Sunday, September 6, 2015

The least frugal anniversary we've ever had

Our anniversary tradition is fairly simple, but something we both look forward to.  Each year, one of us has elected to make a fancy dinner for the two of us.  It's always something new, something we've never tried to make before.  Usually at least a few of the ingredients are bought especially for the meal, things we splurge on: a fancy cheese, some fresh herbs, out of season fruit.  Last year, I made beef bourguignonne pot pie.  (The beef was the big splurge in that, and not only was it worth every penny, it was worth all of the 3 hours I spent cooking it.)  The year before, the mister made pasta from scratch, and a few other dishes that all tied together.  He usually prefers to have several smaller plates and an appetizer, whereas I make one big thing, plus a salad, and then maybe dessert.  It works for us.  We set out our tablecloth, light a few candles, get dressed up fancy for each other.
This year, however, we realized that our happy little tradition wasn't going to work.  My parents cook one dinner (or rather, we rotate who cooks dinner) and expect everyone in the house to eat together.  What were we going to do, take over the kitchen and cook just for ourselves, then hole up in a room?  That would be a little weird, in so many different ways.
Furthermore, with so many people in the house we realized that the thing we were most short on wasn't fancy cheese or fruit, it was time alone with each other.  We spend so much of our day helping out the family, taking care of the Munchkin, and job hunting that we haven't spent nearly as much time with each other as we'd like.  So we planned something different.  We went bike camping on beautiful Orcas Island, in the San Juans.
This was the first time either of us had been bike camping, so we expected a few bumps.  We just didn't expect the bumps we got.
I had started the weekend by pre-injuring myself.  We ride with friends on Thursday nights and, for whatever reason, the person who lead the ride took us down an honest-to-God hobo trail under the freeways of Seattle.  Now, don't get me wrong, I see nothing wrong with homeless people bunking down in these places (I mean, aside from the fact that I think the rest of us should provide for them better, but that's a different post).  I do, however, object to terrain which most of the bikes and many of the riders are clearly unsuited to.  Quite a few people crashed, including me, and I was unfortunate enough to land on a rock.
Most of my thigh, covered in a bruise.

My elbow took the brunt of my fall, getting scraped and bruised and was generally painful to move about for the next 24 hours.  (Don't worry, there's clearly nothing broken.)
On that same trail, one of HX's tires blew out.  I mean the sidewall of the tire itself, not the tube.  He didn't notice until the next morning, when he saw it in daylight.  So he needed a last minute bike switch, and he chose to borrow my brother's touring bike, which was sitting in the garage, because it had a rack on the back to hold gear.  He did not think about the fact that he's four inches taller than my brother, however, just loaded up the car and we rushed off to catch that ferry.
We got to the island and, excited, rode off only to realize that the first thing we had to do was climb a very steep hill, with heavy gear and one ill-fitting bike.  HusbandX had forgotten his multitool on his road bike and couldn't adjust the seat.  "I'm pretty sure your brother stole this bike from an Oompa Loompa...then lowered the seat."
We'd checked the mileage from the ferry to the main town and to the state park, but never thought to check the terrain.  There is basically no flat to be had on that island.  It's all either up or down, and mostly up from the ferry.  HusbandX, on his ill-fitting bike and with the heaviest of the gear, quickly became downright cranky.  It was hard for me to moderate my pace enough to ride close to him, which added to the crankiness.  In my lowest gear I'd be barely turning the pedals while he was gasping his way up a fair distance behind me, grumbling about the fact that it was my stupid idea and now I couldn't even keep him company while we rode.
I managed to put up with it because I would have been the same way if I was riding a crappy bike.
Eventually I saw two bikers coming the other way and stopped them to ask how far to town (two miles left) and if they perhaps had an allen wrench I could borrow?  They said yes right about the time HusbandX huffed and puffed up to the crest of the hill.  So we got the seat problem, at least, fixed and I set about trying to get my spouse cheered up.  We were both starving at this point, it being mid-afternoon and we not having eaten since breakfast.  So we rushed, as best we could, into town and stopped at the first restaurant we found.  It proved to be a good choice.
We'd thought to go out to the state park, then come back to town for a somewhat fancy dinner and then groceries for breakfast.  So immediately after eating we left town and headed for the state park.  We didn't realize that there was roughly a solid mile of uphill to tackle between town and the park.  And that was just the one hill, the rest of it was hilly too.
Some riders seem to glide their way up hills.  Others get into their lowest gear and pace themselves.  Me, I stubborn my way up hills.  I sit on my bike pedaling as hard and fast as I can, telling myself that no stupid hill is going to defeat me.  Unfortunately, it also means that I tackle hills as fast as I can, and on his heavy tank of a bike, HusbandX was no match for me on my comparatively light cyclocross bike.  He grumbled about it while we made use of the two bike turnouts.
By the time we made it to Moran State Park, it was about 5:00 and we realized there was no way we were getting back to town that night for dinner, at least not by bike.  We toyed with the idea of getting a cab but didn't have enough reception to get the number of a cab, or even to call one of my brothers to look one up for us, and we were too lazy/tired to go back to someplace that did have reception.  That would defeat the purpose of getting the taxi anyway.
We hadn't stopped for groceries.  All we had was our water and some Clif bars we'd bought before the trip.
We paid for the camp site and were told, "It's mostly downhill from here."  LIES.
As we made our way to the camp we saw five or six little deer on the side of the road, tame enough not to run away while we rode within a dozen feet of them.
"I have a plan for dinner.  *pant, gasp*  It involves *pant* killing and eating that deer."
"We can't, *pant* there's a burn ban."
*Puff puff puff*  "Dammit!"
So yes, this year we dined on Clif bars for dinner as we sat in our camp hammock and read.  I'm not disappointed in the least.
The rest of the trip, you'll be glad to hear, went much better.  We rode and walked around the town, walked along the beach, spent a lot more time in our hammock reading and eating those ridiculous Clif bars, though we did grab some groceries the next day and have a picnic dinner at the lake.  The burn ban was lifted the second day so we made a fire, and a little after midnight we were chased into our tent by rain.  I woke up several times to an absolute downpour and worried that the ride back to the ferry would be miserable, but the rain magically lifted around ten and by 11:00 the sun was out again.  The roads dried and everything warmed up, but not too warm.  Not miserably warm.  It was perfect.
All told, including gas, parking, ferry fees, camping fees, and all the food we ate, we spent about $150 on our weekend away.  Not too bad, especially when you consider that many couples will blow more than that just on dinner out for their anniversary, plus gifts to each other.  (We decided that the bribery phase of our courtship was long over by the time we got married, so we rarely get each other gifts.)  Instead of doing the "normal" thing, we rode about forty miles together, created new memories and new jokes.  Both physically and maritally, we're stronger for having gotten away for a few days and that, to me, seems like the best sort of anniversary.

P.S. Bike lights make fantastic camping lights.  They're small but very bright, easy to hold, and because they have straps meant to go around the handlebars they're easy to hang places.  We hung two in our tent and it was very brightly illuminated while we got ready to sleep.  In the outhouse, there was an ADA-compliant bar (not sure why, since no one in a wheelchair would be able to make it up to that outhouse, I think) and I was able to wrap a light around that to illuminate everything hands-free while I used the facility.  That was both good and bad.  I could see the toilet paper, but I could also see what I'm pretty sure was a tarantula over in the corner.

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