~ Day 10 – The unbearable lightness of a ferry boat ride ~

06/09/2010 — 80.2 miles

Final entry. This one will be short. I am currently on a free commuter ferry from Bremerton, naval port town, to Seattle, megalopolis of the Puget Sound. America, the socialist transporter. America, the rhetorical question.

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is badass. This is a rusted out swash bucket of a ship, but it gets the job done. BC ferries could take a lesson.

I am adrift on this big ship and I cannot get over the levity of it all. I am done, played out, free from dry land. After grinding myself to dust or paste — depending on how well-hydrated I was at the time — on the 600 miles of blacktop that I’ve left behind, it is a true wonder to be on this buoyant big ship and to feel the rocking of the gentle swells beneath the hull. Here I am. I hear Seattle’s a right-old-town.

Melodie is going to pick me up from the bus depot. I adore the thought of touching her face.

I defy to think that this has been a life changing experience. I more think it might, maybe, make for a good story one day. The kind that maybe no one will ever appreciate. That’s fine. But I don’t think I will ever do this again. We’re about to dock, its back to dry land and the promise of a summers night ‘neath city lights. Over and out.

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Ecstatic. Soaking in the ether. Seattle in the Distance.

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~ Day 9 – Washington the Low country ~

06/08/2010 – 56.2 miles

After 8 straight days of 50+ miles travel and reaching the 500 mile plateau, my legs are becoming casualty to the lure of distance. I have become obsessed. Face this: the land is unforgiving. You try camping out, in the cold and wet, at the same camp for more than one consecutive sunset. You won’t like it. There is, instead, great comfort in grinding yourself to a paste on the road rather than sit there and shiver.

I awoke several times last night in horrid pain because I could not move my right leg but 2 inches for a more comfortable position. I very reasonably feared that I would not be able to rise this morning. But I suppose I constantly outperform my expectations (not really, but some humor here). After realizing where I was, the middle of nowhere, I read a bit before scratching my way out of bed. Weather looked fine, if slightly overcast.

Completely packed up before breakfasting on a yogurt, 2 bananas, dried fruit, and a bit of selectively picked at trail mix. Hit the road by 11:00, which was just fine by me. Setting out was a thing of beauty, as I coasted for literally the first 5 miles. Amazing. Rolled into Naselle, where purchased orange juice, hot/cold pads (for later) and some ice (for right then and there). Iced down for about 30 minutes by a pay phone and tried to call Melodie. Gone to Squamish with Tango for the day. Really wish I got her last night.

Eventually pressed on, through about 40 miles of Weyerhauser-owned “managed forest.” The reality is clear-cut hillside for just about as far as the eye can see. Its insane what they’ve done to their forests. Bugs were also awful today, was constantly pelted by dive-bombing kamikazes with clearly no will to live. Shame. Busted a spoke on my front wheel, which took me a few moments to realize exactly what had happened. Not sure exactly what to do now, but I believe I can carry on. I also biked past a road-killed deer that was being picked at by two buzzards. Picture this: riding through a clear-cut devastated landscape, constantly pelted by vile insects, limping due to a busted spoke, and having to slowly pass in real-time a rotting deer corpse and two giant buzzards having their take. Life is currently imitating the art of my demise. Southwest Washington is hideous so far. I am a long ways from the Oregon coast.

Settled on a campsite that I only intended to water at, but as the skies were darkening this was a good decision to stop. Moreover, next stop is Aberdeen, a place of which I’ve only heard unkind things. Ok, one thing total, and it was unkind. Still, point taken. Tomorrow, if I push, I can make it to Bremerton in order to hop on the ferry to downtown Seattle, the finish line. What a thought. This is my goal.

Set up tent, bedded down, began dinner (repeat of last night – chile and avocado, carrots, yogurt). Then it started to rain. Hallelujah, it’s the Northwest. What’s it been, 2 days? Had a good chat with dad on the phone, applied hot/cold pads with much success, reading, writing, killing strange little hopping bugs that seem to be falling from the sky. Still not crazy, I swear. Time for bed.

~ Day 7 – Great notions and mild deliria deep in Oregon country ~

06/06/2010 – 69.8 miles 

Last night, at which time I cannot recall, I awoke to the peacefully dreadful pitter-patter of rain. Half asleep, I crawled out of my polyester cave to cover my saddle, pitch the fly, and have a quick piss. Cursing under my breath I slowly re-entered slumber with a dread of the following day so palpable that I dreamt very strangely (memory does not serve me at this time) and awoke often. In addition, aches and pains are beginning to accumulate and this is making for uncomfortable sleeps on this mattress. I should also mention at this point that my mattress was disfigured from putting it too close to the heater the other night, which melted a layer of insulation at a section. The result is a volleyball-sized balloon around the knee area when inflated that I somehow have to sleep around. I like to think that this is more funny than awful. I am not so sure.

