The TransAmerican bicycle route ends on the west coast in Florence, Oregon. It only seems fitting that our bicycle tour ends here, too.
Standing in the cramped laundry room of a seedy RV “resort”, trying to absorb just a smidgen of heat off the nearby running dryer, we hurriedly stripped out of our soaked clothes. Shivering, and performing a balancing act aimed at avoiding contact with the filthy floor and walls, we both looked at each other and said, “I want to go home.”
We were on our way to San Francisco. We were 12 miles south of Florence. The wind was still, we were happy, we were making good time. And then my bike broke. It just broke. In exactly the same way Melissa’s bike broke in Yellowstone, sending my chain into its hardest back gear.
“I’m stopping!” I yelled as we flew down a hill.
And so we stopped at the bottom of a hill and just stood there, straddling our bikes, not knowing what to do or say. The nearest bike shops were in Florence, 12 miles back, and 40 miles down the road, in North Bend. Where we were, we didn’t have cell phone service, so our only option was to ride back to a small town that we had passed five miles ago, so that we could call the bike shops.
And that’s what brought us to Dune City, Oregon, and this depressing resort. None of the bike shops were open, but we were able to talk to the owner of one of them, the one that would be open tomorrow, on Columbus Day, and he sounded none too happy to try to fix the break. It looked like our only option was to stay in Florence one more night and pray that the bike could be fixed. And if it couldn’t, well . . . we didn’t know what we would do.
There was one couple at the resort that had a truck, and they offered to drive us back to Florence. The owner of the truck said he sees people like us all the time, and that we all have death wishes. He went on to say that the roads are too narrow and if there is a possibility of a head-on collision or hitting a biker, it’s “bye-bye biker”. We passed on accepting a ride from them.
I had to use the bathroom. Of course, there was no bathroom. So for the 1 billionth time on the bike tour, I had to sneak behind a building. I’m tired of it. I want indoor plumbing to be the norm. I want a normal life. I want a bed. I want to not live out of a bag. I want to stay in one place for longer than one night.
So we called Jill and Ryan, our friends in Eugene. And Ryan came and got us. And we’re not going back.
It’s rained for days. The fog ruins every single view of the beach. All we do is stare down over our front tires at the wet road, hoping to eventually get out of the wind and rain. So, we talked about it, we weighed our reasons for continuing on and found them to be less than convincing. It’s become clear that we’ve hit a wall with touring. We did this tour because we wanted to have fun, we wanted to do something unconventional while we had the chance. We wanted to take a time out and experience the freedom that comes with having nothing -- no routine, no responsibilities, nowhere to be. But, more and more, we realize we can’t wait to get back to a routine. We miss our friends, we miss racing, and want to be surrounded by familiar faces. We are both eager to get back to work. But it’s funny, not 20 minutes after deciding that we were done touring, the sun came out, the sky was blue, and of course, it made us second guess our decision to quit.
I can barely type these words without tears in my eyes . . . Our bike tour is over. We’ve come to a stopping point. We accomplished our goal of riding across the county. We even made it to Canada. And while we wanted to go down the coast, we’re not going to do it this time.
We’ve been homesick for quite a while now. And during the past couple of weeks the riding has been monotonous. Neither one of us has looked forward to riding our bikes each day. We both went on this bike tour because we love riding bikes, and right now we don’t.
I’ve gained more from this bike tour than I ever thought imaginable. I know now what I am capable of doing. And I’ve learned that people are good. I’ve been to places that I will sadly never visit again; and I’ve been to places that I never want to go back to again.
I’ve seen roadkill happen
I met my nephew
I’ve feared for my life
I’ve seen the most amazing sunsets and the most beautiful sunrises
I’ve washed my hair in a public sink
I’ve gone without showering for days
I’ve laughed so hard my whole body hurt
I’ve slept at the base of the Tetons
I’ve been surrounded by hundreds of butterflies
I’ve slept on an alter
I’ve out run a dog
I’ve lied about who I am
I’ve found comfort in a church
I’ve ridden over mountain passes
I’ve ridden through triple digit heat
I’ve milked a goat
I’ve dodged willy-worms crossing the road
I’ve been mistaken for a boy
I’ve made some amazing friends
I’ve slept on a complete stranger’s floor
I’ve drank a beer with a stranger in a garage while watching old Elvis movies
I’ve pushed my bike up hills
I’ve regretted the bike tour
I’ve sat in a city park, with six other bike tourist and have never been happier
I’ve attended Vacation Bible School
I’ve been homesick
I’ve raced two guys to the next town (and won)
I’ve been flipped off
I’ve been cheered on
I survived Jeffery City, Wyoming
I’ve crossed the 45th parallel, twice
I’ve consumed an estimated 100 jars of peanut butter
I’ve slept in a cabin built in 1880
I’ve bathed in hot springs
I’ve eaten way too much ice cream
I’ve watched orca whales dance
I’ve ridden through pitch black darkness
I’ve been robbed by a raccoon
I’ve slept in a dentist office
I’ve slept on the beach
I’ve had the time of my life
We’re going home.