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June 27, 2007

bad news


this photo is from when i was resting a day in Sunnyside, Washington, last Wednesday. Since then I've had to stop my trip due to knee pains.

i'll post a more complete story about this shittyness tomorrow.

Posted by bendan at 06:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A long ride turns into a short ride

When we last left off, i was convalescing in an RV park in Sunnyside, Washington, drinking beer with migrant farm workers and hoping that my knee was going to swell down enough for me to continue on my cross country ride.
apparently, that was not the case.
at first though, i thought it was. i left Sunnyside heading east, and despite some stiffness in the morning, by afternoon i felt good, loose and chock full of Motrin, ready to ride several thousand miles. That evening i made friends with more migrant farm workers at a campground near Burbank, Washington. they let me share their camp spot so that i didn't have to fork over 19 dollars, and we had a good hour long talk about their lives and what it's like doing the work they're doing, and about why i was riding my bike across these united states.
well, that next morning i awoke, feeling a bit stiff. i had 45 miles to do before i came to Waitsburg, the next reasonable sized town. I pedaled off down the state highway, through beautiful, gently rolling wheatfields. after about 12 miles or so the pain started to come back. It was pretty frustrating, and i attempted to mitigate it by adjusting my pedal cleat angle and my seat height and seat postion. these remedies did little to help, and as the miles piled on, i began to worry a bit about the feasability of actually completing the trip. I came to a tiny town at about 35 miles, and i took a break. I rubbed a bunch of Icy Hot into the anterior medial lateral aspect of my patella and took some more Motrin, but when i stood up i was a hurting unit.
probably what helped me the most that day, and indeed what carried me along on much of my trip, was having hundreds of pirated episodes of This American Life on my Ipod. being able to listen to stories about America while i rode across her was much nicer then just listening to music. indeed, it felt historic. As i limped my way the last 10 miles or so into Waitsburg, averaging no more then 10 miles an hour (when i was fresh and healthy at the beginning of my trip i was doing at least 12 an hour) good old Ira Glass carried me along.
In Waitsburg, i made some phone calls. My father advocated for me discontinuing the trip, out of the fear that i could do some severe and lasting damage to my knee. i knew that he was right, and truly i couldn't picture getting well enough to scale the Rockies, but i was very disappointed. i ended up calling a few other friends, including Simon, who helped reassure me that descretion was indeed the better part of valor.
The odometer on my bike read 412 miles. I was not even all the way across my first state. damn disappointing.
That decision made, i reassessed my situation. I was in Waitsburg, a small town really, located 20 miles north of Walla Walla. I knew i would have to get past Walla Walla, probably all the way to Pendleton, Oregon, before i could catch a Greyhound bus. I went to the local market, bought a sharpie and borrowed some cardboard, and made myself a hitching sign. it read "bum knee, need a ride." I limped with my heavily loaded touring bike over to the the edge of town, where the highway down to Walla Walla began.
Now i've hitched a bit in my day. One time i hitched 1000 miles from Reno, Nevada all the way to Albuquerque, NM to visit my Granny. I know the rules of hitching:
1. never get in the car with someone who looks obviously crazy
2. always agree with everything the driver says
3. be prepared to entertain the driver with stories
4. be prepared to be bored by the stories of the driver

What made this stint of hitching much more difficult was my steed, the loaded touring bike. Now, if i was just a guy with a medium sized backpack, anyone could pick me up. But given that i had to bring my bike along, i was limited to rides from people with pickup trucks. the first guy who picked me up was a swimming pool repairman, a really nice guy. As he drove me into Walla Wall, we talked about snowboarding, art, graphic design, his baby mamma, and of course about my trip and my bum knee. That guy was great, he took me right to the edge of Walla Walla, where i needed to continue hitching south from.
I was picked up by 4 more guys with pickup trucks, including:
a wildland firefighter chief, who was about to ship out either to Las Vegas or to Alaska to direct crews fighting forest fires
an electrical engineer who builds robots for assembly and precision construction purposes. He also owned a blueberry farm.
a State worker, who dumped me off in a really crappy spot where all the cars were whizzing by at 50 MPH and had no place to stop even if they had the inclination to do so.

this last ride left me about 12 miles north of Pendleton, Oregon. he dropped me off there around 8:40, and it wasn't until after 9 that i realized how unlikely it would be for me to get a ride into Pendleton. The sun was going down, there was that tremendous beautiful glow on the rolling land left by the departing light, and i was probably gonna have to sleep out there. in a ditch. full of brambles.

