Unsurprisingly, Washington State was named for the honest President, American hero and amateur cherry-tree butcher known as George Washington. One might assume that the names of other places across the Americas are logically assigned as well; however, one would be sorely mistaken. Our inner romantics cry out for a Jasper of the Canadian Rockies that must have been named for those opaque stone walls of a heavenly New Jerusalem; or perhaps for a Portland that was framed as a majestic gateway to Oregon’s western shores. In reality, Jasper was named after an unremarkable fur-trading post, and Portland is Portland because of the strange coincidence of a lost coin-toss, a New England city, and an isle near Dorset, England.
The names and town signs and landscape changes with every mile we pedal. Vast geographical differences can mask the wondrous commonalities shared by the people we encounter. Small anecdotes from our days riding through the Inland Empire illustrate much of this goodness. A marine biologist and schoolteacher sheltered us from cold rain in the mountainous apogee of the Columbia Gorge. A bar owner let us camp in his beer garden, sheltered from the ruthless winds that were arrayed daily against us on the flat desert plains of central Washington. Perfect strangers offered donations, directions, and invariably a prediction of our impending doom in Mexico.
I wonder when this strange mixture of luck and providence will run out. I wouldn’t mind being lucky and good…but usually I don’t count on either. When I consider our journey I recognize that there really is no such thing as an expiration of luck or providence. The deepest depths of frustration and misery that we encountered (which seemed rather unlucky at the time) are rooted now so firmly in our most spectacular rides and relationships. It was bad luck that gave us headwinds on the Columbia, but that same bad luck that gave us a beautiful tent site on a sandy patch of land in the Gorge.
A weekend in Portland brought us time to rest, to eat unheard of amounts of food, to race our Trolls for fun, and to explore what the city had to offer. We will miss Portland and its roses, its food carts, its bicycles, its swing, and its indelible urban culture. We’ll be back someday without a doubt. Yet there is no remorse in leaving, no sense of loss as we once more saddle up and ride towards Bend. The names and faces will change but I am confident that there will always be a few for whom this goodness that we so enjoy will remain unaltered.
If I could offer you one highlight from our weekend in Portlandia it would be our continuing tradition of doing non-restful things on rest days. Case in point: cyclocross racing at Cross Crusade here in Portland. The local ‘cross scene in Portland is arguably the best in the nation and we couldn’t pass up the chance to race and experience the spectacle. We leave for Bend with just a little bit of fear in our legs but no regrets. David and Nathan received their initiation to the world of bicycle racing and we all pushed our limits. Onward through Oregon and on the road once more, Argentina is still very far away.