Another two day bike trip! This time we cycled to the picturesque Carbon River campground in the foothills of Rainier and along the Wonderland Trail. According to Matt & the internet, it receives so much annual rainfall it’s consider a temperate rain forest, which is a cool thing in North America (the rain forest, not the rain.)

We took the Sounder of Seattle at a cruel 6 am and stopped in Puyallup for donuts and coffee.

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We took the Foothills Trail pretty much from the start to finish, which follows along the Carbon River for much of it. We went through the faux-Western town of Orting and South Prairie, both are pretty awesome but pretty depressing.

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We ended up in Wilkeson before our final ascent into Mt Rainier National Park.

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It was really beautiful forest in this area, which high ravines and not much traffic (see big one bridge!).

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The original road into the campsite has been washed out over the years and is now a hiker/biker rough gravel trail for about 6 miles to the Ipsut Creek Campground, which is incredibly lush with growth. We pitched near the Carbon River and hiked up to see Ipsut falls before sunset.

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We had an incredibly satisfying of dinner of re-hydrated chili with field roast and veggies (please God let me never have to eat Field Roast again) and passed out pretty early considering we’d all gone only a few hours of sleep.

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The next morning on the way out (through gravel…eeeeeeek) we stopped at Chenuis Falls, but my phone was nearly dead at this point. Here is a photo of Daniel putting his shoes back on:

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I am not dead! I am also not in Ireland, I am in Seattle.

view of Seattle from Bainbridge Island Ferry

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eager cyclists

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The campground

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SS Minnow

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Crazy Vertigo Staircase

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Next morning – I went for a dip in the Puget Sound!

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I had access to both a car and little dog this holiday season, so two (two and a half?) friends and I headed east towards Mt Si. Christmas week was chilly but unusually clear, which made it great for hiking! We suited Quinn up in her mini-holiday sweater and headed out.

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Initially we had some trouble finding the trailhead…
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It was a beautiful day and a beautiful hike, but we had a late start so we opted to do Little Si (480 m) as opposed as Mt Si (1,270 m). I suppose there is only a 2 letter difference between “wise” and “wuss”.

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Somtimes Quinn took sneaky shortcuts…

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Before the summit (photo credit to Reid)

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At the summit…

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Lucky Quinn got a free ride back, courtesy of Reid.
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On the way home we stopped at a drive-through coffee house (probably only because we had the car) and made a lovely curry dinner back at the house! Good yule times, indeed.

For the festival I helped Jane build shadow box houses…

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…as well as putting up the windmills and building A LOT of pinwheels (which everyone called windmills). Fun fact: all windmills turn anti-clockwise except for the ones in Ireland. Except for the ones we made, which also turned anti-clockwise.

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Aoibheann got so into the pinwheels that she immortalized one on her leg.
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And Cherry Picker Dave got a scribble:

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Mostly I was exhausted during the festival and trying not to get stung by the insane amount of wasps that were about, but was at least able to catch Bjork, David Byrne & St Vincent, The Knife and Jennifer Evans.

Of course I don’t have any photos of the actual festival, only after it was over.

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I am now reaching so far into the past that these pictures even pre-date the French cycling trip, but at the very least I’m being thorough.

BODY & SOUL – http://bodyandsoul.ie/

Basically I wanted to go to the festival but I didn’t want to pay in, so I offered up my labour in exchange for tickets. I was contacted by the very lovely Jane Groves to help with her installations – windmills made from bicycle wheels and lace clouds suspended from the trees. I basically moved into her house and we immediately got to work.

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We arrive on site, Ballinlough Castle, about 5 days before the festival. Everyone is camping in the fields (except for the lucky few that get to sleep in the castle!) The barn area becomes a huge production zone as the tents are erected and art installed throughout the walled garden.

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Jane’s windmills are erected by the main stage:

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And the clouds are hung in the forest:
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Complete with a swing, which got a good test run of rowdy-ness by Conor and I.

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The American artist Shrine was also in attendance, whose work is all over (I even spied it on the Haight when I was in San Francisco a few weeks ago). I talked him into giving me a tattoo in, quite possibly, the least hygienic setting ever – our lunch area. On his birthday.

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Also – Conor & Emily’s ‘Dream Farm,’ a hand pumped hydroponic farm in a glasshouse! Technically I contributed because I made a replacement colored glass square from perspex and lighting gel. And probably screwed like 3 things.

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Return to Paris…IMG_4027 IMG_4029 IMG_4039 IMG_4049 IMG_4053 IMG_4064 IMG_4066 IMG_4070 IMG_4071 IMG_4077 IMG_4092 IMG_4098 IMG_4106

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Return to Ireland…

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So after 1 horrific train ride, I got to spend a few weeks in Paris which pretty much made up for everything because, despite cynical Sarah of yesteryear, PARIS RULES. GO PARIS.

I started/continued my now tradition of leeching off my friends. First I stayed with Alison & Ivan who had just moved to Paris. (Thanks again! You rule.) They had a flat in a beautiful building just off the canal. Their apartment, like everyone’s apartment ever, was on the 5th floor and I carried my bicycle up and down it every day.

