Today was a really good day.
I went for a 120 mile ride this morning. I headed west toward Neah Bay in the NW corner of the continental U.S., just like I tried before in my car. I got out a bit later than I wanted to, but the weather was rainy to start with so I held off a bit waiting for a break.
My break came and I hit the road with the sun leading me on. I went west on 101 to highway 112. Highway 112 is a great drive, and an even better ride on a bike. The road goes past a lot of beautiful scenery – some farms, livestock, the Strait, forest… it is a really good road to enjoy in a car, but on a bike it is on another level. The road twists and winds through all this amazing area and just really makes you happy to be there. There are plenty of good straightaways, twists, turns, and hills through all of this wonderful scenery to keep you interested and wanting to go on for more. With all of the twists and turns it is not a fast road on the bike for me (well, not yet!) but so much fun. A word of caution to anyone else on two wheels – there are a few spots that are quite rough, but the highway department has put up signs warning motorcyclists of these rough spots. Heed these warnings… trust me.
I knew with the time getting later I would not be able to make it to Neah Bay, but I just wanted to ride. No destination… just ride and enjoy the day. I got out to the intersection of highway 112 and highway 113, which goes south to Forks for all you Twihards. It was there that the winds started to pick up and the drizzle got a little heavier so I put on my rain pants and turned around to head back toward home.
Riding back I am just soaking it all in… the road, the scenery, the freedom. One thing I failed to notice before was the snow-capped mountains to the south. It is so incredible that I can ride along the Strait, and there are these gorgeous snowy mountains right there at the same time. One of these days I will get up there into them, but The Spit and the water have really captured my attention since I have been here. I guess living in them in Colorado all those years may have given me my fix, but I will always love the mountains. I have just been enjoying so many other things around me, but I will eventually get back into them. One ride I want to take in into Canada to Whistler/Blackcomb in the warmer weather… AFTER I finally get to Neah Bay and Cape Flattery.
I needed to get back to get ready to go to the Volunteer Banquet that the refuge hosts for the Volunteers to say thanks and hand out awards after eating a nice dinner. The food was really good and it was a good time chatting with volunteers I have worked with and some I have not met yet but will get to work with this summer. After we ate they did a video presentation of events from the last year and of birds and animals taken on the various parts of the refuge lands. I was watching it and it really made me realize the impact of the efforts that the volunteers and staff are doing at not just this refuge, but all refuges and wild lands and it makes me proud to be a part of making a difference. This is one really special place. One of the big bosses from our region office in Portland was here for other business and stayed for and spoke at the banquet. He said that nationwide U.S. Fish and Wildlife volunteers do the equivalent work of over 700 full-time employees, with a savings of well over a million dollars to the budget.
Volunteers are a vital part of the work getting done in refuges (as well as other public lands – even other types of volunteering are important), and freeing up this kind of money helps those resources go farther and do more projects that need to be done. I have a great job in a great place, but it feels good to do this kind of work. It is quite gratifying to be a part of making a difference and if you have the urge to go volunteer to help for a cause, then go out and do it.
After the speeches awards were handed out for hours volunteered and for the Volunteer of the Year award. Caretakers, such as myself, are exempt from the big award (because we work so many hours), but I was not expecting to be recognized for 500 hours last year in the short time I was here by the end of the year. We get these cool pins for milestones of hours, and a certificate of appreciation. That certificate and those pins, and what they stand for, means so much more to me than any phony 15-year certificate I got from other places just because some anniversary date rolled around and it was time to act like an employer actually gave a damn about you when you know they didn’t appreciate anything you did or even cared about you as a person.
Here I am appreciated as a person and for what I do. And that is a great feeling to have for the first time in a long time.