The Kindness of Strangers

28 September 2013 01:30 AM CDT


I camped last night with new friends - Adam and Matt.  We split a camp site in Pacific City and it was awesome.  I met Adam and Matt yesterday while riding from Bay City.  We kept leap frogging one another.  I would stop for a rest and they would pass me.  They would stop for a rest and I would pass them.  Finally, a couple miles outside of Pacific City, we all stopped at a beautiful scenic vista on the beach to say hello.

Adam and Matt started their tour in Deadhorse, Alaska.  And for those of you unfamiliar with Alaska, that's about as far North as you can go.  And remote.  They had to carry 14 days worth of food and water for the first leg of their trip.  Just the two of them and nothing but Alaskan wilderness.  Their final destination is San Francisco.  When we started chatting they said they were bicycle and brewery touring.  Which immediately piqued my interest, because the one destination recommended to me in Pacific City was the Pelican Pub and Brewery.  The Pelican is the only brew-pub actually on the beach here in Oregon.  Making it a bit of a must see.  So Adam, Matt, and I decided to make a stop at the pub.

The Pelican Pub is right on the beach.  And the beach in Pacific City is beautiful.  There's a huge rock out in the bay and the water was dotted with a bunch of surfers.  We snagged a table on the patio and just sat and stared at the ocean.  And, fortunately, we managed to grab a table right by an electrical outlet.  So we all started charging our various devices.

I ended up ordering a crazy delicious pizza and paired it with a pint of MacPelican's Scottish Style Ale.  So good.  After our first round we went to find a place to camp.  There was a campground directly across the 101 from the pub, so we split a plot and quickly put up our tents.  Our plan was to return to the pub for one more round while watching the sun set.

Rather than get another beer I opted for the strawberry rhubarb crisp.  So good.

I always keep my eye on the weather because it can get cold, wet, and windy here in Oregon pretty quickly.  So when I went to bed last night I double checked the weather and the forecast called for storms the following day starting around 4PM.  So I planned a route for myself that I could tackle before the inclement weather would hit.  I also booked a cabin at a KOA campground outside Lincoln City.  I figured I'd wanna be sheltered if there was a bad storm coming.

When I woke up this morning the light felt gray inside my tent.  I checked my watch and it was 8:30.  I could also hear Adam and Matt rustling in their tent.  When I unzipped my tent I was a little disheartened to see gray ominous clouds overhead.  I thought I'd have better weather, at least until 4PM.  I double checked my weather app and the new forecast called for storms starting at 10AM.  Yikes!  I quickly hopped to.  I opted to not take a shower and instead tear down my campsite as quickly as possible.  Before I had my camp site down it started raining.  So most of my camping gear got put away wet.  I loaded my bike as quickly as possible and decided to just get going.  I figured this rain was the beginning of a storm that was only going to get worse.

I pedaled and pedaled and pedaled in the cold, wind, and rain.  It never stopped.  It just kept coming.  And I was not enjoying myself.  I didn't have any gloves.  So my hands were cold.  And my glasses were covered in water.  Making my vision a little blurry.

After about six or seven miles I made it to the top of a pass where there was a scenic overlook.  I decided to stop.  To re-evaluate.  I parked my bike along a wall and crouched down low.  Huddled in a little ball close to the ground.  I was stretching and a bit delirious.  Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a gigantic motor home pulling in to the same scenic overlook.  I was feeling quite miserable so kept my attention focused in the other direction.  But before long I heard a voice say, "excuse me, would you like a cup of coffee?"

I turned my head to find an older gentleman looking down at me and motioning to his motor coach.  He said, "my wife's making coffee, would you like to step inside the motor coach for a cup?"