The first thing I did in Paris, as one should, is go see the gravesite for Jim Morrison at Père Lachaise. In fact, the US embassy should really just be located here cause it was chock full of Americans, all of whom I elbowed past to get this shot, which is as close as you can get to the grave. Which I only see as more proof that Jim Morrison is not really dead.

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There are some more people buried there too…

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Happily I had my bicycle with me most of the time and was able to roam around the city freely without having to rely on public transportation. This photo encapsulates the best and worst things about cycling in Paris: road markings & assholes on scooters that have no respect for human life.
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I spent a lot of time hanging out in Cyclofficine because everyone I knew was there and because I spend an unordinary amount of time hanging out in bike workshops. It also gave me the chance to work on my bike and help other people with theirs. Cyclofficine is a total dreamdate.

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After about a week I headed towards the Oise River region to WWOOF on a garden at a place called Chateau de Sacy. As it was towards the end of the season, there wasn’t really anyone else there, just the woman who owned the house, Hermine (an ex-actress and tightrope walker!) and a lovely English woman named Vicky that was making a film about her.

It ended up being so hot that it was nearly impossible to do real work in the garden, so I would usually pick berries in the morning, take a siesta, and then work on fixing all of her old broken French bikes (see Vicky test riding below).
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They also host art residencies at the chateau, so it was pretty mad inside. Not to mention huge! I think this is how it would’ve felt to be in The Sound of Music, minus the 7 siblings and a governess. And that whole Nazi thing.

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Next: RETURN TO PARIS aka OCCUPY PARIS: SARAH KAUTZ

Like a late bloomer I am slowly catching up with all my summer adventures on this thing. Unfortunately that means when everything is all caught up I’m going to have to admit what a scattered mess my life is now instead living on the glory of the good ol’ days. Ahh sure, tis grand.

Part One: Leaving Barcelona is Hard to Do
So Barcelona was really really hot and we ended up not doing too much there but sleeping and eating brunch and taking showers, which are all things that are greatly appreciated after at least 2 weeks of bicycle touring. Also after cycling 100+ km everyday, sitting around going nowhere feels pretty unproductive so we consoled ourselves watching the Tour de France on the internet.

We decided to leave Barcelona for Paris on the train, which sounds pretty straightforward but is not. Especially if you have bikes. Especially if one of the bikes is a tall bike. And you don’t speak Spanish.

So we first attempted to leave Barcelona on Monday July 15th. We cycled to the main train station, waited in what felt like the longest most stressful queue ever and were redirected to another station on the other side of town for a train leaving at 6pm and cost an unfortunate amount of money. After picking up some lunch, we go through security and head for our platform. Kevin makes it through, Rob and I do not (for this I blame Rob). We are again redirected, this time to a tiny underground room where a man gives out to us loudly and aggressively in Spanish and writes many incomprehensible notes on the back of an envelope and eventually sends us to refund our tickets. We end up having to buy tickets for a shorter distance commuter train, which you can bring bikes on, but get us absolutely nowhere near Paris. We decide the best thing to do is to get back into France where we can at least communicate and they seem a little more supportive of cyclists.

The best we can do is get to Cerbère, a small town near the border in the Pyrenees we had cycled through a few days prior. We arrive shortly before 8pm, hoping to catch the last train connecting to Paris that night. Which we discover has been cancelled. And if we had pre-booked our tickets we would have been put up in a hotel in Montpellier for the night and giving a free ticket in the morning. C’est la vie (but actually GODDAMN IT). This situation makes Rob look like this:

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We sleep outside the train station that night. Fortunately Cerbère looks like this:

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Part Two: Fuck Trains
We take the first train that morning, which leaves about 8am, after stocking up on snacks in the Casino (the shop, not the kind for gambling. Which would be kind of cool though. RENO!)

We are taking the train its entire journey from Cerbère to Paris, which is meant to be like 10 hours. But we have some sort of technical difficulties and our train takes an additional 2 hours. And these difficulties do not include the complete lack of air flow or opening windows so the train becomes a human heated sauna/sweat box by midday. No joke, passengers are actually taking off their shirts. I repeat: fuck trains.

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If this was a moving pictures you could watch the sweat dripping from Kevin’s head into my travel pillow. That sweat is still there.

We arrive into Paris that evening and do some impromptu navigation and meet up with our Velorution friends at Cyclofficine and head to Parc de la Villette for a picnic dinner next to massive bicycle wheel sculpture. Fitting.

So we decided to go to Barcelona like the day before we left, which is all well and good though we neglected to think of how hot it was and how it would probably only get hotter the more south we went. And also more mosquitos. For some reason at this point in the trip both Rob & Kev decide to “suit up” in their fancy cycling gear full body lycra bullshit. Which is weird.

DAY 1 : Marseille to the D682 – 60 km

Kev, Rob & I took off on Monday, July 8th. We left around 4pm and made it like only 60 km that day. Probably because we stopped for a 40 minute break like 15 km into the cycle. And then another one like 30 km in.

