. Saint Helens, “delivering everything! From wildflowers to stunning views to rowdy trails to heaps of fun.”

I designed a two week loop around Puget Sound from my home and documented it in a visual storytelling essay I called Pedaling the Puget, here, and on Instagram @Olivemybike. I hope you’ll ride along and take a look at the loop and enjoy the Sound.

I came back to find my passport finally renewed, and the decision to begin school entirely remote for the 2020/2021 school year. There was nothing else to do but ride on. So, on Monday August 17th, with still no knowledge of when school would actually start, I took off on a last tour, solo for 6 days out to Port Angeles, on the Olympic Discovery Trail. In this map above you can see Sequim and the word “Angeles” hanging at the edge of the map at the top of the Olympic Peninsula.

As I prepare to welcome my students this week into a remote and digital world, I’m reminded again that it’s hard to know what lies ahead. Even when you have a paper map and GPS. You have to get out there and ground-truth it and see it for yourself. When mountaineering, you can’t see 39 ft cliff in a 40 ft Contour interval. When cycling you can’t know how steep the road is in a strong headwind. When tide pooling, you can’t see orange sea stars that cling to the underside of a barnacled boulder in a tide chart. The cycle of life on a bike demands that you be in the moment, and in nature.

And that we don’t just exist, we live. 

“I’ve survived a lot of things, and I’ll probably survive this too.”–J.D. Sallinger (on the bridge through Sequim Bay State Park on the Olympic Discovery Trail.)

To our followers and supporters across countries and paths and years, I truly hope this finds you well and healthy.  I hope you are finding balance in moving forward, be that on a bike, or in life, or in our case, both.

Ride on, write on, right on. 

Jessica

Seattle, September 1, 2020

3 thoughts on “Three years and we keep pedaling to find balance in a strange new world–an update from Seattle

  1. That’s what I needed to read this morning, Ms. Levine! Whatever ‘it’ is, making something good and compelling out of it is the one choice we all get to make. I haven’t hit all the links yet , but I look forward to reading and listening this weekend. EMS kids are lucky to have you – teach ’em up.

    Liked by 1 person

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