Saturday, November 21, 2009

The namesake

Many months back, I held a little contest to come up with a name for my new bicycle, my steady, steel-framed companion for the coming year. After many creative (and hilarious) submissions, my friend Ben inspired the winning entry -- Olympia -- during a conversation while riding home from the bike shop one evening, describing Washington's state capital as one of the most beautiful places he'd ever been. Plus, I thought it sounded like a good, sturdy name. (Not that "Bertha" wasn't sturdy sounding.) And it had the added bonus of being roughly half way along our route. This past Thursday morning, Ollie and I rolled (or, rather, slogged) into town and did our best to embrace "all things Olympia" that we could muster during our brief time there....

We got to see a good bit of the north and west sides of town when, mapless, we got somewhat lost on the way from Evergreen College (where I'd joined a potluck and sat in on a film and lecture on pesticides) to Shae's house (where we would be staying); we saw much of the east and south sides heading out of town. Another hilly city, what a surprise. Cute, though, and home to two food co-ops. (We visited both, of course.)

Thursday evening before the trip out to some of the Taylor Shellfish sites to see clam and oyster harvesting in action, Marco, Lalita, and I feasted on fresh seafood at their home -- including tiny, salty, raw Olympia oysters (which, incidentally, had been endangered up until just a few years ago, before groups like Taylor had dedicated efforts to cultivate these tasty native bivalves) and carrots and beets pulled right from the garden. I think the wine and quinoa were sourced a bit further afield, but still: delicious.

Friday, after a trip to the Olympia Coffee Roasting Company for a cup of outstanding fair trade java, we stopped by the town's famous Artesian Well to fill up our water bottles with what was rumored to be the best water anywhere. (It was certainly a heck of a lot better than the water in Iowa. Yeah, I'm talking to you, Des Moines.) The barrista at the coffee house warned me that folks who drink the well water were bound to return to Olympia... or never leave it. (Oooh, foreboding. I triple checked Ollie's tire pressure this morning before we left. Not that it's a dreadful town, but we do have quite a bit of the country yet to explore.)

Friday afternoon, I met with Kim, one of the founders of GRuB -- a community garden and youth empowerment project in town. She gave me a tour of the gardens and told me about some of the cool programs GRuB is involved with: the construction of 100 free kitchen gardens each year for low-income families in the area, the training and employment of at-risk teenagers to grow food for sale at the farmers' market, donations to the local food bank. Sounds like my kind of nonprofit, and Kim helpfully suggested a few other programs to check out as I make my way south through Oregon and California.

Friday evening, I was invited by Ian, of Olympia's own "The Bike Stand" bike shop, to join a few friends for some of the finest local (organic) microbrews around and a plate of fish tacos. Mmm, local cod and cilantro. They say its the great water that makes for such tasty pints at Fish Tales, and I am not altogether unconvinced. Were I not slated for an intense day of cycling the following morning, I more than likely would have tried a few more of them. (I wonder if the town water's mystical properties apply to the beer as well.)

As we make our way toward Portland, I've noticed that Ollie seems a bit sluggish. Most people might think it's the headwinds or the near-constant rain or the unanticipated hills slowing us down, but my hunch is that it's the water trying to draw us back. Onward, Olympia!

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry


  1. Ibti!! It was so nice meeting you and finally I am reading your blog. Its wonderful. Please stop by again if you're ever back in Oly-but I'm sure you will be...since you drank the water!! Next time, I will take you to the Eastside for the best selection of microbrews in town. Also, check out my new blog!

    Hugs, Lalita

  2. Thanks, Lalita. Folks in town forewarned me about the water, so I suspect I'll be back again at some point. The microbrew scene only sweetens the deal. :)


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