Last night I finished writing a small article for a workplace 'newspaper'. It's kind of like a small recap on all the fantastic people we met during our ride from San Francisco to Vancouver in the fall of 2007. Enjoy. * * * * *
My husband, Brian, and I like to think of ourselves simply as “those two people on bikes.” When we tell people that we rode 3500 kilometres in New Zealand followed immediately by a 2500-kilometre ride from San Francisco to Vancouver, BC as a reintroduction to North America, people usually say, “What? With all your stuff?... Why?” Good question.
Of all the memories from these trips by bike, the main themes seem to be these: amazing scenery, amazing food, and amazing people. And sometimes, all three together.
I have a wonderful example of this triad of perfection: Imagine the little, cute town of Mendocino, California. It’s a hot, sunny afternoon in early September. I’m perched next to the only grocery store in town. As I sit, patiently sipping on water, I see this small, older woman take a peek at me and the bikes before heading into the store. Five minutes later, she reappears, stops right beside me and says, “Do you have somewhere to stay tonight?” My mind quickly assesses the situation: she looks harmless, but she appears like she could own ten cats and live in a small, very dusty trailer. “Nope,” I respond. Within minutes, we had directions to her house a few kilometers outside of town.
Upon arriving at her homestead, my mind rekindled an old adage, “Never make assumptions, Dee.” As it turns out, this friendly eighty-year-old woman, Norma, lived in the not so small, or dusty, cottage she designed and built back in the sixties, which happened to be located on a set of high cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. We parked the bikes, knocked on the door and were immediately invited to sit in the Adirondack chairs on the back deck, snack on corn chips, sip on a couple of ice-cold Coronas and watch the sun set over the ocean. Um.... yeah. Amazing food, amazing scenery, and, if you haven’t guessed already, Norma was an amazing woman.
Our time with Norma was extended to nearly three days of eating homemade apple pie (150% better than raw garlic and curdled milk), getting beaten badly at Boggle (she’s a pro and took no prisoners), making meals together, sipping local wine, and sharing stories about the most excellent strangers we had all been lucky to meet (she had some doozies).
Not all interactions on our journeys were quite so dream-like, but each one certainly added a tale to the spicy mixture of our trip. There was the tired, dirty, young fellow walking - yes, walking - from southern California north to Seattle along the coastal highway with which we shared some food and listened to his numerous stories of running out of water. There were Ed and Bobbie, who had a map on their kitchen wall highlighted with all their cycling trips over the past 40 years.
There was the couple on the Oregon coast that met us in a parking lot after their successful mushroom hunt. They gave us a bag full of chanterelle mushrooms to benefit our dinner that night. Mmm... There was the woman with the gnome garden in her front yard and a set of really cheap cabins for rent on the waterfront. Yikes.
There was Jason, the GIS student who plans to help us start up a bike shop/coffee shop/gallery/yoga studio someday. There were Alan and Donna, who pretty much forced us, and everyone who stays with them, to try on their Halloween costumes and photo-document the occasion.
And who could forget Max, whom we met in a state park campsite. Max and his cohort of hung over, hungry, exhausted, university-aged dudes were cycle touring the coast in the opposite direction we were in an attempt to delay re-entry into formalized education. The chances of meeting Max at this one particular place on the west coast of the States was rare, but the fact that we met Max that night and shared not only our dinner but also our plans for the rest of the year meant that he passed us his aunt and uncle’s phone number in Nelson, BC and said, “Call them when you get there. Tell them I sent you. They will invite you over for dinner.” A few months later, that they did. And, they ended up coming to our wedding the following summer.
Even when we aren’t cycle touring ourselves, we maintain the connection to this lifestyle and continue to build our ever-expanding community of lovely and inspiring strangers by hosting other cyclists when they pass through our area (we use www.warmshowers.org to let cyclists know where we are and how to get in touch with us – anyone can be a host).
Perhaps these stories may inspire you to hop on a bike just so you can meet people who invite you in for fresh, homemade pies, or in my husband’s case, a private plane flight across the prairies! One thing is for certain: no matter where we go or how long it takes us to get there, our love affair with cycle touring is centered around seeing beautiful places, eating delicious meals, and discovering new friends.That’s why we ride.