I started off my bike trip by going the wrong way through a Starbucks drive thru. Matt dropped me off just south of Astoria, Oregon, and befuddled with goodbyes and beginnings, I found myself turning down the one-way road and skirting by the large truck that was advancing through the tight space. The poor, surprised caffeine-seeker shouted a nasaly and sarcastic, “I hope I’m not in your way!” out his window, and I sheepishly continued. I sure don’t blame him for his reaction: encountering a fully outfitted bike tourist on your routine morning trip through the Starbucks drive thru sure would be odd. Well, you gotta start somewhere, somehow. What was that Chinese proverb? “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with going the wrong way down a one-way street.” Something like that.
So here I am, on day three of my trip, sitting in an old bakery on the side of Highway 101 on the central coast of Oregon. I’m over 250 miles into my journey, my thighs sunburned, my legs two sticks made of jello, my back made of 1000 knots or maybe just one big one, and I just scarfed down a brownie, an oatmeal raisin cookie, and am about to start in on a chocolate ooey gooey, a treat the owner of the bakery insisted I must wait around for long enough to come out of the oven. Okay, if you say so Mr. Baker. You don’t have to twist my arm.
Somehow I find myself on this trip, alone, with no real plan. People along the way inquire, “Where are you headed?” “Where do you think you’ll stay tonight?” I’ve taken to saying, “I don’t know, I’m kind of flying by the seat of my pants,” and sometimes add, “This is kind of new for me.” I don’t know what’s gotten into me, really. A year ago I would have had a detailed itinerary for my trip – where to stop for meals, groceries, the hundreds of waypoints that I couldn’t live without seeing. But now, on my first day of the trip, I got two flat tires and found myself carefreely singing to myself as I fixed each one. No expectations, no time limit, no enforced structure: just enjoy, deal with what comes, and then keep enjoying. I’ve always admired when other people embody these traits and now I know: gosh it’s good to live this way.
I feel like such an alpine climber going on a bike tour, if there is such a thing. Bike touring is kind of like alpine climbing, minus the climbing, and with a really grueling approach. Okay, so maybe bike touring isn’t much like alpine climbing at all, although during my 120 mile day yesterday I kept telling myself, “This is training! This is how beat you’ll feel on some of the missions you have planned, and you’ll only be a third of the way in!” Most people I pass have overstuffed front and rear panniers and all sorts of things dangling off their bike. My two panniers are barely filled: my BD firstlight tent, lightweight sleeping bag, thermarest, jacket, and jet boil are maybe a bit overkill (or underkill?) for this sort of travel, but hey, the fast-and-light girl in me loves it. The jet boil, however, is a bit excessive in its simplicity. Every day I stand in the supermarket with a blank stare on my face, wondering what the heck I can cook that has any semblance of health that just needs the shit boiled out of it.
I didn’t really realize until last night how cool of a thing this bike touring is. I walked my bike up the trail to the hiker-biker camp at Honeyman State Park and felt like I had stumbled on a scene from the movie Valhalla. The trail led into this beautiful clearing in the woods where about 20 folks were sitting around: eating, looking at maps, playing cards. Before I had my tent set up I had made four friends: Jonathan, a seasoned bike tourist headed down the coast yet again, George, a dictionary of beta for the cool places to see and stay along the journey, John, a kid from Eugene on the first day of his first bike ride, and Sara, a girl about my age from Boulder who is doing some Into-the-Wild-esqe soul searching and calling it Onto the Road. We’re all headed to San Francisco, solo, each at our own pace. At least I think that’s where I’m headed, I’m kind of flying by the seat of my pants. This is kind of new for me.