Monday, August 17, 2009
It was our last day, and we didn't even really know how to feel about it, other than amazed. Back in Wyoming we would have known exactly how to feel: exuberant, relieved, finally free. But then western Oregon gave us some of the best cycling of our lives, making our push to the finish feel a little less desperate. But even though we were in less of a rush to escape the bike, we were still very driven to finish the trip, to know that we had done it, to have the accomplishment firmly in our grip. As our miles-remaining count got lower and lower this week, I felt a growing sense of relief and confidence, because I knew that even if the bike broke down or one of us got injured we could find some way to make it work for the last few miles. And when we woke up this morning I was overwhelmed by the realization: we were actually going to make it across the country.
The trip still had a few surprises left for us on the final day. Two of my dad's favorite pastimes are watching minor league baseball and talking to new people, so I wasn't surprised to hear that he'd made friends with a local at a Eugene Emeralds game and told him all about our adventure. I was surprised when we heard that the guy had talked to his friends at a local news station, who would be sending a reporter to interview us this morning. The ready and raring one-man crew showed up at the hotel while we were packing up after breakfast.
He had some trouble keeping track of our wedding, start, and home locations, but otherwise it went well. We answered questions about the trip and rode slowly around the parking lot a few times for the B-roll. It was a fun time, and since no one we know will see the final product it wasn't even stressful.
After our fifteen minutes of local fame, we rode all of five miles (four if we hadn't gotten lost) to the Wandering Goat Coffee Shop, where we grabbed a morning pick-me-up and hung out with our new friends Aaron and Laura.
We had suspected that they were our kind of people when we saw that they were riding their tandem to the geographic center of every state, but it was nice to confirm it in person. They were fantastic and we had a great time swapping bike stories and repair tips, and we also asked them all about Eugene, because we're already falling in love with it enough to consider moving here. The job market is tough, of course, but they both managed to land perfect jobs for them: Laura teaches music and Aaron works for Burley, a company that makes bike trailers and other equipment. Best of all, they can both bike to work on Eugene's vast network of bike paths.
Soon Aaron had to do just that, so we all climbed on our bikes and saw more of delightful Eugene before parting ways. It was sad to say goodbye to our new friends and their amazing town, but we were very motivated by the signs leading to our final destination, Florence.
I started to feel sick in the strangely named town of Noti, but a break at a convenience store helped somewhat and we continued on down the small highway, passing through swampland followed by forests of very tall trees.
We happened on Morning Glory Farm, where Kyle enjoyed a smoothie and I consumed an entire container of blueberries.
They were delicious.
And have I mentioned that I love riding in forest shade?
It was lovely. Unfortunately the landscape started to look a lot more orange and yellow as we entered a construction zone and the traffic volume picked up. The lines of cones and pylons looked endless, and the flag people were not nearly as friendly or competent as our friends in Wyoming. But Oregon still demonstrated its care for cyclists with a bike warning light in one of the tighter tunnels.
We finally turned off of the road with the heaviest construction onto one with inactive work zones, and we also took the opportunity to stop at a small coffee shop with a great name: Caffeination Station. The decor was cheery, the owner was friendly, and Kyle's new friend was thirsty.
We got back on the road reinvigorated, talking about our plans to move to Eugene someday and singing our Bicycle Fantasy song at the top of our lungs. (Or was that last one just me?) We also wondered whether anyone still lived in the little house on top of the moving bridge.
My stomach was still bothering me, but it ceased to matter as we got closer and closer to Florence and we got more and more excited. My parents were already there, looking for a place where we could conveniently get the bike to the beach. (They discovered that our original endpoint was actually a cliff overlooking the water, which wouldn't have been the same.) We started a gleeful countdown at each new road sign.
My parents found a good place for us to finish, and they insisted on guiding us there themselves, driving ahead and jumping out of the car to direct us at every turn. They may have been more excited than we were. Finally we reached a "Staging Area" along the Oregon Dunes and followed them into the parking lot. A mountain of sand and brush stood between us and the not-yet-visible ocean.
We shouldered the bike together and followed my mom up the dune. We struggled forward, whipped by the winds and constantly stumbling. It was a fitting final challenge, really.
It was probably also fitting that it was unbelievably cold, just like the morning we set out on this crazy journey. As we crested the dune, however, we were glad that it had worked out this way. It was so much more dramatic to suddenly see the ocean spread out in front of us.
We stumbled down the slope like giddy kids and carried the bike to the ocean that we'd been seeking for so long.
Unfortunately it was much, much too cold for us to go rushing into the water the way I'd imagined it a hundred times. Instead we dipped the wheel in and ran back as quickly as we could.
I actually ran away a bit too quickly and left Kyle stranded for a moment. Ooops.
It wasn't quite sunset, so we waited on the beach, shivering together, taking photos, collecting stones and shells, and calling family and friends, though it was hard to communicate with them over the raging wind. If only it had been a little warmer so that we could have enjoyed the beautiful beach and fun dunes.
We also talked to a vacationing French family, the only other people crazy enough to be at the beach in this weather. Finally the sun was low enough for my mom to take our victory photo, which made us indescribably happy then and every time we've looked at it since.
After the nice riding in western Oregon we had no desire to throw the bike into the ocean (back in Kansas it was a different story) so we lugged it back over the dune and packed it into the car. Then it was off to Portland, where our relatives John and Trish will be hosting all of us for a few days. I had trouble adjusting to riding in a car for an extended period of time; it felt too fast and abrupt after two months of living at ten miles per hour. So I was glad to take a break for dinner at the Steelhead Brewery back in Eugene.
It was fantastic, and I felt much better as we headed into Portland and up the twisting and turning hill road to our friends' home. They were asleep, but they had left a charming celebratory gift for us in the kitchen.
We went to bed feeling very welcome, very exhausted, and very triumphant. We actually did it; we rode from coast to coast. I just can't get over it all.
| posted at: 06:23 | permanent link and comments