Ride Home, Day 4: Longview to Portland

Route

It’s an uphill climb. (I rode B to A.)

It was raining when I woke up in Longview, Washington.

Backpack

Getting ready to go.

I left late and ate breakfast at a local health food cafe to kill some time while hoping that the rain would let up. It didn’t. I hit the street at 11:30 AM.

Raining

View from room 15.

My camera stayed safe and dry in a plastic bag inside my backpack. My backpack stayed dry inside a plastic bag of its own.

I crossed the Lewis and Clark Bridge into Oregon by riding my bike on the shoulder, which was covered in rich smelling cedar wood chips. Perhaps a truck spilled them. The cars drive pretty slow on the bridge because the passage is so narrow. I wondered why the people who designed the bridge never thought to include a bicycle lane or pedestrian walkway.

On the Oregon side, a hiker walking with two walking sticks and a large backpack stopped me to ask about crossing the bridge on foot. I told him he could make it if he was careful. We parted ways.

Route 30 from Mt. Rainier to Portland consists mostly of a constant upward incline or else it’s flat. Mostly however, it’s uphill.

Congestion

Entering Portland.

It rained relentlessly during the first three hours. The cold wind, misty spray from passing trucks and strong headwinds really tested my resolve. When my left arm grew weak and my fingers started going numb, I began to question if I’d make it the whole way home. It was hard to tell if the rain had soaked through my raincoat or if I had sweat through to the rain.

I sang songs in my head and took it moment by moment. Each time I turned the pedals it brought me that much closer to home. Eventually I began singing songs out loud.

When I’d get to the top of a hill and round the bend only to find another hill to climb, I’d laugh at the sky. Ha! Hills from Portland to Port Townsend now know my name and they tremble when they see me coming.

At some point the rain let up and the temperature warmed slightly. Good thing. I had begun to grow cold. Knowing that I’d be able to sleep in my own bed kept me moving.

I took out my camera after it hadn’t rained in a while. I was covered in grit and wet but my camera was dry.

Grit

Gritty, gritty, gritty ride.

My legs certainly were tired. I rode 75 miles the day before, 50 the day before that and 40 the day before that.

Hill

Where I was going.

Still, the hills couldn’t stop me!

Hill

Where I came from.

Finally, I saw the sign for Portland. About an hour to go.

Portland 10 Miles

Almost home!

Ten miles of slow incline.

Hill

Another hill!

Every time it looked like I was able to coast I’d stop pedaling and the bike would stop. The wind was pushing me back. The rain had soaked me to the bone. The hills were trying to get me. It was as if BP was controlling the weather.

Road

Almost there.

I knew where I was and it wasn’t far from home.

Stop light at St. John's Bridge

Picture taken as red light turned green by St. John’s Bridge.

It had warmed up and I was on familiar streets. I was nearly there, limp arm and all.

Bike lane

Portland bike lane.

Portland began to welcome me.

Green colored building

Noticing things I hadn’t before.

I saw things anew and noticed things never before seen.

Last hill

Cresting the bridge.

The bridge to Front Street was the last hill I’d have to climb.

Front Street

Cruising down Front Street.

I slid into the Pearl District by way of 17th street and was home at 4 PM.

Home

Home! Photo by Gwenn.

It was so good to see Gwenn! She took some pictures before we went inside.

Grit

Rain picks up all the dirt. Photo by Gwenn.

I did it! I rode 450+ miles round-trip to protest the BP oil disaster.

I didn’t spend a cent on gasoline or car insurance.

It took five days to get to Port Townsend and four days to get back to Portland. Going home is always faster.

I learned a lot and have many more questions and ideas. My legs are tired and my resolve is strong. 

The road is long, life is short.

I’ll be writing a summary of this experience (including a more detailed budget analysis) and more about cars, bicycles, oil, and living green in the comings days.

Ride Home, Day 3: Olympia to Longview

I rolled today! 75 miles of rolling to be exact.

Route

Day 3 route.

Yesterday was such a windy, slow day. Today I was determined to make the best of it.

Capitol

Washington Capitol.

Even though the shower was a trickle, the water was hot. It wasn’t going to stop me from being in a good mood.

I left the hotel at about 9 AM. The sun was out and the temperature mild. I got a bagel and started peddling.

Due to the nice weather, I rode with my camera strapped to my body so to be able to take photos along the way.

Having the camera inspires me to notice things.

Open road

Open road.

Samantha (the voice in my GPS) took me on a ‘shortest ride’ route and it worked out well. I passed some pretty scenery.

Shady place

This is someone’s front yard.

