Post Coast Week Two: November Seven through Fourteen

Week Two: November Seven through Fourteen
Gold Beach, OR to Eureka: 125 miles

After funky dreams, refreshing doses of French, and more than one therapeutic conversation, our time at Olivier’s host family’s home came to an end. It was time for Oliver and I to move on.

Harvesting from the garden for dinner. Olivier (left) and Oliver (right)

Harvesting from the garden for dinner.
Olivier (left) and Oliver (right)

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We left Olivier’s (reminder: Olivier is my blast from the past Belgian host brother) on the 10th, late in the day.

Oliver (my biking partner) woke up not feeling well, but he was a trooper and made it–just barely–the 43 miles to Crescent City, California. Yes! California! We made it to California!

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We stayed at a WarmShowers host the first night. They were an older couple, who, happily, are vegan. And yes, we shared some vegan “inside” jokes.

Thankfully, Oliver quickly recovered and felt great the next day. We planned to spend the afternoon in the neighboring Redwoods–the same ones that were the film set for some Jurassic Park scenes. I’m no Jurassic Park guru, but the most notable scene filmed there was, apparently, the one with the egg? If you’re a fan, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Right?

The Redwoods were, needless to say, spectacular. Their quiet enormity is something I can only describe as a giant jungle fantasy. A Fern Gully. I wanted to live there.

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Unfortunately, a lot of my pictures ended up accidentally and painstakingly deleted. One in particular was a sad loss for me; it was a photo of the backside of a fern, held and displayed horizontally by Oliver’s comparatively small hand (he does not have small hands, for the record). The picture, from Oliver’s thumb to the tip of the fern, highlighted small yellow egg-like things speckled down the length of each individual leaf. On each leaf were at least twenty of these little eggs. Are they pollen? I don’t know.

We spent the night baking in the kitchen of the city church that is open to touring cyclists. The lady who runs the church accepts only a hug in payment. A great hug. We also spent the morning in the kitchen. Oliver made chocolate chip banana bread, focaccia herb-type bread, and pancakes. We topped the pancakes with the applesauce I made–and nearly burned–with the apples we picked the day before. All vegan, all made with love.

There was an intense mountain pass in the morning, at the top of which we rewarded ourselves with a healthy dose of banana bread. Yum. The mountain pass was spectacular–moist and curvy and humbling amongst the trees.
We spent the night in the redwoods, at a campsite that was conveniently already closed (that’s a welcome sign for touring cyclists). We arrived in the dark. The last hour or so of our bike ride was after sunset. I was listening to a RadioLab episode during that time that was about recurring nightmares and lucid dreaming and…our inner evil. Ha! The redwoods took on an ominous demeanor, but I could laugh inwardly about it to reconnect with their motherly beauty.
The next morning we were out and about by 8:00AM! Earliest yet with Oliver! We wanted to get out of camp before it officially opened, and we were growing tired of our developing habit of arriving to camp after dark. Although it’s nice sometimes, our energy is best spent during the day.
We arrived at an awesomely generous WarmShowers host that afternoon. Oliver spent the late afternoon disassembling his bike and packing it away in a box…this was the end of the road for Oliver and his bike, Grandpa. The End in Eureka, California.
Read about his final days here:

http://restlessinrest.blogspot.com

Hilariously (for reasons perhaps only he and I can laugh about), we carried his bike almost a mile to the UPS store, thankfully finding an abandoned shopping cart near the end of our trek which relieved our tired arms.

"This is really the end"

“This is really the end”

Oliver and I spent the day together. Grocery shopping, laughing, cooking, eating, and watching back to back episodes of New Girl. Yes we did. It was our last day together.

Tomorrow, I’ll be solo.

Tomorrow came.

Long before the sun was up, Oliver gave me a kiss goodbye and rode away in a rideshare bound for a flight out of Oakland, 300 miles south of Eureka.

And so solo I became.

Ten minutes later, I was on my knees in the bathroom, throwing up. Later that day, I found myself in the same miserable position in a hotel bathroom, then again in a hospital bathroom.
Oh, how it would have been nice to have Oliver around!

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Post Coast Week One: November One through Six

Eugene, OR to Gold Beach, OR: 235 miles

This week was exceptional.

