Life on the road

Life on the road

It was a clear morning and I was cycling a beautiful remote route in the US state of Oregon. The scenic roads I followed passed through an area with a history of volcanic eruptions. Large mountains of black pieces of hardened lava were laying alongside the road. The surrounding area was beautifully green and filled with fir trees, occasionally spruce trees and these were as big as I never had seen before.

Suddenly I saw something moving in the distance other than the accesionally cars and trucks that pass by. I came closer and noticed someone walking next to a bike with some gear strapped on it. This person didn’t got the regular bike traveler appearance. It made me curious and I crossed the road to check in on his story.

“You are the first cyclist I have encountered in over four months!”
I yelled at the guy in excitement.

He introduced himself as Michael, he had his torso bare and a gray sweater was tied around his saddle. There were tattoos on his arms and shoulders. Under a gray cap he wore small sunglasses. His bike was way too small for his stature, more of a teenage mountain bike if you would ask me. He had an Adidas sports bag tied to the handlebars with a belt. He also got a small backpack and an empty plastic bottle on his frame but that was it.

After a short small talk and getting to know each other, the conversation turned to our bikes.
“You have quite a bit with you.”
He said in a surprising tone. If it didn’t already now my appearance compared to him looked like a big joke.
“Where are you going?”
I asked him for the purpose of changing the subject.

He started telling about his journey and I became impressed. Michael was practically homeless. He told me he had gone to Los Angeles looking for a job. It was all a great disappointed to him. To get out of this situation, he decided to visit his half-sister in Washington. That is about 1,500 kilometers of a cycling journey. He started out on a reasonable touring bike but it got stolen, this was his third bike and it wasn’t quite his size. I was happy to meet him, it made me aware that with a strong mindset and an adventurous spirit you don’t need much to get anywhere. He just came up with this idea and now he was already halfway through a 1,500-kilometer bike ride on a teenage bike without any racks.

“Do you need anything?”
I asked him.
He shook his head.
“You know, I’ll give you my thermos, so at least you’ll have a little upgrade.”
That made him happy.
“That makes a cool memory for this moment!”
He said with excitement.

I mounted the holder and bottle on his frame and gave him a ready-to-eat breakfast. I hoped the bike would make it, though I was sure it wouldn’t be long before he and that bike (or another one) arrived in Washington at his half-sisters place.

Cycling the TransAmerica Trail

One evening when the sky turned a beautiful soft orange color I was reminded of how life can have its sudden beautiful moments. For a change that evening I could sit outside my tent looking at the colorful sky while cooking a spaghetti with fresh vegetables.

The nice thing about this evening was that I didn’t have to worry about the merciless cold that often sent me quickly into my sleeping bag. The spring I so much longed for is all the way more present to me after that intense winter I’ve experienced in Alaska and Canada.

Only now did I realize how long it has been uncomfortable now that the overal circumstances are getting better by the day. It’s interesting how my mind coped with these hardships and to have been able to observe the emotional rollercoasters I’ve been in certainly helped me to become a little more aware of patterns I fall back on when I cope with stress.

The arrival of spring meant that I no longer had to be busy with a lot of things. For example, that water no longer froze and I also didn’t have to take into account that my food was frozen all the time. I could now cook with fresh vegetables and eat oranges and bananas throughout the day. I experienced how important it was to do this regularly because my stomach wasn’t messy for a change.

The road through Oregon was full of amazing landscape changes, from rocky canyons to the wilderness, to pine forests in the hills and the mountains surrounding the high deserts.

It was really breathtaking.

TransAmerica Trail Oregon, US

Cycling the TransAmerica Trail

In the evenings in my tent I often read a book about before going to sleep. One of them is about the history of mankind or in the book called sapiens. I read a chapter that explains a bit about the history of the United States of America and I found that quite amusing. This book explains that America is named after Amerigo Vespucci, an Italian who took part in a number of expeditions to this continent in the years 1499-1504. At this time, science was developing in Europe and Europeans were discovering parts of the world that were not yet known to them.

In 1507, a European mapmaker named Martin Waldseemüller published a revised world map. This map admitted for the first time that the Bible, classical geographers and the Europeans had filled in unknown places in the world simply from a made-up belief. Columbus in his time thought that his discoveries were islands of East Asia. Amerigo Vespucci was convinced that this was not so. Waldseemüller, taking Vespucci’s arguments seriously, made the erroneous assumption that America was discovered by Vespucci and named it after him on his maps. In this way, a quarter of the world is now named after an Italian who merely re-questioned the erroneous beliefs of that time.*

American flag in Grants Pass

The road I follow winds through hills and mountains. The beautiful bald eagles fly in circles across the sky. Butterflies cheerfully cross the road. Sturdy fir trees rise high into the sky. The last visible snow tries to survive as long as possible in the shady spots alongside the road. An alert fox looks at me from a distance and then rushes into the woods. A group of large deer moves forward a bit anxiously and then dares to cross the lake while I watch in silence from behind my campfire.

Group of elks swimming by

I have been made wonderful progress with my current 100km-a-day mentality. Cycling 3-5 days and then taking a day break. My visa runs out on 7 June and I’ve to cover probably around 2,000 kilometer before reaching the border with Mexico.

I’ve been staying in hostels in Baker City and Bend other then that camped out in fields and forests. Did some maintenance on my chain and chainrings at the Hutches Bicycles in Bend. Those guys really helped me out and because I cycled for over 5,000 kilometer all the way from Alaska with the same chain I’ve now been trailnamed One Chain.

The roadside Burger King people don’t want me to use the plug-in to charge some devices. I walk away for more helpful spirits and the Sharis road restaurant is going the opposite and a cheerful lady put me in a special place with ability to charge and watch over my bike.

“Is your bike locked?”
she says warningly.
“Be careful because it is easily stolen here.”
The lady is very friendly and comes by about every ten minutes and then shouts:
“How is it going here!?’
To then add a good shot of coffee to my already filled container.

I cycle over roads and fields every night looking for a camping spot and this evening I arrive at a self-registered camping area that is owned by the state and is maintained by the rangers. When I look at the price it says $42 per night on the information signs. This will have to do with the many homeless people in this area. It starts to rain and I search my bags for my raincoat. I find out that the coat is gone. The last memory I have is that I hung it on my handlebars to air it at that roadside restaurant. Did the wind got it away? Or did someone took it?

The next day I pass a big sign which says campground on it. I carefully walk into the yard of the people who are supposed to be the owners of this campsite.
“What are you doing here? Get out!”
An older lady snaps at me.
I walk back to my bike and she follows me.
“Are you hiking? What are you doing?”
I point to my bike and ask if I can camp here and also take a shower, because I don’t feel that fresh after a few days without.
“I don’t do camping. Four miles ahead you can camp at Lake Selmac.”
A bit surprised over this approach I wonder, dear lady, what have I done to you.

I decide to take her advice and cycle to Lake Selma and once there it is another self-registration campground, now for $25. I refuse to pay a lot of money every night for a piece of ground to sleep on but I do have a strong need for a shower. I take a good look around me, it’s quiet here. I drive to a concrete building that is the bath house and feel at one of the doors whether a shower is open.
I’m lucky one of them is.

Showers are for registered camped only

No one to see, I take a chance and turn on the tap. Lovely warm water flows over my sweaty body parts. I shower extensively for 20 minutes and then carefully open the door again. I look left and right, no one to be seen. I put my clothes and towel back in my pannier and hastily jump on my bike to avoid being caught. I start to look for a camping spot in the surrounding woods.

A free campsite.

* this is from the book Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari