Welcome to my first blog post about the bike trip that carried me from Woodburn, OR all the way to Los Angeles. I need to emphasize something. Currently, I live in Hollywood in order to serve alongside the homeless, and I hope to live simply, in community as an effort to explore the way of Jesus in the midst of one of the central cogs of the empire’s wheel-well of oppression. That is why I am here. I hope the bike trip does not outshine that purpose. Still, it deserves serious reflection. I hope to give insights, anecdotes, and descriptions as I relate to you my experience.
Part 1: Oregon
We (Tyler and I) began in a sort of nervous excitement. We rode with a sort of hasty anxiety. How long would it take us to get to where we were headed? Would we need to stop often? What if we made it 50 miles and could not walk? Who rode faster? Should we stick together? Did we bring enough food? How much did we need to eat? The unknowns compounded upon each other, but it was time to leave. So we started riding. Day one ended up being so easy I felt sort of silly. We rode to Corvallis, met Craig, and watched TV for about seven hours.
Day two gave us a quick, steep learning curve. We ended up riding 67 miles, and we hit our first real hills as we crossed the Coastal range. The countryside between Corvallis and Waldport was spectacular. What was not spectacular was our eating. I ended up getting far out in front of Tyler. When I pulled over for lunch, I fell asleep in the grass, and he rode right passed me! Trying to find me, he rode very far before he finally stopped to eat. Neither of us ate enough. By the time we reached Waldport, we could hardly move. Tired and very hungry, things began looking glib.
We proceeded down the coast a little tentatively. Tyler’s knee ached, and we still needed to work out the kinks in how we approached each step of the day. By about day four, we began establishing our routine from which we rarely strayed for the rest of the trip. It went something like this:
Wake up, pack up, and eat a serious breakfast.
Ride about 30 miles.
Stop, go to a grocery store, buy food, and eat it.
Ride about 30 more miles.
Stop at a grocery store, buy dinner and breakfast.
Go to camp site, make dinner, eat, talk, read, and sleep.
Once we had this down, the whole trip became immeasurably easier.
The Oregon coast is beautiful. We saw countless people on their bikes “just riding the Oregon coast”. This contrasted strongly with California where the sheer volume of bikers decreased significantly. The most magnificent piece came right at the end. As we rode a long 90-mile day from Bandon to Brookings, we encountered an incredible world of silver seas and beautiful stone formations carved out by waves. The vacant beaches, setting sun, and lush forests made me wonder why anyone would go to the tourist magnets of Lincoln City and Newport. If I ever spend much time on the Oregon Coast from now on, it will be on that strip.
Almost immediately, when riding, cars become a constant, potential risk. I must say I never learned to resent the cars; I simply wished they would go away. As I began to think this, I surprised myself. I reacted to my fear not with anger but with a desire for reprieve. This sent my mind on a long course of thought, the thread of which I am still sewing in my mind. What if the cars were gone? Or what if bikes replaced the cars? After doing several hundred miles in the course of only a handful of days, cars lost their necessity in my mind. A bike can take you places rather quickly. In our case, it was only a one day ride to the beach from the Willamette Valley. When we arrived at our campsites, we watched people “camp” with all the comforts of home at their fingertips. RVs set up satellite television, the state parks had wi-fi, people cooked hot food on stoves nicer than my old house’s, and I even saw a few tents with closets in them. These tourist campers made me capricious. They towed coolers of beer and pop around in their minivans while the truck owners brought chords of wood. As they drove passed me on the road and I rode passed them in their camps, the sour taste of their privilege stung left an unsavory flavor in my mouth.
I envisioned a world without them. The whole way, we stayed in communal camp sites called hiker/biker spots. Unlike the car and RV spots, multiple groups oftentimes shared one site. We talked, shared experiences of the day, and if we stayed at enough campsites together, became friends. What if nearly all camp sites operated like this? People on vacation showed up on a three-day trip. They shared space with another group, perhaps a family. In their reflection upon the day, they connected. They communed. New bonds formed. In cars, fresh relationships like the ones we made throughout the trip do not exist. When cars follow each other, they do not speak to each other as bikers do. What is more, the sealed off campsites keep people from truly experiencing the marvel of travel: meeting someone from somewhere else! Instead, they attempt to recreate their walled-off, sterile environments with a little bit of fire and sleeping bags mixed in. Their vacations are only experiential. They attempt to maintain their home environment while experiencing something cool like the beach or mountains. These vacations become contingent on the thrill of the destination rather than the people you enjoy the destinations with. Biking, conveniently, gives both.
Furthermore, I envisioned a world where people propel themselves places. No longer burdened by the unhealthy food that will not sustain a long day of riding, people would grow healthier as they sacrificed their destructive, habitual luxuries. These were simply my first thoughts, but more will come later.