For pictures from today, go here.
It rained last night, but stopped (for the most part) before I got up very early, broke down my tent, loaded up, bade my riding companions from yesterday a bon route, and headed to the Tilllamook traansit center to catch the bus. I was early enough to get breakfast at The Pancake House. The bacon was thick and the boysenberry syrup tasty.
The bus ride was a steamy warm bumpy flight through a green mush. Ferns and thickets and slashes of gold bank laid bare, then glimpses of a silver river far below, rocks sensed more than seen beneath tumultuous turbidity. You could wipe the window clear of condensation for a minute and play a kalaidoscope game with the view: Blurry foliage up close then - pop! - a clearing with a yellow logging yarder ticking cool. More blurs and - pop! - a series of signs bellowing KEEP OUT and POSTED and NO TRESPASSING to let you know that somebody by gum moved up here into the hinterlands for a reason (darn tootin', you betcha!).
We reached the top of the mountain range and the world slowly changed, firs giving way gradually to fields of amber grain sown and shipped. There was corn, but it was shorter than ours ... probably the result of a different moisture to sunshine ratio than in Tennessee. A farmer on a John Deere tractor was plowing under last year's dismal yield. Mobile homes with mossy roofs. Mills and lumber yards that are obviously the biggest industry in town.
Then, it was the Portland suburbs, and ubiquity settled in like a comfortable pair of Birkenstocks ... arranged, of course, in such a way that the brand name showed. The bus stopped and disgorge many of the Tillamookians (Tillamookites?) in front of a See's Candy shop. I almost jumped out myself.
Further in to town down busy US 26, we finally hit our ultimate destination -- the Greyhound bus station -- and I jumped off with my bags, got my bike off the rack on the front, loaded everything back up, and spun away to explore. I stopped at an Embassy Suites that was less than a mile away, but their price was a little ridiculous. After a little more exploring, I hit a Travelodge that was just over two miles from the bus stop. As the clerk said, "we're clean, but you won't get a chocolate on your pillow." Sold!
I couldn't check in for another four hours, but the clerk let me stash my bags in the hotel office. I then went back in to the city center. The pictures pretty much tell the story -- a funky little town that has managed to embrace cycling as both a means to exercise and a means to travel. There were bikes everywhere, either under people travelling thither and yon or securely bolted to the omnipresent bike racks. The number of apparently homeless people wandering around made me whip out my little lock a few times to lash Sparkletini securely to a post..
Two funny things about the homeless folks: One was the guy that I saw with a sign saying "Need $5 to get a job." He was sitting by an on-ramp to the interstate, wearing dirty clothes and with a pretty grimy looking beard, talking to somebody on his cell phone. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but it seems like if you have your own phone number you're not technically homeless any more ... right?
The other funny thing about the homeless folks was this: When I would lock up my bike, I would then take my front bag and bottles and helmet into stores with me. Maybe it was this, or maybe it was because I wasn't dressed very nicely -- wearng cheap zip-off-leg light khakis and a wicking rayon (but collared) shirt -- but the store clerks weren't sure whether I was one of those homeless guys or not. I stopped at a Safeway for some Gatorade for tomorrow and went to use the rest room, but it was locked up and you needed a code, and the lady in the deli wasn't sure that she should give it to me.
Of course, it may also be because I haven't shaved for a few days, and was frankly looking a little dirty after biking about town much of the day. I left my old electric razor (a very cheap one -- no big loss) in Elma, so I may go out this evening and buy a new one. I was playing with the idea of growing my beard out on this trip, but if people are going to treat me like a hobo I may have to rethink that idea.
Or I can get a sign and try to earn a living.