October 7, 2006
I wake in the motel room, and stay in bed for a while. I take a shower, since I skipped it last night, and watch the beginning of a movie called Pay It Forward, while enjoying use of the coffee maker in the room. The movie has an interesting theme that applies to a trip like this.
It’s a clear, blue, beautiful day. I see the road I traveled in the dark last night in a new light. I think some more about the guy from the fairgrounds. Maybe I just scared him. Also since there are so many bums and hippies in Oregon, maybe there are some bum/hippie haters. He never saw my bike or anything. I came walking out of nowhere looking the way I do, and basically said, “Oh, I’m sleeping in that doorway over there.” I should have said I was in the Winnebago.
The riding today is excellent, and I’m drowned in a wonderland of things that grow. It seems that all they grow around here is grapes and hops – happy crops on a happy Saturday in the countryside. Even the radio DJ’s are in a good mood – I hear U2 Beautiful Day and Beatles Good Day’s Sunshine. My touring mojo is back, and the miles come easy.
I stop in the small town of Amity, and have some Little Debbies. This is the most quaint little town I see all day, as the towns gradually grow larger and more commercial near Portland.
Later in another town I stop for some Pringles and Coke, and finally later yet, I make a phone call and confirm where I’m staying tonight. I talk to Joe’s wife, as in Joe “The Metal Cowboy” I met the other day. She says everything is still cool.
Closer now to Portland, I take to the back roads along the west side of the city. Picking my route from the road map earlier, I didn’t realize I’d be going up this monster hill. Maybe the fact that the road was called “Skyline” something or other should have been my first clue.
I sweat all the way up this thing, and it feels like my hardest climb since the Appalachians. There’s radio towers up there. Near the top there’s a convenience store, where I stop for a Snickers and Mountain Dew.
The descent is steep and fast, and I’m careful not to pick up too much speed amid auto traffic. It’s been a thickly wooded road. All of a sudden the trees clear, and I find myself in the middle of downtown Portland!
I coast in on this Saturday evening, and drift clear through the heart of the city. I cross the Willamette River, and ride directly in front of The Rose Garden arena… in a bicycle lane. The “light rail” eases by – a sort of train/trolley with three cars.
I make my way close to Joe’s house, and call again to say I’ll be there in a few minutes. It’s almost 7pm. “I’m sorry it’s so late in the evening,” I say.
I pull up in front of the house, and am approached by his 6 year old son. “Your blinking light is still on,” he tells me, and proceeds to go on telling me about all the drunk drivers that have crashed in front of the house. Joe comes out and shows me inside, where I meet his wife. They feed me rice, pork chops, and corn on the cob!
The kitchen is a cheery room painted in bright yellow, and decorated with the kids’ art. I sit and play Texas Hold ‘Em with Joe and his 8 and 6 year old sons. Black chips are worth $100 dollars (The kids are high rollers), but Joe and I keep calling them one dollar by mistake.
The boys are all wound up because there’s “company” in the house. It reminds me of how I used to torment my older brother and sister every time they had friends over to visit. “All in!” the boys say, “All in!”
After bed time, Joe and I sit up and look at maps, discuss places all around the country, and share stories. He’s done four cross country bicycle trips, hiked the AT, parts of the PCT, and countless other trips. He wrote for Bicycling Magazine for a couple years, Backpacker Magazine, a number of others… and has, I think, two books published… it’s a big resume. His site is www.metalcowboy.com
Soon it’s time for bed, and I sleep on a mattress in the basement. Life is good.
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