Instant gratification – pleasures of the moment and the bloated aftermath of, are often based, and caused by, decisions of a suspicious nature. The decisions that are made too easily, more of an urge than a rational weighing of the pros and cons. ‘Should I forgo a days worth of food in exchange for a bottle of wine – Yes. Should I spend my last $10 on a dime bag off the sketchy guy on the street- Yes. Should I put off paying my phone bill for another day and instead lounge around in my underwear and watch movies all day – Yes.
Then there are the decisions that are made in the middle of a random conversation with a stranger, or made in the middle of the night as you lay awake looking at the ceiling. It is not as though you don’t already know The Way in which to proceed, else there would be no doubt in the first place – there is always one path that goes against the current, and it sits uneasily in the back of the mind. Somebody, somewhere, maybe even your other persona, put an idea in your head; gave you a suggestion, offered unsolicited advice, or attempted to convince you that The Way is not the way for you – whatever, it was enough to have question marks shoot out of your skull and drool dribble down your chin in an adolescent vulnerability.
When I say ‘you’, I am definitely meaning ‘I’ but am assuming that everyone at one point has stood on a street corner watching the traffic lights change from red to green to yellow repeat, wrestling with their self about the direction in which to start walking in. The one direction will lead me to Pizza, and the other will lead me to the Farmer’s Market – kind of like that.
What spurred me to write this, is the series of events that followed after finding myself at an Astoria coffee shop, and a well-meaning man telling me that the back road I intended to take to Portland was ‘too hilly, bumpy, winded too much, has no shoulder, and just plain ol’ no good’, and insisted that I take the road more travelled – the busy highway which was faster, straighter, and flatter. His sincerity and insistence immediately made me doubt my decision, and I thanked him and told him I would take his word for it. The two roads went in opposite directions across town, and I started pedalling towards the highway that he suggested. Except that I just couldn’t shake the feeling that it was wrong, and so just before the mouth of the highway that would lead me out of town and into the country, I stopped and stood in a parking lot and stared at the highway that would soon become my home for 100 miles. I talked it over with myself, weighed the pros and cons of taking the road, and came to realize that if I remained so undecided about taking this route, that it was very clear that it was not The Way for me, even if the other road did prove to suck.
It was a huge win for me – a road that yes was super hilly, windy, and bumpy, but the quietest, humblest road I’ve ever taken, leading me through little hamlets and forest thick with life. On the highways I had been riding on, I was perpetually making noise pollution with my mouth as it was no more disturbing than anything else, yet the sacredness of this road naturally kept my mind calm without the incessant need for expression, other than perhaps a few silent tears and breathless words of ‘You’re beautiful!’ (breathless cuz I was scaling mountains) to the rivers and creeks and trees I came across.
After one of the most incredible rides of my life, I found my self in Vernonia, a town I was excited to get to just because of the promise of romance (assuming they misspelled Verona), and though any resemblance of romance was questionable (unless you considered being wooed by a few intoxicated men as romantic), I did end up having one of the best nights on the road thus far.
Cue Paco. I had just pulled into town, hot and sweaty, tired and thirsty for food (what), and I see another bike tourer sitting at the only Mexican joint in town. Mexican food is by far my most craved genre of food (tomato, avocado, and tortillas F YEAH), so I too stopped in and decided to ‘treat’ myself to a veggie burrito (see paragraph 1 of entry). I walked right by Paco, in true form- a little shy, and sat at the very corner of the restaurant and proceeded to down the complimentary salsa and chips – make that 2 baskets of tortillas chips and 3 cauldrons of fresh salsa (bless the waiter who kept it coming and coming and coming), toying with the idea of conversing with Paco over our one clear shared interest – travelling by bicycle. I went back and forth with myself on whether I should or not, until it was clear that I did in fact want to, else I would have left it alone. I approached him just before my burrito came out, and just after his was finished, and we agreed to meet for a beer down at the local pub. Ballsy and charming, I met him there, and naturally we were able to engage in conversation of biking, routes, and the experiences of travelling solo on the greatest road in existence. A few beers (me, wine) in, we ventured over to the other town pub, which promised to be grimier, more local-y , and thus more exciting.