In a hot minute i determined that outcome to be unacceptable, and i started pedaling. I tried to concentrate on how pretty everything was, the wheatfields, the sun dropping below red tinged clouds that hovering above the horizon and flaring across the countryside, the green hills to the west. Unfortunately, i found myself more preoccupied by how much my knee was hurting, and and by the unbelievably frustrating prevailing headwind. my speedometer didn't creep above 8 mph, and i knew that i would have to halt the attempt into town well before i arrived, or risk getting creamed in the dark by one of the dozens of vehicles that whizzed past me, unperturbed by my frantic and outstretched thumb.
As the sun muted into the horizon i cast about for some small knoll to shelter me from the wind for the night. a car approached, no wait it was a truck, and lo and behold, the driver slowed to a quick stop right past me. Thank goodness.

That driver, my savior, was probably not sober. He didn't smell of alcohol, and though he boasted that he'd given up on "dope" in an effort to further his education (he aimed to go into veterinary medicine), i had my doubts. Maybe it was the way his eyes bugged about, or of how when we did get into town he came to a complete stop at a green light, and then floored it through after the light had turned red. Or perhaps it was how he refused to drop me off in front of the greyhound station because there was a cop parked there. regardless, he was a good man for saving me from a night of sleep in a furrowed wheat field in the wind, and i thank him for it. though i wouldn't want him to touch any animals i know.
So, i had arrived in Pendleton. I check the schedule and learned that there was to be a 1 am bus, headed to Portland. I called up and Lizzie and my stepsister gave me internet support, finding me a craigslist ride headed to SF from Portland the following day at noon. It would have been perfect.
I say would have been because the the bus driver refused to let me on the bus at 1 am. this was after i sat waiting for 3 hours at the station, watching all the youths of that little town wander drunkenly up and down the street.
No ammount of pleading would sway him; it was against Greyhound policy, and he wasn't going to budge. I remember letting out a hearty "DAMMIT!" as he drove away, and i hope he gets hemroids.
At this point i was nearing exhaustion. Faced, with the unpleasant prospect of renting a 40 dollar motel room for the evening, i cast about for alternatives. There was a big husky man named John who had just exited the bus. After hearing me whine about my plight, he offered to let me sleep on the floor of his house. He didn't look crazy, so I gladly accepted.
I met john over at his house, and he told me that he was a long distance truck driver. i didn't realize it at the time, but quickly i gathered that John was starved for conversation.
Though it was 1:30 in the morning and i my body was about to crash, John insisted on showing me his newly remodeled apartment. he pointed out all the improvements, the new faucets in the sink, the new bathtub, the shelves in the closet, everything. It took him 20 minutes to really let me know all that was getting added on, and it was all i could do to look the slightest bit interested, when all i wanted was to pass the hell out.
Finally John gave me a blanket. then he mentioned that he liked to use said blanket as a backdrop when he takes photos of naked women. "i like taking photos of naked women" he stated. "alright." i told him.
and then, blissfully, sleep.
The next morning, after 2 plus hours of john giving me an unbelievably detailed description of his stereo system (why he thought i cared at all is still a mystery), i left his apartment, secured a bike box from the one bike store in town, packed my bike up, shoved it under the greyhound, and i was on my way to Portland. On arriving in Portland, my friend Amanda picked me up, and we hung out in the afternoon, first attending a bike faire, and then going drinking in several bars. I must admit, i needed the drinking.
Andrew and Etta arrived back into Portland from their trip to Nicaragua and picked me and my stuff up. I spent that evening at their house and the next day as well, and then they ferried me to the greyhound terminal, for my interminable 16 hour ride to to SF. Etta furnished me with an Ambien (thank you again for that Etta), and i slept most of the way back to SF.
I stayed one night in SF, then caught the bus to Reno, where i am now. my summer plans are shattered, and the doctor told me yesterday that he suspects i tore the meniscal cartiledge in my knee, which could mean surgery. It is difficult to describe how much this sucks.
anyways, hope all is well, sorry this was so long. i'll update as i find out whether i need surgery or not.

Posted by bendan at 06:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 20, 2007

5th day - Sunnyside, WA


So my trip started out very good. Drew and Etta left me in Seaside, OR. From there i headed up the 101 to the HW 30, heading East towards Washington. I crossed the Longview bridge, and followed the I-5 on frontage roads towards the 12 East. I've been on the 12 East every since, having followed it through the Cascade Mountains and over 4500 feet Whites Pass.


