Independence Day

[ Day 22 — July 4, 2012 ]

Erin and I continued riding south, following the 101 as it edged back to the coastline. We rode alone at times, but mostly stayed together, following quiet, tree-lined roads across rolling terrain. The quiet belied our proximity to the ocean; we were just far enough away to have no idea how close we actually were.

We reached Port Orford just in time for their Fourth of July parade, which blocked the route through town. We could have taken a detour, but opted to watch the parade instead. I sat on the curb next to Erin and took in our surroundings. The parade had a small-town feel: trucks, tractors, friendly people, trucks, and kids scurrying on the street to grab candy. It was compellingly quaint—evoking nostalgia for a way of life I’d never really experienced.

The climb out of Port Orford marked a return to the coastal views of home, accented by evergreens and the red soil of western Oregon. The return to the Pacific was another reminder that I would soon be back in the Bay Area. Three weeks down, one to go.

We decided to cut the day’s ride short and camp at the Gold Beach county fairgrounds, which were empty save for a few surfers. After setting up our tents, we wandered down to the beach to soak up the remaining sunshine.

It was sunny but windy and the water was unsurprisingly cold. We built a windbreak out of driftwood, doing our best to pretend it was legitimate beach weather. I was determined to go for a swim, wading at first and finally diving into the surf before sprinting back to my towel.

Digging our heels into the warm sand, we settled into conversation. The topics came easily; Erin was good at asking questions—probing, insightful questions born out of good listening. Time passed deceptively—like sand blown across the beach—and we retreated to camp only when our stomachs clamored for dinner. I used my stove for the first time on the trip, grilling sandwiches and heating soup.

As we settled into our respective tents, I marveled at my circumstances. By stroke of luck I’d met a smart, pretty touring partner who seemed as interested in me as I was in her. I was glad that she was part of my trip; I wondered whether the feeling was mutual.

Waves crashed to the west, lulling me to sleep. Fireworks danced ostentatiously across the night’s sky and a jealous moon glowed defiantly in the east.

[ Daily Miles: 60 ] [ Total Miles: 1110 ]

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