The final days of trip prep disappeared.
Tending to a few seriously heel-dragging tasks.
Found myself in an unnecessarily complicated telephone conversation with a Wells Fargo representative, rattling off all the places potentially crossing paths with our loosely planned route in order to create an "official travel report." Funny that they employ the same automated check-box system for a trip spanning the length of the Americas as they do Robert's business overnighter to Miami. "Or-e-gon...Cal-i-for-nia...Mex-i-co...Gua-te-ma-la..." This slow, overly enunciated listing went on until the customer service agent and I had traveled alllllll the way down to the tip of Argentina together, over the phone. Ahhh, that was nice, now please don't freeze my trip funds. Between frantic computer to-do's and procrastinated insurance plan shopping, I managed to prioritize an entire episode of the Bachelorette our last night in town, pint of coconut bliss ice cream in hand, 100% unapologetic.
Although friends threatened to send us off with celebratory streamers and champagne poppers as we crossed the bridge, enthusiasm waned after word spread that we were scheming a weekday pre-dawn departure. An appropriately Irish goodbye followed said rumors. The route out of town took us through our old neighborhood (thanks to a couple of friends still living down the street who graciously housed us for our last few nights.) With every metaphorical intention of riding past our old house, the scene of the roommate-turned-relationship crime, we missed it by one block and rather than backtracking fifty yards on a 13,000ish mile journey, Aidan just shouted "symbolism" as we (almost) rode by. Full circle. Kinda.
To pedal out of town on the same route that I used to take into work every morning was an all too fitting figurative bird flippin'. A ride often filled with desk-bound dread was now the starting point for something huge. Up and over the Broadway bridge and past a solid, seemingly endless line of opposing commuter traffic. We stopped briefly at a red light next to another young couple on bikes who took one look at our load and asked, "Where are you guys headed?" Without hesitation I said, "South America, you?" The guy sheepishly replied, "Uhhhh, work." Right, bonehead question. Like when I tell the desk agent at the airport to also have a nice flight. Knee-jerk response. "Well, have a nice day," I offered, perhaps too little, too late as they were already part way through the intersection. An interaction I'll forever remember as our first of the entire trip.
Really had it handed to us on day one. Mid 90's, real feel temp of well over a hundred. A term I learned living in Thailand pre-monsoon when the real feel temp reached 138 degrees for almost a week. Forever cursing those polyester uniforms and thick bangs that took me ten years too long to grow out. Our first day was one endlessly sweaty climb after another. We ran out of water, pretty classic. I self-diagnosed some variation of heat exhaustion after experiencing deep chills, an unsightly rash and heavy heaves in place of any sort of normal breathing pattern. I did, however, have just enough breath to occasionally shout/moan, "NOOOOOOO" at the sight of unfavorably steep terrain on the horizon. Aidan was out of earshot, but I'm pretty sure that at least one of those onlooking cows sympathized. When we finally arrived to camp some eleven or twelve hours later Aidan exhaled something along the lines of, " I cannot remember the last time I worked that hard." My response was to the similar tune of, "That might be the sweatiest I've ever been." Pretty fucking miserable, but a fitting initiation nonetheless.
These first couple weeks have unfolded as an invaluable warm up period, both physically and mentally. Much more a well-oiled machine than when we departed. Tasks have been delegated, partly by default. And partly inherent skill set. I'm the food inventory/menu planner/camp cook person. Aidan's more the stove operator, coffee initiator, general fix-it guy. We take turns with the tent, although my roll is arguably slightly tighter. It's not a competition. What was a competition though was the game of gin rummy one of our first nights where I hung Aidan out to dry. BOOM. We haven't played since. It's definitely not a competition though. Our mornings have streamlined to an efficient multitask force of water boiling, gear sorting and oatmeal stirring. Opting out of any sort of clunky coffee device, we simply use pour over filters that require the collection of two perfectly sized twigs in the morning in order to suspend the bag o' grounds from the edges of our vessels. I usually fixate on the mugs in impatient anticipation as Aidan very carefully alternates between the two, pouring juuuuust the right amount over cup A before moving onto cup B and then back to A, then B. A, B, A, B. My mouth waters and bowels twitch at the prospect of starting the day off right (read empty.) Everything is a process. This will only become more true the further away we get from familiar places, things and routines. Gone are the days of handing a barista a couple bucks and in return receiving a piping hot, perfectly pulled treat. Excess grounds, the occasional kamikaze bug and a variety of tree schmutz now adorn the beverage's surface rather than any sort of intentional artistic expression.
Aidan has a theory that there's no such thing as being tired, it's just low blood sugar. Proven effective so far. An important discovery as we're both admittedly temperamental pre snack. Temperamental could be an understatement.
We've learned thus far, in abbreviation, that peanut butter is power, period, adult diaper rash is no joke, close minded hillbillies (at this point in time/location) seem much more intimidating and irrational than the infamously feared south-of-the-border drug lords, simply asking someone is still the most effective way to acquire information, RV's suck, period, coin-operated showers can rudely leave you shivering, disrobed and fumbling through the foreign currency you accidentally packed, raccoons are cuter on YouTube than in your food bag, no one actually needs more stuff than can be carried on a bicycle, Taco Tuesday can cook up any day of the week -- alliteration be damned -- and it's the people and places you least expect that prove to be the most memorable in the end. While the places seemingly grandiose or otherwise magical on paper are rarely deserving of the spotlight. Golden. Gate. Bridge. The highs/lows are just as uplifting/discouraging as anticipated. I've only publicly cracked once. It was brief, maybe a twelve tear spill. Our bodies have been put through the wringer these first few weeks. An adjustment period if you will. It's overwhelming. And challenging. Albeit insanely rewarding. It's so many things all at once. The one thing though that it's not is boring. And for that my enthusiasm grows exponentially each day.
