On Tuesday, I rode like I was on a mission. For days, people had been telling me how close I was getting to the ocean and finally I had reached the breaking point. I didn’t want to hear about how spectacular the Pacific was anymore, I just needed to see it for myself. So I did a mega day, ending my ride at the 125 mile mark.
Yesterday, early in the afternoon I reached the Oregon coast. Oddly enough, my first ever glimpse of the ocean was not from the seat of my bicycle but from the vantage point of a car. While I was registering to camp for the night, I asked how to best reach the beach on my bike. The lady, named Kim, picked up on my excitement and questioned me,
“Do you want to see the best view of the ocean?”
I said yes. She took Liz (a fellow tent camper) and I in her tiny red bug and we went on a sightseeing tour. First we stopped at a graveyard. Kim explained that the early pioneers had a habit of selecting land with choice views of the coast on which to bury their dead. We walked past gravestones to take in the sweeping vastness of the world’s biggest ocean. Then we went to see a herd of sea lions. Along the way, we chatted about our travels.
Liz is Australian. Until recently, she lived in a houseboat. One day she went to a friend’s birthday party. When she returned, her boat and all her possessions had sunk beneath the waves. Her outlook on her loss?
“It was just stuff. Not having that stuff anymore freed me up to travel.”
I was quickly learning that Liz was a gem. While talking about the ocean she mentioned how the mere sight of the ocean makes her soul soar with joy. It makes her taste freedom.
There was something in the tone of her voice that I instantly identified. I blurted,
“That is how snow makes me feel.”
All three of us were surprised by my outburst. I guess my longing for vast stretches of sparkling snow is never quite buried even while meeting a new ocean.
After Kim’s tour, I ate my supper on the beach and then strolled along the coast, letting the cold waves nip at my toes. Before turning back, I faced the thundering water and sang my heart out to God. I tried to take in the significance of the moment: I had made it to the ocean!
But it all felt so unbelievable, all I did was ride my bike for goodness sake! Had I really made it across to the other side of a continent? How had this happened?
It all started when two young people decided to go on an epic adventure on their bikes. They rode thousands of miles, on a mission to explore new places.
In case you are confused, I am not talking about Noah and myself. I am talking about my parents.
In 1982, they were preparing to move from Montana to Maine. Before the move, they decided to explore the Pacific coast and along the way celebrate their 1st anniversary. Because my parent are smart, they choose bicycles as their mode of exploration.
So for ten weeks, they rode on steel frame, ten-speed bikes along the Pacific coast, all the way to the Grand Canyon. My mom carried 90 pounds of stuff in her panniers and my dad carted around a whopping 120 pounds in his panniers. That’s how you get in shape on a bike tour!
I have been hearing stories about their tour ever since I can remember. While I was planning our tour from New York to Colorado, those stories gave me confidence.
-Confidence that Noah and I would have fun and make memories that we can recount for decades.
-Confidence that if our parents could ride 2,000 miles without cellphones, the internet or bicycle-specific maps, then we could certainly make it with those resources!
This entire trip, I have felt a bit like I am re-living a part of our family’s history. This feeling intensified when I hit Santiam Pass on Monday. Santiam Pass was the first mountain pass my parents climbed on their tour and it was the final mountain pass of my tour. As I spun up the incline, I imagined where they may have rested or what they said to each other when they saw Mt. Washington off in the distance. It felt surreal to be “walking in their footsteps” or rather, riding in their pedalstrokes!
Then last night, after meandering up and down the sandy beach, I stood next to my bike, looking out into the ocean until darkness fell. I thought about what had compelled me to ride all the way to the Pacific. It was a love for my bike and the excitement of riding new roads and seeing new things, new places, new animals and meeting new people. But it goes deeper than that.
All along, it was in my blood.