On Saturday, Aug. 3, I biked alone into Eugene, Oregon. The ladies wanted to get to town for the markets and post office. I, on the other hand, wanted to meander through the moss covered trees along the river for the 50 miles we would travel that day. I had nowhere to be at ay particular time. It was a little lonely to pack up my tent and bags by myself. However, I love the silence. I love not hearing the unspoken words of the girls wishing me to pack faster. Sometimes it’s what you don’t hear from people that can be the hardest to deal with. I wish they would say aloud to hurry my ass up. But not today. No words of any kind.
I wind through the trees. They tower over me. The moss is dark green and thick. It covers every branch as a sleeve and drapes itself over rocks and roofs on houses. The beauty of this stretch of road is unbelievable. The air smells fresh and cool. I’m by the river all day and I actually have time to stop and write in my journal, something I wish I’d taken the time to do the whole way. Thinking back on it now, I was rarely in the right frame of mind during the day to write…oh well…
Blackberries covered the roadside. I stopped for over 30 minutes to fill my belly and a water bottle with the delicious berries. I got into Eugene around 11, still very early for having already ridden 50 miles. The market was still going strong. It’s amazing how flat land can help you fly! They have huge Saturday markets that remind me of Charleston. I can’t wait to return there to purchase some local foods. Going into a walmart or to a market is like tourture for us ladies. What people would normally buy without thought we have to think hard and long about. Can we fit it on the bike? Do we want to carry that weight? Will it last in the heat? Will we eat it all? Smaller mom and pop stores limit our choices and make life much easier when we’re making these decisions.
I met up with the girls and Kim, a friend of Kaitlyns, for lunch, then it was an afternoon of relaxing until our next meal-tai for dinner. Tomorrow would be our last day on the trail. Our last miles ridden together. I should have been beside myself with emotions. I was simply tired and full. I didn’t have many feelings about it.
We headed out around 8 on the bikepath that followed a creek through Eugene. These bike paths are such a treat when we come across them. It wasn’t long before we were about 5 miles outside of the city and I saw an older man pushing his very nice racing-style bike. He was dressed in blue jeans and a button up collared shirt. This isn’t the normal attire of a sunday morning cyclist this far out of town. I thought that something must be wrong. I offered to help him if I could. He said he had a flat and 8 miles to push his bike. Wow. I learned that he rides every week about 30 miles at a time. But he never brings any tools!!!! Brave. Stupid. So I patched his tube for him and helped to get him back on the bike. Note to all riders: Do not leave the house without your tire iron, spare tube, and a pump or CO2. You can get a flat at any time!
Off we went again. The mountains we saw in the distance were tricky. Our map didn’t indicate that we would have any hills today so how were we getting past those? Instead of climbing another pass we wound our way along the base of the mountains. We had about 80 miles to go that day, our last, and the miles didn’t seem to fly by as we’d imagined they would. We thought our own adrenaline would push us faster and carry us quickly to the coast where a parade had formed in our honor. Music would play and church bells would ring. The mayor would come to the beach to present us with our medals and our eyes would fill with tears as we said goodbye to our journey. Isn’t that what happens when you finish the TransAmerica ride?
Instead, Eleanor lead us for about 7 miles through harsh head winds. Then I lead for the remaining 10 or so miles into Florence. It was painful. My knees were aching but I wanted so badly to just finish. It was a relief to see the sign for Florence. We’d been hot all day biking in the sun but for the last couple of miles the temperature had dropped dramatically. I had my longsleeves on again and was wishing I was wrapped up tight in my sleeping bag. Once we technically finished by entering Florence, it was still another 5 miles to the ocean. Bonnie, another of Kaitlyns friends, surprised us by coming all the way to Florence to take pictures and celebrate with us. She was in Oregon anyway but was supposed to meet Kaitlyn in Eugene the next day. Instead, she saved her the ride back and came all the way to the coast! Good friend.
She helped pick up the pizza and keg of beer so we could bike the last miles together to the water. It’s surprisingly hard to find the ocean. Access is limited to parks and private land so we found the nearest park. We rode over gravel to get to the waters edge. Now I was excited. The mayor wasn’t there, he must be busy, the parade hadn’t come by, they must be stuck in traffic. No music played. No balloons. What we did have was great satisfaction. We had just completed a 79 day long journey across America hauling everything essential to live on our bicycles. My odometer read 4,025 miles exactly. I tore off my shirt, threw my shoes to the side and ran full speed into the water. I kept going and going. Running and running. When will it get deep? Oh hell, belly flop! It was a sandbar for as far as I could see but who cares! It’s the OCEAN!
The freezing cold water kept me moving right back to shore. I don’t think I’ve been in water that cold. The girls quickly followed into the salty Pacific and the we quickly rode back to the park to eat and set up for our last night. The pizza and beer were the best. It was the best nights sleep. It was the best camp fire. It was just the best!