We've been on a west coast tear, covering ground, visiting friends, adjusting to our new lifestyle, leaving very little time and energy for reflection. When our heads hit the sleeping bags, they hit real hard. We'll slow down at some point. Until then, stay tuned and enjoy Aidan's take and a random smattering of images in no particular order. We'll get better at that part too. And since there's two sides to every story, see Aidan's transcription below. But know that my sleeping bag roll really is tighter. XO.
Getting out of Portland in and of itself was a feat. The days leading up to our departure date were stuffed with obligations both pain and pleasure. The pain: selling off furniture in strange Craigslist dealings, long trips to our tiny storage unit -- chosen for its price over proximity -- and scrubbing moldings in our old apartment in pursuit of the immaculate inspection -- I.e getting our security deposit back. The pleasure was doing our best eating tour of Portland, meeting friends whenever they had moments to have a meal, coffee or a drink. The culmination of these being our bon voyage evening that we unknowingly co-scheduled at a bar alongside the "Portland Young Professionals" mixer. They had a banner. We didn't. Any opportunities in, like, a year? A perfect send off, regardless, and a last reminder of all the great friends that make Portland home. I am/ we are deeply grateful to those who made leaving possible. From storing things, to feeding us or just double checking that we didn't leave the oven on (seriously) thanks.
Even with all the help the abstraction of the "bike trip" quickly turned into an ominous countdown clock. One of Tara's many strengths is her ability to meet a calendar date through planning and hard work ahead of time. I, on the other hand, excel at being distracted and then worrying late at night about those things not yet done. This trait left me buttoning up bags, bicycle and all obligations that require a "desktop computer", while Tara slept in the next room. The result was a 1 o'clock bedtime daunted by the T-minus 4:30 am alarm set, perfect priming for the day Tara describes above. Unanticipated hills, 95 degrees and soberly watching as the abstraction of the year ahead blurs into view through sunscreen smudged sunglasses and whatever it's called when your eyeballs start to sweat.
All that to say, it helps to have a short memory on a trip like ours. Even better to distort those memories only holding on to the good and blocking out the bad. Which, I'll admit I may be doing when I say it's almost universally great so far. Fun, exhausting, deeply rewarding and stunningly beautiful throughout. Buttt, I have had sometime to think on some of the less favorable portions of the trip.
Vehicles. We are on roads all day long, vying for space on the shoulder, at a third, a quarter, a fifth, sixth, or seventh the speed of regular traffic. By and large, we are treated with space and respect. There are, however, some worst offenders. Here they are listed below in reverse order of terribleness.
5. Honda Accord (or similar midsized sedan) 3+ heads visible. Typically young and visibly in conversation or on phones (or both) as they blast by with minimal clearance. Though not malicious, you're sort of sure they are Pokémon Going to run you off the road.
4. Commercial Trucks. Busy, fast, boxy or dumpy. They have places to be and faith in their ability to get there. Their indifference is both courteous and terrifying.
3. Diesel and Lifted. Pick-up trucks with dual exhaust and the accompanying stickers demonstrating the owner's disgust with ______. If they are so nice as to slow down (or if they are forced to) their return to speed is loud, and with the additional exhaust, feels a bit like you're conducting DEQ tests with your wind hole. Sub-category includes sometimes malicious window yellers insisting we "get a job/a car/ or off the fuckin' road".
2. RVs. Oh, RVs. So many sizes and shapes it's hard to narrow it down. The worst offender is a long box, like an oversized stick of butter (an object familiar to its driver, no doubt), and painted like a brown and white Asics running shoe. Often, they have unintentionally ironic names like Windjammer or Shockwave and/or *beautifully rendered airbrushed scenes of the wildlife they are tearing past.
1. Logging trucks. A class unto itself. In Oregon they carry Doug Firs and pull with a fury that has no regard for space, road condition or the well-being of anyone or anything. In California, Redwoods, whose bark peels off and lines the shoulder like hairy hunks of flesh making the shoulder not only narrow, but spicy with obstacles. Looking forward to replacing logging trucks with Chicken Buses etc.
The above list remains largely intact when consideration is given to the towed object.
Honda Accords rarely tow things.
Commercial trucks apparently are all available in double long. The double dump being the worst offender. Its especially long tow attachment and my naive tendency to believe the truck has passed, only to be blown by again, make it uniquely exciting.
Diesel and lifted definitely tow. We had the pleasure of catching the tail end of DuneFest while passing through Winchester Bay in Oregon. Many, many orange flagged buggies waggling behind their roaring towers en route home after helluva week dunin'.
RVs also definitely tow. The brown butter box can often be seen pulling a near full-size SUV with two bikes on the rack and kayaks on the roof making the overall operating length somewhere North of a quarter of a football field...
I never knew logging trucks came in double long. They do. And, while intimidating, one can assume these drivers have licenses and jobs that require they make it where they are going with out maiming people.
So, if you then consider the lack of any professional operating experience of the RV driver, add in the tow variable, then these nonmasted land ships with dinghies behind, take the crown for the very worst of the road.
Stay tuned next time for the social hierarchy of motorcycles and waving etiquette...