Day 2: A Ghost Town

September 4, 2002
Monroe to Skykomish
34 Miles Google Map

It was a fairly short ride to Skykomish, which is strategically located just sixteen miles west of Steven’s Pass up in the Cascades. Good thing as my stomach as been acting up, most likely from a combination of shifting eating schedules and spicy foods. Not really painful, but the damn thing bloats, making me look like a Budweiser U. Alumni. I could probably make some good advertising money by painting “Goodyear” on it and showing up at a football game.

The tummy troubles make today’s meager mileage quite satisfactory. The last eight miles, in fact, saw me actually step up the pace, arriving some twenty minutes earlier than planned.

Which brings us to the hamlet of Skykomish. Or at least the buildings. I rode down Main Street and didn’t see a soul. Like something out of a Stephen King novel. The steakhouse, for example, has a “For Rent” sign hanging from a window. Inside the tables are still covered with tablecloths and silverware. It’s like the owners suddenly closed up just before the evening crowd began arriving. Or perhaps that was when the vampires started attacking? Probably best not to openly speculate until I’m safely away tomorrow. 

The Sky River Inn where I am spending the night is on the main road, which sees plenty of urban hikers and skiers passing through, so the prices have gotten “Seattleized”. Not that I had any options. Trying to extend and go over a mountain pass on only the second day, before I’ve built up any endurance, is just begging for an injury. 

This place, by the way, is one of the hotels which my Korean girlfriend and I stopped at back in 1996, a half-dozen years ago. That was truly an educational summer. We’d met in Taejon, South Korea where she was a student in one of the English classes I taught. Once I was finished with that experience and returned to Seattle, we decided she would come join me in the U.S. for a kind of goodbye fling. It was intended to be a month of romantic and exciting adventures as I showed her around my native land. And by the time I saw her off at SeaTac Airport in late August, I was crying — tears of joy at finally getting rid of her.

If you ever want to really get to know someone, take them to a country in which they have a minimal interest, speak hardly any of the language, and, to top things off, dislike the food. My Korean lover was transformed from an exotic, exciting woman with a sense of humor and a bit of an edge to an impatient, easy-to-anger vixen who nevertheless wanted to spend every last minute with me. Not that I was without blame, suffering through reverse culture shock and experiencing considerable angst attempting to decide on what I wanted to do next with my life. It’s fair to say neither of us were in very agreeable moods most of the time.

Therefore, re-visiting a hotel from that acrimonious summer is a bit like touring a Civil War Battlefield. I seem to recall that the “Skirmish at the Sky River Inn”, as I now like to refer to it, stemmed from my desire to just grab some sandwiches and snacks for dinner rather than going out to a restaurant, which was what she wanted to do. We probably should have given that spooky steakhouse some business, but I doubt she would have enjoyed the meal. 

Funny thing, though. As I now reminisce about all those squabbles, I find myself missing my old girlfriend’s quick smile. The six years since that bruising month together have been agreeable enough, with my restarted IT career, but also strangely empty. I suspect there is a part of me which craves a major challenge, whether it’s getting along with an impatient Asian lover, or cycling up a mountain pass.

    Today:     34 Miles
    To Date:  70 Miles / 113 Kilometers

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