Thematically, Bound South is an adventure beyond the shadow of a doubt. If one were to write the book, it would not be a placid Walden on wheels. A life by bicycle is not one of boundless mental reflection and meditation; it is actually a life missing its comfortable dose of autopilot. We are overloaded with the sounds and smells of the world and the subtleties of the sympathetic nervous system, listening to the engines of our body and attending constantly to the biology of hunger, thirst, and joy. There are moments of exhilaration; the car that passes too close, the lost connection of fast wheels in loose dirt, and the magical descents when your disc brakes can run cold in a wheeled emulation of flight.
Lest I give you the wrong impression, however, this is no thriller novel. There are some moments of climactic choice; whether to take the ditch at the sound of an oncoming 18-wheeler, to take uncertain forest roads versus sterile and certain highways, and whether to seize the $1.88 tortilla chips in the constant battlefield of the grocery aisle or rather cede victory to the twin nemeses of Hunger and Budget. Our maxim has become, “When in doubt, choose adventure and choose food.” There is enough oscillation between meditation, exhilaration, and simple self-preservation to occupy the mind for a lifetime of riding. If you don’t believe me, just get outside and ride your bike.
Leaving Bend was no easy task. Getting to Crater Lake National Park was at least as difficult. The most extensive and difficult climbs of our journey made each day a trial of our accumulated strength. Holding to our word and our maxim, we “chose adventure” through the Deschutes and Umpqua National Forests, eschewing the paved roads off of the Cascade Lakes Highway and instead traversing some of the most impassable and spectacular forest service roads we had ever seen. The Trolls were made for this, after all. One only has to climb up to 6,000 ft. Windigo Pass with a heavy bike on sandy single-lane dirt to appreciate what we faced on just one afternoon in central Oregon.
What goes up must come down, and we earned every single vertical foot that brought us up to the wonder of the world known as Crater Lake. Thousands of feet deep, Crater Lake rests as the remnant of a volcanic collapse from an ancient era, ringed by park roads and campsites closed for the proximate winter. It was absurd to ride our bicycles over nearly 8,000-foot-high Crater Lake in late October, a blessing of a warm sun and clear skies.
We hope and pray for more pleasant absurdities between here and Argentina, such as the outhouse we used to cook oatmeal in when our campsite froze overnight west of Prospect. Or the reappearance of my awesome tan lines.
We ride on for California and continue a dogged but sustainable pace, stopping to rest and reflect in equal measure with our adventures and absurdities. Why we ride will always be the critical thread that moves with us to Argentina and will one day bring us home.