And I'm back on track.
Yesterday I was a little out of it. I hadn't really talked to much of anyone for a couple days, I'd been camping and hadn't showered in two days, and at the time I was feeling rather fatigued from a few days of long rides. I was wondering at some points in the day if I was going to be able to do this for another two months, and certain that even if I could, it wouldn't be easy.
And then last night, the trip got back to how it was when I left.
So what changed between when I posted yesterday, and last night? Well, there were a couple things.
One of the more minor ones is that I realized I was closer to Seattle than I had been expecting to be. In fact, I was only about 150 miles from Republic, WA, which was where I was planning on staying with someone. John (the guy I stayed with in Montana) had emailed his friend and asked if I could stay there, and told me to email him when I got close to Republic. I was planning on staying there tonight, but when I realized how close I was, I sent him an email, and heard back last night that it'd be fine for me to stay. So I knew I had a place to sleep and a shower, and wouldn't be camping again.
Once that was settled, I realized that I'd be able to make it most of the way to Seattle tonight, which meant that I could camp out close by, wake up early, and be in Seattle earlier in the morning to go to Potlatch. Potlatch is a huge ultimate frisbee tournament in Seattle, and a bunch of my friends from the Midwest are coming out for it, so I'll get to see them - and the earlier I get to the fields, the longer I get to see them, and the more time I get to throw around, which I haven't done since I was in Fort Collins.
One of the things about this trip is how long every day is, and how long a week seems to take. It's a good thing most of the time - I'm seeing awesome stuff, and getting to ride some really sweet roads. But it means that the things I'm looking forward to seem a long way away, and things from last week seem like forever ago. (When I look at the frontpage of my blog, it's hard to believe that Casper, the last time I saw a friend, was only 8 days ago.) Whereas before (when I was working) weekend plans seemed like they were coming up soon when Tuesday or Wednesday rolled around, on this trip Saturday seems like it's far away until Friday morning comes. A week could mean 1,500 miles, six uncertain sleeping arrangements, and multiple cities with no plans - all of which boils down to not being able to really get a gut grasp of how soon things are coming up until they're practically right upon me.
All of that is a long aside to say that last night was really when it hit me that I'm going to be seeing friends in Seattle tomorrow morning. And last night is also when I received a text from a college friend saying that he was having a barbecue in Seattle on the 3rd, and I was invited.
But the big thing that really helped get me back into the traveling was stopping for dinner last night. I decided since I'd camped in national forests (which means free housing) for two nights straight and would be staying at someone's house that night (more free housing), I could afford to splurge for one meal, so I went to Stephani's Oak Street Grill in Colville, WA. It was described as a Steak, Seafood, and Chowder house on Google Maps, so I figured I'd get some good food and a good beer to kill some time before the guy I was staying with would be back.
I sat at the bar like usual, and when I sat down there was a couple next to me, and I started up a conversation with them. They had just moved out to Washington from Washington D.C., so they gave me a few travel tips for D.C., and we talked about motorcycles for a bit (he had one, and they'd done some riding in the area). They left before my food came, and a man who had been sitting nearby got up to take one of the vacated seats (there were only four seats at the bar to begin with).
It turned out to be one of my favorite conversations so far. We talked about motorcycles, about the area, about my trip, about his bucket list of going through the Black Hills and down to Branson. I gave him travel tips on South Dakota and North Dakota (the latter of which consisted of "avoid it"), and he gave me travel tips on western Washington. He talked about how he'd ridden motorcycles when he was a kid and had always wanted one, but his wife wouldn't let him - but now they were getting divorced after 30 years, so he was going to get one. We traded stories about hitting deer, and near misses.
We chatted back and forth while I ate my food and he nursed some beers. The pub area of the restaurant is dark wood, almost a log cabin feel to it, and the area behind the bar is not much bigger than a small bathroom. While we chatted, the bartender, who was celebrating her birthday, scrambled back and forth pouring drinks and prepping the bar for later in the night, stopping every once in a while to talk to one of us, check on our beers, or just take a quick breather (though she didn't do that often).
As we talked more, I learned his name was Chuck Johnson, and that he's the region manager for Resource Protection in northeast Washington - which basically means handling fires and firefighters. He talked about the fires, and about how some of his guys have been sent out the Arizona and other places because this has been one of the wettest springs they've ever had in Washington, and about some of the records they're on track to set this year.
And then when my bill came and I was getting ready to pay it, he stopped the bartender and told her to put it on his. So the night I was planning on splurging and getting myself a nice meal and beer, I ended up getting a free one.
So I have to thank Chuck most of all for getting me back on track. For making me remember why I'm doing this trip, and what I love about traveling alone - the opportunity it gives me to meet awesome people like him. I will be paying it forward the next time I have a good conversation with a stranger in a bar.