Well, if anyone is still reading, my trip is officially finished. For my own benefit, and for anyone who is interested in still reading, I’ve decided to briefly catalogue my last 4 weeks here, and even perhaps keep posting from time to time. It seems that I do a fair amount of traveling in my life, and maybe some people are interested in reading about it…
The trip to LA
So we got into Portland on September 1st, and on September 5th I left Portland via train, heading down to LA to see a high school friend who I’ve never had the opportunity to visit in her new setting. The train ride was beautiful, and so fast compared to my bicycle. That being said though, it was a LONG trip AND on the train they don’t look kindly upon one singing as loud as possible or screaming at the top of their lungs-go figure. I left Portland at 2:00 in the afternoon, and after 3 transfers, from train, to bus, to train, to bus again, I arrived in LA at 4pm the next afternoon. I turned 27 on the train alone, but I felt okay about that. It’s sort of nice, sort of empowering to see your birthday come in alone.
LA provided me with a slow onset of culture shock. I could go on and on, in great detail about my time there, but I’ll try to keep it brief. Some highlights included my shocking $12 salad lunch. You really need to watch out for those help yourself salad bars. Apparently they are quite costly. Other highlights included a trip down south to Newport and Laguna Beach, towns where so many of our popular television shows, and reality television shows are filmed today. Try to imagine me in these cookie cutter places, where the towns are just as manicured as the people. Me in my wrap skirts, Gap jeans, navy green maryjane crocs, which I have been wearing non-stop since early July, non-manicured hands with bike glove tan lines, frizzy hair with a middle part, and, of course, my awesome bike short tan lines. Let me just say right now-I blended.
Not only did I physically fit in with the people down there, but ideologically we also seemed to be on the same wavelength. I could really relate to the disgust people seem to feel toward the “fat” models that teen magazines are now portraying. When someone made this comment, my only response, always being the voice of reason, was that they just can’t seem to get it right. They used to be too thin, and now they’re too fat-when will our society learn moderation? Luckily, the new hobo chic look, that we can thank Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen for pioneering, apparently hides all these “fat” girls behind frumpy clothing.
Okay, okay. All that sarcasm aside, there were actually some really nice highlights of the LA trip. It was great getting to see Dia, and hang out with her, and after the bike trip I REALLY appreciated the birthday massage Dia and I had on Saturday morning. All of her friends were really friendly, welcoming, and generous. They bought me amazing dinners and drinks, were curious to hear about my bike trip, and shared great gossipy details of their life with me-I really do love the gossip. I also got to finally meet Dia’s 4-year-old nephew and 6-year-old niece, and see her brother and sister-in-law, who I hadn’t seen in ages. And did I mention that Dia’s company’s driver took me to the airport on Monday morning? Along with the culture shock, I also got a good degree of pampering while I was down there. All in all, a great trip, in a beautiful place, with lots of ridiculous stories.
On to San Fran
After feeling slightly out of place in LA, I was so happy to move on to San Francisco. I have been to San Francisco enough times now to feel pretty at home there. Dan and Caedmon, the friend I was staying with and his girlfriend, lived right in the Mission, just blocks away from the place in the Castro where I stayed a few years ago when I was in San Fran. It felt nice to be in familiar surroundings. Dan and Caedmon were great hosts, and have done a fair amount of bicycle touring themselves, most recently biking from Seattle to San Francisco earlier this summer (http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?o=rzyi&doc_id=2427&v=JX&term=caedmon&context=all). So there was lots of great conversation about biking, and some slightly uncomfortable conversation about the problem of homelessness in our society. Always the liberal, I did my best to tow my line of compassion, empathy, and the right to housing, but as strongly as I feel about these issues, I really do not enjoy discussing them over a casual dinner setting with someone I’ve just met. Luckily we were able to get past this, and my time in San Francisco was really enjoyable. I did a lot of wandering, and got to catch up with a college friend who is at Berkeley. Politically and socially Dave and I had no disagreements, but he does tend to be a Negative Nancy when it comes to the energy crisis-yep, we had some real uplifting conversations regarding the energy crisis, and food production. My goodness, can’t I be happy anywhere? Clearly staying in one location for more than a day, actually engaging in lengthy dialogue with people and not being on my bike was not agreeing with me…Ross, Armin and I were too tired for lengthy dialogue. Is it time to get back on my bike yet?
