The night before my departure I made the unfortunate mistake of drinking beer while hosting friends and my brother while packing. After my friends and brother had left and all of my mojo had been consumed and turned into frothy belches I stared unmotivated at a pile of bike parts to sift through, clothes to fold, weight to evenly distribute in my panniers, and a bathroom to clean. It was 1 am. I set my alarm for 5 am and rustled into my sleeping bag atop my inflatable pad.
The next morning I got most everything squared away before my going-away breakfast except the cleaning. The breakfast was supposed to be this great send-off summed up by me hopping onto my bike and riding off into the sunrise (actually it was noon, but romantic exaggeration is always allowed) with my friends and family waving goodbye. My grand vision was squandered all because I still had to clean my room.
I went home after my final Portland meal, gave things to my parents to tuck away into their newly-finished attic and was visited last-minute by two friends, Dayn and Lindsay. I met Dayn just the week prior while riding home. He is a swell guy and we ended up talking for a long time about his electric assist motor. Check it out here. I first met Lindsay when she helped me move from NE to SE Portland by bike last year. She is one of the voices of the KBOO Bike Show which you can listen to archives here. I only tell you the background of these people because I did not know either of them very well, but they both helped the first leg of my trip much more enjoyable. They both rode me out of Portland. Lindsay to Oregon City, and Dayn to Canby. Only because of the bicycle do I know these wonderful people. It gives me great hope for making friends along the way.
The bicycle provides an opportunity to be available and to communicate with those sharing the road with you in ways that no other mode can. There is very little to no opportunity in a car and walking is too intimate and fleeting for people to bother. On transit it is claustrophobic and you don’t want to start a conversation with the person next to you because of the fear of offending them and being stuck next to them your whole ride, nervously keeping your body inches away.
After Dayn and I split in Canby it was all me to Silver Falls. Once I was alone I realized just how heavy all of my gear was. I foolishly had thought that all of my riding over the last three years (which was substantial) would allow me to overcome the weight. Nuh-uh. It felt like I had four prize-winning pigs strapped to my bike. But nevertheless I chugged on into the approaching night. In Silverton, I made a quick stop to buy food for dinner and a bottle of whiskey to celebrate and initiate my journey. I was told by the locals that the campground was only seven miles away. What a farce! Well, maybe it was, but it didn’t feel like it. It was a grueling climb at the end of a hectic day. My woobly-wobbly spaghetti legs were noobin’ out under all the weight and I just wanted to eat and sleep, oh, and toast the ride.
At the top of the climb two deer crossed the road in front of me and tried to jump away. They kept crashing into the trees and bouncing back like there was an invisible bungee strapped to their chests and tied to the grapevines on the other side of the road, ripping them back. They gave up their attempt to bound away and instead pranced beside me for about five minutes. I have always wanted a horse to gallop beside me, but two deer prancing proved to be majestic enough. Oh, and it turns out there was a fence tucked away in the trees and as soon as there was a break they ducked out of sight.
Further down the road I saw a man walking down the street. He shouted something to me.
“What?” I called back.
“Do you want a beer!”
“Okay, hand-off!” I approached him with my hand outstretched and snagged a bottle of High-Life out of his hands. Smiling at my great fortune I twisted the top off and swigged away. And like a good, earth-conscious person I discreetly chucked the bottle into the bushes…naw I stashed it in my pannier. Don’t drink and Drive, but please drink and tour.
I got to the campground just after the sun had set and sent the Silver Falls Ranger home. Unable to pay for a site I found one that wasn’t reserved and simply took it. With no wood and still unfamiliar with my stove I ate a meal of a bagel, raisins, cashews and beef jerky. Oh, and 3-4 pulls of good ol’ Irish whiskey. While I ate I noticed a sign on the table that read: DO NOT LEAVE ANY FOOD OR FRAGRANT ITEMS OUTSIDE YOUR VEHICLE UNLESS FOR IMMEDIATE USE. BEARS WILL COME DESTROY YOUR STUFF AND EAT YOU! Well, what the hell was I supposed to do? I didn’t have a car. I tucked my remaining food into my pannier and left it in the vestibule of my tent. I figured if a bear were to come, better to lead them away from me. In the middle of the night a raccoon came and knocked over my pannier so I changed my mind and put it inside the tent. For two reasons: I didn’t want to bother with the raccoon again, and if a bear was going to come it would mess me up either way. It’s a goddamn bear! They have paws the size of my face and claws like axe blades. Their teeth are miniature circular saws and their dandruff is deadlier than anthrax!
I was freaked out. I left my headlamp next to my side with my knife halfway open for quick use. If a bear came my plan was to shine the headlamp in the brute’s eyes, stand big and insult its mother loudly and then stab it repeatedly with my mighty three-inch blade. Yeah…
I slowly calmed myself to sleep before I was awakened again by heavy footsteps crunching on the gravel path behind my head. Loud, deep snorts swirled around my tent. I sat up and searched desperately for my weapons and listened for more clues as to where my killer would attack but somehow in my sleep I had knocked the knife and lamp out of reach. Okay, I thought. Here we go. I’m gonna have to do this Davy Crockett style. A beast growled at the foot of my tent. My heartbeat deafened me as it pounded outside my chest. And then silence.
I sat up for five minutes before settling that I had confused a pair of rapacious raccoons for a ferocious bear. I turned on my side, cried a little, and fell asleep.
Total miles: 57.5 miles
Total of buzz (1-10 scale): 3
Number of tears: Countless
Pride points (1-100 scale): 1000!