TDA Reports From The Field: Life In Port Townsend, Washington, USA
Sophie DeGroot has worked as an Assistant Tour Director on the 2018 Tour d’Afrique, the 2018 West Africa en Vélo & the 2019 Bamboo Road.
When it became apparent that some real changes were about to happen with this world, I was on a personal bike tour – The Baja Divide. It is a 1700-mile (not that impressive by TDA standards) off-road route that traces the Baja Peninsula of Mexico. We were used to sleeping up in the mountains or on the beach, away from any other people and the news on TV. But as we rolled into our final destination of La Paz, Mexico it was clear that while we were sleeping under the stars, the Coronavirus was spreading quickly.
The border between the US and Canada was closed so we knew that the southern border would be next. Mexico had not even begun to discuss social distancing or the donning of face masks, which had us worried. When we went to the bus station and the man behind the ticket booth coughed before informing us of our 24-hour bus ride to San Diego, we quickly rented a car to try to decrease our interactions.
After a week of driving a rental car and then our own, we finally parked at our home in Port Townsend, Washington and took a few deep breaths. Since the end of March we have been quarantining at a 20-acre farm on the Olympic Peninsula. As far as places to be stuck go, this one is pretty great. Though our home is only 8-square meters (about twice the size of ‘the dogbox’ – the passenger area of the Tour d’Afrique support vehicle), we share each day with birds, newts, bunnies, deer, and frogs – a good reminder that most of life on earth has continued as normal. With tourism on-hold and the future uncertain, I have been focusing on the things I can plan for the day ahead of me. Most notably, this has meant riding my bike and starting a garden.
Living in the foothills of the Olympic Mountains is truly breathtaking. A bike ride of even 50-miles can involve thousands of feet of climbing up to snow-level. You don’t always need to travel far from home to be reawakened to the beauty of this earth. Especially in Spring. My favorite way to take a break from the steep climbs of the Olympic Mountains is to pause for a little mushroom hunt. Learning what mushrooms are locally available and which ones are safe to take home has made these bike rides all the more exciting!
I also managed to finagle a giant old wooden box from the property I am living on to convert into a small garden. The box was originally used to hold a whale flipper, so it’s about THAT big. It is a really nice few minutes every day that I get to spend putting energy into something that I know will happen – they will grow. It can be difficult to think about the future during this pandemic, but thinking about the future of my vegetables is easy, as long as I continue to nurture them.