Definitely time to get back on my bike
I got back to Portland 9 days after I left, caught up with a few friends I hadn’t seen at the beginning of my stay, and got ready to get back on my bike, including shipping my sleeping bag and tent home-I was through with camping for awhile. Oh, and I also saw HP5, and I got to watch the MTV video music awards with Nicole over a glass of wine. Poor Britney! God, I hope I’m never humiliated on national television like that.
On Saturday, September 15th, I left Portland and did a relatively easy 100-mile day up to Centralia, WA. In Centralia, I got dinner at Shari’s and cookie dough at Safeway, which I enjoyed while watching bad television in my cozy room at Motel 6. Life really couldn’t have been better at this point (ok, the tv choices on a Saturday night actually could be better, but overall I was pretty happy). I got up on Sunday and biked another 50 miles or so up to Shelton, WA, on the Olympic Peninsuala, where my friend Sam was living for the summer, and whom I hadn’t seen in at least 4 years. The ride was a little cold, a little wet, and I got a few bad directions, but it was all worth it once I got to Sam’s. He was renting this magical little place, built by an architect professor back in the 1960s. Sam had created a little garden there, and a drum set made out of various buckets, and had a record player, and projector to boot. It was really amazing. After I took a refreshing bath-there was no shower-we wandered abandoned houses, ate good food, watched some bad, silent, black and whites, and even squeezed in some canoeing the next morning before I left for Tacoma. And finally, I had conversations that left me with nothing to complain about!
Around noon I left Sam’s for Ryan’s house in Tacoma, to encounter my last major crisis of the trip. Once I got to Tacoma, after having texted Ryan all day with updates on my status and ETA, I found out that I had been sending messages to Ryan’s old phone number! I put out distress calls to the 4 people I could think of who would have Ryan’s number and no one answered! Luckily, one of my distress calls called back in 10 minutes, and I was able to get into contact with Ryan. We had a great night, catching up on life in general, and about bike trips in particular, as I got to hear a lot more details about Ryan’s dirt-road cross country trip back in ’01. Apparently he cried too on his tripJ
Ryan’s apartment was in a great location, and in the morning I just had to bike a half mile to jump on the ferry to Vashon Island (thanks for the suggestion friendly bike guys at Revolver Bicycles in Portland). The ride up Vashon Island was about 14 miles, and then I hopped on another ferry bringing me into West Seattle. After some “careful” navigation of the Seattle streets, some stops for directions, and some realization of the importance of Ross’ navigation skills over the past 2 months, I successfully made it to Eric and Sara’s, the friend’s house where my sister, brother-in-law, and niece and nephew were staying. Man does Seattle have some hills!
I folded my bike clothes then, and spent the rest of the week being a Seattle tourist with my sister and her family, and dealing with the hassle of shipping one’s bicycle cross country. I also got to see a friend from graduate school, and see some relatives that live outside Seattle. We had a fantastic time, even weathering some airport scheduling issues pretty bravely. We got into Burlington at midnight on Sunday, 14 hours after we were supposed to, and I have been settling into life here ever since at my other sister’s condo. Settling in has included buying a car (a hybrid in case you were interested. I just couldn’t get a gas-guzzler after the bike trip), getting a job interview, and getting my dog back! I forgot just how cute he was. I’m so happy to have him back.
So, now my biggest challenge is to construct a life here that is slightly less crazy than my life was before I left and to really start my dissertation. In comparison, I think I wish I were biking cross country still. It sounds a hell of a lot easier...