Day 6, Bruceport to Seaside, 58 miles
Drizzle on the tent fly. I groan. NOAA has predicted this today. I groan again, and roll out to bed, make oats, pack things up, try to get inspired for the day ahead.
I’d been planning a long ride, but with wet conditions I know I’ll be riding slower. Physically and emotionally, weather takes a toll. As does the internal climate. Lots of ruminating, longing, tears, loneliness. Jules is commenting, chatting with me via Facebook, reminding me not to see these as “negatives”, but instead just part of who I am, now. I agree. Moods are often merely a certain weather that will pass.
“Hello” calls a voice, walking over. I meet the other cyclist camped here last night. Shun Yanagisawa. He’s riding from Vancouver BC to Argentina. Wow! These trekkers, doing the Pan-American highway, always impress me. Maybe some day I’ll be one of them. Shun tells me he has cycled many other countries, southeast Asia, but had to take a break due to a knee injury. Now he is resuming his grand world tour.
We exchange emails and blogs and take the necessary selfie.(His blog is in Japanese, but Google Chrome will translate automatically http://fieldofvision.jugem.jp/ ) He’s headed to Cape Disappointment for the night. I tell him I’m sure out paths will cross, down the road. As they often do, with cyclists I meet along this epic route. I’m feeling bright as I push off, ringing my bell.
Creaky legs, starting the ride. I’m thinking of the planned 80 miles, and it seems daunting. A series of short hills reinforces my apprehension, so early in the ride. The 101 follows along Willapa Bay for several miles, winding between forest and clearcuts and sloughs and river crossings. The riding is easy, and at least the drizzle isn’t cold.
The miles are long. My mind is wandering, between the present and the past. I want to change this, so I focus. I notice the trees again, and the road, and my legs, and my beating heart, and my breath. There, the ride shifts, I feel my strength, confidence, courage. This is what I’m doing. I’m a touring cyclist. I’m living in the world. I’m bringing myself along for the ride. Time passes now, without notice. Miles too.
I come to the intersection of 101 with another highway, heading east, to catch the road down to the Astoria bridge. I stop at a coffee shack for food and espresso. Liquid inspiration. Now the climb over the last few hills in Washington comes easy. The highway descends to the Columbia, skirts around the vast river’s edge towards the bridge.
The Astoria-Megler Bridge. I turn onto the iconic five mile span, begin the long crossing on a narrow bike lane. Many log trucks, RVs, all give me room. At three miles or so, I climb the tall span. Painting crews still at work, how many years now? I like this though, because they pace the traffic. The flagger cheers me on, and I descend the curved ramp down into Astoria.
I stop at the coffeeshop under the bridge, recall the last time I was here. Romance surging in my heart, cuddling on the couch. I feel the loss again, and tears come. There I go, crying in public again. My political statement, against the patriarchy. This man knows how to feel. And is unashamed.
I spend a long while, drinking good coffee, eating quiche (another thing real men actually do). I’m thinking of the rest of the ride. Seems Nehalem Bay is impossibly far away. Resigned, I head out and over Young’s Bay, towards Fort Stevens. I don’t like that park, with the hiker/biker sight right next to a huge trash compactor. I remember it going off all night. And the mosquitos. And tonight, the drizzle.
I stop in Warrenton, text my high school friend Dennis who has a house in Arch Cape. I haven’t seen him for years, and he says I should come visit, every time he notices my tours on Facebook. Alas, he’s away for the night. I remember the WarmShowers host I’ve heard about in Seaside. Yes, that would take a few miles off tomorrow’s ride. I send off a message, and am almost immediately confirmed. “Come on over”
The last 14 miles go fast, despite the increasing drizzle. The highway is flat, and I have a warm roof and warm shower waiting. I’m a bit nervous about meeting a new person. But, as the hosting on WarmShowers goes, I have nothing to worry about. Neil is there, watching football, showing me the bed and shower and laundry. Every thing a soggy cyclist could want. He says I need to write in his log book, which has pages and pages of greetings, from the hundreds of guests he sees a year.
We talk a long while, about his hosting travelers through WarmShowers and Couchsurfing, his career as a school counselor, the prank of his friend spray painting a happy face on his garage door. He tells me he goes away on trips, and the guests keep coming, even while he is away. I mention I’ve heard about his hosting spot, from cyclists down the road, on prior trips. “You’ve go to stay with Neil in Seaside” they’ve told me. He laughs. Tells me he loves the experience, “The world comes through my door.” Visitors from Japan, Britain, Germany, Norway, France.
I bid Neil goodnight, and retire to my room. I think about my desire, to get a house in Yachats, open it up to this kind of place. To be able to bring in guests from all over the world, to hear stories and offer compassion and hospitality, to travel the world without even leaving the house. And then to be able to go away on my travels, knowing that I’ll have a place to return to, filled with warmth and laughter and generosity. To have the world come through my door.