What this blog is about

Bicycle commuting, bicycle touring, bicycle racing; bicycle ADVENTURING.
To the grocery store, up a mountain, across the country or to the finish line--
it's all an adventure.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Adventure in Ashland

Well, I'm back and Ashland was quite the adventure- more than I had expected, anyhow. To prevent an overly long blog post, though- I will highlight.

I arrive at the Portland Greyhound station with two bags and a bike box. I leave the Portland Greyhound station with two bags and a bike box on top of a bicycle. (I even had an audience.)

Friday, Zac and I drive down to Eugene to start our bicycle trek. Hwy 58 isn't anything like we'd hoped it would be and we stop to discuss alternatives only to discover there weren't any. It's a stressful day on an 8 inch shoulder when the trucks barrel by, but we find a Free Camp spot that was the perfect tonic. Packed sand for beneath the tent, a fire pit for warmth and a chilly bit of river for jumping in.

Saturday, a non-coherent man at the gas station suggested that there's a "hill" up ahead. As Zac and I pump up the first bump in the road, we laugh and wonder if this was the ominous "hill." We later climbed 3,000 feet that day. Good thing there was a lake at the summit.

Our ride on Day Two- click to see elevation.

Sunday we attempted a gravel road "shortcut." After less than 2 miles, we turned around.

Another lake at the top of a climb.

RJ: Zac, we're going downhill, right? I think I need to check my tire pressure.
Zac: No, we're going uphill.
RJ: Oh.
RJ: Zac, we're going downhill now, right?
Zac: No, we're going uphill! See? Coast.
RJ tries coasting..
RJ: Pffhh!
Zac: No, seriously! Here- stop. Give me your bag.

Too bad RJ and Zac never checked RJ's tire pressure (it was flat the next morning). To get into Ashland we lost about 2000' of elevation in 9 miles. I got some funny shimmies on the U-turns (hmm, wonder what that could be..), so I didn't trust my bike the whole way down. I also stopped twice to cool off my rims and eat trail mix (which once resulted in Zac sprinting back up the hill when he didn't see me behind him- man he can book it even with panniers!)

Once we hit Ashland, we chose food over lodging- since after my "are we going downhill?" performance on the climb, food was clearly the priority. We were fortunate to hit a pizza place whose pies were more gourmet than the vinyl booths gave away. Whole wheat crust, spicy Italian sausage, spinach and feta were well tastier what we would have been willing to eat. And that's not just the hunger talking.

Tummies full, Zac and I made phone calls hoping to find a homestay rather than a hotel (or the campground another 6 miles away- I hardly had any pedal strokes left in me). Several voicemails later, our opportunities seemed just out of reach. Nearly defeated, by a seguway in conversation with other pizza eaters, I traded my current bike mechanic knowledge for lawn space. The residents were friendly and welcoming and it would even be just minutes from school the next morning. Beautiful.

The next evening Zac and I are hanging out outside a restaurant, once again making phone calls, hoping for that Whitman parent to pull through. Then, out of the blue, a handsome 20/30-something year old man asked us, "have you guys found a place to stay tonight?" (We are situated near our loaded bikes and Zac is wearing spandex.) "Well, uh- why, we haven't- no." "Well, I've got a condo right down the street and I can toss some clean sheets on the bed and you'd be welcome to stay." We're dumbfounded by generosity.

We step foot into James' clean-and-pretty-as-Pottery-Barn condo in downtown Ashland, "just don't steal my knives or my guitar," he jokes. Later, as we make conversation, we start to figure out that there's only one bed in this cozy-sized condo and Zac asks, "where are you going to sleep tonight, James?" He points to the rug in front of the fireplace, "that's my favorite spot right there!" We resist, but he insists. Later, he asks how long we'll be in Ashland (a week), "that's perfect! I'm leaving tomorrow to visit my grandma for a week and I'll just make you a copy of the key!" Again, dumbfounded.  Wow.

James is inspired by his faith. He listens carefully to God and acts on impulse whenever he feels that it's the thing to do. He gave his car away on such an impulse. The same impulse not only housed us for the week, but taught us a lesson of kindness we won't forget.

He made us poached eggs on english muffins spread with hummus in the morning.

And when I had to catch a 3am bus to get back to Walla Walla, James hung out with me from 1 to 3am so I wouldn't be waiting alone on the drunken streets of Medford.

Thanks, James. You made Ashland more than memorable.

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