Young Adult Bike Travel Scholarship Recipient Tells Her Tale

October 11, 2016 - Cara Thompson is one of Adventure Cycling's Young Adult Bike Travel Scholarship winners.

Pedaling through the ferny and mossy landscape of the Olympic Discovery Trail. 

Cara Thompson set out to organize a “Story-Bike” as her Young Adult Bike Travel Scholarship outreach project. “A Story-Bike is a group of writers, art makers, and creative people that ride a bike tour together, stopping along the way to lead illustrated story-sharing workshops at community venues,” she wrote in her application. “After my Intro to Road Touring class I would organize the first Story-Bike to be ridden along the Olympic Discovery Trail to raise awareness of the route and the joy of long-distance bicycle riding.” Find out how the story unfolded on the Olympic Discovery Trail.

The application period for the 2017 Young Adult Bike Travel Scholarship will open on November 1, 2016.

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For those who have never happened upon a Biking Viking pedaling along the seas, they are a swarthy and magical sight to see, a bright beacon when weathering a giant wave of stormy traffic. A Biking Viking can be best described as any two- or three-wheeled, two-legged, courageous, and creative lover of pedaling and adventure, no age limit or experience necessary. They are colorful, kinetic beings with a bit of a windswept look and, if you catch them without their helmets, their hairy heads are usually mussy, electric, and glistening with sweat.

Over the past couple of months, I set about finding myself a spirited crew of this stature to carry out the first ever Story-Bike, an epic adventure to be ridden through the ferny forests of the Olympic Discovery Trail all the way to the Washington Coast, 130 miles no less!

But what, say ye, is a Story-Bike? A Story-Bike is a group of writers, art-makers, and creative people that ride a bike tour together, integrating storytelling, landscape, and the incredible human capacity to bike over long distances! I planned and led this Story-Bike to fulfill the community outreach portion of my Adventure Cycling Young Adult Bike Travel Scholarship.

As Vikings were known for their democratic ways, I commenced the planning of our Story-Bike with a flag-making workshop, a meeting of the open minds and hearty hearts I had recruited for the trip. At the gathering, each participant sewed an original flag for their bike as the company discussed important details such as campsites, equipment, communication, and FOOD!

Crossing the bridge at Devil’s Punchbowl on Lake Crescent where we heard the myth told “How Lake Crescent became so blue.”

We also deliberated on the ways in which we would each contribute to the storytelling aspect of the journey. I wanted to keep the confines of the Story-Bike loose — the structure would come from the constraints of the biking and the trail itself — to ensure optimal creative and collaborative participation, while encouraging the crew to bring their personal energy and ideas, something I learned on my Introduction to Road Touring Class with Adventure Cycling.

To encourage playfulness and responsibility, each participant was bequeathed a silly and serious character to play and encouraged to bring a creative project, song, or dance to share. They were also assigned a meal to plan and cook. As a Biking Viking leader, I would draw up the maps, arrange for our support vehicle, determine the optimal locations for our evening camp, tackle any questions and confusions, and study the local culture, places of interest, and flora and fauna. Phewf! This was more complicated than I had anticipated and the Story-Bike hadn’t even begun ...

A Story-Bike

Setting A bike trail winding through temperate rainforest alongside coastal mountains and glacial lakes with a sprinkling of trestle bridges, rocky beaches, and mossy moss. (For maps and details about the trail refer to the resources at www.olympicdiscoverytrail.com.)

Characters in this Story-Bike

  • The Biking Viking
  • The Mythologist
  • The Humorist
  • The Questionnairian
  • The Master of Hats
  • The Sultan of Silliness
  • Team Red Van
  • Various unnamed but still important crew members
  • And featuring ... Ceremonial Leader, San Miguel, and his Sage Baby

On the favorable morning of Friday, July 8, more than a wee bit past the break of dawn, we kicked our stands out at the beginning of the Larry Scott Trail, trembling knees and wobbly wheels. Our Ceremonial Leader and his baby blessed the journey with an invocation of the Biking Gods and a reading of Jack Kerouac’s Scripture of the Golden Eternity. Each Biking Viking was endowed with a trail map and a one-of-a-kind bike logbook for the documentation of their experience with the zest and zeal of iconic westward journalers Meriwether Lewis and James Swan. As we set out to the holy grail, the Washington Coast, our goal was to explore the terrain, express our own creative roles within the group, and practice bike touring basics, as most of us were beginners.

A wakeful send off at the beginning of the Larry Scott Trail in Port Townsend, WA given by our ceremonial leader San Miguel.

