Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Back on the Road - Days 3, 2, 1, and Before I Left Portland

Cape Lookout State Park, OR

The fog is rolling in, actual fog although, anytime I sit down to write and recap a significant amount of time, a mental fog creeps in over all the details that once seemed so clear.  What can I do?  The ocean can't be more than 50 yards from my tent, filling all the empty space with soothing, hushing sounds.  

I was never too far from the Pacific today, 101 stayed as close as it could, sometimes right above the shimmering blue hundreds of feet below.  If the road ever veered away inland it brought me through lush tunnels of green that seemed to be supported by physical beams of light that hung on the eary morning humidity.  Cannon Beach can't be much more than 20 miles South of Warrenton, the town I ended my coast to coast ride in before my slow saunter back to Portland.  Those 20 miles weren't the most scenic but, they were incredibly exciting as they were the first new sites I'd seen in a week.  

When I left Portland on my new bike, all I could think about was getting past Warrenton, I felt like that's when the next chapter would begin with new places and new characters never-before-seen.  Everyone I've met has gone back home or continued their own journey without a bike between their legs.  I kind of have the feeling that I'm staying after hours, like Summer closed and it's only fitting to return home but, I guess it's time to see what goes on after dark – and with a new bike.  

I wish everyone could understand how different it feels to have a bike fitted to my body in every way; it's like if you were to wear your shoes on the opposite feet and go for a 10 mile hike and then switch your shoes around and do it again.  It's night and day, it truly is and I could not be happier.  I thought waiting for her would be painful, like waiting for your birthday when it falls on Christmas and you're 10 years old, but no.  I took it slow going back to the city, turned a 2 day ride into 5, this time on the Washington side of the Columbia to switch things up.  

I felt like a hobo-drifter, no roof to return to, just watching time slip through my hands in the small towns that run along the river; towns where kids are going back to school, coming off that summer time-high while I'm counting the days til I get back on the toad to follow it to the land of endless summer.  Even when I got back to Portland I still had a week before my bike would be ready.  I spent that week between Ben's place and a woman's home I met through Warm Showers, just floating around the city, eating and drinking too much coffee, sinking into the couch, watching TV and smoking too much weed to try and accomplish anything.  

But I owed myself a vacation, a little time to truly do nothing, a little time to lose track of time. Oh, the meals I ate.  If Portland is good for one thing it's eating.  I'm glad I didn't keep track of what I spent, I'll be doing that on the road, attempting to live as cheaply as possible.  No more breakfasts that cover the entire table in pancakes, eggs, and potatoes.  

The fog is still all around me although it's too dark to see anything except for what falls under the beam of my headlamp.  The ocean is still hushing, a sound that will never end like the heartbeat of the Earth.  I don't know how many miles it is to San Diego and I really don't care.  The ride has already been breathtaking, even though it's just begun I don't want to know how few miles are left, I just want to ride South as clueless as possible on my beautiful new bike.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Ben, my friend.

Everything we do in our lives becomes part of the stories we can tell; whether it's riding across the country on a bike, going to college, fighting an addiction, or feeling stuck at home with a deadend job and a mountain of debt, we are always changing, growing, and learning.  I've been spending my time in Portland at my friend, Ben's place.  I haven't seen him since college and I'm so grateful our paths could intersect while I'm out riding my bike.  Ben may not be on a bike but, he's on his own amazing journey.  For the last 5 years, Ben has been working to make his outward appearance resonate with who he really is inside while dealing with the physical and emotional gauntlet that this sort of metamorphosis demands of all transgender folks.  Many people out there don't even have the goddamn guts to face the emotions they feel inside, they just bury them and try to move on while something weighs on their mind like a small pebble finding its way into your shoe.  

But not Ben, or anyone else that has been on the same path, is in the middle of it, or anyone that's taken the very first steps.  To know yourself so intimately takes strength and dedication and it all amounts to a truly beautiful being, someone who takes control of their own life and their own happiness, doing what they need to feel human.  I'm so happy to have met Ben back in college while he was still Ashley, and now to see him so happy, bearded and handsome overwhelms me.  All of us on this big blue space ship we call Earth deserve some comfort and happiness although, we can't always get there on our own.  So please, help out my dear friend with anything you can, especially the folks that asked if they could donate anything to MY trip, I don't need or want anything but, there's a fine young man that could use some kindness from strangers right here.  

Ben has made these notebooks to reward anyone that makes a donation to his surgery fund.  You can follow the link below to donate and learn more.

