A Bikeable Feast
For the first few weeks of our journey, Laura and I were travelling inland going North. While the riding was pleasant through empty country roads, it was beginning to feel a bit lonely being the only bicycle tourists for days and days. Here we were, fresh from selling most of our earthly possessions, on a path that seemed crazy by modern standards and lacking the familiar security of having a community. We wondered where our fellow wheeled compatriots were?
After leaving Eugene we rode to the Pacific coast via Smith River. Once we got there, we found our nomadic family!
There was Chris from England, bearded and fond of pancakes for breakfast; Thomas, an urban farmer from Portland riding east to rejoin his girlfriend; Victor and Jane a couple that owned a coffeeshop in Bandon, who were on their first bike tour and were inspired after seeing the yearly wheeled migration of tourists passing their shop; Nils and Caroline from Germany who had cycled from Alaska and were heading towards Argentina; Scott who was laid off from an IT job and cycled from Florida to Canada and was now heading south to Patagonia and beyond; Paul a programer from London whose contract expired and decided to ride from Alaska to Argentina instead of finding another job; Sam from Bellingham, a live sound technician who decided to move to Oakland via bicycle, etc.,
There were several others as well, names and faces and bikes that touched and enriched our lives for a few hours or a few days and then moved forward. Everyone is on their own unique trajectory, moving at their own pace, but every so often you come into synch with a few people and you ride together for a few days and there is that pleasant feeling of coming into a new campground or town and being greeted by a familiar face – it’s a feeling that we’ve all but left behind, the feeling of “home.”
Riding this late in the “season”, the types of riders we are encountering are different from those that travel in the middle of the summer. Most of the riders we have met are travelling for an indefinite amount of time, several months to several years. The people we are meeting aren’t on vacation — they are travelling. They move without a set itinerary. Curiousity and serendipty control their movements more than the quick disappearing act of accrued vacation time.
The very social nature of riding the Pacific coast has been a pleasant surprise. It has made the miles less monotonous and the act of setting up home every night in unfamiliar places more bearable when you have an extended family to share a campfire and meal with.
Interestingly, there is an unspoken protocol among many travellers. You have your time together at camp but most of the time it is bad form to make plans outside of that. Most prefer to keep commitments to a minimal, with the phrase “see you down the road” as formal as it gets.
There is something beautiful and beautifully sad about it all at the same time. Like others, we have chosen this life to be independent and to move to our own internal rhythyms, so to make plans and set appointments is anethema to this instinctual desire for absolute freedom. At the same time, we are social creatures and desire community and kinship, so when fellow travellers DO meet it is with quick openness and directness. It’s understood that we’re not going to share much time together so let us cut to the chase and enjoy the time we have.
Travelling is accelerated living. When you are on the move, you are free to drop the pretense of conventional conversations, you form fast friendships and bonds. You share your dreams and insights with virutal strangers – the sort of conversations that may take weeks or months to broach with other people at home. And yet, for the comfort this affords, you are also very consciously aware of the temporal nature of it all. The beauty of the road is fleeting. The pain of the climb is temporary. These wonderful moments with the people you meet are quickly rendered into memories.
You may decide to ride 40 miles the next day and your new found friend may push for 60. You may take a rest day and the nomadic family you’ve been riding with pedals onward. Your mobile community has dispersed once again like sand in the wind and you are alone and your thoughts momentarily wander to where your wheeled bretheren are – then YOU move on. It is folly to hang on for too long, but that’s not to say you are not momentarily saddened by the leaving of these virtual strangers.
Laura and I have been enjoying the company. The first pack of riders we were moving with is far ahead us after we took a few rest days. On occasion, we wonder where they are. Is Chris still making pancakes? Has Thomas replaced the broken string on his mandolin. Did Sam, with his bum knee, make it over Legget?
We know that they are on their own trajectories and are learning their own lessons about life. We wish you well, our fellow travelers!
Jim October 10, 2009 at 8:29 am
I also really enjoyed this post. The tours I go on are always constricted by that vacation time window. Time on the road is always enjoyed but there is always that little thought going on that I have to get somewhere so the tour can end and go back to work and the responsible life.
Nice writing and pics of the souls that you have encountered.
DC October 10, 2009 at 8:56 am
Very well written. Your talent as a photographer, I think, is evident in that all of the people look great! I’d love to meet you if you make it to Pittsburgh.
Blueskies October 10, 2009 at 9:53 am
Well said! My sentiments exactly. As always, thanks for taking the time to post your thoughts and photos. It brings much joy. Happy Trails, Adria
Chris Cavs October 10, 2009 at 8:38 pm
Great post. Interesting to see what you go through emotionally on the road.
the leaving of istanbul October 12, 2009 at 2:33 am
[…] have posted some stories from the road but rarely wrote about how i feel. there’s a wonderful post on http://www.pathlesspedaled.com that describes one of the social aspects of traveling you encounter when […]
Ed October 13, 2009 at 1:03 pm
Were any of the folks riding from Alaska to Argentina blogging their experience? If so, do you have their blog info so we can follow along? Thanks.
sara October 14, 2009 at 1:51 pm
I love seeing photos and hearing bits about the fellow travellers you meet up with along the way. Exciting & inspiring. I would REALLY like to hear the story of the couple in the last photo of this post.
thomas October 14, 2009 at 3:06 pm
Nice post Russ. You captured most of my thoughts about the coastal riding experience. I miss the comraderie and pressence of other riders. Chris and I are in Sequioa National Park, getting off the bike and hiking into the high country of the Sierra’s. It has been a nice break. I will beheaded straight south to Joshua Tree next. And yes, I did replace the broken mandolin string! Happy pedaling. Peace. Tom
Simple Living News Update: Week of October 12th October 19, 2009 at 6:33 am
[…] A Bikeable Feast […]
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Really enjoyed this post.