Finding my legs, finding my heart

Day 8, Bullards Beach to Humbug Mountain State Park, 37 miles

Gerry was right. He said it takes about a week to find your legs on a tour. That is, to become comfortable riding long distances, when the legs no longer scream at every hill, the ass not longer aches to sit on the saddle, the riding becomes routine, everyday, fades from focus.

A week in, I am finding my legs. What happens then? Everything else. My mind is freed to wander, wonder, obsess if I wish, or to dream, fantasize, envision. So many thoughts on today’s ride. Memories, worries, joys, gratitude, grief. Everything else.

I start the morning with a quick packing up, head over the Coquille River bridge and on to Old Town Bandon. I spend hours in the coffeeshop Jennifer and I enjoyed so well back when we had first met. Two years ago. Seems so long, a lifetime. Such inner terrains I’ve traveled, with and without her.

Noon, I ride on, down the long straightaway of 101, past cranberry bogs, rolling hills, farmland, streams, forest. The winds continue lightly from the south, but the sky is clearing. I stop at Langlois, mispronounced by locals as “Lang-Loyz”. Why. Something against the French? Their World Famous hot dog is bland and boring. I’ll skip it next time.

Onward, three long climbs. Legs not complaining any more, I simply gear down and pedal. Breathing stronger, steady, climbing, climbing. Glad the drizzle is over, the cool temperatures a relief from the heat I generate in my ascent. The three descents are delightful, full speed, cruising.

I roll through Port Orford, an old fishing port, showing signs of decline. The co-op has closed, many empty businesses. I wonder how a town like this can continue, where people living here might work. I shutter at the thought of trying to start a business, say a restaurant, out here in the middle of nowhere.

After a picture at Battle Rock, I ride on to Humbug Mountain. Just a few miles, rolling hills, amazing vistas of the now clear skies over endless ocean. The hulk of Humbug loops, a lava dome perched on the edge of the continent. The highway curves sharply, following Brush Creek around and behind the mountain. I reach the camp long before any other cyclists appear. I set up my tent, shower, then head to the beach. I cross the main campground, closed for construction of water pipes.

It’s been along time since I walked this beach. I’m flooded with memories. The first, when I cycled the coast in 1991. Later visiting with my family. In 2012, after being stung in the face by a yellow jacket. That was the year Zach died, walking on the beach near Newport. I remember he beauty, his love, how many of us still grieve his loss.

The beach is empty, some would say desolate. I’m alone, but not lonely. I ponder these memories, the many relationships, transitions, gifts and losses I’ve receive over the years. I remember how much pain I’ve felt here. And the joy. Today, I’m feeling… neutral. Is this the sometimes elusive equanimity that Zen Buddhism seeks through mindfulness practice? Is this the desired state? Or the calm in the storms of my soul, eye of the hurricane that is me? I know my grief will return, as will my desire, my ecstasy.

Thus I am finding my heart, now a week into my tour. I desire the life fully lived, as Goethe wrote, to become the butterfly drawn inexorably to the flame, and then to be gone. To die and thus to grow, lest I be merely a trouble guest on the dark earth. The sun slips below the far horizon, clouds momentarily on fire with radiant crimson hues. I breathe deep the salt air, and sigh just as deeply.

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