01/31/2012 10:32 pm ET Updated Apr 01, 2012

Biking for Blackberries

Let me set the scene. I was in Seattle, for the first time in my life. It was the first week of September and I had just flown from Chicago to begin the 'tour of pie.' I had decided that in order to save my quickly dwindling spending money I was going to bike everywhere, rather than take public transportation. After all, I was a seasoned biker from Chicago, who had even been through the trials and tribulations of being doored and lived to tell the tale. Surely, I could handle whatever sort of biking this new city could offer. I had been offered a loaner bike from my incredibly gracious hosts, and was sure that getting around would be a cinch.

This being the first stop on the tour, I wanted everything to be perfect so I decided that the day before my first shift at High 5 Pie I would see just how long it took me to bike to work. That way there was no chance I would get lost or be late for my date with pie baking. I had a vague notion of where the shop was in relation to where I was staying, having picked up a map from the local bike shop and googled biking directions on my phone; so I strapped on my helmet and took off. The weather was ideal, the city skyline was picturesque and each Seattle hill I encountered was surmountable. Google had estimated that my trip would take forty minutes, give or take, so after forty-five minutes of confused biking and countless backtracking along the Burke-Gillman trail I was tired, unbelievably sweaty, and cursing the fact I hadn't thought to bring a water bottle. In trying desperately to follow increasingly confusing directions I had somehow managed to get myself forty-five minutes further away from my final destination. Not only did I have to bike back to where I began, it would be another half hour to the pie shop. I nearly gave up right then and there.

I considered that maybe the whole trip had been a mistake. Not just the biking portion of my day, but being in Seattle in the first place, chasing after an unlikely and somewhat crazy pie dream. I was lost, and completely terrified of having made a mess of my life. I dejectedly took off my helmet, wheeled my bike to the edge of the trail and morosely watched the boats on Salmon Bay. As I sat there feeling sorry for myself, I noticed that the bushes lining the trail were wild blackberry bushes that were overflowing with fresh berries just begging to be picked. I plucked a blackberry off the bush, popped it into my mouth, and was instantly transported to a vivid memory of picking blackberries and raspberries in my grandmother's backyard. I thought of my brother and I rushing and reaching around thorns to pick as many of the tangy sweet berries as our stomachs could hold. Filling bowls and buckets; the telltale berry stains on our lips proving that we probably ate more than we ever put aside. I remembered my grandmother teaching me how to roll the juicy berries in sugar and bake them into the tiniest of tarts, to be served at our ever-frequent teddy bear picnics. I remembered standing amidst my aunts and my mother in our unbearably hot kitchen, watching them effortlessly make homemade blackberry jam. I would steal a berry every now and again as they split each batch of jam into their endless supply of mason jars and set them into the boiling water on the stovetop; waiting for the faint pop that would signify a good seal. I had a history with blackberries, just like I had a history with baking. I figured to give up before I had even started wouldn't just be a disappointment to me but to several generations of strong baking ladies.

Those blackberries cleared my head and calmed my spirits. I dove deeper into the bushes, determined to reach all of the best berries, despite the occasional creepy spider web, and countless tiny thorns digging into my bare arms. What were scratches compared to the sweet sensation of coming home? Any city that allowed blackberries to grow wild and untamed for the enjoyment of those living there could not have been a mistake to visit. I was absolutely lost, but certain of two things; I would find my way and there would be fresh blackberry pie once I got there.