I couldn't believe it.  I was dumbfounded.  A cup of coffee sounded like a miracle!  I pulled myself together and entered the man's massive home on wheels.  His wife put a towel over the front seat and I sat down.  And before I knew it I was warming up.  I was having a lovely conversation with perfect strangers.  In the middle of the chat the woman approached me with half and half in one hand and milk in the other, "would you care for either of these?"  Again, I couldn't believe it.  I said half and half would be incredible.  I soon noticed the man was wearing a Denver Broncos sweatshirt.  I asked him if he had a connection to Colorado.  And as it turned out he and his wife had lived in Arvada for over 40 years.  They now live in Arizona but spend a great deal of their time out enjoying the United States in their motor home.

Joe and Isolde Williams met in Germany.  Isolde is German.  Joe was there serving in the armed forces in the early 1960s.  And that's where they met and they returned to America together.  It's amazing.  Isolde has been in the States for over 40 years but she still has a rather thick German accent.  She offered rather interesting details about life in the States versus life in Germany.  She prefers living in America.  Life is more loose, less strict, fewer rules.  More opportunity for creativity.

Before long I saw Adam and Matt pedal in front of the motor coach.  I could sense that they saw my bike and wondered where I was.  I waved from inside the coach.  I told Joe I had camped with them last night and he said, "do you think either of them would care for a cup of coffee?"  So I jumped out, told Adam and Matt about my experience with Joe and Isolde, and asked if either of them would like a cup.  Matt said yes.

After about 30 minutes warming and relaxing in Joe and Isolde's home they said they had to keep pushing on.  We took a couple quick pictures and then waved goodbye.

I will never forget the kindness and generosity I experienced.  Thank you, Joe and Isolde!

Without that break and that cup of coffee I don't know if I would've been able to tackle the rest of the day.  After leaving that scenic vista the rain and wind just kept coming.  Adam and Matt rode much faster than me, so I waved goodbye to them too.

Several miles later I noticed two bikers approaching in the opposite direction on US 101.  It turned out to be Adam and Matt.  They waved me over and said the road was far too dangerous up ahead.  The bicycle lane all but disappears and in the bad weather it is just too dangerous to bicycle there.  So they pointed me towards a different route.  The route recommended by the Adventure Cycling Association.

The three of us soldiered on and before long Adam and Matt were out of sight.  The route seemed to go straight uphill.  It was a tough climb, especially in the bad weather.  I decided to stop and adjust my seat.  I've been trying to fit my bicycle for several days now.  I've had a little knee pain and most people tell me that pain is attributed to bicycle fit.  And that altering the seat position is one of the most effective ways to optimize fit.  So I pulled off by some random school and started adjusting my seat.  As soon as I loosened the bolt on my seat post collar I could sense something bad had just happened.  All of the threads stripped free and the collar would no longer tighten.  My seat slid all the way down to the frame of the bike.  Uh oh.

I tried to think on my feet.  How can I jimmy this thing to hold my seat?  I tinkered for about 20 minutes before deciding I'd just ride the rest of the way standing up.  I had about seven or eight more miles to go and could probably make it just fine.  So off I went, seat-less.

When I finally arrived at the KOA I was soaking wet.  I parked my bike and walked inside to register.  The lady behind the counter just stared at me.  I told her I had been biking in the rain for the past five and a half hours.  I got the store all wet.  And dripped water all over the desk.  And all of my paperwork got wet.  There was just no avoiding it!

The campground wasn't near any restaurants, so I had to make due with what I could buy at the KOA.  After unloading my bike, showering, and putting on dry clothes, I returned to the campground store for dinner.  Which consisted of: one microwaveable chicken burrito, one microwaveable chicken chimichanga, a Coors, a Snickers, and a bag of chips.  It was actually quite awesome.  So delicious after a long day of riding.

That night in my cabin I reflected back on the day.  After a brutal day of riding in the rain and wind all I could really focus on was the kindness of strangers.  The kindness of Joe and Isolde.  The kindness of Adam and Matt.  The sweet people I met at the KOA.  I've had many lovely experiences so far on my trip, and I attribute most of them to the kindness of strangers.