Had I went against my instinct of introducing my self to Paco, I would have most likely spent the night alone crying into my sleeping bag again, on some uneven rocky hill in the forest with wild animals clawing at my tent, but instead spent the whole night laughing and getting to know the locals, breathing a little life into an otherwise usual night down at the ol’ watering hole. The events that ensue are not necessarily worth sharing – you know, the typical ‘night on the town’ of questionable decisions, alas Paco was the instigator (yes you were!), and I hadn’t have met a few fine folks, or been offered a couch and a place to shower otherwise. In Paco, I found a partner in crime for the rest of the ride into Portland 40 miles down the road, and an amazingly kind James to host me on my first night in Portland.
While I was offered a place to stay to rest my weary head in Portland, I once again had this indecision in staying there, knowing that it was just too easy, and it once again didn’t sit right. So I bid farewell to Paco and his dear friend James, and continued my solo journey- this time in the big bad unknown city of Portland. Confusion ensues – what the fuck am I doing here? I head to the hostel downtown, a gift my sister Nicole gave me in times of need – 3 hostel nights paid for by her, when ever I need them. The hostel felt good in the moment, a warm bed, free WIFI, and a secure place to leave my stuff as I perused town. I immediately paid for a second night, feeling so warm and safe, giving in to my comfort zone. Still, I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing there. I didn’t intend to have it easy in Portland, I knew that if I were to get out of it what I wanted, that I probably wouldn’t find it holed up in a hostel – I wanted the true grit. I spent that night laying in bed, listening to the droning of the snores in the dorm room I was staying, and volleyed the thought of whether I really wanted that second night here. After a few hours of sleeplessness, the decision was made, and in the morning I asked for a refund, packed my stuff up, and decided to leave it to chance- exactly what one does on the road.
I rolled my wheels north, 11 miles outside of the downtown area, into an absurd street festival in St Johns called NoFest, where I instantly felt at home in the helter skelter makeshift set up of live music and ramshackle eccentric folks, feeling more like Commercial Drive than anywhere else I had visited in Portland. Here, the theme of the neighbourhood seemed to be about socializing and networking, with small streets that begged to be jay-walked (this is a must), dive bars heavy with patrons, and dogs and children roaming about without leashes. I found some music that pleased by ears, rolled my bike towards the tunes, and set up my lunch of salsa, kale, avo, peppers and cucumber (all of it not-certified organic for $4.00!!), where ‘Chinook’ instantly introduced himself and decided he was to be my escort around the neighbourhood for the day. I was introduced to everybody that he knew milling around, had my steed looked at in the local bike shop, and was promised some free food and a place to sleep later on that evening.
It was all coming up Milhouse, and THEN! I meet Galen. Granted, it was a predestined meeting, as I had wrote to him on Couchsurfing the night prior looking for a place to sleep, though I had no idea that I would be meeting him at the festival, or at all. When the cute guy in beige, with long wavy sun bleached blond hair approached me, I knew my eyes lit up slightly, because I had been quite interested in meeting — composer, musician, bike tourer, and lives on an old river boat on you guessed it, the river, among other endearing qualities and talents. He promised great conversation and inspired living, and indeed laughs and unique moments presented themselves as we spent the rest of the day, and inevitably the evening, on his boat. I was offered the couch to sleep on, and was softly rocked to sleep on the waters by NOW the best sleep yet. Had I kept that room at the hostel, well, you know- Regret.
The moral of this post is that, YOU ALREADY KNOW what to do, so do it.
Today I take care of some of the mundane tasks that staying in the city beckons, and later tonight am heading to, to my surprise, a Michael Hurley show (he’s still playing music?!). I’ve been at this for a while, and really need to pee and check up on my bicycle, to be graphic of my state of affairs, so please leave me alone while I tend to business. ;p
On the magical road again in a few days.
Loving you lots, really, YOU