Yesterday my right knee began acting up, and i pulled up short here in Sunnyside, WA with a strained tendon. it's pretty here and there are lots of taquerias for all the migrant farm workers. i was going really well, just pushed it too hard. I"m gonna have a rest day, and i find myself pretty content, sitting i the shade at the RV park i'm camping at, drinking beer and talking to Martin. Martin is from Mexico, and has many stories of all the places he's worked and all the different jobs he's done. It's so interesting to get a glimpse at the migrant workers, makes me wish i had an audio recorder.

here's some photos


cross your fingers my knee feels better tomorrow.

Posted by bendan at 11:55 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 14, 2007

Preparation for a long ride

So i'm up in Portland now. my craigslist rideshare was pretty great, i rode up with a nice hippy linguist who was driving up for her 5th season in Skagway, Alaska as a wilderness guide. She had done an East to West Transam ride and she worked as a volunteer EMT in AK, so we had a good amount to talk about. Also along for the ride were two chubby and rude 20 year old dirty punk rock girls. These girls said hello when they hopped in the car, and then proceeded to read comic books, listen to slayer on their walkmen, and have really loud cell phone conversations right behind my head. Ah, the obliviousness of young punks.


I did a good portion of the driving, which was nice since i drive at a brisk, efficient pace, so we arrived earlier. I'd done the route up the I-5 before, so the scenery was familiarly pretty. For all the northern California pride i pretend to have, i barely ever left SF, which is a shame, since there is so much beautiful wilderness up there to see.
Driving also made me think about the venture i am undertaking. As the miles passed by on the little truck's odometer, i couldn't help but thinking how what i covered in one hour at 75 mph, i will be happy to cover in a whole day on my bicycle. That said, i'm so unused to riding around in cars that it felt a bit like cheating to go such a distance not under my own power, and i'm looking forward to pounding out some well earned miles.

Andrew, his fiance Etta and i were talking about that yesterday, about the disconnect you feel when you move great distances in such a short time. We agreed that this is felt most acutely when flying. I remember the first time i went to S. America, when i left one evening from SFO and the next morning i was in Ecuador. It took me probably a week for my body and mind to completely adjust to the new reality of where i was. Etta mentioned an idea from a William Gibson book, in which the author characterizes this feeling i'm prattling on about as soul lag, or the time it takes your soul to catch up with you. I liked that.

I must admit, I feel out of practice writing on here. Seems like since i returned from Colombia the second time, i haven't had as many noteworthy things to blog about. looking back over the entries of the last year, the most interesting ones were about my broken collarbone. meh.

The plan right now is to hang out in Portland with Drew and Etta until Saturday, when they have to drive out the coast for wedding. they're gonna drop me off I think at Tillamook Bay, and i'll begin from there. i'm still debating whether i should head north and go through Montana, or stay due east and cross Wyoming instead. Either way, a lot of big wide open spaces await me.


Here's a photo of my bike, the Ibis. i owe billy spaceman quite a debt of gratitude for helping me to render it roadworthy before i left SF. It is a lot heavier then any of my other bikes, but that's kinda what you want from a touring bike, sturdy and strong. I tried loading it up yesterday with all the things i plan to bring, and it felt frightfully heavy. i have all my equipment spread out on andrew's floor, and i'm trying to figure out what to ditch. the first thought is to ditch the stove, but that limits my nutritional options considerably. Probably in the end i'll take most of what i have, and then mail home whatever i realize I don't really need.

Posted by bendan at 10:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 12, 2007

TransAm bike tour, 2007

it's afternoon here in SF, my room is packed up, and my ride is a few minutes late showing up to drive me to portland. I leave either friday or saturday morning, heading east from somewhere on the Pacific Coast, all the way to New York.
I will be updating this as frequently as possible, probably every week or so. there will be photos and maybe videos. high tech.
i've always wanted to do this ride. i'm really looking foward to putting some miles on my new bike.
hope all is well, thanks for checking in.

Posted by bendan at 01:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 03, 2007

i'm changing many things in my life

i'm moving away from sf in 2 weeks. i'm gonna end up in NYC or New Orleans. first i'm gonna ride across the country on my bike.
excitement, adventure?

Posted by bendan at 08:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack