One of the downsides of getting older seems to be that peak thrilling experiences seem to be fewer and further between. Its like you trade in the high highs and low lows of youth for a more steady baseline of contentment — swap a bit of wonder for wisdom. At fourteen taking the bus downtown on my own was an event that could score a spot in one of the top ten moments of my life. These days it seems I have to up the anti, just a bit to get that kind of rush. I have to admit, I spent my early twenties as sort of a adrenaline junkie, trying to one up myself by toping my own top moments. The thing is the more you do the harder it is to have a truly awe inspiring experience.
But I am writing this, because I had one. Taking a bike trip was something that had been on my bucket list since the tenth grade when we wrote “100 thing you want to do before you die” for an English assignment. This year we did it, we bought all the camp gear, fancy tour bikes and two tickets to Vancouver, from where we planned to cycle to San Francisco. The thing is when you’ve never cycled 100km a day for 20 days straight you don’t really know how they whole thing is going to go down.
I had driven down to Oregon once in a car and I remember it being gorgeous, but in a car you are numbed, and passive. Its like kissing someone through a plastic bag. On a bicycle you are vulnerable, you are engaged and living as part of the environment. Biking through a town, you hear bits of conversations, when it rains the weeds and forests by the side of the road explode with a symphony of smells and when the wind is at your back you can imagine wings, and what it is like to fly. Unlike being in a car you work for every mile, being mindful of cracks in the pavement and shoulders that drop off into 20 story cliffs. On the freeways with lanes of roaring traffic that extend to the sides, above and below, you get the sensation of being as insignificant as a mosquito in a heard of thundering buffalo. But that feeling of insignificance is directly contrasted by the sensation of soaring down a mountainside and knowing a slice of the infinite.
The moment that gets stirred into my top ten is just that. It was our biggest climb of the trip just outside of Leggett Ca, it took three hours to pedal up the 2,000 ft mountain that stretched over a 20km distance. Sweating and tired we reached the top and boy are the downhills are always worth the climb. As we zoomed down the mountain, 70/km the landscape unfolded to reveal a scene so beautiful that above the wind in my ears I noticed I had been laughing. The sun making the waves out sparkle all the diamonds in the world, and cliffs out of some romantic Keats poem. Although the day was beautiful, fog hug in the air, making everything mystical and dream-like. You know when life feels so good, that it makes you a bit sad, because you know it can never stay this way for long? Thats the kind of feeling you get from going down hills really fast and being swallowed up by beauty.
Anyway from rolling hills, and the rural farmland of Washington, to the dramatic ocean side cliffs and sand dunes of Oregon, to the ancient giant trees that lived in the forests of California, I cannot recommend this trip enough you should really do it!