The day after the completion of our TransAm we began the next adventure: Getting home. Bonnie was prepared to take Kaitlyn back to Eugene and then on to a small town in the country until her flight a day later. She was not prepared to take myself and Eleanor anywhere! We had expected to be without a ride to Portland, where my flight would leave from one week later. We had plenty of time to ride there or hitch-hike or rent a car. Luckily, Bonnie was kind enough to offer a ride. We found a bike shop and bought a rack for $75. We could surely sell it in Portland while there and make most of our money back. The 3 hour ride into the country was a rough one! We hadn’t been for a long ride in a car for over a month. Everything flew by so quickly. I’d eaten too much for lunch. I was exhausted but couldn’t sleep. The rack on the car hung low, only about 6 inches from the ground at one point. It was enough to scare the shit out of me and turn my stomach to knots. I hadn’t gone all that way just to have my bike damaged while riding on a bike rack. To make matters worse, the rack slipped down and we had to check it regularly. I was so sickened by it all that by the time we arrived at our destination I couldn’t eat. The place we stayed that night and the night after was Bonnie’s boyfriends family’s land. It was a couple hundred acres of wooded land with the most wonderful creek running through it. There was a main cabin and house against the creek bank. You could practically step out of the door and into the water. The water was cool and still and deep where you jump in. A short swim upstream got you into small rapids. I swam up to crawl over rocks and explore the waters. There were snails and little creatures that fascinated me! They build their own shells by piling mud on themselves and collecting small pebbles to coat the mud. They just look like rocky soil. They were everywhere!
Kaitlyn’s flight was the next morning -6 am. Instead of going to bed at 9 and then getting up at 3am, we opted for an all-nighter. We headed into Portland to find a movie and an all-night diner. Harry Potter didn’t interest me or Eleanor and with our bikes hanging on the outside of the car, we were content not going in to a theatre. The first idea was to sleep but we weren’t tired enough to sleep huddled in the HOT car. So instead we drank. There was a small bar with outdoor seating. Wine barrels stacked high, fancy drinks flowing, girls dressed up. We sat smelly in our 80 day old outfits and ordered beers and fries-a beautiful meal. Cheers to completing the journey!
We were dumped at the airport with Kaitlyn. By then her bike had been shipped and all that was left was her trailer to carry aboard. We all said our good-byes and Bonnie was gone. Kaitlyn was gone. Eleanor and I loaded up our bikes with our gear, for the last time. I stacked the bike rack in it’s box on top of my back rack. It was quite a sight! Bungeed and awkwardly situated, I hoped it would survive the trip into town. The Portland airport is 40 minutes away from Portland by train. Lucky for us, the train stop was located inside the airport! The train started running at 5 so we had made it in plenty of time to catch the first ride into the city before the sun came up.
Back when we all began planning our trips, long before we knew each other, we had all had chats with the ones closest to us to discuss our ideas of going across the country via bike. With every person we told we collected more an more contacts: emails, phone numbers, towns to see, roads to travel, etc. The suggestions rolled in. I was told to go see a couple on Vancouver Island who I’d never met. They weren’t even on my route but for that persons’ reasons, it was a “must-see” place. So far I’d seen old work buddies in Damascus, The Cookie Lady in Virginia, a restaurant in Kansas, Adam in Boulder, a rep in Longmont, Kaitlyn’s friend in Denver, the girls’ buddy while in Idaho, Kim, Kaitlyns friend in Eugene…..and now it was time to visit Kiera- Eleanors relative she hadn’t seen since she was fresh out of diapers. Trips like these tend to pull all contacts out of the woodwork. We’d tried to find many people/friends/strangers to stay with while in Portland because a stay of more than 2 days may be unwelcome. At that point it was Kiera to the rescue. We had directions to her place-just down the street from the train stop-would that be a fair assessment of distance? Turned out to be! Around 6 am we hauled all of our gear up the apartment stairs where it could rest for a couple of days. Kiera turned out to be more than kind in every way. She took us to the grocery store, to bike shops and out to dinner. After just a day she even told us we could stay until my flight which was 4 more days away! We spent those days sampling the local beers, exploring busy streets, and checking out the eye candy: tatoos. I’ve never seen so many inked folks in my life. The entire trip I’d been dreaming about getting a tatoo but after 5 days of staring at everyone else’s tats I was content with my virgin skin. Maybe I don’t need anything permanent…yet.
Though there was much to do in Portland, we were easily content with walking-not riding, with sampling beers-no more than 3 in a day, with lounging at the pool-not doing laps at 5 am. My body was just fine with as little strenuous activity as possible. However, by the last day as I watched Eleanor pedal away towards the coast all by herself, I had an overwhelming itch to ride, run, climb-anything to exhaust my well rested body. Because you get used to the grind, you don’t even realize how much you really do push yourself every day. Take that away from yourself and it’s like taking cigarettes away from an addict. It became normal to be on the road and now it’s all gone.
Eleanor left that day only to return the next. She later told me that her parents offered to help get her home. Funny thing is that they waited until she’d landed on the coast again to offer. Maybe next year we’ll do the coast….anyone else in?
My last day in Portland finally brought on some of the emotions that I had expected to feel my last days on the bike. Reality was sinking in. I made it. I did the miles. I pushed myself. I had a blast. I made great friends and met only nice people, pure of spirit. My heart raced on and off throughout the day. I was more than happy to head home. I was excited to see the family, the farm, the crops and trees, the familiarities that we all take for granted. I was happy to think of the next chapter: back to Charleston and then on to New York City by October.
I was curious…how would jumping back into “the real world” affect me?
Good bye West coast. I will miss you.