Portland to Newport OR

15 May


I’m sitting in a Pizza Buffet in Waldport chuckling at what my six year old self would think of me. I filled up a salad bar plate so full of veggies it was a struggle to finish two slices afterward. My six year old self would wondering why I hadn’t reversed the order. It’s the first veggies I’ve had in 5 days, it’s worth the extra cost and I’m loading up. My plan is to bike about a hundred miles to the next campsite.

A quick note for those of you who I haven’t spoken to in a bit, I am bicycling from Seattle to San Francisco, returning by train May 25thfor a wedding, then setting out again from Seattle across the country to Yorktown, VA. 

For those of you asking why I’m doing this; Hi, I’m Paul. How did you get on my email list?

I left Portland on Thursday, catching the train to Hillsboro then heading east through some gorgeous, windy, empty farmland and into the forest. It surprised me gun ranges don’t carry highway signs as targets, because people love shooting them. The only one I saw that wasn’t full of holes ironically said “ELK” I know there’s a mountain ahead and when I see the 2000 ft climb approach I think “Fuck, that’s a lot of up” After Japan, I know the routine. When you think you’re done, you’re about halfway up, when you think you’re dying, you’re closer. I climb further and further, fighting with physics all the way to the top, where we kiss and make up as I zoom down the hill at 30 mph, bugs bouncing off my grinning teeth. After 64 miles, most of them panting, I sleep for the night beside a river.

The next day its 20 miles through farmland. Cows line up single file to pass beneath the highway from one pasture to another. They take their turns by the fence staring at me, then sniffing a plastic bag by the fence and moving on. I wonder if every time I moo at them they look back thinking “His Accent is terrible.” More long miles and I reach the town of Beaver, consisting of a gas station, a school house, and a Grocery/Gun Shop, but it’s also the gateway to the 101, the binary highway I’ll be on till I reach San Francisco. I lunch in nearby Hebo, listening to a group of women agreeing that 35 dollars is too much to spend on a Garden Gnome, even if it is limited edition. I leave the Nuscatt river and finally see the ocean again from a lookout, the hazy blue arc curving below the horizon. I chat with Tony and Katie, a Duluth couple who moved to Portland after canoeing down the Mississippi, then head on through the Siuslaw National Forest, a rough road and difficult upslope through the muggy forest, but totally worth it as I zoom down another decline, laughing as I watch the odometer. Some breathtaking viewpoints of the ocean eating it’s way through coves, the expensive houses and lawns at the edge giving way to treeline that extends over the mountains into the distance and I reach my campsite past Newport beach. For the first time I see other cyclists: A Florida couple on their way to Missoula, the husband doing back end coding support from his tent, a South African riding from Vancouver BC to Tiajuana. Later 3 weaving cyclists show up, having biked 20 miles between the Deschutes Brewery to the campsite and nearly taking down the couple’s hanging laundry as they approach.

For the first time on yesterday’s ride, I began having fun. I’ve been enjoying the bicycling since I left Monday 7th, but there’s always been something on my mind. The need to get to a place to sleep the first night, the need to arrive in Portland in time for Comedy the second. The difficulties of the climb on the fourth day. The worry of what I’m getting out of it, comparing it to my journey in Japan, where by the third day I’d already faced down a boar and collapsed my way up a mountain thinking I was dying. Yesterday I began to let it all go. There will be no structure like in Japan, instead of temples and prayer, the excitement and confusion of a foreign culture I’m here to experience the Geography, to meet as many people as I can, and to have an entirely different journey, with different challenge and different lessons. As I sat on the hillside, or biked through the forest I heard myself calculating my times and distances and reminded myself of my mantra “Shut up, you’re lucky to be here, just enjoy the ride.” And I’d smile, take a deep breath, and enjoy the view. 

Some stray observations:

It’s only in the small towns where the Asian restaurants have to say “Chinese American Cuisine” on the signs

How is it a town without a dentist has a spray tan place?

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