Today was meant to be somewhat of a maintenance day, but I never could have guessed at how it was to turn out. I awoke often this morning, but finally and for good around 11:00 – an astonishing 13 hr slumber. This rain seems to have lulled me into a miniature hibernation, for I did not leave my tent until 14:00 this afternoon, an even more astonishing 16 hr interval. I lay in my tent half peaceful, have fearful and uncertain as to the direction of the day. I read several chapters of Great Expectations while listening to the rain wax and wane off the forest canopy above. Finally, by 14:30 I resolved to get back on the road.

Dejected at the thought of another cold rainy day of desperate cycling, I set out extremely slowly. This was, in very much seriousness, compounded by some awful pains in both my legs – my left achilles and my right knee. My right knee is in an especially bad way. I feel that gravity is riding me to the ground. Cursing and sincerely wondering how far I would be able to journey, I decided on the Old Scenic Highway rather than the 101 for a 10 mile section to start. This proved to be one of the most magnificent and revealing sections of my entire ride so far.

The beauty of the rainy, misty, winding road through intimate countryside was stunning. Cows and horses in pasture with adjacent country cottages, rivers and occasional waterfalls over sheer mountain face. The kind of scenes from which I imagine Ken Kesey might have drawn inspiration for his sometimes great notions. All part of the Siuslaw National Forest. I feel I could never leave here and be OK.

For I was going slow in order to warm-up and work out those kinks (with great success) when I realized that not a soul was on that road but my own. Absolute peace, absolute peace. And I realized that the greater portion of this entire trip has been defined by highways and the belligerence of constant vehicle traffic. And there’s just no peace in that. It struck me that this is what I need to be doing. And that my next adventure will no doubt be on foot, with backpack, for several days through forested wilderness. Cycle touring is great, but I too often feel a missing element of peace that can’t be got when sharing a roadway with The Beast.

Continued on, in the rain, through more (though less serene) beautiful countryside eventually to Tillamook. With persistent pain in my right knee, I thought I wouldn’t even make it this far. But I am a persistent bugger, for better and worse, and motored on beyond expectation. So much so that the search for reasonable motel accommodation (cannot camp while soaked as such) brought me all the way here, to Nehalem, about 25 miles north of Tillamook. I rode right up to 21:00, mile after tedious mile, searching for a place I could afford. Here now at the Bunkhouse, $46 is the best I could do. Currently icing down both legs. It is now 1:00 and time for bed. Tomorrow is Astoria and into Washington. Remember postcards!

~ Day 6 – Pay Day ~

06/05/2010 – 76.7 miles

As predicted, the day started out glorious. Despite a quite horrid sleep, awoke around 8:00 to the sun beating directly on the tent. Groggy as always, shuffled out to evaluate the day and morning surroundings. The tent was dew-soaked, but the day was perfect. Slowly (slowly) began packing up before having a quite awful breakfast (banana, bread, trail mix). I already loathe trail mix. Packed up, brushed teeth at NFS bathroom, and was on the road by 10:00. My best showing yet.

Starting out in shorts and t-shirt was a liberating experience, as all previous days consisted of at least long-johns and often bike jacket. Within 10 minutes on the road I realized that I had stopped at the perfect spot the night prior, because the most glorious stretch of coast that I have experienced so far was before me. This was the pay off. This was the legendary Oregon coast. The sweeping shores, the massive craggy outcroppings, clean ocean air, the continuous rolling boom of the littoral, the unmistakable pastiche of coastal Oregon’s soft light and colors. There were 3 American bald eagles patrolling overhead, and a beached colony of California sea lions jabbering and honking in the morning sun. Yesterday, I hadn’t seen the coast at all for more than 5 minutes. This was the day I had been waiting for.

Rode to Yachats by noon, stopping often, about 20-25 miles. Picked up some fruit, jerky, drink, chips, and a corn dog at the grocery and continued on to a suitable picnic area (the corndog was consumed immediately outside the store). Ate sardine sandwiches washed down with an Odwalla and potato chips, and lived to regret it. Not that the sardines were bad, just that I think I over ate in a time of sensitivity. I must be more careful of this, as I felt horrid the rest of the afternoon and even chucked some lunch up (forcefully). Be more careful.

The afternoon grew frustrating as winds picked up and the day cooled off. Worst head wind yet. Compounding this was the rough road and the onset of aches and pains. I am pushing myself extremely hard – I must remember that the past several weeks and months much consisted of loose mores and eating carelessly. Be more careful.

Rode a good distance, insisted on making it to Lincoln City, bought organic mac n’ cheese, salad, milk, and a coke (been craving sweet drinks like an animal). Continued on down the road in hopes of finding a (very) nearby campsite, but soon realized I was on my way to Tillamook (45 miles) with nothing in between. So after some dubious prospecting, settled on a patch atop a steep embankment with the highway on one side and a pasture on the other. I love free, impromptu camping, but this is pushing it. A sign of desperation. Though there is a waterfall just down the way which suits me well.

So tired, so janky, so ready to crash. I pray it does not rain tomorrow.