Oliver and I cycled back to Eugene to hang out in the city for a few days longer. Main reason? Dancing.
As soon as we got back to town and cleaned some clothes at a laundromat, we headed downtown for my first experience blues dancing. This was fun for a key reason other than getting close, intimate, and bluesy with a bunch of strangers: Alexander Blume was coming.
I know that sounds like a movie star name. It’s not, but he may as well be. Alexander is Oliver’s cycling partner who had also been on my tail all the way across the country. He had left Eugene to visit Portland with his girlfriend before I got there and was able to meet him. So, like the long awaited reunion with Oliver, this was a happy night. It’s funny to think that dancing was a theme for both my reunion with Oliver and with Alexander. The three of us being together just felt right.

Alexander and Oliver

Alexander and Oliver

Oliver and I left Eugene–and Alexander, who took a ride-share back to Portland–a few days later. It’s hard to pick up and be on the road again after finding someplace comfortable. The city was hip and inviting and the house where we stayed was energetic but mellow, and full of warmth.
But the road was calling and I was happy to have a partner.

93 miles later, on November 4th:
Just outside of Bandon, after spending the better part of the afternoon tackling Seven Devils Road (appropriately named after the seven tricky, steep, and nasty peaks we climbed), we were coasting down an amazing reward of a descent when I hit a pothole that blew out my back tire. We were going fast and Oliver, who was ahead of me–as per usual–didn’t hear me call out to him. It was dark, so I knew I would need help if we were gonna make it to town by a decent hour. Luckily, a truck passed by. I waved it down and without my even asking, they offered to turn around and let Oliver know that I had a flat. Soon enough, Oliver was in sight, zooming back uphill like he had no weight (he baffles me) and called out, “I hear Chelsea Cash had her second flat!”. Guilty.

In the end, we made it to Kenny’s, our WarmShowers host in Bandon. Little did we know we were in for such a treat.
Kenny is our age, and he invited a couple of his friends over to hang out. They ended up spending the night too, and the next morning, after all hanging out in the kitchen until almost noon, we decided to take a group trip out to their favorite waterfront to explore. This was only about 20 miles south on our cycling route, but we opted to drop the bikes for the day in order to enjoy a couple hours of extra exploring time with new friends. I’m so glad we did. It’s hard to put this day into words.

Caleb, Kenny (our host), Quinn, and Oliver

Caleb, Kenny (our host), Quinn, and Oliver

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In the evening, we hiked back out to the car and unloaded our bikes. We said goodbye to the boys and hiked our gear back up to Black Lock Point, where we set up camp (not technically allowed, but well worth the risk).
What a dream.

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We were woken to high winds and rain in the morning. We had only forty miles to get to Gold Beach, where another long awaited reunion….awaited.

You may or may not know that I was an exchange student in Belgium during my senior year of high school. During the course of the year, I lived with three different host families. I spent the first five months with the Gossart family. They are incredible. I’ve kept in touch with them over these past five years and so learned–before I started my cross-country trip–that my youngest host brother, Olivier, would be an exchange student in Gold Beach, Oregon. This could not have worked out more perfectly.

Oliver and I were ahead of schedule; My host brother, Olivier (prepare for name confusion. Tip: my host brother’s name has an extra “i” and is pronounced “O-leeve-ee-ay”), and I had been corresponding about my progress. I’d told him that I would be arriving on Sunday. In actuality, we would be arriving on Thursday. I’d been keeping in contact with his fabulous host mother, Mary, who kept saying how excited Olivier was for me to get there, and we were both keeping my early arrival a surprise.

Needless to say, I was excited. I was almost jumping out of my skin I wanted to get there so bad. But when the rain and headwinds were teaming up as a couple of treacherous bullies pushing us back, we quickly got burnt out and started procrastinating. We made it to a town and stopped at a laundromat to dry our sopping clothes and to warm up. We went to a grocery store for a bathroom break. We went to a cafe to drink coffee and overeat. By the time we headed out, the storm had cleared and the winds were calmer. It was a better day to cycle, by far.

Highlights of the ride:
*Our first Highway 101 ocean views like these:

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*Humbug Mountain. No pictures, but trust me, it was the greenest tropical jungle pass, complete with roadside waterfalls and moss covered trees and ferns and bird sounds.

At last, the bridge to Gold Beach

At last, the bridge to Gold Beach

I met Mary at her office in town at Gold Beach. Olivier had just gotten out of school and was getting his hair cut two blocks up the street. Mary and I walked in together, Mary taking video, we found out later. Olivier was surprised, indeed. What a happy, happy moment that was.

