Cold nights and warm hearts

Day 15, Elk Prairie to Patrick’s Point State Park, 23 miles

Barely slept last night, so cold, took me getting up several times before I realized I needed to don all my extra clothes – two pair socks, two long sleeve shirts, fleece vest, rain pants – to at last stop shivering and get some rest. Thermometer on my bicycle computer read 37°F. Cold night in the redwoods.

I crawl out of my nest at 9am, greet my neighbors, Rosa and Tilo, from Berlin. We laugh at the cold night, also trying to remember how to translate from Fahrenheit to Celsius. Thus begins another bicycle touring friendship. They’ve been on tour for a month, taking a bus from Arcata to San Francisco this weekend to fly back to Germany. We share social media contacts, I tell them about the Palm Cafe, and we plan to meet up there.

I ride into the chill morning, reminding myself I’ve only a few miles to go to breakfast. The Palm in Orick has become a regular stop, one endeared to me after 2015, when I was traveling with Alice and Roberta, and met Jerry. Alice and Jerry hit it off over his love of the Queen, and showed us all his paraphernalia from Crown. I jump off the bike and head in, resolved to warm up and get back to my blogging. “Remember me?” I ask Jerry. He’s not sure, so I remind him of Alice. But he sees hundreds of travelers a year. As the morning wears on, however, he comes back to the table and says, “Now it’s coming back to me.” We share stories about restaurateuring as his family owns the Palm. “My mom thinks I’m going to take it over. But I tell her no way!” We laugh. I know what he’s talking about.

Tilo and Rosa eventually roll up, she’s delighted to see French Toast on the menu, but orders a different plate instead. I tell Jerry to bring the French Toast too. Tilo and I discuss cycling in Germany, in Europe, he recommends a few routes. I tell him I’ll need a guide, maybe we can ride together. Our conversation turns to world affairs and politics. I tell him I want apologize to him, Germany, and the world in general, as an American, for the antics of the man in the White House. We all shake our heads, still in disbelief. I recall an article that Merkel is now the de facto leader of the free world, since democracy has been hijacked in the US. Tilo talks about how nativism and white supremacy is rising in Europe as well, with a religious undercurrent. Seems so easy to talk with him, with Germans in general, about the dangers of the xenophobic movements. Perhaps it’s because Germans know what happens when you don’t pay attention to the rise of the Nazis.

I think of white resentment in the US, not really white supremacy, more the disenfranchized, poor or working class. How Trump and the ultra/alt-right were able to exploit the emotions of these folks to upturn the ordinary state of electoral politics. It started with the Tea Party, a true race-based rebuttal of Obama’s legitimacy. Unchecked by the liberals and progressives, this movement sought to undermine his administration at every turn. Now Trump, elected primarily by racial hatred and xenophobia, seeks to overturn every achievement Obama so painfully won.

Locally in my home town, white resentment finds expression, as a peaceful protest of Charlottesville is harassed by trucks with Nazi flags, a resident of a Christian cooperative displays a confederate flag in a window facing the Black student union on the OSU Campus, and controversy over the cultural appropriation of Asian-Pacific culture by a local bar owner makes the national alt-right news. Corvallis Oregon has a dark history of racism, and as a mostly white community has a long ways to go still. As a member of the dominant class, I seek to understand the experiences of people of color, to educate myself through listening to their experiences, and to challenge others when I see intolerance or oppression.

All this can make for awkward dinner conversation, especially within ones family or close circle of friends. Yet if we cannot speak through our awkwardness, practice nonviolent communication, how can we hope to reach across to others who seem to share less in common. To remember our common humanity, that even the person who is acting in a way which seems threatening, harmful or even violent, even that person is doing the best they can to protect themself, even that person is deserving of empathy and compassion. This is the way of Ahimsa, nonviolence, peacemaking. I hope to be able to live this practice, in my life, day to day.

And now, to bid my new German friends goodbye, and even after 3 hours at the Palm, to have to say goodbye to Jerry. “Leaving already?” he asks. I promise to see him next year, if not sooner. Perhaps sooner. I’m beginning to feel at home here, in northern California. I push off, riding around of the hills as 101 winds around the many lagoons north of Arcata. The air is cool, but not as chilly. I’m feeling a warmth in my heart, for the sharing at the table, for the friendship with Jerry, for my beloveds at home in Corvallis, for the new friends I have yet to meet.

I turn onto Patrick’s Point Drive, rolling down to the state park. I’ve only camped there once before, but I’m wanting to relish the wildness a bit more before hitting the bustle of Arcata. Sea lions are barking below, and the sun is setting in the west. I chat with two other cyclists, once riding all the way to Argentina. We joke about my proclivity to ride too far, as in the 75 mile marathon of a couple days ago. He suggests I hike up to the top of the rock above the site. Seems like a good idea. First though, dinner and rest.

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