Any money leftover will be donated to the Transgender Surgery Fund, a link to their page can be found below.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Day 96 - 9/11/16 Clatskanie to Fort Stevens State Park, OR - The End

We broke down our camp, packed up our bikes, and got pancakes.  We ate like it was our last meal, the table was covered in food and the coffee flowed like the Columbia; perhaps we were making up for the time we were denied coffee and pancakes back in Paterson, WA.  Or maybe we're just gross.  

We continued on 30, pushing right along, there was no need to stop until we got to Astoria.  There, the Columbia River became visible again and it was clear that she was getting wider as we got closer to her mouth emptying into the Pacific.  All this water meant nothing to me right then; it was a gray zone.  At what point does the river become the ocean?  For me, I wanted to be able to look out and see nothing beyond the water, hear nothing but the dull roar of the waves.  

Astoria was not the end.  We crossed the bridge over Young's Bay and snaked our way down windy, wooded roads that offered no view as to what was around us so, we kept going, looking for big blue.  Finally, at the state park we found the right path that would lead us to the beach.  We cruised down it going too fast for the dog walkers and other pedestrians enjoying a Sunday afternoon but, we were greedy, thirstier for salt water than we were hungry for pancakes this morning.  

Then we got there, cars were shuffling on the parking lot pavement, kicking up sand.  People were walking over the mounds of sand into the light.  The excitement rose in me, I leaned my bike against the wall, the sound found my ears and my eyes rested on the water.  And we stared for a moment.  The next thing I knew, I was knee deep in freezing salty water, screaming into the horizon, probably scaring people and sea gulls around me.

Oh well.  I had this crazy feeling that I was actually back home on the East coast, I think my mind is just trained to assume that's where I am when I see the ocean.  I've only seen the Pacific a few times last summer in California.  Billy and I didn't know quite what to do next.  There's a campground here but, we decided to keep looking at the water.  So we did.  

Not much later the locals, or whoever they were, got their chairs lined up to watch the sun set, so we joined.  Billy said to me, "as the sun sets right here, it rises in Japan."  I never really thought about what the sun does after it sets, I guess it never really stops doing what it does.  The onlookers wasted no time leaving the beach once the sun went down.  

We quickly set up our tents out of site and let the ocean sing us to sleep.  Just before bed, I took the little bag of sand I had collected back in April when I originally tried to walk across the country, and dumped it on the ground.  There was quite the contrast in color.  My sand was dry and light and the sand on the beach was dark and damp, they looked good together.  Soon enough, it will all be mixed, our tents and bikes will be gone and no one will know I was here.

Day 95 - 9/10/16 Portland to Clatskanie, OR

Billy met me outside of Ben's place just before 7:00am.  He made it to Portland a day after Colin and I.  With tires and spare tubes double-checked this time, Billy was ready to ride out of the city and toward the coast, so was I.  We couldn't leave town without a donut so we each bought a couple from Voodoo and a nice cup-o-joe to get the blood pumping while the city was still warming up.  We both agreed this was the best time in Portland, early morning on a Saturday; not many cars or people or other bikers, just the pigeons picking up scraps and the rare city-slicker that has somewhere to be (besides Voodoo Doughnuts) on Saturday morning.  

Out of the city, we stayed on highway 30 for the whole ride, a road not too scenic but, with a comfortable shoulder for riding along.  There was nothing we were hoping to see at this point, we just wanted the blue of the ocean in our eyes.  So we pedaled and pedaled for nearly 70 miles to Clatskanie where we went to bed early with talk of the ocean and the final miles on our minds.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Days 92, 93, 94 - 9/7/16 - 9/9/16 Portland, OR - Daze Off

It's still Friday morning.  I made it to the dispensary in time for 'Nug Brunch' which means I get 10% off my entire purchase because I made it in before noon.  This whole procedure will take some getting used to; it's nit awkward or sketchy at all, in fact, it's the complete opposite which is what makes it weird.  Smiling faces greet you along with the overwhelming aroma of dozens of strains of bud.  The sign for $25 1/8's drew me in and the girl behind the counter proceded to open all the glass jars and stick them under my nose and let me touch all the nugs I wanted.  

But I'm not picky, I got my 1/8 of Mob Boss and a bag of sour gummies and carried on with my morning as if I just bought groceries.  Getting high has not been my top priority during these few days in the streets of Portland, getting fed has been a much higher priority.  I wonder how long it would take to try every restaurant, every food cart and truck in this well-fed city.  The options are overwhelming but, I've found it's hard to have a bad meal here.  

