Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Fantasy Trek Upon Centennial Trail One Fine Day & the Madness & the Amiability of Northern Souls

Good blackberries here in Snohomish
Woke up late, so I pulled an audible on the Tacoma-to-Bremerton play, and instead hopped the Sound Transit 510 to Everett.

Stole out along the river, sun shining, sky empty of clouds. This summer has spoiled me. I wear shorts and a t-shirt, and don't even think about bringing gloves.

At a park, after getting high, a couple girls, Fatima and Simone, took a break from pedaling a tandem in the same direction and shared my patch of grass.

"I can't see anything," said Simone, who had been riding stoker. I wished them luck and bid them adieu. Apparently I am more afraid of middle school-aged girls than they are of me.

Lied him down by the riverside
The river unwinds vascular in the valley delta, with rills and cricks leading to a trunk which beats slow, like the heart of a Brobdingnagian giant, himself fixed to the earth by the levees of Lilliput. The houses, the railroad tracks, utility towers, everything is built, childlike, atop stilts, stacks of cinder blocks, levees. That's what you see, levees, and the riparian trees tipping from the banks of the river like pubic hair.

Touched down on the Centennial Trail in the city of Snohomish, sort of the Burke Gilman's less scabrous and more boring northern cousin. Respited in a deserted little park and lied in the grass and realized it was almost perfectly silent save for the sound of the wind in the trees and small creatures in the bush. Short of Arlington, turned west, into Marysville, not knowing where. The trail was getting boring. Head west, then south, I thought.

Got to play to win

Sean and I first crossed paths on State Avenue near the start of rush hour. Cars were everywhere. As we waited at the same light I asked if there was a better route than riding on the oncoming sidewalk. Even though you are separated from traffic, it feels like I would be entering Everett unnaturally.

"Not really," he said. "You could take the bus."

"I'm riding my bike," I said. 

"You're going to Everett? Follow me."

Sean is crazy, or on drugs, probably both. He rides a 24"-wheeled BMX bike, and displayed for my benefit ugly scabs on his 'bows from when he last laid it down. 

He is helpful. He lives in Marysville. He smokes Marlboro reds while he rides, jeans and a t-shirt, ear buds, no helmet. Tan, muscular, handsome aquiline nose, deep blue eyes, and crazy as a shithouse rat. Not that crazy. Maybe crazy as the guy who lives in the shithouse and keeps the rat as a pet.

He is trying to find day labor jobs, "blue collar," but it is hard because nobody is hiring, plus his heart isn't in it.

"I'm capable of a lot more," he said.

I tailed him for a mile or so, chit chat, although it was difficult to follow his train of thought while also watching for traffic. In need of water, I parted ways with him at a convenience store. Not just water, but ice water. When I told the clerk thanks, she said, "Have a good ride." People in the north are so nice.

Following me out the store, a middle aged woman chatted me up while trying to push a mountain bike and simultaneously grip a 44-ounce fountain soda. She had the complexion of wizened bratwurst left on the picnic table for the yellow jackets. She wore a hot pink tank top that said: "Crazy Bitch."

"You having a good ride?" she asked. She said she didn't wear a helmet, attributing it to a "girl thing," not wanting to mess up her hair. She did, however, concede it wouldn't be a bad idea.

"I've fallen and hit my head three times," she said. I think she was flirting with me.

I passed a bike shop -- from first glance, specializing in all bikes that do not have drop handlebars -- and went inside to ask directions. The kid I spoke with at first didn't have many good suggestions.

"You could take the bus," he said.

"I'm riding my bike," I said.

True to his directions, I ended up avoiding the sidewalk for a mile or so, but then once on the flats, right on the city limit, right in front of the "Welcome to Everett" sign, I doubted myself. I turned around and rode back into Marysville, searching for another route south. I spotted a cop car parked out front of a convenience store, and inside I found the cop. I asked him for the best way to get to Everett by bike, not bus. He said to go the way I had been going. I was really baked.

Once safely inside incorporated Everett, I mucked around under a bridge, then plowed toward the transit station. Not a long ride, but most of it was new. That's the best, when you look up from watching your hands and realize you are some place you have never been before. No compass, no map, no smart phone. I love that feeling.

You might think the Everett Transit Station is not a place where interesting people congregate, but you would be dead wrong. Rail thin trannies, pint-szied gang bangers, punks doing tricks on BMXs. Signs said no smoking. Most people were smoking, especially the children.  Those who weren't smoking kept busy trying to bum a cigarette.

From out of the blue, my old friend Sean appeared, who was heading downtown, and appeared to be pretty high on something. But when the 510 bus arrived, the bike carrier on front was full. Undeterred, Sean walked up to the door with his bike, but the driver refused him. This infuriated Sean. He cussed and kicked a newspaper stand. 

We discussed the possibility of riding to Seattle -- a cool 30 miles -- or finding a bus that would bring us part of the way. Sean was not open to either idea. I rode around the center, trying to locate a route that would take me to at least 175th Street, the King County line, to no avail. When I returned to the 510 stop, Sean had vanished.

Shortly after, a Gollum-esque gentleman with an upset stomach arrived. He clutched at his belly, nearly buckling, suddenly attacked by an agony that shivered his knock knees. Scrawny, with huge rotting teeth. Fine hair stuck out from under a Seahawks hat, which pulled his bangs away from his gigantic, creamy blue, bulbous eyes. All he had for medicine to sooth his stomach was a Four Loko in a paper bag.

Once he was feeling better, he walked over and we chatted. He wanted to know how long the ride to downtown took. I told him I had to watch a bus pass, because there was no room on the rack.

"Aw, that sucks, man," he said.

Thirty minutes later, just as the next bus arrived, Sean appeared, and there was enough room on the rack for both of our bikes. He sat in the back, across the aisle from me, and we chatted.

I asked him if he had ever been contacted by police for not wearing a helmet.

"Usually that's mentioned at the end," he said.

He pulled the cord for the 145th Street stop.

"I forgot, I bought an MP3 player for my mom, and I want to give it to her. She uses a Discman. Remember those?"

Here is the map.

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