It was a smooth ride our first day, making our way beyond the Larry Scott Trail, around Discovery Bay, up Old Gardiner and Old Blyn Roads with stops at the Jamestown Library, the Eaglemount Rockeries Museum, Sequim Bay State Park, and the highest trestle bridge on the Olympic Peninsula.

After a brief nosh of mulberry Newtons and soggy “sammies” for lunch, we faced our first choppy tide of the journey. Our full boat had to cross the Dungeness River Bridge before its closing at 5:00 pm, while not leaving behind a single one of our riders. Racing against the setting of day, the crew became separated with both bands biking off the chosen route in different directions. For the sake of storytelling excitement, I would like to describe how chaos ensued, however that really wasn’t the case for this group of cool and casual Biking Vikings. With the grace of the Norse winds and the karma of happy people, our paths realigned in a magical meeting at the middle of the bridge at precisely 5:00 pm. We laughed at ourselves when we learned that the bridge was not meant to close at all.

Master of Hats and Biking Viking cross one of the trestle bridges on the Olympic Discovery Trail, near Sequim, WA.

That first night we spent at the Dungeness Spit campground, where our one-and-only Master of Hats brought us a medley of international headwear to oil the works of our tender-footed crew. The Humorist fed us on noodles and brews while we caroused about the campground in clown wigs, giant sombreros, Mongolian fur caps, and woven witches hats. Thanks to our Master of Hats for this contribution, a revelous night for Biking Vikings.

A revelous night of hat wearing around the campfire at Dungeness Spit Campground.

On day two, we traveled from the Dungeness Spit all the way to Lake Crescent, the most tormentous and dangerous leg of our journey. Donning our badges of courage, we weathered some big-rig traffic, then slowly strong armed our road bikes up the rainy and rocky Spruce Railroad Trail on the northeast side of Lake Crescent.

Our troubles did not go unrewarded. A swim in the celestial waters of Lake Crescent added five years to our lives and the Mythologist’s telling of How Lake Crescent turned so blue (secret: it is in the blue Gatorade) put moxie in our pedals. And after many grueling hours of pumping leg, we came to Fairholme Campground on the edge of the lake. The beneficent Team Red Van, our support vehicle, had found our home for the night with hot stew in the pot, a raging fire, and dry clothes waiting. The night was filled with sharing poetic verses and puppetry.

Majestic and moody Lake Crescent

On our final day, the sun rolled out, paving the smooth seas of our friendship, rolling hills, and ripe thimbleberries on the way. Even a stop to patch the Sultan’s tire was a bright bonding activity. We strolled along in this fashionably lulling kind of way, singing folksy songs and jabbering gleefully, all the way to the town of Forks, and then on to Mora Beach, the coast.

A morning map meeting with the pedaling sailors to discuss our route. 

As any Biking Viking will tell you, the ocean is a neverending friend and an honest foe. When we reached the wild shores of the Washington Coast, we were thundered in. Each of us awestruck in our own way by its power to call us here. My own leadership responsibilities were gratefully quelled by the fierce watery God before us. The waves washed through my ears and into my whole body with the understanding of our communion on an unknown road for an earthly time, bikes, friends, mountains, moss, lakes, and trees.

At the magnificent and awe-full Washington Coast, we ended our journey together. 

In my proposal for this project, I wrote: “Riding a road is a story in creation: a raw sunrise, a leisurely landscape, road blocks, detours, that dramatic peak and the view from the top, then a denouement.” After having traveled a ways with this caring crew of Biking Vikings, I realize that the landscape was the creator of our story, our own coming together. It was the rain and the hills when we needed to suffer, the sun when we needed hope, the campsite when we needed rest, the trail when we needed guidance, the mountains when we needed beauty, and the ocean when we needed to be contemplative and silenced. The Olympic Discovery Trail was a loose structure, a scene to field the series of experiences and emotions binding us bikers together. The Story-Bike will grow and alter with time, retold by mouths and words and blogs, to families and friends and strangers. It may inspire more Story-Bikes, journeys, trails, or adventures — maybe another creative project. Whatever way the winds may blow us, I hope that this biking tale is just a chapter, and that we continue to crave more stories together.

Photos by Cara Thompson

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Do you dream of a self-supported bicycle tour, but aren’t quite ready to hit the road? Or do you already have bike travel experience and want to get more involved in outdoor leadership? Either way, the two tracts of The Greg Siple Award for Young Adult Bicycle Travel — Intro to Bike Travel and Outdoor Leadership —  empower 18- to 30-year-olds to travel sustainably and build outdoor leadership skills. 

Or maybe you’d like to support this important scholarship?

 

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