Riding In America

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

My Sony laptop died on the 20th, hence the long break between posts. One would think technology might last longer than three weeks (the time between purchase and watching the screen go black… never to work again). Yes, one would think that… and spend the rest of their road trip wondering what important emails one was missing and lamenting the lack of new content with which to delight my legions of fans. Well, Mom anyways.

Shelton McMurphey Johnson House, Eugene OR

To their credit, London Drugs is replacing the machine and giving me a good deal on retrieving the data from my hard drive.

Enough about the vagaries of technology however, who doesn’t have a horror story involving a reliance on computers being thwarted?

The Good:

Watching Sam Whittingham break a world record and seeing how all the competitors at the World Human Powered Speed Challenge exhibited ‘Spirit of the Game’ in the finest fashion, from volunteering with running the event, to helping other riders out with parts, advice, and good wishes. A great bunch and an incredibly cool event. Who knew standing around the desert waiting for a biker to zip by in a carbon-fiber capsule could be so much fun?

Kudos to Amtrak personnel and the transit workers and drivers of Washington. With only a couple of exceptions, they were invariably helpful, pleasant, and eager to assist.

Cold beer in convenience stores and gas stations. Nothing better after 8 hours of riding than knowing a frosty beverage is as close as the nearest corner store. Extra points for the ginormous cans!

Eugene, Oregon. One can see why college towns are such desirable places to live, especially when cruising down quiet streets at the start of the school year; autumn’s onset delivering a slight briskness to the air. Factor in eating establishments that have heard of cuisine beyond the deep fryer and you’ve got an oasis for anyone whose tastes don’t include a side of ranch dressing… for French fries.

The Nevada landscape at sunrise and sunset. When you’re raised on mountains, ocean, and evergreens, dry scrub, faraway hills, and expansive skies are a novelty.

Getting a flat tire, realizing your pump is broken, but then being told by a helpful local that a heavy-duty mechanic shop is about a hundred paces away. Lemons… meet lemonade, in the form of Cliff the Myrtle Creek mechanic and his handy-dandy air compressor.

The I-5. Wide shoulders and direct routes made this very busy highway a good idea when I wanted to rack up the miles.

The Bad:
The I-5. Aforementioned wide shoulders were usually littered with glass and tire remnants. The constant drone of traffic wears you down eventually too. Having the shoulder narrow at bridges and overpasses makes no sense at all. Hey, let’s make it more dangerous for cyclists right where it’s already more dangerous! I’d also like to extend a middle finger to the jerk in the cargo van who nearly clipped me on a bridge outside of Roseburg. The one and only time I actually thought I was a goner on the whole trip. Grab a brain moron!

Bus-sized RVs towing SUVs. C’mon, that’s not camping. History will judge you… to be bereft of any sense of obligation to our children and grandchildren. Or maybe I’m just bitter. Hauling 100 pounds of bike and gear over too many summits tends to leave one looking askance at people doing it the easy way.

Religion in politics. The flag and Jesus appear to be central to the American psyche. You see and hear a lot concerning the two. And, on their own, there’s room for both. The frequency with which they are combined however, left me feeling like I was living the prologue to A Handmaid’s Tale. Frankly, I think one could make the argument you can either be a patriot, or a Christian, but not both simultaneously, in that the former preaches division and exclusion, while the latter is a belief system based on acceptance and inclusion. But that’s just me.

The Ugly:
Aboard the Amtrak train, two older gentleman… one from Texas, the other a transplanted Englishman. Once they get around to talking about Obama, English asshole says, “I lived in Africa and let me tell you, apartheid works.”

Chris bites tongue and resists urge to kick the bloody English racist right in his Union Jacks.

Oh, but it gets better. The Lone Star loser replies with, “Yeah, we brought ‘em over here, gave ‘em jobs and food, now they act like we owe them something.”

By now I’m grinning the maniacal smile of someone resisting the urge to deliver a lecture to senior citizens on how, after this much time on the planet, their utter stupidity concerning the realities of history and discrimination makes them fools of the first order. I leave the observation lounge instead… and return to my seat wondering how people get to be so ignorant in these supposedly enlightened times.

Thankfully, that was my only outstanding negative experience. For the most part I found every American I crossed paths with to be friendly, helpful, and more than willing to engage a stranger, especially compared to the stand-offishness we tend to exhibit in Canada.

Public art to remember Japanese internment and the Nisei soldiers who served with distinction during the Second World War – Eugene OR.

I’m thinking next year it’ll be the September in Nevada tour. Burning Man, Battle Mountain, and then Interbike in Vegas. Anybody want to come on a road trip?

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