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October 29: Day One Oh Nine: COAST

Swisshome, OR to COAST to Walton, OR: 68 miles

“Oh what a day! Glorious!” –Mamuse

Every once in a while there’s a day that is otherwise like any other–cloudy, a bit on the cold side, people moving about as usual. But with hands made strong with determination, anticipation, and excitement, the day etches a deep engraving in one’s spirit. And the day becomes exceptional.

For me, this is one of those days.

As I approached the coast with Aerinndis, a wash of memories came over me.
Clear days, the good days, the climbing days, the coasting days, days with a view, lonely days, days with new friends, the bad days, sad days, days with storms, days with wind, cold and rainy days, strong days, sore days, days I wished to settle, days I wished to press on, all of it.

All of it lead to these last miles on this absurdly normal, overcast day in late October, pedaling to the coast.

It’s rare that I feel proud of myself. While I was biking off-shore through the trees, the coast right on the other side of them, I was realizing that I was within minutes of completing a trans-american trip on my bicycle. Completed without anyone’s external pressure, and only my own desire and willpower. My heart swelled and warmed my whole core. I felt deeply proud.

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This is something I hope everyone can experience for themselves. To challenge oneself to a long term task, purely out of one’s own desire to experience life in a different way, and then to come out on the other side, satisfied and whole. The healthy pride borne is a token, to be saved or cashed whenever it’s needed.

I pushed my bike up the big sand dune that separated the parking lot from the ocean. This might be one of the hardest parts of a Coast-to-Coast trip: pushing a loaded bike through a hundred feet of sand, some of it uphill, takes a lot of muscle. But the other side makes it all worth it.

Staring out at the Pacific Ocean was at once empowering and humbling.

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Stay tuned for the Thank You Credits.

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Now for reflections.
What have I learned about America?
A population of at least 3,000 yields a guarantee of a Subway restaurant. Without fail.
I now know that there is a small eastern mountain range called the Ozarks. I’ve biked through them.
The West is home to the drive though espresso booths. Sometimes multiple per town. I rarely, if ever, saw one in the East.
There seems to be more towns without a sufficient grocery store than there are ones with. Food deserts are a real thing. And, the way I see it, a real problem.
People are good. Believe it.

What have I learned from America?
There is so little that I know. The more I see, the more acutely aware I become of how fractional a view I’ve experienced. Not only am I seeing a sliver of the particular state I am in, but I am experiencing it through my own narrow window of perspective. My perspective view of America has now shrunk; I feel like I’m sitting at a spaghetti dinner, having eaten for hours but somehow there’s more on my plate than when I started.
America has also taught me a lot about myself. And in that way, my perspective has expanded.

A list of goals I started with and their pending results:
Inner strength: I’ve tapped into it.
Confidence: It’s growing.
Independence: Improved.
Adventure: Had. But like learning about America, there’s always room for more.

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Credits:

“Thank you Silence” –Alanis Morissette

Love behind my trip:
Parents, for letting me go.
Mazie Moo, for being there, always.
Charlotte, for dealing with it.
Nonnie, for sharing her excitement and support with her friends.
Dr. Steve Zimmerman, for sharing the love.
Peter Dubin, for paying it forward.
Vicki Tatum, for helping out in a big way, just in time.
Rosalyn Kramer, for her endless support following my blog.
To all my blog supporters and followers, for keeping me grounded and motivated.

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Love powering my trip:
Mick and Lee, Thomas, and Barbara, Frank And The Kids in Virginia.
Tony and Terry in Kentucky.
Emma, Janet, and Steve in Illinois.
Jordan and the Woods in Missouri.
Dorkeye And Family in Kansas.
Jerry Saravia, Linda and Sheppard, Zach Serrins And Friends in Colorado.
Dusty Bone, Juan, and Mr. MacElhiney in Wyoming.
Eric Morton, Bruce Anderson, and Chris Doig in Montana.
Bob and Gwen in Idaho.
Kari and Jamie in eastern Oregon, Members of the Gooble Dell, Alexander Blume, and, of course, Oliver Mednick.

A bonus picture of the handsome Oliver, helmet hair and all

A bonus picture of the handsome Oliver, helmet hair and all

(and so many more not mentioned, but forever in my heart)

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P.S. This will not be my last blog post, but it will be my last daily post. From now on, I will be posting about decidedly exceptional days, however difficult they may be to choose.

A special Thank You to the many WarmShowers hosts along the way. Particularly this shining star example of a couple, who hosted us at their home, The Big Bear Camp, after our trip to the beach.

Hal and Tonya

Hal and Tonya

October 28: Day One Oh Eight

Eugene, OR to Swisshome, OR: 56 miles

Oliver is escorting me to the beach, having already been once before for his coast-to-coast finish with Alexander. I’m glad he’s with me.
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It rained all day. Everything was soaked, down to our spongy socks.
Luckily, we found a dry spot to stop and make lunch. It was an old barn that was pretty trashed, but Oliver made a nice space to sit and cut veggies.

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It was dark before we felt a warm breeze just outside of Swisshome. Was that the ocean breeze? It’s been over three months since I last felt that breeze back on the east coast. This breeze was comforting because of its warmth, and exciting because of its proximity.
The breeze kept the evening warmer than the afternoon. My fingers were comfortable and nimble where they had been stiff and achy just hours before.
We stayed in a churchyard. Out back there was a collection of house appliances like ovens, freezers, and laundry machines under a canopy. We set up the tent under the canopy to keep it dry before running it out to the yard to stake it down. The canopy space quickly turned into a kitchen counter and a seating area. We slept well.

October 26 and 27: Days One Oh Six and Seven

Eugene

Tea and plans with Oliver

Tea and plans with Oliver

Double trampoline-ing at the Gooble Dell, where we're staying (more on that later)

Double trampoline-ing at the Gooble Dell, where we’re staying (more on that later)

Gleaning grapes

Gleaning grapes

After happily spending the morning and most of the afternoon with Oliver, I headed downtown to meet Chris, my train hopping friend from Missoula who happens also to be in Eugene today. He’s staying at the Co-ops near the university campus.
To explain, the Co-ops is a cooperative housing community where students live together in big numbers and share not only space but food, chores, drugs, and responsibilities.
Chris was staying in the “party house”. When we arrived and knocked on the door, a girl let us in and tiptoed into the living space where about fifteen kids sat in a half circle of couches and a directional leader sat facing all of them. When we walked in, the leader was asking the group, “…does everyone feel comfortable with that? Anyone not feel comfortable?” There was a tense silence. Chris and I tiptoed back outside to wait until the meeting was over.
In the meantime, we and another friend Matt visited the adjacent house called the “kitchen house”, which also happens to be entirely vegan (although most of the residents happen to be omnivores). This is also the activist house. They cook vegan food in bulk and hand it out to the community with programs like Food Not Bombs and their own. The kitchen is set up like a commercial kitchen, and they have bulk food dispensers and plastic containers full of dried foods. It’s impressive.

A funny recipe I found laying around in the Kitchen House, with a roll of toilet paper laying appropriately beside it

A funny recipe I found laying around in the Kitchen House, with a roll of toilet paper laying appropriately beside it

They were also having a meeting, but were much more inviting than the last house. One girl left the circle and encouraged us to eat the vegan mac and cheese, baked potatoes, and beans for dinner. She also invited us into the conference space where there was vegan apple crisp and banana bread. This is where things got interesting.
Most of the students in the meeting were lounging and surfing their laptops. Or they were facially present but looking bored. There were three guys on the floor hovering over a person-size calendar poster of chores. The group was discussing who would be doing what this coming week. Someone had too few “points” and the group was slowly trying to divvy out their points to that person, who was quickly starting to look overwhelmed. The group facilitator, a small blond girl with a pixy cut and tattoos, was sitting on a box in lotus pose and kept asking things like, “Does Kathy feel comfortable with taking the dish shift Saturday afternoon? Sparkles?” It took a while for me to understand the meaning of “Sparkles” because people wouldn’t respond and, instead, they’d look down or away, trying to avoid taking on the chore. Finally after quite a long silence during which one could hear the scratches of Matt’s and my forks as we scraped our plates of desert (it was awkward), a girl on the couch in the corner of the room offered her Saturday afternoon, even though her morning was already devoted to the same sort of task. The facilitator confirmed, “Is David comfortable with taking cooking duties if Liz takes dishes Saturday Lunch? Sparkles?” Everyone held up one of their hands and wiggled their fingers. In agreement.
When the meat of the meeting was concluded, there was a short, unannounced break. Nobody moved. Nobody really even talked. The facilitator turned to me and said, almost as if she’d been offended the whole time I’d been there and listening, “Did you want to check in?” I had no idea what she was talking about, so I explained that I came with a friend and my name is Chelsea. She asked again, “But did you want to check in?” She finally read my face of polite confusion because she said, “Can you introduce yourself and state whether you’re more comfortable with ‘he’, ‘she’, or ‘they’?”
If Chris hadn’t explained earlier that the Co-ops tried to be as gender neutral as possible, I would have been more surprised by the question. I responded with my full name and that the pronoun “she” would be fine.
Soon after checking in, Matt, Chris and I tiptoed away and back to the “party house”, where the meeting had ended and everyone was gathered in the kitchen talking. Chris gave me a short tour of the enormous building. It’s an old boarding school. There were three levels, not including the basement or the attic floor that lead to the roof that overlooks the city.

Just before the partying picked up, I left the Co-ops in anticipation of an early morning hike with Oliver and Kyle.

Morning bike ride to Spencer's Butte

Morning bike ride to Spencer’s Butte

We climbed to the top of Spencer’s Butte (a lush rainforesty mountain) where we had an incredible 360 view from the peak. There was the city to the NorthWest, a lake to the SouthWest, flat green agriculture fields to the East, and mountain peaks to the North. The Sisters and Jefferson peak, completely snow covered, were clearly visible from our perch.

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October 25: Day One Oh Five

Mackenzie Pass to Eugene, OR: 79 miles

It was pitch dark. Not even stars to lighten my little cove. I spent the night turning on my headlamp between short sleeps and getting out of my tent to readjust the rainfly. There was nowhere to steak the corners down on the stone floor and the winds had picked up to whip the fly against the tent at an obnoxiously loud volume. I shoved earplugs into my ears, but I wished for deafening earphones. The side of my sleeping bag was damp and water was coating the bottom of my tent under my mat and dripping down the right mesh window. Uh oh.
The observatory, a perfect hideaway abode at the top of the pass, is a circular stone structure with an arched door carved out. There are also open windows, which create a sort of wind tunnel when a rain storm is blowing through, and one was. I was thankful it had held off until the night and spared me the added obstacle as I climbed earlier in the evening.
For a fourth time around 5:30AM I got up to readjust the fly and I noticed the tent was dry, the mist had cleared and so had the skies. Stars! The wind was still whipping and I noted an ominous cloud in the distance that was headed right my way. After checking out my now dimly visible surroundings (I noticed a parking lot, a bathroom down the hill, and some walking paths), I laid back in my tent and considered my options: Try to steel a bit more sleep (unlikely) or just get up now and try to leave before the rain blows in too hard. I decided on the latter.
When I had my tent all put away, the skies were becoming a lighter gray from the sun’s slow approaching rise. In that closing window of dim visibility I was able to steel a few glances at the surrounding mountains the observatory is made to point out.
I made two trips down the long staircase to my bike to pack her up before setting off down the descent, just in time for the rain to start and the skies to lighten to a modest visibility.
The beginning of the descent was like being on another planet. If I wasn’t enjoying myself from the context of being on a highly regarded pass, I would feel like an imposter treading unwelcome on a strange land. Trees were rare and cooled lava rock abounded. The road was gray, the rocks were gray, the skies were gray, and the rare tree or patch of them were dark shadows.
The only humans I saw were a group of them in overalls unloading a van near the top. We looked at each other as I passed before I decided to break the silence and say, “good morning!” It was almost comical to hear the men’s friendly replies in such an ungodly place.
I dropped elevation so fast. 5000 feet…4000…3000…As I dropped, the mountain got friendlier and friendlier. The trees returned and regained their dark green hue, the rain stopped and the clouds thinned.
At 3000 feet the roads were covered in short brown pine needles and hand-sized yellow maple leaves. The trees were thick and arched over the road. Some trees were coated by a thin layer of moss, some were heavily cloaked by it. There were wet boulders and ferns and some of the rocks were blanketed by moss. It was fantasy land. I felt the observatory was a dividing line between two completely different ecosystems. This is the kind of scenery I had dreamed about entering since the begging of my trip. It was a dream. Fulfilled.
I didn’t take any pictures aside from one. It’s only a glimpse, and a meek one.