Old Highway 99 was a decent road with few steep inclines and a good amount of shoulder. Cruising at 15 mph wasn’t hard. Yesterday, because of the wind and hills, I was lucky to ride at 6 mph on average.

Cow

Moo.

Passing through towns is like sampling flavors at the ice cream parlor. You can get a taste but you really don’t know the place.

Tenino sign

Entering Tenino.

Each town has its own character.

Tenino bank

Former Tenino bank.

Smaller towns have remnants of a time gone past as compared with the bigger towns which have given way to large streets and drive-through fast food joints that don’t warrant a photo.

Textured road

Textured road.

In the image above you can see the smooth edge of the street in the middle with the rough road to the left and the gravel to the right. I rode on the smooth spot as long as possible. In a car, rough asphalt usually means a bit more road noise. On a bike it means more friction and that slows you down.

Road sign

There were several signs for coffee, bait, ice cream, etc.

Traveling like this reminds me of road trips I took in a car.

Curve in road

Curve in the road.

Everything is somehow less vital in a car.

Bucoda

Entering Bucoda.

On a bike everything is right there, in your face.

Bucoda

Banner in Bucoda.

The mention of Portland on this map got me thinking I could make it home by midnight.

Bucoda

Bucoda area map.

I imagined surprising Gwenn and decided to not stop riding until I got home.

Old car

A new form of greenhouse.

When the rough road came to an end I was so happy I pulled over to get a photo. While shooting the picture below, a couple of kids came speeding down the street and rounded the curve nearly uncontrollably. Thank goodness I was off to the side as they passed.

Textured road

Rough road ends.

It would have been nice to take a little more time to stop in places but there are only so many hours in a day (and only so much energy in one body).

Sale

No time to stop, not place to put a purchase.

The guy riding in the passenger seat of the gray pickup truck in the picture below barked loudly at me like a dog (ough, ough!) as they passed very close. Then he looked at the woman who was driving as if to get her approval. You can kinda see him doing it in the photo.

Gray truck

Mentality of a dog.

In Centralia there was an interesting trailer parked in town. It had a bunch of wanted criminals on it.

Wanted

Wanted for crimes.

It looked like some kind of art installation!

Wanted

Wanted for a $26,100 crime.

In Subway there was a sign by the register advertising reusable sandwich bags that you could buy for yourself or your kids. Why doesn’t Subway give them away? This is a company that gives you a plastic bag to carry your sandwich ten feet and then discard. They also call their employees “sandwich artists.” Now that I think of it, why do I go there at all? Oh yeah, $5 vegetarian ‘Veggie Delight’ sandwiches in the middle of meat country, that’s why.

Subway

Great idea! Reusable bags.

What if the sky turned yellow. Would that make people care about the environment?

Clouds

The sky and the clouds still look good.

Burn rules

Follow the rules.

Train

Train.

Wood

Wood chopped.

Winlock

Entering Winlock.

House

Old house.

Horses

Horses don’t care about color.

Cows

Cows lying down.

Dead end

Camelot is a dead end.

Dogs

I liked dogs.

By the time I reached Longview it became very clear that there was no way my body would be able to continue another 5 or 6 hours to Portland.

Sign

Entering Longview.

Store

Crazy store.

I checked into a motel and set out to get some food.

Hotel

Hotel.

The first thing I do, however, is get out of my wet clothes. I dry my over-shirt using the fan so it’s ready for the next day.

Shirt

Shirt drying.

I’m in the middle of town, surrounded by chain stores, fast food and big roads to cross.

Motel

Motel.

There’s a health food cafe just down the way that opens in the morning. Guess where I’m getting breakfast!

One more day to go…

Ride Home, Day 2: Brinnon to Olympia

The time was 9:06 AM when I left the hotel room in Brinnon. I rode 60 slow miles today.

Route

Ride home, day 2 route

It was cold and windy. Riding by the water was challenging. At some points the headwinds were so strong that my bike would have stopped (and moved backwards it seemed) if I ceased pedaling.

Scenery

Water makes wind.

It was cold. Highway 101 was long and hilly. I’m glad I didn’t ride up it to get to Port Townsend. It’s kind of a boring road. Maybe I’m just tired.

Car

Classic car.

For some reason I kept singing a silly song over and over in my head this afternoon. For the life of me I can’t recall it now. It’s a nonsense song for kids. Being alone on the ride makes me withdraw into my thoughts. It’s a five or six hour meditation. I was really in the zone today until, on a very narrow stretch of road, someone yelled at me out of their Jeep window as they passed 18 inches to my left. It’s kind of like someone sneaking up on you and yelling in your ear. 

Abstinence

While in school this past week, my classmate Stephanie mentioned something that stuck with me. She told of a young man who went to another country to work with poor people. When he returned to the states he swore off using hot water because some people in the world don’t even have running water. She said it lasted about a week and then he reconsidered. He now takes hot showers again.

You or Me

In 1997 I performed at a storytelling festival as one of three featured performers. The show was on a Friday night. Just before we went on stage the organizers told us (performers) to cut our act to just 20 minutes because they wanted the audience to have time to attend an outdoor community event that was coinciding with our show.

I did as they asked and performed for 20 minutes. The next performer did his entire act (30-40 minutes) and the following performer did his entire act as well. When the whole show was done the organizer said to me, “I don’t remember your show being so short.” He had seen me perform a year prior and was comparing. I felt tricked, as if everyone somehow knew not to cut their set short.

After a very long ride, I made it to Olympia. This city is becoming familiar to me now. The sun came out.

Solar

Solar powered parking meter.

During my walk around town, several well dressed teens approached me and asked for money so they could take the bus home. One man in his twenties asked for fifty cents and then asked for weed. I passed a crowded soup kitchen near the post office and then took a walk through the downtown area. Two cops were marching down the street as if they were responding to a call. I expected to see some action until they stormed through the doors at Starbucks.

Tattoo

Get a Tattoo.

This is a college town. Kids hang out playing guitars on the corner. There was a music festival on the waterfront. There’s a bit of energy here. It’s hard to explain. It reminds me of being a kid again. I went into the funky shops, the music store and a cool used book store that sold stickers and patches.

Imprison White Males Sticker

Racism and sexism is racism and sexism.

While flipping through the stickers, I spotted the message in the photo above. It made me feel like there are no solutions. Maybe I just need some sleep.

Ride Home, Day 1: Port Townsend to Brinnon

After a long week of college residency, I was more than ready to hit the road. I have been eating restaurant style food all week and it finally caught up with me. My stomach got to feeling really odd the night before I had to begin my trek home. I went to bed early to get enough rest and to get an early start.

Route

Ride Home, Day 1 Route

It was about 9:30 AM when I hit the road. Riding earlier in the day tends to mean cooler weather and less traffic. Navigating unfamiliar roads after dark is not fun or safe. Since I didn’t want to ride too far on the first day for fear of overdoing it, I only went about 38 miles to Brinnon, WA. 

Keep Out

Don’t go in there.

I passed a sleeping deer along the way. (Why he chose to lay so close to the road I’ll never know.)

Flowers

Pretty flowers.

The camera stayed in its bag for most of the day. All I wanted to do was ride, ride, ride. For a little while I imagined that I could make it home by nightfall.

Road

Open road.

The road was long and boring. Visual markers make any ride more interesting. It’s good to see things come and go.

Forest

Leaving the forest.

Twisty forest road

Pretty scenery.

Some people expressed worry that traveling such a long distance by bike is unsafe. There have been very few times where I’ve felt that my safety was compromised. Usually there’s plenty of shoulder to ride on.

Taking a different route home made things a little more interesting but for the most part I’ve found myself hypnotized by the passing street and ending up deep in thought.

For 25 miles I pondered about why that deer would lay so close to the road and why he pretended to stay asleep when I offered him a banana.

Water

More pretty scenery.

Once at the hotel, it felt like I had another hour or so in me. Still, it was a good start and a satisfyingly uneventful ride for the first day. The only thing that stuck out for me was what happened at dinner.

Motel

Motel.

After checking into my room, I walked a block to the local restaurant and ordered some food. I had my camera with me and took a few photos.

Restaurant

Restaurant.

When I snapped a shot of my plate after finishing my meal, the waitress turned around and said, “What was that?”

I told her it was my camera and added that I just got it and am in the process of learning how to use it.

“I’ve been taking pictures of everything!” I said.

“Oh. I thought you found something in your food are were gonna sue us or something!” she replied.

When did we become so afraid? Why do we think cameras mean money lost? Why do people think that bike riding is any more dangerous than speeding around in a metal box at 80 mph?

Solar Panels in PT

Solar Panels

Six months ago this house was completely gutted and being renovated. It’s cool to see the completion of the structure with solar panels across the roof. Perhaps solar power will one day become the norm in the same way that indoor plumbing and central heating have become part of standard home construction.

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About the Spill

The BP Oil Spill was the biggest oil spill in U.S. history with more than 200 million gallons of crude oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico over a total of 87 days.

About the Ride

The BP Protest Ride was an experiment in being green.