I've been staying with my friend, Ben in the Southeast quadrant of the city.  I leave the house with him at 8:30 in the morning, he goes to work making books and I wander around on my bike for the next 10 hours.  Yesteday, I rode to Washington Park on the West side of the city, a beautiful expanse of green, tall, thick ancient trees and loosely manicured shrubs and flowers create a sort of sanctuary from the concrete to the East. 

 I found myself laying on a picnic table staring up through the leaves that created a frame around the blue sky, a perfect porthole to watch the clouds pass.  6 months ago, this sort of activity might've been boring after 10 minutes but now, I feel like I have all the time in the world to enjoy the little things like this.  I feel like a dog off the leash just smelling smells, eating scraps and looking for all the quiet places I can lay down and enjoy all the wonderful things that get mistaken for nothingness all too often.  

I met up with Hudson who I met in Idaho during the ride through Lolo Pass.  He's lived all over the place including Portland so he led me around on a beautiful September day to a shanty town of food trucks, to Mt. Tabor which held faraway views of the city in the long branches of the massive trees that dotted the hill.  And we talked and talked of the unique experience that is bike touring and the differences between the East and the West.  He boiled the difference down to the East being more sincere and the West being friendlier.  

They both have their pros and cons but we agreed the friendliness of the West really greases the gears of society.  I like talking about my day and my feelings with strangers that are only pouring my coffee or waiting at the same red light as me even if they don't remember what I said or what I look like 5 minutes later.  It's just nice to hear happy people and happy conversations.  There's certainly a difference between here and home and it's not just the 3,000 miles that separate the two.  

I feel comfortable here, like people are less judgemental.  They always say, "keep Portland weird," so maybe that has something to do with peoples' attitudes.  I don't think twice about who sees me doing yoga in the park or if I feel like lying down to rest my eyes on a picnic table or to just sit on the sidewalk and feel the warmth of the sun among the other homeless folks that set their tarps and tents up right there on the sidewalk.  They don't seem to bother people or get in their face over here, not like other cities I've seen.  Someone recently asked me if I could live in Portland; I honestly don't think I could live in any city, I like to escape to quieter places too often to put myself right in the middle of everything.  Cities just want you to spend money anyhow.  

I like good local food and a sense of community and all the wonderful resources available just a short bike ride from anywhere; and the bikes, I love the bikes, I love waiting at a red light with 10 other cyclists just moving their way through everything but, how long could I really live in a city?  I don't think very long.  My feet are getting itchy already and I can't wait to start the tide to the coast tomorrow and pass through the quiet little seaside towns.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Day 91 - 9/6/16 Hood River to Portland, OR

This ride aint over til I jump into the Pacific Ocean but, nearing the end, it's hard not to talk about what this trip has done to us as people when you sit down with someone who has racked up as many miles as you.  I've had some great conversations with Colin, this was my 3rd day riding with him and last night, just as we were about to sleep in Cindy and Mac's backyard Colin brought up how special it is to have shared childhood experiences; like when you're on the playground and you just play with whoever's around because you're both trying to have fun.  

We came to the conclusion that this bike trip is the exact same situation; encountering other cyclists on the road, heading in the same direction, you just start riding together, there's no real question or consideration about it.  That's how it's been with every cyclist I've met, we're all just out here to have fun.  That being said, sometimes kids play in the rain and mud for fun.  Colin and I knew it was going to rain today but, we knew a little water couldn't stop us from the major milestone of Portland.  

So last night we psyched each other up saying how epic today would be.  We were not wrong.  The day started on the interstate, riding next to the fog covered Columbia and then it took us to quieter bike paths that wove through vegetation so green you could practically see it growing, underneath and around I-84 on graceful switchbacks, through shallow puddles that mirrored an inverted world.  Our halfway point was Multnomah Falls where we stopped to snack and suck down some coffee while the rain continued to fall on us and all the other folks that thought looking at waterfalls in the pouring rain was a good idea.  

Continuing down the road, we felt like we were in the rainforest.  The road started to snake its way up the hills and we were riding against the current of the water that slid across the pavement.  Despite the caffeine, we were tired and delirious from pedaling so hard for the first 40 miles.  We started screaming, some obscenities, mostly just loud noises, we had both lost it, every yelp accompanied by a tremendous laugh.  We pedaled further up, the rainforest opened to would-be great views but, it looked like we rode our bikes straight into a cloud, all the sky and ground below was behind a white curtain of mist.  

And then Colin got a flat, just as we were about to bomb down back to Earth from the clouds.  By the time the tube was patched we were both freezing; being soaking wet all day is only okay if you keep moving.  I estimated I had an extra 8 pounds of water soaked into my clothes and shoes.  I don't have a fender on my front tire so I had a steady stream of water blasting me in the face the whole day.  I hid behind my sunglasses like I was Roy Orbison, giving everything a soft, blurry appearance like an impressionist painting.  I'm thankful for Colin leading the way, I couldn't have made it from Hood River to Portland on my own.  

Finally getting into the city we got excited and started screaming again, cursing at broken glass and red lights and laughing our way downtown.  Colin and I parted ways on 7th ave, he had friends to crash with and so did I.  We continued in different directions to finish the most epic ride of the trip, only 100 more miles to the coast.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Day 90 - 9/5/16 Maryhill State Park, WA to Hood River, OR

Colin and I woke up before the sun to try and stay ahead of the winds but, that's not so easy here in the Columbia River Gorge.  Oh well, at least the scenery is enough to keep you pedaling onward.  I haven't had an early start in a while, mostly because the mornings have been so cold; today felt really good though.  

We had a few hills to climb but, they only lead to breathtaking views of the river and the highway and all the lovely trees and mountains, it all looked so perfect like a miniature model of some utopian land.  

We stopped and talked to a lot of other bikers and even got invited to spend the night on Mac and Cindy's lawn.  Life is good on the road and riding with Colin had just been wonderful,


we're both drinking in every ounce of the sweet scenery and letting the universe direct us in one way or another, looking out for those banana peels.

Day 89 - 9/4/16 Paterson to Maryhill State Park, WA

Billy and I didn't get to Paterson Elementary until after 9:00pm, the only place that seemed to have any space for us to pitch our tents.  There was a big garage with a couple school buses parked inside and plenty of room to eat dinner and set up camp inside.  

In the morning on the way out of town, we were hoping to get coffee and pancakes in the one restaurant in town but, I guess it's just closed down for good.  But outside was another cyclist hoping they were open as well.  

It was this dood, Colin who I briefly met in Missoula.  Heading to Portland, Colin joined Billy and me and left town.  Colin tode ahead and Billy dropped back until I lost site of both of them.  Billy had more tire issues and decided hitching to the next town was best for him.  

I caught up to Colin when he got a flat himself.  We rode the rest of the way together, for the most part, Colin's a quick rider.  Some of the hills we got to go over were incredible, brilliant views of the pure blue Columbia River glistening at the bottom of the rustic brown and gold rocks.  

The last mile of the ride was down one Hell of a hill that plummeted back down to river level.  The river engulfed my whole vision in the golden hour of the day, the bridge leading to Oregon looked like a toy model that grew to lifesize as we came around the last downhill bend to the campground.

Day 88 - 9/3/16 Walla Walla to Paterson, WA

We briefly rode into Oregon today along the Columbia River but, we crossed back into Washington and will ride along the river on this side.  We made it about 80 miles today, the last 15 or so taking place at sunset and into the dark.  I've never ridden that late before but it was very peaceful with no wind and no cars and cool air compared to the hot heat that beats down on you in the gorge.  

Billy's been having a lot of tube and tire issues since we started riding together, I hope I'm not some sort of jinx for him.  We're about 3 days from Portland, it looks like we'll be there sometime on Tuesday.  

Til then, we'll be riding along this beautiful river that looks like nothing I've ever seen before.  Every so often I feel like I can smell the ocean and I wonder if it's real or all in my head just because I'm so close now.

Day 87 - 9/2/16 Pomeroy to Walla Walla, WA

Just as I was about to retire to the rent for the night, another cyclist rolled into the park, his headlight cutting through the freshly fallen night.  Billy's from Ohio, fresh out of high school and he's been riding his bike all summer long.  I wish I had those kind of guts to do this trip when I was 18 but, I guess 26 isn't that much older.  

It was a windy ride from point A to point B, about 70 miles total.  The sun was shining and the sky never looked so blue behind the big splotches of pure white clouds cruising across the sky.  Billy said the hills of golden wheat looked like Zen gardens, they sure were beautiful.  Going into a store to buy weed fit right in with the surrealness of this whole trip.  

Glass cases of products, lists and menus and that smell, fresh bud, just lingering, going nowhere fast.  We found a place to pitch our tents and enjoy some of Walla Walla's finest just as the sun went down.  Tomorrow, we continue to Portland.