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From this point on, because our group was small, we started “wild camping” aka camp-wherever-the-hell-you-stop. On this particular evening we slept alongside the D682 in a national park under some power lines. For some reason this made me irrationally paranoid and I was convinced we’d all get eaten by some French cannibals living in the forest and hardly slept. I did get nearly eaten alive by all the mosquitos in my tent so I wasn’t entirely wrong.

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DAY 2 : D682 to La Grande Motte – 112 km

We wake up, not eaten by cannibals thankfully. We cycle for a while before stopping for our daily coffee, croissants and one of those weird fried cheese french sandwiches (are they supposed to be cold?)

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The most exciting part of this day is taking the ferry! And going swimming in some random lake off the Mediterranean which was only like 3 feet deep and pretty manky. Here Rob pulls some romantic Venetian shit.

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That night we sleep on the beach! Which sounds fun but is a total nightmare with bikes – grease and sand are maybe the worst ever combination.

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DAY 3 : La Grande Motte to Armisson – 125 km

This day is long because the heat forces us to take a long afternoon siesta, meaning we don’t cycle between 12 and 3pm because it looks like THIS:

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Which makes Kev look like THIS:

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That night we are staying with a Marseille friend’s mother, who lives in Armisson. Unfortunately this town is not on Rob “Dead Weight” O’Reilly’s map and we have to wind around a lot to find our way. We are thoroughly exhausted when we arrive, but we are wined and dined to the French extreme = Champagne, white wine, rose, red wine & Guinness for Rob. Not to mention like 7 different kinds of cheese. Yes yes yes.

DAY 3 : Armisson to Angeles Sur Mer – 100 km

We don’t get very far this day because we are all pretty hungover and we lose Kev at some stage, who has no phone. But the scenery starts to get all South of France dreamy.

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How We Lost Kev – see this sign? It says no bikes. As law abiding cyclists (when it suits) Rob & I took the exit and cycled on the other road. Kev did not. Magically like 4 hours later he finds us outside a McDonald’s fter asking for help in the Carrefour. Cycle tour magic.

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That night we sleep outside of a massive abandoned farm house not far from the sea. Unfortunately this section of France feels like Florida – there is just loads of cheesy seaside tourist attractions and therefore no secret place for 3 cyclists to camp illegally. The area is weird and I’m a bit creeped out so I make Kev “Sweaty” Woulfe share my tent.IMG_3825 IMG_3829

DAY 5 : Angeles Sur Mer to Girona, Spain – 117 km

All I can say about today is PYRENEES, BITCHES!

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Truthfully the climbs were not so bad as they were mostly up and down along the coast so our altitude was never very high but I’m sure our accumulated height is quite a lot. I DRANK SO MUCH WATER. Also the Spanish border was a complete non event. There was a little office there with no one in it, so as such I have to assume the EU just takes the fun out of everything.

 

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Coming from the border, Spanish roads are HOT AND LONG AND FLAT. My skin started turning this weird purple color – I assume a mixture of suncream, sweat, road dust and dead bugs sticking to me.

 

We also start horribly mispronouncing everything since absolutely none of us actually speak Spanish (Kev was the only French speaker. Thanks for nothing, college.)

Spanish beers are cheap!

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We end up having a hell of a time finding a place to sleep that night as we get stuck outside a biggish city with loads of sprawl. Eventually, after it’s gone dark, we resort to some unfinished building site off the highway. It has tall weeds that make me itch and after I’ve undressed to “bathe” (wipe myself down with towelettes) I can hear voices from not far away. We all share a tent which feels like a sauna from hell.

 

 

DAY 5 : Girona to Barcelona – 105 km

It’s a short day so we take our time coming into Barcelona. The cycling that morning is nice and relaxed and we stop coming into Barcelona to go swimming, which is amazing and full of topless ladies (and men!).

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Thankfully the beach here doesn’t feel like it’s going to give me infectious diseases, like Marseille. By the time we get to the right part of Barcelona to meet the friend we’re staying with, we are shattered. We can’t eat or drink or make choices really. We sit in the centre of a square in Vila de Gracia and drink lemon flavored beers. I make some kind of impression on Kev’s friends I’m sure, but they treat us to a rooftop BBQ!

 

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TOTAL MILEAGE : 619 km

Next: ‘Leaving Spain is Hard to Do’ and PARIS.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Honestly? Mostly we just rode bikes & partied on the beach. Not bad. Vélos en Ville let nearly everyone sleep on the floor of their workshop, which felt a bit like sleeping in a big stinky steam room by the morning, but is highly preferred to a tent.

There were 3 (yes THREE) critical masses while we were there, which basically pushed my patience of “cycling slowly in groups” to its limit.

(Hilariously I just re-read my own sentence (somewhat distractedly because I was getting yogurt thrown at me by a 3 year old) and saw “crying slowly in groups.” Not dissimilar.)

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Gratuitous photo of Conor’s chest featuring tall-bike tattoo by yours truly.

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