Seattle to Portland

9 May


One of the many things I didn’t get around to doing before leaving on this bike trip was pick up a voice recorder. I know I’ve had many small eppiphanies already in these two long days of riding, but having ADD means any insightful thought is quickly replaced by “Look. Cows!!” and then it’s gone. So until I buy one, these entries will be brief. 

After two days of 100 miles each, here’s what I know so far about my body. My eyes will be bloodshot by the end of the day. Around mile 85 my ass starts aching. The sorest muscles in my body when I climb off the bike are my abs, constantly tensed from bending over. I’m not nearly as tired as I should be when the day is done, but I sleep like the dead and wake to a new game “Where didn’t the sunblock cover”

I set off from Mercer Island on the first day past Seward Park and the lake route, Mt. Rainier coming ever closer and remaining on my left, the steel blue rock sharp beneath the blinding white. I’m riding through equal parts farm land, office parks, and residential neighborhoods of flat suburbia. Dogs chase me across the lengths of their yard, one terrier so intent he ran headfirst into the wooden fencepost. Dogs tethered to the ground run in circles growling frantically. Two dogs left their yard to chase after me and I turned and yelled back at them until they gave up their pursuit. Insects dive into my mouth regularly, or get trapped in my arm and leg hair. A wasp rode up my shorts leg and stuck my thigh, both of us upset they were that close to my balls. Cows wander aimlessly in the fields, Horses traverse their enclosures, looking up with dark eyes in curiosity. Alpacas stand around dopily, cause they’re idiots.

The cultures blend as the miles roll beneath my feet. I’m passing college kids checking their iphones, wandering to class in yoga pants. Shirtless men with skullets and back tattoos lining up in front of a meat shop in the middle of nowhere. A mexican gardener waves to me enthusiastically from his truck outside Roy, then again as I pass Yelm, and finally honks and gives a thumbs up as I’m entering a taqueria for my dinner and I wave back happily. A gun shop that definetly used to be a church. In one short block in Yelm, in the middle of tract housing, a grocery store, a veteranary hospital, a Subway Shop, a Kindergarten and a Gardening shop all sit side by side. Logging trucks trundle by fully loaded, the environmentalist in me saddened as another piece of the earth is taken away, but damn does fresh cut lumber smell good. Cows wander beside red barns, on an enclosed bike path canoes and mist fill a lake as I race to beat the setting sun. Railroad tressles span wide forrested rivers. I pass a bank in Ranier who’s clock display is off by an hour and 23 minutes and I wonder how they expect anyone to trust them with money. I pass a biker bar with a gun show on Fridays because how isn’t that a great idea? And now I’m in Portland, surrounded by great beer and ironic neck tattoos.

The hills are relatively easy despite the extra 30 or so pounds I’m carrying. The “Checked by Radar” and Speed limit signs mock me as I pump my legs furiously on the easy gears, hoping there’s a downslope on the other side. I pass beneath humming power lines, giants tethered together as they march into the distance. The rolling hills become monotonous as I ride highway 30 to Portland, but time passes with regularity. Whether I’m rolling past lakes, rivers, swamps or beneath cooridors of trees time clicks by the same as in the cities. I pass my time through the cities watching for cars, on the lonely highways listening the to twittering of birds that cut through the rushing wind, and when I’m in that middle ground of highways beside train tracks I throw in some music and stop my mind from wandering.

The first night I set up my tent in the soft grass of a church I’d contacted earlier that day. It was restless sleep, expecting to wake to the cops shaking my tent. I’d recieved verbal permission from the church, but no one would be there until morning to confirm it. I shoved my two panniers and backpack into the tent and curled fetal in the space left. Last night I arrived in Portland and met up with another comedian who’s sharing his home for two nights. After dropping off my bike at the house and a quick shower, we head out for an open mic and I do a solid 8 minutes, my first set in a new state.

This being the second time I’ve bicycled this trip, I flash back as I pass the milestones from 3 years ago when I rode with my friend. The Motel in Spanaway that claimed no vacancy despite a mostly empty parking lot. The park in Roy where we spent a restless night sleeping on a park bench between two rednecks fighting in a trailer and from the noises by the pond, two cats raping an extraterrestrial. The long hill where he caught heat stroke, the small grocery store where I left him to wait for his friend with a pick up and I continued on, finishing the 150 mile ride that day in 15 hours and arriving in Portland. I call the same friend for a pick up, and am so wiped I can’t figure out how cross streets work.

 I think about this now because I made it to Portland easily this time. I gave myself plenty of time each morning, take rests when I need to, call ahead to arrange places to sleep, and the two days have passed awesomely. Part of me believes this is because I’m older, more mature, and more capable after all my travels of handling another journey. But, given my track record, it’s probably just luck. I can’t wait to find out which.

Thanks for reading, and if you want to donate to a great cause, please support Engineers without Borders


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