Day 82. Our last ride of the trip as we followed along the Alsea River on its way to the ocean. It's a lovely ride, through the Oregon from central casting-lush, green, towering trees and ferns. The valley twists and turns and even seemingly folds back on itself here and there.
Bill hit another flat, of course, making it about six flats. I'm not far behind having about five myself.
John reported at one point that we had dropped to 87 feet in elevation. The river on our left was flat and sluggish. Getting closer to the coast I am caught be the matter-of-factness of it all. We are here, pedaling away, and soon the coast will give into view and that will be that. It seems surreal to be this close and not be weighed down by the enormity of the past 82 days.
I not so vain to omit that I became a little misty eyed and emotional when I finally reached the summit of Hoosier Pass at 11,500 feet. I felt that if I could do that then I had conquered the worst that the route could throw at me and I would actually complete the journey.
I expected to feel similar as we approached the coast. Instead I just felt content with the self-perceived inevitability of it. After 82 days it was just coming to an end as naturally as the sun sets in the west. The river became an estuary. Houses began sporting maritime decorations and soon we were in Waldport.
We could see the ocean but stopped here for a planned breakfast break. John's wife and son were there to meet him. Great joy for John. Gina came along not to long afterwards. We enjoyed a good breakfast and then got back on the bikes to head a couple of miles down the Pacific Coast Highway to access the beach.
The Oregon Coast
Here is where the journey unofficially ends at the western edge of a continent and country.
The last thirty-four miles explained our unusual two day deviation north and west from Coburg. Coburg is just a northern suburb of Eugene, and the route goes from Eugene to Florence. Except this tour has us going north about thirty miles and then turning west. So instead of meeting the Pacific in Florence we reach it thirty-four miles north in Waldport.
Taking in the last self-congratulatory bike ride down the Pacific Coast Highway was a little slice of incredible beauty. There were a few very manageable climbs followed by rushing descents with views of coastal beaches and towering rock islands. Just beautiful and a lovely little epilogue to our cross country journey.
How to reconcile and weave together this tapestry of Kansas prairie, Kentucky coal country, Virginian Appalachians, and Oregon coast? I don't know if it can be done, and certainly not in a pithy two minute summary. That's why nearly all of us kept a journal, or a blog.
But now it seems more like a dream particularly now that John's family is here, Gina is here, and all of us are mulling the logistics of leaving. Air travel. Baggage. Hotel stays.
I push that aside and enjoy the view and pedal on.
In the end the destination is diminished without the journey.
At least a thousand people bike the TransAmerica route, and many more thousand embark on a long bike journeys all across this country. Some do it quicker than I did. Some hauled all their equipment. Some camped, some stayed always at hotels. This was just the journey I picked, because biking across this country was enough.
We met a lot of fellow cyclists on this trip. We would meet at convenience stores, in campgrounds, hostels, churches, or along the road. Some were heading East and we would just wave to each other. Others heading our direction would turn up here and there as our speed and itineraries briefly intersected.
Even traveling as a group, starting and ending the day together, we still managed to have different experiences across the country. Trying to distill down the past eighty-two days to a best of/worst of moments confronted us with the reality that the trip and country that we crossed are too vast to be summarized by memory.
Even having written it down, I am still flabbergasted that I cycled across a country and continent to reach the end of land here out west. When and how did that happen?
Then I look back through all these posts and realize that it happened the same way I will turn fifty. Days turn to weeks. Weeks into months. Months into years and before you know it...there you are.
Regardless of what you do, there you are. The only difference is what you do with the days you are given in between. We share some experiences, have different ones than others, and it all stacks upon each other until we each reach the end of our journeys.
What did you do on each of those days?
How did that give meaning to the destination?
That's a question we can only answer for ourselves.
Some of our journeys, like this one, have a defined end dates. Others don't. All journeys end and all the days, places, and people that fill the moments between the start and the end make the journey wonderful.
I would be remiss if I didn't say thank you to all of you who posted encouragements, questions, likes, and loves during this adventure. Your support really did keep me going and pedaling. I also have to give a special nod to three people who made this adventure possible. My Mother Johanna who brought me into this world. My wife, Gina, who has long suffered and celebrated my sense of humor and adventure. My law partner, Mike, who didn't bat an eye about letting me take a three month sabbatical from our law practice.