My third attempt to leave Seattle proved more successful, Susan and Brice saved me from another downpour, thanks guys. I found subtle charm in the suburbs I had belittled days earlier, Jim pulled me off the inter-urban trail as I chased him into the hills for a more favourable perspective of the Washington interior. Off the main drag south the dry farm land had more charm and was a perfectly timed morale booster. Jim a man of many an interesting interest had just completed a bike trip across the southern states and was eager to show his gratitude for the generosity on his trip and I found myself the grateful recipient. He took me out to his local and I loved his perspective on parts of the states lesser appreciated by most. His stories of the people he met in states and areas that are so commonly dismissed and discarded as redneck or small town had me interested and I felt like we had a similar approach. A former military man, Jim didn’t fit the typical bike tourer mould and I found his perspective refreshing and really enjoyed his company, resulting in a bit of a morning headache.
Following the minor roads South the Washington interior came up trumps, dry pine and flat valleys that stretched all the way to incredible mountains of Rainer, St Helens and then Mount Hood were lovely to ride. Morgan invited me to camp on his farm on the outskirts of Rochester, showed me around his 38 acre plot and cooked me up a couple of his chickens that had been scurrying around not long before. He had bought the land the previous year with his wife for the price of a one bed flat in suburban London as was raising livestock and growing veg as part of a sizeable community of young farmers. He also worked on a pioneering project using fungi to clean up polluted waterways and even road debris. It was an interesting evening hearing Morgan and his friends discuss their agricultural projects and encouraging there was such a large community pushing to become closer to a more sustainable form of food production. After sampling some of the things on offer in the bigger American supermarkets it was pretty clear why. I was told to avoid standard milk out here if I wanted to avoid growing breasts.
My reflective ways had not quite subsided. I took this is as inevitable over this kind of journey so tried to not let it stop my progress and rode with it, you have a lot of time to think when peddling away day after day. A lot of time not thinking too, just watching the landscape change and taking it in. I know this sounds painfully emo but I was wondering if it was selfish to spend so much time away from the people I cared for, thinking about recent mistakes I had made and how to better them. The riding gave an appropriate bit of time to ponder these things in a calm, somewhat productive fashion.
Ramona put me up on her float home and we dined over the river on a 30 degree evening. Having nursed in South America amongst other places she told me many exciting things. Originally from Alaska we contributed to the Alaskan appreciation society and shared stories. Waking up on the river, with the gentlest breeze struggling to battle back 35 degree heat me and Ramona spent the morning chatting about absolutely everything. Her life on the river seemed pretty idyllic, an artist neighbour swung by on a canoe on route home which was an everyday occurrence. Co-op float home living. Good one.
I took a scenic route and leafy streets provided a gentle welcome to Portland. My routine of cooling of with a beer on entering a city proved fruitful as I met Edwin and we got chatting away. I told him I was looking for a room and two hours later he invited me to stay in his loft of the house he had just bought and I could help round the house and with the garden. I spent the afternoon kicking a ball around in the park and starting to feeling at home. Edwin and his friends took me down the river the next day and we fooled around on rafts, Lisa invited me to burning man, a festival down in Nevada. It seemed like a bit of extravagance but an opportunity I couldn’t turn down. A week to do my dissertation then a week to celebrate. Portland seemed to have blessed me with a lot of luck and I was really enjoying the atmosphere of the place. A little grittier, less commercial and more bike friendly than Seattle there seemed to be the perfect pace of life. The city was a-wash with insanely good food and people seemed to like to chew the fat for hours about everything which suited me fine, a naval gazing paradise! I watched a few house shows and spent sometime in the bike kitchen where I met Alicia who took me on a tour of a nearby island it was good to make friends and feel I could settle for a while. My bum amongst other things are going to have a very happy few weeks.