I have arrived at my destination for the evening after traveling 280 miles away from home in just under five hours. In the rolling farm fields of Eastern Washington exist countless tiny towns with populations well below 1,000. You won’t find most of these towns on any road maps, and if you blink you’re sure to miss them. My dad lives in one of those towns. At least I’m sure he’s considered to be inside city limits, though his nearest neighbor is easily a mile away. The only hustle and bustle you can hear from his house are the noises of the owls that reside in his trees and the coyotes that wander the fields at night. I can’t imagine living in a town this small, though it does have its perks. For one, I can’t get enough of the brightness of the stars and the young waxing moon (dad and I had to look up moon phases on wikipedia while discussing moon facts to my eight year old little sister). But this all is just the destination, let me tell you about my journey to get here.
Last night, my roommate Chris came home early from his vacation so he could see me off; he’ll be on his own in our apartment for the next six weeks, so it was a very thoughtful gesture. My friend Brian also made a point to come over last night and monitor my packing. This morning Bri Bri, as I affectionately call him, was kind enough to go out and get coffee and breakfast as I continued to stress over all that was or wasn’t going into my luggage. When you have a certain amount of space and you know you’ll be living out of it for the next few weeks, it is difficult to attempt to plan for what you may need. I did my best to only pack up essentials and stuff that I was guaranteed to use. I guess I’ll find out later how fruitful my efforts were. I made sure to take as long as I could packing and loading audiobooks and other mp3s onto my ipod and phone because I felt an unusual amount of unpreparedness. I had been planning this trip for weeks, but still didn’t feel set. Finally, it was noon, my planned time of latest departure. It was overcast, warm, and all around perfect riding conditions – I had to tell myself, “it’s now or never”.
As we said our goodbyes, Brian reminded me to ride safe and to tighten the lid on my spare gas can when filling it up to prevent leaking. Needless to say, ten minutes later at the gas station, I was kicking myself when I thought I’d screwed the gas can lid on tight enough, laid it on the seat of my bike, and watched it leak fuel all over the rear of my bike and insides of my saddlebags. Oops. I could hear Brian chuckling and saying, “Well, that sucks. Told you.” Oh well, a good rinse down of water washed away the fuel pretty quickly. By 12:30, I was officially on my way and riding eastward.
The city of Portland will always be home for me. It is where I was born, it was where I found solace in my teenage years, and it is where I continue to find new discoveries as an adult. Leaving it behind me is likely a temporary event, but one that still feels eerie, nonetheless.
As I made my way through the city and found myself at the mouth of the Columbia River Gorge, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed by grief. It has been over five months since I had ventured that way on my own, and much longer than that since I’d kept on driving down Interstate 84 passed Hood River. Months ago, this was the route I often took to get to Adam. All I could think along that first stretch was, “please just let me get past Hood River and leave it behind me.” Adam was always my kryptonite. I wish I could say I knew what went wrong in our relationship, but I don’t, and I never will. One day he just dropped a bomb on me and said he couldn’t be with me, but that I was his world and made him happier than anyone ever had. Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and slap him for being utterly contradicting, but something in his face told me there was much more to it. Months later, I still stress about what went wrong, but I’m finally starting to ease out of the heartache. One day I’ll laugh at how girly and emotional I have been and look forward to my new found strength, courage, and bravery.
After getting passed Hood River, the rest of the trip went by quickly. The only bad parts were areas where it smelled like an infant’s diaper or skunk, and where massive amounts of bugs seemed to flock to the middle of the highway, exactly where my visor would pass through – may they all rest in peace now… ew. I had expected a little rain, but none came, and I am very grateful for that. I stopped for gas once, stretched for quite a while, and acquired my lunch, which consisted of a king sized Snickers bar and some sour patch kids (my favorite junk food). After the fuel stop, I was just over 100 miles from my destination, which took just over an hour because traffic on a Sunday out this way is very mild, especially with the higher speed limits.
Tomorrow, it’s on to Missoula, Montana! I can’t wait to see what the scenery looks like and take more pictures.
Crap. I just realized I forgot my shampoo and conditioner.