Saturday, August 29, 2009

Day 60: Eugene, OR to Florence, OR (83 Miles)

I woke up this morning feeling rather melancholy. I knew today would be the grand finale, culminating with a simple dip of a front tire into the Pacific Ocean. I was excited to finish this journey I've been on these past two months; however, I'll certainly miss the sensation of traveling into the virtual unknown, meeting new people and finding temporary places to call "home" for the evening. To get through this day in a good mood, I had to remind myself that every journey's end is also the beginning of another. With that in mind, I rode on through the nearly abandoned streets of Eugene. The morning was cold and quiet, with a thick morning mist shrouding and muting my surroundings. This busy college town now took on the ethereal quality of a ghost town... in spite of this being the most populated city on the Trans-America.

I took a pleasant bicycle trail out of town and snacked on a few apples I took from the motel breakfast. This first section was very flat, but I still had the pleasure of climbing the Coast Range. With a much lighter bike, I rode on at a quick pace and stopped at a small gas station in Low Pass. There I met a very talkative and friendly lady who told me stories of several Trans-America cyclists stopping in at her store. I chatted with her for a while and they warned me of the next hill up the road. Feeling I had something to prove to myself, I sprinted up this final ascent over the Coast Range and kept up this sprint all the way to my lunch stop in a train-themed diner in Mapleton.

The majority of the morning was spent riding along the Sluslaw River, and the growing presence of brackish water smells motivated me on riding faster and harder. In terms of speed and time, this was definitely the quickest ride of my trip. I must had ridden about 70 miles in just under four hours. Now, of course, this was with a lighter load... but it almost motivates me in trying out for a cycling race of some sort back in Massachusetts (and I'm not even a competitive person!).

I was hoping the morning fog would lift and the overcast sky would give way to warm, delightful sunshine. I ordered a fish sandwich ("just for the halibut") and kept my eyes on the sky outside. Too excited to wait around for better weather, I headed out to finish off my last 15 miles to Florence. Then, not unlike my ascent over Hoover Pass in Colorado, the sun soon began to break through and enlighten my surroundings. I finally rolled into Florence at approximately 1:45PM and stopped to ask where I could find the nearest beach access. The shopkeeper said I would have to ride five miles North of town to find actual beachfront that was open to the public. Another 5 miles felt like nothing, so I headed into the Northern wind and came around a bend to be blasted with the wind and smells of the Pacific Ocean.

I almost immediately began to tear up. I wasn't necessarily crying, but my eyes were filled with enough to tears to make riding difficult. Dabbing my eyes, I pressed on to find a small private road that led me to the beachfront. I won't attempt to explain what was going on in my head and I probably won't comprehend this sensation for many days to come. I only remember being composed enough to ask a local scuba diver to take a few photos of the ceremonial dip and then made a few phone calls. I then just sat and watched the ocean mist flowing over the water, thinking of absolutely nothing.

Realizing I needed to get to a bike shop before it closed, I headed back to town and asked one of the bike mechanics about boxing up my bike and shipping it back. She first told me that the box was about 10 dollars... OK, I can do that. Then she told me that they would charge me extortionist prices to box it up and ship it for me. Thinking that up to $250.00 was not worth it, I started to brainstorm other options. I decided that I would wait for Monday, seeing that I want to use my bike to explore the coast for the next few days, and try to find a cheaper alternative with UPS or USPS. I then found the cheapest motel in town, which wasn't very cheap, and checked in for two days.

So as I sit in my motel room, I can only think of those who have helped me get here...

First, I must thank the kids of Montaña de Luz for giving me the inspiration to step outside of my comfort zone and live my life with a new sense of purpose and joy.

Thanks to those who donated their hard-earned money to the MdL fund raiser and not only made it just a success, but exceeding expectations of how much you will give for a great cause. I am forever grateful for your generosity.

Many thanks to my parents for supporting me on this endeavor. I know they weren't very happy to first hear that their son was going to ride alone across the country, but they were still quick to assist me in anything I needed.

Thanks to the fellow cyclists that befriended me and helped to create a small community on the road. The Loughborough Boys (Chris, Callum and Dowds): You guys gave me so many things to laugh at and definitely motivated me in becoming a stronger cyclist. I hope you guys find the West Coast to be very kind to you and I hope you'll find your way to Boston one of these days in the future. To Lady Chris and Lad Chris: you guys made Kentucky and Wyoming bareable and your generosity was very refreshing. Saz and Aaron: You guys were not only good for a laugh, but you were also ripe with great conversation and fun stories. Thanks for that.

Special thanks to Jonathan, who took off a week in his busy life to ride with me through Kentucky. It was great watching small dogs chase you and sharing in that entire experience with you. I know you only joined me for a week, but it was the perfect time. I don't know how I would have handled Kentucky without you, man. Also, many thanks to Greg for driving Jonathan down from Ohio and hanging out with us in Breaks. It was great to see you.

Thank you to my friends who helped me feel connected to home via phone conversations and emails. Matt, Jesse, Ashley May, Alex, Katie, Jessica, Anne, Kelly, and the many others who kept in touch with me: You guys were always there with me.

Thanks goes out to the Ralphe family, who took me into their home, fed me, and entertained me. That one day in Colorado Springs may have been my last rest day of the trip, but it certainly was enough to sustain me for the next month of riding. Give Buttercup and Geronimo a kiss for me!

Thanks to Dave Mann for his expertise in bicycle maintenance and sharing it with me. Without Dave, I'd be broken down on the side of the road somewhere outside Jeffrey City right now. Now I just have to pass on this karmic debt that Dave so generously handed down to me.

Thank you to those who wrote on my blog and left so many encouraging comments. From family to friends, you guys kept me motivated in sharing this experience with you all. It feels great to know that you all experienced this journey with me somehow, and that I'll be able to recall so many memories from looking back at this blog.

Thanks to those many, many faces that smiled at me on the road, to those who welcomed me into their homes and businesses, to those who waved or gave me an enthusiastic thumbs up.

Lastly, thanks to God for keeping me safe and allowing me the oppurtunity to experience life in this way. I look forward to the next time I can be so thankful as I am right now.

Clemmie, I'm coming home!


Clementine said...

I can't wait!!!!!!!
ruff, ruff, Clementine

Momma said...

Way to go Blakey-boy!!!!!
Love you and can't wait to see you on Tuesday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Momma and Dad

Amelia said...

So awesome Blake. I read every word of your blog, and I think you should compile it into a book.

DJ Glisson II said...

YES!!! Well done, my man. Congrats. :)

Dad said...

Most can only dream of such an accomplishment. Not only was this a daunting physical feat, you made the extra effort to chronicle with great detail, humor and illustration, your daily observations. It was as if we were riding along with you. I have always been proud of you, but today I am exceptionally proud of you. Well done my son!

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