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I had to slow to a stop a few times because of fallen trees. When I did, I noticed the quiet. It was a damp and embracing quiet. A few chirps and chipmunk cackles and rustling leaves brightened the peace. And the smells. It was so sweet it was overwhelming. I couldn’t help taking in the deepest breaths and letting out loud exhales over and over.
At 2000 feet, the skies cleared and blue shined through the treetops. At this point, I noticed my cold wet hands despite my waterproof gloves and my soaked shoes. It was cold.
About 10 miles outside of Mackenzie Pass I stopped at a coffee shop to get warmed up. The woman working with long silver hair offered to throw my wet gear in the dryer. I left much warmer and dryer than I’d entered.
The rest of the ride was in anticipation of reaching Eugene to go contra dancing with Oliver. I rode as fast as I could with as few stops as I could muster. The rest of the ride was almost as tropical as the pass. Lush woods of moss covered trees and rocky streams were the norm.

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Just before reaching Eugene, I got a message from Oliver. He wanted to take me out to an awesome vegan restaurant in town called the Cornbread Cafe. The long awaited reunion hug is one to remember.
After dinner we cycled four miles to the outskirts of town to go contra dancing. I couldn’t have asked for a better welcome to Eugene.

October 24: Day One Oh Four

Redmond, OR to Mackenzie Pass: 35 miles

I have to thank Mazie, my sister, for encouraging me to install Instagram on my phone before this trip. I’ve met so many great people through the app. One of them is Kari.
Kari found out through my pictures last night that I was in Redmond, and she invited me to coffee this morning. We got together before sunrise at a neat coffee joint in town. She, curious and excited about bike touring, was bursting with questions about the logistics of my trip.
I left town late, after having to wait for the Post Office to open in order to send my package back to Charleston. I left town at around 11:00, anticipating a short, but intense day to make it up the mountain pass.
Not a mile out of town, I felt the ground a little too hard and bumpy under my back tire. I stopped and looked at it. Totally flat. My first flat of the trip.
Oh well, it was bound to happen at some point!

I walked my bike back into town to the closest gas station where I could sit inside and work on it. I worked on the tube for a good hour and a half, patching it up and getting it set back in.

Two hours, two patches, and two very dirty hands later, I thought my first flat was fixed. Wrong.

Two hours, two patches, and two very dirty hands later, I thought my first flat was fixed. Wrong.

I put the tire back on the bike and rode it around to be sure–seemed fine. So I loaded my panniers and set off.
Less than five miles out of town, I felt it happen again. I pumped it up and kept going, clearly in denial. I had missed something in reparation and I’d have to do it all over again. When it went flat a second time, I gave in to the idea of not being able to make it over Mackenzie today. I was trying to get to Eugene by tomorrow to contra dance with Oliver, but it wasn’t looking likely.
I wasn’t sure what else to do, so I called Kari. She, wonderfully, came to pick me up from the side of the road. She brought me to the bike shop in town and then left for work. Jamie, at the bike shop, set me up with a new tube and a speedy repair.

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I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive team. Between Kari and Jamie, I was out of town by 3:00, ready to pedal hard and fast up Mackenzie, and prepared to tackle my first solo night ride.
Visibility was low because of overcast skies, so I wasn’t able to see the Three Sisters–a three-peaked mountain range usually visible from the town of Sisters, OR.

Instead I saw a pond of ducks

Instead I saw a pond of ducks

So I blew through town and finally entered forest, the base of the pass. Mackenzie Pass felt like home. Most is green deciduous, some red from recent forest fires.

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It gradually got dark. When the dark set in, the mist came with it. It was so misty that my helmet became wet with moisture and a drip ran down my forehead to the tip of my nose. I let it happen.
It was quiet, the swishing of my rain pants as I pedaled sounded loud. I couldn’t see anything but what the narrow beam of my headlamp was illuminating. Even that stream of vision was distorted by the light reflecting off the mist. I realized without fear or much wariness that I was totally alone in a dark, strange place, continuing upwards, almost blindly.
It was early, only about 7:30 when I reached the top, but it felt late. It was so dark.

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I reached the observatory at the summit of the pass, almost missing it from the lack of reflectiveness of the sign. All I could see in front of me was stone wall. I look up about 10 feet and noticed the shiny reflection of a metal chain, which I assumed was a railing. It took some bumbling around to find the stairs that lead up to the top. I almost had to feel my way up the stone to the little cove where I set up my tent and gear.
No moon is shining, no stars are sparkling to dimly light the way. It’s cloudy and misty and dark dark dark. I fumbled into my tent, wholly unfamiliar with my surroundings, but relieved to have completed the climb, satisfied with my first stealth-camping spot, and excited that I would make it to Eugene tomorrow for contra dancing.